Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Universal Credit, “Shambolic”.

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The saga of the love child of Ian Duncan Smith (now an enthusiastic Brexiter) continues.

Background: a brief history of cock-ups with Universal Credit.

First, it was a whole set of problems about their computer systems.”Universal Credit has been dogged by IT problems. A DWP whistleblower told Channel 4’s Dispatches in 2014 that the computer system was “completely unworkable”, “badly designed” and “out of date”.[48] A survey of Universal Credit staff found that 90% considered the IT system inadequate.” (Wikipedia)

…..experts say that the project was never truly agile in the first place. This was due to the way contracts with fixed features were set up with major IT suppliers such as  IBM, Accenture, Atos and Hewlett-Packard, and the requirements for a “big bang” launch in October 2013 (a deadline which, of course, it missed).

Senior civil servants pitch the current total losses between £161m to almost the entire amount spent so far (which ranges from £312m to almost £700m depending on who you ask, and Labour says equates to just over £190,000 per claimant). During a Public Accounts Committee session in September, DWP finance director Mike Driver said £161m was his “best assessment” of likely total losses, while the Major Projects Authority director Dr Norma Wood said that much of the £303m invested in IT by that point was “not fit for purpose”.New Statesman)

Then there was the merry tale of on-line applications which led to  MP Ronnie Campbell, tabling this motion, “That this House notes that since only fifteen per cent of people in deprived areas have used a Government website in the last year, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may find that more Universal Credit customers than expected will turn to face-to-face and telephone help from their local authority, DWP helplines, Government-funded welfare organisations, councillors and their Hon. Member as they find that the automated system is not able to deal with their individual questions, particular concerns and unique set of circumstances”.

Next it was the five-week delay between making a claim and receiving money.

Then it was direct payment of housing benefit to tenants when it used to go (for example for social tenants) directly to the landlords. This has already led to people getting into arrears, as they, not unexp[ecrtably., spend the money on luxuries like gas and electricity bills, not to mention food, before paying the rent.

Next was the complicated system’s impact on work. “A House of Commons Library briefing note raises the concern that Universal Credit might make people reluctant to take more hours at work:

There is concern that families transferring to Universal Credit as part of the managed migration whose entitlement to UC is substantially lower than their existing benefits and tax credits might be reluctant to move into work or increase their hours if this would trigger a loss of transitional protection, thereby undermining the UC incentives structure.

Finally we learnt (Guardian. July 2016)

The government’s universal credit scheme has once again slipped behind schedule and will now not be completed until 2022, five years behind its original projected finish date, officials have admitted.

Critics said the latest rescheduling – which adds 12 months to the last published planned completion date and is the seventh reset since 2013 – raised the question of whether the much-criticised welfare programme was fit for purpose.

Ironically, the delay will have the effect of providing temporary respite for millions of claimants who stood to lose thousands of pounds a year when they were removed across to universal credit from the tax credits system after July 2018.

Now there is this…..

DWP slammed for “shambolic” Universal Credit roll-out. TFN News.

An MP has blamed the DWP for creating homelessness over its “incompetent” processing of Universal Credit claims.

It emerged last week in a Glasgow City Council report into the impact the scheme was having on its services that homeless people in the city has been placed on the new scheme in error by the DWP.

Now Alison Thewliss, SNP MP for Glasgow Central, is demanding answers from the DWP as to how many more homeless people across the UK have been placed on the controversial scheme in error.

The report, published by the Glasgow City Joint Integration Board, found that 73 homeless people have been put on Universal Credit, despite DWP guidance instructing homeless people being exempt from the new scheme.

Thewliss said: “The experience of the 73 homeless claimants in Glasgow, who have been added to Universal Credit in error, show that homelessness services across the UK are likely to take a serious financial hit once Universal Credit is fully rolled out.

“The suggestion from the Minister that Discretionary Housing Payment is used to top this up completely misses the point. With local authorities forced to cover the arrears of their tenants, which means less money to provide vital services which people rely on in times of need.

“The UK government needs to wake up to the reality that DWP actions are cutting the safety net of Council homelessness services, deeply undermining their stated aim of helping people into work.

“They can take the first step to head off this problem by halting the deeply flawed implementation of Universal Credit.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “Welfare reform has already had a significant impact on our budget for homelessness services.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 19, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Brexit: Welfare Under Attack.

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As Teresa May speaks on Brexit today we will hear a lot about how the free movement of labour in Europe will be ended. That it is has helped create unemployment.

We will hear about ” building a “stronger” and a “fairer” country and creating a “truly Global Britain”.

This is the reality of what is what is happening and what they plan for the unemployed.

The Mirror reported this a couple of days ago.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said the UK could change its economic model towards a US-style low tax, low welfare one as a result of Brexit .

His comments came after Theresa May angered Remainers by pushing for a hard Brexit that will take us out of the single market and customs union.

This is already happening.

And this:

Universal Credit has pushed 86% of claimants in council housing into rent arrears Welfare Weekly.

Shocking research reveals Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship benefit has left almost 9 in 10 claimants living in council housing in rent arrears.

Joint research from the NFA and ARCH reveals almost nine in ten Universal Credit (UC) claimants living in council housing are in rent arrears, two and a half years after Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship new benefit was introduced.

The research charted the impact of UC on the rent arrears of claimants living in council owned homes and found 86% are in arrears, up from 79% in March 2016, with 59% of these more than a month behind on their rent.

Although 63% of UC tenants in arrears had pre-existing arrears before their UC claim only 44% of them are on APAs (alternative payment arrangements with direct payment from DWP).

The average value of rent arrears owed by UC claimants living in council housing has almost doubled since 31 March 2016, from £321 to £615.

  • With the Benefit Freeze we will see people increasingly unable to cope with rising prices.
  • With Universal Credit we will see more and more people falling into arrears and debt: Food Banks will become a normal part of the ‘welfare’ state.
  • With the Work and Health Programme we will see more bogus courses, more dodgy people from the welfare-to-work industry making a pile, and more sanctions.

Some fairer society!

As James Bloodworth says:

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2017 at 10:53 am

Government shakeout of welfare to work: what will it mean for benefit claimants?

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What they didn’t mention on above…

Thousands of jobs to go in government shakeout of welfare to work sector The Guardian (just now).

“The sector is said to be preparing for a ‘bloodbath’.”

Funding to shrink by 75% from March when work programme is replaced by much smaller work and health programme.

Thousands of experienced employment coaches are expected to lose their jobs over the next few weeks as ministers trigger the first stage of a massive shakeout of the government-funded welfare to work sector that will see it shrink by 75%.

The employment services industry is preparing for what one insider called “a bloodbath” as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) moves to replace the work programme with the much smaller work and health programme.

Background (from here).

In the November 2015 spending review the government announced that the current work programme, due to end in March 2017, will be replaced by a ‘work and health’ programme.

Currently central government, through the Department for Work & Pensions, delivers the current work programme, which is a universal programme for the long-term unemployed. That has run for nearly five years and it will continue to run now until 31 March 2017.

The aim of the new Work and Health programme is to shift the focus from what might be termed “orthodox unemployment” to people with physical and psychological barriers to employment.  The work and health programme therefore will focus on the very long-term unemployed – two years-plus of unemployment – as one element of the client group and then another element, the health element, will be those citizens that have health barriers.

Localism, integration and devolution are significant factors in the development of the new Work & Health Programme. The government is specifically talking about co-design and co-commissioning with certain authorities: Manchester, London, Sheffield, Tees Valley, the North East, Liverpool and the West Midlands, relating to devolution deals.

Then (October)

DWP have today published more details about its commissioning model for its new Umbrella Agreement for the provision of Employment & Health Related Services (UAEHRS), the framework through which it will appoint providers for the new Work & Health Programme, as well as other potential DWP contracts.

The UAEHRS will account for £1.77 billion of DWP spend on contracted provision over 4 years, although it is not clear how much of this will be allocated to the Work & Health Programme. The UAEHRS will be divided into 7 Lot areas, based on Jobcentre Plus operational boundaries, namely: Central England, North East England, North West England, Southern England, Home Counties England, Wales, and a national England & Wales Lot. It is not clear from this whether or not the two co-commissioned Work & Health Programme areas, London and Manchester, are included under the UAERS arrangement. It is equally unclear whether or not the proposed Lot areas will also be applied as the final Contract Package Areas for the Work & Health Programme.

Only 5 providers will be accepted onto each regional UAEHRS Lot, although this may be extended if there is a tie-break for fifth place. Providers securing a place on two or more Lots will automatically be included within the national England & Wales Lot. The competition to select providers onto the UAEHRS will test providers against a number of criteria, including economic and financial standing, previous contract performance, supply chain management, service integration, implementation, delivery challenges, and stakeholder engagement. At the time of writing, the UAEHRS competition documents have not yet been released. This is, however, expected imminently, with a response deadline of the 9th November. Full details can be accessed at dwp.bravosolution.co.uk.

More details:

Documents seen by the Guardian reveal that seven of the 15 work programme prime contractors, including big private sector names such as Serco and Maximus, have not made it on to the initial shortlist for the new scheme.

The work and health programme shortlist, which is to be officially announced next week, begins a process in which the remaining eight work programme firms will compete with three new entrants for just six new regional contracts.

The final outcome, expected when contracts are awarded in late spring, could result in some firms being forced to abandon the market, or diversify into other contracted out public service areas, such as criminal justice or apprenticeships.

“This decimates the welfare to work industry. It represents the unravelling of nearly 20 years of unemployment support experience,” one industry insider told the Guardian.

Work coaches provide long-term unemployed clients with help to acquire a range of employment and life skills designed to increase their chances of finding work, such as CV writing, IT skills and literacy, as well as liaising with potential employers.

Thousands of work coach jobs are expected to be lost. “This means large job losses among really experienced frontline advisers, the majority of which are in charities,” said Kirsty McHugh, the chief executive of the Employment Related Services Association.

The work and health programme is expected to start in the autumn and aims to provide specialist support for long-term unemployed people, especially those with health conditions or a disability.

Funding will be about £100m a year over four years. This is about a quarter of the current annual spending on the work programme, which closes at the end of March, and work choice, which will continue for a few months longer.

This is the bit which we’re particularly interested in.

The work programme – which was launched in 2011 by the then secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith – achieved mixed results and was fiercely criticised for the low numbers of disabled and chronically ill people it succeeded in supporting into work.

It was also dogged by controversy over alleged misconduct by work coaches, and the high salaries earned by top executives. Emma Harrison, the founder of A4E, was criticised for paying herself dividends of £8.6m in 2011, on top of a £365,000 annual salary.

Harrison, who had a brief spell as former prime minister David Cameron’s “families tsar” sold her personal stake in A4E to Staffline group in 2015 for a reported £20m. The relaunched company, PeoplePlus, is shortlisted in all six work and health programme areas.

Industry insiders expressed surprise that Maximus – which has gained notoriety as the provider of the DWP’s controversial “fit for work” tests – failed to make the shortlist as it had been seen as one of the best performing work programme providers in terms of getting long-term jobless people into sustainable jobs.

Much as we may weep at the fate of coachies and ‘providers’ we note an absence of information on what this latest scheme will mean for people who’ll be obliged to be on it.

Will there still be obligatory  ‘volunteering’, work ‘placements’ (free labour for  employers and the ‘voluntary sector’) and the rest of the rigmarole?

Will the usual ‘courses’ be on?

We have no idea whatsoever.

Universal Credit, “unmitigated disaster”.

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Universal Credit system is increasingly Kafka-esque.

The Herald reports today,

Since it was first mooted by then Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith back in in 2010, Universal Credit has rarely been out of the news.

This major reform of the welfare system – which replaces six separate benefits and tax credits with one payment – was supposed to improve a number of things, not least making work pay for the lowest earners and streamlining a system that has been creaking under the strain for some time.

Three years after the roll-out of the policy, however, it’s fair to say neither of these things have come to pass; indeed many would argue that the introduction of Universal Credit has been an unmitigated disaster.

Among them is likely to be Glasgow City Council which, like local authorities up and down the land, is left to pick up the pieces when mistakes are made.

A recent document revealed Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff mistakenly transferred 73 homeless claimants on to the new benefit, despite the fact they are supposed to be exempt until 2018. One of the consequences of this has been that each of these claimants now has an average of £2,000 in housing arrears each, creating a deficit of almost £145,000 for the council.

The DWP says its system does not allow a change of status for those involved, meaning the claimants in question are locked-in to Universal Credit through no fault of their own.

The Council will have to pick up the tab, and the longer this goes on, the more serious the financial loss will be for a body already facing swingeing austerity cuts to its budgets. According to some, cuts to both service provision and jobs are now on the cards to pay for the deficit. Not even Franz Kafka could have made up this level of bureaucratic incompetence; it’s surely time for the DWP to take responsibility for its mistakes and focus on services for those on Universal Credit rather than extending another failing system.

This is the document they refer to:

Homeless people on new benefit owe Glasgow £144,000

HOMELESS individuals and families on the UK Government’s controversial Universal Credit scheme are racking up huge arrears putting services and jobs at risk in Scotland’s largest city, according to a new report.

In a report detailing the impact of the new benefit on homeless people in the city, the council says Glasgow City Council said errors by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have been compounding the problem by mistakenly transferring homeless people on to the initiative.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 11, 2017 at 10:46 am

Universal basic income trials in Scotland

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Universal basic income trials being considered in Scotland.

Comment: I am not convinced of this.

We had a debate in France back in the 1980s on the idea, promoted by amongst others, the journalist and theorist André  Gorz.

Carried on the by New Economics Foundation in the UK.

We then posed some simple arguments  against it:

  • If universal basic income is available to all then why restrict it to nationals of one country?
  • How exactly will it cover things like the rent, electricity bills and the gas charges?
  • Will it actually pay the bills?

Labour’s key economist,  the ‘sovereigntist’  economist and pro-Brexit  James Meadway (former chief economist at the New Economics Foundation) comes from this Basic Income supporting background.

Anyway this is the story:

Two councils, Fife and Glasgow, are investigating idea of offering everyone a fixed income regardless of earnings.

Scotland looks set to be the first part of the UK to pilot a basic income for every citizen, as councils in Fife and Glasgow investigate trial schemes in 2017.

The councillor Matt Kerr has been championing the idea through the ornate halls of Glasgow City Chambers, and is frank about the challenges it poses.

“Like a lot of people, I was interested in the idea but never completely convinced,” he said. But working as Labour’s anti-poverty lead on the council, Kerr says that he “kept coming back to the basic income”.

Kerr sees the basic income as a way of simplifying the UK’s byzantine welfare system. “But it is also about solidarity: it says that everyone is valued and the government will support you. It changes the relationship between the individual and the state.”

The concept of a universal basic income revolves around the idea of offering every individual, regardless of existing welfare benefits or earned income, a non-conditional flat-rate payment, with any income earned above that taxed progressively. The intention is to provide a basic economic platform on which people can build their lives, whether they choose to earn, learn, care or set up a business.

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has suggested that it is likely to appear in his party’s next manifesto, while there has been a groundswell of interest among anti-poverty groups who see it as a means of changing not only the relationship between people and the state, but between workers and increasingly insecure employment in the gig economy.

Scotland was recently added to the list of “places to watch” for basic income activity by the Basic Income Earth Network, founded by the radical economist Guy Standing, whose hugely influential book The Precariat identified an emerging social class suffering the worst of job insecurity and most likely to be attracted to rightwing populism.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 6, 2017 at 4:51 pm

Posted in DWP, Suffolk, Tories, TV Shows on Unemployed

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Rising homelessness.

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This sticks in the craw.

Families and disabled people ‘hit worse by rising homelessness’ Welfare Weekly.

Theresa May’s claim to lead a government that protects the most vulnerable is undermined by figures showing that families and disabled people have been disproportionately hit by increasing homelessness, Labour has said.

John Healey, the shadow housing minister, said on Friday that while homelessness generally had gone up 41% since 2010, people who might expect extra care from the government were doing even worse.

 Healey based his claim on figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government showing that from 2010 to 2016 the overall number of households accepted as being homeless by local authorities in England went up from 42,390 to almost 60,000.

But the increase was disproportionately high for homeless households classed as vulnerable through mental illness, where homelessness went up 53%, and for those classed as vulnerable through physical disability, where it rose 49%.

And there was a particularly sharp increase in the number of homeless households with vulnerable children, up from 25,350 in 2010 to 41,010 – a rise of 62%.

Healey said the figures undermined the claim in the Conservative party 2015 manifesto that “we measure our success not just in how we show our strength abroad but in how we care for the weakest and most vulnerable at home”.

He added: “It’s a scandal that after six years of failure on housing, falling homelessness under Labour has turned into rising homelessness under the Tories.

“Since 2010, homelessness has risen dramatically on all fronts with almost 60,000 households becoming homeless last year. These figures show that some vulnerable groups have been particularly hard hit.

“Ministers urgently need to get a grip, back Labour’s plans to end rough sleeping and build thousands more affordable homes.”

Labour wants to revive the rough sleepers initiative, which it says was successful at tackling rough sleeping in the 1990s.

A spokesman for the communities department said the government was committed to supporting the most vulnerable.

“That’s why we’re investing over £550m to tackle and reduce homelessness, on top of supporting Bob Blackman’s homelessness reduction bill to prevent more people from becoming homeless in the first place,” he said.

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Written by Andrew Coates

December 24, 2016 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Cuts, Damian Green, DWP, Food Banks

Tagged with ,

No Halt to Sanctions Over Christmas.

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Oor Wullie on the DWP. 

As Woody reminds us, the 35 Hours a week Job Search – one of the more cretinous demands people on JSA face – has to be carried out over Christmas.

The Government has created a special web page to make sure you toe the line.

Guidance

Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions: how to keep your benefit payment.

This includes making sure you:

  • are available for work and agree to do the things in your Claimant Commitment (Jobseeker’s Agreement )
  • go to meetings on time with your work coach and take part in interviews
  • apply for suitable jobs your work coach tells you about
  • do everything your work coach tells you to do to find work, such as attending a training course or updating your CV
  • take part in employment schemes when your work coach tells you to – you’ll need to:
    • meet your employment scheme provider on time and do the things they tell you to do to find work
    • still meet your work coach and do what they tell you to do
  • do all you can to find work.

Under Universal Credit:

Your Claimant Commitment

When you claim Universal Credit you will need to accept your Claimant Commitment.

In most cases your Claimant Commitment will be drawn up during a conversation with your work coach at your local jobcentre.

Your Claimant Commitment will set out what you have agreed to do to prepare for and look for work, or to increase your earnings if you are already working. It will be based on your personal circumstances and will be reviewed and updated on an ongoing basis. Each time it is updated, you will need to accept a new Claimant Commitment to keep receiving Universal Credit.

Tailored to your situation

Universal Credit changes as things change in your life. Your responsibilities will vary depending on such things as your family, your health and your potential for future earnings.

For example:

If you are earning as much as can be expected You will receive financial support without any other conditions to increase your earnings.
If you are able and available for work You will need to do everything you reasonably can to give yourself the best chance of finding work. Preparing for and getting a job must be your full time focus. If you do not do this without a good reason, you will have a cut to your Universal Credit, known as a sanction.
If you currently have limited capability for work, related to a disability or health condition, but this is expected to change over time You will be supported until your circumstances improve and you can work. You will be expected to prepare for work so far as you are able.
If you have a disability or health condition which prevents you from working You will not be asked to work, and will be supported through Universal Credit.

This is what can happen if somebody decides you have not fulfilled this:

WELFARE Secretary Damien Green has refused to halt benefit sanctions over Christmas, despite pleas for hard-pressed families to get “a little breathing space”.

Hannah Bardell, the SNP MP for Livingston, wrote to the senior Tory begging him to put the punitive regime on hold after a heart-breaking visit to a foodbank in her constituency.

She is calling on the UK Government to display “some level of compassion” by reinstating a period of clemency at Christmas – a policy which was officially abandoned last year – as thousands of Scottish families are living on the breadline this December.

She said: “This week I visited a local food bank, which was a timely yet devastating reminder of the impact sanctions have on the people who rely on these services both, in my own constituency of Livingston, as well as other places up and down the country.

“Over 70% of constituents who have come to me with benefits sanctions cases have had their decisions overturned, but the mental and emotional impact is distressing and longer lasting for those affected. At Christmas time, the impact is even more acute.”

The Department for Work and Pensions can sanction those claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Universal Credit or Income Support if staff deem that person has not done enough to look for work.

But the MP said many claimants are the working poor, just getting by on low-paid jobs. She said Christmas should not be “business as usual” for DWP because emotions are running high for Scottish families and cash is desperately short.

The MP also said she has also spoken to senior Job Centre sources who voiced fears for the safety of staff forced to cut benefits over the holidays.

“So I plead with you [Mr Green], you take the time to consider what it would be like for a family or vulnerable person who were sanctioned at Christmas,” she said.

“Putting in place special measures to ensure no one is sanctioned over the Christmas period is sensible and fair. It will give people, be them DWP workers or claimants, a little breathing space. It would show at least some level of compassion.

“We heard much in Parliament this year about the punitive sanctions and the impact on the people in our communities. My party and I have challenged your sanctions at every turn from my colleague Mhairi Black MP’s recent Private Member’s Bill to attempting to amend the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.”

But the DWP said last night it was not prepared to consider a few days of clemency over the season of good will.

Sunday Post.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 21, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Cuts, Damian Green, DWP, Sanctions

Tagged with , ,

Rent Arrears Grow 5 Times under Universal Credit.

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Happy Christmas Message!

Some of our regulars have suggested that we will soon face a withered JobCentre, information technology supplied by Nintendo, outsourcing of Housing Benefit to Abbots Lettings, payments turned in loans run by BrightHouse, and ‘advice’ services provided by William Hill Racing Consultants.

Jest ye not….

Meanwhile,

The average rent arrears of a tenant receiving Universal Credit is almost five times the average of those not in receipt of the welfare payment, according to new research.

Data and insight provider HouseMark carried out a detailed analysis of benchmarking data submitted by its members to examine the impact of changes in welfare benefits on social landlords’ income, arrears and collection costs.

While rent collection rates have improved over the five-year period, the report also found that more money is being spent on collecting rent each year.

The Welfare Reform Impact Report collected data from a cross-section of members managing up to 2.5 million properties and includes figures from April 2011 up to March 2016.

In October 2016 HouseMark surveyed members of its Welfare Reform Impact Club on the effect of Universal Credit on arrears rates. It found that the average rent arrears debt of a Universal Credit claimant is £618, compared to average non-Universal Credit arrears of £131 per property.

With average social rents around £96 per week, this Universal Credit debt equates to six to seven weeks’ rent.

Across each quartile, rent collection rates have improved over the five years between 2011/2012 and 2015/2016. In spite of this overall improvement, performance in the years 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 worsened before picking up. These years coincide with the introduction of many welfare reforms that affected tenants’ ability to pay the rent.

Using estimates based on members’ data, HouseMark found that more money is being spent on collecting rent each year, and this expenditure is rising faster than inflation. It estimates that UK social landlords spent over £720 million collecting rent in 2015/2016, a real terms rise of over £100m from 2011/2012.

The data suggests that the rise in expenditure on managing rent arrears and collection is driven by an increase in human resources – i.e. more people being employed to collect rent and manage arrears rather an increase in average pay costs.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 17, 2016 at 11:10 am

Rise in Homeless Numbers set to Accelerate with Benefit Cuts.

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A Common Sight these Days.

The number of people sleeping rough is at a five year high – so how big is Ipswich’s homelessness problem? Ipswich Star (end of November).

The number of people sleeping rough in Ipswich has hit its highest level for at least five years.

Latest figures show there were 16 people regularly living on the streets, compared to just five in 2013.

And 19 vulnerable people with housing issues are believed to have died in the town in just 16 months.

We were saddened but not surprised to learn that,

Many of these 19 deaths were down to mental health concerns, or drug and alcohol issues, Miss Raychaudri said, but changes to the benefits system have also pushed people in Ipswich into crisis.

Note this for those who have difficulties:

In a bid to curb the growing problem, more than 40 agencies came to together four years ago to form the Ipswich Locality Homelessness Partnership. The aim is to work side by side to rid the town of rough sleeping and to prevent vulnerable people from losing their homes.

At the heart of this partnership is the Chapman Centre, based in Black Horse Lane.

I suspect, since I see people in the streets every day, that the figures in Ipswich the 16 people regularly sleeping rough, are the tip of a homeless iceberg, with much much greater numbers in shelters,  temporary accommodation, shifting from friend’s place to friend’s place,

London’s homelessness count continues to rise said the Guardian earlier this month.

