Universal Credit: U-turn on two-child benefit cap is not good enough

Amber Rudd

 

The Government has pulled a U-turn on the Universal Credit two-child limit. Amber Rudd, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has announced that the extension of the two-child limit on Universal Credit will be scrapped.

In general, families with children claiming Universal Credit receive additional financial support if the child was born before April 2017. However, if a family were to have more than two children born either on or after April 2017, the family will not receive additional financial support. The Government had planned to start applying the two-child limit to families with children born before April 2017. This has now been scrapped due to its unfairness.

 

Final Comment from Editor- Heidi Boahen

It is unfair to make an announcement of a potential change to a system which many low-income families rely on. Many families in the UK are in poverty and are struggling to cope financially on a monthly basis.

Although many families will be relieved to hear the announcement, families who have more than two children born after April 2017 will not be too happy. Universal Credit is supposed to be a system which supports low-income families and not put them into further deprivation and poverty. I suggest the cap should be scrapped across the board to make it completely fair. I believe Universal Credit is failing many families going through hardship in the UK.

Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary has announced:

Labour will scrap the social security freeze and get rid of the two child cap, which everyone, including the Work and Pensions Secretary, knows is deeply unfair

 

Universal Credit: ‘The Truth’. An Anonymous Account

This individual wished to remain anonymous, but really wanted to share their experiences of Universal Credit:

I started claiming for Universal Credit in November 2018. I was reluctant to claim, as I did not want to be viewed as a ‘scrounger’.

I could not continue without support, as I had reached destitution – I required urgent assistance.

I contemplated suicide a few times, to avoid becoming a societal burden but primarily due to the issues which led to my destitution in November 2018.

I applied for state assistance at the beginning of November, but was informed I could not receive a full payment until mid-December 2018.

I was reluctant to apply for an ‘advanced payment’ as I was informed that it was a loan. I could not afford to accumulate more debt. But, I eventually applied as I was desperate and could not afford the necessities for living. I applied for one-hundred pounds, to help me survive until I received my payment – but the amount I borrowed was set to be deducted from my payment in December 2018.

My payment eventually arrived and I was immediately short on funds again. I was loaned money from friends and family in small amounts. I struggled to repay everyone.

It is even more difficult to find a job due to my autism and I was initially expected to attend group sessions and places I struggled mentally to cope with, but I am now given a bit more leniency. I raised the issue of my autism at the outset, but so many fail to understand my thoughts and feelings.

I wanted to live with my partner, but if I did this (to minimise costs) I would lose the majority of my support, as the state will judge me based upon the income of my partner of almost two years.

I was forced into this situation abruptly due to issues with my studies and this was all unexpected and unprecedented. I feel that I require emotional support, but cannot access it and I also feel awful for becoming a societal burden.

I am struggling to find a job due to my situation and this is exacerbated by the emotional state I was left in – in November 2018. It takes so long for benefit applications to be reviewed and I often cannot afford to wait for these outcomes – as I have also applied for Personal Independence Payments.

My autism leaves me worrying and struggling to engage in daily activities. I am not sure about anything anymore – I just hope I can have someone to assist me with these difficulties. I cannot keep placing the burden on my partner and loved ones – I hope I can get assistance from the NHS.

It is even more problematic that I have to sign a tenancy agreement before I am informed about any possible entitlement for rent support – a system which could leave me in severe debt or homeless.

Money is tight and my thoughts are low. I want help and support. I wish that mental health services would be well funded and supported – I hope I can access counselling and/or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Vote on Universal Credit Delayed Amid Fears of Tory Rebellion

The House of Commons was set to vote on the transfer of 3 million benefit claimants to the new system – Universal Credit. However, Amber Rudd, Work and Pensions Secretary, has been forced to delay proceedings amid fears of a rebellion within the Conservative Party.

One Whitehall source claimed that Rudd wanted ‘universal credit to receive a fresh parliamentary mandate and be personally sure the system is working in the interests of every claimant’.

