The following was presented by Walton CLP Equalities Officer Sarah Morton at the CLP meeting on the 1st February 2018.
The aim of universal credit was to simplify the benefits system and make it more efficient, it was expected to roll out across the country and be fully implemented by 2017
The reality is that it is anything but simple or efficient. It is now 5 years behind schedule and numerous Secretaries of State for DWP have been unable to fix it. Billions have been ploughed into fixing IT systems, and guidance and training and retraining of DWP staff. and it is a mess. The only thing it has achieved is to push significant numbers of those claiming it into further poverty in keeping with the Tory policy of Austerity
Universal Credit and Foodbank use:
Trussell Trust have released some alarming statistics and this does not account for services provided by independent foodbanks set up in schools etc
- Nearly 600,00 3 day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in first half of this year, a 13% increase on the same period last year –300,00 to children
- Foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit rollout for six months or more have seen a 30% average increase six months after rollout compared to a year before
They predicted that in the months leading to Christmas, demand is expected to triple in areas of full roll out, and that in areas where UC full roll out has been implemented for over 6 months, the increase in demand for food parcels is up by 30%.
This is due to delays in benefit payments from new claims and those who have been transferred from legacy benefits
Universal credit affecting those in employment
- In work poverty has risen to record levels
- Lots of people who claim UC have a job but their salary is so low they require benefit top ups to manage. If you are self employed, part time or on a zero hours contract then your earnings change from month to month and this can mean after a good month, you get kicked off it. When you reapply, you’ll have any surplus earnings for the last 6 months taken into account. This can mean that people have to reapply every month and still won’t get paid. The policy is overly complicated.
- The amount of earnings claimants can keep before losing benefits – have swiped more than £1,200 a year from two-children families in which both parents work.
UC and disabled people
- People previously claiming ESA could also qualify for EDP (Enhanced Disability Premium) and SDP (Severe Disability Premium). These do not exist on UC MEANING A POTENTIAL LOSS OF UP TO £40 PER WEEK=£2K per year
- Disability charities estimate up to half a million people will be worse off under Universal credit due to the removal of these premiums as well as cuts to child disability payments which could affect up to 100,000 children a year at an annual loss of £1000
- Disabled people may also be at a higher risk of sanctioning as they will be required to attend Mandatory Health and Work Conversations (HWC) at job centres that are now further away due to closures
UC and Housing benefit claimants
- Local council staff are reporting feeling completely helpless when dealing with tenants who have claimed UC as once they are declared eligible, local authorities are no longer able to provide help. This is particularly problematic with those who have made new claims as landlords are increasingly unwilling to accept UC claimants due to the delays in payment leading to increases in evictions and homelessness
DWP have to present a renewed business case to the Treasury later this year, if it cannot prove that UC is working or delivering savings then this will cause them a lot of problems.
We have to keep up the pressure! Engage with public campaigns against UC, supporting other activist groups in their campaigns and any legal challenges they may launch against DWP.
Unite the4 Union and Merseyside People’s Assembly Against Austerity have held protests in Liverpool, attended by Walton CLP members
**Stats taken from Trussell Trust website and articles in The Guardian and Huffington Post