Today Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan Smith faced questions in the House of Commons about the Universal Credit system which will begin replacing all benefits from next year.
Most benefits are currently paid every fortnight, but Universal Credit will be paid monthly.
This will be a massive strain on those on meagre benefits. The growth of payday loan firms, that charge exorbitant rates of interest, is due to the fact that many people in work find that their wages do not stretch to the end of the month, never mind those on benefits.
The benefit has to be claimed online, which will make it difficult for those in need as community charity Citizens Advice warns that the Universal Credit system “risks causing difficulties to the 8.5 million people who have never used the internet and a further 14.5 million who have virtually no ICT skills”.
Former Labour minister Frank Field said that Universal Credit was on course for disaster with the IT project already delayed and more problems encountered. But he had a more fundamental objection:
“Means-testing only encourages dependency, and the universal credit is, in one sense, the ultimate form of means-testing.”
The mood against the attacks on the poor is rising and was reflected in a number of speeches, not least that of PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka:
“We heard this morning about the full extent how the government’s austerity agenda represents the biggest attack on working class people this country has ever seen.
“But PCS believes as we come to this conference that we need a sense of urgency. We need a sense of urgency to turn these words into actions before it’s too late.
“On jobs: 700,000 public sector jobs to go, unemployment predicted to reach three million, record levels of youth unemployment bringing real despair and destitution to our communities…And we have a welfare state that is now under siege: cuts to disability benefits, compulsory workfare, benefits being reduced in a way that we haven’t seen for decades and now Save the Children telling us that 25% of kids in the UK live in poverty.
“The situation is appalling – what are we going to do about it? We need 20 October to be the biggest demonstration we have ever seen. But PCS believes we need to follow up the demonstration as quickly as we can with mass co-ordinated strike action across the public and private sector.
“Imagine what we can win if we march together, strike together and consign the government’s austerity to the dustbin of history and give hope and inspiration to the millions that look to us.”
Unite Community have called a protest against the attacks on the poor tomorrow:
Jobs Not Sanctions
Protest Called By Unite Community London
Wednesday 12th September – from 9am
Department of Work and Pensions
London SW1H 9NA
Invite your friends on facebook.