Univer­sal credit sys­tem not fit for pur­pose

Stockport Express - - Your Views - ANN COF­FEY Labour MP for Stock­port

THE re­form of the ben­e­fit sys­tem in our coun­try is long over­due and the in­tro­duc­tion of Univer­sal Credit was planned to sim­plify a com­plex sys­tem and guar­an­tee that work pays and hav­ing a job is bet­ter than a life on ben­e­fits.

How­ever, in­stead of im­prov­ing things, the gov­ern­ment has cre­ated a sys­tem which is not fit for pur­pose.

Univer­sal Credit, which merges six ben­e­fits and tax cred­its into one, is sup­posed to be flex­i­ble, mak­ing it eas­ier for peo­ple to move into a job, cope with pe­ri­ods of in­se­cure em­ploy­ment and en­sure in-work pay­ments for low-in­come fam­i­lies.

Un­for­tu­nately, flaws in its de­sign and im­ple­men­ta­tion are caus­ing fi­nan­cial hard­ship.

In Stock­port, with our full roll­out not ex­pected un­til later in 2018, peo­ple al­ready on Univer­sal Credit are con­tact­ing my of­fice be­cause of late pay­ments and mount­ing debt.

The num­ber one is­sue for peo­ple is the six-week wait to re­ceive your first pay­ment.

As I learnt when I vis­ited Stock­port Food­bank this sum­mer, hav­ing no in­come for six weeks, for peo­ple who had been un­able to build up any sav­ings, means you can’t pay the rent or af­ford to pay for heat­ing or even food.

If the roll­out in Stock­port goes ahead next year, with 14,000 more claimants, that means many more fam­i­lies head­ing for the food­bank.

Univer­sal Credit ap­pli­ca­tions must be done on­line and this cre­ates prob­lems for peo­ple who don’t have a com­puter, a smart­phone or in­ter­net at home and have to use the lo­cal li­brary.

The on­line sys­tem is not user-friendly and about 60 per cent of claimants have dif­fi­culty com­plet­ing their ap­pli­ca­tion.

The other big is­sue be­ing raised with me is the tele­phone helpline, which cuts off your call after you’ve been wait­ing for three min­utes, mak­ing you try again and again to get through.

I just don’t think it’s right that peo­ple are be­ing pushed into debt and rent ar­rears or even los­ing their home be­cause of prob­lems with Univer­sal Credit. We need to get this right. I have writ­ten to the Min­is­ter at the Depart­ment of Work and Pen­sions ask­ing him to ur­gently re­con­sider the huge roll­out of Univer­sal Credit which is be­ing planned across the coun­try.

Like Cit­i­zens Ad­vice and Child Poverty Ac­tion Group, I am ask­ing the gov­ern­ment to put a brake on the roll­out un­til the prob­lems with it are fixed, to save fur­ther hard­ship and long term debt for thou­sands of fam­i­lies.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.