Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Tories Drop Proposed “gentler approach” to Sanctions Regime for Claimants.

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McVey Goes Back to Cruel Sanctions Regime.

The ‘sanctions regime’ is a long standing gripe of claimants.

In 2016  amongst many reports there was this: (Independent 30th of November), Benefits sanctions don’t work and plunge claimants into ‘hunger and depression’, National Audit Office finds

The benefit sanctions system has become a ‘postcode lottery’ and is doing more harm than good, according to the public spending watchdog

The public spending watchdog has launched a scathing attack on the benefit sanctions system, claiming that fining people for breaking the terms of benefits does more harm than good and costs more to enforce than it saves.

The National Audit Office (NAO) found that benefit sanctions were being inconsistently applied across the country, with some jobcentres being far stricter than others on people who, for example, are unable to show they have been actively seeking employment in order to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. The watchdog found that withholding of benefits, which it found to be commonplace, plunges claimants into hardship, hunger and depression.

The NAO said the Department for Work and Pensions must launch a proper investigation into how benefit sanctions are affecting the lives of people on benefits, and to bring to an end a system it described as “pot luck” and a “postcode lottery”.

Labour’s 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.”

She added: “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?”

In October last year we learnt, (Disability News Service),

Ministers are to test a new approach to dealing with claimants who breach strict benefit conditions for the first time, in the latest sign that the government is finally listening to calls to soften its much-criticised sanctions regime.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has agreed to trial handing out warnings instead of benefit sanctions when a claimant breaches the conditions imposed on them for the first time.

It is one of five recommendations made in February’s report by the public accounts committee (PAC) on benefits sanctions, all of which have been accepted by ministers, according to a document sent by the Treasury to the committee earlier this month.

Today we hear:

By John Pring Disability News Service 15th February 2018

Ministers have quietly dumped their promise to test a gentler approach to dealing with claimants who breach strict benefit conditions for the first time.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) agreed in October to trial handing out warnings instead of benefit sanctions when claimants breach the conditions imposed on them for the first time.

It was one of five recommendations made in a report on benefit sanctions by the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) in February 2017.

But DWP has now said that it will not carry out the trial after all, because of “competing priorities in the Parliamentary timetable”.

There was no public announcement, but the decision was included on page 139 of the latest Treasury Minutes Progress Report, which describes progress on implementing those PAC recommendations that have been accepted by the government.

It was spotted by welfare rights advisers on the rightsnet online forum, and from Buckinghamshire Disability Service.

Although the progress report is dated 25 January, a DWP spokeswoman insisted that the decision to dump the sanctions trial had been taken before the appointment of Esther McVey as the new work and pensions secretary on 8 January.

She said: “The decision not to undertake a trial was taken at the end of 2017 – before Esther McVey took up her position as secretary of state.

“As you have read, introducing the trial through legislative change cannot be secured within a reasonable timescale.

“But we are keeping the spirit of the recommendation in mind in our thinking around future sanctions policy.

“To keep the sanctions system clear, fair and effective we keep the policies and processes under continuous review.”

Last October’s decision to trial handing out warnings had been seen as a sign that years of campaigning by disabled activists and anti-austerity protesters aimed at raising awareness of the harshness of the sanctions regime might finally be paying off.

It had come only weeks after the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities made sweeping criticisms of the UK government’s welfare reforms.

The UN committee had called on the government to review “the conditionality and sanction regimes” linked to employment and support allowance, the out-of-work disability benefit, and “tackle the negative consequences on the mental health and situation” of disabled people.

David Gauke, at the time the work and pensions secretary, admitted at his party’s annual conference last October that sanctions often fail to work and can instead cause harm to claimants, particularly those with mental health conditions.

He promised then to try to find a way to make the sanctions system less damaging to people with mental health conditions, and the announcement of the trial soon afterwards appeared to demonstrate his department’s commitment.

But that commitment is now being questioned, following McVey’s appointment as his successor.

Universal Credit Sanctions

The rules about sanctions under Universal Credit mean that there will be more people who will be sanctioned than the previous benefits system. In fact evidence is suggesting that the rate of sanctions under Universal Credit is three times that of JSA. It is possible to be sanctioned even if you are in paid work.

It should also be noted that Hardship Payments are paid as loans and will have to be repaid at the end of the sanction.

The rules for the level of Universal Credit sanctions are based on the rules for JSA and ESA sanctions. Anyone who receives Universal Credit can be sanctioned and the level of the sanction depends upon the conditionality group that you are placed in. More information about the conditionality groups can be found in the article Your Responsibilities if you get Universal Credit.

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Written by Andrew Coates

February 16, 2018 at 11:16 am

Private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits, failing to meet the Government’ s own quality standards.

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Government Responds to Critical Report by Wheeling out Lies.

Capita and Atos, the latter later replaced by Maximus, names that should be on every infant’s lips… as bogeymen.

The crooks contacted to run our public services have come a cropper again.

This time they have created misery for thousands and thousands of disabled people caught in the Benefit’s system.

Disability benefit assessors failing to meet Government’s quality standards

Independent.

Errors in assessment process lead to ‘pervasive lack of trust’ in system and ‘untenable human costs’ to claimants, MPs find

All three private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits are failing to meet the Government’ s own quality standards, leading to decisions being made based on inaccurate or incomplete assessments, new research shows.

A report by the Work and Pensions Committee found failings in the assessment process have contributed to a “pervasive lack of trust” in the system and an “untenable human costs” to claimants, as well as financial costs to the public purse. They concluded that the process was in need of “urgent change”.

In one case flagged up by MPs, a person with Down’s syndrome was asked when they “caught” it, while in another, a woman reporting frequent suicidal thoughts was asked why she had not yet killed herself. In a third case, a claimant’s assessment stated that she walked a dog daily, when she could barely walk and didn’t own a dog.

Of the 170,000 appeals for personal independence payments (PIP) claims that have been taken to the Tribunal in the past five years, since 2013, claimants won in 63 per cent of cases. In the same period, there have been 53,000 employment support allowance (ESA) appeals, of which claimants won in 60 per cent of cases.

Both Atos and Capita – the companies contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’ to carry out the bulk of the assessments – saw a rise in the proportion of reports graded “unacceptable” last year.

The article concludes:

A DWP spokesperson said: “As the Work and Pensions Committee highlights, assessments work for the majority of people, with 83 per cent of ESA claimants and 76 per cent of PIP claimants telling us that they’re happy with their overall experience. However, our aim has to be that every person feels they are treated fairly, with respect and dignity.

“We are committed to continuously improving the experience of our claimants, that is why we’ve commissioned five independent reviews of the work capability assessment – accepting over 100 recommendations – and two independent reviews of PIP assessments.

“We continue to work closely with our providers to ensure people receive high quality assessments, and are exploring options around recordings to promote greater transparency and trust.”

We know what kind of ‘research’ they use to reach this conclusion:

As Kitty writes,  Summary of key problems with the DWP’s recent survey of claimant satisfaction

The Government says: “This research monitors claimants’ satisfaction with DWP services and ensures their views are considered in operational and policy planning.” 

Again, it doesn’t include those claimants whose benefit support has been disallowed. There is considerable controversy around disability benefit award decisions (and sanctioning) in particular, yet the survey does not address this important issue, since those experiencing negative outcomes are excluded from the survey sample. We know that there is a problem with the PIP and ESA benefits award decision-making processes, since a significant proportion of those people who go on to appeal DWP decisions are subsequently awarded their benefit.

The DWP, however, don’t seem to have any interest in genuine feedback from this group that may contribute to an improvement in both performance and decision-making processes, leading to improved outcomes for disabled people.

Last year, judges ruled 14,077 people should be given PIP against the government’s decision not to between April and June – 65 per cent of all cases.  The figure is higher still when it comes to ESA (68 per cent). Some 85 per cent of all benefit appeals were accounted for by PIP and ESA claimants.

Francis Ryan writes in the New Statesman.

The mass rollout of PIP and the out-of-work sickness benefit, the employment and support allowance (ESA) – first started by the coalition government – were in many ways the centre of the Conservatives’ anti-welfare drive, with ministers handing out hundreds of millions to private companies to run the assessments while claiming there are hordes of scrounging disabled people whose benefits should be withdrawn to get the “welfare” bill down.

It’s resulted in a system so inept that vast numbers of disabled people are having their support removed incorrectly: since 2013, of 170,000 PIP appeals taken to tribunal, 63 per cent won, while 60 per cent of the 53,000 ESA appeals succeeded.

Bear in mind this is at a time when legal aid cuts and the closure of welfare advice centres means many disabled people forced to appeal have no help to do so (imagine what the appeal rates would be if these were healthy people given legal support).

The impact of this is brutal. More than a third of those who have had their benefit cut say they’re struggling to pay for food, rent and bills, while 40 per cent say they’ve become more isolated as over 50,000 disabled people lost access to Motability vehicles.

The recent appointment of Esther McVey – famed in her role as Minister for Disabled People for her punitive attitude to benefit claimants – as the new Work and Pensions Secretary does not bode well for hopes to reform the system.

But the past month has shown with enough pressure, the government can be forced into a climb-down: in January, the Department for Work and Pensions announced every person receiving PIP – that’s 1.6 million people – will have their claim reviewed after a court challenge.

This week’s coming report could be another nail in the coffin in the Conservatives’ disability benefit agenda. In the meantime, cancer patients and people with severe depression are being left without the money they need to live.

Public Finance reports that the call is out for an end to the contracting-out scam:  MPs highlight breakdown in trust over disability benefit tests

Mark Smulian

Public contract failures have led to a loss of trust that risks undermining the operation of the Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance disability benefits, MPs have said.

In a report published today, the Commons work and pensions committee called for urgent reforms to the system.

Chair Frank Field said: “For the majority of claimants the assessments work adequately, but a pervasive lack of trust is undermining its entire operation.

“In turn, this is translating into untenable human costs to claimants and financial costs to the public purse. No one should have any doubt the process needs urgent change.”

Field said the Department for Work & Pensions should immediately require recording of face-to-face assessments and provide these to claimants, adding “it beggars belief that this is not already a routine element of the process”.

He called the DWP’s resistance to this idea “bewildering”, noting that making recordings available could in itself reduce the incidence of disputes leading to costly appeals.

Assessments have been carried out by contractors Capita and Atos, the latter later replaced by Maximus.

Ministers should consider taking assessments in-house, Field said, as “the existing contractors have consistently failed to meet basic performance standards but other companies are hardly scrambling over each other to take over”.

PIP and ESA assessment work was outsourced in the name of efficiency and consistency but the committee said no provider had ever hit their quality performance targets while many claimants experience anxiety and other damage to their health over a process regarded as “opaque and unfriendly” throughout.

