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Debt: Tower Hamlets councillors call for universal credit to be scrapped

PUBLISHED: 12:29 20 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:29 20 January 2020

Deputy mayor Rachel Blake. Picture: LBTH

Deputy mayor Rachel Blake. Picture: LBTH

LBTH

Tower Hamlets councillors overwhelmingly backed a motion last week calling for universal credit to be scrapped and replaced.

Councillors also agreed to campaign for emergency mitigation to be introduced, including scrapping the two-child limit and the benefit cap.

The motion follows a report from the Child Poverty Action Group examining the impact of universal credit on families in Tower Hamlets which found that "many claimants were struggling to get by with the amount of universal credit they received, and were in debt and arrears as a result of being on universal credit".

Last year Tower Hamlets Council published a number of figures and case studies highlighting the flaws within the universal credit system, including hundreds of errors that the council had to flag to the Department for Work and Pensions, and hundreds of thousands of pounds in under and overpayments made to universal credit claimants.

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Mayor John Biggs has invested £6.6m into a Tackling Poverty Fund and the council works in partnership with the Child Poverty Alliance Group (CPAG) to deliver welfare advice in a local food bank which delivered £230k in income maximisation for residents in its first five months.

Mr Biggs said: "Universal credit has an enormous impact on many residents in Tower Hamlets and it's clear that it has failed as a social security system.

"Social security should act as a safety net and help lift people out of poverty, but in many cases universal credit is actually making things much harder and forcing many people to rely on food banks. It's time for it to be replaced with a system that actually works."

Councillor Rachel Blake, deputy mayor for planning, air quality and tackling poverty, said: "The research from the Child Poverty Action Group shows just how seriously universal credit is hurting families in Tower Hamlets. Many people who have been transferred to universal credit are struggling to get by and this is exacerbated by the waiting period and punitive measures such as the benefit cap and the two-child limit."

Councillor Dipa Das, scrutiny lead for housing and regeneration, said: "By agreeing this motion, Tower Hamlets Council has sent a clear message that it will campaign for universal credit to be scrapped and replaced with a benefits system that supports people rather than driving them into poverty. Until that happens, residents will continue to suffer."

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