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The Times have reported that Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has told Cabinet colleagues that about half of lone parents and nearly two thirds of couples with children would lose a whopping £2,400 a year. Tory MPs are finding it harder to defend the under fire benefit as they deal with more and more cases related to Universal Credit in their constituencies.
The Times reported that cabinet ministers talked about three areas that will cause them problems.
• The scale of the cuts facing low- income families. (Esther McVey reportedly confirmed privately to colleagues that millions of families would lose £200 a month under the new system.)
• Fears that the one monthly payment you receive under Universal Credit will cause cash flow problems for families. (Legacy benefits like Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) are paid fortnightly.)
• The repayment of benefit debts which has become a massive issue for claimants to the new benefit. (I am one of those claimants. The DWP suddenly informed me that they’d be taking £800 from the back payment I was due and I could do nothing about it.)
What McVey is referring to when she says families will lose £200 a month is when “managed migration” begins in 2019. This is meant to be the last step in the roll-out of Universal Credit were it will bring claimants on legacy benefits like Income Support and Work Tax Credits, onto the new benefit.
Tory MPs and now the cabinet are concerned about the cut to families as it dents their party for the people image. No MP wants to have to stand up in the commons and defend taking £200 a month from a single mother. Although I’m in no doubt if they did they’d have some fanciful spin top put on it.
A big change from last week’s McVey
Just last week at the Conservative Party Conference McVey attacked The Labour Party for claiming that disability benefits have been cut;
“If you were to believe everything you heard from the Labour Party or read on social media you’d think we somehow were letting down the most vulnerable in society.
Especially the disabled.
However, those who are saying we are cutting budgets are peddling fake news.”
She was attempting debunk the claim that spending on disability benefits has fallen since 2010 and confidently claimed that it had in-fact risen by £50 billion. This figure has been repeatedly proven to be an outright lie with the actual amount spent being near £39 billion in 2017/18.
When McVey uses the magic £50bn number she fails to mention that this includes; housing benefit, rent payments on Universal Credit, Carers Allowance (CA) and Income Support (IS).
This article in The Canary shows that spending on disabled claimants actually fell when inflation between 2009 and 2010 is taken into account.I highly recommend you read this to see by just how much.
So now not only are disability benefits being cut but low income families are too.
Is it starting to fall apart for the Tories?
Universal Credit is turning into a PR disaster for the government. As I reported yesterday The Trussell Trust have “serious concerns” about the next stage of the roll-out. Their study showed that areas where Universal Credit had been for at least 12 months saw a 52% increase in foodbank use compared to a 13% rise across the entire UK.
There have been a multitude of studies, reports and analysis’ of the Tory “flagship reform.” Finding one that’s positive is a hard task to say the least.
In June The National Audit Office (NAO) let it be known that Universal Credit has;
“not delivered value for money and is uncertain that it ever will.”
This led to angry exchanges in the House of Commons with Esther McVey defending the sticken benefit as MPs blasted the results. So committed was McVey in defending it she even broke the ministerial code. This led to an unprecedented letter from Head of the National Audit Office Sir Amyas Morse who called on McVey to apologise and correct the record.
She then only partially apologise to the Commons for misleading them and didn’t face any action for breaking the Ministerial Code. Under the code if a minster misleads parliament they are expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister. She didn’t and lame duck Theresa May said nothing.
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
The next hurdle the government face is in November when The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston visits the UK.
He is visiting from the 5th until the 15th of November. He has been sent by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to look into the effects that austerity and welfare reforms have had on poverty and human rights in The United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
While previous reports by the UN have been brushed off as false or out of date it is going to be much more difficult this time. The reason for that is because over 250 submissions were sent to the UN ahead of his visit. Submissions included those from benefit claimants, campaigners, charities and scholars. None of them that I have gone through are positive.
If you’d like to read the submissions including my own you can view them here.
The pressure is mounting on Esther McVey and the government to act. The system they cherise so much is falling apart in front of their eyes and bringing them no end of bad press.
They can attempt to defend it until the sun goes down but people are waking up to the reality that Universal Credit is unfit for purpose and must be scrapped.
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