Alistair Cameron, Welsh Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for West Carmarthen and South Pembrokeshire has called for urgent changes to Universal Credit following revelations that the number of people seeking emergency food has increased by 25% since it was rolled out in Pembrokeshire between September and November last year.
Alistair visited the Milford Haven Headquarters of Pembrokeshire Action to Combat Hardship (PATCH) where Tracy Olin said there had been a 25% increase in the demand for food from PATCH (which also provides clothes and household essentials) since the introduction of Universal Credit.
Alistair said: “In some cases, the introduction of Universal Credit has caused desperate hardship. People are experiencing extreme delays (between 4 and 6 weeks) in receiving payments and are relying on organisations such as PATCH for food. Moreover, deductions from benefits (such as for rent or electricity) can leave someone with as little as £7 a week. Missing a ‘signing on’ appointment (even if it is not your fault) can result in the withdrawal of a benefit (sanctions) which can also lead to serious problems.
“Universal Credit needs to be substantially changed. A 4 to 6 week waiting time is completely unacceptable and this must be reduced drastically.
“People’s circumstances can be made worse by mental health issues. Poverty can cause mental health problems and mental health problems can cause poverty. However, our health teams cannot cope with the workload and there needs to be adequate staff with mental health training to deal with the demands.”
PATCH help those who need assistance to get back on their feet and live independent lives. They are highly organised and receive local donations (such as food from supermarkets) which are neatly stored at their headquarters (a former primary school). These are then given to those who need help in Milford Haven or at their other bases in Pembroke Dock, Haverfordwest and Begelly.