However you cut the numbers, the capital’s struggle to house its vulnerable people is getting harder

London dominates estimates of national homelessness newly published by Shelter. This, of course, is no surprise. Neither are high levels of homelessness anything new in the capital. In his book London: The Heartless City, published in 1977, David Wilcox reported that “by the end of 1976, 15,000 families were recognised as homeless”. And that was 10 years after Cathy Come Home.

Has anything improved? Shelter calculates that 170,000 people are homeless in London today. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has told the Guardian it does not recognise Shelter’s figures and provided one of 52,820 homeless households in temporary accommodation in London as of the 30 June. However, as households frequently comprise more than one person and Shelter’s figures are mostly drawn from the DCLG’s own data on temporary accommodation and rough sleeping, the difference between the two might not be so great.

Now we have this: 

Thousands of families teetering on brink of homelessness this Christmas after benefit changes, reports the Mirror.

Labour MPs and town hall leaders say the savage Tory government cut will leave vulnerable families at breaking point just as they are most stretched.

Thousands of Britain’s poorest families could be left on the brink of homelessness this Christmas due to a ‘disgraceful’ new benefit cap.

Labour MPs and town hall leaders say the savage Tory government cut – introduced today – will leave vulnerable families at breaking point just as they are most stretched.

Under the new rules, the maximum benefits that can be claimed by couples and lone parents is set to drop by £6,000.
The article goes on to explain,
 While some will struggle this Christmas, the full impact is not expect to hit until the New Year. The cap will also hit affect full and part-time carers.It covers most benefits, including Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and Universal Credit.

The new rate will be £20,000 a year – £384.62 a week – for couples and families outside London, down from £26,000. Some families will lose up to £115 a week.

Department for Work and Pensions bosses say the measure will stop families getting huge payouts without working, but campaigners have dubbed it a ‘cruel’ attack on vulnerable people.

It is a cruel system that needs getting rid of, now!

Written by Andrew Coates

December 14, 2016 at 12:17 pm

The unaffordable cost of benefits sanctions.

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Image result for benefits sanctions protests

 

This has appeared in the Guardian.

We can only endorse it.

We all know people who’ve suffered from the sanctions-rgime.

It’s time to get rid of it!

The benefit sanctions system is a damaging, expensive failure. Churches, as well as charities, see daily the human cost of this failure in people left without enough money to buy the very basics of life. The recent National Audit Office report has now shown that taxpayers also bear a financial cost for this failure (Report, 30 November). There is no evidence that the UK sanctions regime is cost-effective. In 2015 our report Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions revealed that each day 100 people unfit for work because of mental health problems received a sanction – mainly for missing appointments with work programme providers.

We have seen the harm these sanctions caused and have met people who were scarred by their experiences. The NAO now tells us that, on average, these sanctions actually reduced people’s short and long-term job prospects and led to reduced earnings for those who subsequently got work. The government has repeatedly stated that sanctions improve employment prospects. The NAO confirmed that the Department for Work and Pensions had no direct evidence for this. Moreover, we now know that the DWP held data that could show whether the sanctions system was working or not. Not only did the department fail to analyse this data, it refused to share it with other researchers. It also discouraged its contractors from assisting these researchers. In effect the DWP appears to have deliberately made itself blind to the failures of the sanctions regime.

As church leaders we are deeply concerned that without proper investigation of the consequences harsh punishments are given to people in already difficult circumstances. We again add our voices to the many government, charity, church and parliamentary bodies calling urgently for a full independent review of the benefit sanctions regime.
Alan Yates General assembly moderator, United Reformed Church
Rev Dr Richard Frazer Church and Society Council convenor, Church of Scotland
Rev Lynn Green General secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain
Right Rev John Davies Bishop of Swansea and Brecon
Rev Dr Roger Walton President of the Methodist Conference
Rachel Lampard Vicepresident of the Methodist Conference
Niall Cooper Director, Church Action on Poverty

Written by Andrew Coates

December 11, 2016 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Damian Green, DWP, Sanctions, Tories

Tagged with ,

Job Centre Closures in Glasgow: More Loom.

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Devastation writes,

SERIOUSLY BAD NEWS

Sharp readers will remember the plan announced in 2015 to shrink the “estate” of the DWP by 20% over the next few years.

Well, here are some examples of this move in Glasgow – where a whopping HALF of all Jobcentres will close!!!!!!

This is devastating news, because thousands of claimants will now have to travel many expensive miles and miles to their nearest designated Jobcentre – and woe betide them if they’re late!!!!!!

Even if claimants are fit enough to walk in order to save on travel costs – and many aren’t – what happens in bad weather? Trudging through rain, hail or snow on a 7 or 8 miles return trip will be no easy task.

The BBC says (just now)

Half Glasgow’s Jobcentre Plus services to close under DWP plans.

Benefit claimants in Glasgow may have to travel further for employment services under UK government plans to close half the city’s 16 job centres.

The Scottish National Party described the proposal as “morally outrageous”.

It said those from the poorest areas would face higher travel and phone costs, making it harder to seek work.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the closures would save public money and reflected an increase in use of online and telephone services.

Under the plans, there would be no job losses among Jobcentre Plus staff and claimants would not have to travel further than four miles or 40 minutes.

Denise Horsfall, DWP work services director for Scotland, said it was now easier for claimants to access Jobcentre services “whether that be in person, online or over phone”.

“By bringing together a number of neighbouring jobcentres we’re continuing to modernise our operations while ensuring that our premises provide best value to the taxpayer,” she said.

The DWP said there would be a public consultation in areas where customers had to travel more than three miles or more than 20 minutes.

Is this, people ask, the foretaste of a full on-line service?

Damien Green’s future of no “stable hours, holiday pay, sick pay, pensions..” or accessible Jobcentres? Or indeed JSA?

In the meantime closures mean long journeys, already a problem in rural East Anglia.

And not every is on-line.

Full story.

Eight job centres to shut in Glasgow as Tories use Scotland as ‘guinea pig’ for callous cuts.

The Tory government has been accused of using Scotland as a “guinea pig” for more callous attacks on the poor.

The Record can reveal that plans are afoot to shut down eight Jobcentre plus offices in Glasgow,including those in some of the UK’s most deprived areas.

The move appear to contradict DWP guidelines which say that job centre closures should not take place unless alternative premises are less than three miles away or no more than 20 minutes in public transport.

Opponents believe the closures will lead to further misery for those already facing draconian benefit sanctions as the Tories drive home crippling austerity measures.

And whistleblowers who contacted the Record believe Glasgow is being used as a template by the Government amid secret plans to roll out similar closures UK-wide.

Chris Stephens MP for Glasgow South West said: “This decision is simply morally outrageous. It will result in the poorest communities not being serviced by a job centre and make it even harder for those seeking employment to get support.

“Thousands of people will now have to travel further at additional cost to attend their appointments.

“Approximately 68,000 people in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit in Glasgow will be impacted by these closures.

“Given the brutal sanctions regime this will mean that the numbers facing sanctions will undoubtedly increase.

“It will also mean that those seeking assistance from the Department for Work and Pensions will have to call expensive 0345 numbers – the so-called “telephone tax” – to speak to an advisor about their claim which places the cost of Job Centre closures onto the people it should be assisting.

These plans make Glasgow the guinea pig, as I fear the closures announced will be used as a template for further closures across Scotland and the UK.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 7, 2016 at 12:49 pm

Attempt to Reform Benefits Sanctions – Private Member’s Bill Shelved.

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Image result for campaign against dole  sanctions

Friday, (BBC)

Work and Pensions Minister Damian Hinds is now answering the second reading debate on the Benefit Claimants Sanctions (Required Assessment) Bill.

Evidence does show that sanctions have a positive effect, he says.

The government ensures that claimants are made aware of the availability of hardship payments, and that these are made within three days, he says.

Mr Hinds says the existing legislation refers to “causes” rather than “reasonable causes” so that discretion can be used to assess whether a person has failed to comply with a condition of their benefits.

As he launches into a line by line response to the bill, the Deputy Speaker calls the debate to order.

Debate on the bill ceases at this point, and although Ms Black asks debate to resume in February, it is unlikely there will be any private members’ time left to return to the bill.

Welfare Weekly reports.

SNP MP Mhairi Black will today (Friday) issue a heartfelt plea to all MPs to put party politics aside and support her initiative to reform the UK Government’s “cruel and damaging” benefits sanctions regime.

The Benefits Sanctions (Required Assessment) Bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons today and Mhairi Black, the youngest MP in the Commons, is the second SNP MP to ever bring forward a Private Member’s Bill.

The legislation will ensure that Department for Work and Pensions staff in Jobcentres across the UK would be required to consider whether personal circumstances such as caring commitments, whether a person is at risk of homelessness or whether they suffer from a mental ill-health condition that could be exacerbated by a benefit sanction before one can be issued.

Director Ken Loach, whose film I, Daniel Blake deals with the effects of benefits sanctions, gave his support to the Bill earlier this week and also urged others to give it their backing.

Mhairi Black MP (pictured) said: “Today we have an important opportunity to make the cruel and damaging benefits sanctions regime fairer. This is about real people, real lives and the real and devastating consequences that sanctions have on individuals and their families.

“My bill will introduce a process of assessing a person’s circumstances such as their caring commitments, whether they are at risk of homelessness or whether they suffer from a mental ill-health condition that could be exacerbated by a sanction.

“If I could scrap sanctions completely I would do it in a heartbeat but I can’t and so I’m making this small ask in the hope that it will improve the lives of people who simply cannot afford to have their safety net stripped from them when they need it most.

“I call on MPs from all parties – Labour in particular – to prove that they can stand up for their constituents and support my Bill today.”

Update: Bill was shelved after MPs spoke for so long there wasn’t enough time for the government to respond.

Note: the Mirror reports.

SNP law to reform benefit sanctions runs out of time after long speeches by Tories… and the SNP

The clock ran out on Mhairi Black’s bid to stop Jobcentres unfairly penalising carers, the homeless and the mentally ill.

However, he prompted a row by complaining he only had eight minutes to talk after other people’s speeches – the longest of which was from Ms Black, Westminster’s youngest MP.

“She spoke for one hour and 15 minutes and I have very little time,” he told MPs. “I’m not going to be able to get through all the contents of the Bill.”

Before he stood up in the House of Commons, four SNP MPs talked for 2 hours and 29 minutes; three Tory MPs talked for an hour and 40 minutes; and Labour’s shadow minister talked for 20 minutes.

But SNP MP John Nicolson – whose own law to pardon 50,000 gay men was “talked out” by a Tory minister weeks ago – defended Ms Black and said her law would have been blocked regardless.

“The minister would have talked it out had she spoken for 5 seconds,” he tweeted. “It’s all pre-arranged on Tory benches with whips.

“They do this every Friday whether speeches are long or short. It’s government policy.”

The SNP tweeted: “While Mhairi Black’s bill was talked out by the Tory minister, the SNP will never stop fighting for a more just society.”

The Private Member’s Bill – not backed the government – was governed by out-of-date rules which put a time limit on the overall debate, but not individual speeches.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Benefit Sanctions Don’t Work: National Audit Office.

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Image result for sanctions dwp

“Sanctions on benefits have a high opportunity cost, not only for those who are dependent on those benefits if sanctions are applied, but for the efficient use of public resources. “We acknowledge the department’s effort to reduce its error rate on sanctions, but we think there is more to do in terms of reducing them further, and in reducing the notable differences in sanctions applications between comparable localities.”

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, 30 November 2016 *

The New Statesman has just tweeted on this report,

Damning proof that the government has no evidence benefits sanctions work ALISON GARNHAM

Anyone remember evidence-based policymaking? For the DWP, it appears from today’s National Audit Office (NAO) report on sanctions, it is at best a dim and distant memory.

When the Department made substantial changes to sanction rules in 2012 – marking a step-change in their scope and severity – it could not quantify the financial impact of the changes, and it said it could not predict whether the changes would create savings. Since then, it has made no attempt to track the actual costs and benefits of the changes.

As one reads through the NAO’s report, it becomes increasingly clear how their task – to assess the value for money of sanctions policy – is thwarted at every turn by lack of evidence. The words “the Department does not know”, and mentions of data that the Department does not analyse or collect, recur throughout. The government is evidently operating blind, on an issue that could scarcely be more important: the decision actively to remove from already-poor individuals and households the basic means of their subsistence.

Disturbingly, there are several indications that this ignorance is wilful. The DWP has administrative data on individual benefit histories, sanctions and employment, and data on local sanction rates and performance, but it chooses not to use this body of evidence to evaluate the impacts of sanctions. The government, via the Economic and Social Research Council, has funded a £2m research project from 2013 to 2018 to understand the role and impact of conditionality in social security. In 2015, the DWP advised its Work Programme providers not to take part in focus groups for the project. And, in March 2015, the Work and Pensions Committee called on the DWP to commission “a broad independent review of benefit conditionality and sanctions, to investigate whether sanctions are being applied appropriately, fairly and proportionately”. After taking seven months to respond, the Department refused.

What we do know beyond doubt is that sanctions cause immense hardship to those who are subjected to them. This is in a sense a question of simple logic – take away a person’s primary, meagre source of sustenance, and they will suffer. Indeed, that is the Department’s stated intention: its own guidance to decision makers acknowledges that ‘it would be usual for a normal healthy adult to suffer some deterioration in their health’ if left without income for two weeks (JSA sanctions start at twice this duration). Decision makers assessing potential hardship payments should be looking only at those who would “suffer a greater decline in health than a normal healthy adult” [original emphasis]. But it is also reflected in a range of direct evidence, not least of which is the link between sanctions and food bank use: research by Child Poverty Action Group and others found that between 19 and 29 per cent of visits to the food banks we studied were caused by sanctions.

If that’s bad enough, there’s this.

Meanwhile, for Work Programme providers, on average, higher use of sanctions is associated with lower performance in terms of employment outcomes. Though this does not prove causality – it could be, for example, that weak Work Programme providers may use sanctions more because they are ineffective with their other approaches – it may suggest that differences in deterrence effects of sanctions are weaker than other factors explaining performance. Again, no evidence in favour of sanctions here.

Read the full article at the New Statesman.

The Guardian says,

Sanctions on welfare payments which have allegedly caused thousands of claimants to fall into hardship and depression are being handed out without evidence that they actually work, Whitehall’s official spending watchdog has found.

The Department for Work and Pensions is also failing to monitor thousands of people whose benefits are being cut or withheld while many are being pushed outside the benefits system, said the National Audit Office.

Auditors concluded there has been a failure to measure whether the government is saving money while the application of the sanctions regime varies across the country and from job centre to job centre.

The report, issued on Wednesday, has been seized upon by critics of the government’s sanctions regime who say it is punitive, wasteful and not aimed at finding people work.

The findings could cause difficulties for Damian Green, the welfare secretary, who insisted this week that the sanctions contributed to a fairer society and were an important part of the benefits system.

Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the public accounts committee, said: “Benefit sanctions punish some of the poorest people in the country. But despite the anxiety and misery they cause, it seems to be pot luck who gets sanctioned.

“While studies suggest sanctions do encourage some people back into work, other people stop claiming but do not start working and the Department for Work and Pensions has no record of them. If vulnerable people fall through the safety net, what happens to them?”

More than 1 million unemployed benefits claimants have to meet certain conditions, such as showing they are looking for work, to receive jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, universal credit and income support.

Almost a quarter of claimants (24%) between 2010 and 2015 received a sanction, the report said. A four-week penalty can mean a claimant over-25 losing £300.

In 2015, 800,000 claimants were referred to the DWP for possible sanctions, the report said. Of those, half were then sanctioned across at least one of four benefits.

National Audit Office. Benefit Sanctions.

Press Release.

The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) is not doing enough to find out how sanctions affect people on benefits, according to today’s report from the National Audit Office.

A benefit sanction is a penalty imposed on a claimant meaning a loss of income when someone does not meet conditions like attending jobcentre appointments. Sanctions are not rare: 24% of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants received at least one between 2010 and 2015. Use of sanctions varies substantially, with some Work Programme providers referring twice as many people for sanctions as other providers in the same area.

Today’s report finds that jobcentres’ monthly sanction referral rate for Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants rose to 11% in March 2011 then fell to 3% in December 2015. There are many reasons for this variation but it cannot be fully explained by changes in claimant behaviour. The NAO concludes it is likely that management focus and local work coach discretion have had a substantial influence on whether or not people are sanctioned.

Today’s report recommends that the Department for Work & Pensions carries out a wide-ranging review of benefit sanctions, particularly as it introduces further changes to labour market support such as Universal Credit. The DWP has commissioned independent reviews and taken steps to improve processes but rejected previous calls for a wider review. The NAO finds that the previous government increased the scope and severity of sanctions in 2012, and recognised that these changes would affect claimants’ behaviour in ways that were difficult to predict.

The NAO report finds that the Department is meeting target timescales for most sanction decisions but is missing its Universal Credit targets. In August 2016, 42% of decisions about Universal Credit sanctions took longer than 28 working days.

International studies show people who receive sanctions are more likely to get work, but the effect can be short-lived, lead to lower wages and increase the number of people moving off benefits into inactivity. The DWP has not used its own data to evaluate the impact of sanctions in the UK. The NAO undertook preliminary analysis of the impact of Work Programme sanctions on employment, inactivity and earnings. The results show the Department should do more to understand these sanctions outcomes.

Sanctions have costs, for people who receive them and for the government. The Department does not track the costs and benefits of sanctions, but estimates that it spends £30-50 million a year applying sanctions, and around £200 million monitoring the conditions it sets for claimants. The NAO estimates the Department withheld £132 million from claimants due to sanctions in 2015, and paid them £35 million in hardship payments. The overall impact of sanctions on wider public spending is unknown.

From, “Key Findings”:

10. Designing sanctions 10 How people respond to sanctions is uncertain. The Department expects most claimants will not be sanctioned and that the deterrence effect of sanctions will encourage them to comply with conditions. However, the Department has limited evidence on how people respond to the possibility of receiving a sanction, or how large this deterrent effect is in practice. Direct effects on people who receive sanctions will also be important; we found 24% of Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants receive a sanction at some point (paragraphs 1.8 to 1.10 and Figures 4 and 5).

11 The previous government increased the scope and severity of sanctions. The 2012 reforms expanded the range of claimants subject to conditions and increased the maximum length of Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions from 26 to 156 weeks. When it made the changes the Department recognised that they would affect claimants’ behaviour in ways that were difficult to predict (paragraphs 1.11 to 1.13 and Figure 6.

12 The Department’s changes to employment support have introduced risks for its use of sanctions. The Department has changed its employment support and approach to sanctions in response to identified problems. For example it has put more emphasis on one-to-one relationships between staff and claimants to encourage more appropriate conditions. Changes introduce new risks. While greater flexibility for jobcentre staff to tailor conditions can make them more appropriate, it also increases the risk of inconsistency in how sanctions are used (paragraphs 1.14 to 1.18 and Figure 7).

21 The Department does not track the costs and benefits of sanctions. Potential benefits include increased and faster entry into employment leading to lower benefit spending and higher tax revenues. Possible wider costs include the direct impact on people who get sanctioned, such as financial hardship or depression. Supporting them may lead to higher public spending in areas such as local authority funded welfare support. The Department does not know these wider costs and benefits (paragraphs 3.14 to 3.20 and Figure 23).

Unfortunately the recommendations are far from satisfactory.

Recommendations

24 As the Department introduces further changes to labour market support, we recommend it carries out a wide-ranging review of sanctions.

In particular: a The Department should support better understanding of the impact of sanctions. It should use its data – including real time information on earnings – to track the direct and indirect impact of sanctions on the likelihood, duration and quality of employment, including for those with barriers to work. It should adopt an open and collaborative approach to working with academic researchers and third-party organisations.

b The Department should assess the wider cost of sanctions to central and local government. It should track how sanctions affect demand for publicly funded services.

c The Department should use information to continuously improve its approach to sanctions. The Department has mechanisms for learning and improvement. It should expand its use of feedback from each stage of the sanctions process to fix recurring problems that lead to unnecessary referrals and overturned decisions.

d The Department should improve both internal management information and published statistics about sanction processes, variation and trends. It should demonstrate that it has satisfied the UK Statistics Authority that it has met all recommendations on its published statistics.

e The Department should model future demand for Universal Credit decisions. A large decision backlog already exists. The Department needs to understand likely growth in demand and decision-makers’ capacity to meet it.

f The Department should explore ways to reduce variation in referrals from providers. The Department needs to better manage variation as it develops new programmes such as the Work and Health Programme.

Get Rid of the Sanctions Regime!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 30, 2016 at 4:08 pm

Pension Age to Rise – Yet Again. “Basically a Huge Tax Rise”.

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Image result for MInister of state for pensions Richard Harrington MP

Harrington Smiles at Prospect of Pension Age Rise.

Some years ago I heard that people I knew were being transferred from JSA to Pension Credit.

They were just over 60 years old.

Some years ago I heard that these people had received the same rate of benefit as pensioners – a lot more than JSA.

Some years ago I heard that the retirement age was due to rise.

That all this credit stuff had been got rid of.

A few years later I heard that there were moves afoot to raise the pension age – apparently the country couldn’t afford to keep on paying pensions unless young people worked until they were seventy.

Young people – people who if they went to University have to spend a lifetime paying off their loan and fee debt to the state’s usurers, and who are in hock, if they are lucky, to mortgage lenders half their lives – have to drudge until this age.

Young people, who, under the magic age of 25 are expected to live on less benefit than everybody else, and get a special rate of minium pay:

Over 25 £7.20
21 to 24 £6.95
18 to 20 £5.55
Under 18 £4.00
Apprentice* £3.40

Now they will have to wait longer to be pensioners.

And there is this (thanks to people signaling it in the comments):

‘Basically a huge tax increase’: readers on proposed pension age rise

Former pensions minister Steve Webb says the government is considering raising pension age sooner than previously planned

Tens of millions of workers under the age of 55 could be affected by changes to pension age sooner than previously planned, according to a former minister.

Steve Webb, pensions minister in the coalition government between 2010-15, says documents produced by the Department of Work and Pensions suggest the government is preparing a “more aggressive” timetable on state pension age changes.

Pension age may be about to rise again, says former minister (Guardian)

Steve Webb says government considering faster timetable for higher state pension age of 70, affecting millions of workers

The government may be preparing to increase the official state pension age to 70 for millions of people currently in their 20s, a former minister has claimed.

Steve Webb said documents produced by the Department for Work and Pensions suggested a “more aggressive” timetable on state pension age (SPA) increases than previously planned was being prepared.

This could affect tens of millions of workers aged under 55, and bring a pension age of 70 into the official timetable for the first time for people currently aged between 22 and 30, he added. The current official SPA for people in their 20s is 68, though under the existing schedule it could be expected to rise to 69.

The SPA is the earliest age someone can start receiving their state pension, and is due to rise to 66 between 2018 and 2020, to 67 between 2026 and 2028, and then to 68 between 2044 and 2046.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 28, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Food Banks, ‘Ethical’ Lords and Lady Bountiful Rush to Help.

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Image result for food banks

Get Rid of System that Creates Food Bank Demand. 

I might be alone in this – though this is doubtful – but isn’t this distasteful?

A Tyneside company is aiming to turn Black Friday into Give Back Friday with a donation to a food bank on orders received during the discounting period.

EthicalSuperstore.com will donate a grocery item to the Newcastle West End food bank for every order it receives over £30 on Friday.

The Gateshead firm is hoping to repeat the success of a similar offer it ran last year, when it donated a total of 1,576 grocery items worth more than £1,500 to the busy food bank.

Peter Leatherland, of EthicalSuperstore.com, said: “Black Friday has become synonymous with crowds of people clamouring to get discounted technology products at well-known high street stores and supermarkets, but we want to do something a little different.

“Our feel-good Friday provides customers with 20% off products as well as giving something back to the community through donations, helping those families who truly need it.

“We want to raise awareness of food banks, hopefully encouraging our customers to think about others and perhaps donate to their own local food banks and good causes whilst hunting for bargains during Black Friday.”

More in the Chronicle.

Nobody doubts the scale of the problem:

More than 500,000 three day emergency food parcels have been distributed to people in crisis in the first half of 2016/17 – over 188,500 to children.

Between April and September 2016, Trussell Trust foodbanks across the UK distributed 519,342 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis compared to 506,369 during the same period last year. 188,584 of these went to children.

Trussell Trust CEO, David McAuley says: “As the number of emergency food parcels provided to people by foodbanks rises once again, it’s clear that more can be done to get people back on their feet faster.”

But why does it exist?

Oh Yes…

Benefit sanctions forcing people to use food banks, study confirms

Oxford University research shows link between sanctions and use of charity parcels, a pattern ministers refuse to accept

Guardian 27th of October. 

