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Mims Davies: Re the roll-out of Universal Credit in Eastleigh

Dear Mims,

Re the roll-out of Universal Credit in Eastleigh. 

Your comments on ‘The Sunday Politics‘ this weekend suggest that Eastleigh is not experiencing the same problems as other constituencies around the country, including many Conservative ones, and can be considered “a positive experience”. You make the point that it has succeeded in getting more people into work, particularly women. We would be interested to know the data you are using to draw this conclusion?

The Department of Work and Pensions’ own data shows that one in four new claims is not being paid in full in six weeks and that half of those in rent arrears report that they went into debt after claiming Universal Credit – in light of this, can you still confirm that this can be considered “a positive experience” for those constituents concerned? You also stated that “it is easier to use” – does this include those more elderly and vulnerable claimants who lack computer technology or indeed a computer and find themselves in long telephone queues trying to speak to someone whilst being charged 55p a minute? Furthermore, your comment that it will provide a useful learning experience for budgeting must surely be felt by many claimants to be patronising and ignores the very numerous and varied reasons that anyone may find themselves requiring social support at any particular time in their lives.

There may well have been some individuals who have felt encouraged onto the employment market because of this and find themselves better off for doing so. However we would argue that being forced into the labour market in this fashion is no guarantee of increased financial security and some of your constituents may have been forced into low-waged, insecure and often unsuitable work because of it and for whom the experience is far from “positive”. Greater insecurity in housing, food and other basic items is universally considered to contribute to increased stress and mental health issues with costs for claimants, workers, their families and the wider community.

We in Eastleigh Labour Party absolutely agree that a “one stop shop” for benefits is, in itself, an excellent idea. However, we believe that the benefit system should look to prevent people from getting into debt not exacerbating it. It would appear that the problems experienced in this current roll-out of UC is a result of cuts and delays inherent in its design and implementation without adequate funding resulting in the numerous administrative problem described above. We would be surprised if you have not been made aware of problems in the roll-out of UC in Eastleigh and the very real difficulties experienced by some of your constituents because of it and suggest that to imply the overall roll-out as “positive” is at best misleading and at worst disingenuous.

We will be very interested to hear your comments on the above and your reasons for what we expect will be your vote on Wednesday not to back Labour’s call for a pause to the roll out while the full implications and effects of the delays and errors on individuals and communities can be properly looked into. 

Yours sincerely,

Eastleigh Labour Party

The Labour party also has a petition to pause Universal Credit rollout, you can sign it here:

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