The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was yet again mentioned at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs). But this week, Boris Johnson couldn’t be bothered to even attempt to answer the MP who probed him.
The DWP: levelling up?
Most people know the deal with Universal Credit. It’s the DWP’s new flagship policy, rolling six “legacy” benefits into one. But it’s been rocked by lots of scandals. And at this week’s PMQs, it came up again.
SNP MP Kirsten Oswald asked the PM:
The new daily allowance for the unelected and unaccountable peers being stuffed into the House of Lords by the prime minister is set to rise to £323. The monthly allowance for a single person over 25 on Universal Credit is £317.82. Is that the levelling up the prime minister keeps talking about?
Nice work if you can get it. Especially when peers can just “clock in” and do little else to earn their £323. Meanwhile, some Universal Credit claimants have to spend 35 hours a week looking for work.
Not even bothered
But Johnson clearly wasn’t interested. As his reply merely consisted of some bluff and passive-aggressive agreement:
Actually… I hate agreeing with these people… I do find that it is.. odd that the House of Lords has chosen to do that. But it is a decision for them.
“Levelling up” refers to the PM’s half-baked commitment to ending the inequality that blights some regions of the UK. But when you check the reality of Universal Credit, it’s about as un-level as it gets.
As the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has noted, Oswald has a point about single people. Because it estimated that 15% of single claimants would see a loss of over £1,000 a year when moving to Universal Credit. The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) estimates Universal Credit will plunge another 100,000 children into poverty by 2023/24.
Meanwhile, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) estimates that under Universal Credit, while:
5.6 million people in working families are likely to see an increase in their incomes. … 5.1 million people in working families are expected to see a reduction in income
Moreover, it says that:
1.7 million people living in poverty in working families… face a substantial reduction in income, on average £2,500 a year.
So, from Universal Credit sucking up Greggs’ staff bonuses to UN special rapporteur Philip Alston calling it “a digital and sanitised version of the 19th-century workhouse”, the benefit is an absolute shambles. DWP adverts were even “banned” for “misleading” the public. Far from ‘supporting‘ people into work, it’s wreaking havoc, destitution and misery across the country. So, it’s no wonder Johnson swerved the question. He knows the truth about Universal Credit is as ugly as it gets.
We’re a thorn in the side of the establishment, but we can’t do it without your help
Your fight is our fight. But as many of you will know, speaking truth to power has never been easy, especially for a small, independent media outlet such as the Canary. We have weathered many attempts to silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media. Now more than ever, we need your support.
We don’t have fancy offices, and our entire staff works remotely. Almost all of our income is spent on paying the people who make the Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our team and enables us to continue to do what we do: disrupt power, and amplify people.
But we can’t do this without you. So please, if you appreciate our work, can you help us continue the fight?