As part of Unite’s nationwide day of action against Universal Credit a protest is set for Department of Communities on Saturday December 2nd at 1pm.
This year Christmas will be cancelled for thousands of families in Northern Ireland who will be forced to claim the Tory government’s flawed all-in-one benefit, Universal Credit. The rollout in Northern Ireland follows agreement from the Executive parties to pass legal powers back to Westminster to allow the implementation of the brutal new welfare regime.
Unite the union is calling on the UK government to ‘Stop and Fix’ Universal Credit before even more families will be forced to use food banks and struggle to heat their homes this Christmas.
As well as the long waits for the benefit there are other problems with Universal credit such as the complex online-only application process and the housing benefit element not being paid direct to landlords causing rent arrears and in some cases eviction.
Albert Hewitt, Unite Community coordinator for Northern Ireland says: “Despite knowing that Universal Credit causes serious problems for those claiming it the government is ploughing ahead regardless while claimants are descending ever further into debt, relying on food banks, falling into rent arrears and in many cases are being evicted from their homes.
“In order to claim Universal Credit claimants need an internet connection which many simply can’t afford.
“Unite is demanding a cut in the long waits to receive money, for people to be able to apply in job centres, not just online, better help for people when the system fails, landlords to be paid directly to avoid people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes, an end to benefit sanctions for people in and out of work.”.
In Northern Ireland, it is estimated more than 400,000 households, or 44 percent of all families, will eventually be forced onto the scheme – including all those lower paid workers currently in receipt of income-based tax credits. This will mean that for the first time ever people in work could face being sanctioned (having their benefits stopped) if they don’t prove to the job centre that they’re searching for better paid work or more hours.
The Trussell trust, the UK’s biggest foodbank, says demand in areas where Universal Credit has already been rolled out has increased by an average of 30 per cent and Landlords report a huge increase in rent arrears.
In the absence of a functioning Executive, Unite in the community members in Northern Ireland has called a protest outside the Department of Communities to demand that the UK government ‘Stop and Fix’ the Universal Credit before tens of thousands more families are thrown into poverty.