Universal Credit will hurt the poorest: it must be stopped

Stressed family cropped

Trials have shown new benefit payment is deeply flawed and could bring misery to those already struggling

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31st August 2017 by Graham Martin 1 Comment

Scotland’s charities have united to demand the UK government stop the roll-out of the controversial Universal Credit (UC) system.

They say UC, which replaces six existing benefits with one, has been proven to be flawed and the system either has to be massively reworked or scrapped entirely.

The benefit has been trialled in selected areas of Scotland prior to its roll out to an estimated 650,000 households, which will begin from October.

However, the trials have uncovered major flaws, hurting the people it is supposed to help.

Problems include a six week waiting period between a person’s claim and their initial payment.  

Another issue is that UC is an entirely online system, even though many applicants don't have access to computers or the skills to use them.

A group of 24 charities is calling on the UK government to halt the process.

They include Citizens Advice Scotland, Oxfam Scotland, Disability Agenda Scotland, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Poverty Alliance.   

The charities say they have all seen vulnerable people suffer due to significant flaws in UC in the areas affected so far.

They have composed an open letter, the full text and signotaries of which can be seen below, which states: “Having seen how UC has worked so far, it is clear that it is leaving thousands of people struggling to make ends meet.

“Together, we believe the government must halt the rollout of the benefit so that these flaws can be fixed before they harm any more people. This will require serious changes, not just minor adjustments.

“Fundamentally, we need a benefits system that supports those in need, and it is in that spirit that we are calling to halt and fix Universal Credit”.

However, despite mounting criticism, the Department of Work and Pensions has defended its system.

A spokesperson said: “Our research shows that the majority of Universal Credit claimants are comfortable managing their budgets, and we’re working with local authorities and landlords to get extra support to those people who may find themselves in arrears.”

Charities demand: halt and fix Universal Credit

The UK government decided to phase the rollout of Universal Credit (UC) on a test and learn basis, prior to an accelerated rollout beginning in October this year. This was a sensible approach to a very major change.  

In five years UC will be claimed by over 650,000 households in Scotland. In principle, it is a good idea which should make life easier for both the claimant and the delivery agencies alike.  

However, having seen how UC has worked so far, it is clear that it is leaving thousands of people struggling to make ends meet.  

The flaws include a six week waiting period between a person’s claim and their initial payment.   

Another issue is that UC is an entirely online system, yet our evidence is that many applicants don't have access to computers or the skills to use them. 

Together, we believe the government must halt the rollout of the benefit so that these and other flaws can be fixed before they harm any more people. This will require serious changes, not just minor adjustments.  

Fundamentally, we need a benefits system that supports those in need, and it is in that spirit that we are calling to halt and fix UC.   

Yours faithfully, 

Ewan Aitken, CEO, Cyrenians; Jackie Brock, CEO, Children in Scotland; Graeme Brown, Director, Shelter Scotland; Yvette Burgess, Director, Housing Support Enabling Unit; Claire Cairns, Network Co-ordinator, Coalition of Carers in Scotland; Annie Gunner Logan, Director, Coalition of Care and Support Providers; Neil Henery, Director, Camphill Scotland; Delia Henry, Chair, Disability Agenda Scotland; Peter Kelly, Director, The Poverty Alliance; Jamie Livingstone, Director, Oxfam Scotland; Rory Mair, Chair, Citizens Advice Scotland; Richard Meade, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Marie Curie Scotland; Robin McAlpine, Director, Common Weal; Suzanne Munday, CEO, Minority Ethnic Carers of People Project; Satwat Rehman, Director, One Parent Families Scotland; Emma Ritch, Executive Director, Engender; Pete Ritchie, Director, Nourish Scotland; Bill Scott, Director of Policy, Inclusion Scotland; Theresa Shearer, CEO, ENABLE Scotland; Martin Sime, CEO, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations; Sally Thomas, CEO, Scottish Federation of Housing Associations; George Valiotis, CEO, HIV Scotland; Dr David Webster, Glasgow University; Meg Wright, Director, Carers Trust Scotland; Gavin Yates, CEO, Homeless Action Scotland. 

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31st August 2017 by Joan cornwall

I volunteer with our local independent foodbank and we see first hand the negative effects of universal credit. We can help with food but basically it's like sticking a plaster on a deep cut. We assist with applications to welfare rights but these are not always successful. Individuals and families are suffering because of this unfair system.