In Fleetwood, every Friday, I hold my weekly surgery. This is the time when I meet with constituents who need help with problems. These issues are very diverse and in most cases are also very upsetting. They can be parents wanting support with getting a diagnosis for a child with a developmental issue like autism, or trying to get support for a family member with a disability. People come needing help with social housing or because they’ve had benefits suddenly taken away or because they are seeking asylum having fled a war torn country. In many cases I hear from families in full-time employment but who every day, due to their low incomes, worry about how they’ll pay their rent, gas and electricity and feed their children.
Last Friday, as on so many other occasions, I met with Fleetwood residents struggling with the introduction of Universal Credit. The misery this new system has caused is immeasurable. What made this Friday particularly distressing was that two of my constituents revealed they had considered taking their own lives as they could no longer face the stress and uncertainty Universal Credit has brought. How many others are being brought to the brink of suicide by this Government? The majority of people who receive Universal Credit do so because they are on a low income or because they are suffering from an illness or because they live with a disability. These are people who are already vulnerable and don’t deserve to be treated in such a dismissive and uncaring way.
As well as taking up each individual case, I’ve written to Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. I’ve asked her to urgently address and reform the fundamental flaws in the system. This is not the first time that I’ve done so. It’s completely unacceptable that in 2019, in one of the richest societies in the world people are coming in to my surgery and threatening to take their own lives because the country’s support system is not fit for purpose.