1 in 16 Stourbridge people face risk of ‘unacceptable hardship’ as controversial Universal Credit regime roll-out grows to rule over 4,000 households in the town

A rapidly increasing number of people and families in Stourbridge are suffering ‘unacceptable hardship’ under the Government’s highly controversial Universal Credit regime, according to figures held by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) in the town and a report by MPs.

Stourbridge MP and Government minister Margot James voted against releasing the findings of an official report into the impact of Universal Credit delays and reductions in payments but another report issued by MPs on a committee of inquiry concludes that four in ten claimants are falling into rent arrears and liable to be dependent on food banks.

There have been widespread calls for Universal Credit to be suspended or scrapped – but latest figures from the DWP in Stourbridge (see panel above) show that 200 more people were transferred to the Universal Credit regime in the month that ended on October 11 2018.

This is a rise of over 50 claimants every week, many of them in work but at such low pay rates or under minimal ‘zero hours’ contracts that mean they qualify for state support to subsist.

Figures published by the DWP show that almost 4,300 people in Stourbridge – 1 in every 16 people – are now living under the UC ‘conditionality’ regime that imposes strict sanctions and payment suspensions if its notoriously complex conditions are not observed by claimants.

The regime has been linked nationally to reports of overwhelmed claimants falling into poverty and homelessness, unable to pay rents or buy food because of payment delays and benefit reductions.

Updated figures for Universal Credit claimants in the town are due to be published in a few weeks, with the numbers of people and families affected expected to rise again. According to The Sun newspaper, almost half of claimants are facing hardship they won’t recover from for the foreseeable future.

In an earlier Parliamentary vote related to Universal Credit, Stourbridge MP Ms James voted against including childcare support for England’s poorest working families on Universal Credit while she held a major investment in a fast-expanding private nurseries corporation. Direct link to full story here:

More recently, in answer to a Parliamentary question, Ms James was unable to say how many staff in her own Digital, Culture, Media and Sport department get Universal Credit support to help with basic living expenses and housing costs; she told the House of Commons that no relevant data is available. Direct link to Hansard Parliamentary record here:

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