This was Damian – ‘Gig economy’ – Green’s response (FT November the 16th),

Under the existing system, hardship payments are available to cover day-to-day living costs but for many jobseekers they cannot be claimed until 14 days after a sanction has been applied.

Only certain categories of people can claim those payments, for example if they have children or a long-term health condition. Mr Green’s initiative will add homeless people and those with a mental health condition — an estimated 10,000 — to those who can claim straight away.

We need sanctions, and I don’t agree with those who would abolish them,” he said. “But I am always keen to improve the system.”

If you want to reduce the demand for Food Banks start by getting Labour to make getting rid of sanctions a priority.

Abolish the Sanctions System!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Suffolk Libraries – a Key Resource for the Unemployed – Face Cuts.

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Image result for libraries under threat protests

Libraries are a key resource for the unemployed.

We use them to do our Jobsearch (part of the 35 hours we have to carry out as part of our ‘Jobseekers Agreement’.

We use their Internet services (where they are available) to write CVs, to upload CVs, apply for jobs and look around the web for posts.

We use them for books on how to do this, and for help from staff about the best way to do it.

This resource is under threat.

Libraries lose a quarter of staff as hundreds close. BBC.

Almost 8,000 jobs in UK libraries have disappeared in six years, about a quarter of the overall total, an investigation by the BBC has revealed.

Over the same period, some 15,500 volunteers have been recruited and 343 libraries have closed, leading to fears over the future of the profession.

Children’s author Alan Gibbons said the public library service faced the “greatest crisis in its history”.

The government said it funded the roll-out of wi-fi to help libraries adapt.

The BBC has compiled data from 207 authorities responsible for running libraries through the Freedom of Information Act. Our analysis shows:

  • Some 343 libraries closed. Of those, 132 were mobile services, while 207 were based in buildings (and there were four others, such as home delivery services)
  • The number of closures in England is higher than the government’s official estimate of 110 buildings shut
  • A further 111 closures are planned this year
  • The number of paid staff in libraries fell from 31,977 in 2010 to 24,044 now, a drop of 7,933 (25%) for the 182 library authorities that provided comparable data
  • A further 174 libraries have been transferred to community groups, while 50 have been handed to external organisations to run. In some areas, such as Lincolnshire and Surrey, the move has led to legal challenges and protests from residents.

Now we have this in Suffolk.

Suffolk Libraries face £230,000 budget cut as bosses call for more public support to save all 44 branches

Anybody who uses Ipswich central Library knows the strain they are already under.

To say the least there are ‘problems’ about the Net service.

How people who rely on smaller libraries manage is hard to tell, it must be hard.

Tory-run Suffolk County Council seems determined to make our lives worse:

Suffolk County Council’s Scrutiny Committee will be discussing the council’s budget proposals on 30 November.

These proposals include a further reduction to the Suffolk Libraries budget of £230,000 for 2017-18. This follows a cut of £350,000 for the current year (2016-2017) which Suffolk Libraries accepted with reluctance.

Alison Wheeler, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said: “We recognise that public-sector funding is decreasing, and in response Suffolk Libraries has since 2011, with stringencies and economies, saved more than 30% of the original library budget without affecting local services.”

“In terms of relative cost – for every £1 spent by the Council, less than 1 penny is spent on the library service. The library service actively contributes to several of the county’s key priorities which include support for vulnerable people, raising educational attainment, supporting small businesses and empowering communities.”

“Suffolk Libraries is now in its fifth year of operation and each year it has lived within its means and saved increasing amounts of council tax. This has only been done with the sustained hard work of library staff, help from community groups, local volunteers and support from library customers.”

“With this extraordinary support, we have together ensured that all Suffolk libraries are still open, local library opening hours have been sustained and the services people enjoy, and which we know make a difference to people’s lives, have continued to flourish.”

Tony Brown, Chair of Suffolk Libraries Board added “Over the past year we have made it clear that it would be impossible to make further cuts without having an effect on services. We pledged to work constructively with the council on the longer-term future of the county’s library service and offered them a plan in June in which we suggested ways we could save money over a longer period, and which would allow us to keep library opening hours intact.”

“Five months later, it’s disappointing to see that the council’s budget proposals do not reflect the alternative plans we presented. The larger sums required will almost certainly mean we can’t carry on providing the library service in the same way.”

“However, we are still in discussion about the final sum. People will be consulted on any changes and we will strive to minimise the impact on customers, and ensure that people will still have access to the same wide range of services and activities in their community.”

“Suffolk Libraries’ Board is committed to keeping libraries open and for local services to flourish. The Suffolk community has shown a huge amount of support for local libraries over the past few years, and this has never been more needed, or valued.”

Want to show your support for your library service? Email us at help@suffolklibraries.co.uk, tweet @suffolklibrary or comment on our Facebook page. You can also contact Suffolk County Council.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 23, 2016 at 11:44 am

Sacked Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb: “Plan to Slash Benefits Offends Everyone’s Sense of Social Justice”.

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Crabb: Offended.

Former minister Stephen Crabb: Government plan to slash welfare offends everyone’s sense of social justice.

Reports the Independent, just now. 

Former Conservative cabinet minister has said a plan to slash welfare “offends everyone’s sense of social justice” and called on the Government to help those affected.

Stephen Crabb said Chancellor Philip Hammond should introduce measures to “soften the blow” of cuts to Universal Credit, when he makes his Autumn Statement speech this week.

The former Work and Pensions Secretary also said the Government will have to review the pensions triple lock introduced by David Cameron, which guarantees payments rise each year, if it wants to do more to help working families.

Mr Crabb, who himself presided over cuts to some benefits while pensions secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour there was a “problem” with plans to reduce the Universal Credit.

He said: “When you look at the distributional impact for the changes from the Budget in March, there is an S-curve on the graph which basically shows that people on the lowest incomes effectively lose money from the changes, people on the highest incomes effectively gain. I think the Chancellor is going to have to have something to say about that.

“I think looking at that graph to see that people on lower incomes will be losing money offends everyone’s sense of social justice. But it doesn’t mean he needs to ‘reverse ferret’ on those proposed cuts. There are other things he can do to soften the impact of that.”

The Huffington Post adds,

Just what, if anything, Hammond will do about welfare cuts this week is a pressing issue. On Radio 4’s Westminster Hour last night, former Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb pointed out the Chancellor will already have to explain where he’s going to find the £4bn lost (but not forgotten) in his own personal independence payment reforms axed after IDS’s departure.

On the vexed topic of Universal Credit cuts – cuts that critics say will hit many ‘just managing’ people in low-income work – Crabb said ‘I think that offends everyone’s sense of justice”. But he suggested Hammond would address it with broader help for people on low incomes rather than by reversing another welfare cut.

Continuing his rational approach to policy, Crabb also became the latest senior Tory politician to suggest that the state pension ‘triple lock’ could end after the next election. It has “served its purpose” and “there will be a case after 2020 to look again at that”. Damian Green has Work and Pensions Questions today – will he offer up similar thoughts?

One Tory MP leading calls for welfare cuts to be eased is Heidi Allen. But on Pienaar’s Politics she went perhaps a step too far for her colleagues. Asked if she’d ‘snog, marry or avoid’ Ed Balls, she replied “Maybe snog…I like a man who can move to music.” Viewers’ votes meant the former Shadow Chancellor survived again on Strictly last night despite the judges’ disdain. Popular with the people, unsupported by the experts…how very 2016.

Former DWP minister Stephen Crabb admits disability benefit test is ‘traumatic’.

Reported the Independent on the 8th of November. 

Ex-Work and Pensions Secretary urges the Government to ‘fix’ the assessment process for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs).

A former Cabinet minister who was responsible for a controversial disability benefit test has admitted it is “traumatic” for applicants.

Stephen Crabb, who was sacked as Work and Pensions Secretary in July, said the Government needed to “fix” the assessment process for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs).

In a TV interview, the former Conservative leadership contender said there had to be system of benefit tests “when you’re giving out taxpayers’ money”.

But he added: “The way it has been done – I see this in my surgeries, every single MP in their surgery sees this – people who felt that the assessment procedure has been traumatic, intrusive, hasn’t been a comfortable experience at all. And that’s what we’ve got to fix.

Stephen Crabb on October the 5th.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Labour Shadow, Debbie Abrahams, urges the government to end its “shirker, scrounger rhetoric” but post-Brexit new Benefit shake up Looms.

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Image result for shirkers and scroungers

Hate Speech in Millionaires’ far-Right Press. 

Parliament today (BBC):

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams urges the government to end its “shirker, scrounger rhetoric”.

She calls for cuts to the Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group to be reversed, arguing that they target sick and disabled people.

She tells the House that the country is becoming “more and more unequal” and attacks the government for giving tax breaks to the “highest earners”.

 Followed by:

Work and Pensions Minister Penny Mordaunt tells MPs that government is helping people to get out of their jobless situation “not just to endure it”.

She says that new money from the Treasury will be used to extend a hardship fund and adds that the government will help jobseekers with “work related costs”.

The debate comes to an end and MPs vote on Labour’s motion.

The result is expected at approximately 4.20pm.

I think we know already what that will be…..

Debbie Adams MP has already written this:   No more “shirkers” or “scroungers” – let’s overhaul the culture of the benefits system (6th of October)

I’ve been campaigning to stop the Government’s punitive sanctions regime for nearly four years now, ever since the Coalition government introduced their new sanctions regime in 2012. I have quizzed the former secretary of state for work & pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, specifically on this issue, and have worked with people who have been affected by sanctions. These include Gill Thompson, whose brother, David Clapson, died after being sanctioned.

In January 2015, I managed to get the work and pensions select committee to agree to hold an inquiry on sanctions. The evidence was shocking. We heard of the sudden rise in sanctions, with 3.2m alone occurring between October 2012 and June 2014. Sanctions to people who were sick or disabled on Employment Support Allowance increased five-fold.

We heard from Jobcentre Plus advisers of sanction “targets” in order to get claimants “off-flow”, in benefits speak, which distorted the unemployment claimant count in the process. And we heard of the dramatic rise in foodbank use, with more than1m foodbank parcels in 2014, primarily as a result of sanctions. We heard in turn of the effects on the physical and mental health of claimants and their families.

The select committee made more than 20 recommendations, including stopping financial sanctions for people who were sick or disabled on ESA, or vulnerable in other ways, and setting up an independent body to investigate deaths associated with sanctions.

Unfortunately, the government refused to accept the select committee’s recommendations.

Since the inquiry, the government has been compelled to publish details of 49 claimants who died between 2012 and 2014, 10 of whom died following a sanction. It is still to publish reports on another nine claimant deaths since 2014. We have discovered that the government is watering down the guidance to jobcentre staff to identify and protect vulnerable claimants.

Meanwhile the following is worth thinking about.

Everything Theresa May planned for the benefits system needs to change because of what Brexit Britain will look like

 Reports Andrew Grice in the Independent this afternoon.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates that 11.5 million families, who were originally due to lose an average of £260 a year, are now likely to lose £360 because of higher inflation. The Government will save £4.6bn instead of £3.6bn.

Damian Green, the One Nation Conservative appointed Work and Pensions Secretary by Theresa May, has started to smooth some of the rougher edges of what can be a tough benefits system – as anyone who has seen Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake knows.

People with the most severe health conditions on Employment and Support Allowance will no longer face reassessments. On Wednesday, Green announced that jobseekers who are homeless or have a mental health condition will have immediate access to hardship payments if they are hit by a benefit sanction.

(NOTE: this leaves everybody else still at risk from the arbitary “police of JobCentre Plus).

 While these are welcome steps, the big picture emerging under the May Government is less flattering. We will know more about its intentions towards those on benefits next week when Philip Hammond delivers his Autumn Statement, the first economic update since the Brexit vote.

May pressed the Chancellor to do something for the “just managing” classes she promised to champion on becoming Prime Minister. After some tense negotiations, measures such as a freeze in fuel duty, cuts to air passenger duty and more help with childcare costs seem to be on the agenda.

Green has promised no further welfare cuts before the next general election. But that is not as generous as it sounds because £12bn of cuts are already in the pipeline. They include almost £3bn from reducing work allowances under Universal Credit – the amount families can earn before their benefits are scaled back. About three million people will lose an average of £1,000 a year, reducing the incentive to work for those striving that May wants to help.

Regarding these people as “claimants” misses the point; about two in three children growing up in poverty have at least one parent in work. The biggest challenge on welfare is in-work poverty, not so-called scroungers.

Hammond should stop the cut to work allowances by switching some of the £8bn earmarked for income tax cuts for the middle classes, which are likely to go ahead because they were promised in last year’s Tory manifesto. By 2020, the threshold for the 40p higher rate will rise to £50,000 and the personal allowance to about £12,500.

Then this…

Written by Andrew Coates

November 16, 2016 at 4:29 pm

Work and Pensions Committee : ‘Concerns’ over “Policemen” Work Coaches and Work and Health Programme.

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Image result for jobcentre plus work coach I'm daniel Blake

Job Coach Client.

Work Coaches: A personalised in-work service.

Work Coaches are front-line DWP staff based in Jobcentres. Their main role is to support claimants into work by challenging, motivating, providing personalised advice and using knowledge of local labour markets. This involves conducting work-focused interviews and agreeing tailored “Claimant Commitments”.70 A job description is shown in Appendix 1. At February 2016, 11,000 whole-time equivalent Work Coaches71 supported nearly 745,000 out-of-work claimants across Great Britain.72 Each Work Coach is responsible for a caseload of around 100 unemployed claimants and conducts 10 to 20 claimant interviews per day.73

Job Centre Plus reforms currently ‘front-loaded for failure,’ MPs say.

A new approach to the role of work coaches in the Job Centre Plus (JCP) programme is needed as its approach shifts to helping more complex cases, the Work and Pensions Committee has said in a new report.

The report said that changes such as the introduction of the Work and Health Programme and Universal Credit mean that JCP will deal with more claimants ‘in-house’ instead of through contracted-out provision and with more claimants with complex needs, such as health problems and disabilities.

However, it said that these changing needs were combined with a move to a “generalist” model for work coaches.

Work and Pensions Committee says it has grave concerns over both the challenges faced by Work Coaches in Jobcentre Plus (JCP), and the flagship Work and Health Programme.

(Hat-tip to Benefit Tales.)

Committee Chair Frank Field said:

“The government is basing the future for the new Job Centre Plus advisers on too narrow a financial and administrative base. It is in danger of missing this opportunity to create a world-class first in respect of its job advisers, and a world-leading employment support programme for disabled people in Job Centre Pluses by not thinking through the demands to be made on what is, in reality, the same old system financed by a much reduced budget.”

Against the backdrop of a much changed labour market, the delayed roll-out of Universal Credit and the scaling down of contracted-out welfare-to-work programmes, JCP will be expected to provide employment support to a broader and more challenging caseload of claimants, including those with disabilities, mental health conditions, and the long-term unemployed.

Work Coaches

In the report summary this is well-worth noting,

Culturally, JCP must ensure that it becomes an inspirational place from which individuals find and succeed in work. JCP Work Coaches—front-line advisors—will play a pivotal role. Too often, JCP staff have been cast in the role of policemen rather than supporters who help people progress to and in work. Major changes will be required of Work Coaches. There is a case for some Work Coaches to specialise in helping specific claimant groups, while others take a higher caseload of more general cases. There should also be a clearer route for Work Coaches themselves to progress in their careers in providing tailored employment support, reflecting the increased demands of today’s labour market.

The success of the new Work Coach model will depend, in part, on Coaches’ awareness that they are not experts in all areas—including disability and health conditions. They must, therefore, embrace working alongside more knowledgeable third parties and charities. To make a success of its new, expanded role, JCP will have to ensure that it is open to working in ways that are increasingly flexible, adaptable and experimental. It must strengthen working relationships with employers and other external partners in order to ensure that specialist support is available to claimants when it is needed. It will also need to demonstrate an ability to learn on the job and adapt its provision, both to changing labour market circumstances and as it learns what works in supporting claimants. This new role will also need to be reflected in its opening hours.

Previously, many of these claimants would have been supported outside JCP, through the contracted-out Work Programme and Work Choice. Whether the employment support that the Department offers to these claimants is successful will largely depend on its Work Coaches – front-line support staff. The Committee identifies several concerns about this approach:

  • Work Coaches will increasingly have to provide positive coaching and address claimants’ barriers to work, yet many claimants currently view Coaches as “policemen” due to their role in administering sanctions: two potentially conflicting roles
  • Work Coaches will be generalists who support claimants with a wide range of needs. However, addressing their claimants’ barriers to work requires specialist skills and knowledge that many Work Coaches currently lack, and have little incentive to develop
  • To compensate for their lack of specialism, Work Coaches will be increasingly required to identify and refer their claimants to appropriate external support: for example, from charities and third parties. This, in itself, requires a level of specialist knowledge
  • The requirement to refer to third-party support, alongside the more complex caseloads and extended support role, will place increasing pressure on claimants’ appointment times with Work Coaches

The Committee is also concerned about the “manifold reduction” in external support that the Work and Health Programme represents. It will have a budget of £554m over its lifetime: substantially less than the estimated £1.5bn that was spent on disability employment through the Work Programme and Work Choice it replaces. Witnesses told the Committee that this reduction in programme capacity meant that many of those who might benefit from participating would be unable to access it. Given the Government’s pledge to halve the disability employment gap, this is a disappointing development.

This is also worth noting:  Conclusions and recommendations.

3.We recommend the Department set out how it will support Work Coaches to strike the right balance between coaching and conditionality—potentially conflicting elements of their role. Work Coaches should be given more comprehensive guidance on how to adopt a flexible approach to conditionality for vulnerable groups of claimants, such as those with health conditions or housing problems. The guidance should include multiple examples illustrating the circumstances in which different levels of conditionality, including frequency of meetings, would be appropriate and effective. (Paragraph 22)

4.We recommend that the Department monitor the extent to which claimants consider Claimant Commitments personalised. This should include adding a question on this topic to the annual Claimant Experience survey. (Paragraph 23)

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The success of the Department’s approach will depend on supporting people who, in many cases, are long term unemployed or have substantial health issues back into work. Many of these may have seen Jobcentres as enforcement agencies, and their staff as police, and have been poorly served in the past. Instead of building on examples of successful programmes such as Work Choice, the Department is overseeing a massive reduction in the spending on the replacement Work and Health Programme. Compensating for this will require a massive cultural shift and practical shift in JCP, enabling it to become a place that supports real progress to, and in, work. We are not convinced that JCPs and Work Coaches will have the necessary resources, skills and expertise to do this, and especially not at the rapid and ambitious pace that the DWP is expecting.

The Government has expressed the need to reform capitalism, and to “make work pay”. We welcome the Department’s willingness to take a flexible approach to JCP’s services, and to try to support those who have been inadequately served by the current system. But we have grave concerns that shifting a raft of new, specialised demands and requirements onto JCPs, without significant training and preparation and with greatly reduced resources, is simply front-loading this brave new world for failure.”

Written by Andrew Coates

November 14, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Benefit Sanctions and UN Report on Disability Benefit ‘Reforms’: Abuse Continues.

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Image result for Sanctions benefits

News Seeker flags this important article.

I realise even the mice in my street are concerned about Trump but this goes on…

And on.

Benefit sanctions on North Wales job seekers ‘hitting most vulnerable’

Study reveals 17,596 of the 36,905 sanctions imposed were later overturned, with AM saying it raises questions about the accuracy of decisions

More than 17,000 people in North and Mid Wales had their benefits stopped forcing some to turn to food banks and loan sharks – only for the decision to be later overturned, it has been revealed.

A study by Plaid Cymru revealed 36,905 people were subjected to sanctions on their job seekers allowance (JSA) between 2012-2015 – but 17,596 of those sanctions were overturned on appeal or cancelled due to errors.

Plaid Cymru regional AM Llyr Gruffydd said the system meant often “vulnerable people” were being “left high and dry”.

Mr Gruffydd believes this questions the validity of the penalties, which are applied if claimants fail to complete agreed tasks with Job Centre staff.

These can range from not filling out enough job applications to failing to attend a prescribed number of interviews.

He said: “This relates to the Job Seekers’ Allowance as the Department of Work and Pensions has not released similar data on other benefits. However it paints a worrying picture of how sanctions – i.e. stopping benefits – can be applied without good cause and sometimes against people who are vulnerable and unable to represent themselves.

“These are the people who are then left high and dry, needing food banks, emergency loans or even loan sharks to tide them over. If more than half the cases end up without sanctions being applied it raises questions about the accuracy of the original decision.”

Between October 2012 and December 2015, 36,905 sanctions were applied in North and Mid Wales. Of those, 17,377 (47.1%) were cases where sanctions were actually enforced.

In a further 10,370 cases (28.1%) a decision was found in favour of the claimant and claims were reinstated. In 1,932 cases (5.2%) decisions were reserved because the claimant didn’t have a current claim and in 7,226 cases (19.5%) sanctions were cancelled due to errors, lack of information or the claimant stopped claiming before the sanction.

A recent Parliamentary select committee review of benefit sanctions heard from academics and employers.

One, Dr David Webster of the University of Glasgow, told MPs the DWP is sanctioning people “willy nilly”.

He added: “They say you have to apply for 30 jobs in a fortnight and you only apply for 29 and they sanction you. This is completely absurd.”

He also said it was unnecessary to run the system on the assumption most job seekers “don’t want to work”.

Mr Gruffydd added: “There’s plenty of evidence of people losing all their benefits at a stroke because of arbitrary sanctions.

“Job Centre staff have spoken out about being given targets in terms of sanctions and I’m concerned that the most vulnerable could be bearing the brunt of these.

“They are the easiest to sanction and are likely to have the least resources and support to fight back.”

And there is this as well (from the New Statesman, a good source of information and comment)

UN report finds UK disability benefit reforms “violate human rights”

The government’s welfare reforms show “grave or systematic violations of the rights of persons with disabilities”, according to a UN report.

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities painted a picture of a benefits system with a blunt mandate to get claimants back into work, but with little consideration of human rights.

Instead, people with disabilities have found their living conditions deteriorate due to a toxic cocktail of cuts to housing benefit, tightened budgets for local services, and blunt assessments that do not take into account complex needs. The Bedroom Tax also made it harder to find suitable accommodation.

But perhaps the most damning part of the report is the change in culture it observes.

Because disabled people are more likely to rely on some form of welfare support, they are also more likely to be a target of scapegoating, it noted.

As the government rolled out its welfare reforms, “high-ranking officers” issued statements telling the public the changes were supposed to make the welfare system fairer to taxpayers and reduce benefit fraud.

The report continued:

Persons with disabilities have been regularly portrayed negatively as being dependent or making a living out of benefits, committing fraud as benefit claimants, being lazy and putting a burden on taxpayers, who are paying “money for nothing”.

Its inquiry uncovered evidence that people with disabilities experience increasing hostility, aggressive behaviour and attacks. This was despite the fact there was nothing to suggest people with disabilities were any more likely to commit benefit fraud.

In response to the criticism, the government pointed to its campaigners to improve public awareness. But the UN committee is unconvinced.

It concluded that the government could have foreseen that its welfare reforms would have a negative impact on people with disabilities. But instead, those claimants undergoing assessments “felt that they were merely processed rather than being listened to or understood”.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 10, 2016 at 11:45 am

Questions about Tackling Fraud , Error in the Benefits System as Universal Credit System still ‘Undeveloped”.

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There is more to this than meets the initial headline.

Spending watchdog urges clearer plans for cutting benefit system fraud and error.

Reports Welfare Weekly.

Efforts to tackle fraud and error in the benefits system must be stepped up following the “meltdown” over Concentrix’s role in the tax credit system, the Commons spending watchdog has said.

The cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said fraud and error remained a “significant problem” for the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

Outside contractor Concentrix was tasked with reducing fraud and error in the tax credits system but HMRC announced last month that its contract would not be renewed following complaints that claimants’ payments were wrongly cut.

The PAC welcomed some of the action taken by DWP and HMRC to tackle the problems in the benefits and tax credits systems, but demanded more action.

The report said: “While it is encouraging to see the departments targeting the causes of losses, such as misreported income, they also need clearer plans to reduce fraud and error in other challenging areas such as cohabitation and claimants pretending to live in the UK who live abroad.

“Recent issues relating to HMRC’s contract with Concentrix to investigate suspected fraud and error by tax credit claimants highlights the need to get these plans right.

“We remain disappointed by the absence of stretching targets for tackling fraud and error.”

So far so sadly predictable.

But Lo! there is this:

The committee also raised fresh concerns about the troubled Universal Credit programme, the Government’s flagship welfare reform aimed at simplifying a series of separate benefits into one payment.

The MPs warned that “systems underpinning Universal Credit are still underdeveloped and there are signs of pressure on staff”.

