UNIVERSAL CREDIT: STOP IT AND DROP IT!
In 2018 full service Universal Credit rolled into Shrewsbury and Atcham. It is this government’s scummy tidal mark on the cracked sink of austerity, and it has to go.
On the 8th. March, this year’s International Women’s Day, Shrewsbury and Atcham Labour Party Women’s Forum (WF) held an information event on Universal Credit (UC). It was led by Duncan Walker (Unite Community Union), Su Moffat and Linda Allbutt (‘Period Power’, Newcastle-under-Lyme Labour Party). UC was considered by many to be a controversial ‘benefit’ from its 2013 beginning, so when it was announced that full-service UC was to be rolled out in the Shrewsbury area in May this year, the WF knew they needed to be informed about the likely impact this instrument of austerity would have on the local people that have to access it.
On 17th October, Labour moved a Commons Opposition Day debate (Hansard Vol. 647), that was critical of the lack of government transparency when refusing to publish its own analysis on the impacts of UC. This was followed up the next day in the Commons Select Committee on Work and Pensions with enquiries that were further critical of UC. Indeed, controversy has accompanied UC from the beginning and such criticism has identified its highly punitive effects on recipients, many of whom are the working poor, barely getting by in low paid, precarious employment. In the above debate, Conservative MPs asserted that work pays and their UC goal is to get those on benefits into work. Such assertions regarding the benefit of UC are not borne out by the National Audit Office’s (NAO) report, ‘Rolling Out Universal Credit’ (June 2018). The NAO’s research concludes that, ‘Both we and the Department doubt it will ever be possible for the Department to measure whether the economic goal of increasing employment has been achieved’.
UC is an embodiment of the government’s austerity policy enacted on the most vulnerable in our society. The limited adjustments the Government have made have been too little too late. Statistics from CAB Shropshire are truly shocking. These are a few: by the final year of rollout of UC in Shropshire in 2023, 27,000 families will have been negatively impacted by this benefit to the tune of £1,600 per family, per year; 7,000 families will have been affected by reductions in their Council Tax support. Non-payment of which is a criminal offence. In addition, £1m per year will be lost to the local economy of Shropshire.
National monitoring by the Trussell Trust has found that in areas where full UC has been rolled out for a year or more, food banks in that area have experienced an average 52% increase in use. 1 million householders in Britain and 600,000 working single parents will be worse off under UC. Poor people including those in work, families with three or more children and people with disabilities are being punished by the UC system for simply being poor. Women, particularly black women, are disproportionately financially disadvantaged by this ‘benefit’. In addition, because UC is automatically paid to one adult only in a household, it potentially leaves some women subject to financial coercive control by a partner with possible threats of violence.
The people in the video to which the link is shown below speak for themselves about their experiences of trying to live on UC. UC is here, now in our area – and it has to go! It’s not enough for Theresa May to claim that austerity is at an end. This is a call on her to demonstrate it, to make it real! She could start with dismantling UC and with it sink this leaking austerity flag ship. Stop it and drop it!
Further reading: Trussell Trust’s: 1. ‘Left Behind’ and 2. ‘Early Warnings’ report
Jane Asterley Berry