Labour MPs are warning to expect queues outside food banks this Christmas as universal credit changes threaten to push thousands of families below the poverty line.
According to Citizens Advice benefit claimants are being plunged into debt with four in ten people having to wait more than six weeks to receive their first payment.
Now Labour MPs, from areas where the shake-up is due to be introduced this autumn, have written to David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, calling for delay.
“There is a real worry that the introduction of universal credit, at this time, will cause extreme hardship for many people in vulnerable situations, exacerbated by the financial burdens of the festive period,” they state.
“Evidence from other parts of the country where UC has been introduced already shows that it is far from the efficient system trialled.
“In many cases, recipients have had to wait seven weeks for payment of the benefits. This puts an incredible strain on individuals and we have seen, in other areas, an increased use of food parcels during this period.”
According to the Independent, the letter also highlighted the removal of a severe disability premium and the difficulties people had repaying crisis loans of £150 in three £50 lump sums.
The MPs wrote: “The current timetable will cause our residents severe hardship over the months which are most financially difficult.
“We urge that you do not roll this system out in November and December, but look to a date later in 2018.”
The Labour MPs are led by newly-elected Laura Pidcock and include Kate Osamor, a shadow cabinet minister, Stella Creasy, Alison McGovern, John Mann, Jon Cruddas and John Cryer.
Their plea is the latest in a long line of warnings that universal credit is not ready for wider introduction.