The committee also urged better understanding amongst health and social care professionals and claimants of what constitutes good evidence for PIP and ESA claims, improved accessibility at every stage and better quality control.

It said there had been an unprecedented response to its call for evidence from service users and a recurrent, core theme had been “that claimants do not believe assessors can be trusted to record what took place during the assessment accurately [which] has implications far beyond the minority of claimants who directly experience poor decision making”

Still there’s this: Happy Thought for the Day from the DWP..

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

Government Claimant Survey and Universal Credit Review Attacked.

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Happy Shiny People Like Universal Credit!

Here is a brilliant look at how the government gets its sense of self-statisfaction,

A critique of the recent government survey of peoples’ “satisfaction” with the DWP. Conservatives have been eager to cite this survey but it is flawed. The biggest flaw is that only people with an open claim who had interacted within a 3 month timescale with the DWP were included in the sample. Those whose claim had been disallowed were excluded. Yet those were the people most likely to register dissatisfaction. Because of sampling bias, which was intentional – no generalisations or inferences may be taken from the survey results. In other words, it serves only as a PR exercise for the DWP.

A critique of the government’s claimant satisfaction survey. Written by Kitty S Jones.

The Department for Work and Pensions Claimant Service and Experience Survey (CSES) is described as “an ongoing cross-sectional study with quarterly bursts of interviewing. The survey is designed to monitor customers’ satisfaction with the service offered by DWP and enable customer views to be fed into operational and policy development.”

The survey measures levels of satisfaction in a defined group of “customers” who have had contact with the Department for Work and Pensions within a three-month period prior to the survey. One problem is that satisfaction is an elusive concept, not easily definable, accessible or open to quantitative measurement.

Who carried out this well-rewarded task?

The research was commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions and conducted by Kantar Public UK – who undertake marketing research, social surveys, and also specialise in consultancy, public opinion data, policy and also economy polling, with, it seems, multi-tasking fingers in several other lucrative pies.

I won’t give all Kitty’s post, which should be read in full, but this strikes the eye,

The Government says: “This research monitors claimants’ satisfaction with DWP services and ensures their views are considered in operational and policy planning.”

It doesn’t include those claimants whose benefit support has been disallowed. There is considerable controversy around disability benefit award decisions (and sanctioning) in particular, yet the survey does not address this important issue, since those most impacted negatively are excluded from the survey sample. We know that there is a problem with the PIP and ESA benefits award decision-making processes, since a significant proportion of those people who go on to appeal DWP decisions are subsequently awarded their benefit.

You get the impression this is the same method behind this pile of cack – don’t include losers and critics.

Universal credit project review full of ‘gobbledegook’, says Commons committee

The Independent.

‘They have produced no evidence to back up the key, central economic assumption of the biggest reform to our welfare system in 50 years. William Beveridge will be rolling in his grave’

The universal credit project review is full of “management gobbledegook” with ministers failing to make a full business case for the rollout of the Government’s flagship welfare reform, an influential Commons committee has warned.

Frank Field, who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, said the architect of welfare state, William Beveridge, “will be rolling in his grave” at the failure to produce evidence to back up the key economic assumption of universal credit.

He said people are being expected to take it on good faith that the contentious overhaul of the welfare in Britain will deliver.

After examining internal project assessment reviews of the universal credit programme’s finances and delivery by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), the committee expressed concerns about the situation.

While MPs said it was to the department’s credit that it brought universal credit back from the “brink of complete failure” in 2013, they said it continues to face major challenges.

Mr Field said that perhaps the most damning point emerging from the assessment of the Government’s progress on universal credit is that in its eighth year of the programme, the department itself “is yet to produce the full business case for its own mega reform”.

The world is waiting for Esther McVey’s response…

Opps, another problem popped up today:

 

Work and Pensions Secretary makes a fool of herself as Sack Esther McVey Again Campaign takes off.

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SALFORD SONGWRITER CREATES NATIONAL SACK ESTHER MCVEY CAMPAIGN TRACK

In January, a campaign was launched, backed by Salford TUC, to Sack Esther McVey Again, building on a previous successful campaign to get her sacked as MP for the Wirral (see previous Salford Star article – click here). And this week she had to step down from the advisory board of The Samaritans after a similar outcry.

Today, McVey is set to face questions in Parliament about DWP benefit cruelty, and, to coincide, a new hard hitting but catchy track is being launched called No More (Sack Esther Now), written and sung by Salford’s Dominic Williams.

The track hits on issues like war on the poor and consequent benefit and sanction deaths, or ‘de-population by stealth’, with the chorus…

‘Take a look tell me can you see
She’s never ever going to let you be
The vitriol she’s aiming at the sick and at the poor…No more…’

The track is both a catalogue of McVey’s ‘crimes’ as a former Tory Employment Minister, and a call to arms for activists, or ‘She’ll finish what she’s started/Now her foot’s back in the door…’

“Yes, it is hard hitting, especially the second verse, but it’s not far off the truth” says Dominic “That’s what it seems to people and it’s how people have been treated in the system. The number of people who have been declared fit and then died in a matter of days; it’s like, ‘Hello‘…But you don’t choose to live in poverty, circumstances dictate that, and it’s wrong that we demonise them. It’s easier to go after the ones who can’t help themselves.

“I’m very passionate about things like the NHS and the way the DWP do these kind of things because I’ve seen what it does to people, and it’s wrong” he adds “What price do you put on a life?”

Meanwhile….

Tory welfare chief Esther McVey rebuked by House of Commons Speaker for attack on Labour’s use of statistics

The Mirror.

John Bercow slapped down Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey after she accused Labour of twisting statistics – instead of answering a question about pensions.

Tory welfare chief Esther McVey has been rebuked by the House of Commons speaker for an attack on Labour that was not “relevant”.

John Bercow slapped down the new Work and Pensions Secretary today after she accused Labour of twisting statistics – instead of answering a question about pensions.

In her first Commons Questions since she took office, Ms McVey repeatedly highlighted a letter from the UK Statistics Authority watchdog to her Labour rival Debbie Abrahams.

The watchdog has rebuked Ms Abrahams over Labour’s claim that “40,000 children will wake up in poverty on Christmas Day because the Tories refuse to pause and fix Universal Credit.”

Chair Sir David Norgrove said Labour’s claim was not “fully supported” by the statistics and sources it relied on.

But Ms Abrahams accused Ms McVey of using the letter to distract from the Tories’ dire record.

And Commons Speaker John Bercow repeatedly admonished the minister – and fellow Tory MPs – for bringing up the watchdog’s letter in a Commons session designed to look at her own record.

Esther McVey’s “disgraceful” answer to question on closing Job Centres in her “home town”

The controversial former Wirral MP has failed to impress in Parliament again.

Esther McVey was labelled a “disgrace” for dodging a question about the closure of Job Centres in Liverpool.

The new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was quizzed in the Commons by Wavertree MP Luciana Berger about the Tories’ plan to shut down the only two Job Centres in the area – leaving local people with nowhere to go for employment support.

Ms Berger asked the former Wirral MP if she had looked at plans by Liverpool City Council to try and co-locate Job Centres in some of its other buildings as a means of still offering people a place to get advice, support and benefits – but she managed to completely avoid the question and suggest things have vastly improved in her “home town” of Liverpool.

Ms Berger asked: “Can I ask the Secretary of State if she’s had the opportunity to review the very helpful and generous offer made by Liverpool City Council to her predecessor to provide office space for closure threatened Job Centres.

“There are two Job Centres in my constituency – not one but two – that her government wishes to close, leaving my constituents with zero Job Centres – and they are due to close in a few weeks’ time.

In her response, Ms McVey elected not to deal with the subject of Job Centres closing or the offer made by the city council at all.

She said: “It is really important that everybody gets the support they need and actually a lot of the support that will be going forward will actually be outreach work, so that they don’t need to go to the Job Centre Plus.”

She added: “But obviously I am pleased that in the Liverpool City Area, which is my home town – employment is now far higher than it was in 2010 and when you look at the unemployment rates of the Labour Government – unemployment 2.8m in 2008, even before the banking crisis.

McVee still has one friend, a certain Quinten, and it would take two seconds to guess which paper publishes him,

When Theresa May today makes her speech marking the women’s suffrage centenary, and deplores the ‘intimidation and aggression’ prevalent on social media, she should pause to toot brief salute to Esther McVey.

Miss McVey, who was recently promoted to Work and Pensions Secretary, has had to endure horrible abuse over the years.

She has put on a front of cheerfulness but inside I bet she has been through the mangle.

Labour activists have called her all sorts of names, far worse than anything any parliamentary sketchwriter would use.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell even spoke about lynching her.

The (successful) campaign to oust Miss McVey from her marginal Merseyside seat at the 2015 general election was almost unhinged, it became so personal.

All that from the party that accuses Righties of being intolerant and anti-women!

In all that time, Miss McVey never lost her composure in public.

She had no husband or children to comfort her but she did have her old dad. I met him once. Good bloke.

The only other man in her life is Philip Davies (Con, Shipley), with whom she shares digs.

Miss McVey, who returned to the Commons as MP for Tatton (George Osborne’s neglected seat) in 2017, was at the despatch box yesterday for her first departmental Questions.

She  has this to muse over,

Thousands of Universal Credit decisions could be reviewed as terminally ill man takes government to court

A terminally ill man has won the right to launch a legal challenge against the introduction of the universal credit.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2018 at 11:30 am

Gov.uk Verify System Creating Chaos for Universal Credit Claimants.

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Image result for Gov.uk Verify problems universal credit

A Cause of Major Snarl Ups for Universal Credit Claimants.

Computer Weekly is one of our favourite reads, an essential source for information about a crucial part of the Benefits system, IT.

One of our contributors pointed to this story way back in the mists of time (2014):  The IT risks facing Universal Credit.

A few days ago the esteemed organ flagged up yet another  major problem for Universal Credit, Gov.uk Verify.

The origin of the latest mess is, as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau said last year

One of the big changes under Universal Credit was the switch to a ‘digital’ benefit. For the first time with the full digital service, claimants both apply for and manage their UC claim online. The intention behind this change is to encourage UC claimants to develop their digital skills,” the report said.

Citizens Advice believes that being online could make it easier for people to find and secure work, and access information.

“A digitally-delivered benefit system also has the potential to become more efficient, allowing claimants to better manage their payments and any changes of circumstances,” it said, but added that rolling out a fully digital Universal Credit requires “significant support”.

The Advice Service (facing cuts be it noted) stated the origin of the difficulty was this,

One in five adults in the UK lack basic digital skills and one in seven don’t have access to the internet at home.

