Socialist Worker

Tories partially retreat on Universal Credit amid outrage and fears of ‘riots’

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2627

During the Poll Tax riot of 1989 - could Universal Credit spark a repeat?

During the Poll Tax riot of 1989 - could Universal Credit spark a repeat? (Pic: Steve McTaggart)


The Tories are under pressure over their hated Universal Credit (UC) benefit. They were last week forced to delay the rollout of UC from next year to 2020.

And it won’t be fully rolled out until 2023.

The retreat follows fury from claimants who are suffering more poverty and stress after being moved onto UC. Even former Tory prime minister John Major has warned that UC could spark a repeat of the Poll Tax riot of 1989.

Emma is one of many people who are worse off under the new benefit. She told Socialist Worker, “I’m disabled and I was on the Severe Disability Premium (SDP). I was told that people with SDP would be protected on the transfer.

“But they took that away and they took away my child tax credits.

“I’ve lost £98 in SDP and other sickness benefits attached to it, and £64 child tax credit every week. So I can’t pay for care, childcare and domestic help.”

Emma had to move cities with her son to escape a violent partner. An advance on her benefits paid for the move, but she wasn’t aware that repayments would be automatically deducted from her benefit.

“I’m paying off £125 a month, which leaves me with under £200 to live on after rent,” she said. “Not only did I flee a situation where I had to leave everything behind, I am now having to sell the things I replaced them with.”

Emma’s mobility problems leave her dependent on taxis. But now she can’t afford them. And being unable to get out puts her at risk of losing even more money.

“Before I was on UC, the Jobcentre used to pay for travel for benefit meetings,” she explained. “But they will not cover taxi fares for monthly work coach meetings on UC. And if you can’t get there, they sanction you.

“It’s a cashing in system for them.”

Emma sees UC as a way of attacking vulnerable people. “I’m furious about all of it,” she said. “I can see the Poll Tax riots happening again. The only way UC is going to get fixed is by getting rid of it.”

Claimant’s name has been changed

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