Rugby MP praises job centre staff in Rugby for improving universal credit - but group says new benefit has been a complete failure

A protest against universal credit outside Rugby Town Hall in December.
A protest against universal credit outside Rugby Town Hall in December.

Rugby MP Mark Pawsey and Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd praised Rugby Job Centre staff, stating they have helped to improve universal credit.

But a political group told the Advertiser universal credit has been a ‘complete’ failure that has caused an increase in poverty and evictions.

Mr Pawsey took to Parliament on January 6 after the national press revealed the full roll-out of universal credit would be delayed, with plans being made for a pilot scheme whereby around 10,000 more people would be placed on the all-encompassing benefit.

Speaking to Amber Rudd in Parliament, Mr Pawsey said: “Rugby Job Centre has quite a lot of experience with universal credit, having been a pilot centre since 2013 and on full service since May 2016.

“The staff there have had a hand in making the transition easier based on the test-and-learn approach. Will the secretary of state acknowledge the hard work of staff at job centres such as

Rugby’s in making improvements to the universal credit system?”

Mrs Rudd said she wished to thank staff at Rugby’s job centre, adding she found staff in job centres are ‘universally enthusiastic’ about universal credit.

Pete McLaren, spokesperson for Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), said the group has spoken with staff at Rugby Job Centre. Mr McLaren claims staff are far from ‘universally enthusiastic’.

He said:“We have spoken to staff who are not happy with the results universal credit is having on people.

“They don’t enjoy the punitive side of it, like having to impose sanctions. Their staff numbers have been cut and they are under tremendous pressure.”

Mr McLaren said any improvements to the system are ‘cosmetic’ and called for it to be scrapped altogether.

The prime minister said universal credit will be implemented in full in 2023, but Mr McLaren said this delay could be the ‘beginning of the end’ for the controversial system.

Rugby group shares examples of ‘suffering that universal credit causes’

Pete McLaren of Rugby TUSC said his group has uncovered dozens of examples of ‘suffering’ that universal credit has caused in Rugby.

He said: “Cases in Rugby include a man in his 50s, with blindness caused by a brain disorder, with sick notes from his doctor, who had been receiving £691 a month whilst on Income Support which was reduced to £291 a month once he had been transferred onto universal credit; a 61-year-old woman reduced to tears when describing how rent arrears caused by universal credit had led to her landlord, Rugby council, taking her to court under threat of eviction; a 61-year-old disabled woman struggling to walk into Rugby Job Centre who had been told that, in order to qualify for universal credit, she would have to be actively looking for work until she was 65. She was already in rent arrears.”