A demonstration is taking place outside Chester Jobcentre on Thursday (March 1) as part of a national day of action calling for Universal Credit to be scrapped.
Universal Credit replaces all means-tested benefits including income support, housing benefit and employment and support allowance (ESA).
The Government argues it will make claiming benefits simpler but opponents say it is driving already vulnerable people into destitution, homelessness and some have even committed suicide.
There are critics, including the Labour Party , who want to fix the system but others such as Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), who have organised the national protest, are demanding it is axed altogether.
A leaflet promoting the Chester demonstration, which is supported by the UNITE trade union, states: “Universal Credit is a disaster. Long delays in payment are driving tens of thousands of people into destitution. Sanctions have increased massively. Recovery of overpayments and loans just causes further hardship.
“And there is worse to come. For disabled people especially Universal Credit means losing the severe and enhanced disability premiums – £78.45 a week.
“That’s why DPAC have called a national protest on Thursday 1st March and UNITE Community are supporting it. Please support and attend the protest if you can.”
Local organiser Richard Atkinson, a former welfare rights worker with Wirral Council who is now a volunteer adviser for Chester’s DIAL House charity, has 30 years experience in the field.
Mr Atkinson, from Boughton , who lives with multiple sclerosis, said: “Universal Credit is the end of the road for the welfare state. Instead of help when you need it you get punishment. Instead of care and solidarity you get bureaucratic torture. As Universal Credit is introduced, homelessness accelerates, destitution becomes an everyday occurrence, children go hungry and people die.
“This is part of a national day of protest called by DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) because disabled people are among the biggest losers from Universal Credit - many people’s benefit will be cut by £50-£60 a week. But the protest is also supported by Unite Community because everyone on a low income will be affected by Universal Credit.”
He told The Chronicle: “There have been a whole series of cases where people have committed suicide because they’re left with no money, left penniless. There are certainly a lot of people dying as a result of this.”
■ The protest is taking place outside Chester Jobcentre, City Road, between 12-2pm on Thursday, March 1.