DWP faces even more pressure to halt Universal Credit

A split screen of the DWP and Universal Credit logos
Fréa Lockley

Benefits News has issued a call out to place more pressure on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to halt Universal Credit.

“Need your help”

Benefits News is calling for people to sign a petition. Started by the Mirror, it demands “a halt to the expansion” of Universal Credit and an urgent review of the government’s flagship welfare benefit. If it reaches 100,000 signatures, the Mirror will deliver it to Boris Johnson:


The timing of this is critical. Because, as The Canary reported on 2 February, the Economic Affairs Committee is currently investigating Universal Credit. The committee wants claimants to email it with their stories. The National Audit Office (NAO) also recently announced that it wanted people to complete a survey as part of another study on the controversial benefit.

Benefits News told The Canary:

It is crucial to get the petition to a minimum 100,000 signatures. Hopefully, notice should be taken, not least because the Lords Economic Affairs Committee and the NAO are both running their own inquiries into aspects of UC.

Work doesn’t pay

Since taking office, the Conservatives have relentlessly pushed forward their Universal Credit policy to allegedly ‘make work pay’. In 2015, Iain Duncan Smith claimed that his government’s economic plan “guarantees you will always be better off in work than on benefits”.

But as the past ten years have shown, under Universal Credit, this isn’t true. The policy has played a major part in the record numbers of people using food banks and contributed to others becoming homeless.

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.

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.

Meanwhile, poverty in the UK is affecting people with and without jobs. Full Fact reported that around 14.3 million people in the UK lived in poverty in 2017/18. Of these:

  • “8.3 million are working-age adults, 4.6 million are children, and 1.3 million are of pension age”.
  • “Working-age people in poverty are increasingly likely to be in working families”.
“Deeply dark and sinister”

The issues with Universal Credit go even deeper. A new BBC 2 documentary Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State claimed to explore the benefit from both sides. It interviewed both claimants and had “unprecedented access to” the DWP.

Benefits News told The Canary that the programme:

demonstrates a deeply dark and sinister ‘Workhouse’ ethic or ideology. It highlights extensive ‘school-like’ detentions rather than any commitment to actually help people. The reality is that claimants have to sit in Job Centres for eight hours a day, every day while job seeking. Job hunting’s a full-time job simply to get the pitiful low sums that Universal Credit pays.

As one man on the programme said, ‘you go to the Job Centre for a job and come out without, it’s like going to a chip shop for chips but there are no chips’.

To end spiralling poverty and return dignity to millions of people, Universal Credit needs to go. With two investigations underway and this petition, there’s at least some chance people can make their voices heard and share the truth about this cruel and harsh benefit.

Featured images via UK Government/Wikimedia and UK Government/Wikimedia

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