Socialist Worker

Unfair and unworkable, Iain Duncan Smith's 'flagship' is full of holes

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2489

Under scrutiny - hated Tory axeman Iain Duncan Smith

Under scrutiny - hated Tory axeman Iain Duncan Smith (Pic: UK in Spain)

Hated Tory axeman Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reform will make working families poorer and is mired in worse delays than ever, two new reports reveal.

Universal Credit (UC) rolls six working age benefits into one payment and changes the way it is paid.

Though pitched as simplifying the system, it has proved immensely complicated to implement. And in areas where UC is being trialled it has already brought misery.

In Glasgow workers who claim benefits have been subject to the same cruel and absurd sanctions as unemployed people.

One man had £70 docked because he missed a job centre appointment when called into work. A woman working part time with caring responsibilities ended up threatened with eviction after sanctions pushed her into debt.

In prime minister’s questions today, Wednesday, David Cameron didn’t even try to deny that staff were encouraged to sanction people.

In Tameside, Greater Manchester, almost 30 percent of people moved onto UC were kept waiting more than seven weeks for the first payment, sending debt skyrocketing.

A new report released today, Wednesday, by the Institute of Fiscal Studies think tank (IFS) says that working families will lose out under UC. Some 2.1 million will lose an average of £1,600 a year—considerably more than the number that will gain.


It found that in total UC would cut £2.7 billion from welfare spending a year.

The IFS buys into the government’s line that benefit cuts are about “incentivising work”. It looked for cases where people lose more in benefits than they gain in wages by taking on a small amount of paid work.

These cases are not typical and not the cause of unemployment. But even here the report found UC created such incentives as well as getting rid of them. It means single parents will lose more if they work—and couples will lose more if both of them work.

MPs on the public accounts committee also released their report on UC this week—and found the government had lied about getting people into work.

The government had said unemployed people were seven or eight percent more likely to find work when on UC than on jobseeker’s allowance.

But its own figures put the effect between three and six percent for people in “straightforward circumstances”—and none for those in “more complex circumstances”.

The MPs also revealed that UC will now not be completely rolled out until 2021—four years after the original date. Its costs have also spiralled to almost £16 billion from a predicted £2.2 billion.

Job centre workers in the PCS union could end up sanctioning each other under UC.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said, “We warned years ago that universal credit could not succeed if it was driven by a political agenda to cut support, rather than offering genuine help for unemployed people.

“It is clear to everyone that this supposedly flagship project is in disarray and is exposed as just another political attack on people who are out of work or on low incomes."

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