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'It ruins lives' - Universal Credit blasted at young people's election debate

PUBLISHED: 22:30 02 December 2019 | UPDATED: 22:30 02 December 2019

(L-R): Emma Corlett, Labour, Steffan Aquarone, Liberal Democrats; and Dr Catherine Rowett, the Green Party. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

(L-R): Emma Corlett, Labour, Steffan Aquarone, Liberal Democrats; and Dr Catherine Rowett, the Green Party. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

Archant

A controversial benefit payment which has been criticised over sanctions and delays has been slammed for "ruining lives" at a young people's hustings event.

(L-R): Artist Ruby Staton, 19; Dr Catherine Rowett, from the Green Party; Emma Corlett, from the Labour Party; youth group member Imade Gray, 14; Steffan Aquarone, from the Liberal Democrats; and Paul Webb, youth work manager at MAP. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes(L-R): Artist Ruby Staton, 19; Dr Catherine Rowett, from the Green Party; Emma Corlett, from the Labour Party; youth group member Imade Gray, 14; Steffan Aquarone, from the Liberal Democrats; and Paul Webb, youth work manager at MAP. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

An audience member at the OPEN Norwich young people's election debate said: "My mum is terrified of going on Universal Credit (UC).

"She's put a stop to moving house because she's scared she'll be picked up by the authorities and made to go on UC.

"It ruins lives. Parties are not doing enough until it is completely gone."

The comments, at the free event held on Monday, December 2, were addressed to candidates during a part of the evening dedicated to hearing the audience's views.

(L-R): Paul Webb, youth work manager at MAP, with youth group member Imade Gray, 14, and artist Ruby Staton, 19, who drew the candidates during the event. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes(L-R): Paul Webb, youth work manager at MAP, with youth group member Imade Gray, 14, and artist Ruby Staton, 19, who drew the candidates during the event. Photo: Jessica Frank-Keyes

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Another member of the audience of 15-25-year-olds told the candidates: "It's the eight weeks without getting a payment.

"It puts people in arrears. They don't have money for gas, electric, water - basics everyone needs."

And another attendee said: "Jo Swinson said she would be open this time round to a coalition with Boris Johnson.

"This is a huge problem. Please don't vote for the Lib Dems. You risk a Tory government."

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Candidates took questions from the audience on the topics of climate change, mental health, education and public services, and the issue of votes at 16 - which all three said they were supportive of.

READ MORE: Young voters quiz candidates on their election priorities

On mental health, North Norfolk Labour candidate Emma Corlett said: "I worked for 17 years as a mental health nurse.

"It was meant to be early intervention but these young people and their families had been struggling for a long time.

"We need to protect young people from harm and trauma."

On votes at 16, Mid Norfolk Liberal Democrat candidate Steffan Aquarone said: "The problem is the hypocrisy.

"It's okay for you to be sent out to die for your country, but it's not okay for you to have a say over who is sending you?"

READ MORE: Climate change sceptic questions candidates at city election hustings

And on climate change, Norwich South Green Party candidate Dr Catherine Rowett said: "The scientists have decided we have to get carbon zero by 2030. We need radical transformation.

"We are going to invent a new minister - the carbon chancellor."

The organisers said all seven of the Conservative party candidates standing in Norfolk were invited.

The event was arranged by OPEN Norwich, the MAP charity, and the Norfolk Youth Advisory Boards, which aim to get young peoples' voices heard.

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