“These people are disproportionately likely to be disabled or have a long-term health condition, and to be unemployed or on low incomes. These are also the groups most likely to be making a claim for UC,” the report said.

“A survey of our UC clients in full service areas found nearly half (45%) had difficulty accessing or using the internet – or both.”

This makes it difficult for citizens applying for benefits to do so online. In fact, 52% of the people surveyed by Citizens Advice said they found the online application difficult and felt that the support they needed was not available. Most people have also not been informed that there are other options than applying online.

Without accessible facilities and support, there is a risk that the significant minority of claimants who lack digital literacy or internet access will experience additional delays and errors in their initial claim,” the report said.

Plenty of posters on this site have said the same based on the well-known scientific research principle of common sense.

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants unable to use Gov.uk Verify to apply for benefits.

Bryan Glick

Government research shows that barely one-third of benefits claimants can successfully apply for new Universal Credit digital service using flagship online identity system.

Hundreds of thousands of benefits claimants could be unable to register for the new Universal Credit (UC) digital service because of problems using the government’s online identity system Gov.uk Verify, according to new figures that show barely a third of UC users successfully use Verify.

The Universal Credit (UC) digital system, which is due to be introduced at all Jobcentres by the end of 2018, works on the basis that people applying for benefits will set up an account online and prove their identity electronically using Gov.uk Verify – either on their own computer or with assistance from Jobcentre staff.

But the Government Digital Service (GDS), which develops Verify, has revealed research showing that while 35% of UC users can set up a Verify account online, 30% are not able to, and the remaining 35% could use Verify, but do not.

“Further research at a job centre showed that out of 91 users, 48 needed help with the process,” according to the latest minutes from GDS meetings with the Privacy & Consumer Advisory Group (PCAG), a panel of independent identity experts who advise on Gov.uk Verify issues.

The article  continues,

Benefits claimants tend to have less of a digital footprint than people in employment, who are more likely to have mortgages or credit cards, and as a result Verify finds it harder to gather enough data to prove their identity. The new GDS research is the first time Verify figures have been published that are specific to the UC digital service.

Most of the 1.2 million UC claimants so far have used the original “Pathfinder” system, which handles only a limited number of benefit types and does not rely so heavily on Verify. It is being replaced by the digital service – now known as UC Full Service – which is being rolled out across the country and will be used for all new UC claims by the end of the year.

In the month to 14 December 2017, 77,000 people applied for Universal Credit, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). With the UC Full Service being introduced at, on average, 50 Jobcentres a month this year, hundreds of thousands of new claimants will soon be expected to use Verify as part of the application process. Based on the latest GDS figures, at least three in 10 people will not be able to do so and many more will struggle.

A telephone helpline is available to help apply for UC, and Jobcentre staff can also assist, but the expansion of UC Full Service assumes that the majority of claimants will prove their identity using Verify. If many thousands of people are unable to successfully use Verify to submit a claim, it is likely to cause significant extra work for Jobcentre staff.

The Gov.UK Verify system has faced other charges in the recent past (May 2016)

Gov.UK Verify finally launches but critics warn of security and privacy problems

Campaigners warn people will lose control of their identity

Gov.UK Verify, the Cabinet Office’s in-house identity scheme intended to govern access to public services, has finally been launched, years late and to intense criticism.

Verify’s purpose is for citizens to register to use government services quickly and easily by matching their identity to other systems.

“When you use Gov.UK Verify to access a government service you choose from a list of companies certified to verify your identity,” the government said.

“It’s safe because information is not stored centrally, and there’s no unnecessary sharing of information. The company you choose doesn’t know which service you’re trying to access, and the government department doesn’t know which company you choose.”

However, campaigners have argued that Verify is unnecessary and limited, potentially insecure and will encourage users effectively to cede control of valuable personal information to the eight private contractors picked to oversee the scheme: Barclays, CitizenSafe, Digidentity, Experian, Post Office, Royal Mail, SecureIdentity and Verizon.

LOGJAM signals that after the above article Computer Weekly has now written its own criticisms,

There’s a growing body of opinion that the government’s flagship digital identity system, Gov.uk Verify, has now become a major hindrance to the development of the UK’s digital identity infrastructure.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2018 at 10:48 am

Benefit Assessors Capita in Financial ‘Problems’.

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Some well-dodgy companies and ‘charities’ are set to run the Work and Health Programme,

Central England Shaw Trust January 2018
2 North East England Reed in Partnership January 2018
3 North West England Ingeus November 2017
4 Southern England Pluss January 2018
5 Home Counties Shaw Trust January 2018
6 Wales Remploy December 2017

This is how one DWP ‘contractor’ (PIP and ‘ DWP partnered with Capita Document & Information Services and Capita’s 10 enquiry lines on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)) is faring, despite siphoning off tonnes of public money.

Capita: more than £1bn wiped off value of UK government contractor

Grim state of outsourcing firm’s financial position emerges two weeks after collapse of Carillion.

More than £1bn was wiped off the stock market value of the government contractor Capita on Wednesday, sparking fears of job losses and forcing Downing Street to play down the threat of a collapse echoing the demise of rival Carillion.

Capita, whose major contracts range from collecting the BBC licence fee to electronic tagging of prisoners, saw its share price nearly halve in a day following a grim financial update that reignited concerns over the outsourcing industry and the stability of public services.

This is a major part of Capita’s Welfare ‘Business’.

Personal Independence Payment Assessments

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a non means tested benefit for people aged between 16 and 64 who have a long term health condition or impairment.

It replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people aged between 16 and 64. DLA recipients can use the DWP PIP Checker to see if and when they will be affected.

Capita carries out PIP assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Wales, the West Midlands and the East Midlands (Independent Assessment Services, delivered by Atos covers the other parts of Great Britain). Assessments are focused on how an individual’s health conditions may impact on their daily life, rather than the health conditions themselves. You can read about the DWP’s entitlement conditions and assessment criteria in detail on the DWP website.

DWP accused of ‘rewarding failure’ over ‘extortionate’ benefit assessors payouts. 

April 2017

Labour accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of “rewarding failure” by Atos and Capita, which appear set to be paid more than £700 million for their five-year contracts.

This compares with an original estimate of £512 million for the contracts to carry out assessments for personal independence payments (PIP). The DWP said the assessment process for PIP is key to supporting claimants, and it has to balance effective support for the most vulnerable with getting the best value for the taxpayer.

Analysis by the Press Association shows Atos and Capita have already been paid £578 million in relation to PIP since it launched in 2013. This includes £257 million in 2016, the highest year so far, according to the department’s monthly spending data.

But the three original call-off contracts for this work totalled £512 million. This figure was supposed to cover a five-year period, according to the original contract documents.

The contracts are due to run out in December. With DWP having paid Atos and Capita an average of £19 million a month over the past two years, the companies are set to be paid in excess of £700 million by the time the contracts hit the five-year mark.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said:

“It is beyond belief that this Tory Government is rewarding failure. “The PIP process is in disarray and these private companies are receiving huge payouts in a time of extreme austerity.

“It is clear that these costs are spiralling out of control.

“The Government needs to get an urgent grip on these extortionate payments to private companies, especially at a time when they are getting more and more assessments overturned in the courts.”

Watchdog orders DWP to publish secret reports on Atos and Capita PIP failings

22nd January 2018.

The information commissioner has ordered the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to release documents that are likely to expose the widespread failings of two of its disability benefit assessment contractors.

DWP has been attempting to prevent the documents being released since receiving a Freedom of Information Act request from campaigner John Slater in December 2016.

He said the documents – if and when they are eventually released – will reveal the truth about what DWP knows about Atos and Capita.

Last month, the two outsourcing companies, which are paid hundreds of millions of pounds to carry out personal independence payment (PIP) assessments, told members of the Commons work and pensions committee that they had never met contractual quality standards on the reports their staff write for DWP.

The documents Slater has been seeking could provide further evidence of such failings, and fuel campaigners’ fears that Atos and Capita have been told by DWP to find a certain proportion of claimants ineligible for PIP.

Under the terms of their contracts to assess claimants across England, Wales and Scotland for their eligibility for PIP, Atos and Capita must provide monthly reports to DWP that cover “all aspects of quality, including performance and complaints”.

The reports include detailed “management information”, including the number of complaints made against assessors, what proportion of assessments led to claimants meeting the PIP criteria, and the average length of time taken for face-to-face assessments.

Slater, who works in programme and project management when he is not campaigning on issues around freedom of information, had asked DWP to provide copies of these reports for every month of 2016.

He told Disability News Service that the reports would provide “raw data” on the companies’ performance, before DWP “has had a chance to massage it”.

He said: “I suspect what they will show is not only that the contractors are struggling but also how bad DWP is at managing contracts.”

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.c

Latest news:

Capita PLC (LON:CPI) could be an “interesting recovery story” but it is too early to tell whether the new chief executive’s turnaround plan will bear fruit, according to analysts at Jefferies.

The outsourcing firm, which holds several contracts with the government, on Wednesday issued a profit warning and announced plans for a £700mln rights issue, to scrap its dividend and sell off non-core divisions.

The news sparked worries that it could face the same fate as collapsed contractor Carillion PLC (LON:CLLN).

Jonathan Lewis, who started as Capita’s chief executive two months ago, admitted that the company was “too complex” and “too widely spread across multiple markets and services”, making it challenging to maintain a competitive advantage in every business.

“Capita could be an interesting recovery story but it is too opaque to model with conviction, management guidance has been unreliable, and perpetual UK political turmoil continues to weigh on the revenue outlook,” said Jefferies.

The broker cut its rating on the stock to ‘hold’ from ‘buy’ and slashed its target price to 200p from 750p.

Capita now expects 2018 underlying pre-tax profits to be lower at around £270mln to £300mln, well below consensus forecasts of £380mln, due to contract delays, higher attrition, weak new sales and higher costs.

Revenue is expected to be flat compared to the previous year, which is ahead of consensus forecasts for a 204% decline.

“The new CEO may have kitchen-sinked expectations and front-end loaded investment costs but it’s difficult to prove at this juncture,” Jefferies said.

The view of RBC Capital Markets is that Lewis is “doing all the right things” but weaker trading and the “more precarious” balance sheet mean he has had to raise capital before completing a full strategic review.

…..

Shares in Capita fell 3.2% to 176.30p in morning trading.

It’s a pitiful state of affairs when our public services are dependent on “morning trading” in shares.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 1, 2018 at 11:45 am

PIP payments: 1.6 million claims to be reviewed, a “complex exercise of considerable scale”.

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Image result for personal independence payment latest news

Review, a “complex exercise and of considerable scale”.

Personal Independence payments: All 1.6 million claims to be reviewed

BBC.

Every person receiving Personal Independence Payments (PIP) will have their claim reviewed, the Department for Work and Pensions has said.

