Why I support IDS’ universal credit system

3:41 pm - October 17th 2010

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contribution by Richard Shrubb

Tory Minister for Work and Pensions Ian Duncan Smith announced his plans for a Universal Credit “which will restore fairness and simplicity to a complex, outdated and wildly expensive benefits system.”

As a recipient of disability benefits I am in full agreement with him – the system I went through was unfair and prevented you from going back to work. I was on the taxable equivalent of £18000 annually when in recovery from my disability, and even with a MA in the field could not hope to get an equal income from work.

Up to the point of wanting to take the next steps from recovery to rehabilitation, this was great. But being penalised for wanting work? I don’t love my country enough to get stuffed for going to work!

You were allowed to work 16 hours a week. Beyond that you’d permanently lose your benefits. Being prevented from going to work by financial penalty was a real block to those like me who started to feel more active as the ravages of mental illness waned.

The alternative to out of work benefits is a £50 a week pay cut and Working Tax Credits. I switched and came close to bankruptcy. Even the changeover hurt – I had zero income for a month as I applied. Business being what it is, your income goes from hero to zero week to week.

Under the Tax Credit regime as long as your annual profit is below £6000 then you get full payment. If you’d girded your loins and come off IS as the business went belly up? You’d be in a real mess, as was I – you need a financial safety net which wasn’t provided in the system.

Meaningful occupation is key to someone’s recovery. Often the damaged mind is brighter than average, and needs occupation to prevent it from chewing itself apart. I ended up drinking out of boredom after a 10 month spell of sobriety.

Yet the rules as they stood gave you a maximum of 16 hours of voluntary work. You’d end up supporting a community group and the hours you work can be far beyond that. They’d have to fundraise to get you any income and that is only if you reached the top. Essentially you’d be better off for being a sponger than to support the community.

Changes to the system often benefit the ‘obvious disabilities’. The wheelchair user, the blind etc. Politicians often rewrite the rules to discriminate against those with ‘hidden disabilities’ such as serious mental illness or high functioning autism (I have both).

You can walk and talk, why are you disabled? ‘Because I cannot read your body language and I am paranoid about what I don’t understand.’

The change from Income Support to Employment Support Allowance has made it more difficult to have such a disability recognised. A word of warning – though the system may think it is being helpful to those with disabilities it can see, there may well be issues for those with disabilities it cannot. That will only be seen on roll out, as the ESA system has proved.

Richard Shrubb is a health and social care journalist. www.richardshrubb.co.uk

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Reader comments

How did this post get through the automated despise-everything-the-coalition-does-and-oppose-every-cut filter….?


Yawn, go join the LDV circle wank on nappies if you can’t handle criticism – http://bit.ly/aOyzAJ

With regard to the universal credit, it hasn’t actually been explained how it will be implemented; the idea of “making work pay” is obviously sound and Labour attempted to do this with tax credits. And specifically there is DLA to help pay for the extra cost of being disabled which is paid regardless of income.

But how can the system be made much simpler and still recognise peoples different situations and needs. It seems to me either this will end up a re-branding exercise or more likely an excuse to cut out of work benefits.


Are you having fantasies about Lib Dems wanking off into a circle? You poor, poor deluded man. Take a lie down.

We don’t know yet what the new system will be. It may be good, it may not. It may have the potential to be good but not be implemented well. We’ll have to wait and see. But the economy is the most important thing and we need to get that right first. If there are no jobs a new welfare system geared to get people back to work becomes a bit pointless. and expensive. I can’t see a load of private sector jobs being magically created by the coalition’s plans

“I was on the taxable equivalent of £18000 annually when in recovery from my disability, ”

So some of your income was from DLA – which you are still eligible for in employment if your needs require it. I do understand that you can became worse of in work though and had a gap of no income which any new system would need to address.

“Meaningful occupation is key to someone’s recovery.”

This is very often the case but not always. I suffer from a fairly invisible condition too of PTSD and that includes chronic fatigue. My mind is very fragile and I seek appropriate treatment to keep me stable and at home, out of hospital. But that is my limit – I am simply not up to any kind of work and that kind of pressure would lead to breakdown. I do the best I can to keep going. I wouldn’t turn to drink out of boredom because there isn’t enough space in my over-stimulated mind (as a result of chronic trauma) to get bored. I think there is a high chance of me coming a cropper due to the overly stringent ESA test which I will be due in time.

I wish you well in your work and your recovery.

Looks like blanco has given up on writing interesting and intelligent comments entirely.

Yeah, shock horror we agree with certain Coalition policies. So far we’ve expressed support for their plans or rehabilitating prisoners, on civil liberties, on increasing the income tax threshold at the bottom, and now this. Looks like you don’t bother reading properly blanco.

