Unite Community is holding more than 90 events across the country tomorrow (December 1) as part of a national day of action against Universal Credit.
In Northern Ireland the protests kicked off today (November 30), with Unite Community members swathed in white shrouds and holding crucifixes staging a “die in” to highlight deaths caused by Universal Credit (UC) outside a Belfast assessment clinic run by Capita.
Unite Community activists then delivered a letter of protest to the privateer firm, which has been contracted to conducted punitive assessments under the UC regime.
The national day of action calling for the roll out of UC to be halted follows the release of a disturbing Unite survey of 1,141 people who are already claiming the all-in-one benefit.
More than three quarters of respondents said they had been put into debt, or pushed further into debt by UC, with some forced to use food banks to survive as well as borrowing from friends and family.
Shockingly 60 per cent of respondents said that they had been pushed into housing cost problems, while 82 per cent said they have a negative view of the new system.
One mum was left with just £50 a month to pay her bills and feed herself and her baby, while yet another was left distraught after her family had to survive with no electricity or food for over a week.
Head of Unite Community, Liane Groves said, “Universal Credit is causing misery and suffering as the survey results clearly show.
“Despite knowing this, the government is still intent on ploughing ahead regardless, while claimants are descending into debt, relying on food banks and getting into rent arrears and in some cases being evicted from their homes.”
Unite is using the evidence collected from the survey to lobby politicians and demanding the controversial new UC system be halted.
The union has identified the following problems which it is calling on the government to fix: a stop to long waits for claimants to receive money, allowing people to claim at a jobcentre as well as online and the provision of more help to people when the system fails them.
Other actions the union says the government needs to implement include: paying landlords directly to stop people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes, ending benefit sanctions and stopping payments going to one named member of a household.
One of the major problems afflicting UC are overall cuts to the welfare system, which has contributed to a reduction of the benefit by 63p in every pound if a person’s earnings go above their “work allowance” – which can be as low as £198 a month for a single parent family.
“Access to the benefit has been devised for the benefit of administrators not the recipients of Universal Credit. The damage done by forcing people into debt, far from helping people into work, as the government claims, is driving people away from the job market as spiralling debt impacts on people’s mental and physical wellbeing,” said Groves.
“As we head into winter, many claimants cannot afford warm clothing for themselves or their children and don’t have enough money to heat their homes. It will be a very bleak Christmas for thousands of families who are being abandoned by this government.”
To join a Universal Credit day of action event near you click here.