Alleviating poverty in our country. How should Liberal Democrats aim to help?

Should Universal Credit simply be abolished? That’s not our policy. .Perhaps we should replace it with a new benefit, National Credit, as suggested here recently by Michael BG. But how about abolishing the Department for Work and Pensions?

That is the radical idea just advanced by a man who worked in national mental health policy for more than ten years, and who latterly was seconded to the DWP for 18 months to advise on mental health across a range of policy issues. 

Tom Pollard of the think-tank Demos has written a short paper, Pathways from Poverty: A case for institutional reform, published by Demos this month. He writes that the Government should consider abolishing the department after its failure to help ill and disabled people out of poverty. He maintains that the DWP is “institutionally and culturally incapable of making the reforms needed to deliver better outcomes for society’s most vulnerable.” 

Referencing the post-war Beveridge social contract, he declares that modern governments have failed to deliver a parallel radical agenda. Specifically, he complains that the DWP has a ‘benefit lens’ where case-handlers perceive employment as a condition for receiving benefits, rather than as a means for enabling claimants to pursue fulfilling work. Speaking at a recent Demos discussion with industry experts and senior parliamentarians, he maintained that for many claimants the problems were not a question of their motivation, but of their disability or illness that impeded their securing work.

His conclusions recall points made by the UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, whose hard-hitting report  was discussed in LDV articles on November19 and 28 and December 2. 

Philip Alston observed a ‘command and control’ approach to Universal Credit which imposed harsh sanctions which the evidence tended to show were counter-productive. He too referred to elements of the Beveridge contract having been overturned, inflicting misery on the poor and the disabled. While discussing practical needs such as the restoration of local authority services, with the viewpoint of a compassionate outsider he also deplored what he saw as a decline in British traditional values of compassion and concern for everyone.

Liberal Democrats already hold and continue to develop excellent policies to alleviate poverty. Abolishing DWP is worth consideration. But we also surely need to take a lead in challenging the culture which has allowed our society’s decline in values. Why, for example, in the debates over Brexit, is it not trumpeted that the poorest in our society will be the worst affected if the country grows poorer? Similarly, it seems left to the letter-pages of the Guardian to exhibit the kind of misery already inflicted by callous practice on some benefit claimants. This recent letter from a person with disabilities and illness who withheld their name read in part:

 I have just been through the ordeal that the government say is an easy transition to the new universal credit, The past five weeks have been one of the most stressful periods of my life. On Monday my universal credit was awarded, leaving me £93.58 per four weeks worse off compared with the employment support allowance and housing benefit that I had. This now means a choice of food, heat or transportation. I already had to budget just £20 per week for food before the reduction in my benefits. As for heating, I could only afford to put the heating on when my flat is below 10 degrees Celsius, and only raising it to 12 degrees.

Liberal Democrats surely ought to be the voice of the poorest, most ill and most disadvantaged individuals of our society, and be shouting for them. I believe we should now campaign for a national renewal of the traditional caring values of our society as well as for all the practical measures required, to avoid the ‘alienated society’ to which Philip Alston fears Britain is heading.

* Katharine Pindar is a long-standing member of the Lib Dems and an activist in the West Cumbrian constituency of Copeland and Workington.

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35 Comments

  • Mick Taylor 27th Jan '19 - 9:49am

    Actually, the Liberal Democrats need to grasp the nettle and say that it is unacceptable for anyone in our country to live in poverty with an income so low that the sort of choices low income families have to make between heating, food and transport, have to be made.
    The old idea that poverty is the fault of the poor and that they only need to get a job and everything will be all right has been made obsolete by the computer revolution and the destruction of former manual and clerical jobs.
    The party has been trying to avoid having a debate about decent income for all, whether this is delivered by negative income tax or by universal basic income. In my view we need to state clearly that we will deliver a decent income for all and end the culture of punishing the poor and the sort of regimes that now are an integral part of welfare systems. Basic income will have to be a right and not predicated on being in work otherwise it will be useless.
    Of course we should also strive to make sure that employment is available for all as well, because of the health and social benefits that it gives, but we may have to redefine work and accept a greater role for the state in providing it. After all it’s not that there isn’t work to be done, it’s the deliberate lack of money to pay for it that’s the problem. We have social housing that needs to be built, we have people needing care, we have a shortage of doctors and dentists, we have roads that need repair. The continuing policy of austerity means that libraries and schools are closing, infrastructure is neglected and health and social care are inadequate.
    Beveridge wanted to have a secure safety net with care available from the cradle to the grave. It’s time for the Lib Dems to revisit his ideas and put them in a 21st century context

  • Education, free movement, open borders and some form of UBI.

