Leaving people in hardship

I am writing on behalf of the Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency Green Party with regard to benefit poverty.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 31 March, 2019, 09:00

Universal Credit was rolled out in the county late last year. It has been reported that it has put people into economic hardship.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation stated that 1.5 million people in the UK in 2017 experienced destitution. To put this into context, they went without food, toiletries, adequate clothing and shelter.

The reason why this occurs, we believe, is due to the benefit sanctions imposed for claimants who have not met specific criteria. There is a combination effect of benefits being cut, delays in claimants receiving benefits and sanctions, meaning that people are being pushed into extreme deprivation.

It was the intention that Universal Credit would be a fairer system, which would bring children out of poverty. The Child Poverty Action Group, a pressure group campaigning against children living in poverty, shows that more children will be affected due to the unfairness of the system, which the combination effect allows.

In 2011 the Government stated that 320,000 children would be brought out of poverty. This figure was downgraded in 2013, showing that the Government intends that 150,000 children would be brought out of poverty. Surely it shows that Universal Credit is not fit for purpose in bringing families with children out of poverty.

It is not just the implementation of Universal Credit which has allowed people to fall into poverty. There have been cuts in disability benefits, tax credits, child benefit, ESA and incapacity benefit and housing benefit. This has led to an increase in people using food banks and has sent more people into destitution and poverty.

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Benefit poverty has had an effect on the mental health of disabled people who have been found ‘fit to work’. There has been an increase in the number of suicides and attempted suicides. It has become so bad that the UN has condemned the UK Government’s treatment of disabled people.

Nationally, the Green Party is very critical of Universal Credit, calling it an assault on the most vulnerable, leaving families without food. The Government appears to have no regard for the pain and suffering it has inflicted, and still is inflicting.

We are proposing a pilot of a universal basic income, which would hopefully eliminate the poverty trap that most people are finding themselves in.

The Green Party intends to help disabled people and would give a universal basic income and extra payments to those who need them, giving people the chance to live a fair life.

Peter Guthrie