Universal Credit is not working

Universal credit was ostensibly designed with three goals in mind – to reduce costs, simplify the benefit system, and to make work pay.

Whilst many of these aims at first glance seem laudable, they were designed by people without any understanding of welfare, benefits or low pay. Moving to a monthly payment did not encourage good use of money but instead meant that people who lived in difficult circumstances, on the breadline or lived chaotic lifestyles were encouraged to spend money first and forget about consequences later.

Moving to paying cash amounts to individuals rather than the landlords meant that people who were having to make a choose between feeding their kids or paying their rent made the choice that all of us would have made. Paying only one person in the family with the presumption always on the man has meant that abusers have the upper hand in the

benefits system.

These were not mistakes of the Conservative’s government, they were deliberate concerted efforts to undermine poor communities, reinforce patriarchy and force people onto the streets. The principal of putting all benefits into one sounds perfect in Whitehall, but the application is on human beings of which all are imperfect and who are punished when understandable and reasonable mistakes are made (like showing up 5 minutes late to an appointment due to traffic).

These punishments in the legacy system would have affected only one part of their benefits meaning people were still able to eat, sleep or pay for adaptations that they needed whilst the mistake was sorted out, whereas in the new system their whole benefit is frozen and they face potential destitution. So whilst the original aims sounds laudable they were never to benefit working class people

Successive failures of design and implementation against a backdrop of short-sighted penny-pinching have left us with a programme that is six years behind schedule and billions of pounds over budget, a claiming process so complex and convoluted that the DWP are paying Citizens Advice a further £39 million to help people through it, and as we now know, a payment scheme which leaves many millions of families significantly worse off. There must be no equivocating or mincing of words, Universal Credit is a failure on all counts.

For this Government to maintain their position, that Universal Credit is working, is more than just putting party ahead of country, it is a dereliction of duty.

Universal Credit is an all-encompassing issue. Since its rollout in Brighton, constituent after constituent has come to me to speak of their woes under the new system. My office has seen how it affects every aspect of people’s lives, from families suddenly struck by rent arrears, hard working people having their payments reduced due to systemic administrative errors, to the sick and disabled having vital support removed and reduced. We’ve seen it all, but the one thing we have yet to see is the faintest semblance of a system that is fit for purpose.

Unfortunately, I was not selected to speak during the October 17th debate on Universal Credit, however I did join my Labour colleagues in voting to force the release of the Government’s impact analysis. Sadly, the vote was defeated by a Tory Party who cannot admit that their flagship reform is not up to standard.

I want to be clear that we are not only tackling this issue at a national level; at home in Brighton Kemptown and Peacehaven my casework team is working closely with local charities and advice services. Supporting constituents who fall foul of this deeply unfair system, protecting their incomes, and holding the DWP accountable for their failures will always be a priority in this office.

While I am pleased at the breathing room which further delays have brought, no amount of extra time will fix a system which is fundamentally broken. Urgent reform is needed to ensure that Universal Credit does not discriminate against self-employed and casual workers, disadvantage the sick and disabled, and impoverish children and families. I will continue to fight for that crucial reform in Parliament, and I will continue to fight against the failures of Universal Credit.

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