Universal Credit (and other benefits)

Universal Credit could work, and should be made to work.

universal credit

Qultura is conflicted about Universal Credit and here's why. Throughout much of 2015 and 2016 we researched the concept of Universal Basic Income, which has numerous benefits and would resolve many social conflicts and issues apart from the most important ones relating to employment, housing and the belief in perpetual economic growth fuelled by endless cycles of consumption. But we came up with a Guaranteed Variable Income as an alternative. Universal Credit is essentially the same concept as our Guaranteed Variable Income.

The differences between UC and GVI.

A Guaranteed variable Income is our proposal for a solution and is based on our theories, the energy spectrum, theory of creativity and social theory. Qultura as a charitable organization has been in development officially since the end of 2009, so possibly shorter than Universal Credit and the GVI would function under a completely different model of conditionality, one based on individual creativity and life circumstances so as to ensure equitable participation in society or the community. Guaranteed Variable Income would be exactly that, guaranteed, with no threat of any loss of income. It would be based on incentives, inspiration and self-motivation.

Universal Credit is not guaranteed. There's an initial six week period where you suffer a complete loss of income which if you're not socially excluded guarantees that you become socially excluded and kicks of the social exclusion process at the very start of the claim. This threat of a complete loss of income forms the basis for conditionality at the Department of Work and Pensions and applies not just to Universal Credit but to all other in work benefits as well. Therefore like other benefits the primary objective is to use fear motivation against the claimant to force them into work and a situation where they are financially self-sufficient. This is the mission and objective of the Department of Work and Pensions.

The failure of the DWP conditionality model.

The conditionality model of the Department of Work and Pensions is critically flawed for two reasons. The first reason is that it 's not based on universal law and the common principles of energy and how energy functions. Indeed someone working at the Department of Work and Pensions once stated in a conversation that:

"Physical illness and disability does not affect in any way someone's ability to work or function at work. "

This is the primary reason why Qultura does not recognize or acknowledge the outcome or result of any DWP mandated assessment whether it be a Work Capability Assessment or for Personal Independence Payment. To us work is finite, health is finite, physical ability is finite, and the biggest variable when it comes to physical ability and the capacity to work is how someone is able to use energy and whether they are energy efficient.

Similarly paid work, which is explicitly what DWP conditionality refers to, is not something which is sought and found. You cannot walk into a business, say for example a supermarket and announce that you work for that supermarket. Paid work is something which you are offered by an employer or which you have to create yourself by doing something for someone else for which you get paid.

The basis of the current DWP conditionality, on which Universal Credit itself is based, is one of profound ignorance and stupidity, because it is based on the assumption  that someone without work is not motivated to participate in society and would rather claim benefits as a means of income rather than being paid for their work. There are more additional assumptions. The first is that work is a route out of poverty - indicating a complete disregard for social exclusion and an ignorance of opportunity and that worklessness is a personal failing.

Social security is part of British culture and has been since 1948 together with the National Health Service and throughout much of its history social security in the UK served its purpose well successfully preventing hundreds of millions of people from falling into absolute poverty as a short term income replacement system. But the reason why it worked was that our society and culture was radically different and people were more easily able to find a suitable role in society.

It stopped working efficiently when our culture and society was changed, through epicultural influences - 'epi' means above, on top of, or dominant over, and those cultural influences came from business, politics and the media. Social exclusion has been in our awareness since the early 1990's, even before the start of the current trend in welfare reforms, which started with the introduction of conditionality and Jobseekers Allowance in 1996. There have been various tinkering with this new model of conditionality by wealthy ministers and advisors who all seem to be profoundly ignorant of poverty and the actual reality of life faced by people without work and this has resulted in Universal Credit which is the right idea but with the wrong approach.

Conditionality fails because it assumes that the claimant has access to the conditions of meeting the conditionality when in many cases they don't. This is a critical flaw in Universal Credit which needs to be addressed and is explained further on this page.

Why Universal Credit cannot work in its present form

triangular


The above illustration is the Triangular Relationship taken from our Social Theory. This is based on a conditional relationship (not conditionality, which is something completely different) between three points in a triangular relationship, which are:

The Universe: The Universe is essentially the collective of energy in existence including everything which comes out of this energy through creativity and interaction. Everything is relative to the Universe and is subject to the common principles of universal law. This includes our environment (and within this the world and our habitat and society) and every single individual. We are all part of a species known as human beings, or homo sapiens, we are part of human evolution, and thus we have a relationship with the universe itself.