    That seems far better than the current set up, the protectionism and nationalism of the Trump fanatics, or the protectionism and rampant trade unionism proposed by the hard left.

  • The problem (apart from the obvious lack of money) is we have become a society that looks at people as resources. We have all become spreadsheet cells, this cell will work till it is 66, we will extract the maximum profit, if it looses its job or becomes ill we will incentivise it by paying it poverty amounts and sanctioning it until it returns to useful work or it is deleted. At 66 the cell may retire and live on what ever savings and the minimal state pension. Going forward due to improvement in cell design, cells will work to 67,68 or hopefully 70+. We need to kill the obsession of looking at people as spreadsheet cells and start looking at them as people. I fear our present polticians are however wedded to Huxleys “Brave New World” and a life as a spreadsheet cell will be the fate they gift us.

  • @stimpson. Rampant trades unionism eh? It’s precisely because of the decline of trades unions brought about by Thatcherism that so many are now being paid poverty wages and have no means to fight back. We do see hopeful signs of some revival of collective action in the hospitality trade where working conditions are awful and wages are low. Sorry, but Trades Unions are a vital part of getting decent pay and conditions for employees and Lib Dems ought to be supporting them.

  • Katharine Pindar | Sun 27th January 2019 – 8:55 am……………….Should Universal Credit simply be abolished? That’s not our policy…………

    Well, it should be! Universal credit is a major contributor to poverty and homelessness and costs more to administer than those payments it replaced.

    However, being LibDems, instead of taking a bold decision we’ll ‘do a Shirley’ (as in the NHS ‘reorganisation’) and try to make a bad policy a tiny bit less bad.

  • Mick Taylor – trade unions are essential, but not 1970s labour militants. And to make trade unions work, industrial democracy, cooperation and reconciliation must be institutionalized. Otherwise, capital and labour will be pitted against each other and we will return to the 1970s, where trade unions will strike and fight tooth and nail to prevent the adoption of new technology.

  • The problem with focusing on ‘abolishing’ something like Universal Credit, is that it places more emphasis on complaining about what’s wrong with the existing system than it does on working through the practicalities of ensuring that its replacement is a genuine improvement. It’s good for political campaigning, but I’m not convinced it’s actually helpful for those who rely on the service.

    A complete change of system would take time to do badly, and longer to get it right, and in either event the success will be limited by whether or not the system is properly funded. IMO, it would be far better to make it clear that Universal Credit needs proper funding, and some proper attention given to ensuring that it is delivered more humanely.

    As far as I can tell, there are many voices shouting about how Brexit will have the biggest negative impact on the poorest in our society, but unfortunately it doesn’t get picked up beyond the usual outlets. At the first sign of it breaking through, it gets dismissed as “project fear” and the ramblings of the metropolitan elite. However, I do think it is something that needs to be said as often as possible, preferably by people who are not too obviously associated with the elite (metropolitan or otherwise), and where possible call out the hypocrisy of those who said it would be easy.

  • The problem with Fiona’s post is that Universal Credit is still being rolled out and the old system still out there working with much fewer problems. So it’s not a question of “working through the practicalities of ensuring that its replacement is a genuine improvement.”

    The improvement is there and is working. It’s the old system that the Conservatives are destroying.

  • Joseph Bourke 27th Jan '19 - 12:52pm

    Katharine,

    the DWP was reorganised in 2001 into four divions. Jobcentre Plus ; the Pension Service; Disability and Carers Service ; and the Child Maintenance Group. Only jobcentre plus should be focused on employment as a means of alleviating poverty, Many of the problems come with assessments for PIP and/or moving people from ESA to JSA who clearly are unble to engage in paid work.
    There may well be a good argument for seperating the disability and carers service from DWP as Tom Pollard argues in his paper.
    The issues with Univeral credit are well known. They centre around benefit cuts, delays and sanctions, together with harsh debt-recovery practices and high housing rental costs that are pushing people already in poverty over the edge into extreme deprivation. The 2015 funding cuts need to be reversed; the benefit freeze ended; benefit payments (not emergency loans) made at 1 week, 3 weeks, 5 weeks and monthly thereafter; and rent payments for the full rent made directly to Landlords.
    A Universal basic income can eliminate unnecessary sanctions but it ca never be enough to addess the issue of rents that vary widely across the country. This needs a Land Value Capture and Land Value Tax solution for housing supply.

