‘Draconian’ Universal Credit using vulnerable people as ‘guinea pigs’ and ‘wreaking havoc with lives’, says controversial UN rep

UNIVERSAL Credit is treating vulnerable people like guinea pigs and wreaking havoc in people’s lives, a controversial UN representative has blasted.

In a damning new report, Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on poverty, said the new flagship benefits system was ruining Brits’ mental health, finances and work prospects.

Philip Alston, an expert on ‘extreme poverty’, was damning in his conclusions about Universal Credit
AFP – Getty

After a probe into poverty in the UK, he said the Government was in denial about the impact of benefit cuts – and said that leaving the EU could make things even worse.

“Government policies have inflicted great misery unnecessarily” on the working poor, single mothers, the disabled and children, he stormed.

He said today: “The government could solve this, the money is there, but they choose not to”. He blasted ministers as in denial and don’t see any problems”.

After taking a 12-day tour of the UK, the UN rep looked at Brexit, Universal Credit, cuts to local services and employment.

The roll out of Universal Credit has been beset with problems
Alamy

But critics said he shouldn’t be focusing on Britain – and should be looking at poverty in third world areas instead.

The Australian professor went to Ireland in 2011 too.

Tory MPs insisted the plans were a waste of time and money because the UK is one of the richest countries in the world.

But today he claimed that one FIFTH of Britain live in poverty – and 1.5million are destitute and cannot afford basics.

In a lengthy report he concluded: “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach…

“As the country moves toward Brexit, the Government should adopt policies designed to ensure that the brunt of the resulting economic burden is not borne by its most vulnerable citizens.”

He was particularly damning about the new flagship benefits system, which roles six payments into one.

The new flagship benefits system, Universal Credit, has been blamed for pushing Brits into poverty
Getty Images – Getty

“It is fast falling into Universal Discredit,” he said, saying the DWP were more interested in “economic savings and sending messages about lifestyles” than genuinely helping people.

“Recipients are immediately plunged into further debt and inevitably struggle mightily to survive,” he said.

“Many claimants also feel that they are forced to jump through hoops for the sake of it, fill out pointless job applications for positions that do not match their qualifications, and take inappropriate low-paid, temporary work just to avoid debilitating sanctions.

“One Conservative Party MP with whom I spoke criticised DWP for adopting a military-style command and control approach.”

All the places Universal Credit is coming to in November

Hundreds of Brits have said they are struggling under the new system, and say they have been pushed in to debt for the long wait for payment.

One in six Brits are still not getting their first benefits payment on time, new figures revealed this week.

Mr Alston blasted the “draconian” sanctions regime for small errors and said the test and learn approach was treating “vulnerable people like guinea pigs and wreak havoc in real peoples’ lives”.

The digital-focus of Universal Credit was a key part of that, he added, which fails highly vulnerable Brits.

The hardest hit are women, children, people with disabilities and pensioners, Mr Alston said.

John Dickie, the Director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in Scotland said today: “The Rapporteur’s findings should be a wake-up call for government at every level.
“UK Ministers now need to wake up to the damage being wreaked and end the freeze on working age benefits, scrap the two child limit and fully restore the value of universal credit.”


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