Let’s put a stop to the misery of Universal Credit

Readers' letters | Published:

Thousands of people in Shropshire have gone on to Universal Credit since the roll-out of the benefit started here in May 2018.

It began as an attempt to simplify the benefits system, but quickly became a cruel way to save the Government money at the expense of those who could least afford it.

It has cost a fortune, and caused misery wherever it has been rolled out, with food bank use and rent arrears rocketing. Hundreds of thousands of children have been pushed into poverty. The Government claimed that it would make work pay but the shameful truth is that most people in poverty now live in households where at least one person has a job.

Shrewsbury and Atcham Labour Women’s Forum has long campaigned against Universal Credit on many grounds. We disagreed that claimants should have to wait for five weeks before getting their first payment, for example.

We questioned the logic of ‘digital only’ claims when not everyone has access to the internet or is computer literate. We challenged the two-child policy which means that families only get support for their first two children, unless the third is the result of rape. What kind of a Government asks a woman to fill in a four-page form to prove she has been raped in order to get financial help for her child?

We were, therefore, delighted to see Jeremy Corbyn’s recent pledge to scrap Universal Credit. Amongst the changes that Labour will bring in as soon as it gets into power are scrapping sanctions and the five-week wait, ending the two-child cap, introducing fortnightly payments, and ending ‘digital only’ claims.

In the longer term, Margaret Greenwood, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has promised to bring in a new social security system focused on alleviating and ending poverty, not forcing people into it. She said “Labour will... create a social security system that, just like our NHS, treats people with dignity and respect and is there for any one of us in our time of need.”

The policy is in place. Now all we need is a Labour Government so that it can be implemented.

Helen Fletcher, on behalf of Shrewsbury and Atcham Labour Women’s Forum

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