Not ready for benefit change

MP Alan Campbell.
MP Alan Campbell.

Universal Credit was the Government’s flagship welfare policy, merging the benefits system into a single monthly payment for all claimants.

There are sensible elements, including supporting people into work and simplifying the benefits system.

However, the roll-out of Universal Credit has faced problems.

And worryingly, it is planned to be rolled out here in North Tyneside early next year.

Welfare charities, Citizens Advice, the Government’s own advisors, select committees and MPs – including some Conservatives – have all expressed concern.

The evidence is clear.

New claimants have to wait up to six weeks for any money – and in many roll-out areas many people are waiting much longer without any income.

That has pushed families into debt.

Half of families moving to Universal Credit are in rent arrears for the first time ever in their lives.

Landlords are turning away claimants, and evictions and children in temporary accommodation have increased.

In roll-out areas the Trussell Trust reports that referrals to food banks have doubled.

Even with repayable advances, debt will rise.

And even those fortunate to move into work face the loss of 63p for every pound earned, higher than top rate taxpayers, meaning the working poor are being hit as well as claimants.

No wonder Louise Casey, the former ‘social welfare tsar’ compares it to “jumping off a cliff”.

The Government should pause the roll-out, at least until the select committee reports.

Meanwhile, in some communities the loan sharks are already circling.