This week a war of words has emerged between Michelle Ballantyne, MSP for South Scotland, and Danielle Rowley, MP for Midlothian, regarding Universal Credit (UC).
Speaking in the Daily Record link, Ms. Rowley spoke about alleged ‘deflection tactics’ used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after she claimed that the organisation responsible for issuing benefits have given their call centre staff ‘scripts’ to read from.
When Danielle Rowley complained the DWP wouldn’t let her see these scripts the DWP highlighted this was because they don’t exist.
Ms. Rowley insists that this is not the case. In the Daily Record she commented:
“It’s ironic that in asking the DWP to reveal the deflection tactics they have been accused of using against Universal Credit claimants, the DWP resorted to exactly those sort of deflection tactics with me.
“The reports these scripts are being used were deeply troubling and, if true, confirm my worst suspicions about the true motives behind the rollout of Universal Credit.
“This system, with its stated aim of making work pay, is little more than a disgraceful attempt to target those who have the least and make sure they have even less in the future.”
I hope Ms. Rowley appreciates the impact that statements like hers can have. There is nothing to suggest that the DWP are using scripts. Last week I went to the Dundee JobCentre Plus and spoke to a range of DWP staff there, including work coaches. Even they confirmed that they do not use scripts.
I’d encourage the Midlothian MP to have a closer look at how Universal Credit works. The flexibility of the system is designed to make sure the system caters to individual people and because of that a blanket script simply wouldn’t work.
All Ms. Rowley is doing is discouraging people who need to access Universal Credit from doing so.
Last week, the UK Government made considerable changes to UC to make sure that it works for everyone. If Labour have any meaningful contributions regarding how we can make our benefits system more effective then I welcome that, however, needless scaremongering such as this does nothing to further that conversation.
I hope that Ms. Rowley will be more careful in the future when making sweeping statements and the impact these can have.