Open letter to Jamie Dean, Customer Service Manager, Job centre Devon and Cornwall district

Dear Jamie Dean

On Thursday October 17th, you were quoted in The Cornishman newspaper as lauding the benefits of Universal Credit. To quote you in The Cornishman:

“Universal Credit is so much better than the previous claim systems. It’s the Facebook of the benefits world. It moves it to the 21st century.”

And to support this positive assertion, the article included a profile of a Universal Job Coach and another of a Universal Credit beneficiary – both containing positive messages about the benefits of Universal Credit such as:

“Universal Credit is about treating people as individuals. There is a big push on compassion. We are here to help people fallen on hard times….” and so on.

I do not question the sincerity  of your staff but I do question the message and the media pitch  that flies so blatantly in the face of countless  reports by credible organisations such as the Trussell Trust about the misery and financial hardship  inflicted  by Universal Credit.

Your own ex Secretary of State Amber Rudd admitted that Universal Credit roll-out is a key cause in rise in use of food banks[1].

And more recently  the Advertising Standards Authority  has banned a series of government ads extolling the virtues of universal credit as “misleading”

In other words lies!

So I would ask you instead to read  these headline findings from the latest Trussell Trust report published in September 2019 – a month before you were interviewed  – so that when you are next interviewed by The Cornishman you can give clear, factual answers in place of government propaganda.

I quote verbatim from their report:

Key Findings

  1. The minimum five week wait for Universal Credit – either without income or with a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Advance Payment – has led to acute financial hardship, and damaged households’ longer-term financial resilience. This includes destitution, housing insecurity and debt.
  2. The study also reveals the detrimental impact the wait is having on people’s mental health. Many people reported experiencing high levels of anxiety, especially as they did not know how much they would receive and when. Some even reported feeling suicidal.
  3. Services like advice agencies, council-led crisis provision, and food banks have been forced to deal with the fall-out from the minimum five week wait, as claimants turn to non-DWP support to manage financial hardship
  4. Current DWP support is often not enough to mitigate the impact of the minimum five week wait. Advance Payments have left claimants deciding between hardship now or hardship later. Other financial support is piecemeal and has not prevented hardship.

And with reference to the next stage of Universal Credit when Three million people currently claiming other benefits and tax credits will have to move onto the system, it warns:

  1. When Universal Credit goes live in an area, there is a demonstrable increase in demand in local Trussell Trust foodbanks. On average, 12 months after roll-out, food banks see a 52% increase in demand, compared to 13% in areas with Universal Credit for 3 months or less. This increase cannot be attributed to randomness and exists even after accounting for seasonal and other variations.
  2. Benefit transitions, most likely due to people moving onto Universal Credit, are increasingly accounting for more referrals and are likely driving up need in areas of full Universal Credit roll-out. Waiting for the first payment is a key cause, while for many simply the act of moving over to a new system is causing hardship.

 

[1] Amber Rudd links universal credit to rise in food bank use. BBC News 11-2-2019

[2] End of year stats: Trussell Trust

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