Esther McVey’s ‘advice’ to women hit by Universal Credit is sickening

Esther McVey
Fréa Lockley

Work and pensions secretary Esther McVey just sank to a new low. The damage she’s wrought through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for millions of sick and disabled people is bad enough. But now, she’s insulted women whose lives have been devastated by Universal Credit.

For some women, prostitution has seemed like the only option. And McVey’s ‘advice’ for them was sickening.


Labour MP Frank Field asked McVey about issues with Universal Credit in his Birkenhead constituency. He explained that things were so bad under Universal Credit that:

some women have taken to the red-light district for the first time.

He asked McVey to visit Birkenhead to meet with police and women’s organisations to deal with:

women’s security being pushed into this position.

McVey’s response? Not an ounce of empathy. Not a single shred of recognition for these women. She suggested they seek help from work coaches and charities, and then went on to say:

In the meantime, I might add that perhaps he could tell these ladies, and the work coaches can, that now we’ve got record job vacancies – 830,000 job vacancies – and perhaps there are other jobs on offer.

This is Tory Britain

Perhaps McVey should watch the heartbreaking scene in Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake to realise that prostitution isn’t a job ‘choice’. Like Katie in Loach’s film, too many women run out of choices. Faced with benefit sanctions, or working on a zero-hours contract and waiting up to five weeks for a Universal Credit payment, many women (and some men) may feel that they have no other choice. When they’ve sold all their possessions, their body may be the last thing to sell just to feed their kids.

And Loach didn’t include the brutality, rape, and humiliation which is normal for many survivors of prostitution.

McVey has gone a step too far this time. She and her vile government need to go.

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Fréa Lockley