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Major UK news outlets have been reporting how the planned roll-out of Universal Credit has been delayed again, with it now hoped to be complete by some point in 2024. This has come out after the BBC revealed that during the filming of a documentary on the DWP, Director of Universal Credit Neil Couling decided to push the roll-out back yet again. The BBC knew about this when Couling made the decision in September 2019, 5 months ago. They may argue that they couldn’t release the information until the documentary aired, but given their job is to inform the public, people are well within their rights to question why they didn’t.
Over the past few years, the BBC along with other news organisations have come under increased pressure regarding their coverage of UK Politics. Somehow, the BBC have managed to unite the left and right of politics, in believing that they favour the other, probably the only thing they do agree on.
What I want to concentrate on is the latest piece of news surrounding Universal Credit that has come out courtesy of the BBC.
Last year it was announced that the BBC had commissioned a documentary about the inner workings of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). There was controversy at the time after it emerged that the DWP would be consulted on the final edit. This emerged at the same time as the DWP started their Metro Advertising Campaign which was judged misleading by the Advertising Standards Authority.
The documentary titled; Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State, was originally due to air in November last year, but was pushed back due to the General Election. Impartiality laws would indeed have made it difficult for the BBC to air, but that is an argument for another day.
Ahead of the first airing of the new series, the Corporation have reveleaved that back in September 2019, Director of Universal Credit Neil Couling had made a decision to delay the already delayed roll-out of the issue ridden benefit until 2024. Originally planned for April 2017, it has already been pushed back several times due to rising costs, poor management and poor results.
The latest delay it was revealed, is due to;
“people being scared to come to universal credit.”
Yes, the DWP have finally realised that claimants aren’t buying their promises that all is fine, and are in fact delaying or simply not reporting a change in circumstances to prevent being moved to the benefit.
The BBC report that Couling says;
“We’ve got a lot of anecdotal evidence of people being scared to come to universal credit.
“It’s a potentially serious issue for us, in terms of completing the project by December 2023, but I’m urging people not to panic.”
When Couling says “people” he means the government and senior civil servants in the DWP.
The Corporation go on to say that a few weeks later, the Universal Credit Director then decides to delay the project saying;
“Three, six or nine months, it doesn’t matter – the headline will be: ‘Delay, disaster’,”
“I would say, ‘Go safe, put the claimants first, and I’ll take the beating.'”
Mr Couling seems to be implying that he is worried about the welfare of those being pushed onto Universal Credit. However, given past form, a downplaying of anything negative, it is more likely that his own well paid job is his number 1 concern.
This delay is reported to going to cost £500 million to the UK taxpayer, how exactly isn’t really explained. Mind you, not much ever is.
BBC Wait 5 Months
Something every news outlet has failed to report on, is the fact the BBC knew about this delay back in September 2019, but have only disclosed it now for PR ahead of the documentary release.
The corporation are well aware that anything related to the welfare system is “in the public interest”. Not to mention that they were aware that a General Election was very likely to be called.
They cannot argue about impartiality rules, as they knew of it long before election “purdah rules” came in. Furthermore, when those rules lapsed on December 12th, they have had a further 2 months to let the public know that £500 million of taxpayer funds are going to be lost due to the DWP’s failures.
This mirrors what happened to the fantastic documentary The Great NHS Heist, which ITV refused to air as it might upset the Tories during the election period.
The BBC have long been accused of pandering to whatever government is in power so as to retain the privileged access it receives. This can be reinforced by the now two documentaries BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg has had concentrate on her access to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Unfortunately, the media bias in the UK isn’t going to stop soon. As I previously pointed out, the media is owned by a select few billionaires worldwide. Until their monopoly is broken, agendas will continue and politicians allowed to control the narrative.