A total of 1.6 million of the main disability benefit claims will be reviewed, with around 220,000 people expected to receive more money.

It comes after the DWP decided not to challenge a court ruling that said changes to PIP were unfair to people with mental health conditions.

The review could cost £3.7bn by 2023.

The minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, said the DWP was embarking on a “complex exercise and of considerable scale”.

She added: “Whilst we will be working at pace to complete this exercise it is important that we get it right.”

As the Mirror rightly adds,

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister Sarah Newton admitted it will be a “complex exercise of considerable scale”.

Ms Newton was unable to say how long the review will take – prompting fears disabled people will be left waiting years for justice.

 Some details are emerging,

PIP is the main disability benefit and gives people up to £141 a week to meet the everyday costs of their condition.

The DWP said no one will have to endure a fresh face-to-face disability assessment.

Instead case managers will review people’s claims using existing information, and bump up their benefits if appropriate.

Case managers will contact claimants or their GPs if they need to find out more.

Priority will be given to claimants who have since died, and those who had their benefits denied entirely.

Officials will then move on to those who were paid PIP but got less than they deserved.

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams comments,

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said the admission was “shocking”, adding: “The Minister refused to publish a timetable of how many months or even years it will take for this ‘complex exercise’ to be completed.

The Government was wrong to bring in the PIP regulations last year and it was wrong to ignore time and time again the views of the courts.

“This sorry debacle is one of their own making.

“They must now get a grip on the PIP process and ensure all those affected by this policy receive back payments as soon as possible.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 30, 2018 at 11:46 am

Labour’s Policy on Universal Credit: from “Fix it” to Change the Whole System.

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Related image

What Labour is up against.

Labour’s policy on Universal Credit, 

“The Tories’ Universal Credit programme is pushing thousands of families into poverty, debt and homelessness.

We’re demanding the Tories urgently pause and fix Universal Credit, before millions more are affected.

Say you’re with us.

Now some may say that calling on the Government to ‘fix’ Universal Credit is not much of a policy.
This is some more detail, (from November, Guardian).

Labour has unveiled a list of demands to improve the rollout of universal credit, seeking to keep up the pressure on Philip Hammond over the issue before Wednesday’s budget.

The shadow pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams, has written to the chancellor demanding changes to UC, which Labour and other critics say is putting people in debt as it is rolled out into new parts of the country.

The main request is to reduce the initial six-week wait for a payment under the system, which is designed to replace a range of other benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit.

Charities working with claimants have said the six-week wait tends to put people into arrears, especially with their rent, and means they have to seek support from food banks. There has been speculation the government is planning to reduce this period.

Abrahams is also seeking an option of fortnightly rather than monthly payments, a change to the assessment period and modifications to ensure that the benefit always rewards people for finding more work.

In a separate article for the Guardian, Abrahams said there was increasing evidence that UC “is not fit for purpose – and Labour believes the budget is a chance to fix it”.

The original aims of the system – to simplify social security support, ensure people were always better off in work than on benefits and reduce child poverty – were laudable, and had been supported by Labour, Abrahams wrote.

“But UC is failing to deliver on its objectives, as we have heard from respected charities including Child Poverty Action Group, Trussell Trust, Citizens Advice and Gingerbread. Even former government advisers, civil servants and UC’s own architects are now critical of the scheme,” she added.

The system’s inherent problems were made worse by benefit cuts imposed in 2015, she added.

“As it is being rolled out, universal credit is pushing people into debt and rent arrears, with many people in social and private rented housing being served eviction notices.”

As well as the six-week initial wait, and obligatory monthly payment, Abrahams highlighted UC’s lack of responsiveness to the changes in income of self-employed people.

“The problem is that this is assessed on a monthly basis, with no discretion for the natural peaks and troughs of self-employed work, or indeed for the niceties of the occasional holiday,” she wrote.

“Should they take a Christmas break, many self-employed people may suddenly find they have not met the [Department for Work and Pensions] work requirements, and be sanctioned as a result.

“If you’re thinking this doesn’t affect you, I’m sorry to say that might change, with the government planning to roll out ‘in-work conditionality’. This would require people who are working to report to the jobcentre and demonstrate they are seeking more hours, or face their UC support being cut.”

Most serious, Abrahams warned, were cuts to benefit levels, citing a forecast from the Child Poverty Action Group that reductions to UC would put a million more children into poverty by 2022.

Hammond could begin to fix the situation in the budget, Abrahams said, by reducing the six-week wait, allowing rent to be paid directly to landlords, allowing payments to be split between partners, improving flexibility for self-employed claimants and restoring the cuts to work allowances.

“Anything less won’t make UC fit for today’s labour market,” she wrote. “Anything less will sentence a million more children to be brought up in poverty. Anything less will mean that this prime minister’s promise to tackle ‘burning injustices’ is no more than empty rhetoric.”

This is some good work Debbie Abrahams is doing now.

 But this Blog, being this Blog, would like to see more:

 

  • We need an end to the Benefit Freeze. Anybody going shopping knows prices are rising, as our bills also show.  Housing Benefit should meet costs. We need a Pay Rise!
  • We need an end to the way private chancers and ‘charities’, companies who run the ‘Unemployment Business”, of the likes of the Shaw Trust, Reed In Partnership, Ingeus, Remploy, are now going to take charge of the Work and Health Programme. Carillion indicates how these state contracted firms operate a poor service giant Ponzi schemes, pyramid  sub-contacting is the least of it – for the profits and salaries of their bosses.
  • We need an end to the system by which those on benefits have to pay a percentage of Council Tax. This obligation, introduced by Eric Pickles in 2013, means people pay different rates up and down the country, and was never compensated by a rise in out benefits. From this cut in our income there has come a rise in the numbers in Council Tax arrears.
  • We need an end to any form of Workfare, something people suggest may come up again in the Work and Health Programme.
  • The Sanctions Regime must be abolished.

Food Banks and homelessness should not be seen as permanent features of our society.

We want a decent standard of living, housing, and dignity, for all.

Being Rude about Esther McVey.

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Image result for esther mcvey cartoon

Is it wrong to be rude about Esther McVey?

The Tories and their mates in the press seem to think so.

They keep stirring up a campaign to defend the poor Work and Pensions Secretary.

The I reports yesterday

John McDonnell once again refused to apologise for repeating comments that called for Cabinet minister Esther McVey to be “lynched”. The Shadow Chancellor was recorded during an event in 2014, in which he said people in Liverpool were using the violent language about Ms McVey, who was employment minister at the time. Mr McDonnell’s comments have resurfaced after the Tory MP was promoted to Work and Pensions Secretary this month, with Commons leader Andrea Leadsom branding them “truly evil”.

Lynching the b*****d

Appearing at a comedy night organised by the Stop the War Coalition on Remembrance Sunday in 2014, Mr McDonnell quoted an activist who had shouted that instead of sacking Ms McVey, Labour should be “lynching the b*****d”. But the Labour frontbencher insisted he was quoting other people so he has nothing to apologise for.

So in fact McDonnell did not call for McVery to be lynched, he repeated what somebody had said.

No doubt there are people out there (where I have yet to find, as a Twitter and Facebook user I have seen none) who pass beyond being angry to making threats.

Threats are always wrong, being rude is not.

The Tories manage to mix the two things.

The Mail, at the start of the year, was beside itself.

Esther McVey is subjected to a tide of abuse after her promotion to Work and Pensions Secretary as trolls brand her ‘evil’, ‘vile’ and a ‘bitter and dangerous woman’

McVey was drafted in as Work and Pensions Secretary late last night by PM

May appointed her to the high profile post after Justine Greening turned it down

McVey is already a hate figure on the left because of her last spell in Government.

This is one of the Tweets that got the Mail’s goat.

And another.

Then there is – horror of horrors! – this:

Image result for esther mcvey threatening tweets

People say all kinds of things on Twitter.

This is the (former) leader of the Ipswich Borough Council Conservatives,

Image result for Ipswich Tory leader resigns tweet Nadia Cenci

This followed (July 2017): Nadia Cenci quits as Ipswich Tory leader after Grenfell Tower tweet

This is a story about McVey herself,

The Conservative minister Esther McVey has apologised for a tweet attacking the Labour Party during the Hillsborough memorial service.

A tweet from the account of the MP for Wirral West linked to a press release and said: “Wirral Labour can’t be trusted” at 15:51 GMT on Tuesday.

Posts on the social media site claimed the timing showed a lack of respect.

The MP said she did not send the tweet but took “full responsibility” as it was sent from her account.

BBC

 The present storm about McVey is not going to end soon even if her ladyship now confines her own tweets to this decorous one.

Others on her side are not so restrained.
According to a Tory just over a week ago McDonnell is “truly evil”, and…he was nasty about her on her Birthday!
That seems pretty rude to me.

John McDonnell Branded ‘Truly Evil’ By Tory Cabinet Minister For Attack On Esther McVey

Written by Andrew Coates

January 23, 2018 at 11:03 am

The New Dependency on Universal Credit.

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https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DT5g0SsWsAA9W2M.jpg

 

The coordinated counterattack waged by representatives of capital against these two ideas since the 1980s has been very successful. Protection of the return on capital is now the over-riding long-term policy goal, and it is one that has engineered for itself considerable popular support. Its preferred ideological disguise is a version of the American dream: anyone can “make it” if they work hard enough in a system of “free competition” (as though there were such a thing). The history of the development of the welfare state up to the middle of the 20th century bore witness to the growing recognition that this belief was simply false. Welfare measures addressed the fundamental human needs of the great majority of those who, at certain not always predictable moments in their lives, would find themselves vulnerable and helpless in the face of impersonal economic forces. It was a great advance in civilisation when society enacted measures to address these needs. Their recent erosion or repeal is a cause for shame.

 Review of  Bread for All  – how Britain is regressing to the early 19th century. Chris Renwick.

Whoknew recently posted this abstract of  Foundations of the Workfare State – Reflections on the Political Transformation of the Welfare State in Britain

The British ‘welfare state’ has been transformed. ‘Welfare’ has been replaced by a new ‘workfare’ regime (the ‘Work Programme’) defined by tougher state regulatory practices for those receiving out-of-work benefits. US-style mandatory community work programmes are being revived and expanded. This article, therefore, considers shifting public attitudes to work and welfare in Britain and changing attitudes to working-age welfare and out-of-work benefits in particular. It also considers the extent to which recent transformations of the state may be explained by declines in traditional labourist politics and class-based solidarity. Thus, we attempt to develop a richer understanding of changing public attitudes towards welfare and the punitive regulatory ‘workfare’ practices engaged by the modern state in the liberal market economy; reflecting on the nature of the relations between ideology, party policies, popular attitudes and their political impact.

