The accumulated pain and suffering of those caught within the benefit system is so constant that you can only conclude that it is failing. That modernisation of the system that brings aid and help to those in need is often baloney.
Manchester, Leicester, Lincoln, Edinburgh, Glasgow, wherever I have travelled since the summer you run into desperate stories. If you read the liberal-inclined papers you’ll get even more. Universal Credit (UC) is the name of the game, yet even outside the zones where UC is being tried out in, there is a malaise over the benefit.
Iain Duncan Smith, often shortened to IDS, the driving force behind UC, should be calling on the abandonment of it. He should be saying that his experiment that was meant to give people needing social security a clearer, supportive system, when applied to the terrain of society itself, is hurting and harming and outraging those who need benefit; and outraging those who cannot stand idly by and watch it tear people to pieces.
The big issue seems to turn on the fact that you can wait six to eight weeks to get on the system. And in four per cent of cases, as long as 10 weeks. That actual ease of working for a short time, then being able to go back on benefit without delay, was its intended saving grace. Or seemed to be when touted about among concerned users and supporters of those in need.
If this system is so foolproof, so big on social opportunity – in fact turning social security into social opportunity itself – then bring us the evidence
The incredible costs of delivering £1 of social support, and the complexity of its delivery, was one of the reasons why many welcomed UC. It seemed that you could work for a while and then go with ease back on to benefit. It seemed that they were going to mentor you out of the depressing social disengagement that often is the backdrop of long-term unemployment. They were going to allow you to take part-time, short-term work and with that grow back into confidence and self-development.
You would have a universal benefit and not the sea of complexity of form-filling and pettifogging over-bureaucracy to wade through. But try getting hold of the Department for Work and Pensions to talk through your case – and until last week, you’d have been paying for the helpline – and you’ll be left hanging.