Universal Credit has been a flagship programme of the Conservative Party. However, numerous concerns have been raised by individuals across the political spectrum. It has been feared that the system increases poverty and homelessness – thus causing more issues.

It is now believed that a vote will be held for transferring 10,000 to Universal Credit – these individuals will act as a sample and will influence future decisions made by the Government.

Ministers have maintained their commitment for the universal roll out of Universal Credit by 2023.

Universal Credit replaces six of the traditional benefits and attempts to merge them into one – which is paid in monthly instalments to claimants.

However, individuals have suffered due to initial delays and difficulties in requesting an advanced payment – which acts as a loan from the state.

Current claimants of the benefit claim that they have been left with little food, whilst some have allegedly resorted to prostitution.

It is estimated that 3.2 million households have been left worse off across the United Kingdom.

Frank Field, Chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, stated: ‘The government seems finally to have woken up to the human catastrophe that was waiting to happen under its ill-formed plans for moving people on to universal credit.’

More to follow..

Tory MPs using food banks for photo-opportunities is the height of hypocrisy

With the demand for food banks in the UK rising by 52% following the rollout of the government’s flagship welfare policy, Universal Credit (Trussel Trust, October 2018), it’s clear that they are one of the biggest challenges facing the United Kingdom. The Conservative government’s continued austerity and welfare cuts, coupled with the rising cost of living not being matched with wage growth, has led to the poorest in society not being able to afford basic necessities. Now, in a CCHQ bid to make Tory MPs appear ‘human’, it’s noticeable that a substantial number of MPs (Claire Perry and Dominic Raab being two of the most widely ridiculed MPs to have viral photos of themselves at food banks/collections) are using these systems for photo opportunities.

When my MP, David Rutley (conveniently now effectively the ‘food supplies minister’) posted an image on his social media feeds of him taking a picture with a food bank collection station in Macclesfield’s Tesco supermarket, it only went to further prove what the Tories are up to. Following the damning report into the effects of the governments policies in the U.K. by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, which found that the government was ‘causing misery’ and that ministers were ‘in denial’ about this, CCHQ have apparently told MPs that they must have photographs at local food banks and food collections in a bid to make them look like decent human beings, perhaps as a possible pre-election push to win over those who feel that the Tories truly are inflicting ‘misery’ on the poorest.

The sheer hypocrisy of Tory MPs knows no bounds. It is them that has led to the rise in use (up 13% on last year according to the Trussel trust in March 2018). It is them that have left many of the poorest in society living in ‘misery’. And it is them that will continue to create further poverty unless they are voted out.

The new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Amber Rudd, criticised the ‘scathing’ report by the UN Special Rapporteur, arguing that not only was it wrong, but the ‘extraordinary political language’ was ‘inappropriate’ and  ‘discredited a lot of what he was saying’.

However, what Ms Rudd fails to realise is that its the government she serves that has caused this report to be published in the first place due to their horrific policies. That is politics and the fact that the language of a report that said that it was the government’s fault that many were living in poverty only goes to prove that the report’s claim that ‘ministers are in denial’ is more than accurate.

Jeremy Corbyn used PMQs this week to attack the PM on her record on the area, and in a sharp condemnation of the recent actions of Tory MPs such as Claire Perry and Dominic Raab, said that “food banks are not just a photo opportunity for Conservative MPs, all of whom supported the cuts in benefits that have led to the poverty in this country.” The Prime Minister’s response? Denying the report by the UN Rapporteur and refusing to halt Universal Credit. In pointing out the hypocrisy of the Conservative MPs, he drew the exact response that he wanted from Theresa May, proving that the ‘extraordinary political language’ of the UN report’s claim that the ministers were in denial is true.

Following on from her staunch denial of the UN report’s validity, the Prime Minister then had the cheek to once again blame Labour for the problems, saying that the Tories have had to make difficult decisions due to ‘Labour’s poor control of the countries finances’. To blame the Global financial crash for her austerity plans is a disgrace.

