Amber Rudd, the recently appointed Work and Pensions Secretary, has declared that there are “problems with Universal Credit” in a forceful return to frontline politics.
Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd has made her first appearance in the House of Commons after being appointed as Work and Pensions Secretary. She wasted no time revealing that she will be “listening carefully” to critics as she takes on her new role.
“I know there are problems with Universal Credit, despite its good intentions,” she said. “I’ve seen them for myself. I will be listening and learning from the expert groups in this area who do such good work.”
I know [Universal Credit] can be better. I will make sure it is my role to deliver that.
She continued: “Part of the benefit of the Universal Credit roll-out is going to be making sure we get the expert guidance from the people who have been working in this field for many years – and we will certainly be doing it.”
Universal Credit was developed to replace six individual benefits as part of the Conservative’s welfare reform programme. However, official bodies, including charities, have expressed concern that it is overly complicated for those seeking benefits.
UN Inquiry into Poverty in the UK
Rudd has also expressed her dissatisfaction with the recent UN poverty report, which criticised UK government polices.
“I have seen the report by the rapporteur, I’ve read it over the weekend,” she said. “And I must say I was disappointed to say the least by the extraordinary political nature of his language.”
We will always engage with professionals, with experts, with NGOs
“We, on this side of the House, will always engage with professionals, with experts, with NGOs. We are not so proud that we don’t think we can learn as we try to adjust Universal Credit for the benefit of everybody. But that sort of language was wholly inappropriate and discredited a lot of what he was saying.”
The damning UN inquiry into poverty in the UK was undertaken by UN rapporteur Philip Alston and found that poverty has left many citizens in “misery.”
What does Universal Credit mean for our Rights?
Image via Wikipedia Commons
Universal Credit is a social security benefit engineered as a streamlining tool by the Conservative Party as a type of welfare reform. The programme is designed to save £18 billion of government money.
The reform has been the source of controversy among politicians and in civil society. A new report by the Public Accounts Committee, a select committee of MPs which scrutinises government spending, argued that Universal Credit is causing “unacceptable hardship and difficulties.”
The move to Universal Credit also raised concerns about possible human rights implications, with many claiming the system is discriminatory.
The new benefit is paid on a monthly household basis, whereas benefits have traditionally been paid to individuals every two weeks. The Women’s Budget Group argues that the change reinforces the idea of a male breadwinner, discourages second earners and is likely to increase women’s financial dependence on their partners.
Women’s rights NGOs, including Refuge and Women’s Aid, and the Home Affairs Committee have been very critical of Universal Credit. They argue that it enables perpetrators of domestic violence to use money as a tool to control their partners’ lives.
The former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, announced a delay to Universal Credit’s roll-out last week. This was intended to allow more time to resolve some of the issues that arose during its implementation.
The Department for Work and Pensions added that they had already announced “several improvements” to Universal Credit this year. These included “plans to reinstate housing benefit for vulnerable 18-21 year olds, making direct payments to landlords, offering 100 per cent advances and providing an additional 2 weeks of housing benefit for claimants.”