|CRIMSON TAZVINZWA, AIWA! NO!|Universal credit has proved controversial almost from the beginning, with reports of IT issues, massive overspends and administrative problems.
It’s being rolled out across the UK. But now concerns are being raised that 3.2 million working families will lose £48 a week – about £2,500 a year- compared with the old system.
The system has been made significantly less generous since it was announced.
What is it?
Universal credit is a benefit for working-age people, replacing six benefits and merging them into one payment:
income-based jobseeker’s allowance
income-related employment and support allowance
child tax credit
working tax credit
It was designed to make claiming benefits simpler.
A single universal credit payment is paid directly into claimants’ bank accounts to cover the benefits for which they are eligible.
Claimants then have to pay costs such as rent out of their universal credit payment (though there is a provision for people who are in rent arrears or have difficulty managing their money to have their rent paid directly to their landlord)
Seems some DWP staff do have a conscience – even if they are blowing the whistle on the obvious.
Six years behind schedule, Universal Credit is exposed by the very operatives who weaponise it against claimants as driven by an IT system so riddled with design flaws and process faults that errors and delays are all part of the process.
And, worse still, this system is “cobbled together”.
It’s been a bad few weeks for UC… that damning National Audit Office report and all its fallout… further frontline pressure for a roll out slow down… disability claimants owed £340m after DWP blunders… the callous culture of indifference towards claimants forced into destitution…
Now even Esther ‘I know hardship, me’ McVey has had to concede “continuing problems” with UC – ironically to the think-tank Reform.
That’s those very problems she dismissed the NAO for identifying, prompting that “yeahbutnobut” apology for misleading the Commons – having caught herself out to avoid being caught out.
McVey might not be on her ‘Road to Damascus’ but she’s at least at the bus stop to fumbling for the right money saying – seemingly without a hint of self-awareness – that DWP ministers and officials need to “listen more carefully” to claimants, campaigners and frontline workers when they reported problems and complaints.
Yep, DWP ministers and officials need to “listen more carefully” to claimants, campaigners and frontline workers when they reported problems and complaints.
So that’s what the past catastrophic few years of UC have been all about – that’s what’s made it all worth it.
Doesn’t seem so long ago that one Neil Couling – billed as the DWP ‘director’ of the UC programme – was so arrogantly telling the Commons Work and Pensions Committee that issues with UC were all down to “claimant misunderstandings.”
As opposed to the demonstrable failure of DWP staff to understand claimant needs – let alone empathise.
The follow-up was that bizarre opposition day debate on UC where then work and pensions secretary David Gauke was at his supercilious, intransigent worst telling the Commons the roll-out would continue, because the roll-out had to continue because “they’re trying to wreck it.”
That ‘debate’ was arguably UC’s lowest point in confirming a callous, contemptuous government set only on sustaining ideology – with UC claimants as collateral.
Because that’s all UC is about and all its ever been about – sustaining ideology.
Don’t for a minute think that mindset has gone away.
But at least this tempering of stance – however temporary – should end the smarmy sycophancy from Tory backbenchers whenever UC is debated.
You know them, metaphorically holding their noses to adenoidally ooze platitudes from planted visits to their local Job Centres… ovations from staff… prostrations from claimants…
And foodbanks are an affirming tribute to our generosity of spirit – are they not?
Government has had its way with UC and it is – to cite its architect Iain Duncan Smith – a “shoddy piece of work”.
McVey needs to spend her summer recess searching for the courage it will take to pause UC for a fundamental overhaul of what it is actually meant to be.
Then ponder the potential for pushing out those at the top of DWP who trickle down defensive, insular attitudes to Job Centre counters.
Those counters where claimants suffer for not understanding a system seemingly designed for them not to understand – with the very purpose of them suffering for it.
Test and learn with lives at stake.
UC shames the UK.
As cracks appear in the Tories defence of the indefensible it’s time to take the fight against UC out of the chamber and onto ‘the street’ where its effects play out in real time, amongst real lives, every day.