Social security is in tatters

Mary Glindon MP.
Mary Glindon MP.

My postbag of letters from constituents has swollen significantly with often sad testimony about how our social security system is actually working in practice.

We should be proud that we built a welfare state to provide a safety net when people’s circumstances change, often through no fault of their own.

We don’t approve of a small minority who swing the lead, but we accept that our taxes provide protection because sudden life changes, such as losing a job or falling ill, could happen to any of us.

Yet the government’s new Universal Credit scheme is causing misery, with rules that literally make no sense and lead to sanctions – the withdrawal of benefits for many weeks.

Very ill people are being summoned from their sick-beds or from convalescence to attend pointless interviews.

The problem is in the way the rules are written and which don’t seem to demonstrate common sense or compassion.

My office does much to overturn these rulings, but my guess is that some fall through the safety net.

And a credible UN expert on extreme poverty has also blown the whistle on wider problems.

His report highlights “staggering” levels of child poverty, saying the system is just there to punish people, and that 1.5 million people were destitute at some point last year.

This means subsisting on under £70 a week or going without housing, food, clothing or heating.

Our social security safety net is in tatters and that matters to us all.