One way of putting this is to say that the Welfare State was designed to provide a “safe place” for people, a help when misfortune happens, a right that everybody has to a minimum incomes, a place to live, and enjoy our lives free from the constant anxiety of getting into a position without money.

Increasingly however we can see that the Welfare state is now not designed to help with “fundamental human needs “.

It is meant to set people up to work, that is to be disposable (in all senses) for employers.

If we look at the US model given above the large numbers of people without shelter, without money – the very visible army of street people – is a kind of living example to people to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and get on the ladder to success.

By no coincidence whatsoever we were once shown on course a DVD of the story of a Black US man, with his son, who does just that, ending up after a series of troubles, including being in a hostel for the homeless, to become the founder of  successful brokerage firm (whatever that is).

Poster-pursuithappyness.jpg

I sometimes think that the homeless in Ipswich, who you see every day, are part of this plan, an object of charity, and a warning to everybody else.

In any case sanctions, which have not gone away, are there are a constant threat.

Then there was Workfare, such as  “Community Work Placements”,

In November 2011, the Prime Minister’s Office announced proposals under which Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants who haven’t found a job once they have been through a work programme will do a 26-week placement in the community for 30 hours a week.[3] According to The Guardian in 2012, under the Government’s Community Action Programme people who have been out of work for a number of years “must work for six months unpaid, including at profit-making businesses, in order to keep their benefits”

During their 2013 annual conference the Conservative Party announced a new scheme, called Help to Work, the workfare aspect of which “Community Work Placements” expected claimants to work for up to 30 hours a week for 26 weeks in return for JSA (Job Seekers Allowance). The scheme was introduced in April 2014, but scrapped in November 2015.

Whether the new Work and Heath Programme will include a workfare aspect is not as yet clear,

Plans for Universal Credit itself began seriously in 2010

Under the changes, housing benefit, income support, incapacity benefit and dozens of other payments will be swept away in a major reform programme intended to break the culture of welfare dependency by making work pay.

The new system will carry a guarantee that anyone taking a job will be better off than if they were on the dole, with claimants allowed to keep more of their benefits when they enter work or increase their hours.

Mr Duncan Smith has made clear that the introduction of the universal credit is essential to his reform plans, and will bring long-term savings as the overall welfare bill falls.

One of the aspects of Universal Credit is that people are meant to be responsible for their budget “just like everybody else”.

A move in this direction came when they made everybody pay at least a part of their Council Tax – thus effectively cutting benefits which had previously meant that Council Tax Benefit was simple: if you were on JSA and the rest you paid nothing.

Now you will get UC once a month, just like “real” wages (except that your frozen benefits are not remotely in line with inflation), and your rent is given to you directly so you will fork it out, (“just like everybody else”0 to the landlords.

In the real world people struggle enough with their low incomes on benefits so that their lives are not remotely “like everybody else”, they are like low paid workers, and not at all like people on decent incomes.

Low paid workers are now also to be caught up in the Universal Credit trap.

Instead of “welfare dependency” we have dependency on a useless system made to oblige people to work without giving them the means to live decently.

The result is,

There are manifold problems, but the political focus centres on the minimum 42-day wait for a first payment endured by new claimants when they move to universal credit (in practice this is often up to 60 days). For many low-income claimants, who lack savings, this in effect leaves them without cash for six weeks. The well-documented consequences for claimants of this are rent arrears (leading in some cases to eviction), hunger (food banks in universal credit areas report striking increases in referrals), use of expensive credit, and mental distress.

Guardian.

Now our contributors could add a lot, a lot, to that!

Our heart meanwhile, goes out to Esther McVee.

Daily Mail. Esther McVey faces fresh campaign of intimidation by hard-Left activists after suffering lynching threats

Union firebrands and Labour councillors are plotting a fresh campaign of intimidation against Esther McVey.

Hard-Left activists behind a vile effort that drove the Cabinet minister out of her Merseyside seat are planning to target her again.

The 50-year-old former television presenter was the most high-profile Tory casualty of the 2015 general election when she was ousted in Wirral West. The campaign included threats to lynch her.

And it can also be revealed that a Labour member with links to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has helped co-ordinate online abuse against Miss McVey.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 20, 2018 at 11:06 am

Tories, Vasectomies, the Poor, the Unemployed, and the Fat.

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Image result for fat tory minister pickles

Eric Pickles Former Minister Set Example to Loafing Unemployed.

First it was this, in the Mirror (16th of January)

Tory MP warns poor overweight kids could become an ‘unemployable under-class’ if Britain doesn’t cure its obesity epidemic

Ex-Minister Andrew Selous warned poor kids are more likely to be overweight and suggested things were better when Popeye was a role model.

A Tory MP has warned that poor overweight kids will become an “unemployable under-class” in Britain’s obesity epidemic.

Former Minister Andrew Selous predicted dire futures for overweight during a Westminster debate on the public health crisis.

We cannot allow an unemployable under-class to grow up – children who are obese, who go on into adult life being obese, having a low self-image, low self-confidence, struggling to get work as a result, being on low-income or benefits.

“We are talking about a lifetime of opportunity if we don’t grasp this issue.”

Then it was this on the BBC.

A Conservative MP has apologised for a 2012 blog post in which he suggested benefit claimants should have vasectomies.

The 28-year-old Mansfield MP had been writing in support of the benefits cap.

“Sorry but how many children you have is a choice; if you can’t afford them, stop having them! Vasectomies are free,” his post read.

“Families who have never worked a day in their lives having four or five kids and the rest of us having one or two means it’s not long before we’re drowning in a vast sea of unemployed wasters that we pay to keep!”

The Daily Record adds,

Tory MP apologises for suggesting poor people should be sterilised

Ben Bradley warned in blog post that it would not be long before Britain would be “drowning in a vast sea of unemployed wasters”.

Tory MP promoted in Theresa May ‘s reshuffle has apologised over a blog post suggesting benefit claimants should have vasectomies.

Ben Bradley, who was named as Conservative vice chairman for youth, said people on welfare should stop having children if they could not afford them, before suggesting sterilisation.

The Mansfield MP, 28, was writing in support of the benefits cap and suggested it would not be long “before we’re drowning in a vast sea of unemployed wasters”.

Apparently this is because he is out for the “inspirational working people’s vote.

Not to mention this article, another past comment which cuts out a few aspirational workers.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2018 at 11:59 am

Cognitive Therapy for the Unemployed: G4S Crooks to Deliver ‘Service’ in Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

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Image result for cognitive therapy for unemployed protests

“We are saving the taxpayer £120 million a year in benefit savings.” Sean Williams – Welfare to Work, Managing Director, G4S.

Carillon’s collapse, which involved the farce of having fire-engines on standby today in Oxfordshire in case the company could not deliver school meals for one of their many outsourced contracts, has not stopped the government from continuing their policy of giving large sums of money to private companies to deliver ‘services’.

 The problems of Universal Credit have tended to obscure other aspects of the government’s welfare policy.

One of the most outrageous sides  is this, which we have previously posted on.

It is part of the Work and Health Programme, rolling out this year.

The key service providers are:

Service Providers

It will be run by five service providers across six regions in England and Wales. The successful providers were:

  • Shaw Trust (Central England and Home Counties)
  • Reed in Partnership (North East)
  • Ingeus (North West)
  • Pluss (Southern)
  • Remploy (Wales)

But some parts of the programme are delivered by other ‘providers’.

Last year this was reported by Brian Wheeler on the BBC site. June 2015.

Unemployment is being “rebranded” by the government as a psychological disorder, a new study claims.

Those that do not exhibit a “positive” outlook must undergo “reprogramming” or face having their benefits cut, says the Wellcome Trust-backed report.

This year (2016)  they took a step forward in their plans,

Disabled activists are to march on a surgery next month in protest at its involvement in a government scheme that is placing welfare-to-work advisors from a discredited US outsourcing giant in GP practices.

In 2017 the Guardian published this letter signed  by more than 400 psychologists, counsellors and academics signed an open letter   protesting against chancellor George Osborne’s plans, laid out in the latest budget, to embed psychological therapy in a coercive back-to-work agenda.

The linkage of social security benefits to the receipt of “state therapy”, as announced in the chancellor’s latest budget, this is totally unacceptable. “Get to work therapy” is manifestly not therapy at all. With the ominous news that Maximus (the US company replacing Atos to do work capability assessments) will also be managing the new national Fit for Work programme, it is time for the field’s key professional organisations to wake up to these malign developments, and unequivocally denounce such so-called “therapy” as damaging and professionally unethical.

More generally, the wider reality of a society thrown completely off balance by the emotional toxicity of neoliberal thinking is affecting Britain in profound ways, the distressing effects of which are often most visible in the therapist’s consulting room. This letter sounds the starting-bell for a broadly based campaign of organisations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health. For now, we call on all the parties in this election – and particularly Labour – to make it clear that they will urgently review such anti-therapeutic practices, and appropriately refashion their much-trumpeted commitment to mental health if and when they enter government.

To remind us of this Kitty S jones wrote last year

A major concern that many of us have raised is regarding consent to participation, as, if benefit conditionality is attached to what ought to be a voluntary engagement, that undermines the fundamental principles of the right to physical and mental care. Such an approach would reduce psychologists to simply acting as agents of state control, enforcing compliance and conformity. That is not therapy: it’s psychopolitics and policy-making founded on a blunt behaviourism, which is pro-status quo, imbued with Conservative values and prejudices. It’s an approach that does nothing whatsoever to improve public life or meet people’s needs.

Kitty noted that,

The highly controversial security company G4S are currently advertising for Cognitive Behavioural Therapists to deliver “return-to-work” advise in Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

This is yet another lucrative opportunity for private companies to radically reduce essential provision for those that really need support, nonetheless, costing the public purse far more to administer than such an arrangement could possibly save, despite the government’s dogged determination to rip every single penny from sick and disabled people and drive them into low paid, insecure jobs.

Yes, G4S is a player in the delivery of the “new Work and Health Programme 2017 – 2020/21. Commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions, the programme is intended to assist people who are long term unemployed or who have disabilities and health conditions into work.”

Well it was all announced.

For those with the stomach to read it you can see this many pages long Wiki entry:

Controversies surrounding G4S

At the start of last year this  was one response.

G4S, Maximus and ‘A4E’ all set to win contracts under Work and Health Programme

Some of the country’s most controversial and discredited outsourcing companies are set to win contracts under the government’s new programme to find jobs for disabled people and other marginalised groups.

The 11 organisations that have been successful in the bidding process will be allowed to tender for the back-to-work contracts that will be offered under the Work and Health Programme.

