A dozen Fife organisations have joined MP Lesley Laird in inviting Amber Rudd to visit Fife to hear about the impact of Universal Credit on local people.
The Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath Labour MP’s invitation to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said the flagship policy is “so flawed and broken, what is really needed is fundamental change”.
It followed a meeting in April in which Fife organisations reported a huge increase in demand on services from people going weeks without money because of sanctions or waiting for a first payment.
They talked of a black-market economy, addiction and prostitution in the Kirkcaldy area rising with the rollout of the highly criticised welfare reform.
Other consequences include a 65% increase in demand for food support in the last year. More than two thirds using the foodbank have UC claims.
Also highlighted was the DWP’s computer system’s apparent inability to process rent payments to landlords, resulting in arrears triggering automatic deductions. In some cases, charities report a single person can be left with just £200 a month to live on.
“Amber Rudd previously said she wanted the Universal Credit system reformed with greater flexibility so that the system works for everyone but in practice, the system is so flawed and broken what is really needed is fundamental change,” Mrs Laird said.
“Frontline organisations here in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath know Universal Credit’s impact full well – they battle its consequences day after day – and I would urge Ms Rudd to come to Fife and listen to what they have to say.”
The letter has been co-signed by Citizens Advice Rights Fife, Fife Employment Action Trust, Fife Trade Unions Council, Fife Voluntary Action, Home-Start Cowdenbeath, Home-Start Kirkcaldy, Kirkcaldy Foodbank, Kirkcaldy YMCA, Link Living, Linton Lane Centre, People’s Assembly Fife and the Cottage Family Centre.
“This system doesn’t work – full stop – and it’s a fool’s game to pretend otherwise,” added Mrs Laird.
“Universal Credit creates misery for all vulnerable people, young to old.
“It is placing unsustainable strain on the third sector and it is fundamentally damaging our communities.
“The savings which come from pinching a few pennies now will cost our society dear in the long-term.
“If Ms Rudd does take up our invite, and I sincerely hope she does, she’ll see that for herself first-hand.”
A DWP spokesperson said: “We have invested £10 billion into Universal Credit since 2016, with 700,000 families getting on average £285 more a month because the system is simpler.
“No one has to wait five weeks to be paid as a first payment is available as an advance on day one. “Additional digital support is available and our help to claim service delivered by Citizens Advice offers further targeted support.”