MP in pledge to maintain Universal Credit campaign
WITH Skelmersdale due to have the full roll-out of Universal Credit implemented this month, Rosie Cooper has described the system for claiming as “an absolute shambles.”
And she has pledged to continue her campaign to ensure constituents are not adversely affected by the switch to the much-criticised new benefit over the Christmas period.
During his Budget speech, the Chancellor announced £1.5bn to assist people moving to the controversial new benefit, which has attracted repeated criticism.
However, the West Lancs MP said many people were angry that changes would not benefit claimants until next year.
Universal Credit replaces and merges existing benefits including income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance; income-related Employment & Support Allowance; Income Support; Working Tax Credit; Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit.
Ms Cooper said: “The Government cannot be under any illusion about the scale of the devastation the full roll-out of Universal Credit could bring to families and communities across the country especially over the Christmas period, yet the Budget abjectly failed to deal with the many concerns raised.
“We hear the Government talking about future changes, stating that claimants will only have to wait five weeks for payments instead of six. This is still far, far too long to have to wait for help to feed and house their families, particularly over the Christmas and winter periods.
“The Chancellor has announced £1.5bn to support claimants, but won’t implement these changes until next year. The system for claiming Universal Credit is an absolute shambles.
“I met with our local jobcentre manager Amanda Jakeman and I am assured that she and her staff are doing all they can to support claimants. But I remain very concerned about the Government’s policy and the capacity to support all claimants effectively.
“According to the Government’s own figures, almost a quarter of claimants wait longer than six weeks for their payment. Some families wait 12 weeks or more, pushing many into rent arrears or a spiral of debt that is almost impossible to get out of, as their income is too low to pay off the loan.
“I already have residents contacting me very concerned about what these changes mean to them and the fear and worry of six-week waits for their entitlements, putting household budgets under tremendous strain as they struggle to feed their children or heat their homes.
“I know that some residents in West Lancashire have already had major issues with the pilot roll-out, if that was replicated using the full roll-out then that would be disastrous.”
Ms Cooper recently signed a letter along with 122 other MPs calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to delay the planned roll-out of Universal Credit to 55 new areas each month, including Skelmersdale in December.
She said the pilot and early phases of Universal Credit had already brought “misery” to thousands across the country and the continued roll-out would mean hardship and increased debt for many families.
Councils and landlords’ organisations have also called for the roll-out to be delayed as over half of recipients of Universal Credit are in rent arrears. Many tenants are in danger of eviction and some landlords now refuse tenants who are on Universal Credit, making housing problems worse.
Any constituent who is concerned or struggling with Universal Credit is encouraged to contact Rosie Cooper by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 01695 570094.