“Universal Credit has been an unmitigated disaster,” said Corbyn. “It is inhumane and cruel. Labour will scrap Universal Credit.
“We will introduce a new system that will alleviate and end poverty, not drive people into it.”
Corbyn made the announcement in Chingford, east London, last week. It’s the constituency of Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith, who as work and pensions secretary first introduced UC.
The announcement marks a shift from Labour’s previous position to “pause” and re-examine UC.
Disabled People Against Cuts activist Paula Peters said that “tireless work” by activists lies behind the change.
“It’s been a lot of hard work,” she said. “Writing motions for constituency Labour Parties and unions. Researching. Writing reports, Lobbying MPs and councillors, street stalls and protests.
“A great many people brought it to this point. But let’s be under no illusion,” she said.
“We have to get a Labour government elected first. Even when elected we have to hold them to their word and make their policy pledges become reality.”
UC has pushed many people into severe hardship.
One claimant this week said moving to UC meant she could only afford to feed her children £1 pizza and £1 chips.
Kimberley Hill from Telford said her part-time job doesn’t even cover her nursery and after-school care fees, let alone other bills and rent.
Her monthly outgoings add up to £2,096.50. But her income, including UC, is just £1,969.
Kimberley has been hospitalised due to digestive problems that doctors say results from a lack of healthy food.
“I feed the kids then I have whatever’s left over,” she said. “Healthy food is expensive, cheap food isn’t so much.”
The Tories have ignored evidence of widespread problems with UC and are continuing to move claimants onto it. In areas where UC has been rolled out, rent and council arrears have shot up, along with food bank use.
Some women have described being forced into prostitution because UC has left them with no money. Other claimants have been pushed to breaking point and have tried to kill themselves.
Corbyn said that Labour would bring in an emergency package of reforms leading up to scrapping UC when it takes office.
These include suspending benefit sanctions, where claimants can have their money snatched away if they are late for appointments.
Corbyn also said Labour would scrap the two-child limit, where families can only claim benefits for their first two children.
Action by ordinary people has exposed the horrors of UC and built up stronger opposition to it.
Keeping up the campaigning will be crucial to making sure the system is scrapped for good.
“We have so much more to do,” said Paula. “But never say campaigning never makes a difference. It does.”