Labour would scrap 'unmitigated disaster' of Universal Credit

28 September 2019, 04:01 | Updated: 28 September 2019, 18:18

Jeremy Corbyn has promised to scrap Universal Credit if Labour wins a general election, calling the much-criticised reforms an "unmitigated disaster".

The Labour leader has outlined plans to move from a system designed to "punish and police" towards one which supports jobseekers with "dignity and respect".

The benefit cap and two-child limit would be immediately ditched, which Labour says would bring 300,000 children out of poverty.

The punitive sanctions regime criticised for forcing people to use food banks would also be scrapped.

Mr Corbyn said: "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.

"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."

Mr Corbyn announced the plans during a rally in the Chingford and Woodford Green constituency held by Universal Credit architect and former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

Gingerbread, the charity for single parent families, backed the announcement and highlighted research suggesting Universal Credit causes housing insecurity and debt for most single parent households.

Chief executive Victoria Benson said: "It will be essential for any future government to take steps like these if we are to loosen poverty's grip on huge numbers of single parents and their children."

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.