Labour announces plans to scrap Universal Credit

28 September 2019, 00:29

Jeremy Corbyn has announced plans to scrap Universal Credit
Jeremy Corbyn has announced plans to scrap Universal Credit. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Jeremy Corbyn will call Universal Credit an "unmitigated disaster" and announce plans to scrap it during a speech later today.

The Labour leader will say the benefit cap and two-child limit would be immediately ditched to bring 300,000 children out of poverty, and support jobseekers with "dignity and respect"

The punitive sanctions regime criticised for forcing people to use food banks would also be scrapped if Labour won a general election.

Charities welcomed significant reform but warned against "further upheaval", as the Tories outright rejected the proposals.

At a speech later today Mr Corbyn is expected to say: "Universal Credit has been an unmitigated disaster.

"As well as being behind schedule and over-budget, it is inhumane and cruel, driving people into poverty and hardship.

"Social security is supposed to give people dignity and respect, not punish and police them, make them wait five weeks for the first payment or fill out a four-page form to prove their child was born as a result of rape.

Former Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan Smith was one of the main architects of the Universal Credit system
Former Work and Pensions Minister Iain Duncan Smith was one of the main architects of the Universal Credit system. Picture: PA

"When a Labour government takes office we will introduce an emergency package of reforms to end the worst aspects of Universal Credit.

"We will introduce a new system that will be based on the principles of dignity and respect, and it will alleviate and end poverty, not drive people into it."

The Labour leader will announce the plans during a rally in the Chingford and Woodford Green constituency held by Universal Credit architect and former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

The plans also include ending the system's "digital-only" requirement, which Labour says excludes people who cannot access the internet or lack computer literacy, by recruiting an additional 5,000 advisers.

The five-week wait to be described by Mr Corbyn as causing "so much misery and suffering" would also go, with an automatic interim payment and a switch to fortnightly payments.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation called for change but warned against creating further problems.

Helen Barnard, a deputy director at the charity, said: "We welcome significant reform to Universal Credit so that it is the anchor people need in hard times, but any changes need to avoid further upheaval for those who depend on it.

"Reducing waiting times, making payments when people need them and ending the two child limit are all important in creating a system with dignity and compassion at its heart."

Food bank charity the Trussell Trust welcomed the end of the five-week wait but also warned Labour's plans could create further problems.

"Any sign of our country's politicians addressing problems that push people to food banks are welcome," chief executive Emma Revie said.

"Scrapping Universal Credit may only result in further upheaval, we urgently require reforms which put the needs of those using our benefits system at the heart of its redesign."

The Conservatives branded Labour's plans as "totally irresponsible".

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: "It's reckless, political point scoring from a party that spent years trapping people on benefits and holding them back from the opportunities that would help them build a better future for them and their families."

She said the Tories acknowledge "there is more to do to make the system work better", pointing towards the recent increase to the amount people can earn before their benefits are reduced.

Shelter chief executive Polly Neate said she backs proposals "to slash the five-week wait", but added they "need to see politicians address the elephant in the room - working families simply can't afford their rent".