Islington Labour councillors called on the Tory Government to pause and fix the rollout of Universal Credit at Full Council this week (7th December).
Universal Credit replaces six benefits with one, supposedly simplifying the Social Security system. However, Islington Labour councillors have raised concerns about key elements of Universal Credit, including delayed and incorrect payments which have led to increased rent arrears.
Islington Labour councillors voted at Full Council to urge the Government to further pause the rollout of Universal Credit in order to fix these significant problems, so that local people are not badly hit when its next phase arrives. Councillors also reiterated their commitment to protect council services that support local people in receipt of Universal Credit and other out-of-work benefits.
Research by Islington Council has found that the average household in Islington in receipt of Universal Credit would be £12.07 per week worse off than under the current system of benefits, with almost half (49 per cent) of all households in receipt of Universal Credit losing out. 1,214 working age households, over half of which (53.1 per cent) are in the private sector, would be highly impacted and lose over £30 per week.
Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety, says: “The implementation of Universal Credit has been universally discredited. In its current form, it puts extreme pressure on local people.
“Islington Labour is on the side of local people. We are committed to protecting council services that support residents in receipt of Universal Credit and other benefits, including services to help them find work. However, the Tory Government urgently needs to pause and rethink the rollout of Universal Credit before it spreads any further in Islington.”
Currently, over 1,300 people have claimed Universal Credit in the borough. If it was fully rolled out tomorrow, this would rise to around 22,166 individuals. In Islington, the average rent arrears for a council tenant in receipt of Universal Credit is £1,058. This is almost ten times higher than the £122 average arrears for council tenants not in receipt of Universal Credit.
Cllr Flora Williamson, Islington Labour councillor for Tollington ward, who seconded the motion, says: “The Tory Government is already doing everything it can to make life harder for people who are struggling to make ends meet. Universal Credit will make things even harder for local people. For their sake, it is essential we keep up the pressure on Government to rethink its delivery of Universal Credit.”
As well as urging the Government to pause and fix Universal Credit, the Council is establishing a cross-departmental working group on Universal Credit to coordinate a response to its imminent rollout in Islington.
The Council and partners are working hard to support people in receipt of Universal Credit and other benefits through local services, from the Income Maximisation (IMAX) team supporting residents with benefit changes and appeals to Help On Your Doorstep putting local people in touch with the services they need. The council also runs the Resident Support Scheme, together with The Cripplegate Foundation, which supports residents in material need or crisis, for example by providing grants to buy essential goods.
By supporting local people into work, the Council is also helping residents better to support themselves and their families. Since 2014, it has helped over 3,000 unemployed people into paid work, including over 800 young people.
Pictured – Cllr Andy Hull, Executive Member for Finance, Performance and Community Safety