The National Audit Office has today published a landmark report into the process of accessing your first Universal Credit claim. The report – which you can read in full here – shows that £1 in every £10 was spent incorrectly; that Universal Credit exacerbates debt and hardship rather than supports people; that the system fails the most vulnerable claimants; and that implementation costs increased by a staggering £1.4bn. This is a catalogue of incompetence, and further independent evidence behind Labour’s position to replace Universal Credit. We need a system that is there for everyone, which alleviates rather than causes poverty, and which works. I will not let this shambles continue. This was The Independent’s verdict.

I remain very concerned about the potential for unemployment to rise, and the tough action that must be taken to prevent this. Read my profile interview with Heather Stewart of the Guardian here.

I was pleased to speak to Sky News calling for sector specific support, and flexibility in the furlough scheme. You can watch the clip here. In it, I express my particular concern for our theatres and creative industries. I am relieved that the Government has now listened and announced a support package, but we must make sure this truly reaches the organisations which need it the most.

At DWP Questions, I noted that punitive sanctions and conditions relating to Universal Credit support had been suspended so far throughout the Covid-19 crisis as DWP staff work hard to process an unprecedented number of new claims, and called on the Secretary of State to announce an immediate extension of the suspension. Processing claims effectively should continue to be the priority as more and more jobs come under threat, not finding ways to penalise people who are struggling. Sadly the Coffey failed to step up, and my mailbag is now filling up again with fears over arbitrary and unjust sanctions once again blighting claimants’ lives. With schools not yet fully back and summer holidays imminent, it makes no sense to leave children hungry by punishing parents who are currently unable to look for jobs.

I also asked about the benefit cap. The Government says the purpose of the cap is to make people work more hours or move to cheaper housing. Neither is currently possible for many. Why on earth are they persisting with a policy which denies struggling families the level of support the DWP itself thinks is necessary? You can watch the exchange here.

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