Labour is telling the Bridgwater and West Somerset MP, Ian Liddell-Grainger he should be telling ministers what a disaster Universal Credit has been.
Universal Credit (UC) is a replacement for a group of other benefits, including Jobseekers Allowance and Housing Benefit. Bridgwater has had early experience of UC, because the district of Sedgemoor was chosen as a pilot area. UC is due to be rolled out in many other parts of the country later this year. The experience in Sedgemoor has been a terrible one for claimants. Payments are delayed for weeks and it is nearly impossible to get sensible answers to queries.
Putting Pressure on ILG
Andy Lewis of West Somerset Labour Party worked for several years with benefit claimants. He has written to Liddell-Grainger saying:
As you know, Sedgemoor has been a pilot area for Universal Credit. As I am sure you also know, there have been many problems with its implementation.
Citizens Advice Sedgemoor, in a report last year, highlighted problems including long waits for payment, difficulties with the online claiming system and the near-impossibility of meaningful contact with Universal Credit by phone. It concluded that people are falling into rent arrears and other debt as a direct result of the shortcomings of Universal Credit. More recently, Citizens Advice nationally has made clear that the problems with Universal Credit are continuing.
Universal Credit is scheduled to be introduced in other parts of the country this autumn. I am writing in the hope that you will tell ministers that based on the experience in Sedgemoor, wider implementation should be delayed until the many problems have been ironed out and it has been made into a system that is fit for purpose.
Universal Credit has caused much hardship in Bridgwater and other parts of Sedgemoor. I hope you will agree that it would be wrong to put other people through this, and that Universal Credit must be seen to work properly in the pilot areas before it is extended further.
Andy has not yet received a reply.