It’s been heavily criticised across all parties for hurling families across the UK into destitution just weeks before Christmas.
And now universal credit has brought a Conservative MP to tears on a debate on the controversial welfare policy.
Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire, had to take a time out from speaking in the debate after her voice cracked from the emotion and she couldn’t carry on.
Tory MP @heidiallen75 moved to tears as she stands to speak during universal credit debate, after Labour MP @frankfieldteam recounts stories from his constituency of claimants. She goes on to welcome "package of reforms" announced in recent Budget. pic.twitter.com/3i4iwnOkEr— BBC Parliament (@BBCParliament) December 5, 2017
She had just heard Labour MP Frank Field, who represents Birkenhead, describe the heartbreaking effect that the policy has had on some of his constituents.
He told how he had talked one man out of killing himself, because of the “destitution” universal credit had caused.
Another family were helped by a charity in his constituency, after they brought in their child who was “crying with hunger.”
“The father said it had been a lucky week for him because neighbours had taken pity and invited him to a funeral so they could finish off the food after the other funeral guests had been fed,” Field said.
“When the little boy was shown a shelf where toys were, but also on that shelf were lunch packs, he chose the lunch pack,” he continued. “This is the background of growing destitution that I see in my constituency and against which we have to judge universal credit and the debate we’re having today.”
Allen said she didn’t “know where to start after that,” following Field’s speech, and that she was “humbled by the words.”
No government is perfect,” Allen continued, “no benefits system is perfect, no debate, no motion is perfect, but by God we work together and make this better.”
She tried to carry on, talking about the Work and Pensions Committee, which she is on and which Field chairs, but had to stop as her voice cracked.
Field backed Allen up, saying: “I’m just amazed for the first time I’ve been able to report those events publicly without weeping. I’m so affected by them, I’m as affected as she is.”
“That’s the debate we’re really having,” he continued. “How do we represent here the desperateness of many of our constituents when many of us feel we can’t offer them hope.”
Labour had called the debate in an effort to force the government to release reports on the impact of universal credit, which began its nationwide rollout in October, and sees families forced to wait a minimum of 6 weeks before the first paycheque.
Ministers have agreed to publish the assessments before Christmas.
Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN's Global Goals, and to support the world's most vulnerable people — whether they are at home or overseas. You can take action with us here.