We recently heard that on the anniversary of the introduction of Universal Credit the Dundee DWP office dressed in blue and had celebratory cake. The thought of celebrating something that has caused so many people so much misery ought to be enough to make any cake stick in the throat, but this sort of corporate bonding event is designed to instil everyone involved with the organisation’s values, and to break down the barriers that separate their private life from their work life and protect their moral compass.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Universal Credit continues to provide further nasty surprises. A few weeks back we were talking to someone who is on Universal Credit and waiting for a Work Capability Assessment to see if he is eligible for the Limited Capability for Work component – the equivalent of ESA for people who are in the Universal Credit system. He told us that he is having to sign monthly at the jobcentre. This didn’t seem right, as people in that position who have applied for ESA are left alone and simply have to supply regular doctor’s notes. However, when we checked with the nice people at the Child Poverty Action Group they explained that, under Universal Credit, someone waiting for their assessment can be given all sorts of things to do, including job search. It is the DWP that decides what is reasonable to expect in their circumstances, and they are subject to the full sanction regime if they don’t comply. (In this particular case the jobcentre weren’t demanding more than the regular signing – but that was just as well as our friend had already waited 15 months for his assessment and had still not been given a date.)