A senior member of Leeds City Council has said the authority is “appalled” after learning the number of Leeds residents hit by sanctions so far during the Government’s Universal Credit (UC) roll-out.
According to a White Paper Motion put forward ahead of a council meeting next week by Labour’s Coun Debra Coupar, a quarter of single unemployed people in the city have faced sanctions in the first year of the controversial benefits system.
Recipients have to pledge a Claimant Commitment which stipulates responsibilities which could include looking for work, applying for jobs, reporting a change in circumstance, paying their own rent and attending training. If claimants do not carry these out, sanctions such as stopping or reducing money can be used.
Coun Coupar, executive member for communities, writes: “This Council is appalled to learn that in the first year of Universal Credit being rolled out to single unemployed people in Leeds, 25% of recipients were hit with sanctions.”
“It is therefore of great concern that 50,000 current Housing Benefit claimants and 55,000 current Tax Credit claimants are due to transfer to Universal Credit by June 2018.”
She asks that the Government “immediately pause the roll-out of Universal Credit in order to prevent potentially significant hardship for thousands of Leeds residents, including families with children, and rethink its approach to welfare reform.”
She told the YEP: “We have seen in areas where Universal Credit has gone to full service an alarming rise in rent arrears and the use of food banks.”
UC is replacing various benefits, with the aim of simplifying them, over a phased period.
Single unemployed people were the first to start being transferred to the system in Leeds from February last year.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Sanctions are only used in a very small percentage of cases when people fail to meet their agreed commitments in return for benefits. With Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system. It provides additional, tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.”