Today the Universal Credit Full Service roll-out hit Dundee, and we made sure that we were outside the buroo to let the DWP and the wider public know what we thought about it.
Tony Cox for the SUWN called for Scottish civil society to come together in a mass movement of resistance to make Universal Credit May’s Poll Tax, and Mike Arnott of the Trades Council and Jimmy Black who chaired the Dundee Fairness Commission added their voices as a first small step towards that unity. And among the small crowd that gathered to show support were councillors from Labour and SNP, Rev Erik Cramb, and members of Unite. Here is the video of the speeches
And here are some photos and the text from our leaflet.
(We have been busy updating the Universal Credit page on this site and writing a new Know Your Rights leaflet. You can check out the page and we will get the leaflet up in the next day or two. There are a lot more rules and a lot fewer rights!)
MAKE UNIVERSAL CREDIT MAY’S POLLTAX!
Every week, at our stall outside the jobcentre, we meet people weighed down with problems. We give all the support and help we can, but we know it is just a drop in an ocean of suffering created by a Tory government that is determined to destroy the welfare state and turn it into a new penal system for the poor. The UK Government’s austerity cuts are a calculated attack on rights and concessions that have been won by decades of working-class campaigns. They weaken the structures that allow people control over their lives, and open up opportunities for private companies to make money, including from public funds. The claim that austerity is about saving money is a smoke screen. It is all about making it easier for business to make bigger profits. Universal Credit is the central plank of this Tory attack. It deprives us of our right to social security and increasingly of our rights as citizens.
Scottish civil society has to come together as a mass movement to defend our basic human rights. The UK government won’t shift, so we should demand the powers for Scotland to make a better system.
If not now when? If not us who?
WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY?
From 8 November, anyone in Dundee who makes a new claim for a means-tested working age benefit (currently JSA, ESA, Income Support, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Housing Benefit) will have to apply for Universal Credit instead. Previously UC had only been brought in for people in certain categories, such as the single unemployed. (If you are on one of the above benefits and your other circumstances remain the same you will not be moved to UC for now.)
UNIVERSAL CREDIT’S DESTROYING LIVES & CREATING UNIVERSAL CHAOS
Evidence from pilot areas on the impact of the new benefit is devastating, but although the staged rollout was supposed to allow the system to learn and improve, the Government has refused to make any significant changes.
Further major benefit cuts have been deliberately built into the new system.
You have to demonstrate that you have spent a full 35 hours a week looking for work.
No money is paid for the first 5 to 6 weeks – often longer. Claimants can get an advance but this is a loan that has to be paid back off future benefits. This leaves people struggling on impossibly low rations for months. Over 80% of people on UC are in rent arrears and many are facing eviction. Private landlords are refusing to let to people on UC, and councils and housing associations are budgeting for major loses, which will impact on their ability to provide homes.
Anyone who is sanctioned under UC and needs to get a Hardship Payment will find that this is also now a loan that has to be paid back. This means that they will be struggling on less than minimal money for 2 ½ times the length of their actual sanction.
UC is calculated each month. This can lead to major problems if you are paid irregularly for any reason, e.g. if you are self-employed and get a large payment one month and nothing the next.
This benefit is unique in that sanctioning will also apply to some people in work. If you are earning less than the equivalent of 35 hours a week on the minimum wage and relying on UC instead of Working Tax Credit you can be made to look for more or better paid work under similar conditions to someone who is unemployed (including no holidays).
Although the Government claims UC is designed to ‘make work pay’, claimants who get a bit of extra work will still lose 63p for every pound earned. (Compare with people on incomes over £150,000 who loose only 45p in the pound.) Most people in low-paid work will get much less than under Working Tax Credit.
Claimants will be expected to do everything on line, even if they don’t have a computer at home. You will need to provide a reason why you cannot use a computer in order to avoid this.
Whistleblowers have exposed a system that is chronically under staffed and under trained, so any problems can take an age to sort out, by which time people are often in serious difficulties.