Protesters rally in Gloucester city centre in opposition to controversial Universal Credit roll-out

From Gloucestershire Live: Protesters were out in force in Gloucester city centre on Saturday as part of a ‘national day of action’ in opposition to Universal Credit, the controversial new benefits system that will be rolled-out across Gloucestershire in February.

The protest was organised by the local Unite branch, part of Britain’s biggest union, and saw campaigners deliver soapbox speeches outside the Guildhall on Eastgate Street.

Sue Powell, a Unite Community Activist said ‘the effect of Universal Credit will be felt for years to come’.

She said: “Universal Credit is a failed system. Seven million households will be affected by the introduction of Universal Credit, including over one million low paid or part-time workers, as well as the growing number of self-employed.

“It is estimated that cuts to universal credit will put an additional one million children into poverty. Food banks in areas where Universal Credit has been introduced report a 30% increase compared with 12% in areas that have not yet experienced the full Universal Credit roll-out.

“People on zero-hour contracts or insecure contracts who have unstable incomes will face difficulties claiming Universal Credit and this could plunge them into debt despite them being employed.

The people who devised Universal Credit say it’s simpler, fairer and encourages people to work but the evidence shows that people who are in receipt of Universal Credit are faced with uncertainty and are under constant pressure because they don’t know how much money they are going to receive from one month to the next.

“Because people are forced to wait six weeks for payment, the threat of eviction from their homes is a constant worry because they can slip into arrears through no fault of their own.”

Dominic, who travelled from the Forest of Dean to attend today’s protest, said: “We’re here today because we think the way the government has introduced Universal Credit lacks humanity and compassion.

“It’s important that we speak out against Universal Credit because it’s another example of the Conservative government’s attack on the poor and vulnerable.

“The divide between the rich and poor is now greater than during Victorian times. I’ve spoken to people today who have said they’re not interested in the problems posed by Universal Credit because it doesn’t concern them.

“What they must remember is that they may be employed now but you never know where you’re going to be six months from now. These are uncertain times and we have to think about how we would cope if we were suddenly put in the position were we were forced to rely on Universal Credit.”

[Read full article on Gloucestershire Live website…]