Protestors to march on Portsmouth over fears universal credit is destroying lives 

People protesting about Universal Tax credit outside 1000, Lakeside, Portsmouth, last year. Picture : Habibur Rahman
People protesting about Universal Tax credit outside 1000, Lakeside, Portsmouth, last year. Picture : Habibur Rahman
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DEMONSTRATORS are rallying against of a new benefits system which they say is ‘destroying the lives’.

Dozens of campaigners are expected to take to Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square in protest of universal credit on Saturday.

The controversial welfare reform was rolled out across the city in September despite having been blighted by problems elsewhere nationally, which saw delays in the time users received the benefit payments.

It is due to rollout in Gosport, Fareham and Havant on November 28.

The government insists its new flagship benefits system will leave millions of people better off.

However, campaigners in Portsmouth have said the system is punishing the poor and leaving the disabled in the lurch.

Councillor Claire Udy, who represents Charles Dickens ward, will be joining the protest. She said: ‘The rollout should be stopped immediately and the government must admit their harsh benefit reforms have failed.

‘We’ve already seen a delay but it’s still coming to Portsmouth. Residents are terrified they won’t be paid and will lose even more money from their pittance allowance that they can’t even live on in the first instance.’

Sue Castillon, Unite Community chairman, usd to work for Homestart in Havant running family support groups.

She said delays in people receiving their universal credit payments have already hit five to six weeks in parts of the country and was worried about the impact the system would have on families locally.

She said: ‘The sheer pressure of trying to manage on nothing is causing stress, suicide, and depression and can lead to evictions making things worse.

‘The social system is cracking and creaking at the seams and it is letting people down particularly the sick, poor and disabled.’

The news comes as a major charity today warned that food bank use had soared by more than 13 per cent in a year since universal credit was rolled out.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest food bank service, said it had provided 658,048 emergency supplies to people in crisis between April and September 2018, compared with 580,949 over the same period the previous year.

The Department for Work and Pensions said reasons why people turned to food banks were ‘complex’ and that it was ‘wrong’ to link a rise to any one cause.

A spokesman added: ‘Universal credit replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that disincentivised work and often trapped people in unemployment.

‘We have just announced (in the Budget) that we will be increasing the amount people can earn on universal credit by £1,000 before their payment begins to be reduced, to ensure work always pays, and introduced £1bn to help people moving over from the old benefits system to universal credit.

‘This is on top of the improvements we have already made – advances have increased to 100 per cent, the seven-day waiting period has been removed and we are paying housing benefit for an additional two weeks when people move onto universal credit.’

The protest in Portsmouth is from 11am until midday on Saturday.