KATE OSBORNE: Urgent action is needed to tackle Universal Credit misery

Whatever your income, whatever your age, wherever you live, whether you’re in work or not, the chances are you will know or have heard of someone whose life has been left devastated because of the dreadful Universal Credit benefits system.

Universal credit is causing hardship
Universal credit is causing hardship

The Conservative government’s wicked attack on working people is proving calamitous for our area and this country with taxpayers picking up the bill.

There are over 4,600 people who are claiming Universal Credit in the Jarrow Constituency and over 131,000 claimants across the North East. Universal Credit was supposed to make work pay, but instead it has caused misery for so many people across the Jarrow Constituency and further afield.

Recipients of Universal Credit report going hungry, being left unable to buy clothes or pay for heating and struggling to pay their rent.

The grim reality is this government’s flagship welfare reform programme has forced claimants into rent arrears. Some claimants have been unable to afford their gas or electricity bill and, for others, they’ve been left with no choice but to turn to a food bank.

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As one of the richest countries in the world, this government should be ashamed.

Their disastrous handling of the roll out of Universal Credit has been heavily criticised, particularly the five-week plus wait for their first payment and administrative errors in the system.

Universal Credit is one of the top concerns people come to speak to me about. It simply doesn’t work for claimants, many of whom are juggling work and childcare.

When over four million children are in poverty, and in the North East more than 42,000 food parcels, including 15,000 to children, were given out over the past six months, these alarming figures are a damning indictment of a cruel and heartless Government.

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People going without food and being unable to afford their rent does not bother Boris Johnson and his Conservative government elite who seemingly take great pleasure in inflicting misery on working people.

The five-week wait for Universal Credit is far too long, and what we need urgently are firm proposals to shorten the delays and build a welfare system which makes work pay instead of trapping a large number of workers below the breadline.

We want a social security system which works for everybody, particularly people in work and that is why Labour would scrap Universal Credit and replace it with a system that works for all.

It is time that the Tories pulled their heads out of the sand and realise just how serious this issue is.