Gauke is tone deaf to the plight of UC claimants. He should resign

by Joe Anderson

David Gauke had the opportunity to show that he recognised the problems with the roll-out of Universal Credit, specifically the appalling wait of six weeks – or often longer – than claimants face for payments.

But he fluffed it.

The Secretary of State’s ‘concession’ over the 55p a minute helpline at the DWP committee is small beer in the grand scheme of things. Frankly, the line should have always been free to use.

After all, the phone lines of the CAB, debt advice charities and the Samaritans will be ringing off the hook if this policy now proceeds unchecked.

Only millionaire ministers and salaried civil servants could be so tone deaf to the situation that poor and vulnerable people find themselves in, robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is no exaggeration to say that Christmas will be a misery for millions of families as a result of the botched implementation of Universal Credit.

Meanwhile Neil Couling, the DWP’s senior official dealing with the roll-out, added insult to injury when he told the DWP Committee that he wanted to make the appointments booking process for those struggling with their benefits akin to ‘when we book a holiday and reserve our seat’.

What part of this don’t they understand?

Leaving families and vulnerable people without money for weeks on end – all because Tory ministers regard them as the ‘undeserving poor’ – will lead to misery, debt and eviction in all too many cases.

The Resolution Foundation think tank calculates the move to Universal Credit will see some working families left facing a benefit reduction of up to £2,800 a year. Many of these will be the ‘just about managing’ families Theresa May was once so concerned with.

Meanwhile, Citizens’ Advice says the policy is too complicated – as people struggling to understand it – with a lack of support in place when the system fails them.

Government policy should be worked through before it is rolled-out. The poor deserve better than to be placed in a Whitehall petri-dish. Especially as there is a basic fallacy at the very heart of universal credit.

Rather than ‘curbing the costs of welfare’ as ministers insist, universal credit simply passports the bill from central to local government. We are left picking up the pieces of botched policy with our council tax payers left picking up the bill.

So far, as a result of UC, Liverpool City Council has spent nearly £3 million helping those waiting for payments. From a local government perspective, ministers are passing the buck to us – with our budgets already at breaking point – as we try to ensure that families in rent arrears aren’t thrown out on the streets.

What makes it even more galling is that families in low-paid work are doing what the government wants them to do – working – but still they are struggling to keep their heads above water waiting for payments. Disgracefully, the Secretary of State has decided that he will not relent and address this fundamental flaw.

Pride comes before a fall and I am now calling for David Gauke to resign or be sacked for his total lack of understanding and Neil Couling to be moved somewhere else so his successor can reset this failing policy.

 Joe Anderson is Mayor of Liverpool

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5 Responses to “Gauke is tone deaf to the plight of UC claimants. He should resign”

  1. John Wall says:

    There’s no justification for taking six weeks to make a payment – I’ve seen adverts for people who’ll lend you money and it’ll be in your account the same day.

  2. Alf says:

    New Labour promised to be “tougher on welfare than the Tories”.

  3. john P reid says:

    Alf ,although it was Attlee who said welfare was a failure of a labour government, not to sup[ply disablility benefits or free health care or full employment, so people wouldn’t need benefits

    it was under Ed milibands time, when the labour spokesperson said ,be tougher on welfare than the tories, and Ed miliband wasn’t new labour

  4. anosrep says:

    “What part of this don’t they understand?”

    They understand it perfectly well, and do it anyway. “Misery, debt and eviction” aren’t unintended consequences, they’re the Tories’ objective. Universal credit isn’t just a cock-up (though they are going about it incompetently), it’s yet another act of class war.

  5. Landless Peasant says:

    Universal Credit is Class War alright, make no mistake. It’s not just the 6 weeks wait for payment, the whole thing is fundamentaly flawed, punitive, over-ambitious, unworkable and should be scrapped altogether, and it’s time Labour bloody well said so.

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