October 2018

Sheffield TUC says

Sheffield Trade Union Council condemns this Tory Government for its vicious austerity attacks on the poorest sections of society, making benefit claimants pay for the costs of bailing out the private sector banking millionaires. Many of those claimants will be in work on desperately low pay who will see their in-work benefits cut.

The Government’ flagship new benefits system, dubbed “Universal Credit”, is due to be rolled out in Sheffield from November, affecting between 60,000 and 80,000 households in the poorest neighbourhoods of our city. The vast majority will be worse off. Sheffield TUC says “Stop this Universal Credit roll-out in our City now before tens of thousands of Sheffielders have their benefits slashed”

“Theresa May lied in Parliament when she said no-one will be worse off under Universal Credit” said Martin Mayer Secretary of Sheffield TUC. “Esther McVey Secretary of State for Work and Pensions then boasted to cabinet colleagues that many households will be up to £2,400 per year worse off. The Resolution Foundation warns 3 million of the poorest households in the UK will be £1,800 per year worse off.”

Universal Credit is due to be rolled out in Sheffield from November and will affect between 60,000 and 80,000 households. The biggest impact will be on poor estates in S2 and S5. There are protest meetings being organised across the City including:

outside Sheffield Town Hall Saturday 27th October from 1130 to 1330
organised by the Labour Party and Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC)
with support from Sheffield TUC and Sheffield People’s Assembly and other organisations
Speakers include Louise Haigh MP

Here just some of the worst aspects of Universal Credit:
● New claimants have to wait 5 -12 weeks with no benefit payments
● Hardship grants are not automatic – mostly assistance is by loans – which have to be paid back from future benefit payments
● Claimants must sign “conditionality agreements” that put highly onerous obligations on them – or risk sanctions. For instance, if you fail to answer the phone, you will be sanctioned
● Child Benefit (£50) is restricted to just two children and the First Child Premium (£30) is axed
● The family element of Tax Credits is axed. This affects many claimants in work
● Part Time workers must continually seek extra work up to 35 hours or face sanctions
● All Universal Credit is paid to one person, usually the man (in a male female couple). N.B. Officially Child Benefit this still goes to the woman, despite some claimants reporting otherwise.
● Working families currently claiming tax credits will have to apply for Universal Credit
● Cuts to disability payments. Only one person can receive severe disabilities premium, and disabled parents claiming ESA will not be able to claim carers allowance if they have a disabled child
● All Universal Credit applications are online
● 1 million children will lose free school meal element
● During initial waiting period for UC, claimants will have no evidence to claim free prescriptions, free dental care etc.
● Housing Benefit is paid direct to claimant, which leads to rent arrears and evictions. (Private Tenants reportedly find it easier to get payments made direct to landlords than social housing tenants)
● Sanctions are normally for up to 3 months but can be up to 3 years
● In addition to sanctions, “civil enforcement penalties” of £50 can apply

J (not her real name) told Sheffield TUC that Universal Credit will devastate estates like Arbourthorne where she lives. As a single mother with a disabled son she does not know how she will cope.

Sheffield TUC wants to see a really big campaign to stop Universal Credit and defend the poorest families in our city. Many of these households include working families on low incomes. “We need to make sure the message goes out that Sheffield opposes Universal Credit” said Martin Mayer. “We will explain why it is so bad, that it’s a system of punishment to drive people back to work by grinding them into poverty and humiliation, and that we need a proper and humane system of social security fit for the 21st century. People need to understand that the Tories hate spending money on welfare benefits and are using Universal Credit to cut public spending and force people to take low paid work at any price without complaint. Finally, we need to show solidarity with the 60,000 plus households in Sheffield who will be affected, to ensure the support they need is there.”

Food Banks
In 21st century Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have had to turn to Food Banks to survive thanks to welfare cuts and the effect of the sanctions policies. Wherever Universal Credit has been rolled out, demand for Food Banks has increased dramatically. “Food Banks in Sheffield will need extra donations if people in our city are not to starve” said Martin Mayer. “We pay tribute to the charities and churches, and the army of volunteers who run our Food Banks. Without them there would be starvation and severe malnutrition thanks to the vandalism inflicted on our Social Security System under the Tory Government. Alarmingly this is about to get worse when Universal Credit is rolled out into our city next month”