A ‘bombshell’ report and survey of nearly 1,200 Universal Credit claimants by the community section of the UK and Ireland’s largest union, Unite, lays bare the misery of the scheme’s failed introduction with evidence of people becoming suicidal, going without food, being forced into debt and unable to pay bills.

The survey of 1,173 Universal Credit claimants published today (Monday 23 September) found that 70 per cent had skipped meals and 42 per cent had been forced to use a food bank as result of claiming Universal Credit.

Just under two-thirds (65 per cent) of respondents said they could not afford bills such as heating, electricity, and water, while over three-quarters (78 per cent) said they relied on friends and family to make ends meet. 48 per cent said they had been pushed into debt because of Universal Credit, with nearly a fifth (19 per cent) saying they had been forced to turn to payday loan companies and 8 per cent to loan sharks, to make ends meet.

The survey also points to kids losing out at school because of Universal Credit, with 27 per cent of respondents saying they had been unable to buy school uniforms or school equipment for their children, while just over a quarter (26 per cent) said they could not afford school trips.

Elsewhere, the report and survey called Universal Credit: Not fit for Purpose, powerfully captures the catastrophic toll of Universal Credit on people’s lives and families with respondents’ comments, including:

“Since we were forced onto Universal Credit I’ve tried to commit suicide three times, me and my eight year old have had to spend a month living off crackers and tins or frozen veg in bowl.” Claimant one

 “I can’t afford a new uniform for my youngest daughter. My middle daughter has had to skip meals at college and is behind on her A-levels because I can’t afford the textbooks she needs for her courses.” Claimant two

“The five weeks wait left me in rent arrears and my landlord served me with an eviction notice because of this.” Claimant three

Unite is calling for the government to stop and scrap Universal Credit. The report and survey, Universal Credit: Not Fit for Purpose is being launched at a fringe meeting at Labour party conference in Brighton today at 12:30 in The Grand Hotel. It can be downloaded here.

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary with responsibility for Unite Community, Steve Turner said: “Universal Credit is causing untold misery and heartache for people across the country. Its failed introduction is leading to people becoming suicidal and going without food, or being forced into debt and unable to pay the bills. 

“Universal Credit is not just an issue that affects people out of work. At the beginning of the year over 530,000 employed people were receiving Universal Credit in a ‘corporate welfare’ cash grab to top up poverty wages.

“The government needs to immediately scrap the five-week wait for Universal Credit which is pushing people into debt and benefit sanctions that are plunging people into the depths of despair.

“Ultimately, this cruel and flawed system which penalises families who are trying to make ends meet and keep a roof above their head must be scrapped and replaced with a humane system based on social solidarity and support that treats people with dignity.”

ENDS

For more information journalists only please contact Alex Flynn Unite head of media and campaigns on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869 alex.flynn@unitetheunion.org

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.