Universal Credit is the cornerstone of Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms. His revolution began today with more of a whimper than a bang.
Politicians in Westminster have kicked off the new year with another row over statistics - this time about welfare.
Around 500,000 disabled people are 'expected to lose out' when the Disability Living Allowance is scrapped, a new report claimed today.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has defended the coalition's welfare reforms in the face of the latest onslaught from the church, insisting it was right to withdraw benefits from claimants who refused to look for work.
"At a time when we inherited this massive black hole in our public finances there is nothing fair about simply saying we are not going to deal with our debts, we are going to let our children and our grandchildren do it," he said, speaking on his weekly LBC radio phone-in.
"You inevitably can't duck the fact that some of those savings come from a quarter of total public spending.
"I have a huge amount of respect for Vincent Nichols, but I think that to say that the safety net has been removed altogether is an exaggeration, it is not right. We are trying to get the balance right."
Twenty-seven bishops said that politicians had a "moral imperative" to do more to control food price hikes and to make sure that the welfare system offered the poor an essential safety net from hunger.
– 27 Anglican bishops in a letter to the Mirror
We often hear talk of hard choices. Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must 'heat or eat' each winter, harder than those faced by families whose wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years.
Yet beyond even this we must, as a society, face up to the fact that over half of people using food banks have been put in that situation by cut backs to and failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions.
In a letter to the Mirror, they said: "Half a million people have visited food banks in the UK since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year."
Some 27 Anglican bishops and 16 other clergy have accused the coalition of creating hardship and hunger, according to the Mirror. The newspaper reported that Britain’s leading bishops denounce David Cameron’s welfare reforms for creating a “national crisis”.
In a letter to the Daily Mirror, the bishops and faith leaders said the PM has a “moral duty” to act on the growing number going hungry.
Twenty-six bishops have condemned the Government's "punitive" welfare reforms in an open letter to the Daily Mirror.
The bishops criticised the reforms which they say have forced people into food and fuel poverty.
The letter states that too many people are having to choose between "heat or eat" as a result of "cut backs and failures in the benefit system".
The Anglican bishops wrote:
– Letter sent by Anglican Bishops condemning welfare reforms
Half a million people have visited food banks in the UK since last Easter and 5,500 people were admitted to hospital in the UK for malnutrition last year.
We often hear talk of hard choices.
Surely few can be harder than that faced by the tens of thousands of older people who must 'heat or eat' each winter, harder than those faced by families whose wages have stayed flat while food prices have gone up 30% in just five years.
The Prime Minister has said he is giving the unemployed “new hope and responsibility” by cutting benefit payments and claims his welfare reforms, according to the Telegraph
The newspaper reported that David Cameron said it was part of a “moral mission” for the country.
Mr Cameron argues that the recent criticism of the changes by the Archbishop of Westminster is “simply not true”.
He said the overhaul of the benefits system, led by Iain Duncan Smith, was about “doing what is right” and not simply “making the numbers add up”.
David Cameron says he is giving the unemployed “new hope and responsibility” by cutting their benefit payments.
In an article for the Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister responds to Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, who said changes to the welfare system had left many in “hunger and destitution”.
In the article, Mr Cameron argues the Archbishop of Westminster’s criticism is “simply not true” and says the overhaul of the benefits system was about “doing what is right” and not simply “making the numbers add up”.
The leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Rev Vincent Nichols, has told Political Editor Tom Bradby he is in "no doubt the social security system to be reformed".
But added: "At the moment, there are people who are left in destitution and hunger and in a country as intelligent and resourceful and as affluent as ours, I believe they are problems we should tackle."
The most prominent cleric in England and Wales, Vincent Nichols, has slammed the government's welfare reforms, which he says have caused a "real dramatic crisis" for people in need.
The Archbishop of Westminster said the system of social assistance has become "more and more punitive".
"So if applicants don’t get it right then they have to wait and they have to wait for 10 days, for two weeks with nothing - with nothing," he added.
The Archbishop has been chosen among 18 other senior clerics from around the world to serve in the Vatican's conclave, which will elect the next Pope.
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales said the government's austerity measures have left people facing "hunger or destitution" which is "quite frankly, a disgrace."
Archbishop Vincent Nichols told The Daily Telegraph that the public accepted a need "to tighten our belts" but added that the Coalition had destroyed "the basic safety net."
"People do understand that we do need to tighten our belts and be much more responsible and careful in public expenditure," Nichols said.
But he said the welfare system had become more unwieldy for those who need it most, calling the changes "a disgrace".
The Government would like to restrict benefits to migrants for longer after they arrive. Labour agree in principle.
Labour want jobseekers to make sure they have the qualifications to actually get a job. The Government have a scheme in place.
They both want the system simplified along the lines of the Universal Credit.
All the fighting seems to be over the timing and the implementation of these measures.
Both Iain Duncan Smith and Rachel Reeves know that the electorate care deeply about fairness in the benefits system.
A recent YouGov/Sunday Times poll found that restricting migrants' benefits was the single most popular policy suggested to voters.
So watch out for more tough talk on welfare.