Families still facing real problems with Universal Credit


Veteran Labour MP Frank Field has been the latest in a seemingly unending procession of names calling for something to be done to stop the Universal Credit steamroller. The 75 year old MP for Birkenhead chairs the Work and Pensions Select Committee and provided government ministers with some “real world” insights from his constituency.

Living on 7p a day

What do you suppose is your average cost of living per day? Just add up the monthly rent or mortgage, household bills and basic grocery shopping, divide by 30 and you probably come to something around the £40 mark. Of course, that assumes you don’t drive, have any loan repayments or ever buy “extras” such as clothes!

This brings into focus just how ridiculous the situation is becoming. Mr Field told the House of Commons that he had been asked to look into five cases in as many days. And one involved a female constituent forced to live on just 7p per day.

Perfectly timed cuts

As if the chaos of the Universal Credits roll out was not bad enough, with claimants struggling to get help or advice from the call centres, Mr Field also explained that in his constituency, 98 short term DWP workers are being axed because their contract period is coming to a close. He asked the government: “Might some of those staff, if not all of them, be redeployed to make sure there is the smooth transition from traditional benefits to the new one?”

Political mud-slinging in Nottingham

The situation in Birkenhead described by Frank Field is just one example of a pattern that is being seen across the country as the Universal Credit rollout continues. A council meeting in Nottingham on 22 March descended into farce, as Labour councillor Michael Payne challenged Conservative MP Ben Bradley over the introduction of the new benefits system.

Mr Bradley accused Labour of “scaremongering,” while Mr Payne quoted passages from Mr Bradley’s blog in which he had suggested the jobless should have vasectomies. Ultimately, Council leader Kay Cutts had to halt proceedings to allow the combatants to cool off.

The fracas followed a motion by Ashfield Independent councillor Jason Zadrozny for the council to formally condemn the introduction of Universal Credit and block the scheduled roll out throughout Nottinghamshire. Mr Zadrozny said the new system has led to debt, evictions, destitution and increased use of food banks wherever it has been implemented. He described the implementation so far as “a disaster,” and said: “It is unacceptable to roll this out in our county until problems that the DWP admit are sorted out.”

Insufficient resources

Kate Foale, the Labour Councillor for Beeston Central and Ryland, was also in attendance at the meeting. She pointed out that the resource issues highlighted by Frank Field are a theme throughout the country, and only make a difficult situation worse. She said: “Universal credit has been, and continues to be introduced without the local resources needed to support families and individuals to make sure they can access it, and without any regard, or care, for how it will affect people who are working hard but are either unable to work, or earn low wages.”

Help is at hand

The latest debate from across the country is interesting, and the dissenting voices that are increasingly being heard from across the political spectrum give hope that the Universal Credit roll out will not continue unopposed.

However, right now, all that opposition is not stopping the steamroller. If you have been affected by the Universal Credits roll out, or are concerned that you will be, please get in touch with us at Hylton Potts.

A member of our friendly team will be happy to look into your personal circumstances and offer some objective advice. You can give us a call on 020 7381 8111, or email us at law@hylton-potts.com.

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