Redcar MP Anna Turley has joined with Redcar & Cleveland Citizens Advice to call for the Universal Credit rollout to be paused before more people are forced into debt and poverty.
The welfare reform was originally designed to simplify the system by rolling six working-age benefits for people in or out of work into one monthly payment. However, claimants have to wait a minimum of six weeks before receiving any payment under Universal Credit.
The Government's own statistics show that one in four new claims are not being paid in full in six weeks, and 1 in 10 are waiting more than 10 weeks. The delay is forcing people into rent arrears and debt. Citizens' Advice have found that nationally 79% of those on Universal Credit owed money to their landlord, local council or energy company.
Applicants also have to call a helpline to complete their claim at a cost of 55p per minute. Almost a thirds of cases approaching Citizens Advice for help have had to make 10 or more of these calls at significant expense.
In Redcar and Cleveland only newly unemployed people are affected by Universal Credit. The rollout is scheduled to be increased this month, with 50 Jobcentres moving to full service every month.
Anna is supporting Citizens Advice in their call for the rollout to be paused until the issues with the scheme are addressed.
Despite 12 Conservative backbenchers also demanding the rollout be paused, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions David Gauke MP confirmed at Conservative Party Conference that the rollout will go ahead. Instead, he promised advanced payments would be offered upfront to people who needed immediate support.
Labour have now secured a vote on the Government’s plan to continue the roll out of Universal Credit Full Service.
Redcar MP Anna Turley said:
"The Government are admitting that there are faults with the system, but they are still moving ahead despite clear evidence that Universal Credit is pushing vulnerable people into poverty and debt. No decent society would make people wait six weeks to receive any financial support. Even when people are offered advanced payments, which in too few cases is not happening, this means taking on another loan for people who are struggling. Far from helping people into work, it is pushing people into financial trouble and putting tenancies at risk.
"Despite Redcar & Cleveland only being in the early stages of the roll out, people on Universal Credit are still coming to my surgeries to deal with payments delays. The local citizens advice are dealing with lots of these issues too. The number of people affected will only increase as the rollout expands. It is seriously flawed and should be stopped until the problems are addressed. If the Government truly want to help those who are struggling to make ends meet, then top of the list should be scrapping the six week wait entirely."
Helen Howson, Chief Officer at Redcar & Cleveland Citizen's Advice said:
“A number of people have contacted us after experiencing problems with Universal Credit in recent weeks. Universal Credit is causing people significant hardship with payment delays meaning they are being forced to rely on food banks and are unable to pay for essentials such as gas and electricity. Our evidence shows that the current system is forcing people into poverty and is not currently fit for purpose. We are also concerned that Universal Credit will fuel the demand for high interest loans and illegal money lenders as people struggle to make ends meet.”