They were all bidding for the right to tender for contracts across six regional areas in England and Wales, and a single national contract across the two countries.

The Work and Health Programme will support disabled people, those who are long-term unemployed, and other groups such as ex-carers, ex-offenders, homeless people and those with drug or alcohol dependencies.

Among those successful in the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Umbrella Agreement for Employment and Health Related Services were Maximus, People Plus (formerly known as A4E) and G4S.

G4S has been successful in every area apart from Wales, while People Plus has been successful in all seven lots.

Maximus, through its UK company Remploy, has been selected only for the Wales lot.

Maximus has a disturbing track record of discrimination, incompetence and fraud in the US, while Remploy, formerly owned by the government, revealed plans last year to halve the pay of service-users who take part in inspections of health and care facilities.

Last year, Maximus was accused in the House of Commons of falsifying the results of “fitness for work” assessments, and of “a disconcerting pattern of behaviour that indicates that the trade-off between cost-cutting and profit maximisation is being felt by very vulnerable people”.

People Plus, which has secured places in all seven lots, was formerly known as A4E, but in 2015 was taken over by another company and rebranded, after 10 former A4e employees were sentenced for a back-to-work fraud.

The previous year, DNS reported allegations that emerged during an employment tribunal – and were strongly refuted by the company – that A4E had introduced a new policy that forced advisers with no specialist training or experience to start working with “vulnerable” claimants with mental health conditions, learning difficulties and drug and alcohol problems on the Work Programme.

Last year, the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell, criticising the decision to hand the government contract to run the national discrimination helpline to G4S, told fellow peers that the company had “an appalling history of abuse and mismanagement”.

G4S’s track record includes claims of assault and racism at immigration detention centres, the failure to provide enough security staff for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a coroner’s verdict of “unlawful killing” at the hands of G4S staff after the death of Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga in 2010, and serious allegations concerning G4S staff at secure training centres for children.

The other successful organisations are Ingeus, Reed, Shaw Trust, APM, Working Links, The Work Company, Pluss and Prospects.

Many of the country’s largest disability charities are likely to seek funding under the Work and Health Programme as sub-contractors for the organisations that win the main contracts, in a move which many activists believe could make it harder for them to speak out on welfare reform.

The Work and Health Programme will replace the mainstream Work Programme and the specialist Work Choice scheme for disabled people, but there have been concerns that it will see a significant cut in funding.

The government has promised £100 million a year by 2020-21 for disabled people found to have limited capability for work – paid for from cuts of more than £1 billion over the four years from April this year to new claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) – as well as another £130 million a year for the overall programme.

But industry research has suggested that this will mean a sizeable overall drop from the £750 million spent on employment support in 2013-14.

DWP said yesterday (Wednesday) that it did not recognise this figure but was not able to say how much the overall budget on employment support had been and how much it would be under the new programme.

She said the budget for the new programme was not yet “in the public domain”.

Asked about the track records of Maximus, G4S and People Plus, the DWP spokeswoman said the umbrella agreement had been subject to public sector procurement regulations, and was conducted in an “open, transparent non-discriminatory manner”.

She said: “Each competition is designed to identify the winning bids over a range of pre-determined criteria.”

She said contracts would be awarded this autumn.

Meanwhile, the consultation on the government’s work, health and disability green paper – which outlines its plans for the Work and Health Programme – is due to end tomorrow (17 February).

The green paper revealed that the government was considering forcing all sick and disabled people on out-of-work disability benefits to take part in “mandatory” activity, including those who are terminally-ill or have the very highest support needs and have been placed in the ESA support group.

It also repeatedly emphasised that the government wanted to “reinforce work as a health outcome”, increasing the number of job advisers in healthcare settings and making “the benefits of work an ingrained part of the training and professional approach of the health and social care workforce”.

It will be interesting to see how this lot fare in the present climate of private provider failure…

Esther McVee has got off to a flying start!

As left accused of “fostering hatred” for Esther McVey we show her caring “Tips on How to Be Successful”.

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In the past: Former GMTV presented McVey might want to forget these saucy snaps

Warm and Caring McVey on GMTV.

Jeremy Corbyn accused of fostering hate as Esther McVey faces renewed abuse.

“Reports” the Telegraph.

Jeremy Corbyn supporters have renewed a vicious hate campaign against new work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, posting death threats online.

The Tory MP, who replaced David Gauke as the new secretary of state earlier this week, was branded a “murderess”, a “ruthless, dishonest coward” and an “odious, toxic liar”.

A number of users also posted death threats on Twitter, including on Labour-supporting user who said: “The appointment of Esther McVey as DWP minister is a death sentence for thousands more disabled people. We’ll do whatever it takes to put her out of her misery”.

Such outrageous remarks, which some may nevertheless hesitate to call “death threats” or indeed anything more than fair comment, and moderate in the circumstances,, may, alas, only continue.

As a measure to call a halt to this campaign we show the New Minister’s warm and caring side.

Here it is:

Staring down the camera in front of cheesy music and a montage that begins with John Major, she says: “We all have dreams, whether it be about success in our careers, improving our relationship with family and friends, or sorting out our finances.

“Plenty of people have [turned dreams into reality] so why shouldn’t you?

“Success isn’t anything to do with being lucky.

“It’s knowing what you want, taking the necessary action and believing you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

Welcome to the world of personal development.”

According to an archived schedule, it aired on BBC mid-morning TV in February 1996. So it could, of course, have a tongue in its cheek.

The clip was billed as “Esther McVey’s tips on How to Be Successful”.

Daily Mirror.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 11, 2018 at 9:54 am

Esther McVey named Work and Pensions Secretary: New Sack Esther McVey Day to be Soon Announced.

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Sack McVey Day (2014) – New Day to be Soon Announced. 

Well, Gauck’s silence is now explained.

He was up for the chop.

“The big winner from the change-up so far is David Lidington who has been given the post of Cabinet Office Minister vacated by the sacking of Damian Green, although he was not made First Secretary of State which made Green the de facto deputy PM.

David Gauke was moved from the Department for Work and Pensions to Justice replacing Lidington leaving a gap at one of the most important and difficult departments.

Last night the big news was the loss of Justine Greening from the government after she refused to be moved to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Instead it is Esther McVey, a former DWP minister who lost her seat in 2015 but was re-elected in June, who takes on the controversial role.

Mirror.

Esther McVey’s new job – “This will put fear into the hearts of the vulnerable”

Liverpool Echo.

Merseyside MPs and members of the public have lined up to blast the controversial appointment.

Esther McVey’s promotion to the role of Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions was met with shock and anger on Merseyside today.

The MP, who is disliked across the region after her controversial stint as Minister for Disabled people, was given the role after it was turned down by former Education Secretary Justine Greening.

 Ms McVey, who was born in Liverpool was the last Tory MP on Merseyside, losing her Wirral West seat in 2015 to Labour’s Margaret Greenwood.

As a deputy to Iain Duncan-Smith, she took the brunt of public anger over the hated “bedroom tax” policy.

Now MP for Tatton, her appointment late last night was met with derision from Merseyside MPs as well as ECHO readers, who all expressed concern for those in need based on her track record in the DWP.

Wirral South MP Alison McGovern said she was “gobsmacked” to hear news of the former GMTV presenter’s return to a cabinet role.

She said: “Like many in Merseyside, I am gobsmacked that anyone would think Esther McVey ought to be appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

“People in Wirral West rejected her in 2015 when she was Minister for Work after her government failed to act on zero hours contracts, made life immeasurably harder for people with disabilities, and set in train cuts to family income that will see child poverty grow by 400,000 over the next few year.

“Her Government also introduced the 2011 changes to women’s pensions that hammered women born in the 1950s.”

 

Vox Political has the background on this individual,

Esther McVey is now Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Expect many, many deaths

As Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for People with Disabilities, she oversaw the dismantling of Remploy as a government-owned employer of disabled people, saying the factories should be “freed from government control” and funding could be better used if spent on helping disabled people into work through individual support. Experience in the years since then has proved this claim to be false. The disability employment gap is widening, with 114 disabled people leaving work for every 100 gaining jobs. And only last month, Chancellor Philip Hammond lied to the nation with a claim that lower productivity in the UK economy was due to disabled people.

In December 2012, Ms McVey boasted that, when Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PiPs), more than 300,000 people would have their benefits cut or removed altogether. She thought it was a good thing.

In January 2013, she did not bother to turn up to a Parliamentary debate on private firm Atos’s handling of the hated Work Capability Assessment of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance, even though she was the minister responsible. She left it to Mark Hoban, then-Minister of State at the DWP, who answered only 10 questions out of dozens that were put to him. In August of that year, she sent Mr Hoban out to lie on her behalf again – on the same subject.

She misled Parliament and the public with regard to Disability Living Allowance, the benefit that was replaced by PIP.

In April 2013, she tried to justify the change from DLA to PIP by saying it was an “outdated benefit” for which “around 50 per cent of decisions are made on the basis of the claim form alone – without any additional corroborating medical evidence.” She also said 71 per cent of claimants were awarded the benefit for life, without checks. These were both lies.In fact, just 10 per cent of claims were based on the 40-page-long form. In 40 per cent of claims a GP’s report was required for a successful claim and in a further 45 per cent of cases further evidence was used, such as information from a social worker or healthcare professional.  And six per cent of claimants were called in for a face-to-face assessment. And only 23 per cent of DLA awards were indefinite.

Along with Iain Duncan Smith and the other DWP ministers of the time, she supported the regime of sanctions imposed on those who refused to take part in what was then known as the Work Programme, despite having documentary proof, not only that they don’t work, but that they harm claimants’ families as well as the claimants themselves, and are known to cause suicide. With the others, she supported a change in the law after previous rules were found to be illegal. She procured the suicide of disabled and otherwise disadvantaged benefit claimants.

See the site for more.

There is more, more and more….

There is also this.

“In April 2014, McVey was criticised on social media for attacking the Wirral Labour Group in a tweet published while a memorial service for the Hillsborough disaster was being held at Anfield. Later, in a radio interview with BBC Radio Merseyside, she expressed regret over the mistiming of her communication and also stated that she did not personally send the tweet.[16]

John McDonnell, the current Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer,[17] in 2014 discussed a “Sack Esther McVey Day” among Labour activists and politicians, saying that “a whole group in the audience” argued ‘Why are we sacking her? Why aren’t we lynching the bastard?'”[18] Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps requested Labour to withdraw the whip following the “sickening demand, in public, for a violent attack on an MP”.[18]McDonnell described McVey as “the stain of inhumanity” in a Commons debate in 2015. “I simply reported what was shouted out at a public meeting”, he said about his earlier comments.[19] The issue reemerged in September 2016 when Labour MP Jess Phillips was interviewed by LBC. While disagreeing with McVey’s politics, she described McDonnell’s comments as “utterly despicable”, and added “I cannot imagine why he refuses to apologise”.[17]

Update:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 9, 2018 at 9:53 am

May Cabinet Reshuffle: No Sanctions – yet – for Gauke’s Universal Credit Failure.

