We will be listening to the benefits claimants

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The insulting term ‘benefits scrounger’ was popularised many years ago by some of the more hysterical sections of the policitcal establishment and the national press.

But the last thing anyone needs who is unable to work, or afford the rent or to buy food, is insult added to injury.

Yes, there have been high-profile court cases of criminals trying to take advantage of the welfare state, and embezzling payouts they were not entitled to, but it is entirely wrong-headed to demonise people who need society’s help.

But such controversies, and the tangled web of the benefits system meant it was ripe for an overhaul, to be made simpler and, ideally, fairer.

That was the aim of Universal Credit (UC), a social security benefit in the United Kingdom introduced in 2013 to replace six means-tested benefits and tax credits

It was announced by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith at the Conservative Party annual conference in 2010 stated as designed to bring ‘fairness and simplicity’ to the British system of social security.

Four years down the line, the efficacy of UC has been called into question, amid claims it is causing hardship for many.

The National Audit Office said UC cost more to administer than the previous system of six benefits it replaced, including job seeker’s allowance, tax credit and housing benefit.

The Department for Work and Pensions, however, remains resolute, claiming the new system, about to come to Portsmouth, is working well.

Critics have raised fears about the effects it will have on our communities, and we will take a keen interest in the stories claimants have to tell us. Watch this space.