If the slow tsunami of redundancies wasn’t daunting enough, this month’s unemployment figures were another ominous reminder of the UK jobs crisis. On a recent visit to the Streatham Job Centre, I found out they’ve been dealing with a fourfold increase in the number of people claiming Universal Credit in the locality.
It would be unfair to say the current jobs crisis was completely self-inflicted but it’s increasingly clear that the failure of the Government’s public health strategy continues to hamper our economic recovery. The gamble of delaying lockdown in the early stages of the pandemic has left us with the worst of both worlds: a serious recession and a rising case rate.
After months of Ministers promising us a working NHS test and trace system, what we got was an outsourced mess cobbled together by corner-cutting private companies, some of which had suspiciously close ties to the Government.
Predictably, this buckled precisely at the moment we most needed it – when schools returned. As with public health, so with the economy. Across the country, millions have been excluded from income support altogether, others have seen pay slashed, and many have been pushed onto Universal Credit.
On current progress, many will be forced to burn through their savings (if they have any) or rack up debt to meet London living costs. UK food banks have seen an 81 per cent increase since the outset of the pandemic and are getting ready for an even busier winter. In a worst-case scenario, people will be unable to buy the basics they need to survive. According to research published during lockdown, a majority of families on Universal Credit are still having to borrow just to make ends meet. Clearly, the Tories’ flagship welfare system is running on borrowed time.
Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. We’ve seen time and again during this pandemic that nobody is safe until everybody is safe. That’s why I’ve called for the introduction of an emergency Universal Basic Income (UBI) to ensure everyone can cover the basics over the months ahead.
In the sixth-largest economy in the world, nobody should be having to choose between eating and heating their home.
Rather than serving our broken economic system, we must instead build a system that serves everyone and paves the way for a just transition to a fairer, greener and more equal economy after the pandemic.
Pictured: Bell Ribeiro-Addy, MP for STREATHAM
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