‘Scrap cruel and failing Universal Credit system’

Mark H Durkan.
Mark H Durkan.

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan, has called for the ‘failing’ and ‘cruel’ scheme of Universal Credit to be scrapped.

The Derry politician said he fully backed former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s assessment of Universal Credit as this Tory Government’s new poll tax.

Gordon Brown is the latest in a string of high profile figures to call for the roll out of Universal Credit to be abandoned.

The controversial Universal Credit system was rolled out in Derry at the start of 2018 and prior to this in the Limavady area.

Mr Durkan said: “Gordon Brown’s description of Universal Credit as the new Poll Tax is absolutely right. Just like the poll tax, Universal Credit is plunging people and children into greater poverty and despair.

“As pointed out in the recent scathing National Audit Office Report, a survey of claimants by the government’s own Department for Work and Pensions found that Universal Credit was pushing four out of every 10 claimants into greater financial hardship.

“And yet in the face of these facts and in the face of this evidence from the advice sector, faith leaders and now a former Prime Minister, this British Government seem determined to plough on with the roll out of this flawed and cruel system.”

Universal Credit replaced Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credits, with all new claims being brought in under this system.

Existing claimants on these benefits are due to be transferred to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2022.

Speaking ahead of the roll-out in Derry back in January, a senior civil servant at the Department for Communities said the new system meant “significant change” for claimants.

He said at the time: “Instead of individuals having to fill in multiple forms and manage several claims, they can claim the single benefit of Universal Credit online.

“This simplifies the process with digital support available for those who need it. People can claim using a PC, tablet or mobile phone,” he added.

CRIPPLING FOR PEOPLE

However, Mr Durkan said that the system has proved “crippling” for many local people.

“My constituency office and other advice agencies are currently inundated with harrowing stories from individuals about the disastrous repercussions of Universal Credit.

“It is clear the system is financially crippling families and increasing hardship among communities who are already struggling.

“We are seeing increased levels of homelessness, debt and an increased reliance on food banks as a direct consequence of Universal Credit. It needs to be scrapped.

“The UK government needs to step up and do the right thing- put a stop to this failing scheme which is spiralling out of control,” he added.