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I will come on to some of the case studies and personal stories that I have been told. Well-documented design flaws and unresolved administrative issues have seen tens of thousands of claimants plunged into debt arrears and reliance on food banks. My casework is already loaded with people who are struggling to make ends meet, and piling universal credit—a policy that Citizens Advice has called a “disaster waiting to happen”—on to an economic situation that is already bordering on crisis will lead to levels of hardship not seen in the city since the 1980s. This is the last chance to apply the brakes, stop the roll-out of universal credit, and fix the flaws in its design and delivery.
Universal credit lists its stated aims as: to improve work incentives, reduce poverty and simplify the benefit system, making it easier for people to understand, and easier and cheaper for staff to administer. Who could disagree with that? However, the National Audit Office found in June that:
“Universal Credit is failing to achieve its aims, and there is currently no evidence that it ever will.”
Worse still, the evidence on the ground in areas where full service universal credit has been rolled out is clear: not only is universal credit failing to meet its aims, but it is having the opposite effect. It is punishing those in work, exacerbating poverty, and creating an unwieldy, arduous and inefficient system that increases pressures on claimants and staff alike.