13:38, October 14 69 0 theguardian.com

2018-10-14 13:38:05
Universal credit is an ill-conceived shambles

It is no coincidence that Gordon Brown (Tory benefit cuts will spark poll tax-style chaos, claims Brown, 10 October) and John Major (Report, 12 October) should suggest that the government’s plans to complete the roll-out of universal credit risk provoking a response similar to the civil disorder that greeted the poll tax. These former prime ministers are seeing with greater clarity than the present government that when in a hole, to stop digging is the best course of action.

The breadth and depth of opposition to the way that this change to the payment of benefits has been progressing is astonishing, stretching as it does from the archbishop of Canterbury to Tory backbenchers, via the Federation of Small Businesses and a wide range of welfare organisations, to say nothing of the highly sceptical report from the National Audit Office (Costly and unwieldy: watchdog savages universal credit system, 15 June). Now there appear to be only three supporters prepared to declare themselves – the architect of the scheme, Iain Duncan Smith; the present work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey; and Theresa May, who is so preoccupied with bailing water out of the good ship Brexit that she is unable to spot the looming iceberg. In the light of the adverse impact on so many people already, the government must act to limit further damage by cancelling the programme with immediate effect.

Les Bright

Exeter

As Gordon Brown states, the voluntary sector is trying to unravel the many who have become tangled in what was once a safety net that Beveridge argued for 70 years ago, saying: “Adventure came not from the half-starved but those well fed enough to feel ambition.”

This month, the freight train of universal credit rolled into Scotland’s biggest and most foodbank-reliant local authority of Glasgow – a city that has closed more jobcentres than any other in the UK in the last financial year.

The great fear for many of us fighting against the tide of food insecurity in Glasgow and beyond is that it will incarcerate those very people whom Beveridge sought to emancipate from hunger.

Ewan Gurr

Dundee

Croydon in south London was among the government’s guinea pigs for this shambolic policy. Almost overnight, our residents experienced higher rent arrears, the immediate threat of eviction by private landlords, and not enough money to get by.

Croydon council set up Gateway, our early intervention welfare service, which has prevented homelessness for more than 2,400 families through one-to-one budgeting and welfare advisers and London’s first joint welfare and food club.

We also had to top up inadequate government discretionary housing payments to help those at greatest risk – almost £1m of council funding last year and £700,000 this year. We do this willingly because the financial and human cost of homelessness is far greater.

However, none of it would be necessary if the Department for Work and Pensions properly funded councils. It still owes Croydon millions in unpaid housing benefit subsidies from when it rolled out universal credit here – money we could spend on supporting our vulnerable residents.

The government needs tosort out universal credit’s many failings or scrap it before it devastates every vulnerable household in the country.

Councillor Alison Butler

Deputy leader, Croydon council

As a retired social security commissioner and upper tribunal judge I found it depressing to read that the personal independence payment (PIP) assessment procedure is still dismal (So when a high-profile civil servant is disabled, the press finds its sympathy, 11 October). I had hoped, obviously foolishly, that in the few years that have passed since my retirement things would have improved.

They will only do so if there is better training for and monitoring of those civil servants involved in the process, and if those in authority start to take real notice of decisions made by my former colleagues in the upper tribunal and those judges dealing with first instance appeals. All of this, however, would have resource implications. I see no evidence to show that the government will do anything about this. The sick, those in poverty and otherwise vulnerable do not seem to rate highly on the Tory ideology scale.

Dr Stephen Pacey

North Muskham, Nottinghamshire

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