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I beg to move,
That this House
has considered roll-out of universal credit in Liverpool.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh, although in this debate it will not be possible for me to do justice to the magnitude of concerns that have been raised with me about the imminent full roll-out of universal credit across Liverpool. Disability charities, trade unions, civil servants, housing associations, private landlords, advice agencies, food banks, local councillors and the local authority have all provided me with briefings, statistics and case studies, for which I am grateful. Together, they paint a bleak picture of what lies ahead this autumn.
Starting this month, and continuing into November and December, jobcentre by jobcentre, full service universal credit will be rolled out across my constituency. I am here because of the people I have met in my surgeries and food bank visits, and because of the harrowing stories I have been told. I am here because of the people I have seen—people who are broken and who feel worthless and trapped in a cycle of poverty that they cannot escape. The roll-out of universal credit is only the latest onslaught from a benefits system that is stuck in Victorian times; it is just the latest instalment of austerity for our city—a city that has borne the brunt of eight years of cuts that have hit the most deprived areas the hardest. Our local authority budget has been slashed by 64%—£444 million since 2010—and 40% of children in my constituency are growing up in poverty.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Liverpool has the second highest level of destitution of any city in the UK, and there is a lack of basic essentials, including food, shelter and toiletries. That is the climate in which the Government are imposing their flagship welfare policy—a policy that had cross-party support when it was launched in 2011, but is now a byword for institutional incompetence. It is six years behind schedule, universally unpopular and, according to the National Audit Office, likely to cost more than the system it replaces.