The government’s controversial Universal Credit (UC) programme continues to wreak havoc on the lives of Britain’s poorest.
Since the introduction of UC, the number of social housing tenants who are behind in rent has sky rocketed (up to 86%). Families have been forced to depend on foodbanks because of the regulation 42-day wait (often extended to as long as 60 days) for first payment.
Uncertainty about the system has also contributed to a dramatic decline in the number of private landlords willing to take on benefit recipients – even those in work.
The new system was introduced in 2013 and is set to replace Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Working and Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.
But from its inception, the government’s welfare reforms have come under sustained criticism from trade unionists and anti-poverty campaigners. Britain’s largest trade union, for instance, Unite, was clear from an early stage what these reforms were about:
These changes are part of a package of reforms to the tax and benefit system this government is making – dismantling entitlements to social security and welfare support and attacking some of the poorest people in our society. Many more people are being pushed into poverty because of what this government is doing.
University of York professor Peter Dwyer, who is involved in a five-year Economic and Social Research Council-funded study of benefits conditionality, also condemned Universal Credit, questioning why the government wanted to be “associated with punishing the working poor?”
But, as the recent revelations make clear, it is not just the working poor who are under attack.
One of the most controversial elements of UC is the “Claimant Commitment” (CC) – a set of imposed requirements to which claimants have no right of appeal. The government’s guidance on CCs is clear:
“There is no right of appeal if a claimant refuses to accept their Claimant Commitment and the requirements that have been set out in it.”
In effect, this means that the decision over the claim is entirely in the hands of job coaches – many of whom are overworked or incentivised to punish claimants.
If a claimant refuses to agree to the terms laid out by the job coach, they are no longer entitled to UC. Simple as that.
But as if all of this was not bad enough, the SKWAWKBOX has revealed an even more sinister element of UC. That is, once a programme is agreed between claimant and job coach, the claimant then has 24 months to find a job or be faced with a one-year sanction.
Just let that sink in for a second. One entire year without benefits… without any income whatsoever!
No wonder Britain is facing a homelessness crisis.
And what’s more, UC does not discriminate – it does not care whether or not you are sick or disabled! Meaning disabled claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) will also face these despicably draconian rules.
This could mean that disabled people, who make up a large proportion of the long-term unemployed, find themselves being sanctioned for up to 12 months for not finding a job.
And no doubt the companies employed by the government to carry out the sickening and humiliating work capability assessments – a means for disciplining what they see as “unproductive” labour – will continue to make their fortunes in finding disabled people “fit for work”.
Corbyn needs to mobilise his supporters, and the country at large, against these ongoing attacks on our class.
The Tory government is weak and wobbly. One push and they will come down like a house of cards.
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