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Yet again, the Tories show what little understanding they have of the people they are supposed to represent.
Despite predictions from MPs and the CAB that the roll out will lead to financial misery for many, the Conservatives refuse to halt the universal credit roll out.
Now they are unbelievably suggesting that taking a loan in order to survive is a sensible option.
A ‘short term advance’
The loan the Tories are suggesting is a ‘short term advance’ of their benefit payment, which is available from the Department of Work and Pensions. The loan can take up to 72 hours to pay out and must be paid back.
Repayments are automatically deducted from the claimant’s universal credit payment, which can take up to 6 weeks to arrive.
This would mean that those who have to take the loan will be in debt to the government as soon as their universal credit begins.
The benefits system is designed to give people the bare minimum amount of money they need to survive on, and the Tories are now suggesting that they take part of this money away so the debt can be repaid. This is a preposterous suggestion which may result in further endangering the well being of the country’s most vulnerable.
Not only this, but Hammond stated this loan would be available through Jobcentres. Recent months have been full of allegations of Jobcentres conducting immoral and illegal practices to meet targets. The DWP are also closing 68 Jobcentres over the next 12 months, making it far harder for people to obtain the help and advice they need.
“Can you understand how much of an issue that is for people?”
When challenged in an interview with the BBC over the suggestion to simply take out a loan, Hammond seemed to falter.
The BBC presenter quizzed Hammond about the repercussions of accepting a loan:
“If they do get that advance they then have to pay that back and that comes out of the next months payment, meaning they’ve got less money to pay for the things they need to pay for. Can you understand how much of an issue that is for people?”
With a stutter, Hammond explained that the loan can be spread over time, as though that makes people forced by government policy into debt justifiable.
He then burst into a rather confusing explanation claiming how the loan will help people during the transfer from benefits to work:
When people go into work they typically have to wait for their first pay packet. And what we’re trying to do with universal credit is to smooth the cliff edges between work and benefit in a way that avoids the disincentive that we had in the old system for people who were on benefits to go into work if they were then going to face this same cliff edge effect as they move from benefits into work.
So we want to smooth the path from work into benefits and benefits into work and the loans available are an important part of that.
The suggestion that introducing a debt to the government is smoothing the path from work into benefits seems woefully ignorant.
What does debt mean for people already living on the edge? Anxiety and depression are already illnesses that are very common for people living with poverty. An additional debt is hardly going to lead to an improvement in their lives, especially with the way the DWP treat people who owe them money.
Everything about the way the Tories are approaching universal credit reeks of a lack of understanding of the problems that people in this country are facing. As it is rolled out country wide, the evidence-backed prediction that a lot of people are going to suffer creeps closer and closer to becoming reality. Sadly, it is time for people to do their best to prepare for the backlash of this total nightmare – because the government clearly aren’t going to a thing to help.
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