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Universal Credit: Charities told to sign ‘gagging clauses’ to protect Esther McVey’s reputation

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Charities who work with Universal Credit claimants have allegedly been told to sign gagging orders to protect the reputation of the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) and welfare chief Esther McVey.

The Times reports that at least 22 charitable organisations, with DWP contracts worth £1.8million, have been told to sign “gagging clauses” as part of their work with Universal Credit claimants.

The contracts require charities to “pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of the Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey MP, adding the charities must “not do anything which may attract adverse publicity” toward the DWP.

DWP officials have denied that the “gagging clauses” prevent charities from speaking out against Universal Credit, which merges a number of legacy benefits into one single monthly payment, and are instead “standard procedure”.

DWP HQ, Caxton House, London. Photo: Paul Billanie for Welfare Weekly.

A DWP spokesperson said: “It’s completely untrue to suggest that organisations are banned from criticising Universal Credit.

“As with all arrangements like this, they include a reference which enables both parties to understand how to interact with each other and protect their best interests.

“This is in place to safeguard any commercial sensitive information for both government and the organisation involved.”

This later revelation will come as a further blow to Esther McVey, who is facing mounting pressure to row back on Universal Credit after she admitted “some people will be worse off” under the new benefits system.

She told BBC News: “I’ve said we made tough decisions. Some people will be worse off.”

However, she added: “Under the old system, 700,000 people didn’t get £285 a month, so they didn’t get the money they were owed.

“Under the old system the most vulnerable in society weren’t getting as much money as we are now going to give them.”

Last updated at 08:49(GMT) on 12 October 2018. Correction: This story was first reported by The Times, and not The Press Association as previously stated.

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