Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:08 pm on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey 2:08 pm, 17th October 2018

I am tempted to say the Secretary of State, who has just left the Chamber and so is not listening to the rest of the debate. There is enormous complacency already evident in this debate on the Conservative Benches, perhaps because they do not have people in tears in their advice surgeries trying to get by with absolutely no money and no prospect of getting any.

The National Audit Office itself has said that more than half of those who apply for this benefit do not complete an application form on the first time of asking. That increases the delays. It is almost as if the benefit has been designed to put people off. In my constituency, I have recently had a case where somebody was advised in the jobcentre to migrate themselves voluntarily on to universal credit. They were told they would be eligible for £935 a month, but after the deductions, it was £513. By following the advice given to them by somebody in the jobcentre, they have made themselves much worse off. I could go through many such cases if there was time.

When people object to what is going on with universal credit, they have to go to a tribunal, but tribunal waiting times have increased massively. A recent written parliamentary answer told me that there was a 16-week waiting time in the north west, but a constituent has just received a letter saying there is a 33-week waiting time. Even if someone appeals against a dubious decision, they have to wait, with no money, for more than half a year. This is no way to treat the poorest and most vulnerable people in our society. As the previous Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has said, this is turning our social security safety net to dust, leaving people reliant on charity rather than the social security system. That is the baleful legacy of this Government.