They also raised concerns that the “rigid” monthly assessment period could cause problems for claimants whose pay or rent were based on four-weekly cycles.

The report Universal Credit and fraud and error: progress review section on Universal Credit  says,

The Department started to roll out its “full service” version of Universal Credit to jobcentres in May 2016. It is rolling out at a rate of five centres a month and the Department had planned to scale up to 50 centres a month from February 2017. But on 20 July 2016, just hours before we took oral evidence on this inquiry, the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions released a written ministerial statement, outlining a further delay to the roll out of the programme.3 The statement outlined a slower roll-out of the Department’s full service systems, which would continue to roll-out to only five centres a month until June 2017, before increasing the speed of the roll-out. The Department now envisages that the full service will be available in every jobcentre by September 2018 rather than June 2018, and that the roll-out of Universal Credit will now be complete by March 2022, 12 months later than previously announced and four and a half years after October 2017, the planned completion date at the start of the programme.4

3.The Department attributed the delay in roll-out to scope changes following policies announced in the Summer Budget 2015. These include removing eligibility for housing elements from 18 to 21 year olds, reducing the “limited capability for work” element to zero and restricting the number of children that Universal Credit will pay for to a maximum of two.5 These policy changes were announced in July 2015; well before our last evidence session in December 2015, and before the Department submitted its Outline Business Case to HM Treasury for approval in September 2015.6 The Department has therefore had a long time already to consider how to apply the policy changes to its systems, and actually had 21 months in total to implement the changes before they come into force in April 2017.7

4.The Department for Work & Pensions denied that it was attributing wider operational problems to changes in policy, and told us that a recent internal review of the Universal Credit programme concluded that it would have been on track to deliver 50 jobcentres in February 2017, if the Department did not have its issue of new scope to deal with.8 The Department told us that this new timetable should be feasible if no further policy changes are announced.9 Universal Credit has often been described as simplifying the benefit system. But these new delays suggest that the systems underpinning Universal Credit’s design are not adaptable to changes in policy or entitlement, raising questions about the promised flexibility of the new systems.10

Note also,

14.The Department expects people who are in work that earn less than the equivalent of 35 hours per week at the minimum wage to look to work or earn more. This “in-work conditionality” regime is still at a very early stage of development and the Department is undertaking a national trial to see what the best ways are of intervening. Approximately 40% of the current Universal Credit caseload are in work (approximately 112,000 claimants) and are moving into the trial.38 But longer term, the majority of households likely to fall within these requirements will be the 4.4 million families currently in receipt of tax credits, who are not used to such conditions being attached to their entitlement.39 These requirements may lead to families being ‘sanctioned’, or facing a financial penalty, if they cannot demonstrate that they have been looking to increase earnings during their assessment month. The Department stressed to us that the idea of this is to encourage people to work more hours and increase their earnings, not to be a system of punishment, but the Department must be sensitive to individual families’ circumstances (for example varying shift patterns and overtime requests) if the system is to prove effective. The Work and Pensions Select Committee has looked into this area in depth and we will also continue to take an interest in this area as plans develop and in work claimant numbers increase.40

If you have a strong stomach this is worth reading: from the Conclusions,

The Department has not updated its assessment of the expected benefits of Universal Credit in the light of policy and operational changes. The Department has now spent £1.16 billion on implementing Universal Credit, which has a caseload of around 280,000, compared to the over 6 million claimants expected in the long term. Despite having previously estimated that a six month delay to the programme could reduce net benefits to the taxpayer by £2.3 billion, the Department now maintains that the net benefits of the programme have not changed significantly from the £20 billion quoted in its 2015 outline business case. The Department rejected the recommendation we made in February 2016 that it should explain how the business case has changed following changes in policy to Universal Credit and other working age benefits, on the grounds that revising a business case takes four months. However the Department told us that it does have ready-reckoners and is able to model the effect of changes quickly, suggesting that it should have been able to accept our recommendation without causing disproportionate extra work.

Recommendation: We reiterate our previous recommendation that the Department should set out clearly the changes to the business case for Universal Credit since its outline business case in 2015. It should include a brief summary of the policy changes and, using its ready-reckoners, a clear explanation of the impact on the programme’s costs and benefits.

3.Systems underpinning Universal Credit are still underdeveloped and there are signs of pressure on staff. We welcome the fact that the Department has changed its mind and has now accepted our recommendations and those made by the previous Committee concerning the need for better contingency planning. But the Department still has a long way to go before systems will be ready to scale up Universal Credit significantly; we heard, for example, that only 25% of claims in the new full service are paid automatically. We also received written evidence that staff are concerned about the lack of training and the pressures of work preventing adequate testing and learning within the new service.

Recommendation: Before the speed at which Universal Credit is rolled out is increased, the Department should ensure that there are sufficient opportunities for staff to engage in testing and learning processes, and set out for the Committee what it has done to address staff concerns. The Department should write to the Committee to inform it of action taken by May 2017.

4.Universal Credit’s rigid monthly assessment period causes difficulties for claimants whose pay or rent are based on four-weekly periods. Claimants whose pay or rent cycle does not match the monthly assessment period used for Universal Credit may experience difficulties, such as a drop in payment without warning. Similar issues arise when people are paid early for Christmas. The Department’s only solution appears to be to try and persuade employers and landlords to change their pay and rent practices, rather than seeking to make its own systems more flexible. With the number of employees and landlords the former is unlikely to be feasible.

Recommendation:The Department should ensure that claimants whose pay or rent cycles do not align with Universal Credit assessment periods are made aware of this issue and the potential consequences, and are informed of what support is available should this be needed. The Department should also examine what it can do to adapt its systems to cater for these circumstances or provide more information about what it is doing to secure change with employers and landlords.

6.The Department for Work & Pensions’ understanding of the level and causes of fraud and error in Universal Credit and some other benefits is incomplete, potentially undermining efforts to reduce losses. While the Department expects Universal Credit to reduce fraud and error overpayments by £1 billion a year when it is fully rolled out, initial estimates indicate that the level is currently higher than the Jobseeker’s Allowance that it is replacing. The Department attribute this to the difficulty of developing a suitable methodology to measure fraud and error in Universal Credit, as the new benefit is designed to support both those in work as well as those out of work, and to cases where the Department was unable to contact claimants to verify the payment made. The Department does not regularly measure fraud and error across all its other benefits; for example, fraud and error in the payment of Carer’s Allowance has not been measured for 20 years.

Recommendation: The Department for Work & Pensions should: establish and agree with the National Audit Office a robust method for estimating Universal Credit fraud and error; and undertake regular risk assessments to improve its understanding of the causes of fraud and error in those benefits where it has not been measured for some time or at all.

Our conclusion: there are problems about

  • “In-work conditionality” is “at a very early stage of development”:  that is they have no clear idea of what the hell it means and what the rules are.
  • There are new opportunities for – sanctions and “financial penalties”.
  • The system is not yet ready to cope with all claims.
  • Both potential Fraud and Error are a greater problem now for those on Universal Credit (” initial estimates indicate that the level is currently higher than the Jobseeker’s Allowance..”)
  • Rent and Pay cycles are not aligned with Universal Credit so that, claimants may “experience difficulties, such as a drop in payment without warning.”

Ho, ho ho!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 6, 2016 at 1:16 pm

Corbyn Tells PM May to See ‘I, Daniel Blake’.

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Image result for I daniel blake sloagn onw all

Corbyn Urges PM to See I, Daniel Blake.

During Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday this happened (BBC)

Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May why she was bringing in cuts to Universal Credit.

The Labour leader said her predecessor David Cameron had abandoned cuts to tax credits, but these changes were now being brought back via Universal Credit.

But the prime minister defended changes to benefits and she said it was “important to value work”, and that struggling families were struggling to pay for the benefits of others.

The Guardian summarises,

Today’s exchange was almost wholly around benefits. Jeremy Corbyn recommended that the prime minister should “support British cinema” by going to see Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake during a series of questions about benefit sanctions, universal credit cuts and cuts to the employment support allowance for disabled people. He accused Theresa May of “imposing poverty on people” under the guise of helping them find work. In response, May said Labour was in favour of no sanctions and no obligation on claimants to prove they were unfit for work, and that the benefits system needed to also be fair to the people who pay for it. She said Labour had lost touch with its working-class support and the Tories were now the true party of the working classes.

They add,

Memorable lines

It’s time we ended this institutional barbarity against the most vulnerable people in the system.

Jeremy Corbyn urges May to undo benefit sanctions.

The Labour party is drifting away from the views of working-class people. It is this party that knows how to support them.

May accuses Labour of abandoning its core supporters

The Mirror observes,

Prime Minister’s Questions. She got her knickers in a twist when she somehow called an MP Jeremy Corbyn’s son.

She then brazenly claimed the Tories were the party of the working class when she was told to end cruel benefit sanctions and watch hit film I, Daniel Blake.

The Guardian further reports,

Corbyn urges May to see I, Daniel Blake to gain insight to life on welfare.

Jeremy Corbyn is urging Labour members to attend a series of special screenings of the campaigning Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake, in the run-up to Philip Hammond’s autumn statement, in an effort to rally support against planned cuts to disability benefits.

The film, currently on release in cinemas, details Blake’s struggles with the complex bureaucracy of the benefits system, and was made after the director researched the lives of welfare claimants.

At Wednesday’s prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons, the Labour leader suggested May should “support British cinema” by watching the film, to give her an insight into the struggles faced by the “just managing” families she has pledged to help.

Corbyn will attend a special screening of the film on 17 November – less than a week before the autumn statement – as will a series of other frontbenchers, including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, and shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

McDonnell said: “I, Daniel Blake was one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen so I’m very pleased we have teamed up with Ken Loach to urge people to go and watch it at these special screenings taking place before the autumn statement.

“We’re living in an I, Daniel Blake society as a result of having the Tories in power for six years. The government should be caring for sick and disabled people, not making their lives worse.

In particular, Labour is calling for Hammond to scrap cuts to the employment and support allowance. ESA, which goes to sick and disabled people, who either can’t work or are trying to find employment, is due to be reduced by £30 for some new claimants from April next year. Labour has said it would reverse the policy.

The ESA cut is one of a series of planned reductions in benefits for future years set out by George Osborne before he was removed as chancellor by May in June.

Damian Green, the new work and pensions secretary, has signalled that there will be no fresh cuts in the welfare budget; but his department have insisted they will go ahead with reductions set in train by Osborne, including £3bn a year due to be trimmed off the cost of universal credit.

Tory backbenchers have expressed concerns about the potential impact of some of the changes on poorer families, with backbencher Heidi Allen leading calls for the UC cuts to be reversed – a cause that has also won the support of Green’s predecessor, Iain Duncan Smith.

Duncan Smith has called on Hammond to use his autumn statement, which will reveal the first estimates from the independent office for budget responsibility of the economic impact of Brexit, to cancel planned tax cuts, and spend the money saved on making UC more generous.

Corbyn challenged the prime minister on the various benefits cuts in the House of Commons. She responded by claiming Labour would like to see “no assessments, no sanctions and unlimited welfare” – an assertion later denied by Corbyn’s spokesman

Work Capability Changes Announcement on Monday.

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Work Capability Assessment Campaigners. 

Earlier this year this happened,

Criticism as £30-a-week disability benefit cuts go ahead March.

Peers have backed down in their battle with MPs over cuts to disabled people’s benefits after ministers invoked special powers to push them through.

The government was twice defeated in the House of Lords over a £30 a week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for certain claimants.

But it is set to go ahead after peers deferred to the elected Commons.

Ministers claimed “financial privilege” to assert the Commons’ right to have the final say on budgetary measures.

Ministers argue the changes will encourage people to get into work, but this is strongly disputed by opponents.

Then at the start of October this happened (BBC),

Tens of thousands of people claiming the main benefit for long-term sickness will no longer face repeated medical assessments to keep their payments.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said it was pointless to re-test recipients of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) with severe conditions and no prospect of getting better.

More than two million people receive ESA, which is worth up to £109 a week.

The move has been welcomed by charities supporting those with severe illness.

Now this there is this:

Work capability assessment overhaul for disabled BBC.

The scheme that assesses claimants of disability benefits faces a major overhaul, following claims by a charity that it is “fundamentally flawed”.

A consultation on reforming the Work Capability Assessment will be announced on Monday.

Ministers want claimants to be assessed in a more “targeted and personalised” way to help more people find jobs.

The charity Scope, which had criticised the current assessment scheme, said it welcomed the planned changes.

It said disabled people needed “expert, tailored employment support”.

Both Employment Support Allowance, which is paid to more than two million people, and the assessment, were originally introduced by Labour and then expanded by the coalition government.

The consultation – to be launched by Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green on Monday – follows the announcement that people with severe conditions will no longer face reassessments for their benefits.

It will examine how people receiving ESA can be helped back into employment without having their benefits put at risk while they search for a job.

Note this is already problematic since nobody has yet been able to show exactly what this ‘help’ is. and how it….helps.

Mr Green said: “A disability or health condition should not dictate the path a person is able to take in life.

“No one wants a system where people are written off and forced to spend long periods of time on benefits when, actually, with the right support they could be getting back into work.

“The proposed changes… will focus on improving opportunities and raising aspirations while making sure those people who most need support from the government receive it.”

Former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who spearheaded the government’s welfare reforms for six years before resigning in March, said: “ESA is a part of the benefits system left over from the last Labour government and is in real need of reform.

“These proposals are directly taken from a full plan for reform that we at the DWP were close to completing before I resigned.

“The purpose was to get rid of the binary choice that you were fit for work or not fit for work. My plan covered all the areas announced today and went further in proposing some other positive changes.”

Note:  more bald faced lies from the man responsible for this:

 In September 2013 leaked documents showed that Duncan Smith was looking at “how to make it harder for sick and disabled people to claim benefits”. Duncan Smith was advised that it would be illegal to introduce secondary legislation, which does not require parliament’s approval, in order to give job centre staff more powers to make those who were claiming Employment and Support Allowance undertake more tests to prove that they were making a serious effort to come off benefits and find a job. The powers being discussed also included “forcing sick and disabled people to take up offers of work.” DWP staff would also have the power to strip claimants with serious, but time-limited health conditions, of benefits if they refuse the offer of work

Is this true?

BBC political correspondent Eleanor Garnier said the move signalled a clear change of approach from that of David Cameron’s government, which tightened and reduced welfare spending.

This certainly is.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams called for the assessments to be scrapped, saying they caused “needless misery and stress” for thousands of sick and disabled people.

She said the government’s approach was “ideologically driven with the sole purpose of targeting the most vulnerable in our society to pay for their austerity plans, painting disabled people as scroungers and shirkers, whilst making no impact on the disability employment gap”.

We await more comment from this quarter:

Citizens Advice said it dealt with 25,000 issues around Work Capability Assessments last year, saying the reforms should make the test “fair, consistent and right first time”.

MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “We are keen to help create a system that makes more sense.

“However, it must be recognised that many people with long-term progressive conditions will simply be too unwell to work and no amount of extra employment support will change that.”

Phil Reynolds, from the charity Parkinson’s UK, told BBC Radio 5 live he “cautiously welcomed” the new move, but that his organisation had been trying to highlight the issue for a long time.

“We continue to hear examples of people with really serious conditions, like Parkinsons, who are put in that ‘back to work’ group because the assessment fails to recognise that a person’s condition will only get worse,” he said.

“It’s really important that anything that comes out of this leads to positive improvements and a more sensitive assessment.”

Written by Andrew Coates

October 30, 2016 at 3:35 pm

New Study: Benefit sanctions forcing people to use food banks, which “should not become an informal substitution for the social safety net.”

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“Should not become an informal substitution for the social safety net” says Report.

Few things are more degrading than having to reply on food hand outs because of poverty, and specifically, as the result of having people’s benefits cut or stopped.

With benefit sanctions in the news, after the release of Ken Loach’s film I, Daniel Blake, this is very timely.

Benefit sanctions, whereby social security claimants have their payments stopped for at least a month as a punishment for supposedly breaching strict jobcentre rules, are a key driver of hunger and food bank use, according to a study carried out by Oxford University academics.

Reports the Guardian.

The Trussell Trust, which funded the report, says today,

  • University of Oxford researchers analysed four years of Trussell Trust foodbank data and found an increase in 10 Jobseeker’s Allowance sanctions per 100,000 adults was associated with five more adults needing foodbanks
  • In response, The Trussell Trust, which runs a network of over 420 foodbanks, calls for a true ‘yellow card’ warning system to stop people falling into crisis

Research by the University of Oxford, released today, finds a “strong, dynamic relationship” between sanctioning and food bank usage: there is a link between people having their benefit payments stopped and an increase in referrals to foodbanks.

Researchers analysing Trussell Trust foodbank data from across 259 local authorities between 2012 and 2015 found that as the rate of sanctioning increased within local authorities, the rate of foodbank use also increased.

Even after accounting for differences between local authorities, their modelling showed that for every 10 additional sanctions applied in each quarter of the year, on average five more adults would be referred to Trussell Trust foodbanks in the area. As sanctioning decreased, foodbank use also decreased, which the report suggests is evidence of a strong link between sanctioning and people not having enough money to meet basic needs.

The findings are from the first phase of a 16-month study into how trends in foodbank usage over the last four years relate to changes in the economy and welfare system. Looking across local authorities and over time using aggregated quarterly data, researchers examined whether changes in sanctioning rates within local authorities related to changes in foodbank usage.

Researchers built a longitudinal dataset of local authorities containing quarterly adult foodbank usage, data on foodbank operations, and government data on the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, the number of sanctions applied to Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants, unemployment and employment rates, and population size. These models control for differences in characteristics between local authorities and time trends, ruling out other potential explanations for the relationship observed.

The report says foodbanks in The Trussell Trust network experienced a spike in numbers after 2013, when over one million sanctions were applied. Changes to the sanction regime and Jobseeker’s Allowance at this time included increasing benefit conditionality for claimants, sanctions imposed immediately for failure to meet these conditions, and longer sanctioning penalties, starting from a minimum of four weeks to up to three years*. Foodbanks distributed three times as much over the period – from just under 350,000 three-day emergency food supplies in 2012/13 to around 913,000 in 2013/14. Even after accounting for new foodbanks opening, this spike was evident across the network, says the research.

Report lead author Dr Rachel Loopstra, from the University of Oxford, said:

“These findings show clear evidence of sanctions being linked to economic hardship and hunger, as we see a close relationship between sanctioning rates and rates of foodbank usage across local authorities in the UK.’

In response to this new evidence, The Trussell Trust proposes changes to the current ‘yellow card’ warning being piloted by the Department for Work and Pensions in Scotland, and calls for the recommendations to be extended across the UK. Currently, the system in Scotland gives notice a sanction is pending and 14 days to appeal. The Trussell Trust recommend a warning system with a non-financial ‘yellow card’ penalty to first try and engage the person in a constructive dialogue without the immediate threat of financial penalty.

Adrian Curtis, Foodbank Network Director for The Trussell Trust, said today,

“The findings from this ground-breaking study by the University of Oxford tell us once and for all: the more people sanctioned, the more people need foodbanks. We now need to listen to the stories behind the statistics: families go hungry, debt spiral, and the heating doesn’t go on even as temperatures drop.

“There is much to be hopeful about – we’re very pleased to see sanctioning rates have decreased and that the new Secretary of State has announced that work capability re-assessments for ESA claimants with incurable or progressive illnesses have been scrapped. However, we still see people being referred to our foodbanks who have been sanctioned unfairly. A true ‘yellow card’ system, which gives people a non-financial warning first, would mean less people thrown into crisis and ultimately, less people needing foodbanks.”

You can see the paper here:  The impact of benefit sanctioning on food insecurity: a dynamic cross-area study of food bank usage in the UK

Household food security, which may be compromised by short-term income shocks, is a key determinant of health. Since 2012, the UK witnessed marked increases in the rate of ‘sanctions’ applied to unemployment insurance claimants, which stop payments to claimants for a minimum of four weeks. In 2013, over 1 million sanctions were applied, potentially leaving people facing economic hardship and driving them to use food banks. Here we test this hypothesis by linking data from the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network with records on sanctioning rates across 259 local authorities in the UK. After accounting for local authority differences and time trends, as the rate of sanctioning increased by 10 per 100,000 adults, the rate of adults fed by foodbanks by an additional 3.36 adults per 100,000 (95% CI: 1.71 to 5.01). The availability of food distribution sites affected how tightly sanctioning and food bank usage were associated (p<0.001 for interaction term), such that in areas with few distribution sites, rising sanctions led to smaller increases in Trussell Trust food bank usage. Sanctioning appears to be closely linked with rising need for emergency food assistance, but the impact of sanctioning on food insecurity is likely not fully reflected in available data. There is a need to monitor household food insecurity in the UK to fully understand the impact of government policies on this outcome.

These are  important parts of their conclusion:

The recent decline in sanctioning is a positive sign, and has likely contributed to the decline in the numbers of people using food banks within local authorities in 2015/16. Yet, in 2015, there were still about 358,000 sanctions applied to JSA claimants. We also observed that declines in sanctioning were not as strongly linked to declines in food bank usage, explaining why the decline in food bank usage has not been as fast as the decline in sanctions. This could be because experiences of sanctions trigger longer-term financial crises, such as debt accumulation.

And,

Our findings also highlight the limitations of any charitable food support network’s ability to eradicate food insecurity. These networks are increasingly relied upon to fill in the gaps in welfare support but, by relying on volunteers and donated food and space to operate, they will vary in their capacity to address hunger in their area. As such, they are not equipped to address these gaps in every part of the country and are less able to respond quickly to changes in need. Food banks are not an adequate solution to the problem of hunger, and they should not become an informal substitution for the social safety net.

The Independent notes,

The Department for Work and Pensions dismissed the findings as “misleading”.

“The reasons for food bank use are complex, and it is misleading to link them to any one issue,” said a government spokesperson.

“We’re clear that work is the best route out of poverty, and the number of people in employment is at a record high, up by 2.7 million since 2010.”

They said £90 billion was spent on working age benefits “to ensure a strong safety net”.

One further point:

Written by Andrew Coates

October 27, 2016 at 3:13 pm

Posted in DWP, Food Banks, Sanctions

Tagged with , ,

Behavioural “Insights” Team on Sanctions and “Identity-building activities.”

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Somewhere we hope never to go…

Most of us are familiar with the way the DWP Job Centre, and all the rest of the schemes we are on, are run on the basis of some kind of managerial theory which tries to ‘nudge’ (force) us to behave in order to fit into their idea of what we should do to get employment.

On the Work Programme this could involve being told to “get out of your comfort zone”, listening to heroic tales of how the trainers obtained their magnificent positions through hard work, or (job centre) somebody going through your Job Seeker’s Agreement with a fine tooth comb to find if you have spent every waking hour asking “giv us a job”.

People have made money out of theorising this practice, and no doubt drawing up the guidelines for DWP and Trainers to follow.

Indeed their is a whole ‘unit’, the Behavioural Insights Team, that produces hefty reports on such affairs.

There is a book, “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein” (2008) which has replaced How to Win Friends and Influence People” on every huckster’s book shelf.

This American text’s core message was summed up by the New York Review of Books as follows,

Nudging is about the self-conscious design of choice architecture. Put a certain choice architecture together with a certain heuristic and you will get a certain outcome. That’s the basic equation. So, if you want a person to reach a desirable outcome and you can’t change the heuristic she’s following, then you have to meddle with the choice architecture, setting up one that when matched with the given heuristic delivers the desirable outcome. That’s what we do when we nudge.

It’s all for your own Good. Jeremy Waldron.

Naturally the book came to the UK where this was the reception (Richard Reeves, Observer. 2008)

Nudge has become the ‘it’ book for politicos. Thaler is in the middle of a fortnight in the UK and is being courted and feted by the chattering, thinking, wonking classes. Everyone who is anyone has been nudged by the amiable prof (I bought him dinner). The Conservatives moved quickly to stake their claim to his brand of ‘libertarian paternalism’, seeing in it a way for the state to act non-coercively for the greater good.

The (gibberish sounding) Behavioural Insights Team) was the result.

The quality of the thinking, research and proposals of this merry crew is praised in the book, Inside the Nudge Unit: How Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference.  David Halpern. 2016.

You can judge for yourself (Review: Public Finance)

Human beings are amazingly complicated, so you do get surprises coming up on a regular basis even if you’re fairly expert,” Halpern says. He cites the example of a big discrepancy in the results of a judgment test sat by applicants to the police. “It’s an online test – there are no human beings involved – and yet there was a massive difference in the pass rate between white and ethnic minority candidates, 60% versus 40%,” he explains. “There were lots of hypotheses about why this might be – you can imagine some of the ideas.”