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DWP Minister with Best Friend. 

As today’s Chaotic Cabinet Reshuffle is underway we hear no news –  yet – about David Gauke.

More on the Telegraph. 

No doubt Gauke, who has been observing a Trappist Monk like silence over the last couple of weeks, hopes that his record stands for itself.

Latest today:

Universal Credit leads to council tenants owing almost £120,000 in rent

More than 60 per cent of claimers owe more than four weeks rent

Universal Credit has already left more than 100 council tenants across Nuneaton and Bedworth owing almost £120,000 in rent.

The first snapshot of how the government’s new single benefit payment has impacted the borough has revealed a shocking picture.

According to borough council figures, as of December 14 last year, there were 156 Local Authority (LA) tenants claiming Universal Credit (UC) and, of these, 126 were in arrears with their rent.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 8, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Gauke Gives Up on Twitter after Hectic Christmas.

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David Gauke

David Gauke: still recovering from the effects of too many mince-pies and unable to tweet or reply to queries. 

Last known Tweet from the Gauke, (and this is a miserable re-tweet….)

Roll-out of Universal Credit in two weeks will mean ‘major changes’ for welfare claimants in Derry.

This is the latest

A senior civil servant at the Department for Communities says the roll-out of the controversial new Universal Credit (UC) welfare system in Derry in a fortnight’s time will mean “significant change” for claimants. Under the benefits shake-up new applicants living in the Waterside will be required to claim UC from Wednesday, January 17, while the system goes live on the Cityside three weeks later on February 7. Dr. Denis McMahon, Deputy Secretary of DfC’s Work and Inclusion Group, said: “It is a significant change to the way the benefit system works in Northern Ireland, and we are using a phased roll-out to give the best possible support to claimants as they get used to the new system.” UC replaces Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credits. Existing claimants will transfer to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2022. Dr. McMahon said: “Instead of individuals having to fill in multiple forms and manage several claims, they can claim the single benefit of Universal Credit online. “This simplifies the process, with digital support available for those who need it. People can claim using a PC, tablet or mobile phone. The local Lisnagelvin and Foyle Jobs & Benefits Offices will have a Digital Zone with PCs and free Wifi which claimants can use to access their online account, with staff available to provide help and support.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 4, 2018 at 11:51 am

Councils have to step in to Help Universal Credit Claimants, while Gaucke still recovering from too much Turkey Stuffing.

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Gaucke, too busy with the Sherry and Turkey Stuffing to do his Job. 

David Gauke, has taken to retweeting,  like a blogger writing from his basement which smells of hamster wee.

 Eagle-eyed news hounds may have noticed that the last tweet he wrote himself was just before Christmas.

Too much sherry and too much turkey stuffing to intervene since the 22nd.

But lo, this has just happened….

Councils forced to fund emergency help for universal credit claimants

Labour says its findings offer more evidence that the government should pause rollout of new benefit system.

Cash-strapped councils are being forced to set aside extra resources to cushion the blow of switching to universal credit for vulnerable households, according to analysis by Labour.

Responses to a series of freedom of information requests submitted by the party have revealed many local authorities are allocating significant funds to support tenants with rent arrears and provide advice to help them navigate the new system.

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow minister for employment, said: “Universal credit is causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces. This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll out of universal credit so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Written by Andrew Coates

December 29, 2017 at 11:31 am

David Gauke’s On-Line Xmas Panto over Universal Credit.

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It’s Ho Ho Ho! with Gaukey this Christmas!

This show will run and run…

David Gauke Vows Not To Let ‘Hard Left’ Win On ‘Social Media Battlefield’

20.12.17.

The cabinet minister entered into a Twitter spat – with mixed results – after Labour MP and work and pensions select committee chair Frank Field claimed the roll-out of the controversial benefit system had left one woman with no income until after Christmas.

…….

During a briefing on Universal Credit roll-out hosted by the Centre for Social Justice, alongside former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, Gauke told journalists: “I think it’s important that we don’t desert the battlefield. Social media can at the moment feel almost dominated by the hard left, and I think it’s important that we engage and make the points.

“I strongly believe that we have got a really good policy that has positively transformed lives, but – and I am not for a moment suggesting Frank is part of the hard left – there is almost a sort of knee-jerk criticism, and a temptation, I think in particular with Universal Credit, that you can almost say anything critical and it goes without challenge.”

He said reports of problems with the system from Labour MPs had led to claimants becoming anxious about the process, while Duncan Smith blamed “irresponsible”.

 After stout denials by Gaukey and lashings of mince pies, the story developed,

 

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke faces a backlash after issuing a strongly-worded rebuttal to a report of hardship on crisis-hit Universal Credit.But in a further twist on Wednesday, Field claimed Gauke was wrong himself and that the claimant in question had not, in fact, received £688 in an advance payment this week….

But in a further twist on Wednesday, Field claimed Gauke was wrong himself and that the claimant in question had not, in fact, received £688 in an advance payment this week.

“It’s great that you’ve found and helped someone in such desperate need. But the mum to whom I referred still hasn’t had an appointment,” he wrote.

“The public has ensured she has money for food and heating today. She’s still seeking help from DWP and I hope you’ll ensure this happens.”

Gauke’s elves in the Tory Party have been working hard up this very moment.

Field does not look as if he’s backing down (Oh Yes he is! oh No he isn’t!).

Meanwhile other very sociable people have their own views on Santa Gauke’s Universal Credit.

Guardian 21st of December.

Readers respond to secretary of state for work and pensions David Gauke’s letter that universal credit is helping people improve their lives.

David Gauke seems unaware of his own rules (Letters, 21 December). The government’s website states that single parents with a child under five years old should not be transferred to universal credit, but he implies that the mother cited in his letter received her payment through this system. His local officials in Slough were also ignorant of this directive when they did just such a transfer to UC in the case of a single mother with a one-year-old. She was indeed paid a sum to cover Christmas, which amounted to 30p! The transfer to UC has now been cancelled after representations, but no money will be forthcoming till 29 December, if then. This saga has been going on since mid-October and she and her child would have starved without support from friends, local churches and the food bank. This is not scaremongering but hard evidence that the whole system and those administering it are callous or incompetent or both.
John Wilding
Slough, Berkshire

Perhaps Gauke will reply to these letters and to this,

Universal credit ‘will cause evictions’ BBC. Today.

Yesterday: BBC.

Six months after people moved over to universal credit in Torfaen there are tales of difficulties.

Richard Davies, Torfaen council’s head of revenue and benefits, said it was causing impact across the council’s services.

“We’ve seen an immense difference, we’ve seen a significant spike in rent arrears, more vulnerable people being brought into the process.

“It’s put a tremendous strain on the local authority – we’re now having to provide assistance to claimants with online and personal budgetary support.

“I’ve been in public services since 1985 and I have never seen anything like it”.

Day Before Yesterday: BBC.

Universal credit: Minister apologises for payment delays.

Benefit claimants who have suffered problems because of a welfare overhaul have been given an apology by a UK government minister.

Universal credit merges six benefits into one monthly payment but critics said people have had to wait six weeks for their first payment.

Work and Pensions Minister Damian Hinds told BBC Wales the change was helping people back into work as intended despite “mistakes” in its introduction.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 22, 2017 at 12:05 pm

More and More, “I, Daniel Blake” Comes to Life with Universal Credit.

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Daniel Blake.

David Gauke..

‘Real I, Daniel Blake’ man who can’t work after being stabbed faces Christmas eviction after Universal Credit blunder

“Tony Rice said that trying to work out what’s going on with his Universal Credit situation is like ‘hitting his head against a brick wall’.”

This Blog says the Mirror is to be congratulated for this story, but the man affected, Tony Rice, deserves the support of every rational human being in Britain.

I add, personally, that I know people who cannot use computers – one of the reasons I have not seen the full version of the Ken Loach Film is that an incident involving this has happened to somebody I know.

Fortunately I and others were there to help…

I could go on, but this tale of misery is all too common.

Three years ago, Tony Rice was forced to stop part-time sales work after being stabbed in the thigh and face.

Tony is about to be evicted from his home in North London, and for the first time in his life, has found himself reliant on food banks.

Like so many others, he’s fallen victim to the failed roll-out of Universal Credit.

The 51-year-old, from Waltham Forest, has been deemed unfit to work by his doctor: he suffers from a combination of physical and mental health difficulties, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Tony has lived in a council flat for six years. He moved out of his parents’ old house nearby after they died two years apart (you cannot succeed government-owned property twice).

Computer illiterate Tony, who was previously claiming incapacity benefit in a system that provided him a decent, if modest way of life, was put onto Universal Credit at the end of last year.

But contrary to his GP’s professional view, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) assessed him fit for work. Tony was not informed of sanctions for more than half a year – an oversight that has led to massive debt.

Debt, the word makes you cringe already.

On December 12, his Doughty Street Chambers barrister, Mary-Rachel McCabe, managed to persuade the judge at a county court to give him a little more time before Waltham Forest Council – which on the day wanted to press ahead with a possession order – eventually sends the bailiffs round.

If Tony’s Universal Credit payments aren’t amended by Christmas, in the next few months he’ll be on the streets.

“I got stabbed three years ago,” Tony told Mirror Online. “I used to help another guy out in the area with a few things. I was round his house and we got into an argument. He went for me.

“I’ve been paranoid since that and don’t go out much. It’s dulled my confidence really. I’d not encountered violence like that before.”

Tony said he was told at the start of 2017 that he no longer qualifies for Employment Support Allowance, but was not aware of penalties that have left him in arrears amounting to £10,000.

He said: “I don’t understand Universal Credit at all. I can’t use a computer and I feel like banging my head against a brick wall. It’s such a struggle.

“I’ve appealed and tried to get in touch with someone at the DWP so many times. There’s no line of communication whatsoever and I’m not told anything.

“I’m just not getting enough money to survive. I never thought I’d have to use food banks.”

Read the full story via the link above.

Conclusion,

Mirror Online spoke briefly to the DWP four days ago but has yet to get a statement on Tony’s circumstances. Or Universal Credit in general.

Unfortunate as it is, Tony’s case is all too common. And in Mary-Rachel’s view, only stands to worsen.

The housing law barrister said that in the past that legal aid was available for those in Tony’s situation, so issues would be dealt with earlier and eviction therefore less likely.

Legal aid for those claiming welfare benefits advice was cut in 2013.

