People claiming Universal Credit have been told by the Department for Work and Pensions to apply for provisional driving licences to use as a form of ID, with the costs being taken from their benefits, an MP has said.
Liverpool Walton MP, Dan Carden, called on the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to postpone the roll-out of Universal Credit in his constituency until after Christmas and highlighted the issue with people having to pay out for a driving licence as one of many administrative problems with the new system.
In a letter to the secretary of state, Amber Rudd MP, Carden said: “We have families experiencing poverty on an unprecedented scale and now facing further avoidable hardship in the run up to Christmas.
“I have now been informed that job centres across Liverpool are advancing payments to my constituents to obtain provisional driving licences for the purposes of identification and then deducting the cost from their benefits.
“Constituents are also having to pay for postal orders, passport photographs and postage, just to obtain provisional licences.”
He explained that the DVLA says there is a five-week wait for provisional licences, and highlighted the delays before the first payments are made when someone is transferred on to Universal Credit.
The controversial new benefit is claimed to simplify the system and it is being rolled out in many parts of Liverpool this week. Carden added: “Continuing with this roll-out will leave many of the most vulnerable families in Liverpool Walton destitute by Christmas and I am therefore asking you to intervene as a matter of urgency.”
In response to the letter, a DWP spokeswoman told Sky News: “Having ID is not a requirement for those making a Universal Credit claim but it does make the process easier.
“If customers don’t have any ID we can reimburse the cost if they choose to apply for a passport, driving licence or long birth certificates.”
Amber Rudd, the secretary of state for work and pensions, responded with a denial, as follows:
Completely contradicting Rudd’s claims, it says on the government’s site:
So Rudd is either woefully ignorant of the policies that her own department is implementing, or she is telling lies. Either way, it’s utterly deplorable that she labelled the opposition ‘scaremongers’ for simply raising legitimate concerns about a cruel, unfit for purpose, out of touch policy.
When people apply for Universal Credit they are asked to verify their identity online via the GOV.Verify service.
To do so, you need either;
- A valid UK driving license
- A valid UK passport.
Of course this creates problems for those without the documents. The Universal Credit claim cannot go ‘live’ without conforming to the ID verification framework. People generally can’t get an advance because their claim isn’t live. Once they’ve received their new ID document, (takes around 6-8 weeks usually), it’s then a further 5 weeks (at least) until their first universal credit payment.
According to the government web site, you can only apply for an advance on your first payment if you have already verified your identity. It says:
You can apply for an advance payment in your online account or through your Jobcentre Plus work coach.
You’ll need to:
- explain why you need an advance
- verify your identity (you do this online when you submit your Universal Credit claim or at your first Jobcentre Plus interview)
- provide bank account details for the advance (talk to your work coach if you cannot open an account.)
It seems that the “terrific” job coaches are not applying rules consistently, leading to a post code lottery concerning the verification requirements for claims.
The Verify framework:
This particular response from Rudd has become a deplorable, standardised and authoritarian tactic of repressing legitimate criticism for the Conservatives, however. Other Tory ministers who have habitually used the term ‘scaremonger’ as a gaslighting technique include Sarah Newton and David Gauke among others.
Gaslighting is a persistent manipulation and attempted brainwashing technique where the abuser manipulates narratives and/or situations repeatedly in an attempt to trick people into distrusting their own perceptions and experiences. Gaslighting is an insidious form of psychological abuse. It is not the kind of behaviour that one would expect from a government minister in a democratic society.
This kind of being somewhat Conservative with the truth may also be seen as a technique of neutralisation.
These techniques are used to switch off the conscience of both the perpetrator and their audience when someone plans or has already done something that causes distress and harm to others.
The idea of techniques of neutralisation was first proposed by David Matza and Gresham Sykes during their work on Edwin Sutherland’s Differential Association in the 1950s. Matza and Sykes were working on juvenile delinquency, they theorised that the same techniques could be found throughout society and published their ideas in Delinquency and Drift, 1964.
They identified the following psychological techniques by which, they believed, delinquents justified their illegitimate actions, and Alexander Alverez further identified these methods used at a socio-political level in Nazi Germany to “justify” the Holocaust:
1. Denial of responsibility. The offender(s) will propose that they were victims of circumstance or were forced into situations beyond their control.
2. Denial of harm and injury. The offender insists that their actions did not cause any harm or damage.
3. Denial of the victim. The offender believes that the victim deserved whatever action the offender committed. Or they may claim that there isn’t a victim.
4. Condemnation of the condemners. The offenders maintain that those who condemn their offence are doing so purely out of spite, ‘scaremongering’ or they are shifting the blame from themselves unfairly.
5. Appeal to higher loyalties. The offender suggests that his or her offence was for the ‘greater good’, with long term consequences that would justify their actions, such as protection of a social group/nation, or benefits to the economy/ social group/nation.
6. Disengagement and Denial of Humanity is a category that Alverez
added to the techniques formulated by Sykes and Matza because of its special relevance to the Holocaust. Nazi propaganda portrayed Jews and other non-Aryans as subhuman.
A process of social division, scapegoating and dehumanisation was explicitly orchestrated by the government. This also very clearly parallels Gordon Allport’s work on explaining how prejudice arises, how it escalates, often advancing by almost inscrutable degrees, pushing at normative and moral boundaries until the unthinkable becomes tenable. This stage on the scale of social prejudice may ultimately result in genocide.
Any one of these six techniques may serve to encourage violence by neutralising the norms against prejudice and aggression to the extent that when they are all implemented together, as they apparently were under the Nazi regime, a society can seemingly forget its normative rules, moral values and laws in order to engage in wholesale prejudice, discrimination, exclusion of citizens, hatred and ultimately, in genocide.
In accusing citizens and the opposition of ‘scaremongering’, the Conservatives are denying responsibility for the consequences of their policies, denying harm, denying distress; denying the victims and condemning the condemners.
Meanwhile, for many of us, the government’s approach to social security has become cruel, random, controlling; an unremitting, Orwellian trial. However, no amount of gaslighting or authoritarian ministers using techniques of neutralisation will discredit or deter the growing number of witnesses, nor will those authoritarians negate the lived and collective experiences of those of us undergoing the trials within an intentionally created hostile environment.
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