A lot has been said about Universal Credit recently but what is it? It is a new form of benefit that replaces six already existing ones. Those benefits are Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), income-related Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) as well as Working Tax Credit. Instead of multiple claims you have just the one.
There are many reasons why this system needs to be rethought as people are finding themselves worse off than they were. The main reason being sanctions. Sanctions have always been an issue with the benefit system as it meant that one of your claims could be suspended for a few weeks to a few months. However a sanction on Universal Credit sees all of your benefits suspended. Reasons for sanctions include being a few minutes late for an appointment, not applying for a job you’re not qualified for and not attending an appointment whilst being at a work programme.Great Yarmouth was one of the pilot areas for Universal Credit so how has it affected its constituents? Currently there are well over 6000 claimants in Great Yarmouth and you don’t have to look very far to see the problems within the system.
A self-employed welder from Great Yarmouth whose partner does the admin work for his business (as well as care for their daughter) has been able to claim £571 a month in Universal Credit but it’s only enough to cover their rent of £475 a month, the rest barely enough for them to buy food or other amenities. Although his Universal Credit claim recognises that he’s in “gainful employment” through his business, they don’t think the same for his partner. She is still expected to look for a full-time job as well as doing the admin for her partner and care for their daughter.
Universal Credit was piloted in Great Yarmouth and since then there has been an 87% increase in people using food banks as claimants are finding themselves having to make the decision of either paying their rent or eating. If that’s not already shocking enough, claimants who have been sanctioned find themselves not being able to pay rent too which means they find themselves plunged into debt or worse, evicted from their property which makes their already difficult situation harder.
Debbie Abrahams MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary has said “The social security system is meant to protect people from debt and arrears, not exacerbate their situation.”
The failings are clear when it comes to Universal Credit. The Labour Party are campaigning for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be paused and fixed before it causes more people to find themselves plunged into poverty. Sign the petition to show your support.