Corbyn: Labour would scrap ‘unmitigated disaster’ of Universal Credit
Universal Credit would be scrapped under Labour plans to replace the Tories’ flagship welfare reforms with a social security system to support jobseekers with “dignity and respect”.
Jeremy Corbyn called the much-criticised reforms an “unmitigated disaster” as he outlined proposals to depart from a system designed to “punish and police”.
The benefit cap and two-child limit would be immediately ditched, which Labour says would bring 300,000 children out of poverty.
The punitive sanctions regime criticised for forcing people to use food banks would also be scrapped if Labour won a general election.
Charities welcomed significant reform but warned against “further upheaval”, as the Tories rejected the proposals outright.
Announcing the reforms on Saturday, Mr Corbyn told a crowd of supporters that the welfare state had been “sliced apart, cut apart and destroyed”.
“Universal Credit drives people into debt by a five week wait,” the Labour leader told reporters following his speech.
“The two-child policy means that the largest families often have the poorest children, who achieve the least at school.
“And the stress involved in Universal Credit, and the cost of its administration, is massive. What we’re saying is end the two-child policy, end the capability for work assessment test.”
Mr Corbyn claimed that Universal Credit had led to an “explosion in food banks, rough sleeping and terrible levels of debt”.
The Labour leader announced the plans during a rally in the Chingford and Woodford Green constituency held by Universal Credit architect and former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.
The plans also include ending the system’s “digital-only” requirement, which Labour says excludes people who cannot access the internet or lack computer literacy, by recruiting an additional 5,000 advisers.
The five-week wait, described by Mr Corbyn as causing “so much misery and suffering”, would also go, with an automatic interim payment and a switch to fortnightly payments.
Gingerbread backed the announcement and highlighted research suggesting Universal Credit causes housing insecurity and debt for most single-parent households, like the ones the charity supports.
Chief executive Victoria Benson said: “It will be essential for any future government to take steps like these if we are to loosen poverty’s grip on huge numbers of single parents and their children.”
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation called for change but warned against creating further problems.
Helen Barnard, a deputy director at the charity, said: “We welcome significant reform to Universal Credit so that it is the anchor people need in hard times, but any changes need to avoid further upheaval for those who depend on it.
“Reducing waiting times, making payments when people need them and ending the two child limit are all important in creating a system with dignity and compassion at its heart.
“Universal Credit has the potential to be a tool for fighting poverty, but it urgently needs reform to build on the changes which have already been made by the Government.
“People on low incomes want to see politicians deliver changes that allow them to build a better life, listening to people with experience of the system to fix Universal Credit is a good place to start.”
Food bank charity the Trussell Trust welcomed the end of the five-week wait but also warned Labour’s plans could create further problems.
“Any sign of our country’s politicians addressing problems that push people to food banks are welcome,” chief executive Emma Revie said.
“Scrapping Universal Credit may only result in further upheaval, we urgently require reforms which put the needs of those using our benefits system at the heart of its redesign.”
The Conservatives branded Labour’s plans as “totally irresponsible”.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “It’s reckless, political point scoring from a party that spent years trapping people on benefits and holding them back from the opportunities that would help them build a better future for them and their families.”
She said the Tories acknowledge “there is more to do to make the system work better”, pointing towards the recent increase to the amount people can earn before their benefits are reduced.
Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said she backs proposals “to slash the five-week wait”, but added they “need to see politicians address the elephant in the room – working families simply can’t afford their rent”.
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Universal Credit seed on the face of it to be a good idea, at least from what I understood and understand about efficiency and improving services.
Surely (I thought) that having one benefit to cover them all would reduce form-filling, time-wasting, and most importantly let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, which should reduce stress, miscommunication, and misunderstandings on both sides of the equation, reducing expense and the wait in receiving help to get back on one’s feet?
It isn’t efficient to have multiple forms to fill in at multiple appointments, it’s not good to have different departments unsure about what other departments know, and it certainly has never helped anyone to pay back money received because departments have made mistakes due to their own screw-ups (unless of course overpayment is yet another scheme to use claimants as a temporary bank, which is money hidden until it can be retrieved by law under a different guise).
The fact that the simple premise of Universal Credit has been so hard to implement and get right, is a sure sign that it was a good idea deliberately ruined by the Tories for their own political agendas at the expense of the well-being of our country. It seems to me that in our history we have had several good ideas treated this way, so as to discredit ‘socialistic-minded’ projects from ever being considered again, using the excuse ‘we tried that and it failed’ when what actually failed was the implementation due to other agendas.
My fear is that we will throw the baby out with the soiled bathwater, in the same fashion as we have resolutely turned our backs on good ideas just because they came from an unpalatable source.
To reduce inefficiency, wait times, overheads, and miscommunication, a single benefit service that deals with all of a claimants needs, in one or as few appointments as possible, is a no-brainer, and I myself have struggled many times with the previously (though still current) convoluted benefits system, and though I am quite literate, have had to get extra help from different organisations to navigate and understand that benefits system.
Whilst I am happy to hear that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is paying attention to this and willing to do something about it, I am quite worried about the idea of abolishing Universal Credit, rather than overhaul the entire benefits system to meet our needs more effectively. We really need to be able to look at things objectively, to work out what is bad, and what is good in a thing, and what is the reason that a basically good idea is struggling, then we can take the elements that are good, and throw out the bad ones, not the whole idea on account of what is almost certainly deliberate sabotage, and not in this case necessarily coming from ‘the opposition’.
The Tories are the disaster capitalists of our system, and are quite capable of destroying even their own good ideas for the sake of creating more personal wealth for themselves, or to try to permanently discredit an idea. Have we not noted how ‘Socialism’ is now being equated with Nazism/Hitler, or how any criticism of Israel is now anti-semitic (to name just well known 2 examples)?
Sadly, I think we Britons are sometimes too quick to ‘throw out the baby with the bath-water’, and I think this is what the Tories had intended all along, just like they always intended for us to sign a trade deal with the USA that most of us can see right through, and know is about us surrendering our NHS to corporate greed, as well as making the UK a de-facto vassal state to America.
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