Since Universal Credit was introduced in 2013 it has inflicted misery on hundreds of thousands of working class people unfortunate enough to be forced to rely upon it. Since the pandemic began, UC has been increased by nearly £100 to £342.72 per month to under-25s and £409.89 per month to over-25s. Do young people need to eat less? This sum is still clearly insufficient to provide a decent standard of living and the government only intends the increase to be temporary.
With the unemployment crisis looming, many more will soon find themselves under the lash of their personal “job coach” and in constant fear of their benefits being stopped (“sanctioned”). Having to report to the job centre once a week to talk about your unemployment and the completion of your commitments is a demoralising and patronising experience.
Commitments are requirements used to instil fear and obedience in claimants, and to make them feel responsible when they’re sanctioned, sometimes for an infraction as minor as not clicking yes at the bottom of a document by an arbitrary deadline. Often, you are unaware that this has happened until your benefits don’t arrive. They have complete control over your money, over your family’s right to survive. They leave you penniless almost as a point of principle to demonstrate their control over you.
Many have criticised the outrageous wait times between making a claim and receiving your first payment, which can be anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. They offer you a loan of one month’s UC to keep you afloat until the payment arrives. However, this “support” comes with additional difficulties; your UC is garnished until the loan is repaid, leaving you with even less.
UC is not only claimed by unemployed people but also the working poor. Many claimants work long hours but still can’t make ends meet, leaving them with no other choice but to get into arrears or go short on essentials. Claiming UC is an upsetting experience as you are stigmatised and made to feel that you are failing, when in reality it is the system that has failed you.
If UC truly is a “payment to help with living costs” then why are claimants starving? Why are children going without basic necessities and relying on free school meals to have hot food? We believe that every person should be entitled to a living wage, which is enough to cover the costs of living.
Benefits should be raised to the same level. No one should have to choose between food and warmth. If you find yourself unemployed, you shouldn’t be made to starve and suffer. Down with Universal Credit; a living wage for all!