The Greater Manchester Law Centre (GMLC), have announced their refusal to assist the implementation of Universal Credit. Instead, they support calls to stop the roll-out. They state: “If Universal Credit is so convoluted and ineffective that voluntary sector organisations are relied upon, then it should not be implemented at all”.
GMLC say that a local Job Centre approached them even before introduction of Universal Credit to request that they provide computers and supervisors to help people to access the scheme. GMLC responded: “This is not the role of the voluntary sector. We will not be complicit in a scheme which results in further adversity and punishment for vulnerable people”.
“We therefore refuse to offer Universal Credit services and we demand that its roll-out is stopped”.
As reported in the Manchester Evening News, Greater Manchester’s Mayor, public sector bosses and MPs have also demanded an immediate halt to the policy. Experts have highlighted a series of serious problems with the system, including a minimum six-week wait for payments to be processed. Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell said she was “dreading” its expansion, describing the system as “chaotic and broken”.
GMLC opened in August 2016 with premises in Moss Side. They currently specialise in welfare benefit claims, and in their first year, they helped clients with lost benefits to claim back £370,000. Their recent AGM outlined their plans for strategic litigation, which means using legal cases to challenge and change welfare policy.
Universal Credit has long been a troubled policy, with chaos embedded within its rollout from the beginning. Initially projected to cost between £2-3bn, it has since ballooned to over £12bn and now over its lifetime is estimated at over £15bn. The government has, during this time, sought to conceal costs before elections, hide failures from the public, re-figured their own ratings on the advancement of the project (avoiding a ‘red’ rating – the lowest – instead creating a new ‘reset’ rating), Iain Duncan Smith, the previous Work and Pensions Secretary, has mis-lead Parliament on the extent of write-offs or called them ‘common sense’ and damaging staff surveys previously revealed poor management, high stress and frustration.
Despite warnings from charities and advocacy groups that the scheme will create more poverty, suicides and evictions, and calls from Conservative Ministers themselves to halt the scheme, it is being pursued aggressively by David Gauke, Work and Pensions Secretary, who cites the policy as ‘compassionate’ and states the flaws are fixed while Liz Truss says Universal Credit ‘is working.’
Previously the Conservative government has undertaken welfare policy which it was aware was faulty, and likely to cause more harm than good – such as workfare, which the government’s own report revealed did not lead to gainful employment and could in fact hinder claimants from finding work. The policy also repressed wages, despite the government mantra of ‘Making work pay.’ The Financial Times reported in March that the UK was alone amongst advanced countries, in seeing economic growth and wage contraction; ‘In most other countries, including France and Germany, both the economy and wages have grown,’ but while more people are in work in the UK, it is for lower pay.
Further, the UN recently stated UK government cuts had created a ‘human catastrophe’ for disabled people.