On Monday, DWP Secretary Esther McVey created outrage with a ‘full Trump‘ series of claims about the supposed endorsement by charities of the government’s changes to the Universal Credit system that has blighted the lives of millions and is set to create even further hardship as its roll-out continues.
All the charities involved either put out social media posts distancing themselves from her claim or had already made highly-critical statements about the plans.
But foodbank charity The Trussell Trust went a step further, publishing a whole article specifically to respond to McVey’s claims.
On Monday afternoon the Government published an update to its plans for the next stage of Universal Credit, ‘managed migration’.
While the article welcomes the small improvements made to the system, the charity insists that:
- the government was evading its responsibilities by expecting claimants to shoulder the burden of the transfer process from existing benefits
- Universal Credit was forcing ever-increasing numbers of people to rely on Foodbanks
- that charities cannot continue to fill the huge gaps left by government policies and
- that the government’s abdication of its responsibilities is so complete that it cannot not claim that migration to Universal Credit is managed in any sense:
The government is still pushing the responsibility of this next stage onto claimants. People will need to make a new claim and therefore still risk losing their income. Without attempting to automate any part of the transfer process, the Government cannot claim this next stage of migration to the new system is ‘managed’ at all.
The charity also points out the failure of the government to provide information or transparency on the state of its plans – and that the DWP’s failures now are only likely to get worse as demand increases:
There’s also no information about whether the right support will be in place – this will be vital to ensure people aren’t left without money…
And finally, we must not forget that before the next stage of Universal Credit begins, thousands of people will be making new Universal Credit claims.
Most pressingly, the Trust observes that the long timescale of the planned improvements means that hard-pressed claimants will face a bleak winter with no improvement or help at all:
None of the changes announced in the last two weeks will be in place for people this winter – most won’t be seen for at least 18 months. Monday’s announcement won’t help people like Ruth, who spoke to the BBC this week about being forced to turn to a foodbank during the wait for a first Universal Credit payment. She needed our benefits system to anchor her from being swept into poverty after she was made redundant, but the gap in income left her struggling to cover the costs of essentials for her young family and she had to use a foodbank.
As a priority, we’re worried about the problems people at foodbanks are experiencing with moving onto Universal Credit. If the wait isn’t reduced for all people making new claims, the only way to stop even more people like Ruth being forced to foodbanks this winter will be to pause all new claims to Universal Credit, until the necessary funding is in place. Reducing the five-week wait won’t fix everything, but it would make a real difference in protecting people from crisis.
Foodbanks cannot continue to pick up the pieces. We have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger. Recent announcements are welcome, but only a start. Much more must still be done to ensure Universal Credit is preventing people from needing a foodbank, not pushing them to one.
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