Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or on the Sunderland Echo website.
There are a lot of issues going on in Parliament at the moment, but one of the biggest is the serious flaws around Universal Credit – the Tories’ flag-ship reforms to the welfare system.
Labour support the original proposal of Universal Credit and making the system simpler, yet, the reality has led to serious concerns about how the system is working.
It has been estimated that where Universal Credit is in operation that one in four new claims are not meeting the six-week payment period, which is driving up debt, arrears and in some cases, evictions.
This is backed by 42% of families who are on Universal Credit saying that they are only in arrears because of the flaws of the system; from waiting times to receive their payments, support being delayed or stopped or administrative errors in the system.
Even in Newcastle where this policy is being trialled, a report by the council has shown serious problems emerge, including £1.2 million rise in rent arrears and the Leader of the Council saying that Universal Credit is returning the city to the days of Cathy Come Home.
The evidence stacks up and shows just how flawed this policy is.
This is even more concerning when the Government have begun to push ahead with their roll-out of these plans, which has seen a rapid increase in the number of Jobcentres brought under the programme to 50 a month – Sunderland will start using Universal Credit for all claimants in May 2018.
This is why last week the Labour Party forced a vote to pause and fix Universal Credit to ensure that it doesn’t push more and more people into poverty and sticks to its original intentions to support people when they face hardship and help them back into work.
Unfortunately, when it came to voting on this issue the Tories couldn’t be bothered to show up and instead abstained on the vote; ignoring the many campaigners who are concerned about this policy and their constituents who will be suffering under this badly-developed policy.
It is time that the Tories pulled their heads out of the sand and realise just how serious this issue is becoming and fix it before more people are pushed into poverty.