Rugby group says benefit system is an attack on the poor - but MP stands by it

It is claimed people have been left struggling with bills since the introduction of Universal Credit.
It is claimed people have been left struggling with bills since the introduction of Universal Credit.

The spokesperson for a Rugby political group has denounced Universal Credit as an “attack on the poor” after collecting reports of residents’ struggles with the benefit system.

Pete McLaren, secretary and spokesperson for Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), said use of foodbanks has increased and residents have suffered since Universal Credit was piloted in Rugby in 2013.

Universal Credit merges six working-age benefits into one, although one-in-five claimants waits more than six weeks for their first payment – causing financial difficulty.

Mr McLaren said: “We have done a lot of work on it in terms of campaigning and raising issues with local MP Mark Pawsey.

“We leaflet claimants outside Rugby Job Centre at least once a month – regularly more often.”

Mr McLaren shared some of the concerns residents have expressed outside Rugby Job Centre to members of TUSC.

A mother with a daughter on Universal Credit said her daughter’s income kept falling so she is struggling to feed her four-year-old child without the mother’s help.

The daughter has less than £20 a week to live on after rent and other bills to avoid arrears.

The mother said: “Parents like me are a free hidden support system propping up the state.”

He said people are often left having to choose between paying bills or feeding themselves and any relatives because of the amount of time it takes to receive the benefit.

Mr McLaren encouraged those struggling to meet with Rugby MP Mark Pawsey.

He said, although he disagrees with Mr Pawsey’s ‘commitment’ to Universal Credit, he believes he is a good constituency MP.

Mr Pawsey said: “Should anyone in Rugby be experiencing difficulties with their Universal Credit claim I would urge them to contact me.

“Universal Credit is designed to help people back into work and simplify the benefits system, by merging six benefits into a single payment.

"Since the introduction of Universal Credit in Rugby, unemployment is nearly 30 per cent lower and people in work are able to keep more of their earnings.

"For those individuals who think they may face difficulties before their first payment, an advance payment can be requested.

"Around half of all new claimants to Universal Credit receive an advance and my colleagues in Government are looking carefully at how to ensure that all those who need this support receive it.

"I also welcome the recent announcement that the helplines for the DWP, including Universal Credit, will be made Freephone lines.”