AWOL DWP Secretary David Gauke has been under heavy fire for the grave failure of Universal Credit (UC) system, for his personal failure to appear in Parliament to defend his department’s performance and to answer to the Commons after the government lost votes – and for the gouging of poor UC claimants who call the UC helpline to find out why they have received no money for weeks on end.
The Tories have also been heavily criticised – after the House of Commons voted to reduce the waiting time imposed on claimants moved onto UC from six weeks to four – for only reducing it to five weeks in this week’s Budget.
So you’d think he’d make sure not to break his and the government’s word on something straightforward to do – and straightforward for others to check on.
On 18 October, Gauke responded to Labour pressure over the ‘0345’ UC helpline that can cost penniless claimants up to 55p a minute to call, by promising to make the calls free – within a month:
With this announcement, Gauke set in motion a countdown of not more than 31 days for the change to a freephone number to be implemented.
As of just now, well on the way to six weeks after his promise, this is the ‘Contact Universal Credit’ webpage:
The SKWAWKBOX contacted the DWP to find out why the change had not yet taken place. A DWP spokesperson claimed that the change was not late because Gauke’s promise meant it would be changed by the end of November and that it would still be implemented by then.
But that’s not the usual meaning of ‘over the next month’ said halfway through October – and it would have been perfectly easy for Gauke to say ‘by the end of next month’ if that’s what he meant.
The DWP has only five more days to avoid breaking even the elongated interpretation of a straightforward phrase. Clearly, in the eyes of the DWP, there’s no huge rush to change a system that the man responsible for it has admitted ‘burdens’ poor claimants.
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