Environment: Our environment relates to our physical reality, the world, our habitat, and everything and everyone in it, our families, our communities, our society, other people, our homes, and all the social and cultural beliefs which make up our physical reality and existence. While it is part of the universe and conditional to universal law, there is a certain order or structure to our environment and it is subject also to social and cultural attitudes as well as human law or legislation.

Individual: Individual relates to you, the person, the individual human being, and everything about you which makes up the collective known as 'self'. It relates to our autonomy - the quality or characteristic necessary to sustain life. Most of our thinking is based on unconscious thinking, which accounts for 90% of our brain's activity. This is devoted to autonomic life processes, things we don't normally think about such as breathing,digestion, circulation and movement. Unconscious thinking is also devoted to the Life Path or the pathway of emotional and cognitive development every individual takes through life, giving them individual life experience and perspective. Conscious thinking accounts for 4% of total brain activity and is done only on the surface of the brain.

Irrespective of who you are and what you believe,your life experience and the nature and quality of your life is determined by all those three points in the Triangular Relationship. Any change in one of the positions in the relationship necessitates a change in the other two positions in the relationship.

Joblessness or unemployment is a social issue which is caused by social, political and to some degree by personal failure but primarily unemployment and underemployment is a social and political failing which is a fundamental element of society.

What needed to happen throughout the various social and cultural changes which took place was that the Department of Work and Pensions also needed to change to ensure the same level of social security in our society and that it remained a short term form of insurance against absolute poverty and destitution. This required a change of role from the passive role from a government department which simply pays out benefits to a much more proactive role to prevent people from becoming affected by social exclusion resulting from unemployment and the inability to find work.

This did not happen. Throughout its history the Department of Work and Pensions has maintained the same structure and performed the same role in society as a government department which pays benefits to claimants on the basis of contributions and benefit claims.

There is the common assumption, on which DWP conditionality is based, that the claimant has accessibility to work and to opportunities to work which largely isn't true. The DWP doesn't check whether the claimant has accessibility to work and makes no provision to provide any support other than the payment of benefits which would make opportunities for work accessible to the benefit claimant.

The transaction of work

No different to the Department of Work and Pensions or the Government Qultura regards work as something positive and something which should be beneficial and healthy. On principle Qultura supports moving people into work because work promotes social inclusion to varying degrees. It provides a sense of personal value and validation which is not necessarily economic, but social. We do not support worklessness because this is a feature of social exclusion.

But where we differ is in our attitude to work and its importance. For us work is a transaction, contractual in nature and should be mutually beneficial irrespective of whether it is between employer and employee or service provider and service user. It is down to the employer to provide some form of benefit to the person undertaking the work, whether it be through experience, renumeration, or some other benefit, and likewise it is down to the employee to be competent in the work which is required, to be actually employable or have marketable skills worth paying for, and this can only happen when the work and conditions of work have some relevance to the Life Path of the individual doing the work.

When it comes to paid work employers generally are only interested in marketable skills and employability. They generally want someone who can competently and professionally perform a role or function in their organization to a consistent standard in order to make their business or organization function as efficiently as possible. In the current economic climate efficiency is the most desirable quality because most employers have profit-making companies or businesses where the objective is to make as much profit as possible with the least amount of cost.

This demand for efficiency has been increased due to the demands of the global economy and many employers are under an increasing amount of pressure from the corporate sector for greater efficiency. It is a myth that the wealthy and wealthy corporation are the job creators because work requires opportunity and that comes from either cultural development, individual human creativity or consumer demand. Most companies and organizations seek to employ as few staff as possible to keep overheads low and this is the central conflict which is dominant in the employment market. On the one hand there is a demand for lower overheads and lower costs, including lower wages from business owners but on the other there is the demand for higher wages, more jobs and greater benefits from employees, trade unions and others.

The premise that 'work is healthy' which underlies the perceived success of Universal Credit, is a false premise because it is a generalization and a statement that indiscriminately work is healthy is untrue. For work to be healthy it must be relative to the Life Path of the individual carrying out the work, their experience, their interests, their knowledge and also match their individual skillset because when the work matches all these things it matches their ability and they are competent in that work and have skills which are marketable and which make them employable.

Work which doesn't match the Life Path of the individual doing the work is not healthy but is more difficult and stressful, and this can affect both the efficiency and competence in doing the work as well as lead to various health issues which are stress related. Stress is a major factor for developing both physical and mental health issues, and the greater the mismatch between the skillset the work requires and the skillset of the worker, the greater the degree of stress and the more difficult the work is to complete. Many people who work are working in mismatched occupations because they are motivated not by the benefits of the work itself, but by the need for an income and to avoid joblessness.

