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Church-Backed Group Launches Universal Credit Petition

Friday July 13 2018

 

A major new petition has been launched by an anti-poverty coalition, including church groups, calling for reform of the Universal Credit benefit which has been blamed for worsening poverty and hunger in the UK.

The petition, launched by End Hunger UK, states that: “In areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out, foodbanks and other food aid providers report a surge in the numbers of people pushed into greater debt, destitution and hunger as a result of delays, errors, a lack of flexibility, and inadequate support.”

End Hunger UK is supported by the Churches of Scotland and England as well as several other denominations, and charities including Church Action on Poverty and foodbank provider the Trussell Trust.

The petition calls on the government to: “Take action to improve the flexibility and support for people on Universal Credit; make improvements to Universal Credit, to ensure it does not leave more people at risk of debt and destitution; (and) make a long-term commitment to ensure Universal Credit provides people with enough income to afford good food on a regular basis.”

It follows a National Audit Office report in June which raised serious concerns about the roll-out of Universal Credit, saying that four in ten claimants had suffered financial difficulties, around a quarter of new claimants in 2017 had not been paid on time and that the system ‘may cost more than the benefits it replaces’.

At the time, the Church of Scotland and other churches called on the Government to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit. The Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, said: “The Church of Scotland is shocked, but not surprised with the findings of this report from the National Audit Office. The report finds that a quarter of new Universal Credit claims were paid late.

“The result of this is that a significant number of people are being forced into increased poverty, and that civil society, including our church congregations, are having to provide emergency support to a growing number of people.

“Our congregations are proud of the support that they are providing, but we cannot ignore the reasons why people are needing this support.”

End Hunger UK is also calling on churches and other faith and community groups to promote the petition, which will be delivered to the Prime Minister ahead of the Autumn Budget in mid-November.


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