ON WEDNESDAY this week, the Tory government whipped its MPs to vote down a motion from the Labour Party calling for the release of official documents which detailed the impact of Universal Credit and an assessment of the devastating effect it has had on those already forced onto it.
Last week, the Tory Work and Pensions Minister, Esther McVey, admitted in private that some people ‘could be worse off’ despite all the assurances from Theresa May and every other minister in charge of rolling out Universal Credit that this would never happen.
McVey later admitted that some people who ‘could be worse off’ were really millions of low-paid households across the country being up to £200 a month worse off! While admitting to this appalling attack on millions of workers and their families, the Tories were still absolutely determined that the full scale of suffering and destitution inflicted by Universal Credit should be kept secret.
Labour’s shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said after the vote: ‘MPs vote 299-279 against a Labour bid to force the government to publish its own assessment into the impact of Universal Credit. You really couldn’t make this stuff up. What are the Tories afraid of?’
We can tell Rayner exactly what the Tories are afraid of – their impact assessment will reveal what workers already know that Universal Credit is driving families into rent arrears and homelessness and forcing millions to rely on the charity of food banks simply to feed themselves and their children.
The true impact on rent arrears for example was dramatically illustrated yesterday in a report from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS). The CAS report, ‘Our Rent Arrears – Causes and Consequences’ found that: The growth in rent arrears advice coincided closely with changes to the social security system and almost a quarter of those living in rented accommodation have experienced rent arrears in the last five years.
Further they reported that the most common reasons for rent arrears were benefits issues, loss of income or unexpected costs, with being moved onto Universal Credit cited as main reason. The incidence of rent arrears is far higher amongst tenants receiving Universal Credit.
According to CAS spokesman Rob Gowans: ‘The rise in rent arrears is one of the most worrying trends we see across the CAB network at the moment.’ This ‘worrying trend’ is in fact a massively devastating attack on the low-paid, unemployed and disabled, not just in Scotland but across the country.
Three-quarters of tenants on Universal Credit are in rent arrears compared to one third of all other tenants in Britain. This is the reason the Tories dare not reveal the true extent of the destruction they have brought about to the lives of millions of people.
Last week, ex-Tory prime minister John Major warned the Tories that Universal Credit was as bad as the hated poll tax that brought down the ‘Iron Lady’ herself, Margaret Thatcher, as millions of workers and youth are prepared to rise up, desperate for the chance to kick this Tory government out.
This is the reason the Tories won’t release their own assessment and why they are now trying to head off a confrontation with an enraged working class by ‘pausing’ the roll out of Universal Credit for some months. Last weekend, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell admitted that Universal Credit couldn’t be fixed and would ‘have to go’ indicating that Labour would be looking into a replacement for it.
Universal Credit can’t simply be replaced with a better system – it was brought in as an integral part of the Tory austerity drive to make the working class pay for the capitalist bank crisis. Abolishing Universal Credit must go hand-in-hand with abolishing the capitalist system that insists workers bear the brunt of its crisis.
The way to abolish Universal Credit, and with it the poverty and suffering that it inflicts, is to abolish the Tory government and replace it with a workers government that will evict the landlords, nationalise the banks and industry and place them under the management of the working class as part of a planned socialist economy.
Only under socialism can poverty and homelessness be abolished forever.