Universal Credit – Reasons to be Tearful.

A compendium of comment, analysis, advice, information, and the government’s  doubleplusgood press releases on Universal Credit 


The nature of this blog will in some way be defined by my technical inability to refine it as I might like, so, new stuff will be inserted at the top, in the “Breaking, Breaking, This Just In” section till it becomes old stuff. I will try to keep what I see as the most informative and important items for claimants fixed after that at the start. This will inevitably lead to a fractured narrative flow but hopefully it will still be a helpful resource for anyone trying to negotiate their way through Universal Credit, a government initiative  that has every chance of becoming one of the most monumental welfare cluster fucks of the modern era.

The Legislation:

Breaking, Breaking, This Just In:

duncan smith polly

Children’s Society  Report on how Universal Credit Penalises the Poor:

Child care component – unclear, unfair, unworkable…

Esther McVay on Benefit Sanctions:

Esther McVey says on benefit sanctions “What does a teacher do in a school? A teacher would tell you off or give you lines or whatever it is, detentions, but at the same times they are wanting your best interests at heart. They are teaching you, they are educating you but at the same time they will also have the ability to sanction you.”

So giving a child lines is equated to removing their ability to buy food for their children, heat their home and fund transport to look for work to name but three. Its hard to tell if this is satire or reality. (oh no its not satire – its from the mouth of a Tory) So stop peoples benefits to make them get a job?   Surely they are more likely to spend their time queueing in a food bank – or walking everywhere – stopping peoples money does not make them more employable, nothing like starving for 3 days to put you in the right positive frame of mind to impress at a job interview. This really is the most idiotic thinking I have ever seen by a government.


House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts

Universal Credit: early

There have been thousands of words written about the immense waste of public money, the abysmal management of the IT, the blame game that followed, and the “quiet man” turning the volume from down to completely off. Well nothing quite delivers the truth in all its raging glory better than the original report which available from the link below.

Sadly it seems the mainstream tv news channels did not seek to expose his staggering hypocrisy and ineptitude that would have got anyone else the sack. on the subterfuge and possible cover up of the Universal Credit IT fiasco:

Iain Duncan Smith’s second epiphany: from compassion to brutality

Of all the great comment on this subject, this perhaps captures the mendacious pernicious inhumanity visited upon the claimant than this by Poly Toynbee:

A New Government Infographic About Universal Credit:

This is actually such an appallingly oversimplified depiction of reality it is actually funny, anybody know how James eats, lives and looks for work in the six weeks it will take him to get his first payment of Universal Credit?

Safe pair of hands not looking quite so safe:

More from Computer Weekly here:

Universal credit: £120m could be written off to rescue welfare reform

Labour says ministers in disarray as leaked documents reveal two options for saving project to merge benefits and tax credits

Anyone who has looked at the criteria (further down page) for claiming UC in the “rollout” zones will have to have concluded that it is hard to see how it is anything but a “rollout” in name only, with only the most simplistic of cases being dealt with by UC – one can almost see each claim being supervised manually to ensure it does not add to the huge maladministration statistics of the DWP.

Iain Duncan Smith

Almost worth a caption competition?

“Well minister can you show us how far Universal Credit is from total disaster?”

Guardian Editorial Comment on the above revelation.

The audacity of Arrogance:


An insight into why this blog is here, how UC is already affecting the most vulnerable in our society:

 This is initially just a collection of links, with a human intervention to avoid the repetition one normally gets from google searches – hopefully containing a synopsis of their content, or just a little snark and bile. There are some brilliant articles about this monumental change to the delivery of Social Welfare payments and effects that it may have. I intend to try to link to both government “information” publications and any media coverage or comment. I will endeavour to try to avoid repetitive and/or tautological links to debate or comment. Though that is possibly unavoidable at times. It is not historical due to the constraints of time so is hopefully current from  the beginning of November 2013. PLease feel free to post in the comments anything I have missed – and most importantly feel free to use anything on here for any article, tweet, blog or whatever. Iain Duncan Smith is spearheading this, a man whose tongue is so forked he has a cutlery tray where most of us have a mouth – everything said about UC needs to be forensically examined and discussed. Any legal challenges need to be publicised – anyone victimised by UC needs to know there are commentators watching that can publicise their situation. It appears to me that it is not the Devil that is in the detail – but the multifarious spawn of Satan. There are many deeply flawed hidden changes in the legislation – that appear to be being slowly and surreptitiously revealed. I hope this blog will do a little to shine some light into the dark dank corners of this legislation.

Lest We Forget the Man With The Plan:

So to start a brilliant analytical briefing paper on Universal Credit in  pdf form.

