‘A social wrong as great as the poll tax’

UNIVERSAL CREDIT? we want decent incomes, not soup kitchens (Photo: Craig Maclean)

by Sandra Webster · April: a time of rebirth of new opportunities. Our government is using the Brexit debates to hide some very bad news and ridiculous payments to those with the most need. Surely MPs should face the same freezes and face the same situation as those they represent? It seems this is not the case.

Universal Credit is now live throughout the whole of the UK this affects not only those not in work but those whose work is so low paid they require support from the state.

Remember it was the Welfare State of the ’40s, an attempt to end poverty that is being dismantled. What will happen when we are not part of Europe and there is the possibility of coming out of the human rights legislation?

Last week, several parts of Universal Credit were enforced. The benefit cap was introduced. Remember Universal Credit was sold to us as a means of simplifying the system, so all payments including housing benefit, Employment Support Allowance are made in one monthly payment.

Large bite out of incomes
The amount seems a lot but in expensive areas such as Edinburgh and Glasgow, it will take a large bite from people’s income.

Many have to pay for private lets due to lack of social housing. If people are deemed to have one extra room, there will be a decrease of 14 per cent, for two 25 per cent.

This may seem logical but for example if you have a disabled child or young person you may need an extra room for each person or for a carer to stay the night.

Remember, David and Samantha Cameron had support from carers with his son Ivan so they could sleep. Many carers are facing cuts to services and do not get this support—they can only dream of it.

For families with one older person who should be entitled to pension credit, they will now have to claim Universal Credit.

I remember Iain Duncan Smith saying families with a disabled child will not be affected, but many I know who currently claim Income Support for their young adult will have to “migrate” to Universal Credit, as the young person who they care for leaves school.

This can mean a month or longer without support, as the DWP struggle to process claims. This system will be online too impacting on those with less skills or even having no access to a computer.

Amber Rudd is the latest overseer of the demise of the benefits system as we know it. These are entitlements! Rudd said this week, “our benefit system is an ally of the most vulnerable. While making work pay.”

Try telling that to the partner of an abusive person who is the one in the family who receives the single payment. Vulnerable people may end up trapped. There are also rumours that child benefit may be included as part of the universal payment.

There have been so many issues of mistakes being made and people being unsure of how much they will receive it can change every month. Local Authorities and Social housing providers have raised concerns about people being able to pay rent rather than them receiving it. A great way to support the most vulnerable.

While Universal Credit is rolled out cuts to services are being made which many charities have highlighted. People’ s mental health is being affected.

‘Brown paper envelope in the post’ causes great anxiety to many, and it seems to be more prevalent. People describe the panic they feel when a DWP letter is delivered.

Meanwhile, for some who some might say least need it, help is still at hand. Despite many benefits being frozen or given a tiny increase and no pay increases for workers.

MPs voted to give themselves a 2.7 per cent increase in salary. This brings their pay up to almost £80,000 not including expenses of course. Meanwhile those with more than two children face the cap.

Royals’ grant increased
A small group of ministers took 13 minutes to award the Royal Family £290million for repairs to Buckingham Palace and an increase in the sovereign grant. Perhaps they should have asked Uri Geller for a quote?

These terrible things are happening while all we hear about is Brexit. People should be taking to the streets to share this hidden bad news. One thing is necessary—we as socialists prevent those on entitlements being treated as skivers and failures for low wages. Time to educate, agitate and organise, as the WEA would say.

This is a social wrong as great as the poll tax and people need to know they are not alone, that there are people to support them.

We want decent incomes, not soup kitchens, and the Americanisation of the Welfare State must stop.

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