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From The Socialist newspaper, 13 February 2019

Universal Credit out - Tories out!

  (Click to enlarge)

Lindsey Morgan, Leicester West Socialist Party

Universal Credit is a disaster for the working class. The difficult-by-design benefit replaces six separate benefits with a single payment, normally paid to a single payee.

A recent report produced by the Citizen's Advice Bureau showed that half of the people that are seeking help from them with Universal Credit claims are in rent arrears.

Six in ten people are taking out loans while they await their first payment. This is leaving claimants indebted and struggling to manage. One in six claimants still aren't receiving their first payment in full and on time.

The cumulative pressure of Universal Credit's sanctions regime - and the level of debt it puts people into - takes a heavy toll on the mental health and wellbeing of many.

Universal Credit is essentially a cut designed to take 12 billion off the budget. A survey conducted by the civil servants' union PCS found that 70% of frontline staff want it scrapped. The Socialist Party completely agrees.

Every claimant must complete a written contract with their 'work coach' called a 'claimant commitment'. Failure to stick to this contract can result in a sanction. This could be something as minor as being five minutes late for an appointment. Further infractions lengthen the sanction period to up to three years!

Many private landlords refuse to rent to claimants because they know they won't get paid on time. For too long, benefits have been used to subsidise the landlords who charge exorbitant rents and bosses who pay low wages.

I, and many others, live in fear of the government taking away the money my family needs to live. Every trip to the Jobcentre fills me with nausea and dread.

The anxiety of needing a foodbank to survive has never left me and my heart breaks when I read of another suicide due to lack of money and debt. Even Tory minister Amber Rudd has been forced to admit that Universal Credit claimants have been forced to use foodbanks.

Universal Credit needs to be scrapped and replaced with a welfare system that doesn't punish people for being low paid, disabled, or unemployed.

We need an end to sanctions. We need a 10-an-hour minimum wage now, as a step towards a genuine living wage, so people don't need to rely on in-work benefits to live.

We need a council house building programme. Labour councils should pledge to fight the effects of Tory benefit cuts. They should pledge now not to evict anyone due to Universal Credit arrears, for example. In the fifth-richest country in the world it is obscene that we have so much suicide and misery due to inequality and poverty.

The rollout of Universal Credit in stages looks to be a strategy by the government to make building a united struggle more difficult. They have learnt from the battle against the Poll Tax!

Jeremy Corbyn and the trade unions have a crucial role to play in building such a struggle. Corbyn should call on Labour councils to set no-cuts budgets now to resist Tory austerity and protect working-class people from the effects of Universal Credit. He should call mass protests to help force the weak Tories from power.

It is only through uniting and fighting together that we have any hope of defeating this attack on our class, of getting rid of the Tories, and ultimately achieving a socialist society.

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The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

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In The Socialist 13 February 2019:


What we think

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Socialist Party news and analysis

Universal Credit out - Tories out!

Mass pressure wins light sentence for 'Stansted 15'

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