It has been in the news a lot lately and even made it into the Budget, but Universal Credit is coming and in its current form it’s potentially the most damaging social policy we’ve faced since the Government introduced the Bedroom Tax.
The original idea wasn’t a bad one, make it easier for people to get on in life by reducing financial barriers between unemployment, part-time employment and full-time employment. Unfortunately, it was never been backed up with the financial resources it needs to work, meaning claimants go weeks without income and without any of the support structures necessary for the policy to work. So far, only a few local residents have been moved onto Universal Credit, but with the full roll-out coming next Summer we risk seeing many Crawley families going homeless or being put into real financial difficulty.
As a council, we’ve done what we can to protect people from the worst of Conservative social policy. One of our first decisions on regaining control was to stop evictions for Bedroom Tax arrears and we’ve maintained Council Tax benefit levels despite Government cuts to our grant. Unfortunately, Universal Credit centralises most forms of social security under the Department for Work and Pensions, removing any similar opportunities for us to fix its problems on the ground.
We may not be able to counter the policy directly, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still speak up. This weekend I was out with other members of my Unite Community branch in Queens Square raising awareness of Universal Credit and its likely impact upon local people and next week I am proposing a motion at Full Council which asks members on both sides of the chamber to call upon the Government to make the necessary changes for our residents to avoid destitution.