Friday, November 27, 2020

Universal Credit architect Iain Duncan Smith knighted in New Years Honours List

Opposition parties said it "beggars belief" that the former DWP boss is being rewarded for causing "untold stress" to millions.

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Iain Duncan Smith, the main architect of the widely condemned Universal Credit system, has been awarded with a knighthood in the new years honours list, it has been revealed.

The former Tory DWP Secretary, now Sir Iain, is best known as the mind behind the hated Universal Credit benefit system, which has been blamed for the growth in food bank use.

He also helped to intruduce other cruel welfare policies like the bedroom tax and changes to disability benefits, overseen by David Cameron and George Osborne, and is regarded among poor and disabled people as the most cruel and heartless DWP boss the UK has ever known.

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Responding to the announcement, Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine said it “beggars belief” that Duncan Smith is being honored for causing “untold stress”.

Vauxhall Food Bank – photo credit: Newfrontiers via photopin cc

In September, the UK’s largest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, released figures showing that food banks have seen a 30% increase in demand in areas where Universal Credit had been in operation for at least a year.

The charity blamed this on the minimum five-week-wait for an initial payment under the new system, while urging the government of the time to “take action to end this wait, and help prevent thousands more of us being swept away by poverty”.

Universal Credit replaces six legacy benefits, including Housing Benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance, with a single monthly payment.

While recent changes mean that new claimants can request an advance while waiting for their first payment, this is gradually recouped through deductions to payments in subsequent months.

However, charities like Citizens Advice say these deductions trap people in a “cycle of debt”, and have called for Advances to be recovered over a longer period to reduce the debt burden experienced by claimants.

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Universal Credit has also been blamed for rising rent arrears. People claiming Universal Credit have on average experienced a 42% increase in rent arrears since the rollout began in 2015.

This is in stark contrast to a 20% decrease in rent arrears among households still in receipt of legacy benefits like Housing Benefit.

Hugh Owen, Director of Strategy and Public Affairs at Riverside, who collected the figures, said: “Our data clearly shows that the wait is causing many of our tenants to get into rent arrears which can take months or even years to clear.”

He added that “the long wait means that many people are going without food or heating and they are forced to use foodbanks in order to feed their families.”

Commenting on Iain Duncan Smith knighthood, a Labour Party spokesperson said it was “unfortunate” that Boris Johnson would see fit to reward the “primary architect of the cruel Universal Credit system, which has pushed thousands of people into poverty.”

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“Boris Johnson should be trying to fix his party’s shameful mistakes, not give out rewards to those responsible for its failure”, they added.

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