Grahame Morris MP has pledged his support for Unite the Union’s Universal Dis-Credit campaign.
Unite Community are making three demands:
1. End the five-week wait for payment
As it stands, Universal Credit claimants have to wait five weeks until the first payment is made. The waiting period is totally unproductive, all it does is cause people further stress and worry, and force people further into debt, as they cannot survive without any income for a five-week period.
- A recent survey by Citizens Advice of over 500 claimants found that “14% who applied for universal credit since the lockdown were unable to aﬀord food and heating while waiting for a ﬁrst payment, while one in ﬁve (19%) borrowed from family and friends.” (Guardian, 11th June, 2020)
- The Citizens Advice also survey found that “More than half of people claiming universal credit for the ﬁrst time during the coronavirus lockdown experienced hardship while waiting for a ﬁrst payment, with many “too scared” to take out a government loan to tide them over” (Guardian, 11th June, 2020)
- Those waiting for ﬁve weeks face destitution, according to the Trussell Trust, and were unable to eat properly, pay bills and fell into rent arrears. (Guardian, 19th September 2019)
2. Make the temporary £20 per week increase permanent, and applicable to ALL existing benefit claimants
At the start of the lockdown, following an unprecedented number of new claimants, the Government increased the weekly rate of universal credit by £20. Currently, the increase is set to remain in place until April 2021. However, people on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA), including many disabled people, have been left behind. Unite found that:
- “Today – even after the recent increase of £20 a week – the basic rate of Universal Credit is worth just a sixth of average weekly pay at £94 a week.” (TUC, 6th April 2020)
- If Universal Credit was linked to the real living wage and paid at 80% of that, then this would be £260 per week as opposed to £94 per week. (TUC, 6th April 2020)
- “Unemployment support in the UK compares poorly with other European countries, where beneﬁts are paid as a proportion of previous earnings, ranging from 60% in Germany to 90% in Denmark.” (TUC, 6th April 2020)
- Drawing on data from over 400 foodbanks, the Trussell Trust found that foodbank use increased by a third in areas where Universal Credit had operated for a year and there was a 40% or more increase in areas where it had operated for longer. (Guardian, 19th September 2019)
3. Stop Benefit Sanctions
The Government also suspended the harsh Universal Credit sanctions regime during the crisis. This needs to continue. Similarly, the harsh sanctions are not conducive to getting people back into work. The sanctions cause stress. People are left unable to feed their families or pay their rent.
- The Disability Beneﬁts Consortium, which consists of 100 disability organisations, supports the case for this in relation to ESA. (Guardian 30th March 2020)
- The Government’s own Social Security Advisory Committee has urged the Government to pay the increase to those on legacy beneﬁts in the interests of equity and that it should be backdated to 6th April 2020: “We are of the strong view that it is increasingly untenable for this group of claimants to be excluded and to continue to have a lower level of income than those in receipt of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit” (Letter to Secretary of State, 1st June 2020)
Grahame Morris MP said, “The entire system of Universal Credit needs to be reformed and replaced by a social security system that values people’s dignity. I fully support the demands being made by Unite Community; there must be an end to the five-week waiting period, the £20 increase must remain and be applied to all claimants, and there must be an end to the harsh sanctions. The system as it stands is brutal; it inflicts unnecessary pressure and stress on claimants.”