  • Peter Martin 27th Jan '19 - 1:06pm

    @ Katharine Pindar,

    Maybe it’s a throwback to my more Marxist days but I still feel there is some validity in the phrase:

    “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need”.

    The idea is that everyone gets what they need which isn’t necessarily the same as what they would like. But it would be, at a minimum, a basic income on a living wage.

    On the other hand, people aren’t just given hand-outs which is why I wouldn’t support a UBI. We do require something from everyone. If they have exceptional ability they can expect more than they need. It doesn’t necessarily mean we all end up with exactly the same income. Just how much inequality we tolerate has to be decided through the normal political process.

    We all need someone to get up in the morning to drive the buses and trains. Open the shops etc. Most people do feel happier when they are needed. Most people can accept they may not be needed for a short period, but long periods of unemployment or even underemployment can create an underclass of poverty inclined unemployable people. This doesn’t mean workfare or requiring people to work in ways they aren’t capable of. It does mean being more imaginative and taking a more positive view of what people can do instead of writing them off.

    So address that question and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your goal of alleviating poverty too.

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Jan '19 - 3:38pm

    Thanks, everyone. ‘A decent income for all’ is certainly an aim I’d welcome us adopting, Mick Taylor. and the first step is surely the ending of the benefit freeze and restoration of previous benefits, as our party has advocated. But much more is needed. The issues of high rental costs and shortage of social housing have to be tackled vigorously. We should surely advocate a higher National Living Wage and appropriate regional ones. We should I believe declare that Food Banks are a disgrace to our society and need phasing out as benefit and wage levels are increased. We have the taxation proposals to pay for these necessary improvements, and should insist on them in any future national power sharing.

    As for Universal Credit itself, I think we should be looking at Michael BG’s proposal for a National Credit to replace tax credits for people in work, paying at least pre-2016 work allowance rates. (See Michael’s article published here on November 28.)

    Jobs for all who want them should be a right, not an imposition, and the problems of providing decent ones in the age of globalisation, increasing digitisation and robot use is being worked at by our party: see the policy on Good Jobs, Better Businesses and Stronger Communities passed at the Brighton Conference last September, which by the way includes support for trade unions. All kinds of work, from looking after babies at home to sustaining communities through voluntary work, should surely be acceptable, except of course for that imposed either by exploitative employers or by state employees who do not treat people with due respect.

    Above all, surely, let us demand an end to the careless or callous attitudes that have crept in, that inhibit our rightful aims of ending relative poverty and greatly reducing the inequality of our society.

  • The Department of Work and Pensions needs to be abolished entirely.

    There is a complete lack of transparency when it comes to this governmental department. People are led to believe that the high welfare bill is down to the unemployed and the sick, when in fact, over 50% of the welfare spend is spent on people over pensionable age when you take into account pensions, pension credit and disability related benefits.
    It has created a hostile environment which led to the workshy scroungers accusations.

    Pensions should have it’s own department entirely.

    Those receiving sickness and disability benefits should be captured by a department for health and social care. Disability benefit assessment should be brought in house, using full access to a patients health records. It is the only way to provide a fair assessment into a persons needs and would cut down on unnecessary and expensive bureaucracy. Personal Independence Payment should be abandoned, This benefit was supposed to save the government 20% when in reality the most recent results has shown it has cost the Government 20% More than the original DLA. When will the Government ever learn that their top down reorganisations never work and always end up costing the tax payer more money and wasting billions of pounds.

    There should be an entirely separate department for the department of work that deals just with unemployment and helping people back into work.

    Universal Credit has been another costly waste of money that is causing untold misery and poverty to vulnerable people and struggling families. When is the Government going to learn that in life, it is ok to say that we made a mistake and now realise that this policy is not an improvement on what we had before and we have decided to go back to the old system.

  • @David – while I agree that the roll out of Universal Credit should be paused, I don’t think it’s correct to say that the old system was working well either. But it does reveal the problems with introducing a new system and putting more effort into the announcements, and not enough into working through the practicalities.

