Speed-up Universal Credit payments, say MPs in ‘Destitution Britain’ report

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Universal Credit payments should begin within a week of registering for the benefit, MPs say today.

Greater flexibility is needed in calculating and paying the flagship social security lifeline, which rolls six payments into one, according to a report.


The study comes after Independent MPs Frank Field and Heidi Allen toured the country as part of an inquiry into modern-day destitution.

The pair visited six towns and cities to hear stories from vulnerable people clobbered by austerity.

Commons Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field

Commons Work and Pensions Committee chairman Mr Field, an ex-Labour MP, said: “Hunger was described to us as an injustice which extends well beyond the individual and has lasting impacts on children, extended families, entire communities and across generations.

“While there were countless harrowing stories of painful decisions that people made just to get by, we also encountered uplifting stories of communities and individuals developing resilience in the face of destitution.

“While this community response undoubtedly represents the better nature of human beings, an emergency response adopted by the general public and voluntary organisations must never be confused with a properly functioning welfare safety net.”

Their study focused on destitution in Britain (pictured posed by model)

Their report recommends ending the freeze on family benefits and tax credits immediately.

Benefits should be lifted at least in line with the cost of living, according to Mr Field and Ms Allen, who took the Mirror with them when they visited Morecambe foodbank in February.

And a National Fuel Fund should be established to support households struggling to afford gas and electricity, they added.

Publishing their 22-page interim report, The ‘Other Britain’ and the Failure of the Welfare State, former Tory and ex-Change UK MP Ms Allen said: “For the most vulnerable people in our society, any reduction, delay, or loss of income from work or benefits brings into play foodbanks, rising debt, high-risk loans and the risk of destitution.

MP Heidi Allen met people at a foodbank in Morecambe, Lancs

“The phenomenal volunteers and community workers who care for this group have made it clear that the state is failing in its obligation to guarantee a national minimum standard of living.

“We agree with them.

“Voluntary organisations are at risk of sinking under the sheer weight of responsibility vacated by the state without the necessary funds.

“A new balance must be struck between the state and the charitable sector to ensure that all people can access basic essentials and good quality, nutritious food in a way that is dignified.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “Tackling poverty will always be a priority for this Government and we have already said the benefit freeze is coming to an end.

“But we know some families need more support which is why we spend £95billion a year on working-age benefits and have made 100% Universal Credit advances available from day one.”



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