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Letter: Fix Universal Credit petition

Date published: 11 July 2018


Dear Editor,

I want to live in a society where everyone has access to good food, and no one has to go to bed hungry. An effective benefits system which provides financial assistance in times of crisis is essential to realising this goal.

We all rely on the welfare safety net being there for us in times of financial stress or hardship, but Universal Credit is currently failing in this task.

In areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out, foodbanks and other food aid providers report a surge in the numbers of people pushed into greater debt, destitution and hunger as a result of delays, errors, a lack of flexibility and adequate support. 

I just signed a petition from End Hunger UK, calling on the Government to fix Universal Credit so that it doesn't make people go hungry.

The truth is that anyone who works supporting people in receipt of Universal Credit locally, who claims Universal Credit, or knows someone who is claiming it will tell you there are major systematic flaws in this socially disastrous new system causing unnecessary untold misery and hardship to already vulnerable people.

Could concerned readers of Rochdale Online add their names too? The full text of the new End UK Hunger national petition reads:

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Dear Prime Minister

We call on Government to fix Universal Credit to prevent more people going hungry.

We share a vision of a society where everyone has access to good food, and no one has to go to bed hungry.

We believe that an effective benefits system which provides financial assistance in times of crisis is essential to realising this goal.

We all rely on the welfare safety net being there for us in times of financial stress or hardship.  But Universal Credit is currently failing in this task.

In areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out, foodbanks and other food aid providers report a surge in the numbers of people pushed into greater debt, destitution and hunger as a result of delays, errors, a lack of flexibility and adequate support.

As people who use food aid, food aid volunteers and staff, food aid supply workers, donors and frontline workers making referrals to foodbanks, we know first-hand that the need for change is more urgent than ever.

What we are calling for

Urgent action to improve the flexibility and support for people applying for and in receipt of Universal Credit.Improvements to the design of Universal Credit, to ensure it does not leave more people at risk of debt and destitution.A long-term commitment to ensure that Universal Credit provides people with an adequate income, so that they can afford good food on a regular basis.

By July 2019, there should be better training for staff and increased flexibility for claimants:

Debt advice included as part of Universal Support.

Flexibility in applications (more scope for telephone applications).

Increased awareness and implementation of Alternative Payment Arrangements.

Focused training for all staff including work coaches and call centre staff.

In the medium term, ways to reduce the risk of debt and destitution should be found by:

a) reducing the level of loan repayments from 40% to 10%;

b) reducing the wait time for payment from 5 weeks to 2 weeks;

c) introducing true yellow cards for sanctions.

And in the long term, changes should be made to:

Restore essential benefits including disability benefits and bring their levels up to the real cost of living.Increase Universal Credit levels to the real cost of living.

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Please read more about the End UK Hunger national campaign and sign the petition at:

https://e-activist.com/page/26900/petition/1

Readers can also download and print out copies of the Fix Universal Credit petition to collect signatures in your food bank, church, mosque, community centre, place of work or from colleagues, family, friend and neighbours at:

http://endhungeruk.org/ucpetition/

Thank you.

Yours,

Andrew Wastling

The views expressed are those of the author of the letter and not those of Rochdale Online.

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