Amber Rudd admits link between Universal Credit and rise in people needing for food banks

Yesterday I wrote an article about housing minister James Brokenshire’s Christmas Eve revelation that the increase in homelessness ‘may’ be linked with government  policies. 

Now it seems that Amber Rudd has also admitted that the Government’s flagship Universal Credit policy has been responsible for driving record numbers of people to food banks, however, she still insists the new benefit is “a force for good”.

Call me a cynic, but perhaps this apparent softening from the Conservatives, a move away from the usual position of rigid denial of harm caused by their punitive welfare policy regime may be rather more an indication of a possible early General Election, rather than revelation because of a visit by the ghost of Christmas present.

The new Work and Pensions Secretary, who took over the role from Esther McVey, made the comments during a visit to a Jobcentre in Longton, Staffordshire, on a ‘fact-finding tour.

Rudd resigned from her previous role when it became apparent that the Home Office had designed a hostile environment, making deportation threats to the children of Commonwealth citizens. Despite living and working in the UK for decade, and being given indefinite leave to remain in the UK in the 1970s, UK Windrush citizens have been told they are living here ‘illegally’ because of a lack of ‘official paperwork’. Some of the Windrush generation have been denied health care, housing and employment as a consequence.

The Home Office did not keep a record of those granted leave to remain or issue any paperwork confirming UK citizenship – meaning it is difficult for Windrush citizens to prove they are in the UK legally.

And in 2010, landing cards – proof of identity – belonging to Windrush migrants were destroyed by the Home Office.

Rudd has stepped into another role which has seen the creation and maintenance of a hostile environment, which has been designed to ‘disincentivise’ people from claiming social security, ‘nudging’ people into work. The ‘nudge’ comprises of  conditionality: a series of coercive ordeals that are designed to ensure no one feels comfortable or secure claiming lifeline support.

Given that most people have worked, contributing taxes to pay for their social insurance, it’s controversial, to say the least, that citizens are being subjected to such a punitive system, which is about ‘discouraging’ them from claiming the support they have paid into. 

The visit to the jobcentre in Longton was part of what she described as a “nationwide tour” to promote Universal Credit, which has, since its introduction, faced widespread criticism from both MPs and charities alike.

She said: The purpose of me coming here, as part of a nationwide tour, is to see what’s happening on the ground, to reassure myself that Universal Credit is working and also to find out what we can do better.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd

Amber Rudd, the Department for Work and Pensions secretary.

“I recognise that there have been problems as it [Universal Credit] has been taken forward.

“That has made people fearful of it, and so one of the reasons I’m visiting different Jobcentres is to speak to the work coaches, and to clients as well, to find out what has been working well for them, as well as what hasn’t been.

“There have been issues previously, when Universal Credit started, with the time it took to get people the money that they needed, and we have addressed some of those.” 

Rudd then claimed: “First of all, the vast majority of people, around 84 per cent, get the money they are expecting on time. I want to continue the improvement on that. It wasn’t like that when it first started.

“I’ve been told that in this office, there were three people on the Friday before Christmas who were able to get advanced payments on their application that day.

“It was those elements, of getting the money into people’s hands earlier, which were critical to stop the growth in food banks.

“I regret the growth there has been in food banks and I hope that these changes will stop that.”

However, Rudd said she still believes Universal Credit “is a force for good”, that delivers “better outcomes for people” than the benefits it replaces. However, any advance in payment is subsequently deducted from the ongoing award, which means people are still not receiving payments for the first five weeks of their claim – the advance is a loan to cover the period where no support is awarded. Repayment of the advance is deducted from the amount people get monthly, when their award is finally made, often leaving people more short of money to make ends meet.

She said: “It offers what we seek it to offer, which is to be a safety net and also to help people into work, without the terribly huge tax rate that there used to be.”

She clearly needs to consider her use of the phrase “safety net” here, since many people claiming Universal Credit are unable to meet the costs of their most basic  needs. This has led to the rise of absolute poverty in the UK, at levels not seen since the 1930s. People not having enough to eat is an example of absolute poverty.

Rudd also said that she was struck by the ‘huge enthusiasm’ of Jobcentre staff in Longton.

