An MP says he fears his constituents are being used as “guinea pigs” for the roll out of the Government’s Universal Credit – described as the biggest change to the welfare state in a lifetime.
Universal Credit combines six out-of-work benefits into one single payment paid monthly, instead of fortnightly payments.
It has already been introduced in North-West England and will be “rapidly” rolled out to selected job centres in the region from February next year, including those in Hartlepool, Northallerton, Newcastle and York.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright said:
“I am worried that many of my constituents will be guinea pigs for this fast roll out.
“Ministers have showed shocking incompetence so far with this project which has been subject to significant delays and cost overruns.
“I will monitor the situation to ensure that the taxpayer gets value for money, while ensuring people in Hartlepool claiming benefits and tax credits don’t face delays.”
The Government says the new system will be simpler and is part of a long-term economic plan to cap welfare and “make work pay”.
But there are concerns it won’t be suitable for everybody – particularly the most vulnerable claimants.
A member of staff at one jobcentre plus in the region said:
“The theory is that as it is paid like a wage, it prepares people for work.
“But the reality is that some people are a long way from being capable of working.
“People with serious addictions being given a month’s money in one go is just setting them up to fail.”
> A statement which, though probably with some truth in it, automatically sets up the idea that all benefit recipients are addicts.
Universal Credit is paid direct into bank accounts and is gradually reduced in line with any earnings a claimant receives.
According to the Department of Work and Pensions households on Universal Credit spend double the amount of time on finding work than they do on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:
“We’ve already seen remarkable success, with Universal Credit claimants moving into work faster and staying in work longer. As part of our long-term economic plan, people will have the financial security of knowing that if they work more they will earn more.”
The roll out is expected to be completed by spring 2016.
> But we don’t expect it will…
Source – Northern Echo, 13 Dec 2014
New research published by the TUC reveals the future impact of a controversial new welfare reform – the five-week wait – on workers in North West England, with 39,000 newly unemployed people set to be hit each month.
Currently most workers who lose their job have to wait two weeks before they get their first benefit payment. But under new Universal Credit rules for assessing unemployment claims, most people will face a wait of more than five weeks before they get any money. This could mean going two months into rent arrears before any cash support arrives.
The TUC’s new research reveals the monthly average number of newly unemployed people broken down by region, local authority (county and unitary) and constituency. This indicates how many people can be expected to be hit by the five-week wait when Universal Credit replaces workers’ current safety net benefits.
Across the region, Lancashire is the most affected local authority where over 5,000 people each month are expected to be hit by the five-week wait, in Manchester more than 3,600 people will be affected whilst in Liverpool just under 3,500 people will be affected.
These local authorities are amongst the biggest affected in the UK, ranked 4th, 9th and 11th respectively. The DWP’s own analysis suggests that the measure may increase claimants’ reliance on short-term loans.
The TUC has launched a new campaign, Saving Our Safety Net, to highlight the five-week wait and other welfare reforms that cut safety net protection for working people.
North West TUC Regional Secretary Lynn Collins said:
“We know workers in the North West have suffered cuts in real earnings over the last 5 years, and will have relied on savings to get by, which means that many workers have no financial buffer if they lose their job. Help should be there when it is needed, but instead people will be left to rely on food banks and pay day loans to see them through the wait.
“Welfare reform is one thing but the five week wait is a collective punishment for anyone who loses their job. People need to focus on finding new work, instead of being stressed-out about how they will pay the rent, feed the kids and keep the heating on.
“Job security has got worse since the recession. Government ministers are out of touch and fail to understand the anxiety many people feel not knowing if they’ll still have work next month. If your job goes, the five-week wait puts you at greater risk of a downward spiral where you’re trapped in debt, lose your home, become ill from the stress and fall too far to climb back again.
“With these escalating bills, worsening job security and only a limited recovery in the jobs market, a 5 week wait could easily push many more families into poverty through no fault of their own. These people have paid for, and deserve, a safety net.
“We are launching the Saving Our Safety Net campaign to expose government welfare plans for what they are – cuts to the National Insurance safety net we’ve all paid into on the understanding that it will be there when we need it.”
Source – Welfare News Service 07 Aug 2014