Baroness Ritchie demands British government thinks again on Universal Credit.
A leading Northern Ireland politician has urged the British government to undertake a root-and-branch review of its controversial Universal Credit policy after claimants were left hundreds of pounds out of pocket.
Baroness Margaret Ritchie on Monday 29 June told the House of Lords that “a full re-appraisal was now needed after a legal judgment last week exposed the brutalities of the current system”.
Judges at the Appeal Court in London ruled that the Department of Work and Pensions had acted irrationally and unlawfully in a case brought by four single mothers. Red-faced ministers have now backed down and accepted that the rules have to be changed.
The four women were forced into rent arrears and had to use food banks to make ends meet, and one even had to give up work to look for another job.
The problem revolved around payment dates, with the system sometimes wrongly assuming claimants had been paid twice, causing wild fluctuations in their payments. A total of 85,000 people are thought to be affected.
Lady Ritchie explained to her fellow peers that the British government needed to urgently look again at the Universal Credit system and ensure that it placed an emphasis on the needs of people rather than on bureaucracy.
She said: “Single parents must never again be left without funds like this,” she said. “Universal Credit is completely discredited – it simply does not provide the support when and where it is needed.
“Welfare policy in the UK isn’t fit for purpose. The Tories have proved themselves to be as selfish and incompetent at helping the vulnerable as they have been at managing COVID-19 and Brexit. Things have to change, and they have to change now.
“People who need financial assistance have every right to receive it promptly, fairly and without fuss. The British government should stop treating them as the enemy and instead start honouring its obligations.”