Big Debate: Is Universal Credit fair or will it hurt Newham’s poor?

Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales said Universal Credit will hurt vulnerable people

Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales said Universal Credit will hurt vulnerable people - Credit: Newham Council

Following the introduction of Universal Credit in the borough on Monday last week, Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales expressed fears that the new system would push vulnerable people into the arms of loan sharks. But the Conservative Party insists that by merging six benefits into one payment the Universal Credit scheme will cut red tape and also ensure thay a life in work pays more than one on benefits.

Rachel Collinson says Universal Credit will hurt the poor, but Matthew Gass thinks it makes work pay

Rachel Collinson says Universal Credit will hurt the poor, but Matthew Gass thinks it makes work pay Picture: West Ham Conservatives - Credit: Archant

Rachel Collinson - Newham Green Party

Universal Credit sounds rather nice, doesn’t it? Like something a teenage Time Lord might get for his college work.

Back on Earth, though - we all acknowledge our benefits system needs simplifying. A system that doesn’t waste so much time and money on administration and confusion would be better.

But Universal Credit relies on a government computer system working well – that’s about as likely as Doctor Who appearing in your living room.

More worryingly, they’ve slipped in financial changes too. And these are even more brutal to those who are least well-off.

So it’s bad news for you if you are disabled, a single parent, or have children and rent your family home. From April you’ll lose £1,000 to £2,600 a year.

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And in areas where Universal Credit has been tried out, many people had to wait six weeks with no income until new payments started.

The government claims there will be help available for people this situation, but the evidence shows this isn’t true.

Curo housing association found where their tenants had been put on Universal Credit 90 per cent of those who experienced delays had to borrow money from friends and family. Nobody should have to face this indignity because of government incompetence.

Sadly, though, it fits the pattern of this Conservative government making ordinary people pay for the mistakes of the rich and powerful.

That’s why we say Universal Credit is not much of a credit.

The Green Party wants a simpler system, but it should be a boost – not a beating – for those who are most in need.

Matthew Gass - Deputy chair at West Ham Conservatives

Universal Credit is restoring fairness to the system by making sure work always pays more than living on benefits.

Recent analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows it is helping people move off welfare and into work.

Universal Credit claimants are more likely to move into work to earn more than those on Jobseeker’s Allowance and once fully rolled out it will bring £6.7billion in economic benefit every year.

But that isn’t the main reason to reform the system. Life in work is more rewarding than life on benefits. This is why it’s good news unemployment is at a 10-year low, falling by another 60,000 in the most recent figures, while wages are growing faster than the rate of inflation.

The government is achieving this by doing away with the complexity of the old system to merge six benefits into one simple payment to ensure that work always pays.

Claimants will no longer need to go through the bureaucracy of changing their benefit claim when they get into work, as Universal Credit stays with claimants when they enter work.

Under Labour the welfare system punished work – working people could lose over £9 of every £10 extra they earned.

The benefit system was so complicated that for some people, there was virtually no financial incentive to work.

New research shows that the number of people facing very weak incentives to enter work will fall by two-thirds.

Labour created a welfare system that trapped people out of work. Now the Conservative government is building a system that protects the vulnerable, but rewards work, creates jobs and grows wages.

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