Since the roll out of Universal Credit in Southampton there has been barely a week that’s gone by without one of my constituents contacting me distressed because they are struggling due to the way UC is administered.
Many of you will have heard of the absurd 6 week wait for benefits, which is in reality often longer, that has driven people to food banks. However, this is just the beginning of the nightmare.
I have had people contact me who haven’t received any money for months once their benefits have started. These people are in work and universal credit is replacing what was tax credits and the delay has been due to them getting paid early before the weekend or over a bank holiday such as Christmas. This leads to the system marking them as being paid twice in a monthly period and they have gone without money for up to 2 months.
Some people have found their rent has been changed by pence or pounds and they have had to put in a whole new claim waiting again for up to 8 weeks for any money.
There are those who have been moved over to Universal Credit to find that benefits have been slashed significantly and the already tight budget they were working from has been cut further. Most of these people are in work but are not earning enough or receiving enough hours to get by without Universal Credit.
Whenever I have raised these issues with the ministers responsible I’ve been told that the system is working as it should. In which case the system is not fit for purpose and it has turned a safety net into a trap.
I’m pleased that Labour have promised to scrap Universal Credit if they win at the next election. It’s such a huge driver of poverty particular within working families that I, and I’m sure many of my constituents will be happy to see the back of it.