IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

More residents on Universal Credit claiming ‘crisis’ payments

‘People are facing stark choices: have a meal or have the heating on?’

30 November, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Cllr Andy Hull: ‘These are people in genuine crisis. They are destitute and too often that destitution is government-imposed’

MORE residents in “genuine crisis” are needing urgent food and money to warm their homes since the Universal Credit began roll out in Islington.

Town Hall finance chief Cllr Andy Hull said the council’s resident support scheme’s crisis provision package has seen payouts double in recent months.

He said of the 40 who were given vouchers for food and costs for household fuel such as heating in October, 17 were marked as related to the new benefits system universal credit – which combines most welfare payments into one. This is up from about five or six per month since Universal Credit began to be introduced in Islington in June.

Cllr Hull said: “These are people in genuine crisis. They are destitute and too often that destitution is government imposed. They are now facing stark choices: do they have a meal tonight or have heating on?”

In response to the increase in crisis payouts, the scheme, which is jointly run by the Cripplegate Foundation, has doubled its payouts to cover two weeks instead of just one.

A couple with four children or more will now be able to claim £174 worth of food vouchers. Also, residents, who have to be referred by an agency to the scheme, can now claim every six months instead of just once a year. “We don’t think that rise was a one-off,” said Cllr Hull. “We think those higher numbers are here to stay.”

The council estimates that almost 10,000 households – approximately 44 per cent of those who will be on Universal Credit – will be worse off. The average household will be £500 per year worse off. Criticism has also been waged at the five-week wait before the first payment.

On Thursday, Cllr Troy Gallagher, vice chairman of the policy and performance scrutiny committee, is tabling a motion at full council calling for the government to scrap Universal Credit.

They believe they are the first local authority in the country to take such a move. It is a step change from their previous calls demanding it is paused and “fixed”.

The Tribune reported how Islington North MP and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had urged for an end to the “ridiculous system” of Universal Credit at a public meeting on the benefit earlier this month.

Cllr Hull said: “We think it’s beyond fixing and we want to see it stopped. It’s borne out of what we are seeing on the ground, the stories we are hearing and numbers we are seeing, it’s not about politicking, it’s real people’s lives.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Universal Credit simplifies an out-of-date, complex system with evidence showing that claim­ants are getting into work faster and staying in work longer. The vast majority of people are happy managing their money, but we recently announced a partnership with Citizens Advice to help vulnerable people manage their Universal Credit claims.”

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