Writing in his latest ‘Letter from Westminster’ column in the Edinburgh Evening News, Martin Whitfield MP has said that Universal Credit is not working and should be replaced.
Mr Whitfield’s call came on the back of the Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey admitting that some claimants are worse off under the new benefit and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell declaring that Labour will scrap it.
Martin Whitfield MP said:
“As the first local authority area in Scotland to fully implement UC, East Lothian is in a unique position to assess its impact and whether it is meeting its objectives. I have been helping people deal with Universal Credit since I was elected last year and it’s clear to me that the impact is negative and it is not working in the way originally intended.
“The Government has failed to listen to claimants, advice agencies or MPs about the new benefit’s failings and the appalling problems it is causing for people. I now believe that UC is beyond being able to be paused and fixed. It must be scrapped and we should devise an alternative that delivers the support and help people need rather than driving them into poverty.”
Here is the full text of Mr Whitfield’s column:
1-7 October was Challenge Poverty Week, when organisations across Scotland can use their voice to raise the issue, challenge the stereotypes associated with poverty and suggest how it can be tackled.
Universal Credit, a new benefit for working-age people, replacing six benefits and merging them into one payment, was intended to simplify the benefits system and help people into work. However, it is becoming clearer by the day that UC is compounding poverty for many people.
In my East Lothian constituency, UC continues to cause stress and anxiety for many of those claiming it. Much is being done to help when problems arise, with support from East Lothian Council and local CABs, as well my office, local DWP staff are working very hard to rectify errors when they are raised.
However, I believe it is now time to consider Universal Credit in the wider policy sense and whether it is fit for purpose. I have reached the conclusion that it is not and that no amount of tinkering will fix it.
That is why I am pleased that Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has indicated that UC is not working and will be scrapped by a Labour Government. Mr McDonnell’s comments came amid reports that Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey had warned cabinet colleagues that half of lone parents and about two-thirds of working-age couples with children would lose the equivalent of £2,400 a year under Universal Credit.
This is the harsh reality of UC for many people. It puts them in a spiral of debt and repayment. There are many tragic cases where it fails to help individuals and leaves them vulnerable and in poverty, having to rely on family and friends, as well as organisations like Citizen Advice Bureaux and Foodbanks.
It is beyond the time when UC can be paused and fixed. It must be replaced with a fairer system that delivers what these reforms were supposed to.