Universal Credit Hitting North Hardest

The following appeared in The Mirror on 29th November:

The north is bearing the brunt of Universal Credit according to Labour.

The party said the government's decision to rollout the scheme to northern constituencies first has meant that double the number of benefits sanctions have been doled out in the north than in the south.

Labour MP Stephanie Peacock said: “The north is bearing the brunt of a policy that the Tories have delayed imposing on their own constituencies.”

Statistics compiled for Labour show the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber had 41.13% of all sanctions applied, with 194,564 northerners being hit.

The House of Commons Library figures show more than double the proportion were hit than in the south.

The government insist that overall the number of sanctions is falling.

They say the statistics fail to take into account the gradual roll-out of Universal Credit to different regions since 2013 and argue that there is more up-to-date data available.

Ms Peacock told the Mirror: “It is totally clear that the UC roll out has been nothing short of a disaster so far, and people in northern towns like Barnsley have paid the human price.

“People who left are waiting weeks without payment and many of those sanctioned are found to have lost out unfairly. I’ve seen too many people driven to food banks, into debt or even on to the streets, as they struggle to pay the bills without the support they need.

“It is long past time to halt the roll out entirely, and Ministers need to get the message.

"The Prime Minister promised to govern for the whole country but the stark truth that her government punished, not protected, the people I represent.”

MPs on the work and pensions committee have called for a review of the “pointlessly cruel” sanctions system which they say does not help claimants into work.

Last year the Mirror revealed the Tories had delayed the rollout of the hated scheme to the constituencies of some of their party’s key figures including the Prime Minister and Chancellor.

Analysis of government figures this week showed that more than half of appeals against sanctions were successful, but claimants were left out of pocket during the appeal process.