Towards a Deeper Understanding of the UK’s Universal Credit Chaos – John Gelmini

English: Iain Duncan Smith, British politician...

English: Iain Duncan Smith, British politician and former leader of the Conservative Party. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thank Dr Alf for reblogging the Guardian article entitled “Universal Credit staff describe chaos behind scenes of flagship Tory reform”. From my perspective and deep subjective experience, I see matters slightly differently.

Duncan Smith’s idea for consolidating a plethora of benefits into 1 is deceptively attractive and is based on the assumption that benefit recipients are as a group capable of money management on a monthly basis in the same way as middle class people of working age who might be readers of the Guardian and the Telegraph or the other broadsheet newspapers.

The reality, as I have seen from my late father’s experiences of letting to such people over a period spanning the last 35 years, is very different.

Benefits are at the moment paid fortnightly, usually on a Monday which means that benefit recipients think in terms of 4 week periods rather than calendar months which the working population uses.

Benefit recipients frequently waste money on drink, cigarettes and various forms of wasteful expenditure such as lottery tickets and can be seen on weekdays guzzling beer outside the local Witherspoon public house whenever it is a hot or dry day or when their bank accounts have been credited with benefits.

This is a scene I often witness whenever I go to the bank, walk past the local Jobcentre and see these people in Letchworth, Hertfordshire spending their money.

Similar scenes can be witnessed all over the country, so there is nothing unique about my experience.

The amounts of benefit are small and the “cash in hand ” jobs that some of these people used to do to illegally top up their money now tend to go to harder working immigrants.

With fortnightly payments, these people can just about manage to scrape by but tougher rules on crisis loans have driven about 3 million of these people into the hands of predatory doorstep lenders such as Provident PLC and more recently Wonga which Justin Welby ,the present Archbishop of Canterbury wants to take on with credit unions of his own.

What will happen with the present and future benefit cuts if they are not combined with aggressive measures to generate jobs, increase exports and inward investment, enterprise and the means to pay for more modern infrastructure, high-speed broadband,is that benefit recipients will get into rent arrears,become homeless eat at Food Banks and turn to petty crime.

This will mean rents will not be paid and landlords will simply not rent to these people which will in turn increase rents in the private sector as there is no more building of any scale going on.

Dr Alf rightly cites all the faults with the delivery of Universal Credit along with a history of omnishambles, bungling and incompetence across a range of Government programs and procurement which in some cases I think is a deliberate attempt to create problems which can then be exploited.

Even with proper project management, a flawlessly executed roll-out plan and transitional relief from the Treasury Universal Credit will fail because Benefit Recipients will fail to budget and do not think like the rest of the population who have to try and pay their way.

Ian Duncan Smith is a religious and honorable man with good intentions but even with his military experience as an Army Officer he does not understand the true mindset and modus operandi of Benefit Recipents or the practicalities of renting via private landlords with local authorities involved. Often this involves local authorities deliberately keeping rents down to uneconomic levels thus creating a yawning gap between what the landlord needs to maintain the property properly and what the landlord actually gets.This simply encourages landlords to evict these people and only rent to working tenants who are usually much less trouble.

Eviction of non paying tenants under the present system and under Universal Credit is biased towards tenants because local authorities will not rehouse Benefit Recipients in receipt of Housing Benefit until the landlord has obtained a possession order,something which can take up to 1 year.

Universal Credit legislation does not address this problem and all the Universal Credit pilots show an 80% increase in rent arrears can be expected which will lead to homelessness and the need for more food banks.

Since the Knights of Malta announced a major initiative along with the Trussell Trust to build more food banks in the UK and Europe during the inception of these Universal Credit pilots,the timing to me looks strangely propitious.

Lord Freud, the former City grandee, who advised the Government on this and the Work Programme understands them even less.

Strangely enough, it was another grandee ,George Osborne,the Chancellor who expressed doubts about Universal Credit and the ability of Benefit Recipients to budget. He was overruled by David Cameron who took Duncan Smith’s side in a series of furious rows.

The chickens, as they say, will come home to roost along with all the unwanted consequences.

John Gelmini


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2 responses

  1. Pingback: Opinion:Duncan Smith’s fury as Church’s advert campaign says benefit cuts are forcing poor to food banks ex Mail Online-John Gelmini « Dr Alf's Blog

  2. Pingback: Why Universal Credit was always Doomed – John Gelmini « Dr Alf's Blog

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