Llanelli’s Member of Parliament, Nia Griffith, and Assembly Member, Lee Waters, have hailed Labour’s success in forcing the Government to say that they will scrap the 55p a minute charge to a Universal Credit hotline, which they had branded as “ridiculous” and “outrageous”.

The UK Government came under significant pressure to scrap or at least delay the further roll out of Universal Credit by Labour MPs in Parliament. Councils, housing associations and private landlords have reported a significant increase in rent arears in areas where Universal Credit has already been rolled out.  Many claimants have also spoken out about the 6 week wait for payment.

The Trussell Trust, which operates a network of 400 food banks, had said it was increasingly worried that volunteer-run centres would not be able to cope in the run-up to Christmas with growing demand from people being switched to Universal Credit benefit.

Wednesday evening (18 November) saw an embarrassing defeat for the Government in the Commons, as MPs voted 299 to 0 for the further roll out of Universal Credit to be delayed. The Government decided to abstain, handing Labour a crucial victory.

Llanelli MP Nia Griffith said: “Whilst I am pleased that Labour has managed to force the Government to scrap the charge of 55p a minute to call the Universal Credit hotline, they need to do much more. The Government must call an immediate halt to the disastrous roll-out of universal credit which has left claimants facing debt, hunger or eviction as they are forced to wait at least six weeks for their first payment. Just reducing the wait to four weeks is not good enough, as that is too long for people living day to day.

The Government’s handling of Universal Credit has been a complete shambles and last week’s vote in the Commons demonstrated the lack of direction on reforms with the Government not even voting to defend their flagship welfare program. The Government needs a complete rethink on the further roll out of the system. As Labour MPs, we have forced another debate on the Government this week and we will be keeping the pressure up on them to act.”

Lee Waters AM of Llanelli added: “It was ridiculous that people, already at the point of crisis because they have no money, were being told that in order to get that money they would have to phone a 55p a minute helpline. It’s unacceptable to put people through this and I am pleased that the Government have announced their intention to scrap these charges.

In future, the Government should listen very carefully to the warnings of organisations like the Trussell Trust.”

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