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The Brief: Universally discredited

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Catch up In 2009, part-time politician and part-time caricature Iain Duncan-Smith put an idea to Tory party conference. The idea was that all six benefit payments would be combined into one monthly withdrawal. Founded on the assumption that people are too lazy to want a job unless you make them poor, these payments were designed to slowly decrease over time and thus ‘encourage’ people to take on part-time work.

This idea was called universal credit.

What’s happening Since universal credit was was passed in 2012 it has gone from one disaster to the next, raising questions about its utility from across the political spectrum. The rollout has been slow (hence why we are still talking about it six years on) and poorly managed. Earlier this year, everyone’s favourite incognito mode enthusiast Damian Green announced that the policy would be delayed even further, making it unlikely to be rolled out in full until 2022.

But as further evidence emerges about the effects of the policy, its becoming harder for the Tories to defend it in good faith. The Trussell Trust, a nationwide food bank charity has said that in areas where its been trialled, food bank usage has increased by up to 52 per cent. Tories, including John Major and even Ian Duncan-Smith himself, have warned the government to change course and have argued that the welfare system needs billions more in funding if the policy has any chance of success.

Whistleblowers from the front lines of universal credit have said that the IT systems are faulty and regularly make errors, throwing people’s lives into uncertainty and anxiety. All this serves to show the damage that can be done by out-of-touch politicians who have no sense of people’s lived experience. Now it falls to Labour to be that voice.

People are saying From a Guardian editorial:Not only is it not working now, after £1.9bn has been spent. The National Audit Office sees no reason to believe that it ever will. The original promise, that 300,000 unemployment benefit claimants would get jobs, is impossible to measure. The savings supposed to be generated by efficiency and the reduction of fraud have not materialised. These two pledges – that more people would work; that public money would be better spent – were the point of this programme. That neither is deliverable is a disaster.’

Be a progressive The Mirror has launched a new campaign to stop the rollout of universal credit. Esther McVey, the minister in charge of universal credit, has said herself that ‘some people will be worse off’. What she meant to say is that this horrific policy puts families at risk and has been designed not from a place of logic or compassion, but to help the Tories achieve their ideological cuts – as we discussed in the second episode of the Progressive Britain Podcast.

It needs to be stopped.

Please sign The Mirror’s petition here.


Stefan Rollnick is the editorial assistant at Progress. He tweets @StefanRollnick and you can pitch him your article ideas by emailing


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