I spoke in the Universal Credit debate last night. Universal Credit is being rolled out for most of Blaydon Constituency on the 1st November. We know from experience that Universal Credit is causing real problems including increased debt and more reliance on Gateshead Foodbank as people wait at least 6 weeks for their first payment. The Government must pause the roll out.
You can watch my contribution below:
“I was going to talk about the real problems experienced in my constituency—initially with the live service, the comparatively straightforward bit. I was going to talk about the huge amount of help needed by people applying for universal credit. I was going to talk about the delays in payments, and the practical problems that that causes, and about the arrears that people on universal credit are experiencing: an average of £625, as against the general average of £121. I was going to talk about the evidence that private landlords are beginning to refuse tenancies to people on universal credit and about the fear that some children could go without free school meals while their parents wait for their claims to be assessed, which is a problem that we really need to look at.
But the House has heard about all that from everyone else, so instead I am going to talk about Gateshead Foodbank, which covers my constituency and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns). In 2016 it issued 4,861 food parcels to keep families going, largely owing to the roll-out of live universal credit—and that is before we see full service.
This is about people. It is about families and children who are building up debt and going without, choosing between heat and food and making other difficult choices, and experiencing all the frustration of dealing with the new system. I ask the Government to think again about pausing. We have talked about “test, learn and rectify”; let us do that.”