If you go on Facebook and search for Universal Credit Survival you will find a community of 100,000 people helping each other to deal with the DWP and the new world of welfare that has arrived with U.C.
There are groups giving excellent, speedy advice on every aspect of UC, transition and the old benefits. Doctors, lawyers journalists, bloggers and ex DWP staff are all there saying the system is flawed, dysfunctional, a hostile environment for the most in need, responsible for suicides, countless family tragedies and increasing poverty.
The Universal Credit Claimants Union is there too. We will give you advice and support, help you make phone calls and connect you with other claimants.
But most of all we, claimants like you and supporters who cannot stand back and let it go on, are dedicated to changing the system for the better, or shutting it down. Unlike a Facebook group – easy to join, a great place to talk, shout and get help but ultimately powerless – the UCCU gives our voices the solidarity to hold politicians to account, to maintain the pressure and to force implementation. We are growing slowly but steadily and, as soon as we can, we will see the end of this shameful episode in British politics.
After a second day of strike action by Jobcentre workers in Walsall and Wolverhampton the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) is consulting workers at other sites about expanding the strike.
However, response by claimants online has been mixed and it’s easy to see why. In his speech on the strike, the PCS’s General Secretary said “Our members… work to support some of the most vulnerable members of society”. This disappears the role Jobcentre workers have in making claimants lives’ worse and the vast numbers of normal people being made vulnerable by Universal Credit. Further singling out “concerns over staffing and under investment” he implies that Universal Credit is fixable by Government if it responds to the Union’s demands.
This doesn’t reflect the reality of our lives. Many of us experience Jobcentre workers as oppressors, not martyrs. None of the five demands of the PCS will have a critical impact on this. Universal Credit itself is a tightening of the stranglehold Government has over the poor and a massive step backwards for the lives of claimants.
Until unions start demanding an end to or total restructuring of Universal Credit they must expect their strikes to be seen for what they are: self serving and meaningless demands for reform from those enacting the policies we despise.
“Although the United Kingdom is the world’s fifth largest economy, one fifth of its population (14 million people) live in poverty, and 1.5 million of them experienced destitution in 2017. Policies of austerity introduced in 2010 continue largely unabated, despite the tragic social consequences. Close to 40 per cent of children are predicted to be living in poverty by 2021. Food banks have proliferated; homelessness and rough sleeping have increased greatly; tens of thousands of poor families must live in accommodation far from their schools, jobs and community networks; life expectancy is falling for certain groups; and the legal aid system has been decimated.
The social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities’ budgets, which have eliminated many social services, reduced policing services, closed libraries in record numbers, shrunk community and youth centres and sold off public spaces and buildings. The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos. A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.” – Summary of the UN Report.
A report published by Human Rights Watch 18 hours ago documents the danger that families and children will “fall through the net.” It records:
– a 5,146% increase in emergency food parcels (2008-2018) – a 44% cut in welfare spending (2010-2018) – More than 14 million foodbank meals eaten in the last 12 months
It further states the UK Government is ignoring the recommendations of three UN committees and the British Institute of Human Rights and “has yet to fully acknowledge its own responsibility… for the hunger crisis”.