The Government’s decision not to stop the rollout of Universal Credit ‘beggars belief’, according to Eastbourne’s MP.
The scheme combines six benefits into one and has been hailed as a way of simplifying the system, but critics have argued the changes are causing real hardship for families on low or no income.
Reports from around the country suggest claimants are being pushed into debt due to at least a six week wait to receive the first payment, leading to a spike in foodbank use in some areas.
Last week the Government announced it would scrap charges on calls to the Universal Credit helpline, but all Tory MPs but one abstained from a vote in the House of Commons calling on the rollout to be paused.
The rollout of the new benefits system started in Eastbourne a fortnight ago.
Eastbourne’s MP Stephen Lloyd, the Lib Dems work and pensions spokesman, told the House of Commons on Tuesday (October 24) that 1.5m people on housing benefit are in the private rented sector, and since these landlords do not have the patience of flexibility of councils or housing associations, moving them on to Universal Credit risked an ‘absolute catastrophe’ of people losing their homes.
But Conservative Damian Hinds, Government minister for employment, said: “It is a system that is replacing a deeply flawed system and striving to face up head-on to endemic problems that we have had for decades and that were left in the ‘too difficult to deal with’ tray—an old system, where complexity and bureaucracy had so often served to stifle the independence, limit the choice and constrain the outlook of its claimants.”
After the emergency debate, Mr Lloyd took to Facebook to urge the Government to act to avert a ‘possible disaster in the making’.
He said: “In Eastbourne I and others - both statutory and charities - are doing our level best to ramp up services and support mechanisms to cope with the expected demand (UC launched in EB week before last) but when a colleague from the Eastbourne Foodbank told me, only a couple of weeks ago, that food requirements from their Hastings equivalent went up a staggering 80 per cent.
“And that, consequently, they are very worried indeed about the same happening here.
“So it beggars belief the Government simply refuses to halt the national rollout of Universal Credit before it’s too late.”
For more information on Universal Credit visit the borough council’s website.
Have you had any issues with the rollout? Email the newsdesk.