The Tories’ insistence that Universal Credit is a force for good would be inexplicable by now, if not for the revelation that organisations working with them have been made to sign ‘gagging’ clauses, preventing them from criticising the Department for Work and Pensions and its secretary of state, Esther McVey.
Fortunately the mainstream media are at last waking up to the enormity of the crime that is being committed against some of the UK’s most vulnerable people – and the stories of their suffering are starting to proliferate.
Consider the case of Jimmy Ballentine, who took his own life last year. He had been struggling with depression and anxiety, worsened by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who hounded him incessantly for money they thought he owed them, according to his son Dale.
The younger Mr Ballentine has written to prime minister Theresa May, applauding her appointment of a new minister for suicide prevention but begging her to consider the effect of her benefit system on the suicide rate – and pleading with her to scrap the migration of benefit claimants onto Universal Credit.
Or how about Melanie Goss, from Somerset, who told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show that her experience of Universal Credit had been an “absolute nightmare”?
She told Tory MP Nigel Mills, who sits on the Commons Work and Pensions committee he was “fumbling”, and said: “Pause it. How dare you just lump millions more other people next year on the same problem that everybody else is having.”
“It’s disgraceful. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Despite these stories, the Conservative government is determined to continue rolling out Universal Credit across the UK – as Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom made clear in a Commons clash with former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams:
— Debbie Abrahams MP (@Debbie_abrahams) October 11, 2018
It seems the DWP is to be the subject of a Parliamentary debate, covering all eight years of Conservative and Tory-led ‘reforms’ of the benefit system.
But don’t get your hopes up about it. We’ve had such debates before. They tend to be full of terrifying stories covering the agonies suffered by the Tories’ victims – but while the Tories are in charge, they result in no action at all.
The big question is, do enough people in the real world even care? Some believe most people would rather immerse themselves in the make-believe world of, for example, Strictly Come Dancing:
Just said to my mum "Look at this. This person is £300 worse off per month on UC even though she works." "Oh. Got to get back, they're talking about the Jive and wanna find out who might be leaving this week in the dance offs." Magnify that by millions each week. We're fucked.
— Johnny 🌹🇵🇸 #GTTO (@JohnnyMabon) October 12, 2018
But I hope enough people do care – and they can prove it by signing a petition raised by the Labour Party, demanding that the roll-out of Universal Credit be stopped.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn Tweeted: “The Tories’ Universal Credit is pushing families into poverty. They need to halt the roll-out now to stop it causing more suffering.
“Sign the petition if you’re with us.”
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