The majority of staff who work for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), including Jobcentre staff working on the front-line any trying to support poor and vulnerable people, think the Government’s flagship universal credit programme should be paused and fixed.
This is according to a survey by the PCS Union, who represent thousands of DWP workers, in support of Channel 4 Dispatches documentary aired on Monday night that looked at the tragic impact of Britain’s “benefits crisis” on some of the must vulnerable people in society.
The documentary featured many horror stories from universal credit claimants, including a disabled young woman who attempted suicide after being left with just £20 a week to pay household bills and feed herself and her young daughter.
A survey of around 550 front-line DWP staff found that some 70 per cent think the roll-out of universal credit should be paused, with a similar number claiming they have received little or no training to help and support claimants with complex needs, such as those with mental or physical impairments.
TUC General Secretary Mr Serwotka told the programme: “The government can give us soundbites and gimmicks but what these statistics tell us is that frontline workers who face-to-face deal with people; single parents, disabled people, people with mental health difficulties, people facing eviction from their houses, people who are desperate and going to foodbanks, they see the reality of this every day of the week.
“And I think it is a wakeup call and the government needs to massively increase the resource in the department for work and pensions, to give the public the welfare system that they deserve.”
The DWP said it does not recognise the results of TUC’s survey, arguing it is a small selective sample and claimed it’s own finding show the majority of staff believe universal credit is “working”.
The department cited recent figures showing that universal credit claimants move into work faster and remain in employment longer, compared to the legacy benefits it replaces.
However, the programme also highlighted the plight of working people on universal credit, including a single father who prior to claiming universal credit was a self-employed taxi driver.
He was urged to give up his job by a Jobcentre adviser, after being left £500 a month worse off under the new benefits system. Now homeless and separated from his children, the single father said universal credit has destroyed his life and torn his family apart.
PCS say they have try to warn the DWP about the problems with universal credit, including the stress and anxiety felt by DWP workers, but has been met with a brick wall at every turn.
Mr Serwotka added: “The hardships benefit claimants are facing are truly shocking. The fact that many are having to resort to foodbanks and some are, as the Dispatches programme shows, even contemplating suicide, the government must stop the roll out.
“Together with testimony from our members who work incredibly hard to try to make this flawed system work, the time for a radical overhaul of how we treat those who need help, has come.
“It cannot be right for the government to push ahead with Universal Credit roll out and ignore the overwhelming evidence in the Dispatches programme tonight.”
If you are affected by the issues raised in this article you can contact the Samaritans free on 116 123 (UK) or 116 123 (ROI), or visit their website at www.samaritans.org.
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