Sir Mark Hendrick MP has spoken out about the impact of Universal Credit.Advertisement
During a conference at The Salvation Army, Sir Mark described how the benefit system has affected child poverty rates in Preston.
The aim of the Universal Credit system is to replace six other benefits with one single monthly payment.
It replaces Child Tax, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance and Working Tax Credit.
Around 80 people turned up to listen to what Sir Mark had to say and he was joined by various speakers representing organisations such as The Salvation Army, Department for Work & Pensions, Greater Manchester Poverty Action, Community Gateway Housing Association and Preston City Council’s Communities and Social Justice.
Sir Mark described how child poverty figures for Preston were ‘very bad’.
One in four children in the UK are in child poverty and 14 million people live below the breadline, 4.5 million of which are children.
He said: “Child poverty has been a major issue in Preston for many years.
“Changes to taxes and benefits have taken the highest toll.
“In 2010, it had been 16-year low and has increased thereafter. It has been higher than for the North West and UK as a whole.
“Child poverty affects 38 percent of children in this constituency, which to me is an abomination.”
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The Salvation Army provides food parcels for families and individuals who are struggling.
Currently they are distributing 200 food parcels per week to families, individuals, some who are on benefits and some who are on low incomes unable to make ends meat.
Major Maggie Cadogan, of the Salvation Army, said: “We are all part of helping each other – helping those to stand up again, get their dignity back and live in a real way.
“From 9am- 2.30pm, we gave 88 food parcels in one day. That’s getting to be normal.
“We’ve had 115 referrals relating exclusively to changes of people moving to universal credit.
“Single people are going straight on it and then families are getting on to it, so we have an increased demand.”
She spoke about how families of three-to-four generations are coming to them for help, including grandmothers trying to provide for their grandchildren.
This year they will be providing family gift parcels, like last year delivering around 500.
Senior Partnership Manager at the Department for Work and Pensions, Amanda Jakeman-McCracken said: “There are 26 universal credit services nationally and we have 559 job centres delivering a live service.
“One million households make claims to universal credit and by 2023 six million households nationally will do.
“There are 31,000 households claiming in Lancashire and 2000 in Preston area, and this will increase every single day.
“It is not for families with three or more children, so families with two children or less can claim.”
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They are currently working closely with citizens advice to help support those in need.
Sir Mark stated that some people on Universal Credit have to wait five – six weeks for payment, with a four week assessment period and this can lead people to turn to payday loan companies and food banks.
He said that 81 percent of sanction appeals for Universal Credit are overturned and that there needs to be a review of the programme.
He said: “We are advising that universal credit is to be scrapped. That is where we are at now.”
What do you think about Universal Credit? Do you think it should be scrapped? Or is it a good scheme? Let us know in the comments below