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CHRISTMAS has been cancelled for hundreds of thousands of families claiming universal credit, but demonstrators up and down the country will take to the streets today to demand action.
Trade unionists and campaigners will turn out in more than 70 towns and cities across Britain, accusing the government of “abolishing Christmas” for victims of its benefits fiasco.
The day of action, organised by Unite Community — part of Britain’s biggest trade union — is aimed at putting pressure on the government to “stop and fix” universal credit before even more families are forced to turn to foodbanks and cut back on heating their homes this Christmas.
Cities targeted today will include Leeds, Oxford, Bristol, Belfast, Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle and London.
This year, one million victims of benefit cuts and delayed payments have been driven to using foodbanks to survive.
The government has admitted that the universal credit claimants’ helpline will be closed for most of the Christmas period, making life even more difficult for those needing advice and emergency help.
Many activists will run town-centre stalls today to provide some of the current half a million victims of the scheme with help and advice.
Unite Community head Liane Groves said: “Despite knowing that universal credit causes serious problems for those claiming it, the government is ploughing ahead regardless while claimants are descending into debt, relying on foodbanks and getting into rent arrears and, in many cases, are being evicted from their homes.
“In order to claim universal credit, claimants need an internet connection, which many simply can’t afford.
“Unite is demanding a cut in the long waits to receive money, for people to be able to apply in jobcentres, not just online, better help for people when the system fails, for landlords to be paid directly to avoid people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes and for an end to benefit sanctions for people in and out of work.”
The union said that there are currently 505,549 households in Britain affected by the switch to universal credit, but the number will increase by 1,513,970 this winter. The figure is expected to reach 5,915,290 by March 2022.
Over 1.2 million low-paid part-time workers will also be affected by the change. For the first time ever, people in work could have their benefits stopped if they fail to prove to the jobcentre that they’re searching for better-paid work or more hours.
The Trussell Trust, Britain’s biggest foodbank provider, says demand in areas where universal credit has already been imposed has soared by an average of 30 per cent and landlords report a massive increase in rent arrears.
Universal credit is replacing six benefits — child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, and working tax credit — and will eventually affect seven million of the country’s worst-off households.
For details of today’s actions, visit unitetheunion.org/campaigning/events/stop-and-fix-universal-credit-day-of-action.
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