Theresa May has come under further pressure to defend the ‘benefit’ of Universal Credit (UC) – this time from her own side.
At PMQ’s, a visibly uncomfortable May fell back on the standard defence of UC as “making work pay” when challenged on Amber Rudd’s Commons admission that the ‘reform’ was linked to rocketing foodbank use.
Tory Heidi Allen told the House that admission effectively confirmed the welfare state was “no longer holding up the most vulnerable – but dragging them down”.
“It is not that there has been a link, there is a link,” said Allen.
May said the government would “continue to review” UC.
Earlier today, the Work and Pensions Committee took evidence on how thinly stretched the social safety net had become, pulled to its seams by an “unholy trinity” of debt, hunger and homelessness members linked to welfare reform.
The committee was taking evidence from charity and public witnesses as to the nature of “growing and compounded” problems on the frontline.
There was specific reference to the “socioeconomic duty” approach taken by Newcastle City Council as a response to local welfare needs.
Talk also turned to issues faced by women, the disabled, and older people as a result of reform.
The committee witnesses were:
- Peter Tutton, Head of Policy, StepChange Debt Charity
- Sumi Rabindrakumar, Head of Policy and Research, The Trussell Trust
- Deborah Garvie, Policy Manager, Shelter
- Sheila McKandie, Benefits and Welfare Manager, Highland Council
- Veronica Dunn, Cabinet member for Resources, Newcastle City Council
- Michael Griffin, Senior Policy and Campaign Adviser, Parkinson’s UK
- Sally West, Policy Manager, Income and Poverty, Age UK
- Elliot Kent, Member, National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers
- Fran Bennett, Member, Policy Advisory Group, UK Women’s Budget Group
Yesterday (12th Feb), 24housing reported that the potential overhaul of DWP sanctions – as recommended by the committee – had been “fobbed off” by government, despite Rudd’s admission that Universal Credit has led to rocketing foodbank use.
Under questioning in the Commons on Monday (11th Feb), Rudd conceded she was “absolutely clear” that “ challenges with the initial roll-out” of UC was “one of the causes” of rocketing foodbank use – where claimants “had difficulty” in accessing benefit to which they were entitled.