Halt Universal Credit roll-out, says Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas

Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and Rainham.

Jon Cruddas, MP for Dagenham and Rainham. - Credit: Archant

Stop the Government’s flagship welfare scheme before it comes to the borough, the MP for Dagenham and Rainham has said.

The “madness” of Universal Credit risks pushing thousands into poverty, said Labour’s Jon Cruddas.

Benefits claimants in Barking and Dagenham will be switched to the new system in February as the controversial reform rolls out across England.

Universal Credit, which replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment, has left some claimants waiting six to 12 weeks for their cash.

“Benefit claimants are facing a New Year hell as Universal Credit rolls out in Barking, Dagenham and Havering,” the MP said. “This grotesque system pays out benefits a minimum of six weeks in arrears - in some cases 12.

“That’s two or three months without cash for thousands of families, plunging residents into abject poverty.”

Payday loans companies “must be rubbing their hands in glee,” Mr Cruddas added, urging the Government to “halt this madness now.”

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More than a dozen Tory MPs including former Prime Minister John Major have urged ministers to halt the roll-out.

Calling for a review of the policy, Sir John called Universal Credit “theoretically impeccable” but “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving.”

Half of all tenants in councils using the new system are at least one month in rent arrears, reported the Observer last month.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions, however, maintained the new system was running smoothly.

“Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives by providing additional tailored support to move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether,” she said. “And it’s working.

“With Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

“No one who needs support should have to wait six weeks. That’s why advance payments are available to new claimants who need one within five working days, and on the same day to anyone in urgent need.”

Half of all new claims in full service areas received an advance, they added.