    But the biggest single problem with universal credit is that it’s under-funded, and no amount of name changes, or alterations to how it is delivered will fix that.

  • Neil Sandison 27th Jan '19 - 8:23pm

    UC was a good concept turned sour by a penny pinching chancellor who treated everyone like a scrounger and not a fellow human being who in most cases is in a temporary difficult situation who needs our support .Even Margaret Thatcher apart from the miners strike did not go this far.Households should not become destitute and in need of food banks in a modern social liberal society .Agree with Fiona it needs properly funding and be underpinned by Beverage principles .Other social liberal /democratic countries ensure their systems are properly funded through income and offer a reliable insurance system for times of hardship .Long term illness and enduring health related problems should on assessment continue but with enpowerment to improve your quality of life by community or paid employment. self respect is often over looked and can lead to serious depression and suicide as someone feels worthless in the spreadsheet society raised by Frankie .We are not units or cells on a well paid civil servants report but people who deserve respect and understanding .

  • Katharine Pindar 27th Jan '19 - 10:15pm

    You are right, Neil, in writing that people need self-respect. They need to feel some sense of self-worth and some feeling that their lives are appreciated by others, whatever their state of health or their particular working circumstances. Not everyone can fulfil their potential, but every individual has something to offer others, and should be treated by authorities with respect. Building up caring communities will help with this.

    I should like Matt’s suggestions to be debated, relevant as they are in this discussion, which I hope may continue even through the riveting show of competing forces in the House of Commons this week. We have much work to do.

  • Mick Taylor, I agree with you that we need to “say that it is unacceptable for anyone in our country to live in poverty with an income so low that the sort of choices low income families have to make between heating, food and transport”. However, the answer isn’t a universal basic income, it is to increase the benefit levels to the poverty level for each household type. Then everyone in work will have an income above the poverty line. We could also have regional “living wages” of 70% of each region’s median earnings.

    Once we have these then we can introduce a Citizens Income to enable people to have more freedom on what work they do, or what education or training they can take up.

    Fiona, the role out of Universal Credit could be stopped, the 63% tapper and higher disregards (the amount a person keeps before losing any benefit) could be applied to the older benefits, and people on Universal Credit could be given the choice of staying on Universal Credit or going back to an older benefit. In this way Tax Credits could be phrased out over time.

    Neil Sandison, the idea of replacing all other benefits with one was always going to be a problem. The amount a person could keep before their benefit was affected was always too low, the tapper was too high, however I think there was a need to replace Tax Credits with a system people could understand.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Jan '19 - 1:15am

    Practically, we agree that we must ensure that everyone has a decent income, as Mick Taylor wrote in the first comment, and that benefits must be increased to supplement pay without working people being forced to resort to food banks. Perhaps we need to update our policies to take account of the sort of changes Michael suggests, with ideally people having some choice. We also want to see national and regional ‘living wages’ becoming the norm.

    As for the Department for Work and Pensions, Joseph and Matt both see merit in at least separating the Disabilities and Carers service from the DWP, with Matt wishing it to become a department for health and social care. It would help the public attitudes problem if the Job Centre Plus part of the DWP was the only section to focus on employment as a means of alleviating poverty, as Joseph says.

    Demos itself is proposing to publish original research this year on how welfare provision might be changed, and how to create a department ‘fit for the challenges of this century’, and perhaps our home and welfare spokespeople and their staff could keep abreast of this even as we hopefully further develop our own policy.

  • Mick Taylor 28th Jan '19 - 9:43am

    Universal credit would have worked if it had been properly funded and had not been operated in the way it has been. But it is now impossible to get anyone to believe in it because of the deliberate hardship it has caused. Just like the original child support agency it has to go.
    This big problem with the benefit system is the huge range of benefits and the huge cost of the bureaucracy needed to administer it. Means testing costs money! Hence UBI would not require a huge bureaucracy thus contributing greatly to paying for it.
    I see some people on this thread still clinging to the ‘no free handouts’ mantra. How does that speak to not enslaving people by poverty, ignorance or conformity? We are talking of a fundamental shift in approach where everyone gets the basic and then we have a tax system that is adjusted to pay for it and we can end poverty permanently. No more need for means tested benefits, no need for food banks. People enabled to do what they want. That’s a Liberal society, not the mean spirited bash the poor one we now live in.

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Jan '19 - 10:43am

    A fundamental change of attitude on getting people permanently out of poverty is undoubtedly needed, I agree with you, Mick, and that is why I think we need a national campaign about it. Are you also advocating Universal Basic Income as the practical basis? I am not sure that that will be accepted. Like Universal Credit itself, which as you say is discredited now, a comprehensive reform might possibly turn out to have unexpected and unwelcome side effects? I suspect we have to accept more complexity in working towards the desired end of preventing poverty, or at least more complex steps on the way there.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 28th Jan '19 - 11:26am

    We should be campaigning against the truly evil practice of benefit sanctions. Job centre staff have the power to stop someone’s benefits just because they may have missed an appointment at the job centre, or because they have not made the required number of job applications.
    They may have missed the appointment because a bus was cancelled, or because they simply could not afford the bus fare. They may not have made job applications because their confidence is at a very low ebb after losing a previous job, and what they need is support to build up their confidence – not threats to stop their only source of income.
    It is totally unacceptable for anyone to be “punished” by withholding the money they need for the basic necessities of life – which basically means starving them into obedience.
    It is now Lib Dem policy to end sanctions. But I have not heard any Lib Dem politician speak out against the practice recently. The motion on benefits at Autumn Conference – produced by a policy working group – originally would have kept sanctions. We should be ashamed that Lib Dems were prepared to support such a practice. Fortunately the motion was amended, committing the party to end sanctions. We should make opposition to this practice a major focus of our campaigning.

  • Sue Sutherland 28th Jan '19 - 12:50pm

    Thank you for this post Katharine. Catherine Jane Crosland highlights the sanctions benefit claimants face. Alongside this is a complete disregard of the consequence for claimants if their appointment is cancelled. There is no recompense for the costs of a wasted journey, for example. Claimants are treated with arrogance and disbelief. It will be difficult to bring about the culture change required to introduce compassion into the system so maybe the DWP should be abolished.
    It’s easy to see how this came about if you look at the country’s budget costs. If your aim is solely to save money then slashing the cost of benefits is an obvious choice. Sadly the leaders of our party were involved in this decision during Coalition. Presumably the reason for this was the belief in austerity as a solution to the 2008 crash but it has now become a shackle for the poor, the sick, the disabled, the children and the strangers in our country.
    We have to fight to right these wrongs.

  • Sue Sutherland 28th Jan '19 - 12:55pm

    David Raw, there’s a joke in there somewhere about Beveridge, beverage and Weatherspoons.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Jan '19 - 1:18pm

    Excellent from Katharine as usual.

    Stimpson makes good suggestions but they are too many. You cannot have that which the majority do not want, open borders, and that which the majority do not yet understand, universal basic income. The first would see us overwhelmed with immigration if we had ubi, as a magnet.

    I favour immigration based on relationships. Personal is more important than professional. All lovers, spouses, partners should be allowed together regardless of income. Any employer who can prove need of a specific immigrant in the wider interest of society , ie a service, or professional skill, should be allowed to sponsor that person.

    I favour ubi if this is the immigration policy.

    I favour the abolition of universal credit.

    Labour do not. Neither does this party.

    The early New Labour government was the best since Attlee. I almost cry at the destruction of those years and policies, by Labour in latter years, by the coalition, by the Tories and by Corbyn unable to lead , a party not worthy of mainstream politics.

    For the first time in years I regret that I did not move to the US when I married a wife of American origin, at least there I know which party I could have and would be able to be involved in with both personal committment and political and professional result.

  • Sue Sutherland 28th Jan '19 - 1:24pm

    My longer comment supporting Katharine and Catherine seems to have disappeared into the ether but I just wanted you to know I made one.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 28th Jan '19 - 1:25pm

    Catharine, here as on the other thread, terrific, see my comments on that today.

    Our party do not shout about this because Clegg accepted tighter benefit rules, sanctions, what ever, for plastic bags taxed at five pence, shameful.

    Now he is in California with his Spanish origin wife and no great interest that country but obsession with the EU, and I am in financial struggles cold in England with my American origin wife.

    Yet he too quickly abandoned the values I adhere to, and is feted.

    I think the world mad.

  • Peter Martin 28th Jan '19 - 2:02pm

    I’d favour of a JG over a UBI but either way you’d still have a political problem if either was perceived to be attracting people into the country purely to take advantage of it.

