The Sun's Make Universal Credit Work campaign backed by top MPs to help Brits in their 'hour of need'

The Sun's Make Universal Credit Work campaign backed by top MPs to help Brits in their 'hour of need'

December 17, 2018

MINISTERS must act now to help the hundreds of thousands of Brits struggling due to Universal Credit, MPs and charities have demanded.

Top Tory Iain Duncan Smith, who helped create the new flagship benefits programme, ex-DWP boss Damian Green and campaigning independent MP Frank Field are all supporting The Sun's Make Universal Credit Work campaign.

The Sun wants to see Brits get paid quicker, for claimants to keep more of what they earn, and for parents to be helped to work by proper childcare allowances.

This will help millions of Brits across the country who are set to be on the new benefits system by the time it’s fully rolled out in 2023.

We want ministers to act now, before it’s too late, to make sure that the system helps Brits who most need it and to make it easier to get people back into work.

MPs know this is a vital issue for their constituents and the Tories could be punished in the polls if they don’t get it right.

New DWP boss Amber Rudd told us she's listening to Sun readers and she is "committed" to tackling the issues.

Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith told The Sun: "1.4million people will shortly be on Universal Credit and in days it will be rolled out to every single area in the country. But there’s still more to do.

"I welcome The Sun’s campaign for more help for Universal Credit and urge ministers to do more to aid those in society who need it the most."

He said the extra money pumped in from the Budget was “helping an enormous amount” but there’s still further to go to ensure the system works for everyone.

And he called on ministers to make sure that help for vulnerable Brits when moving over onto Universal Credit is properly funded.

"Now that stage one of the rollout is complete, ministers must make sure Universal Support programme to help Brits with their applications and debt problems is properly funded so we can identify people who have problems and get them help as soon as possible."

And ex-DWP boss Damian Green said that reducing the taper rate further would help Brits.

He told The Sun: "Universal Credit is a great system which helps people into work, and allows them to increase their hours of work without benefit problems.

"A few important changes would make it an even better system, and I hope we can make them in the coming years. I was delighted to reduce the taper rate in 2016, and would like this taken further."

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, also congratulated The Sun on its campaign.

He said: "My constituents, and hard-up families across the country, need the government to change its position quickly.

"There is a whole series of problems the government must fix to make Universal Credit work.

"Closing the yawning gap of five weeks for the first payment, making it pay to get a job and put in more hours, and offering proper support for childcare so parents can get in to work are three important places to start."

And Tory rising star Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View, said the party had to make sure they were there for people in their time of need.

He told The Sun: “The British people support and understand the need for welfare reform, of that I have no doubt.

"But if there are too many stories, too many people being seriously disadvantaged or not looked after in their hour of need, we will not win this argument, and the country will be the poorer for it.

"I urge the Treasury and the Prime Minister to reinvest the money originally committed for universal credit and make it the defining policy of a modern compassionate Conservative party it deserves to be."

While charities including Child Poverty Action Group, Save the Children, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Turn2Us also backed our calls.

Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children, said: “Three cheers for The Sun’s brilliant campaign to stand up for hard-working families.

“The Government must change the system before even more families are pushed into the red as they wait for support.”

The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work

Universal Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment. One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.

But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.

And while working families can claim back up to 85% of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.

Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.

It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the government to:

Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.

Labour’s Shadow Treasury Minister Anneliese Dodds said more changes to Universal Credit were vital.

She said: “This Christmas many people are facing insecurity and hardship as a result of the Government’s failed roll out of Universal Credit.

“The Sun is absolutely right to campaign for changes to Universal Credit, including cutting the waiting time for payment, but the roll out must be stopped first.

“Universal Credit was meant to lift people out of poverty, but all too often it is pushing people into debt, rent arrears and leaving them at risk of destitution.

“Labour will stop the roll out of Universal Credit and ensure that we have a social security system that is there for any of us when we need it.”

The Liberal Democrats and the SNP also backed our call.

Ex Lib Dem boss Tim Farron said: “Instead of fixing the many obvious problems with Universal Credit, the Conservatives have put ideology ahead of evidence and allowed the benefit to become a new poll tax.

