CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

‘Stress, misery and poverty’ of Universal Credit

Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn calls for ‘ridiculous’ new benefits system to be scrapped

16 November, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Islington North MP and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the Islington People’s Rights AGM on Tuesday

JEREMY Corbyn has called for “an end to the ridiculous system” of Universal Credit amid concerns that the borough’s most ­vulnerable residents are being pushed into poverty.

The Labour leader, speaking at the Islington People’s Rights AGM on Tuesday, spoke out against the new benefits system which he said has “led to stress, misery and poverty and on average a loss of about £50 a week for many families”.

He added: “I am therefore calling for a halt in the rollout and an end to the ridiculous system which has become a vehicle for depriving ­people who deserve and need the benefits they should get of getting them. [It is] a way to use austerity to impoverish the very poorest in this country.”

So far, Labour policy has been a “halt and reform” approach to Universal Credit but the Islington North MP’s hardening stance mirrors that of his chancellor, John McDonnell, who also publicly called for it to be scrapped last month.

Around 4,000 people in the borough have been moved onto Universal Credit which rolls six “legacy” benefits including tax credits and housing into one.

All applications for Universal Credit must be completed online.

As previously revealed in the Tribune, there has been a significant increase in foodbank use as people find themselves struggling while waiting an average of five weeks for their first payment.

Last week, we reported how Islington resident Lawrence, 53, said he would lose £130 each month under the new system, which was designed under the Lib Dem and Conservative coalition government to encourage people into work.

Mr Corbyn also spoke of a need for tighter rent controls – a policy first introduced at the annual party conference last year.

He said: “An issue that we are facing is that of social cleansing and poverty in our borough, social cleansing brought about by a free market in housing which means that the private rented sector becomes increasingly impossible to afford for anybody not on quite good incomes.”

The veteran MP said people being pushed out of an area was a “terrible situation” that he had witnessed in every “inner urban community” throughout the country.

“Unless we have a national change in ­housing policy which regulates the private rented sector and that builds the council houses that are necessary, then this process will go on,” he said.

Asked at the end of the meeting by the Tribune what regulations he would introduce, Mr Corbyn said: “There would be regulations on length of tenancies, ­conditions of tenancies, conditions of the buildings, and also the energy efficiencies as well. It’s not completely finalised yet.”

He also praised the work of Islington People’s Rights which has offered debt advice and support to the borough’s residents for 49 years.

Town Hall leader Labour Councillor Richard Watts backed Mr Corbyn at the meeting and said: “I am beginning to move away from taking the view that we should pause Universal Credit, but take the view that Universal Credit is not fixable.”

He added: “The sooner we come to the recognition we need to scrap it and find ways to do that, the better.”

Dan Norris, from the Child Poverty Action Group charity, told the meeting that he met with a representative of the UN Special Rapporteur earlier in the week to demonstrate how difficult it was to complete an online Universal Credit application. The independent expert from the UN is currently ­touring the country to investigate poverty and the impact of austerity.

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