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Most vulnerable face ‘real challenges in getting by’ due to Universal Credit, MP warns

Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney. Picture: NICK BUTCHER

© Archant 2015

The most vulnerable people in society are being put under “enormous pressure” by a change in the benefits system, a Conservative MP has warned.

Citizens Advice have revealed the serious impact new benefits could have on disabled people living in Suffolk Picture: ANTONY KELLYCitizens Advice have revealed the serious impact new benefits could have on disabled people living in Suffolk Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Waveney MP Peter Aldous spoke out against his own party’s government on what he called a “torrent of complaints” that came to his constituency office when the new system was introduced in Lowestoft in May 2016.

Universal Credit is designed to replace six major benefits, including child tax credit, and combine them into a single payment.

The Department for Work and Pensions says that Universal Credit, due to be rolled out nationally, “replaces an out-of-date, complex benefit system with cliff edges that disincentivised work and often trapped people in unemployment”.

But the changeover has been widely criticised, with even former Conservative prime minister John Major complaining that is being rushed in and will hurt the least well off in society the most.

In a parliamentary debate on the issue, Mr Aldous said the roll-out of Universal Credit in Lowestoft “has not been straightforward”.

He added: “Almost from the outset, my office received a very large number of complaints.

“It is clear that many people, often the most vulnerable in society, have been put under enormous pressure and have faced real challenges in getting by on a day-to-day basis.”

Mr Aldous said many of the problems had been addressed, for example by making it easier for landlords to receive direct payments to prevent people falling into rent arrears.

Waveney District Council has also co-ordinated a group that provides people with budgeting and digital support, special disability advice and liaison with landlords.

Mr Aldous said: “The torrent of complaints that my office was receiving in 2016 and early 2017 has reduced, but it would be wrong to say that it is now down to a trickle.

“We probably receive three new complaints per week, most of which revolve around the migration from ESA to universal credit.

“Some of the complaints are resolved quickly, while others are not. The latter largely revolve around customers who are placed in serious financial difficulty as a result of the withdrawal of severe disability payments.

“That shortcoming needs to be addressed. With managed migration, the government need to move very gradually, learning and adapting as they go along.”

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