Universal Credit ‘affecting Peterborough constituents’

Fiona Onasanya column
Fiona Onasanya column
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T he shambolic Universal Credit roll-out is something which has affected many of my constituents – and is having a negative impact on benefit claimants across the country, particularly on our disabled constituents.

Last month, it was revealed that this bungled attempt at ‘streamlining’ welfare has led to one million people being fined for mistakenly claiming free prescriptions after they were not informed of their entitlement during the transition. Why should those who are already living precariously have to pay for the ineptitude of the Department of Work and Pensions?

Reports have surfaced that the Universal Credit IT system is ‘broken’, yet the government continues to bury their head in the sand and persist with the roll-out of this faulty system – despite it hurting those who are most in need, not helping them.

The amount of negative feedback that has been received should make the government think twice.

It is having such a catastrophic impact on some of my constituents that I am simply staggered at how the government wishes to continue business as usual. We desperately need a review of this policy, so that glitches can be rectified and we can learn from the mistakes that have been made.

It should not be difficult for the government to listen to those they serve. They have been made aware of the problem, but they are not listening to the concerns of benefit claimants up and down the country.

This is why it’s imperative that the government finally listens to disabled claimants who are not getting the money that they are entitled to, and listens to those who are being sanctioned relentlessly by the DWP while living hand to mouth, unsure if their next payment is coming through while they rely on food banks.

Meanwhile, the DWP Secretary, Esther McVey, is spending £200,000 on a survey to find out whether austerity measures imposed by the government have made people suffer. This is something that people have already made explicitly clear over the last eight years of Tory tenure, and the victims of this Universal Credit calamity will only reinforce that message.

Of course, seeking to help people into work is a good thing – and I am an advocate of giving people a hand up, not a handout. That being said, at the moment, our benefits system is doing neither.

Instead, it is leaving the most vulnerable people in our society in a state of precarious limbo. This kind of financial pressure could easily have an impact on claimants’ mental health, and the most insulting bit is that all of this is completely avoidable.

People don’t care how much we know until they know how much we care, and for that reason, I urge the government to take a step back and listen to the concerns of Universal Credit claimants. For too long, they have let the poorest fall by the wayside in pursuit of cutting costs and pushing forward their reckless austerity agenda. This must change.