Caroline Williamson – shopworker and Usdaw member asked:
“My Union Usdaw has just completed a survey of over 10,000 workers – this is one of the largest surveys of low paid workers in recent times. It shows that 1 in 4 retail workers rely on in-work benefits just to make ends meet.
“We have serious concerns about the impact of Universal Credit on low-paid workers and not just because of the 5 week wait for their first payment. Would the Archbishop back calls from unions, the TUC, this Conference and child poverty campaigners for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be stopped?”
Responding, Justin Welby – Archbishop of Canterbury said:
“Universal Credit was supposed to reform the benefits systems, making it simpler and more efficient. It has not done that. We know that it has left too many people worse off than they were, putting people at a heightened risk of hunger. Can you believe we would say this about England in the 21st
century? Heightened risk of hunger! Debt, rent arrears, foodbanks! We now know that about 45% of people who attend foodbanks have at least one person in work, an awful lot of them have two people in work.
“When Universal Credit comes into a local area the need for foodbanks goes up very significantly. Bishops have repeatedly argued in the House of Lords that the delays and benefits freeze are causing intense suffering and the inefficiency of the system means it’s not working. I’m not a technical expert in this, but what is clear is if they can’t get it right they need to stop rolling it out; because we must have people who have adequate incomes to live with dignity.”
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says:
“The Archbishop’s comments are very welcome. The original purpose of Universal Credit has been undermined by a series of cuts. The introduction of the benefit cap, a freeze to working age benefits, the reduction of working allowances, the removal of the first child premium and the two child limit for new claimants have meant a real cut in support for working families.
“Usdaw research has shown that a couple with children, earning just above the National Living Wage, one working full time and one working part time, will be £1,866 per year worse off under Universal Credit, with single parents set to be hit even harder.
“Despite the number of organisations raising serious issues about the design and impact of Universal Credit the Government has so far neglected to address these concerns. Usdaw is calling for the rollout of Universal Credit to be stopped and for a fundamental rethink of the policy.”
Notes for editors:
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers)
is the UK's fifth biggest and the fastest growing trade union with over 430,000 members. Membership has increased by more than 28% over the decade. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news
and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion