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Critics slam decision to press ahead with roll-out of ‘failing’ UC scheme

The government has been slammed this week for its decision to go forward with the roll-out of Universal Credit, which critics argue is leading to many vulnerable people in England being unable to pay their bills.

Speaking at the Conservative conference yesterday, work and pensions secretary David Gauke said he would give cash advances to those needing it within five days, or on the same day in emergency cases.

However, Gauke also stuck by the maligned policy, claiming he was committed to it and would not put the roll-out on hold.

The scheme has proved unpopular since it first began to be delivered, with one charity warning it was “beset with problems.”

A report drawn up by poverty charity the Trussell Trust also found that the switch to UC had actually led to the number of referrals to food banks doubling in England.

Adding to these claims, London Councils has now argued that the decision to push ahead with UC is the wrong one, with its chair Cllr Claire Kober stating the organisation was disappointed at the news.

“While we support its principles, the London experience so far has been that it places both claimants and local authorities in a position of financial insecurity due to the six-week waiting period and further delays in payments experienced by one in four claimants,” she added.

“The impact of this can be serious – a significant number of families claiming UC have fallen into rent arrears as a result of delayed payments, leaving them at risk of becoming homeless. Wider use of advance payments is welcome but will not tackle fundamental problems.

“It’s not too late to address local authorities’ concerns and deliver Universal Credit in a manner that promotes the social and economic welfare of claimants. We will continue to urge government to reconsider the case for slowing down the Universal Credit roll-out.”

Labour: Decision is an insult to those at the bottom

Unsurprisingly, Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary also had stern words for the government’s decision.

“It is an insult to those being pushed into debt and rent arrears by this government’s punitive six-week wait policy that the work and pensions secretary is suggesting they get another loan to make ends meet,” she stated.

“The work and pensions secretary could and should immediately end the misery caused by the six-week wait for payment of Universal Credit.

“Weeks ago, I wrote to the secretary of state calling for a pause to Universal Credit roll-out,” Abrahams continued. “Even 14 Conservative MPs and the chancellor of the exchequer have recognised that the programme is failing, yet today Gauke has confirmed he will not act.

“Over a year ago, on the steps of the Downing Street, the prime minister claimed she would help those struggling to get by. The government is failing the many by refusing to help the 13 million people living in poverty in the UK.” 

Top Image: Helen Cobain

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