Almost every social worker I talk to these days can describe to me in detail the increasing poverty they see in the families they are working with, as well as among older and disabled adults. This has increased, and almost certainly will continue to increase, as universal credit continues to be rolled out across the country. This new benefits system, introduced under the Welfare Reform Act 2012, brings together six payments and is supposed to be less complicated and easier for both government and claimant. However there is a built-in six week delay in receiving payments. Combined with the fact that universal credit is paid to people monthly, rather than weekly or fortnightly, and that most claimants already find it very difficult to budget, many are ending up in a spiral of debt. It is surely notable the government had to whip its Tory MPs into abstaining on a Labour vote to ‘pause and fix’ the new system as politicians on both sides voice increasing concerns about the impact it’s causing. This is exacerbated by the bedroom tax, which reduces housing benefit payments to people deemed to have a spare bedroom in social housing, and the withdrawal by cash-strapped councils of emergency payments when families are deemed destitute and desperate. Read more.