Today I spoke to The Guardian about new figures revealing the extent of people having to skip meals whilst waiting for their first Universal Credit payment. This crisis has laid bare the inequalities in our society, including our inadequate social security system that drives people further into debt and insecurity. For now, Rishi Sunak must take action to secure our economy by cancelling his economically illiterate cut to Universal Credit. You should never cut unemployment support during an economic crisis. Going forward, Labour would replace Universal Credit with a fairer more compassionate system. I told Sky News we need a radical overhaul of our support net. I wrote more on my objections to the cut to Universal Credit in my Reynolds Report to the Tameside Correspondent.
Earlier this week, on behalf of the Labour Party, I led a pre-budget roundtable with charities and experts on youth unemployment. Whilst all age groups have been hit by this crisis, young people have been particularly badly affected and the claimant count for 16-24 year olds now stands at over half a million. The Government has announced a raft of initiatives in response to this – Kickstart, Restart, “JETS” etc – but so far, we have not seen the results we need. The participants highlighted the needs for these initiatives to link up with apprenticeships, that the quality of the jobs created needs to be improved, and that there is currently no link to other national priorities, such as climate change and social care. They also revealed delays within DWP in getting jobs signed off, and that those most in need might not be getting the priority they require. The Budget is on March 3rd, and we will be pressing the Government for action in all these areas.
After the roundtable event, I spoke to The Mirror about the need for The Chancellor to take stronger action on youth unemployment.