It explores the potential effects on the self employed, in a most insightful and detailed way, and the main reason I am writing this now, it is an essential read for anyone with even a general interest,  it points out many of the problems deep with in the legislation that will affect all UC claimants – and the first place where I have see many of these flaws identified:

Great facebook page with many informative links about Universal Credit and the self-employed:

The Government Information Sheet on Universal Credit and self-employment

and a more accurate assessment:

Latest government fact sheet about other changes to other  benefits as well as UC:

Next a lovely government information sheet that actually demonstrates how far they are from fully implementing it .

Martin Rowson 09.11.2013

Crisis, what crisis? I have to cut and paste one part of this just so it does not get missed. It is called eligibility, there should be a prize if you can guess how many people are able to claim once all these caveats have been negotiated – not many I would think. Remember this when we hear talk of a successful trial:

To be eligible to claim Universal Credit (as opposed to existing benefits), you must:
• live in a specified postcode area but not be homeless, in supported or temporary
accommodation nor a homeowner
• be single, with no dependent children, a British citizen and aged between 18 years and 60
years and 6 months
• be fit for work
• not have a claim to Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance
(ESA) that ended in the last two weeks, except where ESA ended due to a decision that
you no longer have limited capability for work
• not be pregnant nor have given birth within the last 15 weeks
• not be receiving existing benefits (JSA, ESA, Income Support, Housing Benefit) or Tax
Credits nor awaiting a decision on, nor be appealing against, a decision not to award any
of those
• not be in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment
• not have savings in excess of £6,000
• not have any caring responsibilities
• not be self-employed, in education nor have a person acting on your behalf over your
claim, and
• have a valid bank account and National Insurance Number.
If you are in employed work and do not have take home pay over £270 per month (if aged
under 25) or £330 per month (if age 25 or over), you may also be eligible to claim
Universal Credit.”

above quote from this document here:

The most recent Lords debate:

it appears that if you can get a building project completed on time you can oversee the biggest change in welfare ever seen and deal with its manifold I.T. complexities: “We now have Howard Shiplee on board, and he is immensely experienced. He produced the olympic Park” Oh, so thats ok then, I feel completely at ease now.

The Lords live, UC from 21 minutes in:

Lord Freud providing the perfect exemplar of “mealy mouthed”

Reservation about UC from Chartered Institute of Taxation:

Reservations from The Work and Pensions Committee:

Good blogs highlighting some potential hidden problems:

Gingerbread find much of concern: “It’s worrying to see that single parents will, on average, be worse off under universal credit than they are now,”

The Gingerbread report in full:

A detailed report on the impact of Universal Credit from the Social Market Foundation:

“Our findings – set out in Chapters 4 and 5 – indicate that some
aspects of the Universal Credit are likely to prove unhelpful for a
significant number of claimants. In particular the monthly payment
and the payment of Housing Benefit to social tenants will require
behavioural change if the new system is not to cause serious
problems for many.”

A useful, but very lengthy document, (2,165 pages to be precise) the decision maker’s guide, could be very useful  if considering an appeal ( a sample: “A decision not to revise is not appealable, but its effect may be to renew the appeal rights arising from the original decision”)

Advice for Decision Making (ADM) provides guidance on the following benefits
introduced in April 2013:
 Universal Credit (UC)
 Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
 New-style contribution-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) in accordance with the
Welfare Reform Act 2012
 New-style contribution-based Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in
accordance with the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

What the National audit Office said:

( I’ll give you a clue “The programme suffered from weak management and ineffective control.”)

No one is safe – actors to be hit by UC changes:

Good commentary on IDS and interesting FOI request in this blog:

The Claimant Commitment & Sanctions Section:

“When you claim Universal Credit you will need to accept a Claimant
Commitment that sets out your responsibilities. You may be required
to look for work, prepare for work, or to increase your earnings if you
are already working.”       by

“You will work with your Universal Credit adviser who will help you to assess your skills and
get training that will improve your chances of finding a job.”

The very same people who are in the jobcentre now: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

I can see the Claimant Commitment part of Universal Credit becoming a separate blog article but for the moment it will have to sit at the bottom of this one. It looks to be a small alliterative phrase that is going to become a huge bone of contention.. There are 2 excellent blog articles at the end of this paragraph and also a  Guardian piece about the amount of job vacancies relative to those seeking work. (quite why this is never mentioned when Gideon starts ranting about feckless workshy individuals i’ll never understand.)

Brilliant blog detailing what ludicrous reasons are already being used to sanction people, I defy anyone to read this and not get hugely angry:

The Information

just a few of the reasons people have had their only source of income stopped:

Sanctions etc:

Been told you have to give a phone number or an email address or get sanctioned?

