When the first announcement of this scheme was made in 2014, Cllr Adrian Myers highlighted the possible consequences of introducing this untested scheme. This was to be the “full” role out of the scheme including housing benefit and every recipient of benefits not just single individuals. He warned that evictions would rise, vulnerable people would suffer and claimants would be met with incompetence. Why could he say this? Because in the past, this governments top down reorganisations of the public sector have inevitably ended in misery for those affected and an “ostrich” head in the sand, denial by the government. Make no mistake this was a major change in the way benefits are paid to recipients and has caused upheaval and misery for thousands.
Who is affected by this disastrous role out of universal credit in Great Yarmouth.
- Working families
- Private landlords
- Disabled and vulnerable people
- Those who do not own a computer or are not computer literate
- Your local council and its officers.
- The families and friends of those claimants.
Being a top down reorganisation, meant that every claimant had to reclaim. All benefits came under one claim apart from DLA or ESA.
Payments are supposed to be paid four weeks in arrears and direct to the recipient however we know of cases where some people have not been paid for up to 16 weeks which has resulted in the following…
Asking family and friends for support and when that’s not available they go without electricity, gas, heating and rely on food banks for survival. (Food bank usage went up from 35 a week to over 300) As for emergency payments, the hoops that the claimant has to jump through discourages many from even trying. This of course is deliberate.
Not having ANY money for such a long period of time in a society where money is a vital component of existence has of course major and serious consequences that actually affect most of us in one way or another and tears at the very basic fabric of society.
An example of this is that private landlords have found themselves evicting long standing tenants and refusing to take on the risk of new claimants. This in turn leads to homelessness and adds pressure on the council’s pathetic housing stock in the borough.
In 2016, Peterborough City Council spent 1.2 million pounds on temporary accommodation. Universal credit was rolled out in the city but did not include the housing benefit element and it still resulted in major problems.
The computer system is not designed to meet those whose circumstances do not meet the perceived stereotyped benefit claimant.
On the surface universal credit is portrayed as a way of simplifying the benefit system and to make claims new or old easier for the claimant. However, in reality universal credit was introduced to reduce housing benefit claims which affects working families not just those unemployed and to “encourage” individuals whether sick, disabled or not, back to work.
This council wrote to Damian Green in 2016 highlighting the distress and anguish the scheme is causing the residents of Great Yarmouth. One specific question we asked was why Great Yarmouth was chosen. We never received an answer.
We should bear in mind however, that at the time, Brandon Lewis was housing minister. I wonder if he volunteered Great Yarmouth?
In 2014 we were told that Great Yarmouth had been chosen as a ‘test and learn area’. Well it has tested everybody involved in this shoddy affair, and we have leant that the system is totally inadequate to meet the needs of those who fall out of the normal parameters that the system was designed for. That would be:
- The physically disabled.
- The elderly who are not of retirement age.
- Working families where one may be working full time and the partner part time.
- Individuals with learning difficulties.
- Those with mental health issues.
What made even matters worse was that claimants received conflicting information from the DWP depending on who you rang. This still goes on. Even the DWP staff are undertrained in this benefit.
Even when the claim is settled, the way in which arbitrary sanctions are applied to claimants only worsens their situation.
One example, a claimant who I have been supporting for the last 18 months was sanctioned because he was unable to attend his interview due to illness. He has a complex medical condition. I informed the DWP via his journal of this. I have asked and asked again why he was sanctioned for being ill. To date no reply.
Another example of falling foul of a sanction is that it clearly states in the claimants commitment that they will seek and accept a better paid job and not refuse to do more hours. This may seem perfectly reasonable, but what if that higher paid job is further away, and results in increased costs to the worker, and what if those increased hours mean that the parent has increased child care costs and is in fact cash wise, worse off?
It matters not to the DWP you will be sanctioned.
This roll out was done on the cheap, as most government initiatives are.
At a full council meeting in 2016 Cllr Myers asked for a suspension of standing orders so he could speak for 15 minutes on this issue and highlight all the problems that UC was having in the borough. The conservatives supported by their UKIP lap dogs, voted against this thus stifling open and proper debate and the democratic right of being heard.
What can you do?
Brandon Lewis has asked if anyone has had any problems with universal credit to inform him. I advise every single one of you to take him up on his offer of help.
You do not have to be a claimant just someone who has been negatively affected by UC, and then perhaps Brandon Lewis will eventually get off his backside and do something as a minister and MP for this borough of its people, instead of sending civil servant gobblegook written responses.
We see little enough of him as it is. He has refused invites from the council to talk directly to us about this.
Here is how you contact him please do, today: