Women on Universal Credit are being driven to prostitution to make ends meet, MP claims

Frank Field said he'd spoken to women in his Birkenhead constituency who had been driven to the red light district for the first time under the new benefits system.

The former Labour MP, now an independent, said the controversial new scheme had been not going well in his area, despite what ministers had said.

Universal Credit aims to roll six benefits into one, but has been beset with problems.

Mr Field, who quit Labour over the party's anti-Semitism row earlier this year, told MPs this afternoon: "I wrote to the Secretary of State about, how Universal Credit being rolled out in Birkenhead, not going as well as ministers tell us.

"Some women have taken to the red light district for the first time. Might she come to Birkenhead and meet those womens' organisations and the police who are worried about women’s security, being pushed into this position?"

Esther McVey said today that there were a record 830,000 jobs available and suggested the MP tell the women affected that "there are other jobs on offer".

The benefits system has been accused of fuelling domestic violence, and thousands have reported being worse off.

Ministers have insisted no one will lose out when going on to the new system, but last week the DWP boss said that some would lose out.

"This is a benefit that we all agree on the sound principles, to allow more people into work," Ms McVey said today.

But she refused to say whether she had asked the Chancellor for more money in the upcoming Budget – as many MPs have been urging.

Shadow DWP minister Marsha de Cordova told MPs today that almost half of people who were receiving Employment Support Allowance benefit had attempted suicide, and the work capability assessments were "causing a mental health crisis".

Last weekend it was revealed that two dozen have signed a letter to the Treasury highlighting their fears to the Chancellor – urging him that an extra £2billion is needed for the reform.

Around a million people are expected to go onto Universal Credit next year as part of the rollout to everyone over the next five years.

The letter reads: "As it stands 3.2million working families are expected to be worse off, with an average loss of £48 a week.

"Enabling hard working parents to keep more of what they earn and thus encouraging them to take up more work is at the heart of Conservative policy.

"This measure would boost the incomes of 9.6million low income parents and children."

Yesterday it was revealed that Universal Credit claimants hit the under 30s the hardest.

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