Continuing concern over Universal Credit

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Mohammad Yasin MP in Parliament
Mohammad Yasin MP in Parliament

February: The last-minute cancellation of the February recess was an opportunity to bring us closer to a solution to the Brexit crisis.

Sadly, the extra days of debate have not brought us closer to a resolution and we are still on course for an unimaginably damaging no deal exit from the European Union which will mean the loss of many thousands of jobs.

But while Brexit and internal party politics consume political discourse, it’s easy to overlook the impacts of a continuing austerity agenda on ordinary families. It is the urge to fight for those people that drew me into politics in the first place, and where my focus remains.

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. Families who must wait over a month for payments or have lost income after being transferred onto the new benefit find themselves in a state of financial desperation and many have been forced to rely on charity.

Despite acknowledging that Universal Credit is driving people to food banks, the Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd refuses to scrap the controversial benefit. A lot of cheery headlines accompanied Rudd’s decision in January to delay Universal Credit’s rollout, but this wasn’t a real delay. All Rudd did was postpone a vote in Parliamentthat the Government feared losing. Sound familiar?

The impact of poorly implemented policy changes like this is profound.  The rollout has run over budget, is behind schedule and has made an estimated 3.2 million households worse off.

A recent Resolution Foundation report projected a further 6% rise in child poverty to a record-breaking 37% by 2023-24. The prospect of an extra 1 million children living in poverty in the next five years is something that should shame the Tories into a change of direction, but this steam roller, ruining so many lives continues.

The Government seems finally to have woken up to the human catastrophe that was waiting to happen under its ill-formed plans for moving people onto Universal Credit but has offered no fresh policy solutions to sort out the devastation it has caused.

With a radical new economic programme under a Labour Government, those lower income families who have been hit by benefit changes and freezes, rising food prices and stagnant wages would see their living standards rise again.

A Labour Government would replace Universal Credit in a comprehensive benefits review. Botched benefit changes are not the only reason that we are seeing such a drop in living standards, but the rollout of Universal Credit in my constituency has been a major factor.

All of this is more important than party politics and whilst it would be impossible to ignore the divisions on both sides of the house, I am determined to fight for a Labour Government that can bring about the change that Britain so desperately needs.

This is a monthly guest column provided by Mohammad Yasin MP and published unedited.