On Wednesday 17th October there was an Opposition Day debate in the Commons on Universal Credit. Opposition Days are very useful as they are an opportunity for someone other than the Government to set the agenda.
Ahead of the debate I received emails from a large number of constituents asking me to attend. I was hoping to do so, but sadly did not have chance as I was stuck in a committee and other meetings for most of the afternoon.
However, I would like to reassure all my constituents that my Labour colleagues and I continue to hold the Government to account over the fiasco that is Universal Credit (UC) at every given opportunity.
As you may be aware, UC is a single payment which will replace six means-tested benefits and tax credits for working-age individuals and families. It is the Government’s flagship welfare reform and it has been plagued by problems from the very start.
For over a year, the Opposition has been calling for the Government to address the policy’s many flaws. UC has pushed people into debt and rent arrears and forced some to rely on food banks. I believe the rollout must be stopped immediately.
I am also concerned that the managed migration of just under four million people on legacy benefits across to UC risks creating huge problems. The Government has placed the entire burden on claimants to successfully make a claim, which puts people at risk of falling out of the system altogether. People with low literacy skills, a learning disability or limited IT access are likely to find it difficult to cope with the complex online system.
Unbelievably, despite all the evidence of the serious difficulties that people are facing when making a new claim, the Government is pushing ahead with its plan for managed migration.
I can assure you that my Labour colleagues and I will continue to call for the Government to halt the rollout of UC and put forward a credible plan to fix its many failings before more people suffer.
We must rebuild our social security system and ensure that it tackles poverty and provides support when people need it, which is why the Opposition has committed to conducting a root-and-branch review of the social security system. We have also pledged to end the social security freeze by raising rates in line with inflation every year.