The shock was your willingness to turn off your brain and start cheerleading for the comrades.

They are the party that voted to attack Iraq. The party that wanted to send gunships to help Israel fuck over the Palestinians. The party of Andy Indigenous Burnham and Phil Woolas.

Do you really think that this gang of warmongers, bigots and control freaks deserve your partisan support?

I think I speak for a lot of LC readers when I say you’re better than this Sunny.

In principle I think IDS is about right and one of my criticisms of Labour (and one of the reasons it lost the election) was that many working people, or people who wanted to work, saw Labour under Brown ignore them as it focused on alleviating poverty instead of supporting workers.

In practice we have yet to see how this would really work and what it will mean for those genuinely in need. But it is at least a sensible direction to start out in.

@PDF Hear hear.

Newbie’s comments. You do need a break. I took 5 years out but after the first two started to wind back into action. I said that you need a break in my first Lib Con post at the below link


As to the comments of ‘oppose, oppose, oppose’? Tony Blair’s best attack prior to his landslide in 97 was to support where support was due and nail them where they went wrong. We need to support where support is due and my feeling is that this is one of those.

Where I differ from this policy of support where support is due is the restriction of Legal Aid, which is making legal redress the preserve of the rich. I can’t support Milliband’s views on this, but he is going the best way – attacking where attacking is due!

@PDF – go fuck yourself you moron.

Blanco – I see you’re talking to yourself again? Don’t think I don’t know that PDF and ‘BNPlite’ and other names are yours.

In principle a universal credit is a good idea that will simplify the benefit system immensely with administration savings and benefits to claimants.

In practice, there are 2 main issues I have:

1. Can a universal credit take people’s differing circumstances into account when determining their benefits?

2. (My major issue) Is there going to be a single national rate of benefit that does not take differences in housing situation and local housing costs into account? If it does not, this is yet another Coalition attack on the working poor in London and the South East who will be big, big losers from the policy by not being given sufficient money to afford rents to live south of Birmingham (especially as social housing is being phased out)

I too agree with IDS’ aims of simplifying the system and making it easier to get into work.
However, it is pointless to train and motivate claimants to seek work, and to facilitate their passage into said employment if there is no bleeding work out there for them to take up.

A simple measure would transform benefits from being a dead dole into a vibrant boost to the green sector of the economy.

Details here: http://bit.ly/9ANF3M



I very much agree with your comments. I have fibromyalgia with many associated symptoms (pain, chronic fatigue and a whole host of others) plus agoraphobia. Not everybody is able to work 16 hours a week. Why this ridiculous cut-off? I have emailed ministers time and time again about this. Some people may only be able to manage 3 or 4 hours a week on a good week. So what? They are still working and why should people with invisible and/or fluctuating conditions be discriminated against? Or those who can only work less than 16 hours a week? We have a system in place already for those people. It’s called Permitted Work (formerly Therapeutic Work) in recognition that some disabled people need to do a bit of work. But there’s always this assumption that people have to move back into full-time work and that is too simplistic

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Why I support IDS' universal credit system http://bit.ly/bI4qrV

  2. Sean McHale

    RT @libcon: Why I support IDS' universal credit system http://bit.ly/bI4qrV

  3. Debbie Derring

    Why I support IDS' universal credit system | Liberal Conspiracy: Under the Tax Credit regime as long as your annua… http://bit.ly/d4Z8vE

  4. Eric James

    http://bit.ly/credlt Why I support IDS' universal credit system | Liberal Conspiracy: Under the Tax Credit regime … http://bit.ly/dn6r5P

  5. Chris Jones

    http://bit.ly/credlt Why I support IDS' universal credit system | Liberal Conspiracy: Under the Tax Credit regime … http://bit.ly/dn6r5P

  6. Susan Rosen

    Why I support IDS' universal credit system | Liberal Conspiracy: The alternative to out of work benefits is a £50 … http://bit.ly/8ZqJL9

  7. theChristophe

    RT @libcon: Why I support IDS' universal credit system http://bit.ly/bI4qrV

  8. Naadir Jeewa

    Reading: Why I support IDS’ universal credit system: contribution by Richard Shrubb
    Tory Minister for Work and Pen… http://bit.ly/cAOvLu

  9. Oxford Kevin

    A demonstration that I am not purely tribal. I think this piece at LibCon supporting a proposal by IDS makes sense. http://bit.ly/bI4qrV

  10. sarah ismail

    Why I support IDS’ universal credit system | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/RgvCgZ2 via @libcon

  11. Richard Shrubb

    Latest post on Liberal Conspiracy


  12. Free to Live

    Why I support IDS’ universal credit system – http://ping.fm/GjCVv

  13. Jackart

    The first "I support the coalition" piece at Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/9VfDjn IDS will be the country's saviour, it's that important

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