Recently the Conservative MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey made a rare speech in the House of Commons. It was a speech that has caused anger, shock and contempt both locally and more widely across the country. Mr Henderson’s contention was that the introduction of Universal Credit was on balance beneficial, experiencing only a few teething problems, was not adding significantly to homelessness and was not linked to the ever growing numbers having to visit foodbanks. Most alarming was his attempt to stigmatise people in need as essentially “feckless”. This is not only demoralising for people, most of whom already feel uneasy at being dependent on help of this kind, but it is profoundly wrong. The speech also caused criticism as he appears to have misused a fleeting visit to a Foodbank as evidence of concern and engagement. Mr Henderson’s preoccupation appears to be to deflect criticism away from his party.
It is not the policy that is in dispute, it is the appalling way it isn’t being delivered. Just like the Poll Tax a generation ago, its cumbersome and mendacious roll out is leading to many people losing out. The false contention that UC is not leading to homelessness is contradicted by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee and by housing charities and providers all over the country. People are becoming homeless because of the time gap before the first grant is received, the dependence on complicated online applications and, as always with Tory reforms, the reduction in funding.
We expect to see some changes in the budget.
Mr Henderson’s attitude shows a lack of sympathy for those in need. It is, as we say, profoundly demoralising to those people but also to the humble kindly people who try to help without public acclamation.