Social stigma and fear motivation are key factors in today's society particularly when it comes to work and employment, arising out of cultural decline (these issues are explained in much more detail elsewhere on this website). Support is something we regard as incentive based, not connected with social stigma or fear motivation, but there is a clear division in our society between working people and non working and stigma and fear motivation are considered by many as valid means of supporting people into work.

Inaccessibility to work and self-sufficiency.

The ability to support oneself from one's work and occupation is a desirable objective because it enables the individual to meet the requirements of the Triangular Relationship and guarantees personal autonomy, which is the one characteristic necessary to sustain life. This allows someone to live in accordance with their Life Path, participate in their environment, community and society and live a life which is meaningful, fulfilling and productive.

For this objective to be achieved both work and self-sufficiency need to be accessible to the individual. In many cases there is no such access to work and self-sufficiency. Many people work but do not have enough opportunities to be self-sufficient. Many rely on credit, overdrafts and personal debt, the work they do does not pay enough for them to be self-sufficient, and many people are socially excluded to varying degrees and denied opportunities either to work, to self-sufficiency or both.

Social exclusion can be defined as not being able to make use of opportunities which are commonly accessible to most people in society which may be down to a personal inability to make use of opportunities but which increasingly is largely down to denial of opportunity and a lack of social mobility. The central conflict of social exclusion is that people want to be involved and included in their community and society and to fully participate but have no opportunity to do so.

Social exclusion is a unique and highly individual experience which throws up many barriers - practical, financial, social, health related, emotional, psychological - which hinder or prevent social inclusion and opportunities to participate in a community or society in a way which ensures autonomy and self-sufficiency.

Social exclusion is a process and it is a process which can have quite profound and devastating effects on someone's life. It is a stressful experience, often distressing, and the deeper someone falls into social exclusion. Experiences of social exclusion leads to a loss of cognitive functioning ability and the ability to interact with one's environment, it can create sleep disturbances, eating disorders, social anxiety, depression, mental illness, and trigger physical illness, ultimately leading to premature death and suicide in some cases.

Social exclusion is closely related to, and often exacerbated by poverty. Having a limited income which is barely sufficient for one's basic needs places someone in a completely different reality. People on low incomes are often placed in the situation where they have to weigh up different needs, for example having to choose between food and heating or fuel, the payment of a utility bill or meeting essential household expenses, and seeking work, which benefit claimants are expected to do, also involves expenses - broadband internet, communication, and travel. Out of pocket expenses such as a taxi needed to take someone to the local A and E dfepartment of a hospital, which for most people would be an additional inconvenience, usually results in a major financial crisis and the accumulation of debt. Unlike many people who have easy access to credit, many people on low incomes have little or no access to credit or additional financial support.

Benefit claimants can generally be regarded, to varying degrees, to be socially excluded. The degree of social exclusion can be variable, and well above the national average. For example 80% of disabled people are affected to some degree by social exclusion and this is irrespective of whether they are working or claiming benefits.

Benefit claimants generally want to work and they want to be self-sufficient and in today's reality they are claiming benefits not out of choice, but out of necessity. Most if not all benefit claimants if given a straightforward choice between work they can do and benefits would invariably choose work. But they need access to opportunities for work and they also need to be in a condition - physically and mentally - where they can undertake the work that is required of them.

This is not what is happening. Many benefit claimants are not in any fit state to work due to various health issues and barriers typical of social exclusion. They are nowhere near energy efficient enough to be able to work due to physical and mental health conditions. Many cannot afford to work, simply because they are unable to meet the necessary expenses of working - travel to work, clothing, and also to meet the necessary expenses that working people have to meet, such as prescription charges, rent and Council Tax. Then there is the issue of seeking work and getting applications seen or examined by someone human at a potential employer.

The Deoartment of Work and Pensions undermines its own conditionality model by not taking steps to ensure that it is possible for benefit claimants to be able to meet conditionality. In not taking such measures to ensure that claimants can meet conditionality it cannot determine whether conditionality has been met and has no way to determine whether or not the claimant is meeting conditionality or whether it is possible for them to meet conditionality relative to their personal circumstances and health.

