Universal Credit will be axed if Labour are voted into power in the next election, promised Jeremy Corbyn as he unveiled a manifesto of “real change”.
The party have vowed to immediately introduce a series of “emergency reforms” initially before ending the controversial benefits system at the end of their parliamentary term if they are voted into power on the December 12 election.
Universal Credit has come under fire for driving people into poverty – earlier this month, The Trussell Trust cited the five-week wait for a first payment as a main driver in the 23 per cent rise in the number of emergency food parcels they gave out in 2019.
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Wirral West candidate and Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood told The Big Issue that it was evidence like this that led to the party’s manifesto pledge to spend £8.4 million reforming the welfare system.
“We’ve just looked at so much of the evidence and felt that it was very important to scrap it,” she said. “We recognise that you can’t change a big programme like that overnight. Our plan is to scrap Universal Credit by the end of a parliament but immediately we have an emergency package of measures that we will implement straightaway – these include tackling the worst aspects of it. We’ll be getting rid of the five-week wait, we’ll be getting rid of the two-child limit which is driving families into poverty and child poverty.”
Labour have joined the Green Party in pledging to explore a Universal Basic Income while Corbyn & Co also want to get rid of the digital-by-default approach for applying for Universal Credit. UN Special Rapporteur of Extreme Poverty and Human Rights Phillip Alston slammed this approach in his report into UK poverty earlier this year, Labour say that they will introduce 5,000 additional advisors to offer more face-to-face contact.
Like the Liberal Democrats, Labour also promised to beat current government targets to end rough sleeping, instead vowing to ensure no one is living on the streets inside five years.
Their plans to tackle the housing crisis will also seen them build at least 150,000 council and social homes by the end of parliament with 100,000 of that stock being social rent – that type of affordable home has been undelivered by successive governments for years.
Corbyn & Co also pledged to create 8,000 additional homes for people with a history of rough sleeping in a promise that sounds suspiciously like Housing First.
A “Prime Minister-led” taskforce will lead the plan to end rough sleeping with £1billion a year for council homelessness services.
In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.
Elsewhere, there is no room for Lord John Bird’s Future Generations Bill, which was featured in the Green Party’s manifesto, but Labour have also prioritised a push to end “privatisation” of the NHS and raising public sector worker pay by five per cent.
Greenwood added: “I think we’ve got a real opportunity to get in and I think that it’s massively important that we do – it’s clear to me that Boris Johnson wants to orientate are employment rights and public services towards an American model.
“This election in December is a clear choice between austerity and a government that will put our NHS on the table or a Labour government that will invest in people and public services.”