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MINISTERS are under growing pressure to make vital changes to their flagship welfare programme after The Sun launched its Make Universal Credit Work campaign yesterday.
Readers, politicians, charities and think tanks came together from across the political spectrum to demand action after we told how Brits are struggling to cope with the new system.
The Sun told the stories of hard-working families like Kirsty and Dale Snape, who were forced to sell their belongings to afford rent and food while on Universal Credit.
Stephen Daniels is now hundreds of pounds in debt after waiting for help, and mum-of-three Elise Waugh had to give up her child’s nursery places after being unable to claim her cash back in time.
The government must act NOW to fix these problems – by slashing the wait time for the first payment, allowing Brits to keep more of their hard-earned cash, and not getting punished for having a family.
We've received hundreds of messages of support from readers on our articles, social media and via email too.
Ann Smith said on Facebook: “When is the Government going to see, when it’s too late… It makes me so mad that this day and age people are struggling.”
Julie Michell-Key added: "Too many of us in the same boat due to UC. It’s a daily struggle and a complete joke. Feel for the families that are stuck in this rut as I am too.
“Be the first time my kids will go without and they deserve more."
While Chloe Fletcher on Twitter said: "Good to see The Sun backing changes to UC".
Are you on Universal Credit? Tell us your story! Email: [email protected] and join our Universal Credit Facebook group.
Reader Keira Bird wrote in to say: “Thank you for listening to people on Universal Credit and writing about it.”
The Children’s Commission for England, Anne Longfield said it was “good to see this campaign” and praised our input.
She added: “There is no doubt that the biggest losers under UC are families with children.
“No child should be worse off under UC and urgent changes need to be made now.”
The Sun wants to Make Universal Credit Work
Universal Credit replaces six benefits with a single monthly payment.
One million people are already receiving it and by the time the system is fully rolled out in 2023, nearly 7 million will be on it.
But there are big problems with the flagship new system – it takes 5 weeks to get the first payment and it could leave some families worse off by thousands of pounds a year.
And while working families can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs, they must find the money to pay for childcare upfront – we’ve heard of families waiting up to 6 months for the money.
Working parents across the country told us they’ve been unable to take on more hours – or have even turned down better paid jobs or more hours because of the amount they get their benefits cut.
It’s time to Make Universal Credit work. We want the government to:
Together, these changes will help Make Universal Credit Work.
Join our Universal Credit Facebook group or email [email protected] to share your story.
Ex-Lib Dem boss Tim Farron said after today’s launch: “Proud to be supporting The Sun’s campaign to reform Universal Credit.
"The cruel waiting times and punitive measures for people who are self-employed must be addressed by the Government immediately."
Lord Bird said yesterday: “Well done to The Sun. By processing payments faster, and making childcare payments upfront, the Government can show that it’s listening to the concerns of struggling people.”
Anna Turley MP added: "Why won’t local Tories face up to [the problems with Universal Credit]?”
Save the Children’s Director of UK Poverty, Steven McIntosh, said our “powerful reporting shines a light” on the experience that thousands of families are experiencing.
And the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said it was “vital we listen to people’s experiences of the system and make changes”.
Rosie Ferguson, CEO at Gingerbread, a charity which helps single parent families praised our campaign,said: “We at Gingerbread are supporting the new campaign from The Sun to tackle problems with Universal Credit – we’re glad to see more pressure on the Government to make Universal Credit work for single parent families.”
Robert Colville of the influential CPS think tank said it was “Great to see The Sun on the same page on the taper rate.
“It’s utterly wrong that the highest effective marginal tax rates in our country are up to 75p in the £1," he said.
"It falls on those trying to move from welfare into work.”
What to do if you have problems claiming Universal Credit
IF you're experiencing trouble applying for your Universal Credit, or the payments just don't cover costs, here are your options:
Apply for an advance – Claimants are able to get some cash within five days rather than waiting weeks for their first payment. But it's a loan which means the repayments will be automatically deducted from your future Universal Credit pay out.
Alternative Payment Arrangements– If you're falling behind on rent, you or your landlord may be able to apply for an APA which will get your payment sent directly to your landlord. You might also be able to change your payments to get them more frequently, or you can split the payments if you're part of a couple.
Budgeting Advance – You may be able to get help from the government to help with emergency household costs of up to £348 if you're single, £464 if you're part of a couple or £812 if you have children. These are only in cases like your cooker breaking down or for help getting a job. You'll have to repay the advance through your regular Universal Credit payments. You'll still have to repay the loan, even if you stop claiming for Universal Credit.
Cut your Council Tax – You might be able to get a discount on your Council Tax or be entitled to Discretionary Housing Payments if your payments aren't enough to cover your rent.
Foodbanks – If you're really hard up and struggling to buy food and toiletries, you can find your local foodbank who will provide you with help for free. You can find your nearest one on the Trussel Trust website.
Amber Rudd admitted yesterday that the Universal Credit programme has “problems” and vowed to listen to our readers.
"We need to build on what Universal Credit already delivers, ensuring that we do even more to look after families and claimants who need us,” she said.
"And I very much welcome the input of Sun readers as I do this."
She’ll face a grilling from MPs tomorrow on what she will be doing to help those struggling on Universal Credit – her first in the new job as head of DWP.
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