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After a Department for Work and Pensions report showed that one in four new benefits claimants were waiting longer than 6 weeks to be paid any money, a new investigation carried out by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) has blown these figures completely out of the water.
In their new report, the CAB revealed that a staggering 79% (4 our of 5) of people currently on, or waiting to be on, universal credit are at risk of eviction because they have missed rent or council tax payments. They are also at risk of having their energy supplies cut off because as they have no choice but to skip bills.
As Universal Credit is introduced, ministers continue to be urged to pause the dramatic welfare reform that sees seven benefits rolled into one. The DWP is under pressure from charities, landlords and MPs – and yet are still perversely progressing with its nationwide release.
Universal Credit is the combination of benefits including child and working tax credits, income support, job seekers allowance, housing benefit and employment and support allowance. Its introduction has been delayed multiple times, however it is now live in five cities and a wider roll out begins next month.
It will be gradually introduced countrywide between now and 2021, despite desperate calls from charities and MPs to reassess the impact it will have on millions of people across the country.
By 2022, more than 7 million households will be on universal credit, with at least half of them being in work.
Whilst the DWP remains insistent that universal credit is helping people “improve their lives and raise their incomes”, there is actually a mass of evidence that suggests the complete opposite – and it is being completely ignored.
“A disaster waiting to happen”
Citizens Advice have described universal credit as a “disaster waiting to happen” and have warned of the “catastrophic consequences” for families.
The Observer revealed that that landlords are now refusing to accept tenants on universal credit due to the risk of rent arrears, and that multiple housing associations are reporting the rate of rent arrears among tenants on universal credit as being much greater than those who are not. Some food banks have also claimed that marriages are breaking down to the due to added pressure.
The despair of millions
CAB have called on the government to ensure that there will not be a wait longer than six weeks for an income. They have also urged them to ensure that anyone who needs it will receive a payment within two weeks that they will not need to repay.
The Labour Party have also called for a pause in the roll out of universal credit, describing it as in “total disarray”.
Debbie Abrahams, the Shadow Secretary of Work and Pensions, said:
The government’s flagship universal credit programme is in total disarray.
I have written to the secretary of state requesting that he immediately halt the roll-out of universal credit to contain the misery being caused by the disastrous mishandling of this programme.
Last month 30 Labour MPs and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas urged the government to wait until at least next year to begin the roll out of Universal Credit, as the long delays would mean that people would be unable to afford the festive period.
Yet, regardless of all of the calls for pauses and reviews, and all of the warnings of disaster and all of the misery that it is already causing, the DWP march mulishly on with the system that could seemingly result in the despair of millions.
The DWP’s latest statement reflects each of their previous monotonous statements on the subject, claiming that universal credit is working:
Universal credit is getting more people into work than the old system. It mirrors the way most people in work are paid, helping to ease the transition into employment.The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their budgets, and for people who need extra support, advance payments are available.
However, the evidence clearly states otherwise. One must surely question how the DWP can continue to ignore so many calls for a pause. If there is so much evidence that supports that this system is desolation for many, then why are they going ahead with it?
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