Every single person in Fife has been urged to take a stand against the introduction of Universal Credit – on the day the controversial welfare reform was rolled out across the region.
Members of the Fife People’s Assembly and Fife Trades Union Council voiced their anger during a demonstration outside Glenrothes Jobcentre on Wednesday morning, just hours into the biggest benefits shake-up in years.
They were joined by politicians including Labour Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Alex Rowley, Fife Council co-leaders David Ross and David Alexander, and other councillors.
Universal Credit, which is paid on a monthly basis, replaces six existing means-tested benefits. However, fears have been raised that the new system will plunge thousands of people into poverty, since claimants face a six-week delay before they receive their first payment.
Tam Kirby, from the Fife People’s Assembly, issued a rallying call to all Fifers to rail against Universal Credit, and urged everyone to sign a petition and lobby their local politicians to get the roll-out stopped.
“We’re here to stop this draconian, utterly shambolic attack, not just on the unemployed, not just on the disabled, but on people who are actually in part-time work as well,” he said.
“The fact that it’s being launched here in December, and anyone walking into that job centre office now to sign on isn’t going to have any money until January, is a shocking indictment of this country we live in.
“It’s the fifth richest country in the entire world, and yet we are going to have people with no money before Christmas or begging to the DWP for a loan that they are then going to have to pay back.
“They are going to end up in rent arrears, and if they are not council tenants then potentially they are going to lose their house.
“This is not a welfare reform, forget the end of the welfare state, this is the end of social security.”
Mr Kirby added: “Every single person in this area is two pay cheques away from having to go into that job centre and be forced to take any work at any time.
“It needs to be resisted by every single person in Fife, in Scotland and in Britain.”
Mr Rowley said much-needed resources for communities would inevitably be diverted into tackling the worst effects of Universal Credit.
“I can’t understand why you would have a government that would be willing to introduce a policy, knowing that the policy is going to drive tens of thousands of people into poverty,” he continued.
“You then have the knock-on effect. It’s not just those people who are claiming Universal Credit, although they will be the worst affected, there’s then the knock-on effect to public services as more people need support at a time when councils are having to cut back.
“We know that people have ended up committing suicide as a result of Universal Credit, so why would the Tories continue?
“They know this policy is wrong and yet they continue with it, so I’m delighted that people here in Fife are making clear it’s not acceptable and I hope that the wider public begin to speak out.
“In 2017, it is scandalous that a policy is being introduced that will have such a devastating impact on people’s lives.”