Iain Duncan Smith has claimed that Universal Credit “saved lives” during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking to the i newspaper, the former Tory leader, who brought in controversial changes to the welfare scheme as work and pensions secretary, said the system has been an undoubted success – and insisted the reforms should go further.
He said it transformed the “horror show” of the legacy benefit system, and could have saved lives during the pandemic.
“The biggest test of all came when Covid hit and universal credit saved lives,” he told i.
“I am not just saying that pompously. Why? Because they [benefit recipients] got their money, they would have been hidden away at home, nobody would have known what was happening to them. Over a million people went onto it in the first few weeks and it didn’t break down, universal credit coped.”
In 2018, a UN rapporteur warned that drastic cuts to social support and welfare risked damaging the very fabric of British society in a special report.
Philip Alston said the UK Government’s policies are entrenching high levels of poverty and inflicting unnecessary misery in one of the richest countries in the world.
He concluded that the benefits system, epitomised by Universal Credit, is driven by the desire to get across a simple set of messages that the state “no longer has your back” and that “you are on your own”.
He said: “What goes along with that is a sense that we should make the system as unwelcoming as possible.
“That people who need benefits should be reminded constantly that they are lucky to get anything.
“That nothing will be made easy” and “that sanctions should be harsh, should be immediate and should be painful”.
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