Press Release Issued 18th April 2018
The Greater Manchester Law Centre, Disabled People Against the Cuts, Acorn Tenants’ Union, Unite Community Union and the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People carried out a day of action in Manchester city centre today, demanding that no one faces eviction as a result of delays to Universal Credit payments.
“People are facing eviction because of the Universal Credit roll-out. We have come together today to demand that no one face eviction, to demand the protection of housing rights, and to condemn such treatment of disabled and vulnerable people” says Ann Icehouse, member of Acorn Tenants’ Union.
The groups assembled on St Peter’s Square to chalk demands and slogans on the ground. The action drew to a close at around 2pm when they delivered an open letter to Manchester City Council.
Universal Credit roll-out
Universal Credit is a new system that will merge many types of benefits into one single payment. It has faced high-profile criticism, particularly for its effect on housing rights, evictions and homelessness. After its rollout in Manchester, it was reported that more than 80% of claimants in some housing associations are falling behind with rent because of delays in receiving their payments. Studies in London found that 36% of those moving on to Universal Credit failed to pay rent at all in their first week, and 70% of council tenants were in arrears by February 2018.
“The end of social security”
Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) campaign for justice and human rights for disabled people.
“We demand that no-one faces eviction as a result of Universal Credit payment delays, but we also call for the government to stop and scrap the system” says Rick Burgess of DPAC. “The purpose of the Universal Credit scheme is to end social security in the UK and replace it with a system of state control of people in poverty, a sort of shadow penal system of sanctions and medical abuse that would make George Orwell spin in his grave”.
DPAC groups across the country have been calling for the government to “Stop and Scrap Universal Credit”, with protests in London, Sheffield, Birmingham and other cities.
Access to justice
The Greater Manchester Law Centre (GMLC) provides free legal advice and representation. “Since opening at the end of 2016, we have won back over half a million pounds for disabled claimants, including those struggling with Universal Credit, but these people should never have been denied benefits in the first place” says GMLC Supervising Solicitors Ngaryan Li. “Many people needlessly suffer if they cannot access free legal services to help them to appeal”.
This day of action coincides with the Vigil for Justice to be held in London outside the Ministry of Justice. The vigil was called by the Justice Alliance with the support of many law firms, to warn that “too many people are… unable to secure legal representation, seek legal advice or afford to take legal action”.
Support from Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham
Acorn tenants’ union launched in Manchester in January this year. They organise communities to improve renters’ conditions and to tackle poverty. In March 2018, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham committed to join Acorn’s campaign against Universal Credit-based evictions and stated that “people have a right to safe, decent and affordable homes”.
Jim McMahon, MP for Oldham West and Royton, previously read from GMLC’s statement in Parliament opposing the Universal Credit roll-out, saying that the government had “gone too far”.
“We stand in solidarity with other organisations”
Unite Community Manchester support the demand for no evictions. The Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, an organisation run by disabled people to campaign for rights and inclusion, said “many of our members have been adversely affected by delays, benefit reductions and stress relating to Universal Credit processes, resulting in them being threatened with eviction and forced on to the poverty line”.
“We stand in solidarity with other organisations who are rightly campaigning to protect disabled people from being evicted”.
The Greater Manchester Law Centre provides free, face to face and independent legal advice and representation for the people of Greater Manchester, as well as being a campaign for justice and properly funded legal aid.
Contact: Roz Burgin, Greater Manchester Law Centre firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0161 769 2244
Facebook: Facebook.com/gmlawcentre Twitter: @gmlawcentre
Registered Charity Number 1170317 Registered Company 09698401
The Greater Manchester Law Centre is a member of the Law Centres Network, www.lawcentres.org.uk.
80% of claimants in some housing associations falling behind with rent because of delays
36% of those moving on to Universal Credit failed to pay rent at all in their first week
70% of council tenants were in arrears by February 2018 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-43226487
Benefit sanctions: Britain’s secret penal system https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/resources/benefit-sanctions-britains-secret-penal-system
Medical assessments in PIP and ESA claims
Vigil for justice to be held https://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/content/vigil-justice-be-held
Andy Burnham joins Acorn’s campaign
Jim McMahon MP’s Universal Credit statement https://www.gmlaw.org.uk/2017/10/19/breaking-greater- manchester-law-centre-statement-in-parliament/