DOZENS of campaigners staged a protest against the government’s new benefits system which they claim will ruin the lives of society’s most vulnerable people.
More than 50 campaigners, armed with signs and plaques, marched on Portsmouth’s Guildhall Square in opposition of Universal Credit.
Demonstrators claimed the controversial welfare reform was riddled with problems and was penalising the poor and disabled.
The protest comes after the government-led system was rolled out in Portsmouth at the end of September, with the next phase due to hit neighbouring communities at the end of the month.
Ministers have previously come under fire for the national rollout of the scheme, which has been blighted by problems, that has seen delays in the time users received benefits payments.
And during Saturday’s protest in Portsmouth, protesters said the impact of universal credit was already being felt by city residents.
Campaigner Kirsty Mellor gave a speech at the rally and said: ‘We will not sit back while innocent peoples lives are being destroyed. We want to tell the Tory government that Universal Credit is not welcome here or anywhere.
‘The rollout of Universal Credit needs to be halted and re-evaluated, ideally scrapped, before it destroys any more lives.’
Alan Burgess, Unite Community press officer, was among those to attend the protest and heard worrying stories from those already being stung by universal credit.
He said: ‘Universal Credit really is hitting the most vulnerable people in society. We’re very worried about this.
As well as speaking to more than 100 people, campaigners also read out a statement by Labour’s Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, who is opposed to the new benefits system.
The Department for Work and Pensions insisted the new welfare system was better than those under the previous administrations.
A spokesman added: ‘Universal Credit replaces an out-of-date, complex benefits system with cliff edges that disincentivised work and often trapped people in unemployment.’