Quote this:

What your MP gets told about the housing benefit component”

5 thoughts on “Universal Credit – Reasons To Be Tearful.

  1. Richard Duncan Rudin

    This is going to be – indeed,already is – a highly informative Blog and one that should be very useful for campaigning groups and the like. As with all these complex ‘reforms’ (e.g.NHS), they whizz by, leaving fleeting impressions and responses. As ever, joining up the dots is hard, even for someone who takes an unusual degree of interest in news/current affairs.
    My view is that with welfare/benefits system we need (dare I say it) go back to basics, or first principles. What is it there to do? The ;founding fathers’ and for the millions who voted for it in 1945 it was to provide a safety net, so that whatever the capricious nature of life threw at you – unemployment, illness, old age, etc. – no person would fall below a certain level of income. The terrible fear of unemployment and destitution was to be abolished. It was to be paid for largely through contributions in a national insurance system, contributed by individual employers and the wider state. It wasn’t about compulsion and coercion. People are being punished and effectively made homeless because they are unlucky enough to live in areas where private and lords – rent controls having been abolished – have shoved up their rent, which , as their residents’ wages have risen by 10% or more a year are having to claim more and more housing benefit. But the way it’s reported sometimes you would think THEY were personally benefiting from this! for the.
    Key to the solution (IMHO!) is a commitment to higher wages and SHORTER working lives.
    Seems to me the biggest problem now is that people aren’t being paid a living wage and that we’re all being encouraged to work, work, work! Why? If there were fewer people seeking work, inevitably wages would rise.The reason wages and living standards rose so dramatically in the 1950s and ’60s was that there was a shortage of workers. Wages went up because you knew you could f*** off to one round the corner paying more, or giving you more holidays. The lengthening of the time we can take our pension means that people like me are going to be ‘job blockers’ for younger folk. We should be encouraged to retire (not that I want to), not forced to work longer! But of course a cheap and cowed workforce in a rapacious and global capitalist system suits the employers very well (see Grangemouth, viz LBJ “when you’ve got’em by the balls, their hearts and minds tend to follow”), who have the ear and are often the funders of certain political parties! So, profits go up, wages go down or are frozen, and the companies, who often avoid paying their due rate of corporation taxation, know that the taxpayer will be compelled to contribute to the wages of their workers!
    One other idea – proposed by those on the right and the left – is, instead of throwing all this money at the voodoo economics of Quantitative Easing, which mostly goes to help the banks, we could give everyone in the country (they reckon) £6,000. Unlike the banks, and tax cuts for the the well off, who mostly don’t spend in domestic economy, there is a big outbreak of spending and a big boost to the economy. Worth a try?!

  2. strummerman Post author

    Well Richard, I know all too well the feeling of being punished for having done something wrong that now pervades all aspects of the welfare benefits system; the compulsory attendance regime at Jobcentres is starting to kick in, delivered by advisers with the same tenor one would expect if one was reporting to meet a condition of bail. It is interesting that today in two separate instances (one in Liverpool – and another in Scotland) social housing providers are using the veiled threat of having your children taken into care in letters demanding payment of arrears. So the demonisation of the claimant goes on.
    I’ve long agreed with your point that housing benefit actually benefits landlords and not tenants – and if society didn’t help the lower waged keep their homes – the alternate welfare cost would be greater in trying to deal with thousands of homeless families. As for the low wages that force them to rely on benefits – these could also be viewed as subsidising shareholders profits. It is going to be interesting how public opinion is affected when all those in part time work and many self employed people go from claiming tax credits – directly from HMRC and have to report to the job centre as if unemployed will alter. Although I intend to start writing about the various aspects of this monumental change in some detail, I will mention a couple of interesting points. The state is now going to decide if your self employed business is a viable prospect – if not you will have to become unemployed, no matter how specialised a trade it might be, a Jobcentre adviser will pronounce on its commercial worth. The decision makers guidance now runs to over 2000 pages, it is up there on my blog. All welfare benefits are now out of the scope of legal aid. Levels of mal administration are already twice that of fraud. Anyone can draw the same conclusion – chaos is about to come once more, and with little scope for legal redress.

  3. strummerman Post author

    bugger, I also forgot the most important issue of all – there are not enough job vacancies so people are being demonised for something that is unavoidable: “The official count of unemployed people – anyone who is actively looking for work and is available to start immediately if hired – is 2.68 million.

    That is around six people for every vacancy in the country. Even using the smaller group of just those currently claiming jobseeker’s allowance, there are four jobseekers for each place. One million people aged 16-24 are currently looking for work.

    Whichever measure is used, there are nowhere near enough vacancies to enable everyone currently looking for a job to find one”

  4. Pingback: Universal Credit and the Self Employed | PermaHeretic

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