We can indeed.

People are really complicated.

Wow.

The Unit came up with wizard wheezes like “Giving a day’s salary to charity” “Using a lottery to increase electoral participation rates” and “Increasing fine payment rates through text messages.” (more see Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), also known unofficially as the “Nudge Unit“)

And….”.”Personal commitment devices in Jobcentres.”

Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP did not do “non-coercive”, so we had…sanctions to “nudge” us in the right direction.

As in, I, Daniel Blake.

Now we hear this from the Nudgers:

DWP must review welfare conditionality, policy unit set up by Downing Street says (Independent a few days ago)

The Government should review its practice of forcing benefit claimants to jump through hoops like attending Jobcentre meetings in order to claim benefits, a policy unit set up by Downing Street has recommended.

The Behavioral Insights Team, set up by David Cameron in 2010, said piling unemployed people with responsibilities on pain of sanction might actually be making it harder for them to get jobs.

The so-called Nudge Unit, which was part-privatised in 2014, warned that some Government policies were reducing so-called “cognitive bandwidth” or “headspace” of the people they were designed to help.

Is that all?

Not quite.

‘Nudge Unit’ u-turn on benefit sanctions could herald even more state intervention  replies Sue Jones in Welfare Weekly.

It’s very interesting that the Behavioural Insights Team now claim that the state using the threat of benefit sanctions may be “counterproductive”. The idea of increasing welfare conditionality and enlarging the scope and increasing the frequency of benefit sanctions originated from the behavioural economics theories of the Nudge Unit in the first place.

The increased use and rising severity of benefit sanctions became an integrated part of welfare “conditionality” in the Conservative’s Welfare “reform” Act, 2012. The current sanction regime is based on a principle borrowed from behavioural economics theory – an alleged cognitive bias we have called “loss aversion.” It refers to the idea that people’s tendency is to strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. The idea is embedded in the use of sanctions to “nudge” people towards compliance with welfare rules of conditionality, by using a threat of punitive financial loss, since the longstanding, underpinning Conservative assumption is that people are unemployed because of alleged behavioural deficits and poor decision-making. Hence the need for policies that “rectify ” behaviour.

This is important,

….anyone curious as to how such tyrannical behaviour modification techniques like benefit sanctions arose from the bland language, inane, managementspeak acronyms and pseudo-scientific framework of “paternal libertarianism” – nudge – here is an interesting read: Employing BELIEF: Applying behavioural economics to welfare to work, which is focused almost exclusively on New Right small state obsessions. Pay particular attention to the part about the alleged cognitive bias called loss aversion, on page 7.

It gets worse.

A lot worse, drivel wise that is.

This is what they propose:

Work

1 Use identity-building activities in Jobcentres to cultivate intrinsic motivation for work in order to improve the quality and sustainability of jobs that people find.

2 Collect longer-term and more holistic outcome measures of labour market interventions to understand their full impact on poverty.

3 Develop a simple tool for Jobcentres to identify capital deficits in order to match interventions to individual job seeker needs.

Sue Jones states,

Proposals such as providing access to parenting programmes, “identity-building activities in Jobcentres to cultivate intrinsic motivation for work”, “rainy day “savings, and “develop a simple tool for Jobcentres to identify capital deficits in order to match interventions to individual job seeker needs” all sound like a New Right blame-storming exercise. Again, the problem of poverty is regarded as being intrinsic to the individual, rather than one that arises in a wider political, economic, cultural and social context.

People have to read the Welfare Weekly article in full.

But the impression I get is that this latest  jolly prank looks like subjecting claimants to more, endlessly more, attempts by this lot to shape our lives and tell us what to do.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 25, 2016 at 3:39 pm

I, Daniel Blake in Review: Will it Help Change Anything?

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As a measure of I, Daniel Blake’s impact, this weekend the  French daily, Le Monde, devoted a whole page to an interview with the sociologist of poverty Nicolas Duvoux. about Ken Loach’s film.

He noted just how much the French system had become like the nightmare described in the picture (it might help that the French word for “sanction” is, er, la sanction).

At the end the interviewer asked if Loach’s call for a debate on these system, and the misery caused by miserly social security, could take place in France.

The answer was that Duvoux doubted it: people had become blinded to the existence of poverty. They blame the poor for being poor.

UNITE the union says,

We are all Daniel Blake

Our hope is that this film will spark a national debate and build public support for a fairer social security system for people in and out of work – just like Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home shifted the political agenda on housing in this country in the 1960s.

The scary thing is that what happens to Daniel could happen to anyone of us. How would you cope with being made redundant? Or falling ill? How long would your savings last? The British welfare state has helped millions of people get back on their feet in times of need – a safety net for those that fall on hard times – to need it isn’t a moral failing #WeAreAllDanielBlake.

We note that the Evening Standard’s review is headed, “Ken Loach’s grim portrait of Britain tells us that state bureaucracy is a horror and that welfare rules humiliate claimants, but nothing that we didn’t know already, says David Sexton.”

Sexton peppers his article with further sneers,

Big-hearted Dan, forgetting his own troubles, takes them in hand, fixing their cistern, leaving them some money for the electric, putting up one of his mobiles, getting little Dylan talking. And he takes Katie to the local food bank, where the poor girl is so hungry she breaks down and, while scooping things off the shelves, opens a tin, possibly of spaghetti rings, there and then and begins eating it with her hands. Worse, when she finds the food bank doesn’t do sanitary towels, she shoplifts some — and the store’s security guard spots her as ripe for going on the game, a further neo-capitalist degradation. 

And,

Loach, 80 now, is such an undeviating and old-fashioned Marxist that it has been fascinating to observe the rapprochement between his own special Left purity, disregarding all contradictory history, and Jeremy Corbyn’s, ditto.

And lo! Corbyn went along to the premiere this very week, posing alongside Loach in front of boards saying “Deaths due to sanctions and benefit cuts RIP”, and kneeling to add his own graffiti to that of Daniel Blake. Next day, he posted on Facebook: “If there’s one thing you do this year, go and see I, Daniel Blake. I went to see it last night and it’s one of the most moving films I’ve seen.” Historically inevitable, really.

Yet, by contrast the Daily Telegraph has a sensitive and intelligent review,  Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake is a quietly fearsome piece of drama.

At the age of 80, Loach is still calling things as he sees them – and a late speech delivered by a homeless ‘wise fool’ in front of a Jobcentre Plus, which takes in everything from food banks and the bedroom tax to “that baldy twat Iain Duncan Whatshisface”, lays out his manifesto with an appealing belligerence. This film treads fearsomely complex, splintery terrain – and the more complex it acknowledges it to be, the better.

Even the Sun comments,

While many people shudder at the thought of his gritty, sometimes sentimentalised portraits of working-class life, they often forget how funny the films can be.

There are jokes – Loach often casts comedians, including John Bishop and now Dave Johns – and uses laughter to lighten the drama.

UNITE, to continue, says,

1. Please go and see this film – and tell your friends to see it too, on general release on 21 October.

2. Share your story – if you’ve ever been sanctioned or affected by any of the issues in I,Daniel Blake then we want to hear from you. Please share your story in the form below.

3.Tell a Tory to see this film – every single MP needs to see this film, (particularly the Tories!). Help them understand that our benefits’ system isn’t working. Email and tweet yours now, enter your postcode below to get started.

4. Unite Community has been campaigning against benefit sanctions right from the start -to find out more about the campaign visit the NoSanctions page.

5. Spread the message on social media- everybody needs to see this film. Join the conversation on the I, Daniel Blake Facebook and Twitter pages tagging #WeareallDanielBlake

Apart from the numerous clips I have not yet seen I, Daniel Blake, for reasons which are pretty obvious.

Like lots of us lot I have seen too much of Daniel Blake in real life. 

But I hope from the depths of my guts that the film helps change things.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 24, 2016 at 9:40 am

Inflation to Hit Benefit Claimants Hard.

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Higher inflation rise will cost poor families extra £100 a year, warns IFS.  Inflation rose to 1 per cent in September, the highest level in almost two years.  Zlata Rodionova The Independent.

The Guardian.

Poor families hit as UK inflation rises to 1% – as it happened

Government’s freeze on in-work benefits means many families will suffer as the cost of living rises.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) states,

In the July 2015 Budget the Government announced that, as part of its attempt to cut annual social security spending by £12 billion, most working-age benefit and tax credit rates would be frozen in cash terms until March 2020.

This policy represented a significant takeaway from a large number of working age households. But it also represented a shifting of risk from the Government to benefit recipients. Previously, higher inflation was a risk to the public finances, increasing cash spending on benefits. Now the risk is borne by low-income households: unless policy changes higher inflation will reduce their real incomes.

 

Huffington Post.

UK Inflation Rises To Two-Year High Of 1.0% As Sterling Turmoil Hits Britain’s Poor

Article 50 hasn’t even been triggered yet.

The rising cost of everyday goods is “just the start” of a sustained rise in inflationthat will hit Britain’s poor hardest, experts have warned.

New figures from the ONS show that inflation in prices is now at the highest point for two years amid the falling value of Sterling following the Brexit vote.

And rising inflation will not only affect prices in supermarkets and high streets, but reduce the income of Britain’s poorest families, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Left Foot Forward.

Brexit: Tory benefit cuts £100 worse for 11.5 million families thanks to pound dive.

Since the British people ‘took back control’ and stuck it to the elites on June 23, the pound has fallen to a 31 year low. While the Brexit press has tried to spin this as a good thing, the facts tell a different story.

As the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) finds today, a weak pound means rising prices, which would be bad enough for low-income people. But since we have a Tory government, this inflation comes amid a freeze on benefits and tax credits, as part a £12 billion cut to social security spending.

This means 11.5 million families will see an even greater real terms cut to their incomes as a result of sterling’s nose dive. Thanks Brexit!

We know what this will mean when we go to the supermarket and do our shopping.

Already we have to watch what we spend, what we buy, wait for the cheap bread at the end of the day, or look in the reduced sections.

And that’s without mentioning our bills.

This is going to get worse, a lot worse.

 

The benefits freeze should be ended now!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Concentrix accused of ‘reign of terror’ against tax credits claimants as scandal grows amid job loses.

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Image result for tax farmers

Apparently “Tax farming is not synonymous with modern privatized tax collection, where private individuals or companies collect taxes and pass them to the state in return for a commission or fee, without bearing any risk consequent of default by the taxpayer. Tax farming is speculative, meaning that the tenant of the farm bears the full risk of defaulted debts. In addition, a tenant is often required as a term of the lease to make an early rent payment, which must be financed from his own resources until the revenue stream subject to the farm has started to be collected.”

Still less the same as Concentrix. 

But what on earth is the same as the mess this lot have created?

Concentrix accused of ‘reign of terror’ against tax credits claimants reports Welfare Weekly. 

A US outsourcing company has been accused of exercising a “reign of terror” over people who claim tax credits.

US outsourcing company, Concentrix, which was awarded a £75m contract by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – the department responsible for collecting taxes and paying out certain benefits – has been accused of exercising a “reign of terror” over people who claim tax credits.

The private company was contracted to “reduce fraud and error” in the tax credit system, and to carry out “compliance checks” in a bid to save the government money. More than 500 civil servants have been deployed to help the private company resolve problems it caused by stopping people’s tax credit payments. This includes tax credit awards for the children of both in work and out of work parents, as well as child care payments.

The company has issued an apology for failures that have left many people with no benefit payments for up to two months, leaving them without money for essentials. The US firm has been accused of “incorrectly” withdrawing tax credits.

Officials from HM Revenue and Customs told a committee of MPs that a breakdown in customer services at Concentrix had resulted in only 10% of calls being answered on some days.

Many thousands of people had their tax credits stopped after Concentrix said they were making “fraudulent claims”. In what can at best be described as Kafkasque taunting, one poor woman was told she was in a relationship with a chain of newsagents, another with the philanthropist and poverty researcher, Joseph Rowntree, (who died in 1925,) according to a BBC report. A teenage single mum receiving tax credits was told she was married to a dead pensioner, after having her child tax credit withdrawn. Another mother was told she was living with the previous tenants of the house that she had lived alone in for two and a half years with her son, after her child tax credit was also withdrawn.

It’s difficult to conceive that these allegations could possibly have been made in genuine error. Mumsnet, an online forum for parents, has had over a thousand comments from parents who received letters from Concentrix demanding evidence out of the blue that they live alone. This was just on one page of ten on the site about the unreasonable demands for “compliance” that the company has been making of parents.

More on this story here.

Concentrix workers take to street as fears grow over job security reports the Belfast Telegraph today.

The employment security of up to 350 employees of Concentrix have been cast into doubt after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) terminated its contract with the US-owned company.

Concentrix, which employs more than 1,800 people across a number of sites in Belfast, had been tasked with reducing claimant fraud in the benefit and tax credit system – but HMRC announced earlier this year the contract will not be renewed.

The move came after the Concentrix was accused of incorrectly withdrawing tax credits from hundreds of claimants, while it has also been claimed it answered only 10% of calls on some days.

Since losing the contract, Concentrix has already let go 150 temporary workers.

The Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) staged a rally outside a Concentrix building in Belfast city centre yesterday afternoon to show support to the employees whose future with the company is unclear.

Speaking at the protest, which was attended by up to 50 people, Gayle Matthews, regional secretary of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union, said: “We’re here in solidarity with the workers of Concentrix.

“There are really two victims here – the claimants who have been badly affected and the workers who were simply following orders from HMRC.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 15, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Damian Green lavishes praise on Iain Duncan Smith for ‘pouring his heart’ into job.

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Iain Duncan Smith: Very fond of hearts, preferably with a nice Chianti. 

Ipswich Unemployed Action posts this breaking news in the knowledge that us lot, here, do not exactly share this “appreciation”.

New Tory welfare chief Damian Green lavishes praise on Iain Duncan Smith for ‘pouring his heart’ into job

Says the Mirror,

The new Tory welfare chief has lavished praise on Bedroom Tax architect and sanctions defender Iain Duncan Smith.

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green said Mr Duncan Smith “poured his heart” into changing the welfare system and should be honoured.

Mr Green said: “We’ve already started this journey. We are building on the record of Iain Duncan Smith, who over six years poured his heart into welfare reform – as did his successor Stephen Crabb.”We should thank both of them for the work they did.

“Our approach of reforming welfare, making work pay and supporting those who need the most help has transformed this country.”

He said a million more people were in work than in 2010, adding: “We should be proud of that record.”

And despite studies showing it will leave many thousands of pounds worse off, he said: “Universal Credit which sits at the heart of our welfare reforms ensures you will always be better off in work.”

Mr Green used the example of people with genetic conditions including Down’s Syndrome who he met doing jobs.

“Work is better for their self esteem, their sense of worth and their physical or mental health,” he said.

 

Just a minor point, the grammatically challenged Mr Green should note that the correct preposition is “Our approach to reforming Welfare”, the use of ‘of’ (as in his malapropism, ‘Our approach of reforming welfare’) which appears  the result of a distant memory of lessons on the objective genitive, is incorrect. 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 4, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Labour to End ‘fit for Work’ tests and ‘punitive’ Benefit Sanctions Regime. Now Labour Should Adopt the ‘Welfare Charter’.

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Labour Should Now Adopt the Welfare Charter.

Labour pledge to scrap ‘discredited’ fit for work tests and ‘punitive’ benefit sanctions

Welfare Weekly.

Labour Conference: Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Debbie Abrahams MP, also said being on social security shouldn’t mean having to live in poverty.

“I want to change the culture of our social security system and how the public see it. I believe that, like the NHS, it is based on principles of inclusion, support and security for all, assuring us of our dignity and the basics of life were we to fall on hard times or become incapacitated, giving us a hand up, not a hand out.

“Work should always pay more than being on social security, but being in work shouldn’t mean living in poverty and neither should being on social security.

“The Labour Party has already pledged to get rid of the discriminatory and unfair Bedroom Tax. But I want to go further.

“I want to scrap the discredited Work Capability Assessment and replace it with a system based on personalised, holistic support, one that provides each individual with a tailored plan, building on their strengths and addressing barriers, whether skills, health, care, transport, or housing-related.

“This Government’s punitive sanctions system must go too, so Job Centre Plus and employment support providers’ performance will not just be assessed on how many people they get off their books.

“I want to see disabled people better supported into and at work. We will halve the Disability Employment Gap – and when we say it we mean it. And we will tackle other labour market inequalities too.

“I believe in a fair and just Britain, where everyone can get on and no-one is left behind.

Last year Abrahams said this,

Benefits Sanctions – Need for a full independent review

The Work and Pensions Committee, of which I am a member, has today published our report into benefit sanctions.  I have been asking the Government to hold an independent review into sanctions policy for nearly two years and after they refused, I persuaded colleagues on the Select Committee to instigate our own Inquiry.

Our report calls for a full independent review to be established in the new Parliament, to investigate whether benefit sanctions are being applied appropriately, fairly and proportionately, across the Jobcentre Plus network.  Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, has today stated that Labour accept in full all the Committee’s recommendations.

In the report we have reiterated our recommendation for a full review, originally made in January 2014 but rejected by the Government, in the light of new evidence which raises concerns about the approach being adopted in a number of individual Jobcentres, and more broadly, including concerns about whether targets for sanctions exist.

The report calls for the independent review also to examine the legislative framework for benefit sanctions policy, to ensure that the basis for sanctioning is well-defined, and that safeguards to protect the vulnerable are clearly set out.

Debate in the House of Commons on the welfare and Reform and Work Bill (Third Reading. October 28th).

Debbie Abrahams, “New clause 4 requires that the Government undertake a full independent review of their sanctions regime by 31 March 2016. It is with considerable regret that, after the Work and Pensions Committee’s report earlier this year, which also recommended an independent review of benefit conditionality and sanctions, the Government have failed to recognise the real concerns about their new sanctions regime, either in response to what was said in the Bill Committee or to that report.

I have been campaigning for an independent review of sanctions for nearly two years, and in that time constituents have come to me with their stories about how they have been sanctioned. One constituent was told while he was undergoing the work capability assessment that he was having a heart attack and should go to hospital, yet two weeks later he received a letter to say that he had been sanctioned. People up and down the country have also got in touch with their stories of how they have been sanctioned, for example, for being a few minutes late for an appointment with an adviser or work coach. Increasingly, people are being sanctioned unreasonably, for example, because they had attended their mother’s funeral, been hospitalised or gone to a job interview—this is absurd.

There was another category of reasons for being sanctioned. I still have the email from a constituent who had received a letter saying he had been sanctioned for non-attendance at a meeting with his adviser at the jobcentre, even though he had evidence that he had been there. The penny dropped when another constituent, who had worked in jobcentres across Greater Manchester for 20 years, came to me to tell me that as part of the new sanctions regime introduced at the end of 2012, the DWP had targets for sanctions. As he described it, claimants were being deliberately set up to fail, whether they had done anything wrong or not.

The Work and Pensions Committee also became concerned while conducting an inquiry in 2013 on “The role of Jobcentre Plus in the reformed welfare system”. At that stage, it recommended the following:

“DWP should launch a second, broader, independent review of conditionality and sanctions, to include investigation of whether the process is being applied appropriately, fairly, proportionately and in accordance with the rules, across the Jobcentre network.””

September the 2nd 2016. Debbie Abrahams.

GOVERNMENT deceit over its campaign to drive people into low-paid work by cutting benefits was exposed yesterday after the Tories crowed over the number of its victims.

Figures from the government’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed that the number of “workless” households has fallen by 189,000 from last year, still leaving 3.1 million households where no-one is employed.

Government ministers hailed the findings which they attributed to their benefit-slashing policies.

Employment Minister Damian Hinds said: “Welfare reforms like the benefit cap and universal credit are giving people clear incentives to move off benefits and into work so they can provide a brighter future for themselves and their families.”

But shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams MP said the figures actually expose the government’s deceit.

“By trying to shift the focus away from income to workless households, the Tories are claiming success on an issue that the ONS report shows has been declining since Labour took office in 1997,” she said.

Ms Abrahams added: “There are currently nearly seven million working families living in poverty, including 2.5 million children.

“If the government is serious about social reform, they should stop patting themselves on the back and start tackling the problems of low pay, insecurity and a lack of progression at the bottom end of the labour market.”

The Resolution Foundation, which works to improve living standards, said in a report in October that one in five British employees — or 5.5 million individuals — are low paid, and “extreme low pay” affected 2 per cent of employees.

 We say: Labour should now adopt the ‘Welfare Charter’.

These are the charter’s key points:

  1. A political commitment to full employment achieved with decent jobs. People are entitled to decent, stable and secure jobs that provide regular, guaranteed hours that allows them to also meet any caring responsibilities; not zero-hours contracts in precarious jobs.
  2. A wage you can live on for all and a social security system that works to end poverty. We need a National Living Wage that people can live on, not just survive on, that applies to all.
  3. No work conscription – keep volunteering voluntary. Forcing people to work for free on pain of losing benefits is simply providing free labour to organisations that should be paying workers proper wages.
  4. Representation for unemployed workers. Everyone should have access to an advocate to help them navigate the social security system and appeal adverse decisions.
  5. Appoint an ombudsman for claimants. A claimants ombudsman should be appointed to arbitrate on unresolved complaints, to ensure claimants are treated with respect and dignity.
  6. Equality in the labour market and workplace; equality in access to benefits. We need a labour market where structural inequalities are overturned and a benefit system that is accessible to people.
  7. An end to the sanctions regime and current work capability assessment – full maintenance for the unemployed and underemployed. We need a non-means tested, non-discriminatory benefit payable to all, with housing costs met. This must be allied with the wide provision of low-cost housing.
  8. State provision of high quality information, advice and guidance on employment, training and careers. There must be a supportive and independent careers service, not linked to conditionality or benefits, offering face-to-face advice.

More here.

 We add: End the unjust  Claimant ‘contribution’ to the Council Tax and Restore Full benefits.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 27, 2016 at 3:23 pm

Austerity Agenda Continues as Damian Green Takes Hold of DWP.

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Shifty Looking Damian Green Sidles into the DWP.

On Monday the Guardian published this article:

The austerity agenda isn’t over. More people will sink further into poverty

There will be “no new search for cuts in individual welfare benefits” the secretary of state for work and pensions, Damian Green, has pledged. Not much news there, then. Green’s predecessor, Stephen Crabb, made the same promise in March, as a jittery Treasury sought to placate the Tory backbench revolt over cuts to disability benefits. The former chancellor George Osborne may be gone, but his welfare spending strategy remains largely intact for now.

During his Andrew Marr Show interview at the weekend Green made it sound like his “no more benefit raids” pledge was a sign that the austerity agenda was over. But it is not. Green confirmed that inherited current and planned cuts, amounting to billions of pounds by the end of the decade, would go ahead.

The language of welfare may well be less abrasive under Green, and his compassionate conservative presentation of welfare reform may aspire to be softer, but without material change, the net effect of the cuts will be the same as it would have been had Osborne still been in post: the living standards of millions of “just managing” low-income working households will continue to suffer, and the very poorest and most vulnerable will become poorer.

Butler concluded,

There is plenty that can be done to make universal credit more operationally humane: Green could make a start on this by scrapping the notorious six-week wait for a first universal credit payment, a rule dubbed “a recruiting sergeant for food banks” by Frank Field MP for its unerring ability to pitch low-income claimants into avoidable debt, rent arrears and food poverty. Green may also want to look again at the potentially explosive plans, currently being trialled, to introduce conditionality for low-paid workers on universal credit. Fining a claimant for not turning up to a jobcentre interview because they were at work is not a convincing advert for “making work pay”.

Green and May will have to accept that the social security system is, as the Fabian Society recently pointed out, rapidly becoming unfit for purpose. There are huge imbalances in who benefits: between working age recipients (who have shouldered the austerity burden) and pensioners (relatively unscathed); and between those on low incomes (who took the biggest hit), and the wealthy (who, according to the Fabians will by 2020 receive more financial support from the state in the form of personal tax allowances than poorer families will on benefits).

Two days ago the Independent noted,

There is a major squeeze on public spending and welfare payments still to come over the next five years as a result of government decisions already taken – including the filleting of almost £9bn from the tax credit and working age benefits bill.

These will assuredly diminish the living standards of the less well-off. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has projected that those in the poorest tenth of the population will lose £800 a year by 2020 relative to those in the second poorest tenth at £1,500 a year and the third poorest tenth at £1,200 a year.

What is Damien Green’s background?

Damian Green was born in Barry, Wales. He grew up in Reading, Berkshire and was educated at Reading School and then at Balliol College, Oxford where he was awarded a BA degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics in 1977, followed by a MA degree. He was President of the Oxford Union in 1977 and was the vice-chairman of the Federation of Conservative Students (now known as Conservative Future) from 1980 until 1982.