    So why not introduce it on a reciprocal basis? So if the EU countries have a JG and/or a UBI we offer EU citizens the same deal as UK citizens would receive in EU countries?

  • nvelope2003 28th Jan '19 - 3:24pm

    There is very little unemployment in some parts of Britain. Where I live private sector and public sector employers find it hard to get staff and have to recruit from abroad. It is very difficult to get anyone to repair anything except at very high prices and after a long wait.

    Why is it easier to get workers from thousands of miles away than from even 20 miles away, let alone further afield. This issue needs to be addressed urgently before people are left on benefits indefinitely, with all the health and other problems this causes. No doubt lack of affordable housing plays a big part.

  • Peter Hirst 28th Jan '19 - 3:39pm

    What we need is a career structure for everyone that might include a period of not working. As long as the client sticks to this plan or modifies it they should be eligible for benefits. A long term strategy for each person at least gives everyone a guideline to work to .

  • Katharine Pindar 28th Jan '19 - 6:20pm

    Wonderful clip, David, though hardly fair to Sir Vince! Thank you for the laughter! Thanks to Lorenzo similarly, for his splendid idea that lovers should be admitted freely, regardless of income – a truly liberal idea, and not to be spoilt by thinking too much about it! 🙂

    The passionate concern of Catherine and Sue is, of course, really appreciated on the serious side. You point out the way the system is worked to cause real hardship to applicants for UC: another cause of difficulty for many is the demand for the claim to be made on line. Maybe, as Lorenzo thinks, UC should be abolished. I agree that we should be looking again at our policies to develop them, as well as emphasising them as often as we can. There could be an alternative to UC, as proposed by Michael BG in his own piece. There could be a radical reform of the Department itself. We do need a campaign for radical change, including challenge of the attitudes which have allowed austerity to continue.

    On employment, I suppose the idea mooted of giving all young people a certain sum at 18 to spend on retraining at any point of their career, or to take career breaks, comes to mind. I don’t know if we have agreed policy on that.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 29th Jan '19 - 2:01pm

    Sue, thank you for your comments. I’m glad your earlier comment reappeared from “the ether”. I’ve noticed comments disappearing in this way quite often recently. They seem to reappear after either a few minutes or a few hours.
    Thank you to Lorenzo also.

  • Katharine Pindar 29th Jan '19 - 4:43pm

    There’s a hysterical feel to this week, for obvious reasons in political circles, and LDV seems to be rushing pieces through as if to show how much the current debate affects us too. I am listening to the Commons debate as I write! But it was good to see Helen Flynn turning to education as an important continuing subject for us. So of course is what we as a party propose to alleviate poverty and to challenge the attitudes of the powerful that do nothing about it. I’m more inclined therefore to criticise the current Government than the official Opposition, and to deplore their current effort to prolong the agony of the threat of Brexit, which will affect the poorest most.

    I shall be glued to the House debates like everyone else this afternoon and evening. But it would be good to read other comments and suggestions on this thread’s subject later on, and this debate of ours continuing.

  • Katharine Pindar 30th Jan '19 - 7:59pm

    How long, Mrs May, how long? While you fly off on this most likely fruitless quest to Brussels, apparently content at having temporarily brought your warring colleagues together, how much longer will it be before you bring an end to the benefit freeze as our party has demanded? It’s 83 days, far longer than the time you are trying to play out till March 29th, since The Times published a story headlined, ‘Scrap ‘immoral’ freeze on benefits, leading Tories tell May’. (November 8, 2018). Well they might call for an immediate raise. The Times found that, despite the Chancellor pumping another £1.7 billion a year into universal credit at his Budget, ‘some low-income households on universal credit are still likely to lose up to £7,500 a year’, according to a study by the data analytics company Policy in Practice. The research found that 2.8 million families will be worse off, losing an average of £58 a week, or £3,016 a year. Hardest hit will be the self-employed, the disabled and those with more than two children.

    So there was an outcry, even from a number of leading Tories, including ex-cabinet members. There are already about a million households on UC. And what has happened since? Some tinkering, we understand, from the minister in charge, Amber Rudd.

    How long, Mrs May? Will you make our fellow-citizens on benefits wait as long as the Windrush generation waited for relief? While you faff about again in Brussels, thousands of ordinary people are living in hardship and unending poverty in Britain. Shouldn’t that be the priority of your government?

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