Socialist Worker

Universal discredit—the Tories wreck our lives

Issue No. 2580

Elaine Morrall died after her benefits were stopped

Elaine Morrall died after her benefits were stopped


The Tories’ Universal Credit (UC) benefit regime is wrecking lives.

But despite constant calls to stop its rollout, chancellor Philip Hammond won’t be scrapping it in his budget next week. He’s too busy devising means to keep fattening bosses and the rich.

Any changes in UC are already too late for Elaine ­Morrall, from Runcorn in Cheshire.

She died earlier this month after her benefits were stopped for not attending a UC ­interview. Her mother, Linda, wrote a harrowing appeal on Facebook last week.

It gives a glimpse into the vicious Tory regime of benefit cuts and sanctions.

It reads, “How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?’

“My daughter died on the afternoon of 2 November at home on her own. She was 38 years old.

Heating

“In the cold with her coat and scarf on. Because she wouldn’t put her heating on until her kids came home from school. Why?? Because she couldn’t afford it.

“Because she was severely depressed. Suffered from eating disorder and many other problems for many years.

“But she was deemed not ill enough for ESA [Employment and Support Allowance]. Had her benefits stopped numerous times, which in turn stopped her housing benefit.

“I went to the job centre to inform them that she couldn’t attend. But benefits were stopped again. “No income but expected to be able to pay full rent. Was told being in intensive care was not sufficient reason for failing to attend a universal credit interview.

“She was due to go to court on Monday. Is being dead now enough reason? Is that what’s had to happen to prove she was ill?”

It’s just under six weeks until Christmas. There are built-in delays and waiting periods involved in claiming UC.

If you applied for UC today you might receive two weeks’ worth of benefit to keep you going until 2018. You might receive nothing.

Labour MP Ruth Gordon raised the issue in parliament this week. Damian Hinds, Tory minister in the Department for Work and Pensions, responded by saying people should stop relying on benefits and get a job.

Opportunities

Hinds is a former president of the Oxford Union. He declared, “in the run-up to Christmas, when many temporary work opportunities are available, Universal Credit works much better for people, because they are able to access those opportunities.”

UC is utterly failing claimants.

It’s an instrument to deepen the regime of monitoring, sanctioning and controlling benefit claimants—and extend it from unemployed and sick people to low paid workers.

It doesn’t save money and it doesn’t “help” people find work.

It is designed to create a terror at being unemployed, which bosses can use to discipline workers into accepting worse conditions.

The rates of UC benefits have been frozen from April 2016. Yet inflation is currently running at 3 percent on the government’s fixed CPI figure and almost 4 percent on the more realistic RPI figure.

This is taking £4 billion a year from claimants. A premium paid to families was scrapped this April, taking £410 million.

Next year payments will not cover more than two children in a family, taking another £700 million.

Meanwhile the rich continue to stuff billions into their offshore accounts and see their wealth soar serenely upwards.

The Tories have to go.

Labour and the unions should be using the Tories’ utter weakness to call protests and strikes to drive them out.

Join the People’s Assembly #SackTheTories protests on Tuesday 21 November, the eve of the budget, across England. Go to www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/budget_toriesout

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