Fight expansion of disastrous ‘Universal Credit’ welfare system

Nearly half of current claimants are in rent arrears

New areas are due to launch the system in October

By Laurel Fogarty, Bangor

‘Universal Credit’, the Tories’ disastrous flagship welfare ‘reform’, is due to be rolled out to 50 new areas next month.

This is despite new figures showing the system’s harsh benefit cuts and long waiting times are driving claimants into serious debt.

Officially, recipients of Universal Credit will wait up to six weeks for their first payment. But according to the Trussell Trust many wait between ten and 13 weeks.

This drives many in Universal Credit areas, including those in work, to foodbanks to survive – at more than double the rate of the national average.

The huge delays also put families at serious risk of eviction and homelessness. Landlords can evict tenants who are over eight weeks behind on rent – a stark reality for many waiting for Universal Credit payments.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show nearly half of new recipients of Universal Credit have fallen behind on their rent for the first time. One in five owes over £1,000.

While it is easy to attribute the massive waiting times to incompetence or errors in the rollout of the new system, much of the delay is, in fact, callously built in to the structure of Universal Credit.

For example, there is a seven-day waiting period before a claim can be made. Then the DWP insists an official wait of up to 42 days is ‘necessary’ to ensure recipients are on a monthly schedule.

So even when the system works properly it leaves people in serious debt and at risk of homelessness. About one in ten recipients turn in desperation to payday loan companies to keep their heads above water.

Other attacks such as the ‘rape clause’ for child tax credits, and the massive delays in housing benefit payments, make Universal Credit a still more brutal system that is not fit for purpose.

As a start the rollout of Universal Credit should be immediately halted and reversed.

The Socialist Party opposes all barbaric cuts to the social safety net including the cynical hidden cuts at the heart of this ‘reform’. We campaign for an end to in-work poverty, a living wage for all workers, and living benefits without compulsion.