West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper has signed a letter alongside 122 other MPs calling on the Department for Work and Pensions to halt the planned rollout of Universal Credit next month.
The letter to David Gauke, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions calls for the delay in rolling out to 55 new areas each month, which will include Skelmersdale in December.
The Government’s plans for Universal Credit already have brought misery to thousands of people across the country through pilot and early phases, with the continued rollout set to bring hardship and increased debt for millions of families.
The MPs pointed out how the complicated system of claiming is already struggling to cope with just five new areas a month having been rolled out earlier this year.
Rosie Cooper MP said:
“The system for claiming Universal Credit is a shambles, even with only five new areas a month. According to the government’s own figures, almost a quarter of claimants wait longer than six weeks for their payment. Some families wait 12 weeks or more, pushing many into rent arrears or a spiral of debt that is almost impossible to get out of, as their income under Universal Credit is too low to pay off the loan.
“I already have residents contacting me very concerned about what these changes mean to them and the fear and worry of six week waits for their entitlements, putting household budgets under tremendous strain as they struggle to feed their children or heat their homes.
“Some residents in West Lancashire have already had major issues with the pilot rollout, so if that is anything to go by then full rollout will be disastrous.
“Skelmersdale is due to be hit with the Universal Credit rollout in December and this will cause all sorts of issues for my constituents.
“David Gauke must now do the decent thing and delay next week’s planned 11-fold expansion until Universal Credit systems are working properly. If he doesn’t, then hundreds of thousands more families each month will have to suffer weeks with no money, causing them long-term financial problems.
“It would be a huge injustice for so many families to suffer simply because the government will not admit they still can’t get Universal Credit working properly.”
The MPs also pointed out that less than 40% of claimants register successfully with the government’s compulsory online portal, and that the phone ‘helpline’ is simply an automatic message, directing claimants to the website, so they can’t find out what is happening with their claim.
Citizens Advice has already called on the government to delay the programme in light of the evidence from the people they help, of whom over half had to borrow money whilst waiting for their first Universal Credit payment.
Councils and Landlords’ organisations have also called for the roll-out to be delayed as over half of recipients of Universal Credit are in rent arrears. Many tenants are in danger of eviction and some landlords now refuse tenants who are on Universal Credit, making housing problems worse.