The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) most contentious policy has just been the subject of celebratory cake. Needless to say, this has not impressed people.
The DWP: endless chaos
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 foodbank use and rent arrears, the benefit has been in chaos. As Labour’s Chris Williamson recently said:
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 in Northern Ireland, DWP equivalent the Department for Communities (DfC) seems unaware of the chaos. Because, as the Irish News reported, it’s just celebrated the rollout with over £1,000 worth of specially decorated cake:
— The Irish News (@irish_news) December 10, 2018
Let them eat cake
The Belfast Telegraph reported that the DfC bought 40 cakes to be shared by 2,000 of its staff. It was to celebrate the end of the Universal Credit rollout. The DfC said:
This was a significant and challenging implementation… involving the recruitment and training of almost 2,000 staff across 40 locations…
The cakes were provided… [to recognise] the commitment and hard work of staff in delivering the new service to customers across Northern Ireland.
Slow applause for the DfC. Because it did not impress Twitter:
This is pretty disgusting. A measure that causes financial hardship to many, and people think it’s worth celebrating its introduction? Shame.
Stormont buys 40 cakes to celebrate Universal Credit via @irish_news https://t.co/MKlm1CdZnO
— Conor Mc Gale (@ConorMac34) December 10, 2018
This person made an obvious link:
Yes disgraceful while all frontline UC staff have been given overly decorated cakes to celebrate the successful rollout of Universal Credit. (Yes seriously). What was that Marie Antoinette said about the peasants? pic.twitter.com/VjlmCb9e7e
— Ireland’s Border is the Beach (@IreneMohan) December 10, 2018
And as Baz implied, it does seem like a slap in the face for people on the benefit:
Incredible. They know they’re mocking us.
There’s no way they’re not aware of the conotations of Universal Credit & foodbanks, & they can justify spending that money on cake to ‘celebrate’ people starving
Paris have it right at the moment https://t.co/2xUKaOrgm9
— Baz Devine (@baz_devine) December 10, 2018
Stop the rollout
Indeed, Universal Credit is causing suffering for many people. For example, Unite the Union gives ten reasons why the DWP must stop its rollout:
- Unbearably long waits for claimants to receive money.
- People can only apply for Universal Credit online making it inaccessible for many.
- Not enough help for claimants when the system fails them.
- Rent paid directly to claimants instead of landlords causing people to get into arrears and even to lose their homes.
- Letting agents are already refusing to rent to anyone claiming Universal Credit.
- Cruel sanctions for both in-work and out-of-work claimants.
- Payments only go to one named member of a household.
- Universal Credit takes 63p in every £1 people earn.
- Universal Credit leaves many working families much worse off than the old system.
- People in part-time work could be forced to give up work that suits their disability or family life.
A kick in the teeth
Recently, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston visited the UK. He said that allowing poverty was a “political choice”. Also, he slammed Universal Credit as “falling into Universal Discredit”. But it seems the DfC is tone deaf when it comes to the misery the benefit is causing. Or it needs some lessons in PR. Because either way, celebrating this most noxious policy with cake is so inappropriate.
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