“The Liberal Democrats strongly support The Sun’s campaign to salvage Universal Credit by cutting its unnecessarily long waiting times and enabling people to keep more of what they earn.”

MPs back The Sun's Make Universal Credit Work campaign

Neil Coyle MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Labour): “I welcome The Sun's campaign. Universal Credit has hit my community in Southwark hard and left thousands in debt and arrears and pushed families into poverty and foodbank use.

"It has even contributed to homelessness and Ministers must act now to overhaul the process.”

Ruth George MP for High Peak (Labour): “None of us want to live in a country where children go hungry, families have to visit food banks, and more people homeless on our streets – just some of the consequences of the disastrous cuts to Universal Credit.

"Well done The Sun for this campaign. I hope that by all coming together, we can change this cruel policy before another 6 million households are affected.”

Stephen Lloyd MP for Eastbourne (Independent) said: "I am delighted The Sun are launching this campaign to bring fairness into the government's flagship Universal Credit program.

"With over 3,000,000 people, many of whom in employment, being moved onto Universal Credit over the next couple of years it is vital the government pull out all the stops to ensure it succeeds. Speeding up payments to recipients and making sure those in low-income jobs earn more than they would if they were unemployed and on benefit, would make a significant and positive difference. Common sense from our soaraway Sun."

Robert Halfon, Tory MP for Harlow (Conservative) said: "I am backing the Sun's campaign because the Department for Work and Pensions must stand up for making work pay. The defining mission of our Government has to be to help hard working and lower income people who are doing the right thing.

"They deserve a fair days pay for a fair days work, without needing to worry that the benefits they rely on will be taken away, keeping them in the poverty trap and making it affordable to work. I welcome the extra funding that the Government gave to Universal Credit in the Budget but they need to do more and fast."  

Lord John Bird (crossbench) said: “By processing Universal Credit payments faster, and by making families' childcare payments upfront, the Government has an opportunity to show that it's listening to the concerns of struggling people; and that it wants to make its flagship welfare programme work.”

Ronnie Campbell, MP for Blyth Valley, (Labour) said: “I support the campaign”.

Geraint Davies, MP for Swansea West, (Labour) said: “In Swansea families wait cold and hungry for their first universal credit payment only to find its been hammered by tax because of a punitive earning threshold. Job Centres are so tied up with claimants needing help with applications that they aren’t able to help people find a job. So more people are using foodbanks and run up debts. That’s why I support the Sun’s campaign to make payments faster and fairer for those most in need.”

Liam Byrne, MP for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, (Labour) said:Universal credit has turned into a punishment beating for thousands of our neighbours whose only crime is to be low-paid, poor or disabled. We are the fifth richest country on earth. It is simply inexcusable for an arm of government to be forcing people to go without and so I fully support The Sun's campaign to get these changes made before this careless policy hurts even more families.”

Bob Blackman MP for Harrow East, (Conservative) said: “I support the policy that is Universal Credit and its reformist core: replacing six complex benefits with a single unified system.

"What I am concerned about is ensuring it is properly funded and I have lobbied ministers on this point.

"Another concern of mine, and one which is covered by this campaign, is ensuring claimants are paid in good time.

"I am pleased to be supporting this campaign."

Nik Dakin, MP for Scunthorpe, (Labour) said: “I support the campaign to make Universal Credit work for people and families.  That means cutting the time people have to wait to get their money so they don’t have to rely on foodbanks to feed their families.  Parents should get more of their money upfront instead of being paid in arrears.”

Rushanara Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, (Labour) said: “The Government is in complete denial over the problems with Universal Credit. This programme is pushing millions of families into poverty, causing a rise in homelessness, debt and a 52% increase in foodbank use.  

“This policy disproportionately hurts women, people with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities. It is sickening that the government will limit and delay funds for those who need it most.

“A particularly cruel part of the Universal Credit welfare reform is the ‘two-child limit’ policy, which limits the level of financial support to low-income families with more than two children, which, ultimately punishes children.”

