Emma Hardy, the Member of Parliament for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle joined with 122 MPs of different parties to sign a letter to David Gauke, Secretary of State for Work & Pensions. The letter calls on the Conservative Government to delay the planned roll out of Universal Credit to avoid hardship and increased debt for millions of families.
The roll out, which begins next week, will see the benefit introduced in 55 new areas a month. The introduction in Hull will take place in September 2018.
The letter points out how the complicated system of claiming is already struggling to cope with just 5 new areas a month having been rolled out earlier this year.
“In the recent election, I promised to be a strong local voice for Hull West and Hessle and hold the government to account on issues that matter to my constituents and that is why I have signed this letter.
“The system for claiming Universal Credit is a shambles, even with only 5 new areas a month. According to the government’s own figures, almost a quarter of claimants wait longer than 6 weeks for their payment. Some families wait 12 weeks or more, pushing many into rent arrears. or a spiral of debt that, given how low Universal Credit payment are, is almost impossible to get out of.
“This Conservative Government must now do the decent thing and delay next week’s expansion until Universal Credit systems are working properly. If they don’t, then hundreds of thousands more families each month will have to suffer weeks with no money, causing them long-term financial problems.
“How is it fair that so many families will be made to suffer simply because the government will not admit they still can’t get Universal Credit working properly.”
The letter also points out that less than 40% of claimants register successfully with the government’s compulsory online portal, and that the phone ‘helpline’ is simply an automatic message, directing claimants to the website, so they can’t find out what is happening with their claim.
Citizens Advice has already called on the government to delay the programme in light of the evidence from the people they help, of whom over half had to borrow money whilst waiting for their first Universal Credit payment.
Councils and Landlords’ organisations have also called for the roll-out to be delayed as over half of recipients of Universal Credit are in rent arrears. Many tenants are in danger of eviction and some landlords now refuse tenants who are on Universal Credit, making housing problems worse.