Not, we suspect, the kind of education (Grammar school, Oxford) and politics – including at the top of the hard-right free-market Thatcher worshiping Federation of Conservative Students – that would signal out somebody for compassionate, or even moderate positions on social security and the welfare state.

in 1998 Green was – rightly – very critical of the New Deal for the Unemployed. He called it a waste of taxpayers’ money, unable to train people in a  way that made people attractive to employers, or, as he put it “providing suitable recruits. (The Four Failures of the New Deal, by Damian Green, 1998, Centre for Policy Studies.) Essentially this was cost-benefit analysis, which paid little attention to the needs of the out-of-work.

How will he stand on the use of private companies, known in academic circles as bands of thieves living off public money, by the DWP, for training the unemployed, for Universal credit, and so on?

We note this: “As Police Minister in the Coalition Government, Green called for increased partnerships between the police and the private sector.” from here).

As for austerity we also observe read this (Telegraph)

Damian Green, the new Work and Pensions Secretary, has indicated pensioner benefits may be cut after 2020 as he pledged to tackle “intergenerational fairness”.

In his first major interview since taking up the job, Mr Green defended the government’s current support for pensioners and heralded the fall in poverty among the elderly.

However he also said it was “absolutely” necessary to consider “over time” whether different generations are getting a fair share of the proceeds of economic growth.

It follows criticism of David Cameron’s decision to ring-fence pensioners from austerity cuts, introducing a “triple lock” on pensions and sticking with a promise of free bus passes and TV licenses.

Cutting benefits for pensioners will not mean better benefits for anybody else.

Just equality in misery, as he might have said as a Conservative Student.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 22, 2016 at 12:04 pm

No More Welfare Cuts?

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And there’s this:

 Now there’s this….

No more welfare cuts to come under Theresa May, says minister

Damian Green, the work and pensions secretary, hints at end to austerity agenda, promising no further raids on benefits

There will be no more welfare cuts under Theresa May’s government after those have already been announced, the work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, has announced.

Strongly hinting that the government’s austerity agenda was over, Green told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show planned cuts would continue but there would be no further raids on benefits.

Green said his tenure in the department would be different from Iain Duncan Smith, his predecessor before Stephen Crabb, who quit over his distaste for disability benefit cuts. “I am different from Iain – I will use different language,” he said.

“But I know we both share the desire for increasing social justice, by which we mean … that you don’t just measure it by the benefits bill, you measure it by the help you are giving those individuals.

“The commitment that the prime minister has made since she took office has been that obviously we will meet the previous commitments we’ve made,” he said. “But there will be no new search for cuts in individual welfare benefits.”

Green added: “You’re right that the period of austerity meant that tough decisions had to be taken across the board, not just in the welfare system. There are things that have been announced that haven’t yet been introduced but people know that they are coming. But no new cuts.”

Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson, an 11-time Paralympic gold medallist, was among those who spoke out in the House of Lords against the controversial welfare reform bill, which proposes to cut disability benefits by £30 a week.

The work and pensions secretary said the government’s overall attitude to welfare had not changed but appeared to acknowledge there had been some mistakes, including people being wrongly assessed as fit for work. “The simple thrust is making sure work always pays,” Green said.

Meanwhile:

Disabled activists have been promised a seat “at the heart of government” if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected as Labour leader and the party wins power at the next election.

The pledge was made by shadow chancellor John McDonnell at an international disability rights conference hosted by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), the final event in its Rights Not Games week of action.

McDonnell, who made repeated references to the need to co-produce policies with disabled people during his speech, told the conference in London that it would be vital to ensure that disabled people were represented “at every level of decision-making”.

He added: “That will mean bringing organisations like DPAC and others into government to advise us on the development of policy so you will be at the heart of government, sitting alongside ministers and others, advising them on how to implement these policies.”

And he promised that DPAC would also have “a fundamental role in advising us on the policies that need to be developed” by Labour in preparation for government.

He added: “You will be advising us on what priorities there are when we go back into government… for those people who say that this country can’t afford a decent living for disabled people we have got to challenge that as well.”

Written by Andrew Coates

September 18, 2016 at 12:33 pm

Tax Credit Company Concentrix, from Reign of Terror against Claimants, to Reign of Terror against Critics.

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Band of Terrorising Thieves Not Going Quietly.

Concentrix, whose contract was opposed by PCS members, was very quickly notorious.

This week the story got into the national papers.

It’s not often that something like this comes up and you hear, the next day, about somebody in Ipswich in the thick of the problem.

Last night somebody I know told me about a friend directly affected.

It is, as people can imagine, somebody in a really desperate plight.

Welfare Weekly reports,

‘Reign of terror’ tax credit company loses HMRC contract.

Frank Field, the chair of parliament’s welfare committee, has said that a company’s “reign of terror” over British tax credit recipients will be drawing to a close after HMRC decided not to renew its contract.

US company Concentrix was accused of making a string of mistakes including stopping a teenage single mum from receiving tax credits after wrongly claiming she was married to a dead pensioner.

Field had called on the government to investigate and act on concerns about Concentrix’s handling of tax credit claims.

Following HMRC’s decision not to sign a new contract with the company, Field said: “Concentrix’s reign of terror is drawing to a close. Again the government has acted decisively in protecting vulnerable Britain. This holds out huge prospects and, for some exploiters, horror, in the near future.”

The company won a multimillion pound payment by results contract to prevent incorrect or fraudulent claims in a bid to save government money, earning more money the more claims it stopped.

Now you’d think this would be the end of it.

But this band of thieves are not going quietly,

Private welfare contractor Concentrix blocks BBC programme on Twitter after exposé (Independent).

A private contractor running part of the benefits system has blocked a flagship BBC television programme on Twitter after the show ran a story about its alleged failures.

Concentrix – which has been accused of stopping innocent people’s tax credits – was the subject of an investigation by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on Tuesday morning.

HMRC on Tuesday night announced that it wouldn’t renew Concentrix’s contract in May 2017 after a string of failures allegedly left people out of pocket.

On Wednesday morning the Victoria Derbyshire programme’s twitter account wrote: “That’ll teach us. Concentrix have blocked us after our exclusive tax credits story.”

The programme posted a screenshot of the company’s page showing they were blocked.

A Concentrix spokesperson defended the company’s record and said it had saved taxpayers £300m in fraud and error throughout the course of its contract.

Perhaps this is a related story (Independent):

Failing’ welfare contractor Concentrix will still be paid tens of millions before its contract runs out

The firm is being dropped by HMRC but not until May 2017.

The private contractor dropped by HMRC from running part of the tax credit system will still be paid tens of millions of pounds before its contract runs out, new figures show.

HMRC’s chief executive Jon Thompson said on Tuesday night the department it would not be extending Concentrix’s contract after a series of high profile failures regarding the non-payment of tax credits.

The contractor is supposed to root out fraud and error in the tax credit system, but reports suggest innocent people on low incomes are having their payments stopped, sometimes for no reason at all.

Figures obtained by Labour MP Louise Haigh show that Concentrix is failing on 120 out of 1625 minimum performance indicators set out in the contract – yet has still already been paid £15.8m in commission.

With the contract only set to end in May 2017 the company will still reap tens of millions of pounds in payments from the three-year contract – despite a so-called “payment by results” system. The total contract pays a total of between £55m and £75m depending on performance indicators met

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 14, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Protests Against Cuts to Disability Benefits Take off.

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All this week protests have been taking place.

Scores of disabled protesters shutdown Westminster Bridge with chilling banners showing all those ‘killed by cuts’. Daily Mirror.

The Canary continues.

Disabled rights activists brought Downing Street and Westminster to a standstill on 7 September as part of a week-long campaign against the Conservative government. Activists coordinated a vocal protest outside Number 10 to remember the victims of welfare reform. They then blocked traffic in all directions on Westminster Bridge for over two hours. This was during the first Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) of this parliament.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said in a statement:

We call on the new Prime Minister to make public the findings of the UN investigation in the UK, into violations of deaf and disabled people’s rights; to scrap the Work Capability Assessment and to commit to preventing future benefit-related deaths.

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Norwich Monday.

Suffolk DPAC activist at London protest, Wednesday.

Get Involved!

 

– Sign the petition to stop benefit cuts for disabled people.

– Support DPAC in its fight against austerity cuts.

– Volunteer to support people with a learning disability, through Mencap.

– Find out when a protest against austerity is happening, near you.

This is stark reminder of why these protests are important.

Diabetic man left too poor to eat after benefits cut forced to have leg amputated Welfare Weekly today.

David says he couldn’t afford to manage his condition after being sanctioned for five months by the DWP.

A diabetic man left virtually penniless after being sanctioned for five months by the Department for Work and Pensions, claims his leg had to be amputated after his health deteriorated.

David Boyce, 59, from Weaste, was left without enough money to meet his basic health needs and even had to sell his belongings. But David says he still couldn’t afford to eat healthily, which is an essential part of the management and treatment for diabetes

David was a photographer who used to own a business, but was forced to give up his work because of ill-health. A dispute with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over “issues with paperwork” led to David’s benefits being sanctioned fourteen times.

However, it’s clear that the sanctions happened because of a flawed decision-making process on the part of the DWP, as he later won an appeal which successfully overturned every sanction, with support from Salford’s Unemployed and Community Resource Centre. He was eventually awarded the money that had been wrongfully withheld from him.

The government have claimed that benefit sanctions are an “incentive” to “help” people like David into work. However, David has been pushed even further away from the job market, because he now has been left with a greater degree of disability: horrifically, the sanctions have cost him his leg.

David said that by July, complications from diabetes had already caused irreversible damage. His health deteriorated because he had no money to live on: he couldn’t control his insulin intake and was unable to follow his strict diabetic diet.

Subsequently he suffered diabetic ulcers and was diagnosed with the flesh-eating infection, necrotizing fasciitis, and doctors were forced to amputate one of his legs.

He told the Manchester Evening News: “I suffered from depression and mental anxiety. I’m not a rich man. I had to sell everything to eat.

You don’t tell anyone, it’s embarrassing, that’s what they prey on. You go into a depression. You lock yourself away.”

David Boyce’s tragic case was revealed as protesters gathered to demonstrate against the extremely punitive and irrational Jobcentre conditionality rules and welfare sanctions.

Campaigners gathered at Eccles Job Centre this week to protest against the immoral benefits sanctions. They said that scores of people were being left depressed and on the verge of suicide.

David’s horrific experience is not an isolated case, sadly. Many campaigners have reasonably demanded an inquiry since the death of former soldier David Clapson, who also had diabetes. He died of ketoacidosis, caused by a lack of insulin in the body, after being sanctioned for missing a single Job Centre meeting. He was also unable to afford to maintain an electricity supply to keep his fridge running, where he ordinarily safely stored his life-saving insulin.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 9, 2016 at 10:53 am

Universal Credit “on track”, or Maybe Not.

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May well, Eventually, Possibly, be Ready, Sometime, Somewhere, for Some Claimants. 

Under-fire Universal Credit reform could now be ‘on right track’, says report.

Universal Credit has been “turned around from the brink of disaster” and “may eventually work”, according to a new report.

Naturally we do not believe a word of this:

A study has revealed the government’s reforms to the welfare system have been turned around from the brink of disaster three years after auditors warned the programme needed to be ‘re-set’.

In 2013, the National Audit Office said the multi-billion Universal Credit programme had to be ‘re-set’ due to be poor management, governance and financial control.

Today, the Institute for Government said Universal Credit is now on the road to recovery, and the lessons learnt could be applied to other big government projects in the future.

The report – Universal Credit: From disaster to recovery? – found the programme now has a more ‘realistic’ timetable to achieve, with completion due five years later than originally planned.

It is far too soon to tell whether Universal Credit will finally do the business,’ warned Nicholas Timmins, senior fellow at the IfG and report author. ‘There are elements of the policy that are still not entirely clear and others that may well need changing. Huge challenges remain – not just taking on new claims but transferring the many millions on existing benefits and tax credits, including some of the most vulnerable on Employment and Support Allowance. Its generosity has repeatedly been cut.

‘But the lessons from how it has been turned around from the brink of disaster to something that may eventually work could prove valuable for other government projects. And crucially, it now has a timetable that may finally prove realistic.’

More in the same vein: Universal credit back on track after reset, finds IfG review. (Public Finance).

This is perhaps the best informed report:

Universal Credit: ‘One dole to rule ’em all’ on verge of recovery – report

Some 12 years later we might have a working IT system

The ace reporters of The Register state,

The disastrous £16bn one-dole-to-rule-them-all Universal Credit programme may be turning a corner, according to a report by think-tank the Institute for Government.

The woes of the programme have been long-documented, with the National Audit Office three years ago revealing that the entire multi-billion programme had needed to be restarted after its initial launch in 2011.

Consequently, millions have been written off in IT costs.

But a report by IFG Senior Fellow Nicholas Timmins argues that the reforms are in a much better state, and something that is “recognisable” as Universal Credit may well emerge at the other end.

Today, around 300,000 people are actually receiving Universal Credit, against the many millions who would have been under the original timetable.

Completion is not due until 2022, a dozen years after the white paper announcing it, and five years later than originally planned.

The programme has been described as “one of the most heavily IT-enabled business changes in its existence”.

So the extent to which the programme might be seen as a success even if it does arrive in the next six years is questionable.

The scheme was intended to replace six in and out-of-work benefits, including tax credits, with a single, simpler system intended to ensure that any amount of work pays more than being on the dole.

Its scope remains vast, notes the IFG. “If and when completed, it is due to affect some 8 million households, many more people, and around a third of working-age population.”

Nicholas Timmins, senior fellow at the IFG and report author, said: “It is far too soon to tell whether Universal Credit will finally do the business. There are elements of the policy that are still not entirely clear and others that may well need changing. Huge challenges remain – not just taking on new claims but transferring the many millions on existing benefits and tax credits, including some of the most vulnerable on Employment and Support Allowance. Its generosity has repeatedly been cut.

“But the lessons from how it has been turned around from the brink of disaster to something that may eventually work could prove valuable for other government projects. And crucially, it now has a timetable that may finally prove realistic.”

Unrealistic timetables were blamed for the original scrapping of the scheme along with an unworkable mix of “agile” and “waterfall” project management approaches.

It follows a report from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority in July which upgraded the risk assessment of the programme from amber/red to red, when the programme was assessed in September 2015. ®

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 6, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Tories Cut Benefits to win Popularity.

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Clegg and Osborne Enjoy a Special Moment Together. 

This says it all .

Clegg: Osborne casually cut welfare for poorest to boost Tory popularity (Guardian today)

Exclusive: Former deputy PM says ‘cynical’ ex-chancellor was not bothered about human consequences.

Nick Clegg has accused the former chancellor George Osborne of casually cutting the benefits of the poorest people in society because he believed taking the austerity axe to welfare would boost Conservative popularity.

In a candid interview looking back on his five years as deputy prime minister in the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, Clegg said he found the behaviour of his senior Conservative partner “very unattractive, very cynical”.

“Welfare for Osborne was just a bottomless pit of savings, and it didn’t really matter what the human consequences were, because focus groups had shown that the voters they wanted to appeal to were very anti-welfare, and therefore there was almost no limit to those anti-welfare prejudices,” he told the Guardian.

Speaking before the publication of his anticipated political memoir, written after his party was reduced to eight seats in last year’s general election, Clegg hit out at David Cameron and his Conservative partners in government. He said the former Tory leader or the chancellor – “I honestly can’t remember whom – looked genuinely nonplussed and said: ‘I don’t understand why you keep going on about the need for more social housing – it just creates Labour voters.’ They genuinely saw housing as a Petri dish for voters. It was unbelievable.”

See the Comments. (4080 at the time of writing this post).

For example:

This doesn’t surprise me. The vermin’s support base practically put the bunting out whenever cuts are aimed at the unemployed, single mothers or working poor but cry like babies when the nice to have freebies are taken away for the affluent old.

The Tory support base are nasty pieces of work. There is a section of the electorate who’ll vote Tory not in spite of them being a hateful class war party with no compassion for the weakest but because they are a hateful classwar party with no compassion for the weakest.

These people complain when they are called out on their behaviour.

And,

 Its amazing what short memories some people have when it comes to state benefits.
He didn’t cuts the £85bn in corporate welfare handouts
But did cut to Personal Independence Payments to raise £4.4BILLION to fund tax cut for the rich
In fact he consistently helped the rich – and he did it by hurting disabled people.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 3, 2016 at 10:04 am

Fabian Alternative to Tory Social Security Plans Which Worsen Living Standards for Less Well-Off.

with 131 comments

 

Shows signs of serious research and thinking.

Published today by The Fabian Society,

Redesigning social security, for the 2020s

For six years of the Cameron government ‘austerity’ dominated all discussion of benefit policies. Now it is time to turn a page and start to consider the long-term future of social security, as part of a strategic agenda for raising British living standards following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Politicians need to find the confidence to argue that generous, well-designed benefits for non-pensioners are essential for a fairer, more prosperous future. Social security for pensioners is now on a strong and sustainable footing. But the system for non-pensioners will be worse in 2020 than it was in 2010 – and will carry on getting worse, unless policy changes. We can allow this to happen – or we can turn social security around, by applying the same strategic approach to policy making as the Turner Commission on pensions did in the 2000s.

Labour List reports,

The UK is set to see a sharp rise in child poverty, worsening circumstances for low-income families and a crisis in homelessness unless there is significant change to the Tories’ social security plans, the Fabian Society has found.

The think tank calls for “root and branch” reform of Britain’s social security system, rather than tinkering with individual policies, to avoid it getting even worse throughout the 2020s

For Us All, published today, shows there will be almost no affordable housing for low income private tenants in most areas as a result of the Government’s housing benefit policies. The report also concludes the number of children living in poverty would return to the levels before Labour launched an assault on the issue in Government by 2030.

It goes to on show low income families are set to receive significantly less than the state than middle income families by 2020 due to tax-free allowances being significantly higher than the amount a family could receive on benefits. There will be a cliff edge at pensioner age, where the government supports couples three times more than those under pensionable age but without work.

The formation of a new cabinet gives an opportunity to change the direction of social security policy, according to the Society, who recommend a system resembling our successful pensions schemes.

Andrew Harrop, General Secretary of the Fabian Society, has called on politicians to consider the long-term health of the UK’s social security system.

“For six years of the Cameron government, ‘austerity’ dominated all discussion of benefit policies.

“But social security for non-pensioners will be worse in 2020 than it was in 2010 and will carry on getting worse in the decade that follows, unless action is taken.

“It is time to turn a page and start to consider the  long-term future of social security, as part of a strategic agenda for raising British living standards.

“Politicians need to find the confidence to argue that generous, well-designed benefits for non-pensioners are essential for a fairer, more prosperous future. Our political leaders can grasp the nettle and create a social security system for the next decade, designed for us all.”

For Us All calls for  Universal, Contributory, privately provided and means-tested elements to the security system, much of which should be increased to match the costs of living.

This would include increases to universal credit to match higher costs of living, reductions in student loan repayments according to a person’s contributions through national insurance and the creation of a basic income as a level from which other support is built up.

The report follows analysis from John Healey which shows that if homelessness from the Conservatives continues at the current rate, 80,000 families a year will become homeless by 2020 as a result of rising housing costs and cuts to housing benefits.

The Independent also carries the story:

Tax free allowances ‘must be axed to pay out modest basic income’, radical welfare blueprint suggests

The Fabian Society says a new ‘individual credit’ payment should be paid on top of other benefits.

Tax-free allowances should be scrapped and the money used to pay a flat-rate benefit to all adults, a radical new welfare reform blueprint has suggested.

The proposal, drawn up by the Fabian Society, is part of a proposed shake-up of the welfare system the think-tank says is required to stop tens of thousands of people falling into poverty over the next decade.

The report’s authors reject the idea of a “fully-fledged” universal basic income – the increasingly prominent idea of grouping all benefits spending into a single flat-rate payment for all adults. They warn such a plan would create too “many losers and not reduce poverty or improve the incomes of those with the least”.

But the Society’s researchers say a similar flat-rate “individual credit” for all adults that sat alongside the existing benefits system could “significantly reduce poverty and increase low and middle incomes”. They say child benefit could also be integrated into the same system, with a “child credit” paid to a child’s main carer.

“At this time there is not a good case for integrating universal credit, tax allowances and child benefit into a single flat-rate payment for each individual (ie a ‘basic income’),” the report’s authors write.

“There is growing interest in the idea, which has the merit of reducing the employment disincentives, complexity and intrusion associated with means-testing.

We leave it to readers to judge the proposed system based on this rather than a rejigged existing system.

Download here.

After considering a ” a more generous version of the status quo” the author moves to another possibility:

“The second option is to start to integrate taxes and benefits and build a tiered system of support which blends universal, contributory and means-tested entitlements, as well as private action. This option is closer to Beveridge’s original vision of social security, and to the pension system of today.”

This report has assessed means-testing, contributory benefits, personal accounts and universalism one-by-one, as alternative options. But the end-point might be a single system that unites them all. This new tiered system would itself sit in a broader context of activist government, with economic intervention and public services also playing their part in securing good living standards. No one part of the system would have to do all the heavy-lifting. The four tiers of social security could be:

1. Universal: An ‘individual credit’ for adults and a ‘child credit’ for children, in place of tax-free allowances

2. Contributory: National insurance and employment based benefits that match the generosity of the state pension, and the option of time-credits, paid for by a visible and accountable National Insurance Fund

3. Private provision: Opt-out, match-funded savings accounts for all, and the piloting of income protection insurance on an opt-out or employer-organised basis

4. Means-tested: A generous means-tested ‘household credit’ that tops-up the other tiers of support and is designed to be non-stigmatising, to make work pay, to support children, to protect people unable to work for a long time, and to reflect higher living costs.

The report concludes with a section on rent:

Rising housing costs are likely to be one of the most significant pressures of the 2020s, if rents increase faster than typical incomes or benefit entitlements. So any reform to social security that is designed to respond to the changing social context must include better direct support for housing costs. Indeed, current policies will be totally implausible, if rents outstrip inflation. In this sphere, there needs to be more means-testing not less – with a generous universal credit, which better reflects housing costs. In particular entitlement must grow in line with rising housing costs. There is also a case for reversing some of the recent cuts to housing benefit, and piloting an element in UC that supports mortgage interest..

..unaffordable housing costs cannot just be resolved by means-tested benefits. Spending on housing benefit will balloon if it is the only policy tool available to plug the gap between rising rents and stagnant incomes. Action to stabilise house prices and build more homes for social rent is therefore essential, even though it lies outside the remit of this report. Similarly, action to increase general incomes is needed, so that the gap which rent subsidies have to close is Conclusion 155 less. Higher employment and better pay can play a role, but this report has demonstrated that generous social security is also essential to boost household incomes, and it is here that universal and contributory tiers could be important. For this reason, almost all the ideas in this report have a bearing on housing, in that they increase disposable income overall. They hold out the prospect of better incomes for households with low earnings. But they also offer much better income replacement when people are without work on a temporary basis. This would leave many families in a better position to meet their usual housing costs, without the need for a specific benefit, which would hopefully reduce the number of people with mortgages who need means-tested support in future. Lastly proposals to help people to save automatically will make an important difference in meeting one-off housing costs in the short-term. The scheme may also enable people from all backgrounds to save enough money for their children to have a deposit to buy a home.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 31, 2016 at 9:29 am

Extreme Debt Rise and Universal Credit Delays,

with 75 comments

Image result for debt

I have just been talking about debt to some friends.

One, unemployed, is a very bad situation because his debts.

Apparently this is becoming a widespread problem.

I say “becoming” but since the opening of credit lines to nearly everybody, not to mention the legalisation of loan sharks (watch half the digital channels with all the loan ads..), not to mention the fact that everything seems to designed you to debt (Council Tax, and think of all the student loans), it’s been swelling and growing no end.

Or Brighthouse (they have  big shop in Carr Street Ipswich) the “Rent-to-own retail chain” for houshold goods.

Or, well everybody knows they pay day lenders, the pawn shops, and the rest of the crew.

So this story comes as no surprise.

1.2 million low-income households are in ‘extreme problem debt’, says TUC.

James Richards on Public Finance reported a few days ago:

The number of UK families living in extreme debt has risen to more than one million due to stagnant wage growth, including in the public sector, research published by the Trades Union Congress and Unison has found.

According to the report, total unsecured debt between 2012 and 2015 – from credit cards, bank loans, payday loans and student loans – rose by £48bn and now stands at £353bn.

Around 3.2 million, or one in eight, households are living in ‘problem debt’. This is defined as paying out more than 25% of gross household income on unsecured debt repayment.