Yvonne Fovargue, MP for Makerfield, (Labour) said:  "A social security system that increases poverty rather than alleviating it isn’t worthy of the name. Which is why I support the need to make vital changes to Universal Credit.  

"Late payments and underpayments are propelling our most vulnerable citizens into the arms of unscrupulous payday lenders and must end".

Steve McCabe, MP for Birmingham Selly Oak, (Labour) said: “Universal Credit was meant to simplify the benefits system, help people find employment and make work pay. Unsurprisingly this government has made a shambles of it and what we are actually seeing is millions of people pushed into debt and into the arms of loan sharks because they are forced to wait over a month to receive their first payment.

"Government cuts mean that working people are actually worse off under Universal Credit than they were before and families are telling me there are facing late payment fees from their nursery because of problems with the Universal credit childcare payments. How is this fair?"

"I am calling on the new Secretary of State to urgently review the system and make the necessary changes so my constituents aren’t faced between the prospect of heating or eating this Christmas."

SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Neil Gray added: “The UK government’s appalling Universal Credit system is pushing households into hardship, debt and a reliance on emergency support including foodbanks as the welfare system is just not there for them when they need it.

“The SNP have demanded the UK Government make these changes since the early stages of rollout and any campaign to put these wrongs right deserves support from political parties across the spectrum.

"The Government must listen to the calls of the public, charities, parliaments, and newspapers – including this campaign by The Sun – to fix Universal Credit once and for all.”

And charities helping struggling Brits on Universal Credit also demanded ministers sit up and take notice of The Sun's campaign.

Chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group Alison Garnham said: “Universal credit isn’t fit for families or ready for further roll-out.

“The Sun’s ideas for fixing Universal Credit are spot on – they’re based in the real world where people don’t have money to tide them over for five weeks before their first payment or extra cash for paying childcare fees upfront.

“We hope that ministers will act on The Sun’s campaign and take steps to put things right."

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said she welcomed the input of Sun readers to the debate on Universal Credit.

She said: "Universal Credit has helped people into work, giving them the confidence of a pay packet and boosting their self-esteem.

"In my first few weeks at the Department I’ve seen what a force for good Universal Credit can be.

"However I know that there are problems, and I am committed to tackling those issues.

"We need to build on what Universal Credit already delivers, ensuring that we do even more to look after families and claimants who need us.

"And I very much welcome the input of Sun readers as I do this."

Charities and think tanks back The Sun's Make Universal Credit Work campaign

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), said: “The government should listen to The Sun’s campaign and make changes to Universal Credit.

“Low pay and high costs like rent and childcare are locking families into impossible situations – and the wait to receive support can leave many on the brink.”

Alison Taylor, from Turn2Us, said: “We fully support the Sun’s campaign to improve Universal Credit.

“We have seen people who have been pushed into housing and fuel arrears and struggling to cover everyday essentials by having to wait a minimum of five weeks for their entitlement.

“Reducing this to two weeks could drastically improve the financial and emotional wellbeing of individuals and families.”

Brendan Sarsfield, chief executive of housing association Peabody, said: “Universal Credit isn’t working yet. The principle is right, but in practice it’s causing real hardship for people on low incomes.

“We know that faster payments, upfront support with childcare costs, and letting people keep more of their wages before losing benefits would transform lives and offer a route out of poverty.

“That’s why Peabody is backing the Sun’s campaign to Make Universal Credit Work.”

Lucie Russell, Director, Fair By Design, and co-founder of the Big Issue: “The bottom line is that Universal Credit is just not up to scratch. This is causing hardship and distress to millions of people around the country. 

"We support the Sun’s calls for an urgent change in the Universal Credit system, so that being poor stops costing more.”

 Rosie Fergusson, Chief Executive, Gingerbread: “Universal Credit isn’t working for single parents like Jess, who is on a zero-hours contract and finding it difficult to pay the nursery fees upfront. It doesn’t need to be this way. We will continue to press for change to make Universal Credit work for people like Jess.”



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