It is often difficult to get sympathy for those on benefits, as I know to my cost. Over the years the right-wing media have successfully managed to demonise those unfortunates as scroungers, the workshy and parasites. For it is far easier to lay blame on the people themselves for their own misfortunates than to get to grips with the real issues involved. These include the wholesale devastation of heavy industry producing structural unemployment of the kind not seen since the 1930s, and the abandonment of the north to its sad fate.
Yet occasionally there is a change in people’s perceptions as a result of different circumstances. That has been one of the side effects of the Covid 19 pandemic here in the UK. Individuals who’d worked all their lives have found themselves on the dole for the first time, while others have struggled after being furloughed. After all, 80% of your income might be manageable if you have a good London-based job and can save money by not having to commute, but it’s a different thing if you were only on the Minimum Wage to begin with. That alas has been the new reality for many in and around Grimsby.
Which is where Universal Credit comes in, a benefit claimed by 12,373 people in this constituency. For some it is their only source of household income, while for others it acts as a boost to low wages.
Currently those in receipt of Universal Credit receive a top up of £20, to help them through Covid. But this is scheduled to end soon, even though there is no end to the crisis and fewer jobs for people to return to. So many will suffer if this extra sum is withdrawn. Indeed, that’s why Labour put forward a motion to keep paying the additional £20. And guess what, our own Tory MP, Lia Nici, abstained on the issue!
Still given that her own majority of 7,331 is considerably less than the number claiming Universal Credit, she needs to watch out!