It’s official: the DWP’s flagship policy could be scrapped by Labour

Jeremy Corbyn and the DWP logo
Steve Topple

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) flagship benefit Universal Credit is in yet more trouble. Because a Labour government could scrap it. This is according to shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Although his pledge was a bit ’round the houses’.

The DWP: in hot water 

During an interview with Sky News on Sunday 7 October, McDonnell explained that he had been “listening to people” recently, and hearing about Universal Credit’s roll out. He said that:

most people now have come to the conclusion it’s got to be scrapped.

He said that government reforms “haven’t worked”; that it wasn’t “sustainable” and that it couldn’t “work”, and that it wasn’t providing the “safety net” people need. He said:

I think we’re moving to a position now where it’s just not sustainable. It’ll have to go. If there were reforms that could be effective, fair enough, let’s reform. But we’ve looked and looked, and we can’t see that either government proposals or other proposals could reform it. The system is… in shambles…

We’re moving towards a conclusion, now… you can’t save the thing. It’s got to go.

Mired in scandal

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 as The Canary has documented, it’s been mired in controversy. Not least, as McDonnell said, because the scandal that work and pensions secretary Esther McVey admitted that millions of families would lose £200 a month under it. This followed a damning report by food bank network the Trussell Trust. It directly pinned the blame on rising food bank use to Universal Credit.

Labour: almost there

McDonnell’s move follows weeks of pressure from campaigners and disabled people. There was dismay from many that Labour refused to pledge to scrap Universal Credit at its conference. But now, McDonnell appears to have listened. But his pledge wasn’t an outright “scrap it”; it’s more that Labour is moving towards that decision. So it’s not quite a ‘done deal’ just yet. As the campaign group BENEFITS NEWS pointed out, it should be approached with caution:

Either way, this will be welcome news for millions of people who will suffer and are suffering under the DWP’s most controversial reform.

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 Owen Jones – YouTube and UK government – Wikimedia 

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