This Christmas, remember the families that are suffering as a result of the Tories austerity while you look at pictures of smiling Tory MPs laughing away and having a great time while getting a picture at a food bank. Remember the ‘misery’, a word so often repeated in this article due to the emotion it brings out, that this government has instilled on those who desperately need help as the Tory MPs live it up in their magnificent mansions and cosy cottages. Remember that there are people that are relying on food banks to feed them due to the barbaric Universal Credit system as the Tories tuck into their expensive Christmas meals that will no doubt be claimed back via their expenses, out of the taxpayers’ purse. Because while those who actually rely on food banks are suffering, the Tory ministers are ‘in denial’ as they live out their fancy, taxpayer-funded, luxury lives. Because this Government, and indeed, the Conservative Party on the whole, truly are for the elite, rich few, and most certainly not the many in this country that suffer at the hands of their cruel and callous policies.

Universal Credit could cause Christmas crisis

More than 100,000 children could face severe financial hardship over the Christmas holiday period because of Universal Credit delays.

Peabody, one of the UK’s biggest housing associations has warned ministers that thousands of families who applied for the new benefit after 20th November, will not receive any benefit until after the Christmas period, due to a 35-day wait period. And estimated 116,000 children will be affected.

Ministers have been urged to reduce the wait time, in a tweet, Peabody said: “Reducing the wait to a fortnight from the start of a Universal Credit claim would make a huge difference to thousands of vulnerable families across the country.”

The delay period was first introduced to mirror monthly salary payments but has been heavily criticised, and administrative issues left some claimants with an almost 12 week delay.

Many families will turn to the government’s emergency loans system which is now available to those in financial difficulties during the handover to Universal Credit, but critics of the new system have warned that it leaves claimants locked into debt repayments.

Anya Martin, policy officer at Peabody, said: “People having to use their benefits to repay the government means that this hardship continues even when regular payments have kicked in.

“Reducing the waiting period to two weeks from the start of a claim would make a huge difference to thousands of vulnerable families across the country.”

Speaking to The Guardian, a Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson, said “There’s no reason for people to be without money over Christmas because advance payments are widely available.

“Anyone applying for Universal Credit can get an advance of up to 100% upfront, payable on the same day if someone is in urgent need.”

Poll tracker: Universal Credit, Boris and Brexit- What are the people of Britain thinking??

In a new addition to TPN, we have introduced a new column on what is in the polls, the piece will be published once a week and gives readers a brief insight into the polls to watch out for.

Poll 1: Universal Credit

38% of Britons oppose the introduction of Universal Credit. Contrast this to the fact that just 27% of those that were polled were in favour of the policy. This comes after the news that Universal Credit roll-out has had detrimental effects on existing claimants. TPN coverage of the policy has revealed that Food Bank usage has increased by 52% and the government has now delayed the full roll out until 2019 at the earliest.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal credit intends to to replace five benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based job-seeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit. The policy has been widely criticised by unions and leftists for their sanctions on working class people due to the inbuilt problems of the system which include delays for claimants leading to rising debt and food bank usage.

However, luckily for the Tories, a significant proportion of the population remains unaware of the damage Universal Credit is doing to sections of society.

Poll 2: Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson’s popularity has plummeted among Conservative and Leave voters as is shown in the graph below. In July 2018, Theresa May trailed her adversary by several percentage points and although he has polled negatively for several years now, these numbers do not support his leadership ambitions, Theresa May is now polling at negative 22%, whilst Boris lags at -35%.

Why?

Issues relating to racially insensitive comments over Burkas, divisions over Brexit and missing the key vote over the third runway at Heathrow are likely to be the main causes overall for the drop. Furtherly, lack of progress over Brexit is likely to be the main cause in the sizeable loss of support from Leave voters.

 

Poll 3: Brexit? Surprise.

Only one in five Brits think a second in/out EU referendum is likely. The recent Labour conference which featured shadow chancellor John McDonnell appearing to rule out a “remain” option featuring on the ballot of any future referendum is likely to be a driving force behind this current trend. The prominence of pro-Brexit voices in Tory party and divisions in the labour movement over Brexit are also significant contributing factors.