‘Pause and reflect’: Mayor says changes threaten social safety net 

Mayor Philip Glanville has called for the “disastrous” Universal Credit system’s roll-out in Hackney next June to be delayed, warning the scheme fuels debt, poverty and rough sleeping.

The Hackney Mayor, writing to David Gauke, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, on Wednesday, said the benefit changes threaten the social safety net for “those who need it most”.

His letter comes as Universal Credit, which combines all benefits into one payment, is rolled out across the country, with the number of job centres affected set to double by January 2018.

Mayor Glanville said: “I am writing to urge you to delay the roll-out of Universal Credit full service until major flaws, highlighted by the motion passed in the House of Commons this week, are resolved.

“Hackney has the largest Housing Benefit caseload in London, and a total of 48,400 people receiving benefits. Universal Credit full service is due to go live in Hackney in June 2018, but already we are hearing from residents who are worried about the impact it will have on them.”

He added: “Pilots in London and across the country have proved disastrous, with well-documented reports of vulnerable residents feeling confused and distressed, a significant spike in rent arrears and an increase in the use of food banks.

“Delayed payments are dragging people into debt, which is completely unacceptable in a system designed to act as a safety net to help those who need it most.”

The Mayor said the changes could lead to more homelessness and have a negative impact on people with mental health issues. He warned delays to benefit payments could slash council revenue from rents, leaving the borough with less money.

Mayor Glanville also asked the government to pay £10 million for a “comprehensive support and advice service for Universal Credit recipients in Hackney” to help residents with the switch.

He concluded: ” Universal Credit is the single biggest change to welfare and benefits this country has ever seen and [I] urge you to take this opportunity to pause and reflect.”

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