A Tory MP was moved to tears by the plight of people left without any income as they wait for a Universal Credit claim to be processed.
Heidi Allen, the MP for South Cambridgeshire, could be seen crying during a House of Commons debate on the disastrous roll-out of the benefit reform.
Labour veteran Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead and chair of the work and pensions select committee, had told the House of a desperate constituent he had persuaded not to commit suicide.
Field also spoke of a child crying of hunger at his local food bank, and the child’s father describing it as a “lucky week” because the family was able to eat some of the food at a funeral reception.
“I’m humbled by the words from my honourable, good friend from Birkenhead,” said Allen, wiping away the tears, her voice shaking.
“No government is perfect, no benefits system is perfect, no debate, no motion is perfect, but by God we work together and make this better.”
I’m so affected by them, I’m affected as she is
Field responded with sympathy: “I’m just amazed for the first time I’ve been able to report those events publicly without weeping. I’m so affected by them, I’m affected as she is.”
Responding to a deluge of recent criticism, the government has announced that the long delay between a Universal Credit claim and first payment will be cut from six weeks to five weeks from February next year.
Housing benefit will continue for an extra two weeks after the start of a claim, and crisis loans can now be repaid over 12 months rather than six.
Citizen’s Advice – the charity that has now helped people with over 100,000 separate issues with Universal Credit – welcomed the changes, but said more fundamental work would have to be done.
“The next step will be to make changes to work incentives, so that no one is left worse off under Universal Credit than they would be under previous benefits,” said chief executive Gillian Guy.