Speaking on behalf of the Baptist Union, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, Paul Morrison commented on the release of the National Audit Office (NAO) report, Rolling out Universal Credit, saying, “Churches have repeatedly expressed concerns about Universal Credit and the damaging effects it is having on communities. The NAO’s findings are deeply concerning but not a surprise.”
The NAO report states that that Universal Credit is not value for money, failing to meet its financial objectives. Most importantly it is the first official document to take seriously the concerns of claimants and acknowledge the problems they are facing.
Churches around the country are supporting people who are affected by Universal Credit. It is clear that lives are being damaged by Universal Credit.
“I met a single mum at a parent and toddlers' group in West London. She cried when she told me about her experience of Universal Credit. She is worse off, struggling to make ends meet and as a result has to stop her childcare course at college.
“The policy that cut her benefits was intended to “incentivise work”. In reality it made her life more difficult and closed down her opportunities. Her story is sadly unexceptional.
“Half of people receiving Universal Credit report going into debt. This is the result of delayed, inadequate, and irregular payments. It makes budgeting impossible and can make debt inevitable. The DWP’s own figures show that 4 in 10 people reported serious financial difficulties, whilst 1 in 10 waited more than 11 weeks for payment. In Universal Credit areas foodbank use went up 52%, whereas in other areas it was 13%. The case is incontrovertible. Universal Credit is failing, and the poorest are suffering the consequences.
"A benefit system which drives families into debt and leaves them hungry is a failing benefit system.
“Universal Credit was designed by people who were highly literate, with access to computers and a full bank account. As soon as the system met people who didn’t fit this model it began to fail.
“Until the voice of those who use the benefit system is listened to and valued, Universal Credit will continue to cause harm to the communities it is meant to serve."
The Churches call on the Government to:
• halt the roll-out of Universal Credit
• commission independent research into the effects of Universal Credit
• engage with the people who use the system to design an approach that meets their needs.