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DELAYS in universal credit (UC) payments have forced people to beg for food at the door of a Labour councillor, the party’s conference heard today.
Councillor Mike Smith-Clare from Great Yarmouth said that he has had “people coming to my door begging for food because of a seven-week wait for money.”
He described the UC system as “malicious, cruel, unfeeling systematic torture to people who have nothing, sometimes driving them to suicide” and condemned the Tory government as “administrators of crime and cruelty.”
A mum also told the UC debate that she had to get her food bank provisions delivered to her home because she could not afford the bus fare while claiming the benefit.
Danae Savvidou, of Stroud Constituency Labour Party (CLP), said she was a single mum of a toddler when she was referred to use a foodbank.
She was one of many delegates who spoke about the crippling effects of the benefits system under the Tory government.
Ellie Hail of Rugby CLP said that her town was one of the first areas that saw the roll-out of UC and it has “been suffering ever since.”
Benefit delays and sanctions were contributing to the decline of the high street, she said, as “people who cannot feed themselves and their children cannot contribute financially to society.”
She described the plight of her friend Emily who lives in a constant state of “excruciating pain” from a disease that means she has to use the toilet up to 60 times a day.
Emily lost three jobs, and her last employer fired her because of her condition. The government stopped her personal independence payments and declared her “fit for work,” Ms Hail said.
Disability Labour activist Fran Springfield of Vauxhall CLP said that disabled people should be part of a planning committee to outline a new national benefits system.
She said that disabled people and those with long-term illnesses should have the right support and enough money to “eat nutritious food and leave the front door looking smart and reasonable.”
Delegates called on a future Labour government to replace UC with a “progressive benefit system” and scrap the two-child limit alongside the “appalling” rape clause.
At a separate debate at a World Transformed event, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka demanded: “This nightmare for claimants must end and this barbaric benefits system needs to be radically overhauled.”
In his keynote address, shadow chancellor John McDonnell promised Labour would end the “barbaric roll-out of universal credit” as part of a programme of reforms.
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