Hard-hitting articles in last week’s Leader showed that more than 5,000 people in our county borough needed the help of the Wrexham Foodbank in the last year. That figure included nearly 2,000 local children. A staggering 2,474 food parcels were provided in our locality in the last twelve months.
Like many readers, I’m a big fan of the work of the Wrexham Foodbank. Their volunteers and staff are fantastic – and we are really lucky to have them in our area.
However, I’m concerned that since 2010 when David Cameron’s Government began their Austerity programme, so many people must rely on their services. There’s a massive difference between a local charity set up to help a few people who are down on their luck (that could happen at any time and under any Government) and a system that is vital to keep large numbers of people alive and fed on a regular basis. The existence of the latter is an absolute disgrace – and one of the reasons we see it here in the UK is because of how the Government has shaped our tax and Universal Credit systems.
I spoke about this issue in the House of Commons during the recent debate on the Queen’s Speech. I voiced my concerns about Universal Credit, a cruel, expensive and poorly implemented system that’s had devastating impacts on many of my constituents. I’ve campaigned on this issue before when I called on the Cabinet Minister to hold a full review after a string of high-profile botches and complaints, something she eventually agreed to.
During my speech, I gave examples of bad practice experienced by people from our local area. I know of people from my constituency who have had terminal conditions but have been unable to access proper support because of how the system has worked against them. I know of seriously ill people who have had to go into debt because of long waits and administrative failures in a system that’s costing tax-payers multi-millions. And I know of decent local private landlords who’ve accepted tenants with serious health problems and addictions but who have ended up not being paid because the new Universal Credit does not allow them to be paid direct.
That is why in my speech I called for the total overhaul of the Universal Credit system. I’m glad more and more people and organisations, including the Labour Party, are calling for this to happen. It’s time we had a system in this country that rewarded hard work, provided fair play and didn’t cost a mega fortune to administer. Universal Credit fails on all these counts; it needs to be scrapped.