One rule for some and another for MPs (the most egregious example ever?)

As most of us are aware, a new claimant on Universal Credit has to wait at least six (6) weeks before their first payment. Given the majority of UC claimants are unlikely to be wealthy, or even able to cope with waiting for well over a month before being paid, the outcome is frequently that they are driven into rent arrears and debt, not to mention the emotional strain of being placed in such a position.

In one of the excellent ‘number crunching’ mini-features in a recent Private Eye which I spotted today this appalling situation was contrasted with the fact that a new MP waits a maximum of one (1) week before they meet ‘…a “dedicated independent parliamentary standards authority election contact”, [are] provided with a salary advance and shown how to claim housing costs in advance.’ (PE, 1455, p.11).

Given MPs are hardly likely to be short of money – indeed many would be classed as well off, and a good number who voted for and continue to support UC could be classed as rich – and all of them are likely to come from a background where monthly salary and budgeting is the norm, I found myself pondering whether this might be one of the most egregious examples of one law for the well-off and another for the poor I’ve ever come across.

The ultimate cost in misery, penury, ill health and premature death of Universal Credit will eventually become a public policy scandal the like of which we’ve seldom seen (and that’s saying something). In the meantime, my capacity to be shocked by the pure selfishness and self interest of politicians – by which I largely mean those on the right – which I took to be pretty much exhausted after so many years of Tory rule, has now hit subterranean levels!


  1. Peter May -

    Agree entirely – these Tories are cruel as well as ignorant. There is some horrifying stuff on welfare conditionality here:
    “Conditionality is often counter-productive in operating to push people further away from, rather than closer to, the paid labour market. For the participants in my study, sanctions often meant that individuals were busy looking for food rather than work, or ended up so hungry and physically emaciated that they were quickly discounted as unemployable by prospective employers. Further, the negative impact sanctions – and their threat – had on individuals’ mental health and self-confidence also affected participants’ ‘work readiness’.”
    So it doesn’t even work for either employer or employee.
    Polly Toynbee has also written on the latest IFS figures
    “When 37% of children are brought up poor, that’s a national humiliation”. It is.
    We are just storing up enormous problems for the future.

    1. Ivan Horrocks -

      Indeed, Peter. But with all eyes on Brexit, and it sucking up any public servant with intelligence, most other stuff can go hang. For example, the impending staffing shortage disaster in the NHS, which if we have a cold winter will collapse. Of that there’s no doubt.

  2. Graham -

    I have nothing but contempt for Tories. Since Thatcher they truly have been the nasty party, with some very unpleasant individuals in their ranks, happy to vote in punitive measures while enjoying a very lucrative living and looking forward to a gold plated retirement. I’m afraid Labour and not much better.

    What amazes me is that people vote for them.

  3. Sean Danaher -

    Indeed Ivan
    there was a Tory I think on PM justifying the delay as it was just like the real world of work when you are paid at the end of the month; hence have to wait for your first pay cheque. The callousness of the Tories seems to know no bounds. How long will it be before the phrase “undeserving poor” makes a return

    1. Ivan Horrocks -

      Sean, I can still remember moving from weekly paid employment to my first monthly paid job and how difficult it was. It was common practice then for employers to advance two weeks wages to help people in such a situation. It may still be of course, though given the callous nature of many 21st century employers perhaps not. That said, no Tory would be aware of such an arrangement, much less experieced it, and probably not that many Labour politicians either. And in the case of Tories it wouldn’t matter anyway as the six week waiting period is solely there as another punishment measure for those who they deem unworthy and contemptuous.

  4. Peter May -

    Absolutely agree. Used to be an employer and I’m old enough that things were not computerised so as I used to do wages by hand I refused to do them more than once a month! But of course I advanced money to anyone who, having previously been paid weekly, found it difficult. Indeed this often continued for two or three months till they got into the new scheme of things. But when you’re on BENEFITS waiting SIX weeks must be disastrous. And appalingly advances are subject to interest. I would never have even considered that. What’s the motivation? The Tories clearly consider all the poor as feckless but the fact that they themselves have inherited wealth or struck lucky they consider entirely demonstrative of their own superior abilities….
    And it doesn’t work – see my ‘conditionality’ comment above…

  5. Neil Robertson -

    The consequences for claimants of this badly designed system are indeed catastrophic. I regard the impact on children as particularly dangerous and unfair. Education could be the route to a better life for children, but how can a child focus on school when they are worried about where they are going to live and where the next meal is going to come from? Also, bringing up children in a stressed and miserable environment is storing up mental health issues. As ever with conservative policies they attempt to save money in the short term at a greater cost to the whole system (although with the conservatives in power this will not translate to more money spent – just more services failing)

  6. Mo Stewart -

    The adoption of Universal Credit is just another in a long list of welfare reforms as the UK’s welfare state is gradually demolished and replaced with a replica of the American social security system, with the uptake of private income replacement insurance as the public learn that benefits are no longer guaranteed. An American corporate insurance giant have been advising the UK government on ‘welfare claims management’ since 1992.

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