Meanwhile, 1.6 million households, one in sixteen, are in ‘extreme problem debt’ – those paying out more than 40% of income on unsecured debt repayments. The report estimates that 1.2 million households in this bracket have an income of less than £30,000 per year, which is below the low-income threshold.

For low-income households in employment, extreme problem debt is growing fast. In 2015, 9% this group were in extreme problem debt, which is nearly double the figure of 5% from 2015.

The report cites recent Bank of England figures that show consumer credit, which is the main constituent of unsecured debt, is now growing at an annual rate of more than 10% – the highest rate in a decade.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady stressed that households could not continue to rely on credit cards and loans survive. But because wages per week were worth £40 less than before the 2008 crash, many families had little choice, she said.

This story also appeared a couple of days ago,

Delays in government’s flagship welfare reform has caused debt, rent arrears and health problems, says Labour MP Frank Field

Huge built-in delays in the processing of universal credit benefit claims have turned the government’s flagship welfare reform into a “recruiting sergeant for food banks”, according to Labour MP Frank Field.

Field, the chair of the Commons work and pensions select committee, said the minimum six-week payment period faced by new UC claimants led to reliance on emergency food parcels, triggered debt and rent arrears, and caused health problems.

Field has written to the work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, asking him to cut the lengthy and stressful wait for payments faced by penniless claimants.

“This is an unbelievably long time for people at the bottom to survive with no money, and I have received evidence to suggest people have been exposed to hunger and homelessness during this 42-day period,” he wrote.

The lengthy wait for UC payments was reported as the main cause of referral for one in nine of the 79 cases presenting at a food bank in his local Birkenhead, Merseyside, constituency in recent weeks, the veteran poverty campaigner said.

The Department for Work and Pensions responded that it was misleading of Field to draw wider conclusions “from the anecdotal evidence of just eight people”. It said: “The reasons people use food banks are complex.”

However, Chris Mould, the chair of the Trussell trust food bank network, said the charity’s local managers were reporting UC payment delays as a big cause of hardship for claimants: “For someone with no income the lengthy 42-day wait will leave them struggling to afford to eat and, for those without friends, family or other support networks to help, it can leave them desperate.

“We wholeheartedly support the recommendation that this waiting time be reduced.”

I leave out the DWP reply, following company policy of stout denial.

Debt, crippling debt, that’s the kind of world we’re having to live in.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 27, 2016 at 3:18 pm

Welfare ‘Dependency’: Hard Right Keeps Up the Pressure to attack the less Well Off.

with 173 comments

Margaret Thatcher Quote 1

Centre for Policy Studies Motto.

The Centre for Policy Studies has a thing about ‘welfare dependency’.

The influential right-wing think tank – which most people will not have heard of – want people to stand on their “own two feet”.

Never mind that the Centre itself is headed by Baron Maurice Saatchi a man who made his money as a parasite in the ‘advertising industry’ , and is, well, you know, a ‘Lord’ in said House of, no doubt a position won by scrubbing floors and hewing coal.

We notice this on its funding (Who Funds you?)

Discloses annual income Yes: £1,131,391 y/e 30/9/14
Displays funding information on own website No
Names organisational funders No
Declares amounts given by organisational funders No
Names individual funders No
Declares amounts given by individual funders No

We strongly doubt if this level of detail would satisfy those supervising our Job Search: Transparency rating D.

Their latest wheeze is to publish a report, ‘The Independence Revolution Must Go On‘, which says this:

  •  The Government’s record in reducing dependency on the State is strong, but there is plenty more to do.
  • Dependency has fallen by 2.7 percentage points since 2010, but over half of households still receive more in benefits (including benefits in kind) than they pay in taxes.Welfare reform appears to be reducing dependency. 19% of households subject to the benefit cap were in work after a year.
  • Children growing up in workless households have, on average, poorer key stage 1 attainments, lower cognitive ability and are more likely to be NEET.
  • New Government must continue incentivising work by reducing marginal tax rates and carefully evaluating the National Living Wage policy.

Anybody using the ‘verb’ ‘incentivising’ deserves a week-long course for those with language difficulties.

Boiled down what the Centre – remember a group with real influence on government policy – is suggesting is more benefit caps, more dependency on dodgy employers and charity and fewer rights at work and on benefits.

This article tackles the core assumption of the Centre: that redistribution of wealth from the rich, and the better off, to the less well off, and using benefits to help people stand on their own two feet, is wrong.

‘Welfare dependency’ or essential redistribution? By Bernadette Meaden

  • The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) has issued an Economic BulletinThe Independence Revolution Must Go On’, based on figures from a recent Office for National Statistics publicationThe effects of taxes and benefits on household income’.
  • The ONS figures show that “over half of households received more in benefits (including  benefits in kind) than they paid in taxes for the  year 2014/15…It is estimated that 50.8 per cent of households are net dependents”. The closer one looks at these figures, however, the more questions arise about how we define dependency, who actually benefits from benefits, and how we think about the redistribution of wealth.
  • The CPS views the ONS figures largely in terms of ‘welfare dependency’, concluding that, “The Government’s record in reducing dependency on the State is strong, but there is plenty more to do.’ It even takes the opportunity to mention that “children growing up in workless households …have, on average, lower cognitive ability.” saying that, “This highlights the social cost of welfare dependency and need to reduce welfare dependency in society.” Even ‘the so-called ‘intergenerational transmission’ of worklessness’ gets a mention.
  • But wait a minute – as the CPS itself has just pointed out, over half of UK households are classed as ‘dependent’ because they are deemed to receive more from the state than they pay in. ‘Worklessness’ is a factor in only a fraction of those households. There is much more going on here.
  • If we view the same ONS data from a different perspective, it is possible to draw very different conclusions, and to raise questions about how and why people are considered ‘dependent’ on the state. (The data used by the ONS can be found in Table 2 here )

It’s a long article but well worth reading: more here.

We can only endorse Meaden’s conclusion:

Reducing ‘dependency’ via welfare reform threatens this redistribution and may tip people at the bottom of the income scale into deeper poverty. As the ONS says in another publication, “Most recently, the average cash benefit rate has fallen which, along with decreasing progressivity, means that the overall redistributive impact of cash benefits has been reduced.”

More welfare reform, which will no doubt reduce this redistributive impact even further, seems destined to produce not independence, but increasing poverty and destitution.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 22, 2016 at 10:30 am

Homeless Rise Linked to Benefit Changes.

with 81 comments

The Human Face of Austerity.

Government austerity to blame for 30% rise in homelessness, says parliamentary committee,

Reports the Independent.

MPs warn that the number of homeless people is rising because most housing benefit claimants have to pay rent out of their state payments, rather than it being straight to their landlords

The Government’s welfare reforms are driving up homelessness, according to MPs who conducted the first inquiry into the scale of the problem for 10 years.

In a report, the Communities and Local Government Select Committee found that official figures underestimate the risen in homelessness and demanded urgent action to tackle it. The estimated number of rough sleepers in England rose by 30 per cent to 3,569 between 2014 and last autumn – a quarter of them in London.

This will come as no surprise to anybody with eyes.

Walk around Ipswich and you can see the numbers of people begging in the streets: it is striking.

In London you can see people sleeping rough, right up such Tourist centres as Trafalgar Square, and by the West End theatres in Cambridge Circus – not coincidentally next to the site of one of Victorian London’s worst ‘rookeries’, that is, slums.

The MPs warned that the number of homeless people is rising because most housing benefit claimants have to pay rent out of their state payments. They said all claimants should have the option of their rent  being paid directly to landlords to reduce their chance of getting into arrears and to encourage landlords to rent to tenants at risk of becoming homeless. Many 18 to 21 year-olds are “at significant risk” of homelessness, and the MPs proposed that those losing their job should have a “grace period” of one or two months before losing the housing element of Universal Credit.

Calling for greater financial incentives to work, they said: “It cannot be right that someone must choose between the support they need and employment.”

The committee concluded: “The impact of the welfare reforms of recent years has increased pressure on levels of homelessness.” It added that  the annual cap on benefit payments to one family – £20,000 and £23,000 in London – could worsen the  problem.

The MPs called for women, single people and those with mental health problems to be given extra help. They heard evidence that women were driven into prostitution to avoid sleeping on the streets and said  victims of domestic violence were particularly at risk of becoming homeless.

The committee took the unusual step of endorsing a Private Member’s Bill to be debated in the Commons in October which would give councils new duties to prevent homelessness and help homeless people.

This was also entirely predictable, given the mean-spirited intention behind the ‘reform’.

In a separate report, the Tory modernisers’ think tank Policy Exchange said jobless people aged 25 and under are more likely to have their benefits stopped or reduced for not doing enough to find work than any other age group. It found that young adults account for more than a third of benefit sanctions but account for less than a fifth of claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance. Of the 101,640 young people claiming it last November, 5,812 received a sanction.

Policy Exchange called for a shake-up of benefits and support for 16 to 25 year-olds, including the creation of youth employment centres.

Homeless too often given ‘meaningless advice’ by councils – MPs.

Reports the BBC.

Homeless people are too often given meaningless and ineffectual advice by councils in England, MPs have said.

A Communities and Local Government Select Committee report found homeless people are too often “badly treated” by councils, saying they should have a legal duty to give meaningful support.

Homelessness is increasing and a new government plan is required, MPs added.

However, councils said they needed more money and powers, saying they “cannot tackle this challenge alone”.

The report urged the government to support the Homelessness Reduction Bill – proposed by the Conservative MP Bob Blackman in June – to impose tougher conditions on councils and force them to offer emergency accommodation for up to two months.

Official figures published by the government show that local authorities approved 14,780 households’ applications for homelessness assistance between 1 January and 30 March 2016.

This was up 9% on the same quarter in 2015.

However, the report warned that the statistics did not capture the full scale of homelessness, for example many “hidden homeless” who may be staying with friends or not have sought help.

If they had any decency they would listen to people like Doug, commenting on this Blog.

2 months emergency housing, how did they come up with that exactly as what do they feel will happen after. Are these homeless people going to magically find a property to rent in that 2 months that they couldn’t find before. Do government or even the public believe that the homeless have never looked and tried to secure a property.

And what about DWP and conditionality on the homeless, their expected to look for work or face being sanctioned which is counter intuitive when you consider besides the big issue, no employer will hire a homeless person. DWP know this only to well unless they want to assert every single DWP worker right up to the appointed minister are complete and utter idiots ill placed in the position they are in.

We only have to look at the way UC was developed to sanction housing benefit to know tory government intent and how when even applying for unemployment benefit, your instantly faced with a screen demanding i quote, ” an address you reside at”, which if you haven’t one, you can’t proceed with the claim and its been this way since it was first released and has been mentioned numerous time to DWP not that really it isn’t glaringly obvious from the get go. For the record they don’t even confront homelessness till further into the application and if that wasn’t bad enough, later on it asks for a phone number and again wont allow the person to proceed with the application for benefits if they don’t own a phone and this one gets me, DWP staff have absolutely no answer to it and at best could only if they did and I’m not saying they do, incite the person to add a fraudulently number and then ring DWP to give a change of details.

Now according to the dictionary vulnerable means – exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally yet DWP and local council have their own definition and this has been going on for at least a decade, that somehow, if you’re a certain age and of a certain health that your be perfectly ok living on the streets. DWP even expanded this to instruct public service staff NOT to treat people with certain mental illnesses like schizophrenia for example as VULNERABLE.

I’ve witnessed up and down the country, many a homeless person deliberately breaking the law just so they can get a temporary roof over their head and food in the mouth, especially in the depths of winter around Christmas. The amount of mentally ill prisoners is also quite alarming.

Now i and others have said from day one of these welfare reforms that their would be a knock on as people simply don’t lie down and die and will lead to an increase in costs towards the NHS and law enforcement and criminal retention so oh what a surprize certain ministers are now using it to justify change. Constantly others and i have demonstrated how being in prison despite the violence (statistically your odds of being attacked on the street are higher) is easier than being under conditionality, where a murder, a rapist, even a terrorist gets food and a bed no matter the horrible details of their crime yet raise your voice at a DWP staff member, not fulfil your conditions by a mm and WHAM, all monies are suspended.

A week in prison costs the taxpayer £538 a week, a massive 7 times more than the £74 a person gets claiming unemployment. Malnutrition and the illnesses it causes aren’t any cheaper and the recent revelation that a lot of homeless people develop addictions after going onto the streets and not before as previously believed. Add to that being regularly attacked by the public at night and you can easily imagine the financial burden placed on the NHS.

Oh for the record its not strictly 2 months housing, its actually UPTO meaning it could well mean a week or even possibly less, who knows at this juncture. What’s being prescribed is clearly manufactured by people who don’t understand the problems of being homeless in today’s UK as they actually believe by giving a person a house for 2 months (said on ann derbyshire) that magically they will find another, so we are now back where i started and that’s my whole point,

When you’re homeless all you ever do is get the run around only to end up where you started.

And they would also listen to Enigma:

35.When we asked Giles Peaker, Chair of the Housing Law Practitioners Association, what the future of homelessness would be if no action was taken, he was unequivocal:

Will it get worse? Yes. Will it get worse faster? Yes. That is already happening, and is just going to continue … One thing that could be done is to stop making it worse. That is the simple answer. There are some immediate triggers facing us … The roll-out of the reduced benefit cap is going to have a fairly dramatic effect across the country, whereas the first £26,000 one basically affected London. £23,000 and £20,000 outside of London is going to have a dramatic national effect, really taking large swathes of public sector tenancies out of affordability for families in that situation. If the rents continue to increase whilst there is the LHA freeze, without wishing to be overly melodramatic, we are heading towards a serious crisis.48

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmcomloc/40/4006.htm#_idTextAnchor018

Any person with a shred of decency who  listened to the Dougs and the Enigmas of this world would be boiling with anger.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 18, 2016 at 3:19 pm

Universal Credit Crash Leaves Hundreds Penniless.

with 50 comments

Does Work Coach Help You Prepare to Go Without Money?

The National today (August the 15th)  reports on the latest cock-up in implementing Universal Credit.

HUNDREDS of vulnerable people in Scotland were left penniless and having to turn to food banks over the weekend after a controversial new online benefits system crashed.

Computer problems prevented payments getting to families, disabled and unemployed people across East Lothian, the first local authority in Scotland to roll out the full Digital Universal Credit Service, which has to be claimed online, and replaces previous benefits such as housing, jobseekers’ allowance and income support with a single monthly payment.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said it was working to ensure that everyone received their benefits today but it was cold comfort for many who spent the weekend struggling to feed their families.

East Lothian MP George Kerevan received complaints from constituents desperate for help after the system went down and failed to make vital payouts to those in need.

He said: “All computer systems fail occasionally, so the real test is how the human agency involved – in this case the DWP – reacts.

“Sadly, in this case, the response has been atrocious. Rather than take the initiative and alert clients and the public, the DWP has gone to earth issuing a bland “everything is under control” statement.

“This is not just outrageous it demands a proper inquiry.”

The DWP said there had been a “small-scale” problem that had been fixed and they were hoping to have all benefits paid by today.

A DWP spokesman said: “We experienced a small-scale problem with one of our service providers that has now been resolved. We will ensure that everyone is paid their benefits.”

When the pilot of the new universal credit system was launched in March, it was branded an “experiment in cruelty” by local councillor Fraser McAllister.

At the time he said: “We are living in a high-cost, low-wage society. It is an experiment and like all experiments there are unknowns but one of the most definite outcomes is that the poor will become poorer and more vulnerable. It is an experiment in cruelty.”

East Lothian was chosen for the pilot as it offers a different demographic to the areas currently being tested in England, such as London and Great Yarmouth.

Kerevan added: “Since its full service roll-out in East Lothian and a few other constituencies in the UK, service users have faced innumerable access problems.

“Many lack computer skills, are vision-impaired or have psychological problems that make concentration difficult.

“In addition, universal credit has been used as camouflage for a wholesale cut in social welfare spending.

“This latest crisis – involving the universal credit system crashing – is the final straw.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2016 at 10:04 am

DWP Goes Hip on Social Media.

with 72 comments

DWP Goes Social Media.

Thanks to Enigma.

I had no idea what a load of electronically wired hipsters  the DWP were – until I read this latest offering.

We await their official statements on the following: Mash-ups, Social Media Optimization (RSSDig), BuzzLogic, Web 2.0, Vlogging.  KickApps (white label social network building),  Ruby on Rails,  (37signals).

We expect to learn that the DWP is going to use Enterprise 2.0  to “change the way we work within an organization. How we collaborate. How we use the wisdom of crowds. That sort of thing. And again, think of how cool you sound when you say this. w00t! woot!”

For the moment we have this Guidance for the Clickbait Klout that DWP Memes are Trending to Social Proof  Claimants. 

Social media use: Guidance and moderation information for DWP social media channels, including specific guidance for Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

Social media moderation policy

We encourage and welcome open, lively debate that is civil and relevant. We won’t suppress legitimate debate of relevant issues.

We also want to ensure people’s safety online, so we’ve provided the following guidelines.

You should:

  • respect other comments and individuals – comments should not be malicious or offensive in nature, and should not constitute a personal attack on a person’s character
  • be reasonably concise, and not spam the channel
  • use English, unfortunately we can’t moderate comments in other languages
  • stay on-topic

You must not:

  • reveal personal details, such as National Insurance numbers, private addresses, phone numbers, email addresses or other online contact details
  • use these channels to discuss or comment on individual benefit enquiries
  • break the law (this includes libel) condone illegal activity or break copyright
  • swear, make malicious or offensive comments
  • incite hatred on the basis of race, religion, gender, nationality or sexuality or other personal characteristics
  • advertise commercial products and services, you can mention relevant products and services as long as they support your comment
  • impersonate or falsely claim to represent a person or organisation
  • post messages that are unrelated to the topic of the original web post
  • make comments which are party political in nature

We reserve the right to remove comments at any time for any of the above.

For serious or persistent breaches of the moderation policy, we reserve the right to prevent users from posting further comments.

We can’t accept any messages on these channels as notification of any change in circumstances that may impact a benefit claim.

We can’t discuss party political issues.

If we share information from other websites and sources it doesn’t imply any kind of endorsement.

Not to mention this:

“Twitter is one of a number of social media channels DWP uses to engage with citizens, partners and stakeholders and it forms part of our digital strategy.”

DWP official Twitter accounts.

And this:

Facebook moderation policy

The DWP Facebook page is reactively moderated. We can’t accept responsibility of the content of any comments. We will manage this account during office hours, Monday to Friday (not including public holidays).

Latest (4th of August):

5 ways mums and dads can get help into work

YouTube moderation policy

We pre-moderate comments submitted to the DWP YouTube channel. This means that comments won’t be published instantly – DWP moderators will check them first. Moderators will monitor the site during office hours, Monday to Friday, and aim to process comments within 2 working days.

Moderation is intended to prevent people publishing private, personal information that could open them to fraud.

Moderators will remove any comment they consider to be inappropriate, that breaks these rules or is not in line with the YouTube Community Guidelines.

Victoria on her work experience

260 views 2 weeks ago (Note: a pitiful number, make it grow!)

Victoria talks about her work experience at Premier Inn. She learned a variety of customer service and team skills alongside soft skills like time management, which she used on her CV to secure a job with the company.

Be like Victoria – Get In Go Far! Go! Go, GO!

Written by Andrew Coates

August 10, 2016 at 3:05 pm

More on Council Tax: 360,000 families afflicted by council tax poverty trap.

with 73 comments

In the Post more and more. 

Following, no doubt, our lead (see previous post)  this is in today’s Observer.

360,000 families afflicted by council tax poverty trap

Previously exempt households in arrears crisis as benefits are cut; while Liverpool city council is owed £10m in council tax.

Hundreds of thousands of the poorest households in England are having their benefits cut every week because they are unable to pay their council tax bill, the Observer can reveal.

Families are stacking up such arrears, spanning years in some cases, that they are having their benefits slashed, which is driving them further into poverty.

Until 2013, those on small or no incomes had some protection from paying the full tax under a national support scheme. Since then, councils in England have had to administer their own, locally devised schemes, with reduced funding from the government.

The result has been mass failure to pay council tax by those who would previously have been exempt, and a surge in cases where benefits are docked to make good on arrears. Data released under the Freedom of Information Act from 133 local authorities reveals that 190,198 households currently hav

Given the number of councils that did not provide figures, it is likely that around 360,000 households could be facing this form of sanction, which requires an order from a magistrate. Many of them would not have had to pay any council tax prior to the government’s reform of the system.

The worst-affected council area in England is Labour-run Liverpool, where 17,582 households claiming council tax support have so-called “attachments” to benefits. Up to £192 can be sliced off a claimant’s benefit each year in order to clear their council tax arrears.

…….

Most English councils have introduced minimum payments for those who were previously exempt, usually 25% to 30% of the tax owed. Such families are required to pay £171 per year.

Only one year’s council tax debt at a time can be repaid by attachments to benefits. If someone has council tax debts spanning multiple years, they end up with a separate attachment for each year, queued up one after the other.

The figures released to the Observer show there are 113,590 so-called “pending attachments” across 117 councils.

Will the Labour Party announce support for the restoration of full Council Tax Benefit?

We notice no policy on benefits, including nothing on sanctions, in Corbyn’s Ten Point pledge. 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 7, 2016 at 10:59 am

Restore Council Tax Benefit!

with 79 comments

It’s that time again.

When we have to pay Council Tax.

Even at the reduced rate it’s another burden, and our benefits were effectively cut when they decided we had to make this payment.

Apparently it’s about making us ‘responsible’: that is chipping into our meagre fortnightly payment to fork out another sum of money.

This is how the news was presented  in 2013,

Another benefits bombshell could be on the way for some of the poorest in society.

Just as they adjust to the idea that their benefits will rise below inflation for the next three years, some now also face paying council tax for the first time.

The government is scrapping the national council tax benefit scheme from April.

Instead local authorities will have to draw up their own methods of supporting people on benefits and low incomes.

BBC

This was an analysis (The impact of localising council tax benefit.)

Changes to council tax benefits will affect poorer households and create inconsistencies in neighbouring areas. Multiple schemes will add complexity and reduce transparency.

A few months later and we saw this (Guardian):

Thousands of UK’s poor in court over non-payment of council tax

Courts across country fill up with people on lowest incomes as introduction of new council tax charges in April begins to bite.

By April 2015 we had this:

Half a million more people summoned to court over unpaid council tax, after benefits scrapped

Exclusive: Almost three million people taken to court by local authorities in wake of changes to support.

Welfare Weekly the same year,

Huge Surge In Poorest Families Summoned To Court Over Unpaid Council Tax.

There has been a huge surge in the number of low-income families summoned to court over unpaid council tax, new research shows.

New research published by False Economy shows an increase of more than 500,000 court summons in England, as the poorest households are hit by a £490 million cut in council tax support.

And the problem is set to get even worse, as one in seven local authorities plan further cuts in the support available to families struggling to pay council tax bills.

The TUC believes this will result in the poorest families facing even higher council tax demands and lead to a rise in the number summoned to court.

Figures show that more than 3 million people in England were taken to court by local authorities in 2013/14 over unpaid council tax. This represents a 25% rise on the previous year.

Council Tax Benefit was scrapped by the government and replaced by the Council Tax Support Scheme (CTS) in 2013/14. The change meant that councils in England were allowed to develop their own support schemes, but were also forced to accept a 10% in funding from central government for those schemes.

Only a small number of councils chose to keep full council tax support for low-income families. Vulnerable pensioners were unaffected by the changes and are still entitled to have their council tax bills fully paid.

According to figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), around 2.5 million low-income families were affected by a reduction in council tax support in the first year of the scheme.

Where councils introduced minimum council tax payments for the poorest households, court summons increased by 30%. Only 9% of local authorities continue to offer full council tax relief.

The research by False Economy also found that households who qualified for CTS, and who were subject to minimum council tax payment requirements, accounted for 58% of the rise in court summonses.

According to the research, people who are struggling to pay council tax bills are routinely being affected by deductions in benefits and targeted by bailiffs.

A False Economy spokesperson said: “Council tax support cuts have caused chaos for families and households, and also for councils.

“They are leaving people out of pocket and in debt, which is also bad for local businesses that depend on them as customers.

“Councils are now pursuing people through the courts for money they do not have. It is a shambles made by a cabinet of millionaires in a government that has been completely out of touch with reality.”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Slashing council tax support has been one of the government’s cruellest cuts.

“It was foolish for ministers to think that families who can’t afford to heat their homes can pay new tax bills for hundreds of pounds.

“And it is heartless for them to stand by as the poorest families are hauled through the courts and harassed by bailiffs.

