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Trade unionists take to the streets in protest against Tories' universal credit system

TRADE unionists took to the streets across Britain today to protest against the Tory government’s reviled universal credit benefit system.

The “Universal DisCredit” protests were organised by Unite Community, the union’s section for people outside normal workplaces such as students, retired people and the unemployed.

Universal credit was intended to simplify Britain’s welfare system by creating a single benefit to combine and replace five different ones.

In reality, the union argues, it has left tens of thousands of people with no income while they endure a five-week wait for their first payment, which has caused hunger and despair to vulnerable people, including those with disabilities.

The government also hired private contractors to administer hearings with claimants and these companies have been given a financial incentive to reject applicants, Unite said.

The system also involves benefit “sanctions” against people who are unable to attend meetings with officials.

Denying unsuccessful applicants the means to pay for food and other essentials has been linked to dozens of suicides among the poor and vulnerable, Unite pointed out.

Unite Community head Liane Groves said: “At the beginning of lockdown, the government rightly stopped benefit sanctions. But it didn’t take long for that decision to be reversed, even though there is barely any employment to be found.

“When jobs are being destroyed across the country, the use of benefit sanctions is unnecessary and particularly cruel.

“Hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs during this crisis are learning for the first time what it is like to live under Britain’s brutal and discredited welfare system.

“With the prospect of countless more being forced to submit benefit claims, the pressure for social security reform will only grow.  

“This crisis means the government can no longer get by on untruths about the work-shy to punish those who need to access the social safety net.

“Welfare reform, particularly to universal credit, along with a proper plan to rebuild the economy, must happen if the country is to get back on its feet.” 

Unite Community members in Bradford, West Yorkshire, staged a silent vigil as part of today’s protests.

The union is urging people to email their MP, speak out on social media and complete an online survey on their experiences of the benefits system, particularly during the pandemic. It can be found at mstar.link/2OpIUuX

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