BFAWU Statement on Universal Credit

Universal Credit is class war perpetrated by a cabinet of millionaires against those struggling to get by in our communities. It is being sold as the most important change in social security for 30 years as it will bring together most of the means tested benefits alongside tax credits for people of a working age.

It’s the Tory government‘s stock answer to any question about poverty in the UK, and especially when referencing the legally binding targets set out in Child Poverty Act 2010 and how they will be achieved. Yet consistently the poverty reducing aspect continues to be revised downwards.

At the start of the process the Tories and Fib Dems claimed 350,000 children and 500,000 working age adults could be moved out of poverty.

The BFAWU demands that Universal Credit is stopped and scrapped,

Key points. 

  1. Universal Credit must be stopped and scrapped. 
  2. Universal Credit will be impossible to implement with casual and zero hour contract workers. Forcing precarious workers to either choose not to access benefits or to not work. 
  3. Hardship in terms of fuel poverty. Evictions and food poverty will increase massively among people already suffering with hardship. 
  4. Charities will be gagged to hide the figures. 
  5. The effect on the financial autonomy of women. Will increase the risk of domestic violence. 
  6. People who are computer illiterate will suffer disproportionately.

Tory Ministers are well aware that there have been warnings and campaigns from disabled people's organisations, from foodbanks and charities alike for the last several years.

The BFAWU are proud to be working with our Comrades in DPAC who have produced a number of well researched articles on Universal Credit, including by the late activist Debbie Jolly, who warned of its effects as far back as 2010. We agree with their findings this hideous attack on our class must be stopped and Universal credit must be scrapped.

The welfare state was created to deal with the eradication of want, ignorance, idleness, disease and squalor the Tories have always opposed its creation and Universal credit is the Tory destruction of the system that was designed to support all people at their time of need. Universal credit is not constructed to support but demonise and punish those that use its rollout is causing real hardship and has led to some taking their own lives. This itself should be reason enough to reconsider but so ideological attached and uncaring it won’t flinch in forcing our country back to a time when poverty was the norm and charity was the only system of support.

Some of the many hidden cuts to benefits have been highlighted recently in the press.

We know Esther McVey accused Labour of peddling "fake news" at Tory Party Conference in reference to cuts to tax credits. Equally we know that on October 11th during a TV interview that the minister admitted yes some people WILL be worse off. We know that the average amount people stand to lose due to tax credit cuts is in excess of £2400.

Other hidden cuts haven't had such exposure, no longer can two severely disabled people who live together as a couple who each receive currently the severe disability premium, under UC only one can claim for Severely Disabled Premium per household. This is a loss of approx. £30 per week for those households, money that is essential for carers pay and cost of support/mobility devices and adaptations to the home.

A disabled parent with a disabled child claiming disability elements of UC, will also be worse off again this a loss of approx. £30 per week per household, yet that parent is still a carer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to their disabled child.

We know that claimant conditionality agreements are compulsory meaning you have no choice and no right to complain what sort of government forces people to sign a form of NDA only one that has something to hide.

Many of our members and other low paid workers who are on the hated zero hours contracts will also are impacted by the changes.

These workers have to apply for and evidence application for other job roles that would take their weekly hours up to 35 hours a week. Yet many workers on zero hours contracts also have precarious, unpredictably fluctuating hours each week. Often with very little notice of shifts, and are at risk of losing their jobs if found to be applying for work elsewhere. 

In a continuation of demonstration of how cruel reforms to welfare are, a worker who loses their job cannot immediately apply for means tested benefits, and with the added minimum wait of 5 weeks for initial payment under UC changes, people are plunged into poverty, if not made completely destitute.

We know that there is a sharp rise in: 

  • the amount of rent arrears in areas where UC has been fully rolled out,
  • the number of evictions, 
  • the number of homeless people, 
  • a stark rise in foodbank usages,
  • the number of children placed on at risk register,
  • the number of medical cases of life threatening malnutrition such as feeders syndrome - a condition normally seen in famine struck areas, 
  • cases of mental health crisis,
  • and a rise in cases of benefits related suicide.

We know that the introduction of the two-child rule has resulted in a rise in cases of pregnant women being attacked by their partners. Media reports have suggested beaten in order to induce miscarriage.

And we know that the loss of financial autonomy for women in male/female couples means that many victims of domestic abuse are trapped in unimaginably dangerous situations, with no means of escape.

We know that the fact that the new system is entirely online means that people who are not computer literate, who have various disabilities, or who have no online access are not only struggling to access the Universal credit application but are also missing out on being able to access it at all, which results in people's payments being stopped altogether.

We know that charities such as the Citizens Advice Bureau dealing with complaints appeals and supporting applicants have been gagged from reporting figures. Unable to publicly disclose the volume of or nature of claimants cases and the effects of them.

We'll never know the true number of people negatively affected due to UC, but we know that the current estimated figure of £24 million of rent arrears in Britain is indicative of the seriousness of its impact.

For all of these reasons and more we reject the notion that Universal Credit can be fixed.

We reject the suggestion that there is any place in the policies of a socialist Labour government for a system that directly and purposely causes abject poverty, suffering, destitution and death of our class.

Whether people are in low paid job roles, are unemployed, or are unable to work at all, Working class women, men and children deserve to be supported in their time of need, not punished for circumstances that are beyond their control.

Wages don't increase with the cost of living, benefits rates are going in reverse, there can only be one result if we don't unite to fight this most malicious attack on our class in living history; 

The working class will turn its collective back on the Trade Union and Labour Movement in response to us having done the same to them.

STOP and SCRAP Universal Credit.