Had it with the DWP? Now’s your chance to tell the world.

Esther McVey and the DWP logo
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is once again in the line of fire. But this time, its controversial flagship reform is being subjected to intense, independent scrutiny by claimants themselves. And if you’ve had enough of the DWP, it’s time for you to tell it why.

The DWP: your chance to speak out

As The Canary has documented, Universal Credit is the DWP’s flagship policy; rolling six previous benefits into one. It’s been dogged by controversy and failings, leading for calls for it to be scrapped. It started with Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), and since then both Unite the Union and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) have also made ‘stop and scrap’ their official stance.

So far, only the DWP itself and third sector groups have done research into Universal Credit. But now, a trade union is conducting a nationwide survey of claimants. Organised by Unite Community, the membership scheme for people not in work, it will survey 100 claimants in ten areas of the UK. Members will speak to claimants outside Jobcentres until the end of October. But people can also get involved online.

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Anyone who claims Universal Credit can complete an online survey here. It involves 20 questions about your experience of the benefit, and will help Unite Community build a complete picture of the situation. To add weight to its research, Middlesex University is supporting Unite Community.

Worrying results

The campaigner known as ‘I was a JSA claimant‘ is involved with the survey. He has already been speaking to claimants, and put some of the results on Twitter. They’re not good:

He told The Canary:

The sanctions I posted last night are just a small snapshot of some of the comments people have made. Last week I was outside the Jobcentre in Bridgwater and we interviewed just 10 people.

Three of them said they had been sanctioned for missing appointments because they were ill. One said she had cancer. She did not give any more details. But it worried us that so many were having problems among such a small number of respondents.

But some results are already in. Unite Community has surveyed 100 people in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. It gave The Canary the results. It’s a small but disturbing snapshot, showing that:

  • Over 50% of people had a “negative” view of the benefit.
  • More than 25% either had problems claiming or maintaining it online.
  • 34% had got into debt.
  • Over 30% now had “housing cost problems”.
  • 53% did have a “positive” view of DWP work coaches; meaning nearly half didn’t or were “neutral” about them.

Scrap Universal Credit

Unite Community will publish the results once they’re in. To complement this, it’s doing a nationwide day of action on 1 December. It will be releasing details shortly.

What makes this survey different, and crucial, is that it’s a snapshot of Universal Credit directly from the people claiming it. There’s no ‘focus groups’ and no research companies. It’s just real people, telling their stories. So, if there’s any chance of stopping the DWP’s most noxious policy, it’s these voices – and yours – we need to hear.

Get Involved!

– Complete Unite Community’s survey here.

Featured image via mrgarethm – Flickr and UK government – Wikimedia 

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Steve Topple