Chaos at the DWP as leaked comments set fire to Universal Credit

DWP and Universal Credit logos against a fireball
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was thrown into chaos on Saturday 6 October. What appeared to be leaked comments from government meetings show that Universal Credit is in meltdown. The DWP has refused to comment to The Canary. But is everything as it actually seems?

The DWP in meltdown?

As the Times first reported, the Conservative government has serious concerns over the rollout of Universal Credit. The controversial new benefit replaces six old ones (known as “legacy benefits“), with one payment. Currently, in what’s known as “live service”, Universal Credit has been rolled out in certain areas for new claims. Eventually, the DWP will move everyone onto “full service“, including those on legacy benefits. This process is due to start in 2019.

But now, the Times reports that work and pensions secretary Esther McVey has gone rogue. Kind of. She allegedly told “cabinet colleagues”:

that millions of families would lose £200 a month under the new system.

Ms McVey told cabinet colleagues that half of lone parents and about two thirds of working-age couples with children would lose the equivalent of £2,400 a year.

The Times said that the cabinet also discussed:

  • The scale of the cuts facing low-income families.
  • Fears that the new system, which involves one monthly payment, will cause cashflow problems for families.
  • The new system will force low-income families to pay back far more “benefit debts”, which under the old system they were able to ignore.

This is, if true, somewhat unprecedented. Because it now puts the Conservative Party at odds with the DWP itself.

Tory wars

On Friday 5 October the DWP spoke to The Canary in relation to food bank network The Trussell Trust’s damning report into Universal Credit. It said that:

Managed Migration extends the benefits of Universal Credit to legacy claimants, opening up work and ensuring that support reaches those who need it most – there are currently hundreds of thousands of people failing to claim £2.4bn of benefits because they are unaware of what they can receive, and Universal Credit will fix this.

The DWP’s notion that people will essentially be better off under Universal Credit is now somewhat at odds with McVey. The Canary asked it for its response, and was given a flat ‘no comment’.

Social media reacted accordingly:

As journalist Paul Lewis pointed out, McVey’s claims at the Conservative Party conference are in bits:

But is this leak to the Times really about Universal Credit? Or is it more the Tories running scared after the Labour Party conference?

Is this party political?

As the Guardian reported, Labour’s slick party political broadcast coupled with its social justice-led policies left the Conservative Party rattled. It’s because Labour is directly targeting low-income, working-class families; of which many may be affected by Universal Credit. As one senior Tory noted Labour’s offering was:

serious stuff… that may resonate with millions of workers…

So the cabinet’s and McVey’s leaked concerns over Universal Credit may well be a reaction to this. Could there be a Tory policy shift on the benefit to stave off Labour’s threat? Possibly – but if and when that will happen is unclear. Meanwhile, the DWP’s chaotic rollout of Universal Credit will continue. For now.

Get Involved!

– Support the blogs Universal Credit SuffererPolitics and Insights and The Poor Side of Life.

– Get involved with Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), fighting for disabled people’s rights.

Featured image via geralt – pixabay, UK government – Wikimedia and UK government – Wikimedia 

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