Anyone hoping for a change of tack from the DWP now that Amber Rudd has taken over will have been disappointed by her first statements to MPs, in which she dismissed the UN report on poverty in the UK and called the DWP a ‘force for good’.
Rudd, the new secretary of state for work and pensions, decided to condemn the report simply on the basis that she did not like the tone that the UN special rapporteur adopted: the
“I have seen the report by the rapporteur—I read it over the weekend—and I must say that I was disappointed, to say the least, by the extraordinary political nature of his language. We on the Conservative Benches will always engage with professionals, experts and non-governmental organisations—we are not so proud that we do not think we can learn as we try to adjust universal credit for the benefit of everybody—but that sort of language was wholly inappropriate and actually discredited a lot of what he was saying. We look forward to working with experts in the area to make sure that we get the right outcome for the people whom we want to look after.”
Rudd was also unstinting in her praise for the work of the DWP:
“Three days in, and I know that the Department for Work and Pensions is a force for good. It helps people in need, helps people into work and out of poverty, and gives support at the end of their lives. This is what we want for our families, our friends and our neighbours. This is the country we are; this is who we are. It is good that employment has risen to record levels of 75%, as stated just recently.”
The secretary of state was prepared to admit that there were some problems with universal credit, but there was no hint of further delaying the mass migration of existing claimants onto UC:
“But I know that there are problems with universal credit, despite its good intentions. I have seen them for myself. I will be listening and learning from the expert groups in this area who do such good work. I know it can be better. I will make it my role to ensure that we deliver that through our discussions within the DWP and through discussions with the Treasury. We will have a fair, compassionate and efficient benefits system.”
In response to a specific request for a pause to the rollout of UC, Rudd replied:
“We are not stopping, ceasing or pausing the system, but we always make sure that we change it where it needs to be changed, to ensure that it operates in people’s best interests.”
So, it sounds very much like business as usual under the leadership of the latest short-stay secretary of state for work and pensions.