Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has strongly criticised the Government’s flagship welfare reform policy, Universal Credit, on the morning the new benefit system is to be rolled out in his constituency. Mr Zeichner has raised fears that the policy could deepen inequality in the city if fundamental flaws in the policy are not addressed before the migration of all existing claimants.
Daniel Zeichner MP said: “I have long opposed Universal Credit; it is a system designed to punish, not to support people. You cannot ‘simplify’ a system that is catering for the very different lives that people live, in very different parts of the country. The consequences of course have been striking and we have seen in other parts of the country where Universal Credit has been introduced that foodbank use has soared, rent arrears for claimants have increased and families are worse off. I find that completely unacceptable in a wealthy country like ours.”
“For Cambridge, the problems won’t be just today or even in the next few months, but it will be when all existing claimants are migrated over to Universal Credit and we see a huge increase in demand. Currently there are 4,500 families claiming tax credits, including 7,800 children, I do not want to see any of those families become victim to the benefit sanctions and loss of income that many millions of others across the country have. This city is already one of two halves, I am worried that if the rollout and further migration is not stopped, it could cause huge levels of suffering for those already facing financial hardship.”
“When I hear reports of people unable to buy food or cover their housing cost because of sanctions or delays in payments it makes me stop and ask ‘is this really the kind of welfare system we want?’. The Government needs to listen to the comments of two former Prime Ministers and MPs being contacted by constituents; the policy needs to be stopped until it can be guaranteed that no one will be worse off as a result.”
From 17th October all new benefit claimants in Cambridge will be directed onto Universal Credit, with existing claimants remaining on the old tax credit system until the ‘managed migration’ process is initiated in the area. Existing claimants will also be directed onto Universal Credit before the managed migration if there is any fundamental change in their circumstances that would trigger a new claim.
According to the Child Poverty Action group there are currently 4,500 families claiming tax credits, including 7,800 children, in Cambridge. It is expected that around that figure will eventually be migrated over to Universal Credit. The date of the managed migration process is yet to be determined, however it is expected between 2019 and 2023.