‘Inherently flawed’ parts of Universal Credit need rethink, says MP

Waveney MP Peter Aldous has unveiled a series of improvements he thinks can be made to Universal Cre

Waveney MP Peter Aldous has unveiled a series of improvements he thinks can be made to Universal Credit. Picture: Neil Didsbury - Credit: Archant

A major overhaul of “inherently flawed” parts of the Universal Credit (UC) benefits system is needed to stop vulnerable people falling into debt, a Suffolk MP has said.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous.
Picture: Archant library.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous. Picture: Archant library. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press � 2014

UC was designed to simplify a range of different benefits into a single payments when introduced by the government more than five years ago.

But there have been criticisms that the roll-out of the system has left many people worse off, with many complaining of long delays for payments pushing them into debt.

Now Conservative MP Peter Aldous, a long-standing critic of how his party's policy has affected his Waveney constituency, has unveiled a five-point plan for how its criticisms should be addressed.

In particular he said the "sheer scale of the task of introducing universal credit was not recognised", adding: "Some of the assumptions on which universal credit was based have been shown to be idealistic and could not be implemented in a fair way in the real world."

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Mr Aldous said "serious consideration needs to be given to abolishing the five-week wait for Universal Credit" - arguing the initial waiting period is "inherently flawed".

He also said UC should be changed to help those on zero-hour contracts, who might be in and out of work and find that the "delay in payments leads to an inescapable spiral of debt, which is never paid off from one season to another".

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In a parliamentary debate on the subject, he also claimed there was "compelling evidence from organisations supporting those facing domestic violence that the single payment arrangements are putting the victims of domestic violence at added risk, with perpetrators having universal credit payments paid into their own bank accounts".

He added: "That means that they can use the money as a tool for coercive control."

Mr Aldous, who has represented Waveney since 2010, also said: "Feedback that I am receiving from constituents is that the lack of transitional protection for former recipients of the severe disability premium is pushing claimants into debt.

"The government need to get on with addressing that."

He added: "East Suffolk Citizens Advice has advised me that the Department for Work and Pensions does not provide it with feedback when it makes a request for assistance with the journal of a client whom it is supporting."

During the debate, chaired by North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham, Mr Aldous said: "The full roll-out of universal credit in Lowestoft started in May 2016.

"The process has not been straightforward. Many of the most vulnerable in society have been put under enormous pressure and have faced real challenges in getting by day to day.

"The situation has improved - the government have listened and introduced changes.

"However, much more needs to be done if universal credit is to achieve its goals of transforming people's lives in a positive way, encouraging and supporting them into work and simplifying the welfare system."

He went on to say: "More needs to be done to ensure that debt, which burdens people, causing distress and worry, does not unnecessarily build up.

"For the sake of the vulnerable people who rely on universal credit, we must get it right."

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