Whether you’re at the supermarket or the cinema or on the phone to your bank, it’s often great being at the front of the queue. There are, however, some queues that you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near, let alone standing at the front.
Unfortunately for us here in Tameside, the Tories put us at the front of the Universal Credit queue when they made our borough an early pilot. In doing this, they made some of our most vulnerable families their guinea pigs, putting them through incredible hardship to see whether their new social security system worked.
It became obvious very quickly that it wasn’t working and still they carried on. The use of food banks went up, rent arrears went up (across Tameside’s main social landlords – Jigsaw, Ashton Pioneer Homes, Irwell Valley and Peak Valley) and, perhaps most worrying of all, we’ve seen an increase in the number of children living in poverty.
The scheme was both poorly-designed and poorly-implemented and many issues that were identified in the early days of its piloting in Tameside and elsewhere remain, despite the Government being warned of the disastrous impact that Universal Credit was having on families – and particularly children.
And still the Government kept on rolling it out across the country, causing misery and suffering for millions of people. In fact, research has shown that 3 million people who already live in poverty will see their incomes reduced even further as a result of the introduction of Universal Credit.
It is clearly time to end this shambolic and inhumane approach to social security and that’s why I’m delighted that the Labour Party has announced its intention to scrap Universal Credit and replace it with a fairer and more humane welfare system – one that helps people out of poverty rather than pushing them further into it.
As a start, we’ve announced that we’ll deal with some of the very worst aspects of Universal Credit – scrapping the two child limit and cap (which on its own will stop up to 300,000 children being pushed into poverty), ending the “digital only” requirement which excludes those without the internet, reduce the 5 week waiting period and making split payments, payments direct to landlords and fortnightly payments the default.
People deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, to be helped and supported rather than punished and policed – that’s why Universal Credit has to go.