Above: an image from the Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake which looked at the rise of economic hardship and food banks since austerity measures were used against those receiving welfare benefits
By VIEW editor Brian Pelan
Universal Credit – the Conservatives’ flagship welfare reform programme which is being rolled out in Northern Ireland this month – has been described as potentially “the biggest social policy disaster in modern British politics”.
The introduction of the new welfare system will start in Limavady in September and will come to Belfast in May 2018.
The aim of Universal Credit is to incorporate six means tested benefits into one, “digital-by-default” benefit.
According to the latest figures from the Department of Communities in February 2017, around 251,000 people in Northern Ireland were claiming one of the key benefits available.
Since it was launched in 2013, universal credit has been riddled with colossal design flaws and a mounting price tag of £16bn.
Meanwhile, the link between universal credit and starvation in Britain is so clear that in areas where the full rollout has taken place, food bank referral rates are running at more than double the national average.
Journalist and commentator Frances Ryan, writing in The Guardian, said: “A staggering eight million households are due to be transferred to the new system by the end of its rollout. This is a recipe for, at best, bureaucratic chaos and at worst, widespread economic hardship. Party politics aside, any politician worth their salt would look at the damage already being caused by universal credit’s mix of flaws and cuts and hit the pause button. Instead, the government is pressing ahead regardless. Ministers may indeed want to look away. The biggest social policy disaster in modern British politics could be coming.”