Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:53 pm on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Labour, Birmingham, Ladywood 1:53 pm, 17th October 2018

I will not.

It is not unusual for Government programmes to run into trouble. I am a member of the Public Accounts Committee and it is our bread-and-butter work every week to look at Government programmes that run into difficulties. A Government who cared about a programme —one that is not a vehicle for cuts and is not designed to force people to have less money than the system it is replacing—would actually engage properly and genuinely to learn lessons and make the programme better. Instead, the Government said that talk of cuts was somehow fake news. The Secretary of State then had to admit that people are going to be worse off. We have heard the figures of £200 a month and £2,400 a year being mooted. That is a staggering sum of money to lose every year for the working poor and the vulnerable in our community. We know that the self-employed will potentially be up to £2,500 a year worse off compared with those who are not self-employed under the new system. These are the realities that the Government cannot deny. That is not fake news; that is just the truth.

The Government and the DWP said to the National Audit Office—this was recorded in its most recent report—that the organisations at the coalface of helping our constituents to deal with the troubles they face because of universal credit, whether the Trussell Trust, other people who run foodbanks or local government, which is now facing much higher levels of rent arrears than previously, are motivated by a desire to lobby for changes rather than accurately reflect what is happening on the ground. That is a disgraceful attitude for the Department to take towards organisations that, yes, may well have a different vision for how they think the social security system should work, but are absolutely telling the truth about the destitution and difficulties our constituents are facing.

I invite the Secretary of State and any of her Ministers to come and spend a day in my constituency office and to see the explosion in our case load that has been created by the roll-out of universal credit. My staff spend most of their time every single day on the phone trying to sort out difficulties arising from universal credit. I shall highlight just two cases we have had recently, the first regarding delayed payments. The Government say they are taking action on that, but I have a constituent who has not received any money since 12 July. He has no money for food, fuel or anything. I invite the Secretary of State to intervene and tell me what I should tell him about where he should get some money to try to survive while his universal credit is being sorted out.