On Monday, I challenged the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions about the effect of Universal Credit on poverty.
Universal Credit was created to replace a number of different benefits – such as Job Seekers’ Allowance and Child Tax Credits – by delivering a single monthly payment. However, from its very inception, it has been beset with problems and budget shortfalls. Earlier this year, the National Audit Office highlighted the problems with the introduction of Universal Credit. They found that one in five people didn’t receive their full payment on time. The DWP’s own records show that 4 in 10 claimants were experiencing financial hardship after migrating on to Universal Credit.
Yet despite these problems, the government are still sticking by their scheme.
According to the Child Poverty Action Group, one in four children in the UK are affected by poverty. Crisis’ latest report into homelessness, rough sleeping has increased by 139% since 2010. If Universal Credit truly does what the government claims it is designed for, we should expect to see these numbers go down over the coming years.
When I asked the Secretary of State to put her prediction about this on the record, she dodged the question. She says that work is the best route out of poverty, and I agree. However, as the Universal Credit system she is defending keeps people trapped in low paid jobs, or puts them in debt, which makes poverty worse.
Labour is clear. We will redesign the entire Social Security system, remove the Tories’ freeze on social security and ensure that people are given the support that they need.