A key determining factor as to whether benefit claimants are able to meet conditionality relates to health and whether they are energy efficient. How someone uses energy is the central factor as to how they function which in turn is a central factor to what work they can do and how they can do that work. How someone uses energy is a key issue for people with disabilities and health conditions, whether they be physical conditions or mental health conditions. Such conditions can reduce energy efficiency and often drain someone of their energy.

However none of the assessments required by the Department of Work and Pensions whether they be for Work Capability or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) examine energy or how someone is able to use energy in their activities of daily living. They use a points system based on a criteria which appears to bear no relation to how the individual is able to use energy in their daily lives and this results in many people being declared fit for work when they are nowhere near being fit for work at all. Nor are there any recommendations offered as to how someone is able to work or how far their fitness to work extends.

The DWP also relies on Universal Jobmatch, a website which is supposed to contain all the possible vacancies available and which the DWP relies on for accessibility to work. The website is insecure, unstable, and contains many fake vacancies. Most of the vacancies lead to artificial intelligence or EVIL (Emerging Virtual Intelligence Life Form) bots, also known as acquisition software so that the applicant has no guarantee that their application will be seen by a live human. The website is managed by Monster, a recruitment specialist and many of the vacancies come from recruitment agencies.

As the Department of Work and Pensions is unable to determine whether its own conditionality model can be followed, it is in no position to make any determination as to whether an individual claimant is actually meeting its conditionality, and it therefore has no reliable criteria for imposing benefit sanctions, stopping benefits or imposing mandatory work activities. There have been more than 10 million instances of sanctions being imposed on benefit claimants which are imposed arbitrarily. This only adds to the fear motivation, social stigma which have a demotivating factor on benefit claimants and this can only exacerbate issues connected with social exclusion making work and opportunities for work even less accessible than they are already.

The 5G IOT network, accessibility to work and Universal Credit

The 5G 'internet of things' (IOT) network is being rolled out in 2018 as is Universal Credit and this will have a tremendous impact on everybody, our lives and the way we live. 5G is essentially a smart broadband network where everything from bottles of tablets, household appliances, smartphones and computers to cars, lorries, public transport and money will be digitized, categorized, assigned its own IP address and connected to a new smart grid in high frequency broadband (28GHz, 39GHz and even 100Ghz) where everything will be connected to everything else.

We are currently in a ten year process where artificial intelligence and EVILs (Emerging Virtual Intelligent Life-Forms) commonly known as 'bots' are going through a learning process to become 'self aware'. This process started in 2015 and which will come to an end in 2025. Many things will change in this period, with artificial intelligence replacing human intelligence which means that many jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence simply because it offers businesses greater efficiency. These EVILs are able to learn from the internet from other artificial intelligence and also human interaction with the internet. Unlike humans EVILs or bots do not need payment, they don't need time off, and this will radically change our employment market.

There's a key issue with the rolling out of the new 5G network and this is the issue of control. We live in a society which is dominated by money, where to access virtually anything necessary for life you have to pay. The threat comes from giving over large amounts of control and decision making capabilities to artificial intelligence which have decision making capabilities which are different from humans. While they can process information and make decisions far quicker and much more efficiently than humans, they cannot see humans in the same way as humans see themselves, they do not share our autonomy or the same autonomic life processes and are unable to see humans in other than cold, hard, purely material and logical terms. Artificial intelligence is unable to process empathy or make moral decisions and it is essential that full control is kept over the decision making capabilities of artificial intelligence.

This is of particular relevance to Universal Credit and its development. The shrinking job market caused by development of 5G technology obviates the need for expansion of a working Universal Credit system but it is essential that the Universal Credit system retains a human interface at all levels because benefits decision making requires the assessment of human need and this cannot be determined by artificial intelligence.

There is also another aspect of the development of the 5G network which needs mentioning and that is the individualizing of virtual and online experiences due to algorithms put in place by search engines such as Google and social media websites which personalize and individualize the content of pages, search results and thus access to the internet and pages. This can influence and even impact on accessibility to work and influence networking, job searches and seeking other forms of support which in turn, can influence conditionality and impact on it in ways which are beyond the control of both the DWP and the claimant.

The need for additional support, assistance and accessibility

There is a very clear need for additional support and assistance to be given to benefit claimants (not just claimants of Universal Credit) together with increased accessibility to opportunities. We make no mention of work because throughout our 10 year development as a charitable organization the people we have supported have consistently displayed self-motivation towards work and self-sufficiency which has been achieved in 85% of cases (compared with less than 10% on the Government's Work Programme).

