UNISON yesterday warned the government that its ‘botched roll out’ of Universal Credit, less than 18 months away, will make it more difficult for low-income families to claim much-needed benefits and tax credits.
Unison said: ‘The government want to combine the introduction of Universal Credit with a shift to administering the service online.
‘But analysis by the union has proved that the very people who rely on benefits and tax credits, those on low incomes, are the least likely to use the internet.
‘Low-income families are also the least likely to be able to afford the cost of calling the 0845 number they will have to ring to access these benefits and tax credits if they can’t apply online. The cost can be as much as 40p per minute from mobiles.
‘The union is today emailing every councillor in England, Wales and Scotland, calling on them to take action, as the switch could mean the loss of 20,000 jobs in housing benefits and tax credits.
‘The union is also warning councils that if things go wrong, cheques don’t arrive and families can’t afford to feed their children, they will turn to their local council for help.’
Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, said: ‘Another day, another example of the Tories being totally out of touch with people in Britain. And the roll-out of Universal Credit is yet another outrageous policy the government has not thought through.
‘This cabinet, stuffed full of millionaires with gadgets galore, thinks everyone can get on the internet.
‘Back in reality, people on low incomes, those that need benefits and tax credits, are the least likely to have a computer.
‘The coalition’s cuts are already hitting families hard without the government making it more difficult still to claim much-needed benefits and tax credits.’
• A secure future for the Department for Culture, Media and Sports must be confirmed to protect free access to the arts and allay fears for staff, the Public and Commercial Services union says.
Following media reports about speculation that DCMS will be abolished after the Olympics and Paralympics, the union has written to the permanent secretary Jonathan Stephens to ask him to assure his staff that the department will remain.