However, surely what matters are the views of service users, rather than those administering it. After all, many a despotic regime has been administered by ‘enthusiastic’ jobsworths.

In November last year, the UK’s largest food bank network – the Trussell Trust -published figures showing a 13% increase in users between April and September 2018.

The charity attributed the rise to the minimum five-week wait for new Universal Credit claims before people they receive an initial payment.

Chief Executive Emma Revie commented: “We created systems like our national health service, fire service and benefits system because we’re a country that believes in protecting each other.

“Our benefits system is supposed to anchor any of us from being swept into poverty, but if Universal Credit is to do that, we need to see urgent changes.

“It’s not right that people are being forced to use food banks after weeks of waiting for Universal Credit payments.”

“We’re seeing soaring levels of need at food banks”, she added. “The time to act is now.”

“If the five-week wait isn’t reduced, the only way to stop even more people being forced to food banks this winter will be to pause all new claims to Universal Credit, until funding is in place to reduce the five week wait.

“Food banks cannot continue to pick up the pieces – we have to make sure our benefits system can protect people from hunger.”


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13 thoughts on “Amber Rudd admits link between Universal Credit and rise in people needing for food banks

  1. I guess I shouldn’t be snarky about her actually deigning to visit us at the coalface, but there are 8 YEARS OF FACTS FROM EVERY SOURCE SHE COULD POSSIBLY WANT AT HER FINGERTIPS!!!!

    Ahem. Excuse me.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Reblogged this on Declaration Of Opinion and commented:
    Amber Rudd’s tour of Job Centres will be totally pointless, she’ll only meet people that will tell her what she wants to hear, at the end of the process she’ll regurgitate the same “Universal Credit is working and unemployment is very low….blah blah” The usual disingenuous Tory mantras.


  3. universal credit is just a big stick to beat the peasants with whether in work or out it will break many has its a tool to control and take or cut your benefits never in history of the social security has there been such a meltdown of its humanity all part of the tory mantra aktion t4 culling the stock through benefits denial


  4. Having listened to the Health Sec this morning it sounds like the Tories are intending to introduce conditionality into the NHS
    ie: Blame patients for their own illness.


      1. Yes I remember reading it, I just thought it worth pointing out that it had reared it’s ugly head again.

        If they follow their DWP model on constitutionality they’ll be telling people suffering from Type 2 that unless they lose weight that their funding for drugs and insulin will be suspended for 3 months and if they should happen to die in the meantime then they only have themselves to blame and that patients must accept responsibility for their own actions. (yes I know that is hopefully an exaggeration, but how much of one we have yet to be told)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Healthcare has been increasingly rationed over the last few years. In a way, it’s a kind of perverse logic to try and justify that by blaming citizens’ behaviours, just as this government have done with welfare and every other public service that we all pay for. It’s monstrous., and has easily anticipated, hard to miss monstrous consequences. The government know exactly what they are doing. The only way to get health care that covers your needs will be to pay for it, very soon


    1. They already do that e.g. you can’t have a hip replacement in my area unless you’re below a BMI of 35. It’s extremely tough to lose weight if you’re mobility is severely compromised unless you starve yourself. Which means your health may be compromised going into a major operation.

      There are other examples with other operations and treatments.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. How much longer can these odious characters keep up their nasty and blatantly false pretence that their deliberately vindictive policies are “for the good”?


  6. Hope: “Not only is there a war on the poor, there is a war on truth and we are now living in a Tory Orwellian dystopia. The challenge isn’t just to survive until we can get rid of the Tories, it is to protect our minds and resist the onslaught against us, which would have us doubt empirical reality and common sense. One of the best ways to aid mental survival, is to spend time with nature, even if that means just looking out of the window. Nature is a whole lot more than a resource to be exploited, it is what gives us life and sustains us every moment of our lives. We each have an inalienable right to be here, by right of birth and nature. Whoever denies that is a monster and a waste of honest space. Whatever the Tories are doing, hold on to this thought, we are better than them, they are an abomination. That is the truth. Look in your heart and know it. That is not something that we need rationalise, it is a self evident truth, even though it takes courage and strength to hold on.”


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