This comes back to the conditionality (not welfare conditionality)  of the Triangular Relationship. Change in one point of the relationship requires change in the other two. People are generally cooperative when they are getting their needs met and fulfilled and are generally motivated to meet conditionality requirements when they are offered security and sustainability in their environment, housing, income, social interaction and access to support, healthcare and other services and amenities. This is what facilitates recovery and reversal of the social exclusion process.

There is a widespread demand for such support from benefit claimants to promote better access to opportunities, access to free advice on Universal Credit and other benefits, help and assistance with assessments, as well as practical support to support them in their recovery, to help them overcome the different barriers caused by their social exclusion, barriers which may be practical, financial, social, emotional and psychological.

Much of this support which is needed is not connected directly to finding work or moving into work, but to work on one's health and personal circumstances and facilitate a recovery so that at some point in their lives these claimants are able to do some form of work. This situation has largely been created by the Government and Department of Work and Pensions by declaring people fit for work when they were nowhere near capable of functioning independently, let alone working, by moving people prematurely from ESA to JSA and applying strict conditionality conditions and not taking their personal circumstances or health conditions into account. It's also been caused by arbitrarily sanctioning people without clear or sufficient evidence that they failed to meet conditionality and it has been caused by a prolonged and sustained campaign of social stigma and fear motivation directed at benefit claimants which has resulted in further social division and further inaccessibility to work.

Not having access to such support, or being offered such support is a primary factor in the large number of unnecessary deaths and suicides of benefit claimants. Again this comes right back to the Triangular relationship and the simple fact that there are times in life when change is necessary to sustain life, but where change was not possible, not undertaken or not perceived, and so the claimant either died or committed suicide.

It also needs to be stated that benefit claimants are motivated by a desire for social inclusion and self-sustainability. People who claim benefits have lost their previous lifestyle and position in life. Once that happens it can be extremely difficult if not impossible to get back their former social position and status and returning to that status is a process of work is only a part of that process. Work is not the solution as people in much more privileged life circumstances seem to believe, it is an objective and and an outcome. Work is necessary to provide someone with a sense of value and validation, but forcing people into work too prematurely doesn't resolve their social exclusion, but exacerbates it and it can exacerbate it in a way which impacts on employers and businesses.

The existence of Universal Credit and its intention

Universal Credit is being expanded and rolled out nationally at the end of 2017 throughout the United Kingdom. There is a very clear intention in this fact that it not only exists that it is intended to work. Despite the fact that the Department of Work and Pensions has a failing conditionality model and does not have the infrastructure to support Universal Credit there is a very clear intention that Universal Credit should work and function as a social security system to support people who for whatever reason cannot work or support themselves financially.

The intention that it should work and be made to work is a very clear intention by the Department of Work and Pensions, by the Government and by the ministers, and this is tied to the decision, and implementation of that decision, to expand Universal Credit to replace all other benefit systems.

Where the problem lies is the form Universal Credit takes and how it is used. The concept of social security is a cultural concept which is rooted very firmly in our culture, just like the National Health Service and access to healthcare which is free at the point of access. British culture is different from American culture which explains why the concept of welfare has not become part of our culture.

Universal Credit is not welfare, because it is not perceived as welfare generally by the population and another reason why it is not welfare is because there is no successful model of welfare conditionality to make it welfare. Universal Credit is based on a failing model of conditionality which is currently unworkable and which cannot be made workable in our current culture and society.More than anything this is down to a lack of understanding as to how our social security system works and how it is experienced by benefit claimants as well as a lack of understanding as to the nature and culture of our employment market.

Making Universal Credit work

Universal Credit has some value as a Guaranteed variable Income strategy. While it has none of the conditions of our Guaranteed Variable Income proposal which was based on the Triangular Relationship, nor does it come close to our suggested £350 a week proposal tied to universal housing but it is still superior to proposals for UBI (Universal Basic Income) in that it facilitates social equitability. This is particularly important for people with disabilities who may have additional costs and need additional support.

Furthermore Universal Credit exists, it's reality. It does not need the consensus of agreement that a Universal Basic Income strategy will require, nor does it require politicians to find the motivation and the will to do something which is socially progressive and of benefit to the population.

But what is needed to make Universal Credit work is the collective input and voice of the people who have to experience it, i.e. the claimants themselves. They need an accessible system of support and a platform to work around the failing conditionality of Universal Credit and other benefits in order to make Universal Credit work, and work in a way which is actually of some benefit to them.