Friday, November 27, 2020

DWP ‘couldn’t care less’ about the devastating impact of Universal Credit

FOI reveals the DWP has no idea how the five-week-wait affects Universal Credit claimants.

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The DWP has come under fire after their response to a new Freedom of Information request (FOI) suggests that the UK government is refusing to release analysis on the impact of its hated Universal Credit and the two-child cap policies.

A recent report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) estimate that two in five families on Universal Credit are struggling to cope with the minimum five week wait for an initial Universal Credit payment.

And research by the Trussell Trust food bank network has shows a 30% surge in demand in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out for at least a year.

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Responding to an FOI request from the Poverty Alliance the UK Government admitted they have conducted no analysis on the impact of the five-week-wait, sparking accusations that the government “couldn’t care less about the devastating impact [of] its austerity policies”.

The DWP does, however, admit to holding information on the impact of the controversial two-child limit policy, which restricts benefits to the first two children born into a family.

However, the department is refusing to publish the analysis, claiming it is exempt from disclosure “because it relates to the formulation or development of government policy”.

They add: “This exemption protects the private space within which Ministers and their policy advisers can develop policies without the risk of premature disclosure.”

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance said: “The five-week wait is driving destitution and distress. It has pulled countless people into poverty and trapped many more who were already struggling.

“We hear time and time again that the policy is pushing some people into rent arrears while others are going hungry to avoid getting into debt.

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“It is astonishing that almost a year after then Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd admitted that delays in accessing Universal Credit could have been responsible for rising food bank use that the UK Government is still not assessing the impact of the wait on the staggering levels of poverty in this country.

“We urgently need to end the wait and increase the level of payments to meet people’s needs. The current policy has no place in a decent society.”

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SNP Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Neil Gray MP said: “It’s clear that the Tory government couldn’t care less about the devastating impact its austerity policies are having on millions of families – with soaring levels of poverty, food insecurity, and destitution.

“The UK government must release analysis of the impact the Two-Child cap is having on poverty – it is a scandal that they are refusing to disclose this information to the Poverty Alliance.

“Tory ministers must also release analysis of the impact of the five-week wait for universal credit or explain whether and why they really have done no analysis of their hated flagship policy. “

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The Trussell Trust’s Garry Lemon, Director of Policy, Research and External Affairs, said: “Universal Credit should be there to anchor any of us against the tides of poverty.

“But the five week wait fatally undermines this principle, pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution.

“In a society that believes in justice and compassion, this isn’t right. But it is something that can be fixed.

“Universal Credit was designed to have a five week wait. Now it’s clear that is five weeks too long, we must change that design.

“The Conservative Party manifesto pledged to ‘do more to make sure that Universal Credit works for the most vulnerable’.

“With a new government in place, it is time for them to outline who the ‘most vulnerable’ are, and what steps will be taken to protect them. The first priority must be to end the five week wait.”

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