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.
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.
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:
McVey has been forced to admit single parents face a £2400 a year benefit cut when they move to Universal Credit.
— Alex Tiffin (@RespectIsVital) October 6, 2018
So while the Conservatives claim to have ended austerity they’ve now learned that Universal Credit will mean all single parents and most working age families are £200 a month worse off. No wonder food bank use has soared in areas it’s already been introduced. Needs to be scrapped
— Matt Zarb-Cousin (@mattzarb) October 6, 2018
— Debbie Abrahams MP (@Debbie_abrahams) October 6, 2018
As journalist Paul Lewis pointed out, McVey’s claims at the Conservative Party conference are in bits:
Esther McVey, who told her party conference that benefit cuts were ‘fake news’, admits privately to Cabinet colleagues that the move to Universal Credit will mean half of lone parents and two thirds of couples with children will lose £2400 a year https://t.co/E90j2ygZMT
— Paul Lewis (@paullewismoney) October 6, 2018
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.
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