PM should scrap Uni­ver­sal Credit

Western Daily Press - - Opinion - Paul Halas Stroud, Glouces­ter­shire

THE hated Poll Tax even­tu­ally proved Mar­garet Thatcher’s un­do­ing; if the Brexit sham­bles doesn’t un­seat Theresa May, will Uni­ver­sal Credit?

The UC roll-out is about 20 per cent com­plete here in Stroud and al­ready it’s a mess. I’d in­tended a let­ter re­count­ing some of the case his­to­ries I’ve heard first-hand – but lack of space dic­tates that’s just not pos­si­ble. Sev­eral com­mon ex­pe­ri­ences re­cur, how­ever.

The ap­pli­ca­tion process is very com­pli­cated, and many peo­ple sim­ply don’t have the skills to tackle it – the promised men­tor­ing for those in need is prov­ing in­suf­fi­cient. Many ap­pli­cants don’t have com­put­ers and have prob­lems ac­cess­ing and us­ing the in­ter­net. Any slip-up and swinge­ing sanc­tions are ap­plied.

Many claimants don’t un­der­stand that even when their ap­pli­ca­tion has been suc­cess­fully com­pleted there is still a min­i­mum wait of five weeks – and it’s fre­quently far longer – be­tween the last of the old ben­e­fits pay­ments and the first of Uni­ver­sal Credit… and women are far­ing worst of all from this highly flawed scheme.

Peo­ple are be­ing plunged into debt and build­ing up rent ar­rears, which is lead­ing to evic­tions and fur­ther in­creases in home­less­ness. The pay­ments claimants are end­ing up with un­der UC are al­most in­vari­ably less than they re­ceived un­der the old sys­tem – yet UC will ul­ti­mately prove far more ex­pen­sive to im­ple­ment and run than the old ben­e­fits sys­tem.

The idea of rolling all ben­e­fits into one isn’t in it­self that bad, but its mis­man­aged im­ple­men­ta­tion and the mean-spir­ited think­ing be­hind it make it an aw­ful one. It ap­pears that those suf­fer­ing the worst ef­fects of our ap­pallingly un­equal econ­omy are be­ing forced through a ter­ri­bly de­mean­ing, over­com­pli­cated process into a worse sit­u­a­tion than they were in be­fore.

Mar­garet Thatcher de­clared there’s no such thing as so­ci­ety, and her suc­ces­sors have done their level best to de­stroy it. Now, al­most un­be­liev­ably, there’s a whole rash of pub­lic­ity about Tory politi­cians do­nat­ing to food banks – whose num­ber they’ve in­creased by 700 per cent – and grin­ning for the cam­eras in front of them. Do they re­ally not see the in­sult they’re adding to in­jury?

When the re­moval lor­ries roll up to Num­ber 10, Mrs May could at least put one thing right: she could scrap Uni­ver­sal Credit.

Alan Bowkett, of Cin­der­ford, Glouces­ter­shire, took this photo of dra­matic skies over the For­est of Dean

Es­mond Lane took this photoat Hayles Fruit Farm, near Winch­combe, Glouces­ter­shire

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