Cat Smith MP - When will the Tories take credit for universal mess?

The Department for Work and Pensions is in charge of rolling out Universal Credit  a single payment which should replace six different benefits
The Department for Work and Pensions is in charge of rolling out Universal Credit a single payment which should replace six different benefits

The Fleetwood MP takes a look at the troubled roll-out of Universal Credit

As you know, it’s just a matter of weeks now until the Tories are supposed to be rolling out Universal Credit (UC) in our area.

The Labour Party and I have fought against this new benefits system ever since it was first proposed. Now even Conservative MPs recognise it’s having a devastating effect on many groups, including working single parents, young people and the disabled.

A comprehensive analysis of the impact of UC has been compiled and has found that almost two in five households in receipt of benefits will lose an average of £52 a week. They include a million homeowners receiving tax credits, 750,000 households on disability benefit and some 600,000 working single parents.

So much for Theresa May’s promise to help those who are ‘just about managing’. Instead, under her leadership, those ‘just about managing’ are now not managing at all, leading to people unable to pay their rent and losing their homes, professional workers needing the support of foodbanks to feed then and their kids and those with disabilities unable to afford to leave their homes.

Now, new analysis by the Labour Party has revealed that more than 70 per cent of UC sanctions have landed on claimants aged under 30. (A benefit sanction is a penalty imposed on a claimant leading to a loss of income when someone does not meet conditions – in many cases benefits have been removed because people have been ill and unable to attend something like a Jobcentre appointment.) Out of a total of 473,000 decisions to apply a sanction under the Universal Credit live service, more than 334,000 (70 per cent) have been applied to claimants aged under 30. Nearly a fifth of all sanctions have landed on claimants aged just 18 and 19 years old. This is evidence of the impact of the Tories’ punitive sanctions regime.

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Rather than supporting young people into secure, well-paid jobs, the Tories hit them with sanctions. UC is causing poverty and hardship wherever it’s rolled out, especially for young people.

There are now rumours the Tories are going to delay any further rollout of UC due to a significant number of politicians from all parties being opposed to it. The system was supposed to be up and running by April 2017, but is now not expected to be fully operational until December 2023. What a mess. And as always, those suffering are the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

Labour is committed to a root-and-branch review of the social security system to ensure it lifts people out of poverty and is there for all of us in our time of need.

If you have any issues relating to UC, or any other matter that you think I can help you with, email me at cat.smith.mp@parliament.uk or call 01253 490 440.

Finally, there’s a new support group starting in Over Wyre for parents of children who have additional needs. As with a lot of rural areas there are few support services available and very few groups that provide emotional and practical guidance, advice and friendship. The two mums who are starting the group want to begin with meet-ups over coffee before introducing activities with the children during the school holidays.

They have their own Facebook page ‘Overwyre Parent/Carer Support Group’ , you can email laurarumney@aol.com or call Laura or Catherine on 07795833251. So if you live in Preesall, Knott-End or surrounding areas, don’t be shy in making contact. I hope the new group brings the opportunity of making new friends and creating a valuable support network for all carers.