Local MP, Steve McCabe has signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) in Parliament calling on the Government to ensure his constituents are able to seek immediate assistance from Jobcentre Plus over Christmas and New Year. The EDM, which has secured cross party support has been sponsored by Steve’s colleague on the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Frank Field MP.
Universal Credit, which will replace 6 means-tested benefits, is currently being rolled out across Birmingham. The roll out will continue over the Christmas and New Year period until 14 February 2018. Steve has highlighted his concerns about the limited availability of Jobcentre Plus services over this period, and has signed the EDM which calls on the Government to ensure that immediate assistance is made available to those who need it.
Critics claim some recipients of Universal Credit are being pushed into debt by the new system because of delays before payments are received. The worry is that delayed payments will put people into rent arrears and leave them unable to pay bills or even buy food. B30 Food bank announced this week that they are concerned that their shelves will be emptied by a sharp increase in the need for emergency food as a direct result of this roll out.
The Government have decided to push ahead with the roll out of Universal Credit despite these concerns. Labour has called on the government to pause and fix Universal Credit to ensure better safeguards are built in to the system and that people aren’t left without money for food and bills.
Steve McCabe said:
“I hope that we can see a smooth transition to Universal Credit here in Birmingham however with any new system there’s bound to be hiccups and we’ve already seen this elsewhere. I am especially conscious that any hold ups or problems people may encounter when their benefits are switched over the Christmas period could seriously impact their ability to afford food, heating and electric. Whereas before, if you had an issue with one of your benefits you might have been able to use your other income to tide you over, if an issue arises with Universal Credit people are left with nothing.
“I was very impressed when I met with the Job Centre Plus staff responsible for the roll out in our area but I have to balance it with the wealth of evidence considered by the Works and Pensions Select Committee. The government have shown that they are determined to push ahead with this transition as despite significant concerns. The least they could do is ensure that claimants have access to Jobcentre Plus support in the event of anything going wrong.”