Last week I called on the government to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit following damning evidence from the National Audit Office and a survey of Universal Credit claimants that showed considerable numbers of people left in hardship by late payments, sanctions and low levels of benefit.
I’m afraid the government refused to pause and change some of the glaring problems, and are insisting on continuing the ‘roll-out’, which comes to High Peak in September.
From then, if you are under pension age and looking to claim any of the major means-tested benefits – tax credits, Housing Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support or Jobseekers Allowance – or you substantially change an existing claim, you will need to claim Universal Credit instead.
Around 500 people in High Peak are already on Universal Credit and over the next 4 years another 6,400 households will be transferred onto it.
By 2023 more than one in six households in High Peak will be on Universal Credit so it’s very important it works as well as possible.
Recent changes following campaigning in Parliament last autumn have led to improvements for many people who claim Universal Credit. Fewer people have to wait months for their first payment, and advances are now available, although they do have to be repaid later.
However, the National Audit Office showed that one in five claimants are still not receiving their first payment on time and in full. This isn’t good enough, so I’m continuing to make the case in Parlaiment to pause and fix Universal Credit.
Locally, I will be working with our job centres, Citizens Advice and food banks to make sure we are as prepared as we can to help people who need to claim. It’s not an easy process, and forms need to be completed online, so thank goodness for our network of libraries with free computer access.
Supporting people who are without money for several weeks will be difficult across all our rural communities, but I know everyone in High Peak will work together to help people in need.
I have produced a Fact Sheet for people who are currently on benefits which is on my website.
I’d encourage anyone who may be affected to find out what they will receive under Universal Credit at www.entitledto.com
If you’re worried, visit Citizens Advice who hold advice sessions at many GP surgeries.
Do let me know if you’re having problems with Universal Credit or other benefits.
In many cases I can help, and I want to ensure we have a proper safety net if people need it – as any of us may one day.