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Universal Credit

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:25 pm on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Rosena Allin-Khan Rosena Allin-Khan Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Sport) 4:25 pm, 17th October 2018

Universal credit was rolled out in parts of Tooting a year ago, as it was in many other parts of the country, and the results have been devastating. That devastation is reflected not only in the number of weeks that people have waited for payments or the amount by which they will be worse off; the real devastation is in the damage that it is causing to people’s lives. I am going to share some accounts with the House—I have deliberately changed the names involved—and then I want Ministers to tell me honestly that they are not committed to pausing the roll-out of universal credit.

The first case involves Jayne. She had a history of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, but things were looking up for her and she had secured a job. Unfortunately, she was made redundant and so applied for universal credit. However, universal credit would not cover the cost of her renting a small bedroom in Tooting. She applied for a discretionary housing payment from the council, but was left with £4 a week to live on. Unable to eat properly and unable to travel to interviews, her mental health issues spiralled. The second case involves Monica. Again, I have changed her name. She too had mental health issues and suffered from blood clots on her lungs. She could not afford her daily medication, and she attempted suicide.

In the 50 seconds I have remaining, I am going to ask Ministers on the Government Front Bench to look at me and tell me whether they think that the people of Tooting and of this country deserve better. We are world leaders with a rich economy, yet people here are increasingly using food banks. Whether we like to admit it or not, all Members, on both sides of the Chamber, see people crying before us in our constituency surgeries and saying that they cannot feed their children. The roll-out of universal credit has been instrumental in increasing the number of people relying on food banks. Enough is enough. Today, those of us on the Opposition Benches implore our Government to listen, to take action and to halt the roll-out of universal credit.