Stop Universal Credit in its Tracks
This list of demands does not yet reflect Labour’s official policy position on UC but is soon likely to – at Labour’s conference, the party announced a review of its existing ‘pause and fix’ position and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell later said that it was likely that UC would be scrapped as part of that review.
These demands on a Tory Government that is responsible for the crisis facing those made poor, destitute & ill by UC. The 10 points are practical, emergency measures designed to tackle the biggest failings of Universal Credit. Labour has committed to voting against Hammond’s budget if the UC roll-out continues.
1. Cut the five-week wait: people having to wait five weeks for their entire payment is unprecedented in social security. The excessive waiting period is causing severe poverty, food bank use, rent arrears & even homelessness
2. Remove the insistence on making & managing a claim online: the Government insists that claimants must make a Universal Credit claim online. One in three (29%) claims to Universal Credit are closed & not paid within the complicated system that people find hard to navigate
3. End counter-productive sanctions (e.g. requiring people to demonstrate in an online journal that they are spending 35 hrs a week looking for work): a major study led by the University of York found that sanctions are pushing people into destitution, survival crime & ill health
4. Protect domestic abuse sufferers & allow families to split their payments: it’s been estimated that in 80% of cases the payment will be paid to the male partner – problematic & harmful if domestic abuse exists in a relationship & one partner exercises coercive control
5. Protect families from homelessness & give tenants the right to have their housing costs paid directly to their landlord: vulnerable people, who should be on alternative payment arrangements but are not, are getting into arrears & are put at risk of homelessness
6. Reverse cuts to disabled people: Universal Credit abolishes both severe & enhanced disability premiums. Disability groups have warned that these cruel cuts to disability benefit are likely to result in them struggling to pay for basic essentials such as food & heating
7. Reverse the cuts to children’s benefits: reinstate the family element & get rid of the two-child limit: it cannot be right that the Government is making children a target for austerity, treating one child as if they matter less than another
8. Support people on fluctuating incomes: the way that someone’s UC is calculated fails to take account properly of fluctuating incomes that are a fact of life for many people on low incomes, e.g. those who are self-employed or in insecure work such as zero-hour contracts
9. Restore work allowances: the cuts damage financial work incentives, directly contradicting the Government’s stated agenda of ‘making work pay’. According to the Child Poverty Action Group, work allowance cuts have the greatest impact in cash terms on households in the ‘just about managing’ group
10. End the freeze on social security: the Government froze working-age benefits (Child Benefit, UC, some Tax Credits, Housing Benefit limits, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support & Employment and Support Allowance) for 4 yrs from 2016. According to the Resolution Foundation, the real cut to many benefits from the freeze is over 6%
Labour is fighting for the people. Hammond is protecting the richest and corporations.
This post has previously appeared as a Labour party press release (https://labour.org.uk/press/labour-issues-10-emergency-demands-government-tackle-biggest-failings-universal-credit/) and on Skwawkbox: (https://skwawkbox.org/).