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Tories' ‘disastrous’ universal credit scheme to make low-income families worse off

A study by the Resolution Foundation finds ‘left behind’ parts of Britain will be particularly affected

LOW-INCOME families in “left behind” parts of Britain will be worse off under universal credit (UC), a think tank has warned, prompting fresh calls to scrap the “disastrous” scheme. 

Although benefit claimants will gain on average £1 a week more after the switch to UC is completed, think tank Resolution Foundation argued this figure ignores stark geographical differences across the country. 

In a new report published today, the think tank identified Liverpool as one area that will be particularly affected, with 52 per cent of claimants standing to lose money, compared to the national average of 42 per cent. 

One of the reasons why the northern city is more severely disadvantaged is because it has a higher proportion of single parents, unemployed and disabled people — groups which fare worse under the new benefit scheme. 

Families in areas such as Birmingham, Glasgow, Burnley, Kingston-upon-Hull, Blaenau Gwent, Knowsley and Hartlepool will also be worse off. 

As a result, UC creates a “complex mix of winners and losers,” Resolution Foundation claimed. 

The report calls on Westminster to recognise these regional differences in order to improve universal credit for claimants. 

However, public-sector union PCS is demanding the scheme be scrapped entirely, claiming that “we cannot make a system work that is fundamentally hurting those it is supposed to help.”

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “UC is a disaster for claimants and needs to be scrapped in favour of a more humane system.

“At the moment claimants face immense hardships and barriers accessing UC, causing them to fall into debt, homelessness and in some cases, even to contemplate taking their own lives.”

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood MP echoed these calls.

“This report carefully documents how the Conservatives’ key social security policy, UC, is failing many people in the Liverpool city region and across [Britain] because of major flaws in its design and implementation,” she said. 

“Rolling six benefits into one while imposing severe cuts and moving to a ‘digital by default’ system was simply reckless.” 

Ms Greenwood also highlighted other concerns raised by claimants over UC, which is expected to be fully rolled out across the country by the end of the year. 

These include the notorious five-week wait for first payments which has forced many people to use food banks and exacerbated mental health conditions. 

 “It is completely wrong to leave people on low incomes, often without savings, waiting five weeks for payment,” Ms Greenwood said. 
 
“Labour is calling on the government as a matter of urgency to end the five-week wait, the two-child limit and the brutal and punitive system that they have created over the last decade.”

The report also found that the number of families who lose out under UC increases when other factors are taken into account. 

Across Britain, 60 per cent of families with a disabled member stand to lose money under the scheme. This rises to 65 per cent for families with a disabled member living in Merseyside. 

Disabled People Against Cuts co-founder Linda Burnip told the Star: “Welfare cuts since 2010 have always hit disabled people hardest but this new report from the Resolution Foundation highlights that Tory austerity is not over and the essential incomes of disabled people continue to be slashed  by uncaring Eton rich boys.”

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said on Twitter the findings demonstrate that the “Tory toxic legacy continues.” 

Responding to the report, a DWP spokesperson said: “UC supports more than 2.7 million people across every part of the country, introducing tailored support to replace a complicated old system.”

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