No credit for Universal Crisis

Fiona Onasanya
Fiona Onasanya

Earlier this month, I attended a meeting with local campaigning group Disability Peterborough in Dogsthorpe – who offer free and confidential advice for Peterborough’s disabled constituents and their families.

The meeting was to discuss the impact that Universal Credit and the DWP’s welfare reforms are having on disabled people in Peterborough and across the country.

This is an issue that I have campaigned on consistently both in Parliament and in Peterborough. The volume of casework I receive on this illustrates how it’s a pressing issue for our city, and an issue on which the government is failing the most vulnerable in our society.

Every Member of Parliament is aware of the gravity of the situation. Despite this, the government voted against a motion that would have released Universal Credit impact analysis last month. It appears that the government is more interested in avoiding the situation as opposed to addressing it. Do they realise that their botched Universal Credit roll-out has meant some people have had to choose between eating and heating? It’s more like a Universal Crisis than anything else.

We cannot continue pretending everything is fine with our welfare system when claimants have been unfairly denied what they’re entitled to. The most shocking example of this is how 69% of decisions to stop Personal Independence Payments are reversed upon appeal. Our disabled constituents do not need the additional stress and uncertainty of trying to fight back against unfair treatment through appeals and invasive assessment procedures.

A new applicant with limited capability for work could receive up to £2200 less under the proposed system. Moreover, a couple aged over 25 with one partner entitled to an enhanced rate with daily living entitlement would lose just under £8000. While this will only impact new claimants in the future, the ‘transitional protection’ offered to current claimants is lacking on any detail, meaning that they could also bear the brunt of these changes at any moment.

This, sadly, has been a consistent trend during this government’s term. The austerity agenda of the last eight years has made the lives of welfare claimants even more insecure than it already was. In pursuit of cutting costs, the burden of who pays has fallen onto the most vulnerable. After eight years of failing those who need our support, it’s evident that the time for tinkering with punitive welfare policy is over.

It’s time to be bold, and create a new compassionate welfare system that puts the needs of claimants over anything else. It’s not at all radical to believe that our welfare system shouldn’t make people feel like they’re fighting an uphill battle to survive every month.

My hope is that the new DWP Secretary will meet with Disability Peterborough so they can relay to her the shameful impact the government’s welfare policies are having on people in Peterborough. In the meantime, I will intervene in any Westminster debate I can on the issue to ensure their voices are heard.