Top Tory Amber Rudd has been accused of shrugging off heartbreaking Universal Credit stories by suggesting they are about “one or two” people.
The Work and Pensions Secretary made the comment today after being confronted by the Mirror over flaws in the six-in-one benefit.
For years we have run stories ranging from flaws in the system affecting millions, to struggling readers who’ve been forced to food banks.
But today Ms Rudd told us: “Some of the criticisms that have come from various publications have been based on one or two particular individuals where the advice hasn’t worked for them.
“But in the vast majority, and I would urge everybody who hasn’t to take the opportunity to speak to work coaches, the sort of support that individuals get is a completely different approach to what they had previously.
“And it is delivered with professionalism and care and compassion.”
Labour MP Maria Eagle branded the comments “not true!” and “out of touch”.
She said: “The entire design of the system puts people in debt and the benefit cuts accompanying its introduction have made it far worse.”
We quizzed Ms Rudd after she said earlier today: “Maybe things that were were proposed previously weren’t effective or weren’t compassionate in the way that I want them to be.”
We asked if she could, hand on heart, say it was “compassionate” to double UC claimants this year, keep the two-child limit and keep the benefit freeze until 2020.
Ms Rudd did not, instead replying: “The overall product that is Universal Credit is absolutely compassionate.”
She said UC needed improving, including to make it fairer to woman, but also said it was a “vital reform delivering a fair and compassionate welfare system”, “by far the most important and crucial reform” and a “force for good”.
She said the old system was “broken”, “not a utopia that we should return to” and under Labour someone unemployed could receive £100,000 housing benefit per year.
“I am optimistic because I know the basic principles are sound,” she added.