The boss of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) got a rude awakening on Wednesday 14 October. Because she was demolished live on TV. And the host left her no wriggle room to escape criticism of the Tories’ jobs support response to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The DWP boss: dodgy as…
Work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey was on Sky News. Host Kay Burley was asking her about government coronavirus schemes and also Universal Credit. The latter is the contentious social security payment that rolls six previous benefits into one. It’s hit the headlines a lot during the pandemic.
Burley was probing Coffey on whether the government’s Job Support Scheme paid enough for someone to live on.
Could you live on £5.84 an hour?
The National reported that this amount is what a person usually earning minimum wage would get on the government’s Job Support Scheme. As The Canary previously reported, this is the scheme where government pays 67% of someone’s wages. It means the person will lose the other 33% unless their employer makes up the shortfall.
Like the good Tory minister she is, Coffey repeatedly dodged the question. She swerved to bringing up Universal Credit:
if people have potentially that level of income coming in, then they can turn to Universal Credit. They may be eligible for that
Burley was straight back to £5.84:
My question is, could you live on that?
Coffey got increasingly flustered. She argued that Universal Credit would “top that up”. But Burley came back at her again. She clearly knew that on Universal Credit, some freelancers are having a nightmare. As Vice noted, it’s a “shitty reality” due to the benefit not paying enough. So, Burley was at Coffey again – ultimately leaving her with nowhere to go:
— SkyNews (@SkyNews) October 14, 2020
It’s little wonder Coffey was stumbling. Because government support for people losing their jobs is turning into a shambles.
Social security shambles
would only replace a fifth of the newly unemployed worker’s lost income.
But that’s not been the only problem with the welfare system during the pandemic.
The government has not helped people on old style social security at all. That’s those on, for example, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). The Tories have increased Universal Credit by around £20 a week. But they’ve not done the same for ESA or JSA.
Thrown under the bus. Again.
As of February 2020, 1.9 million people claimed ESA. But the government has given these people no extra help. 1.6 million of these claimants are sick and/or disabled. Much like the much-criticised Coronavirus Act which has removed parts of people’s social care entitlement, the government has left these people to fend for themselves. Meanwhile, it’s ploughed billions into businesses and some, but not all, workers.
As is often the case, sick and disabled people are wilfully at the bottom of government priorities. Low-paid workers are struggling, and will continue to struggle on Universal Credit. The government should not abandon these people. But nor should it support them while ignoring the situation for millions of sick and disabled people. A government’s role is to support all its citizens. Not just those who it thinks are worthy.