Stockport is one of 64 areas across Britain where Universal Credit is expected to further roll-out over the coming weeks.
With Christmas fast approaching I’m really concerned of the risk faced by many families across the borough who will face a financial gap over the holiday season – that’s because there is a minimum five-week wait for your first payment when you start claiming Universal Credit.
To put that into context, if you start claiming at the end of November or midway through December, as many in Stockport are likely to, you won’t get your first payment until the New Year at the earliest – that’s not good enough.
This highlights to me that Universal Credit just isn’t working and I don’t believe it can continue in anything like its current form.
We already know that, elsewhere in the UK, the long waits for initial payments have caused families to get into debt, accrue huge rent arrears and even forced to turn to food banks in order to survive.
The “six-in-one benefit” is meant to make welfare easier and fairer – a principle most can sign up to. But in a slight of hand by this Government, UC has been bundled up with cuts and poor management from Whitehall leaving many with nothing to live on. In fact, the system is so poor that almost 30% of claims for Universal Credit are never even completed!
And what’s the Government’s response been? Well instead of listening to councils, debt advocacy groups and the Citizens Advice Bureau, they’ve adopted a ‘carry on regardless’ attitude and accelerated the roll-out even further.
Around three million people are due to move from tax credits and the old benefits system onto the new UC within the coming months.
However, with over a third of the people required to move across having already been assessed by the government itself as being too ill or disabled to work, the benefit changes are now leading to a huge increase in demand for emergency food supplies – something that should shock all reasonable people. We are, after all, the sixth richest country in the world and yet this is how we are now treating some of the most vulnerable in society.
Now here in Stockport I’m in regular contact with our local CAB, who are doing brilliant work to support people through this process. They inform me that they’re also worried about the impact on households with children of the roll-out.
For this reason, the Tory government needs to wake up to the problems that Universal Credit is causing right across the country, and here in Stockport, and stop the roll out now.