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Universal Credit is never far from the top of news results these days. Whether it’s another damning report on how it’s causing hardship or a whistle-blower exposing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failings, you can be sure that it’s never good news. However Wednesday saw the fledgling benefit come under attack from all sides.
It started at Prime Ministers questions when Jeremy Corbyn hit out at Theresa May citing June’s National Audit Office (NAO) report on the roll-out of the benefit. He blasted its record on pushing people into poverty and causing foodbank use to rise to four times that of non Universal Credit areas.
He told the House of Commons;
“Most of us are well aware of the pain Universal credit is causing when people come into our advice bureau,” adding “Universal credit is not making work pay, it is taking money away from families and putting more families into poverty.”
The Prime Minister responded with the now stock response that Universal Credit is getting more people into work and that unemployment is at an all-time low because of it. What she fails to mention is that those figures are skewed significantly in the governments favour.
To count as employed you need to only be doing 1 hour per week or be on a zero hour contract. Their statistics conveniently don’t show how the number of hours people are working, just that they’re either in full or part time employment.
In summary, the sheer amount of evidence against Universal Credit makes it near impossible to promote as a success but for some strange reason Theresa May still tries to justify the pain, suffering and death.
Twitter user Andrew Fisher hit the nail on the head when summing up PMQs, as you can see below.
"Over 1m families using food banks, 1m workers on zero hours contracts, over 4m children in poverty, wages lower today than they were 10 years ago … This Prime Minister isn’t tackling burning injustices she’s pouring petrol on them" #PMQs
— Andrew Fisher (@FisherAndrew79) September 12, 2018
Archbishop of Canterbury calls for benefit to be halted
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby used his address at the annual Trades Union Congress (TUC) to hit out on several major topics. He called for big corporations such as Amazon to pay their fair share of tax and branded zero-hours contracts; “the reincarnation of an ancient evil.”
It was after the speech when asked about Universal Credit that he made an unually political statement.
“It was supposed to make it simpler and more efficient. It has not done that. It has left too many people worse off, putting them at risk of hunger, debt, rent arrears and foodbanks.
“When universal credit comes into a local area the number of people going to foodbanks goes up. What is clear is if they cannot get it right they need to stop rolling it out.”
Usually the head of the Anglican Church is careful not to wade into politics too far. But with the scale of suffering that the government are causing, it is hard for anyone to stay silent let alone a such a prominent clergyman.
But he’s right, there is so much evidence that it’s causing hardship and suffering that ploughing on regardless shows they either are ignorant to the problems or don’t care.
1 in 6 still not paid on time
Just hours after the Archbishops comments the Cabinet held a meeting that 10 Downing Street described as; “discussing the progress that Universal Credit has made.” The Guardian managed to see Cabinet papers from the meeting that Esther McVey probably wishes weren’t public.
The papers revealed that while 84% of claimants are being paid on time 14% obviously are not. Of the roughly 880,00 claimants that equates to a massive 124,320 people not being paid on time.
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) were quick to respond claiming that when new claims were not paid on time, about two-thirds of claimants had an outstanding verification issue such as providing bank statements, evidence of childcare costs or proof of rent.
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood said after the figures emerged;
“Esther McVey selling as a success the fact that tens of thousands of people are still not being paid on time tells you everything you need to know about universal credit.”
What next for Universal Credit?
I am especially (but not exclusively) interested in the following issues for my visit to the UK: austerity; welfare reform, including Universal Credit; the use of new technologies by the govt in the social security system; child poverty; and Brexit. https://t.co/o0Q9ewI2L8 https://t.co/Sazwx31byu
— Philip Alston (@Alston_UNSR) July 26, 2018
Universal Credit isn’t going to escape the limelight anytime soon. In November the United Nations are sending Professor Philip Alston to investigate austerity and welfare reforms impact on poverty and human rights.
Universal Credit is one of the key areas that Prof Alston asked people to submit evidence to him on. While they may have ignored the last UN reports findings the evidence is growing that Universal Credit is failing. Next year the remaining 7 million claimants on legacy benefits, such as Jobseekers allowance, are due to be transferred to Universal Credit.
In its current form were this to happen, millions of people will suffer. I’m sure of one thing though, more people will die as a result if they do not halt and scrap Universal Credit soon.
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