Martin Whitfield MP has welcomed the announcement that a Labour government would scrap Universal Credit (UC) and replace it with a social security system that focuses on “alleviating and ending poverty, not driving people into it”.

The move comes after a year-long review into the social security system by Labour’s Work, Pensions and Equality Policy Commission. The review was led by Margaret Greenwood MP, co-convenor of the commission and Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The latest figures from the House of Commons Library show that, as of May this year, in East Lothian there were 4,543 households claiming UC.

Mr Whitfield has repeatedly held the government to account in Parliament on the damage caused by the roll-out of UC including increased poverty and debt. In October last year, the county’s MP was one of the first MPs to call for UC to be scrapped.

In government, Labour would scrap UC; this major policy change cannot be delivered overnight, but Labour would introduce an emergency package of measures and:

  • Reduce the five-week wait for first payment
  • End the benefit cap
  • Scrap the two-child limit
  • Suspend sanctions and the claimant agreement
  • End the “digital only” approach and recruit 5,000 new social security advisers so that people can have face-to-face, telephone and outreach support

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“I welcome the announcement that a Labour government would scrap the inhumane and cruel Universal Credit. As one of the pilot areas for the new system, we saw its damaging impact from the outset, which is why I concluded that it could not be fixed and had to be scrapped.

“I’m very pleased that this review has agreed that the current system is deeply flawed, and that we should replace Universal Credit with a new, fairer system which supports people rather than punishes them.”

Margaret Greenwood MP said:

“Universal Credit was meant to lift people out of poverty, simplify the social security system and smooth the transition into work.

“Instead it is failing those in need, pushing many into debt and rent arrears and forcing them to rely on food banks to survive.

“The two-child limit and the benefit cap are driving up child poverty, and the sanctions regime is punishing people instead of supporting them.

“Labour will scrap Universal Credit, put an end to the benefit cap and create a social security system that, just like our NHS, treats people with dignity and respect and is there for any one of us in our time of need.”