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The DWP just faced the wrath of Labour’s Chris Williamson

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) just got a reality check over its most contentious benefit. It came in the form of a takedown by Labour MP Chris Williamson over Universal Credit.

The DWP: under fire again

Universal Credit, the DWP’s flagship benefit which combines six means-tested payments, has been dogged by controversy. From a damning National Audit Office report to increased food-bank use and rent arrears, the benefit has been in chaos. So it’s little wonder that Williamson took the DWP to task over it.

In an interview with RT‘s Going Underground, host Afshin Rattansi raised the issue of comments from housing association the Peabody Trust. As the Mirror reported, it warned the DWP that over 100,000 children could be left in hardship this Christmas. It said this was because families would be waiting for the DWP to give them their first Universal Credit payment.

An “utter outrage”

Williamson was forthright in his response. He said:

It’s an utter outrage, it really is. I’m so angry about this. It’s appalling. And it’s just compounding the issues that the [UN] rapporteur highlighted in his report.

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He was referring to the UK visit of UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston. Alston said that allowing poverty was a “political choice”. He also slammed Universal Credit as “falling into Universal Discredit”.

Rattansi put it to Williamson that “nothing could be done before Christmas” for these 100,000 children. The Labour MP disagreed, saying:

Well yes, of course, something could be done before Christmas. This is about political will. And what they’re talking about is plunging… 100,000 kids into poverty at Christmas

Williamson then broke rank with the Labour Party line, insisting:

Universal Credit in my opinion needs to be completely scrapped. We need a root and branch revision of our social security system… It’s completely broken… Frankly it shames Britain

But this is at odds with his party’s official line. Because the Labour Party is still calling for the DWP simply to “fix” Universal Credit, despite overwhelming evidence it’s broken beyond repair.

Shaming Britain

Rattansi then asked Williamson about Alston’s report. He mentioned new DWP boss Amber Rudd’s scathing response to the UN. She said Alston’s language was “inappropriate”, which “discredited a lot of what he was saying”. But Williamson was unflinching:

I think the only people that are inappropriate and discredited, frankly, are the government… Alston himself said that, rather than attacking the report, the government should act on the recommendations that he made. And it really does shame Britain, I think, for a country with the size of the economy that we have…

Williamson is right. The DWP, Universal Credit, and the Conservative government all shame Britain. But with MPs like him on side, maybe there is hope for change. Whether it will be in time for Christmas is another matter.

Featured image via Going Underground – YouTube and UK government – Wikimedia 

Steve Topple

Steve Topple is an independent journalist, and political and social commentator. His opinions have been cited as “ultra-left and sectarian” by Owen Jones, while many consider him a firebrand of the freelance world, with an acerbic tongue and a no-nonsense style. Permanently based at The Canary as a writer, he has frequently contributed to the Independent, New Internationalist, the CommonSpace, Morning Star, openDemocracy, Red Pepper, Occupy and INSURGEIntel, and can be seen/heard as a regular commentator on RTUK, Al Jazeera and talkRadio. Follow him on Twitter @MrTopple

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