Damning new film destroys DWP dishonesty over Universal Credit

Universal Credit
Fréa Lockley

In 2013, the Conservative-led government introduced Universal Credit. The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) flagship welfare policy combines six old means-tested benefits, including housing benefit, employment and support allowance (ESA), and tax credits.

As The Canary has documented since 2015, Universal Credit has been dogged by controversy from the outset. From a damning National Audit Office report, to its links with increased food-bank use and rent arrears, the benefit ruins lives.

A new film made by Videoblogg Productions in collaboration with The Canary highlights some of these ongoing issues and shows why it’s time to scrap Universal Credit once and for all.

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Make work pay?

From the start, Conservatives have insisted Universal Credit ‘makes work pay’. In 2015, Iain Duncan Smith, one of the benefit’s key architects as DWP secretary, claimed it was part of a “long term economic plan” to save taxpayers £50bn, and that it “guarantees you will always be better off in work than on benefits”.

Yet, as this film shows, this isn’t true.

In 2018, UN special rapporteur Philip Alston concluded an investigation into the impact of austerity and poverty in the UK. He said: Universal Credit “is fast falling into Universal Discredit”. Alston pointed out that, far from creating any sort of “caring” or “compassionate” benefits system, there was an “ideological” motivation behind welfare cuts. He also said:

The state does not have your back any longer. You are on your own.

Significantly, as this film shows, Alston also found that the impact of austerity and welfare cuts has:

fallen disproportionately upon the poor, women, racial and ethnic minorities, children, single parents, and people with disabilities.

Five-week abyss

One of the many issues is that Universal Credit is paid a month in arrears, so people wait up to six weeks for their first payment. As The Canary reported, this has forced some people to use food banks and made others homeless.

In April, the Trussell Trust revealed that foodbank use in the UK had hit a record high. Trussell Trust research also established that waiting for Universal Credit:

has led to acute financial hardship… This includes destitution, housing insecurity and debt.

Foodbank use in Universal Credit areas rises “by 30% after 12 months and by 48% after 24 months”. It also has a huge impact on people’s mental health, and agencies like foodbanks are picking up the pieces. The DWP’s offer of advance payments simply leaves people in an impossible position of “deciding between hardship now or hardship later”.

Life threatening

The film also explores the devastating impact of ‘claimant commitments’ which means many are “forced” into “bullshit jobs”. For some people, this means taking “unpaid work, internships, work experience for no money”. Failing to meet these commitments can lead to sanctions for up to a year. Under Universal Credit, sanctions are “nine times higher”.

Again, this pushes people to foodbanks and further into “absolute poverty”. How do you survive with no income?

As The Canary also reported, sanctions have a “life threatening” impact on some claimants.

Perfect storm

As the film notes, Universal Credit has forced some women into prostitution. Esther McVey’s sickening response to this epitomises it all. She simply claimed “record job vacancies” created other choices.

Each time Tory ministers roll out responses like this, they ignore the truth. Universal Credit, alongside a lack of social housing, soaring private rents, zero-hours jobs, and nine years of Conservative-led austerity created a perfect storm.

As campaigner Alex Tiffin says, it’s “not possible” to live on Universal Credit.

For example, 30% of children in the UK now live in poverty. Yet 67% of those children “have at least one parent in work”. Most of those parents claim Universal Credit.

Families can only claim for two children. Meanwhile, the rape clause, which forces women to ‘prove’ they were raped to claim for an additional child, is beyond words.

Human rights?

The film also examines the impact of Universal Credit for disabled people. As Steve Topple reported in 2017, the UN slammed the UK’s “human catastrophe” due to “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights.

Gail Ward from the Black Triangle Campaign explains the impact for disabled people who now face constant assessments, humiliation, and financial destitution from benefit cuts. Too many people, meanwhile, are now dead as a result of DWP actions.

The government’s flawed and controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA) forced thousands of disabled people onto Universal Credit and into financial crisis. Tragically, too many others have died after being declared ‘fit for work‘. Government records show that, between 2011 and 2014 alone, 2,380 people died after being declared fit for work.

Dignity

This film demonstrates the true cost of Universal Credit on real lives. As Paul Morrison says:

we see hunger, and we see… a lack of dignity and a dignity being stripped away.

To return dignity to millions of people, Universal Credit must be scrapped for good. Labour’s the only party that’s promised to do so. As we enter a general election, this alone is worth voting a Corbyn-led government into power.

Featured image via – Videoblogg Productions

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  • Show Comments
    1. The Tories say work is the route out of poverty but if you work for low pay you work your way into poverty, and the more you work the deeper into poverty it takes you. I’ve had agency work for a few days at so little pay that after I paid rent, travel costs, usually had emergency stoppages taken out, then lost the first three days pay when signing on again, I’ve ended up far worse off at the end of the stint.

      Those jobs cost me a lot of money so I actually paid to work. Sod electing these shits, we need riots.

    2. “Sod electing these shits, we need riots.”

      Well said, and seconded, though I think we need revolution not just riots.

      It is sickening what has been done to you and many others (#metoo). It is a cynical Tory-devised plan to tear the very hope out of people, whilst blaming us for things that are squarely their doing.

      They do these things against us because they do not fear repercussions for their diabolically evil behaviour. They are absolutely convinced that they can torture and murder us without any meaningful comeback on them, and that we are too weak-minded, too lazy, to do anything that would make them shit themselves, and behave as they were elected to.

      They are mostly right however. They have played us all for fools, and continue to be emboldened by the fact that we don’t make them fear for their lives, and even if one or two of them get murdered, they deliberately twist the narrative away from their guilt and crimes, to argue for more protection for themselves, rather than admit their flaws and fix themselves, for the benefit of all of us.

      Politicians in this nation are as corrupt generally as most of the World’s criminals. They treat Democracy as a tool to enforce their undemocratic and autocratic desires on everyone else, and are completely devoid of humanity. We might as well be ruled by the Queen, at least that is a more honest rulership than the fake democracies we are told and forced to believe in.

      Current politicians on the whole are an abomination to Democracy, and make a mockery of our history. What was the point of Cromwell, if all he was doing was replacing one dictator with a whole bunch of them? What was the point of fighting Hitler and other dictators, when all that has achieved is to put more dictators in power over us?

      We need a revolution to remind those that would lead us or rule us, that their lives are as valuable and vulnerable as we choose. They are not immune to having their fucking heads chopped off, no matter how deluded and immune they think they are, there are a shit-load more of us than there is of them, and we don’t actually need those pricks to run a nation, as a nation will run practically all on its own once the engine is running (we are the engine of our nation).

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