The misery, despair and pain of universal credit
Ray Taylor (Need to sign on?
You’ll have to walk 24 miles to the jobcentre, 7 January) is just one of many victims of universal credit (UC). Recently there has been a lot of talk and discussion of the problems with the roll-out of UC. However, the basic problem is not about the way the roll-out has been mishandled but about the underlying values and the ethos shaping the design of UC.
As Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said in his November report on poverty in UK, “In the area of poverty-related policy, the evidence points to the conclusion that the driving force has not been economic but rather a commitment to achieving radical social re-engineering … to pursue a singleminded … focus on getting people into employment at all costs … and wanting to make clear that being on benefits should involve hardship”.
It is claimed that the great virtue of UC is that it simplifies the system. Even this is not true as it only deals with the six most easily understood benefits (in fact three, as the other three are really variations on jobseeker’s allowance) and not with the multiplicity of other benefits which have grown up to fix one or other of the benefit problems. The combining into UC of these three benefits, all under the control of separate agencies, enables the jobcentre staff to remove jobseeker’s support, housing benefit and child tax credit all at once so that families are destitute and liable to lose their homes. Pre-UC this could not happen as jobcentre staff only had control of jobseeker’s allowance. The only solution to the problems of universal credit is to get rid of it.
In rural areas of Scotland visits are made by Post Office and bank buses. Why can’t the Department for Work and Pensions provide a similar system, since it was they who closed all the jobcentres. On the issue of bus services and fares, I am sure it would not cost too much to offer everyone a bus pass and improve services. There are many people who would never use a bus, but it could be a lifeline for so many people and communities. Hopefully Louise Tickle’s article will help Ray Taylor to secure employment nearer to his home.
I have just gone through the ordeal that the government say is an easy transition to the new universal credit. The past five weeks have been one of the most stressful periods of my life, just like every time the government decides it want to crucify the most vulnerable of the country.
On Monday my universal credit was awarded, leaving me £93.58 per four weeks worse off compared with the employment and support allowance and housing benefit that I had. This now means a choice of food, heat or transportation. If I have to sell my car this will leave me housebound. I already had to budget just £20 per week for food (before the reduction in my benefits). As for heating, I could only afford to put the heating on when my flat is below 10C, and only raising it to 12C.
I am disabled, with mechanical scoliosis from an accident, meaning I walk with crutches indoors and use a wheelchair all other times. I also have Raynaud’s, which means my circulation is severely restricted to my extremities. I suffer from deep depression with high anxiety. I can now see why other people have been driven to suicide by the government taking more and more away from the most vulnerable of this country.
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I wonder if Amber Rudd saw Les Misérables on BBC One on Sunday, where Fantine was forced to sell her hair, teeth and, inevitably, herself. The day before on BBC Two, the title character of I, Daniel Blake was dying in a DWP toilet after being forced to sell his belongings by the “welfare” system. My January universal credit payment was £346 as I’d earned £185 in November. My rent is £317. My (Labour) MP is silent.
If any benefit system is to be fair, following the disaster of the universal credit illustrated by I, Daniel Blake, the following golden rule ought to apply: for the health and wellbeing of
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the lowest-income men, women and children to flourish, the minimum household income must be enough to buy a healthy diet, water, fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities after the rent, council and income taxes are paid.
The minimum income standards (MIS) research needed by government was commissioned from the Family Budget Unit by the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust and published in 1998. MIS are now available from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation through the Living Wage Foundation. Achieving the good health and wellbeing of every UK citizen in or out of work must become a national priority.
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
Re your article (Single mothers make up 85% of people with benefits capped, 4 January), we know that children particularly are suffering as a result of this policy. An article on 17 December described teachers’ warning that many pupils in England were hungry and badly clothed. I feel ashamed that this appalling situation exists in this country in the 21st-century and is getting worse.
My father died in 1962. My brother was 14, I was 10. My mother always had two or three part-time jobs. Every time she earned more than
£15 a week, her widowed mother’s child allowance was reduced. It was a poverty trap. Here we are more than 50 years later and people are still in a poverty trap. Today, though, the wealth divide is wider than ever. Something is seriously wrong with the system if children are going to school hungry. No policy, whatever the justification, is acceptable if it causes so much suffering.
Winchester Samaritans can be called on 116 123
Universal credit has left me £93.58 per four weeks worse off. This now means a choice of food, heat or transportation