“If anyone is to be hit with higher taxes it should be the fat cats in the boardrooms and those corporations that are dodging paying their fair share, not the poorest working-age households in the UK.”

Reports on the story seem to have dried up this year.

But the Guardian has just published this:

The arithmetic of the powerful that makes poor people ill

I have been summoned to Tottenham magistrates court on Thursday 4 August because I am refusing to pay my council tax to the London borough of Haringey. I am fighting against state-imposed ill heath. When Grant Thornton, Haringey’s accountants, audited the £125 costs added – more than 20,000 times – to council tax arrears by Tottenham magistrates in 2013/14, they refused to consider the impact of poverty on the health of Haringey residents.

I asked: “Please will you ask the local GPs and NHS by how much their costs have increased due to the increasing impact of debt and austerity on the health of residents since their benefits were taxed in April 2013.” They replied: “we have no remit … to opine on the impact of this policy on the wellbeing of those required to pay council tax”.

The point has been passed where the arithmetic of the powerful should bend to the damaging and state-imposed insolvency of the powerless. The cumulative impact of caps, housing benefit cuts and council tax on the diminishing incomes of the worst off has damaged their health and life expectancy. Hunger is the tip of the iceberg.
Rev Paul Nicolson
London

Abolish the obligation of Claimants to pay Council Tax!

Restore Council Tax Benefit!

Written by Andrew Coates

August 3, 2016 at 10:02 am

Posted in Council Tax, Cuts, DWP

Names of Workfare Exploiters and Oppressors Revealed – by Court Order.

with 104 comments

 

Names of hosts for DWP “schemes…collectively referred to as “workfare””.

What do they know. Refuted.

Hats off to Frank Zola!

Further to today’s Court of Appeal ruling*, that dismissed the DWP 3rd appeal, with regards disclosing the names of hosts (employers/charities/businesses/public authorities etc) of your Mandatory Work Activity scheme (“MWA”), Work Experience and the Work Programme (“WP”) schemes. Please disclose all the names of said hosts you hold in connection to this ruling.

In your disclosure of host names, please indicate for each unique individually named host which individual unique scheme or schemes each specific host provided placements for.

The List of Shame.

NAMES OF PLACEMENT PROVIDERS FOR MWA (Mandatory Work Activity) DURING THE REQUESTED PERIOD
African Childrens Fund
Abacus Children’s Wear
ABCAL
Ability
Ace of Clubs Charity Shop
Acorns
Action for Disability
Action Housing
Active Community Team
Advocacy Support
Afro Caribbean Centre
Age Concern
Age UK
Agnew Community Centre
Air Ambulance
Aire Valley Recycling Ltd
Airedale Computers,
Al-Khair Foundation
All Aboard
Allied Healthcare
Almadene Care Home
AMF Torquay Bowling Alley
Amicus Horizon Housing Association
Animal Krackers
ARAS German Shepherd Inn
ARC
Archer Project
Arthritis Research UK
Arthur Rank
Arts Factory
ASAN
Asda
Asha Charity Shop
Ashgate Hospice
Aspire Community Enterprise Ltd
Auchinleck Talbot F.C.
Autism Plus
Aylestone  Park Boys Football Club
Babygear
Back2Earth
Bangladesh People
Bangladeshi ass sangag centre
Barnardos
Basic Life Charity
B’Dwe
Beaumaris Hostel


Bedfordshire Education Academy
Belgrave Hall Museum
Bernicia Group (Social housing provider)
BHF
Blaby & Whetstone Boys Club
Blue Cross
Bluebell Wood
Bookers
Boots
Botanical Gardens
Bottle Rescue Aireworth Mill
BR Environmental
Bradford Autism Centre
Bradford Community repaint
Breaking Free
Brian Jackson House
Briardale Community Centre
Bright House
Brighton and hove wood recycling
Britannia College
British Heart  Foundation
British Red Cross
British Waterways
Brockhurst Community Centre
Bryncynon Strategy
Bryncynon Strategy
Butterwick Hospice
Cancer Research
Cancer Uk
Capability Scotland
Care & Repair
Carers Centre
Caribbean Centre
Caribbean Restaurant (Streatham)
Carlisle Park
Carr Vale Allotments
Cash Convertors
Castle Gresley Community Centre
Cat Haven
Cats Protection League
Cauwood day services
CCA Furniture Outlet
Cerebal Palsey Care
Changing Lives in Clevedon
chapletown youth community centre
Chesterfield FC Community Trust
Chestnut Tree House Shop


Children in Distress
Children Scrapstore Reuse Centre
Children Trust
Childrens Society
Chopsticks North Yorkshire
Circulate
Citizen Advice Bureau
Claire House
Clic Sargent
Comfort Kids
Community Association – Trefechan
Community Re-Paint
Community Resource Centre
Community Voice
Complete Professional Care
Compton Hospice
Congburn Nurseries
Cooke Computers
Cooke E – Learning Foundation
Co-op
Corby Boating Lake
Cornerstone
Cornwall Hospice Care
County Durham Furniture Help Scheme
Croydon animal samaritans
CSV Media
Cusworth Hall
CVS Furniture
Dan’s Den Colwyn Bay
Dapp UK
DC Cleaning
Deans
Debra
Demzela
Derbyshire Timber Scheme
DHL
Dial Intake
Didcot Railyway Museum
Disabled Childrens Services
Discovery Community Cafe
Dogs Trust Glasgow
Dogsthorpe Recycling Centre
Doncaster College
Doncaster Community Centre
Dorothy House Hospice
Dorset Reclaim
Dovehouse Hospice Shop
Dragon Bands


Durham Wildlife Trust
E Waste Solutions
Earl Mountbatten Hospice
East Anglia Childrens Hospice Shop
East Cleveland Wildlife Trust
East Durham Partnership
East Midlands Islamic Relief Project
East West Community Project
Ecclesbourne Valley Railway
eco Innovation Centre
Elleanor Lion Hospice
ELVON
Encephalitis society
English Landscapes
Enhanced Care Training
Enterprise UK
Environmental Resource Centre
Essex County Council
Extra care Charitable Trust
Fable
Family Support
Fara
Fare share Malmo Food Park
Featherstone Rovers
Fenland District Council
First Fruits
FN! Eastbourne
Foal Farm
Food Cycle
Fops Shop
forget me not childrens hospice
Foundation for Paediatric Osteopathy
Fountain Abbey
Fox Rush Farm
FRADE
Frame
FRESCH
Fresh water christian charity
Friends of St Nicholas Fields
Furnish
Furniture for You
Furniture Project
FurnitureLink
Gateway funiture
Genesis Trust
George Thomas Hospice – Barry
Geranium Shop For The Blind
Glasgow Furniture Initative


Glen Street Play Provision
Goodwin Development Trust
Govanhill Baths Community Trust
Greenacres Animal Rescue Shop
Greenfingers
Greenscape
Greenstreams Huddersfield/ environmental alliance
Grimsby District Health care charity
Ground Work
Hadston House
Happy Staffie
Harlington Hospice
Hart Wildlife Rescue
Hartlepool Council
Hartlepool Hospice
Hartlepool Prop (Mental Health)
Hartlepool Trust Opening Doors
Hastings & Bexhill Wood Recycling Project
Havens Childrens Hospice Shop
Havering Country Park
headway
Healthy Living Centre
Hebburn Community Centre
Help the Aged
helping hands
High Beech Care Home
High Wycombe Central Aid
Hillam Nurseries
Hinsley Hall Headingley
Hobbit Hotel
Holmescarr Community Centre
Home Start
Homemakers
Hope central
Hospice of hope
Hounslow Community Transport Furniture Project
Hull Animal Welfare Trust  Hull
Humanity at Heart
I Trust
Indoamerican Refugee and Migrant Organisation (IRMO)
Intraining Employers
Ipswich Furniture Project
Iranian Association
Islamic Relief
Jacabs Well Care Center
Jesus Army Centre
JHP
Julian House Charity Shop


K.T. Performing Arts
Kagyu Samye Dzong London
Keech Hospice Care Shop
Keighley & District Disabled
Kier Services – Corby
Kilbryde Hospice
Killie Can Cycle
Kingston Community Furniture Project
Kiveton Park & Wales Community Development Trust
LAMH
Leeds & Moortown Furniture Store
Leicester City Council
Leicester Riders
Leicester Shopmobility
Leicestershire Aids Support Services
Leicestershire Cares
Lifework
Lighthouse
Linacre Reservoir
London Borough of Havering
London College of Engineering & Management Woolwich
Longley Organised Community Association
Lyme Trust
Lynemouth Resource Centre
Mackworth Comm. Charity Shop
Making a Difference
Marie Curie
Mark2 (marc)
Martin House Hospice
Mary Stevens Hospice
Matalan
Matchbox
Matthew25 Mission
Mayflower Sanctuary
MDJ Lightbrothers
Meadow Well Connected
MEC
Mental Health Support
Midland Railway Trust
MIND
Miners Welfare community centre
Mistley Place Park
Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal Regeneration Partnership Scheme
Moore Cleaning
Morrisons
Muslim Aid
Myton Hospice
Nandos


Naomi Hospice
National Railway Museum
National Trust
NDDT
Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council
Necessary Furniture
Neighbourhood funiture
Neterlands Dog Rescue
New Life Church
Newham Volenteers Group
Newport City Council
Nightingale House
NOAH enterprise
North East Lincs Motor Project
North London Hospice Shop
North Ormesby Community Shop
Northumberland County Council
Norwood
Old Nick Theatre
One 0 One
Open Secret
Overgate Hospice
Oxfam
Papworth Trust
Partner Shop
Paul Sartori Warehouse
Paws Animal Welfare Shop
PDSA
Pegswood Community Centre
Pennywell Community Association
Peterborough Streets
Pheonix Community Furniture
Pilgrim Hospice
Placement Furniture Project
Platform 51 Doncaster Womens Centre
Playworks
Plymouth Food Bank
Plymouth Play Association
Plymouth Volunteer Centre
Pound stretcher
POW Shop
Powys Animal Welfare Shop
PPE Paving
Preen Community Interest Company
Primrose
PRINCE & PRINCESS OF WALES
Prince of Wales  Sherburn in elmet
Princess Trust
Queen Elizabeth Foundation


Queens Walk Community
Queensland Multi-Media Arts Centre
Rainbow Centre
Rainbows End Burngreave
Real Time Music
Recycling unlimited
Red Cross
Refurnish
Regenerate Community Enterprise
Remploy
Restore
Rhyl Adventure Playground Association
Right Time Foundation
RNID
Rochford Council
Rosalie Ryrie Foundation
Rosliston Foresty
Royal Society for Blind.
Royal Wotton Bassett Town Council
RSPB
RSPCA
Rudenotto
Rudyard Lake
S & S Services
Saffcare
Sainsburys
Salvation Army
Santosh Community Centre
Sara
Save the children
Savera Resource Centre
Scallywags
Scarborough Council
SCD Fabrications
School of English Studies
Scope
Scottish Cancer Support
Scottish International Relief
Scunthorpe  Central Community Centre
Seagull Recycling
Seahouses Development Trust
Second Chance
Second Opportunities
Sedgemoor Furniture Store
Sense
Sesku Acadamy Centre
Shaw Trust
Sheffield Reclamation Ltd – Reclaim


Shelter
Shooting Stars
Shopmobility & Community Transport – Access
Slough Furniture Project
Smythe
Sneyd Green
Somali Community Parents Association
Somerfields
Somerset Wood Re-Cycling
South Ayrshire Council
South Bucks Hospice Warehouse
South Wales Boarders Museum
Southend United Football Club
Spaghetti House
Spitafields Crypt Trust
Splash fit
St Barnabas
St Catherines Hospice Trading
St Chads Community Centre
St Clare’s Hospice
St Davids Foundation
St Elizabeth Hospice Charity Shop
St Francis Hospice Shops Ltd
St Gemma’s Hospice
St Georges Crypt
St Giles
St Helens House
St Hughs Community Centre
St Lukes Hospice
St Margarets Hospice Scotland
St Oswald’s Hospice
St Peters Church
St Peters Hospice
St Raphaels hospice
St Vincents
St. Catherines Hospice
St.Theresa’s Charity Shop
Stages Café
Stannah Stair Lifts
Stef’s Farm (Education Farm)
Step Forward
Stocking Farm Healthy Living Centre ( Sure Start)
Stockton Council
Stone Pillow
STROKECARE
Strood Community Project
Strut Lincoln
Sudbury Town Council


Sue Ryder
Sunderland Community Furniture
Sunderland North Community Business Centre
Superdrug
Swindon 105.5
Sycamore Lodge
sydney bridge furniture shop
Sypha
T&M Kiddy’s Kingdom
Tara Handicrafts
Teamwork
Teesside Hospice
Tendring Furniture Scheme
Tendring Reuse & Employment Enterprise
Tenovus
Tesco
Thames Hospicecare
Thames Valley Hospice
Thanet District Council
The Ark Shop
The Art Organisation
The Charity Shop
The Childrens Society
The Childrens trust
The Crossing
The Good Neighbour Project
The Greenhouse
The Harrow Club
The Hinge Centre Ltd
The Isabella Community Centre
The Island Partnership
The Kiln Cafe
The learning community
The Linskill Centre
The Listening Company
The Octagon Centre  Hull
The Old Manor House Riding Stables
The Princess Alice Hospice
The Range
The Reuse Centre
The Rising Sun Art Centre
The Rock Foundation Ice House
The Shores Centre
The Spurriergate Centre
The Undercliffe cemetary charity
The Vine Project
The Welcoming Project
The Woodworks (Genesis Trust)


Think 3E,
Thirsk Clock
Thurrock Council
Thurrock Reuse Partnership (TRUP)
TLC
TooGoodtoWaste
Top Draw
Traid
Trinity Furniture Store
Troed Y Rhiw Day Project
True Volunteer Foundation
Tukes
Twice as Nice Furniture Project
Twirls and Curls
Ty Hafan
Tylorstown Communities First
United Churches Healing Ministry
United Play Day Centre
Unity in the Community
UNMAH
Untapped Resource
Urban Recycling
Vale of Aylesbury Vineyard Church Project
Vista Blind
Walpole Water Gardens
Walsall Hospice
Wandsworth Oasis trading Company Limited
Wat Tyler Centre
WEC
Weldmar
Well Cafe
Wellgate Community Farm
Wellingborough District Hindu Centre
Western Mill Cemetary
WH Smith
Wheelbase
Whitby Council
Wildlife Trust
Wilkinsons
Willen Care Furniture Shop
Willington Community Resource Centre
Windhill Furniture Store Shipley
Woking Community Furniture Project
Womens Aid
Womens Centre
Woodlands Camp
Worsbrough Mill & County Park
Xgames
YMCA


York Archaeological Trust
York Bike Rescue
York Carers centre
Yorkshire Trust
Yozz Yard
Zest
Zues Gym


 

Excitement mounts as the Workfare exploiters run for cover…..

This news came to us via our friends at Boycott Workfare.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 29, 2016 at 4:10 pm

More on Universal Credit Delay.

with 76 comments

Damien Green’s Constituency: the Place to Learn first hand about the Problems of People on Low incomes and on Benefits. 

Universal Credit roll-out delayed for a further year

Full roll-out of Universal Credit will now not be completed until March 2022.

Reports Welfare Weekly. 

New Work and Pensions Secretary, Damien Green MP, has announced a further one year delay in the roll-out of Universal Credit, meaning the full roll-out of the flagship benefit is FIVE years behind schedule and will not be completed until March 2022 at the earliest.

In a written statement to MPs, Mr Green said the decision had been taken due to changes in policy to tax credits and Universal Credit announced in the 2015 Summer Budget, including limiting child tax credit to two children.

Troubled welfare scheme will now not be completed until 2022, the seventh announced delay since 2013.

Ironically, the delay will have the effect of providing temporary respite for millions of claimants who stood to lose thousands of pounds a year when they were removed across to universal credit from the tax credits system after July 2018.

Guardian. 

Inside Universal Credit IT – analysis of document the DWP didn’t want published

Written evidence the Department for Work and Pensions submitted to an FOI tribunal – but did not want published (ever) – reveals that there was an internal “lack of candour and honesty throughout the [Universal Credit IT] Programme and publicly”.

It’s the first authoritative confirmation by the DWP that it has not always been open and honest when dealing with the media on the state of the Universal Credit IT programme.

New Petition: 

Make all calls to the Department for Work and Pensions free.

Why is this important?

Because charging struggling families up to 45p a minute to claim vital benefit payments by phone is extortionate.

When Iain Duncan Smith introduces Universal Credit, families will be forced to call an 0345 number, incurring charges of up to 45p a minute to claim their benefits.

It’s difficult enough as it is living on disability benefits without being charged 45p/ minute to call the DWP.

More often than not it’s their mistake you’re rectifying when you call, I don’t see why anyone should be charged such an extortionate fee for simply making a phone call.

Background:

The Rt Hon Damian Green MP

Damian Green was appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on 14 July 2016. He is the Conservative MP for Ashford.

Education

Damian was educated at Reading School and Balliol College, Oxford. He was President of the Oxford Union in 1977.

Career

From 1978 to 1992 he worked for the BBC and The Times, as well as Channel 4, where he was a producer and presenter specialising in business programmes. In 1992 he joined John Major’s policy unit, where he worked for 2 years.

Political career

Damian held a number of positions in the Shadow Cabinet, including Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills from 2001 to 2003, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport between 2003 and 2004 and Shadow Minister for Immigration from 2005 to 2010. He served as Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims (jointly with the Home Office) from September 2012 to July 2014.

He was Minister of State for Immigration from May 2010 to September 2012.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 25, 2016 at 11:50 am

In British Political Hysteria Rise of People Forced to use Food Banks Ignored.

with 56 comments

The number of people begging in the streets round here has not stopped growing.

Not a days goes past without seeing people on the pavements asking for money.

Not just one, but I’d say at least 20 in the town centre.

Now this report covers people whose money is delayed.

Those begging are not eligible for benefits, because Coachey would shout at them, scream something about his own past as ragamuffin  on the streets of Victorian London, tell them to pull their socks up and spend 35 hours a week ‘job-searching”.

Those homeless and sleeping in the roads in the town centre have no money.

To even get into a Food bank, well they would not qualify easily.

This kind of thing, in the present political hysteria, is being ignored.

But this report from Welfare Weekly, is important.

Benefit delays responsible for one in five foodbank referrals, new research shows.

Benefit payments delays are responsible for one in five referrals to foodbanks while benefit sanctions were responsible for 1 in 12 referrals, according to a new study by the University of Oxford and University of Chester.

The landmark two-year study of statistical data from West Cheshire Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, provides valuable and unequivocal evidence on the causes of food poverty and who uses foodbanks.

Information was collected from 5,808 households referred to the foodbank over a 24 month period between May 2014 and April 2016, in one of the most systematic and detailed studies into foodbank use to be carried out in the UK, leading to the publication of the #stillhungry report.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 20, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Posted in DWP, Food Banks

Tagged with ,

Lowest-paid workers to receive smaller pay rises. How will this affect Universal Credit?

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Lowest-paid workers to receive smaller pay rises, says thinktank

Uncertainty caused by Brexit vote means ‘

The survey results counter evidence that high-profile companies, including Tesco, Marks & Spencer and B&Q, clawed back staff benefits after the introduction of the national living wage.

D’Arcy said: “Encouragingly, evidence of workers seeing their hours cut or even losing their jobs has so far been relatively limited. The challenge now is for firms to continue to respond positively to the national living wage, particularly by raising productivity.”

will rise more slowly, according to the Resolution Foundation.

Welfare weekly. 

Millions of workers on the national living wage are set for smaller than expected pay rises by the end of the decade after the EU referendum, according to a thinktank.

It does not much to see that this was an effect on Universal Credit and welfare payments..

Original story from the Guardian.

The “national living wage” introduced by the chancellor, George Osborne, is set to rise more slowly because it is linked to average worker earnings, which are now expected to come under pressure following the referendum.

The real-terms value of the wage by 2020 could be up to 40p an hour lower than the £8.31 predicted before the EU vote, according to the report by the Resolution Foundation.

The minimum pay rate of £7.20 an hour for over-25s was in

The real-terms value of the wage by 2020 could be up to 40p an hour lower than the £8.31 predicted before the EU vote, according to the report by the Resolution Foundation.

The minimum pay rate of £7.20 an hour for over-25s was introduced by Osborne in April after he said: “Britain deserves a pay rise.” The rate is designed to gradually increase over the next four years and initial estimates had suggested it could reach £9 an hour by 2020.

But the thinktank found there is increasing uncertainty about the outlook for earnings. This will have a major knock-on effect on the national living wage, it says. The national living wage aims to reach 60% of a typical (over-25) worker’s hourly wage by 2020. The Resolution Foundation expects 4.5 million employees to benefit from the national living wage in 2016, rising to 6 million – or 23% of all employees – in 2020.

This is important:

The survey results counter evidence that high-profile companies, including Tesco, Marks & Spencer and B&Q, clawed back staff benefits after the introduction of the national living wage.

D’Arcy said: “Encouragingly, evidence of workers seeing their hours cut or even losing their jobs has so far been relatively limited. The challenge now is for firms to continue to respond positively to the national living wage, particularly by raising productivity.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 11, 2016 at 1:57 pm

After Success with Universal Credit, our Boss, Stephen Crabb, to be next PM?

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Work and Pensions Secretary in March 2016.

The BBC reports.

Stephen Crabb has launched his bid for the Tory leadership promising no snap election and no second EU referendum.

The Preseli Pembrokeshire MP and work and pensions secretary said stability was his aim, warning that fresh polls would simply create more uncertainty.

Mr Crabb rejected claims he was prejudiced against gay people, after his opposition to same-sex marriage.

The contest was triggered when Prime Minister David Cameron announced he would resign after the Brexit vote.

Who is Stephen Crabb? Bearded Welshman with controversial views on homosexuality.

This is believed to be his biggest rival:

Though an as yet undeclared outsider is expected to make a strong showing:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 29, 2016 at 3:02 pm

Posted in Welfare State

Tagged with ,

Most Claimants Worried about Welfare ‘changes’.

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https://i0.wp.com/thinktankreview.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Universal-Credit-change-is-coming.gif

Enough to Worry about already.

Following the recent post on Universal Credit, which showed a wealth of reasons why people have real fears about Universal Credit, we see this report.

Three In Four Benefit Claimants Worried About Future Welfare Changes

Welfare Weekly.

Low-income households fearful that further welfare changes would leave them struggling to pay for housing, food and other essentials.

New research by the national charity Turn2us has found that almost three-quarters (73%) of low-income households claiming means-tested benefits are worried about future changes to the welfare system.

This figure was highest amongst those who are unable to work due to disability or long-term illness, with a huge 90% concerned about welfare reform. Significant changes to the benefits and tax credits system are taking place over the next few years.

Worryingly, nearly two-thirds (64%) of households said they would feel more stressed about their financial situation if their benefits were to be cut or reduced, whilst over half (55%) fear they would have to cut back on food.

Furthermore, over two-fifths (43%) said they might struggle to pay their rent or mortgage, and one in two (50%) are concerned they may get in to debt.

Over half of families (54%) said they would struggle to provide for their children if receiving less support.

One of the research respondents said: “I just about cope on the benefits I receive and have had to cut down on every expenditure. I have no idea how I would cope if the benefits were reduced or taken away and would feel despair.”

Another said: “I am a full-time carer for my mum and have so much stress and worry on a day-to-day basis. The benefits we receive help me manage and without them I don’t know what we would do.”

Claimants also expressed uncertainty over Universal Credit which is being introduced gradually to replace six means-tested benefits for working-age people. A third (33%) said they feel unsure about this new benefit because of negative stories they’ve heard in the media.

We note that these are not “stories” but based on accurate reports about the utter mess than Universal Credit may well introduce.

Welfare Weekly says,

Turn2us.org.uk – has a free and confidential Benefits Calculator that reflects the latest welfare changes, so that anyone can check their current entitlements and how to make a claim.

These include sections titled:

  • Check benefit entitlement.
  • Search for a grant.
  • What’s your situation?

Simon Hopkins, Chief Executive of Turn2us says,

We would urge anyone who is worried about their situation to visit our website where they can find the latest information on benefit changes, and check their current entitlements. Anyone who thinks they might see a reduction in their income can also use our free tools to see if they might be eligible for any additional support.”

We are sure this is well meaning, but with the threat of further austerity adding to the already obvious signs that Universal Credit is riddled with problems,  getting proper advice is not going to solve everybody’s difficulties.

Or indeed, solve the basic – rational –  causes of the worries the report indicates.

These range from the waiting time for the UC claim  to be processed, fears about paying rent, and, last but very certainly not least, the sanctions regime.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 17, 2016 at 3:13 pm