Mary-Rachel added: “Universal Credit is not fit for purpose.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 18, 2017 at 4:42 pm

While DWP Minister Celebrates Universal Credit Success Emergency Food and Fuel Vouchers are Ready.

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With Rev Richard Lowson at Carpenders Park and South Oxhey Methodist Church

Gauke Celebrates Universal Credit Tidings of Good Joy.

Super Ted reminds us how people on benefits can be left on dire straits by the workings of the system.

That system is still getting worse, despite a few sticking plasters.

This story from Wales shows the low point we have reached under Gauke, who is no doubt enjoying some mince pies and mulled wine while his minions are busy.

Emergency food and fuel vouchers handed out as the latest Universal Credit rollout takes place

WalesonLine.

Swansea is the latest place in Wales where Universal Credit is being rolled out.

Emergency packages have been drawn up in Swansea to prepare for hundreds of families being left hard-up over Christmas by the controversial roll-out of Universal Credit.

Bosses at Coastal Housing are preparing their staff to hand out emergency food and fuel vouchers to help people through the crunch time.

Work and pensions secretary David Gauke previously said the system had been stress-tested and added latest figures seemed to suggest it was a success as 50% of new claimants were taking up an advanced loan.

Following a pilot scheme of the new system, Coastal Housing tenants have run up arrears of £73,000 an average of £830 each.

A Coastal Housing spokesman said emergency packages were fully in place ahead of Universal Credit coming into force.

He said: “The introduction of the Full Universal Credit service, which started in Neath Port Talbot on October 4 and will be followed by Swansea on December 13, will mean some Coastal tenants will not receive a full payment this side of Christmas.

“While we welcome moves taken by the UK Government in the recent budget to abolish the waiting week, for many claimants these changes will be too late.

“Therefore Coastal has created a package for those tenants we know will not have access to all their money in time for Christmas and the New Year, including individual support packages, the issuing of emergency food and fuel vouchers, and supporting the Evening Post’s Christmas campaign which donates to food banks.

“We’ve been able to do this with the backing of our business partners who have donated money to support our tenants and the wider community.”

..

Grandmother Geraldine Hill, 56, who lives in Coastal Housing accommodation, managed to get by for more than two decades on benefits without falling into debt despite bringing up three children after being unable to work as a result of a combination of anxiety, depression and lung disease.

But the switch to Universal Credit had proved to be life-changing and she previously said: “It’s been a struggle, I have to rely on a food bank and I’m living in the living room.

“All my housing, rent and DLA (Disability Living Allowance) was stopped, I ended up accumulating arrears through no fault of my own.

Pause for another pie and sip of heated plonk for Gauke,

‘Scrooge’ DWP bosses warned Universal Credit roll out will cost lives this Christmas.

The Courier.

The introduction of the new system, which replaces six existing means-tested benefits, has prompted fears thousands of Scots could be plunged into poverty as they endure a six-week wait for payments to come through.

David Alexander, co-leader of Fife Council, said officials are already “preparing for disaster” this winter and warned many people could face a “really tough time” under the new rules.

Dundee City Council’s finance spokesman, Baillie Willie Sawers, warned the payment delay is placing a “great strain” on some of the city’s most vulnerable people and admitted the roll out has been a “huge concern” for the authority.

As Gauke nibbles some more hors d’oeuvres before a good lunch we hear the peasants in Brum are not going too well either.

Birmingham Mail.

Foodbank fear Universal Credit will wipe them out – this is why

Volunteers at one of the city’s biggest foodbanks fear their shelves will be emptied by a sharp increase in the need for emergency food if the roll-out of Universal Credit continues.

Bosses at B30 Foodbank – which has seen a staggering 200 tons of donations since it launched four years ago – are concerned their warehouse will be emptied by a huge increase in demand.

The facility, based at Cotteridge Church, has fed almost 7500 adults and children in the B30 postcode and surrounding areas over the past year.

Ministers have claimed evictions, homelessness and debt will all rise if the government’s Universal Credit roll-out continues across Birmingham.

The Trussell Trust, a charity which provides foodbanks, said demand had risen in areas where Universal Credit was introduced.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 13, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Universal Credit is Wonderful: Official!

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Gauke:  “I welcomed Universal Credit Full Service to my local Jobcentre yesterday.”

Ipswich Unemployed Action is sometimes accused of peddling negative stories  on Universal Credit.

Articles these:

Britain’s poor and vulnerable ‘living in fear’ of Universal Credit rollout

Single mum with Bipolar Disorder says she’s constantly “living in fear” of the next DWP letter posted through her letterbox – and she isn’t alone.

A Conservative MP wept in the House of Commons after hearing of the desperate situations of people affected by government welfare reforms. Heidi Allen’s voice cracked and she was visibly emotional following the speech by Labour’s Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

Misleading tales such as this:

True stories of human suffering can change MPs’ hearts. I’ve seen it happen  

False information from fringe publications.

DWP staff are volunteering to stuff foodbank Christmas hampers because they’re ‘unhappy’ with Universal Credit, MP reveals (Mirror).

Tories could be FORCED to publish reviews of Universal Credit they’ve kept secret for nearly two years  (Mirror)

Calamitous roll out of Universal Credit is being secretly delayed in Theresa May’s backyard  Mirror

Or this,

So we are happy to offer a platform for the Alternative View (with permission from comrade Dave S) from young David Gauke, (National Amalgamated Union for Grinding the Faces of the Poor Operatives and Allied Trades).

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Once Again, Labour Are Spreading Fake News About Universal Credit

Labour are once again putting out fake news about Universal Credit, this time alleging that the slowed rollout of Full Service is somehow skipping over prominent Government MPs’ constituencies. Towards the end of a week in which Labour have been passionately pushing out falsehoods – in Parliament, on social media and to the constituents.

What complete rubbish.

DWP have slowed the pace of rollout for Universal Credit so we can implement the improvements announced during the Budget. This is £1.5billion worth of help to ensure that anyone coming onto UC who needs it can get interest-free cash right away and paid back over a year, so that people can get their benefits sooner and so that people can get an extra two weeks of housing benefits.

I’d have thought that Labour would welcome these changes and welcome the slowed pace of rollout given their campaign to stop the rollout all together. But, instead we see Labour ignore the facts. To not only withhold valuable information from people, but then to mislead them into thinking there is no help available while they transition onto Universal Credit is a serious dereliction of duty.

The truth is that Universal Credit is a better benefit and we are now improving it

On Tuesday, we had over three hours of debate on Universal Credit. I asked the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Debbie Abrahams, to apologise to the House and to the public for Labour’s scaremongering about Universal Credit, and urged the Opposition to stop misleading people – not because I can’t take political fire, but because these falsehoods are causing real harm. Just last week a Labour leaning newspaper published a story about a family who feared they had to cancel Christmas only to learn that actually, they didn’t have to worry. They had seen the scare stories.

The truth is that Universal Credit is a better benefit and we are now improving it. That is slowing the pace of the rollout of the Full Service. 80% of all Jobcentres without Universal Credit Full Service will face some level of delay in getting it. Jobcentres are not arranged by constituency and some serve several constituencies. Of those Jobcentres who will have a delay in getting Full Service, half are in Conservative held seats and half are in Labour held or other seats.

So, who will see a delay in getting Universal Credit to their Job Centres? Not me, I welcomed Universal Credit Full Service to my local Jobcentre yesterday.

David Gauke is the work and pensions secretary and Conservative MP for South West Hertfordshire

Written by Andrew Coates

December 9, 2017 at 11:12 am

Parliament Debates Universal Credit, Tory MP Breaks down in tears at Government, “improving the welfare system and the lives of those who use it”.

with 82 comments

Image result for parliamentary debate on universal credit tears

Tory MP Heidi Allen breaks down in tears hearing misery inflicted by Universal Credit.

Debbie Abrahams Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  2:38 pm, 5th December 2017

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that the five project assessment reviews, carried out into universal credit between 2012 and 2015 by the Government’s Major Projects Authority now known as the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, and any subsequent project assessment reviews carried out into universal credit by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority between 1 January 2016 and 30 November 2017 that have been provided to Her Majesty’s Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions, be provided by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to the Work and Pensions Committee.

The purpose of today’s debate on universal credit, the fourth in nearly eight weeks, is to seek the release of the project assessment review reports on universal credit to enable this House to scrutinise the Government’s flagship social security programme.

She continues,

Debbie Abrahams Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

As some of my colleagues are saying, we are asking for the documents now. We are pleased the Government finally acknowledged that their universal credit programme is not fit for purpose, and now we need to understand the extent to which it is not fit for purpose through the publication of these reports.

I wish to start by giving some context to today’s debate and then set out why it is so important that we have access to these project assessment reviews. For many months now, Labour has been calling on the Government to pause and fix universal credit. This is a direct response to the mounting evidence that the full service programme is driving hardship in the areas where it has been rolled out. I am sure hon. Members from across the House will now be aware of the figures, but the realities of the misery being caused by this programme bear repeating: half of those in rent arrears under UC report that their arrears started after they made their claim; 79% of those in debt are recognised as having priority debts by Citizens Advice, putting them at higher risk of bailiffs and evictions; and two in five have no money to pay creditors at the end of the month.

This is of interest,

David Gauke The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I very much agree about the importance of a culture in which problems can be identified and passed up the command chain, with that system understood across the board. Clearly, when that does not happen, something needs to be addressed. When I entered this House in 2005—the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister at the time—we were wrestling with the problems of the tax credit fiasco, which was causing misery for vast numbers of people. If Members want an example of a project that failed because there was not a willingness to identify problems early, that is it.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s policy that review reports remain confidential is founded on the position that an effective and trusted system of assurance in government is in the public interest, and that the premature disclosure of review reports undermines that public interest. Those considerations must be balanced with the desire for transparency and parliamentary scrutiny. In exceptional cases, sharing information with a Select Committee, in confidence, can be appropriate.

The motion refers to a number of reports, many of which date back some years, as my hon. Friend Heidi Allen pointed out. To disclose those papers without subsequent reports showing how well universal credit has progressed would give a partial picture. In line with the motion, I will provide, by the time the House rises for the Christmas recess, the reports directly to the Work and Pensions Committee. Let me point out to the shadowSecretary of State that her motion does not require us to publish these reports or to lay them before the House. Specifically, it says that those reports should be provided to the Committee. In those circumstances, it is acceptable for us to do so. As is customary, I will need to consider redacting any appropriate material, such as the names of junior officials and information that is commercially sensitive. I wish to emphasise that it is the Government’s view that this is an exceptional request that will be agreed to on an exceptional basis, and does not set any precedent for future action. Against that background, I shall provide the reports to the Select Committee on a confidential basis. In those circumstances, I hope and expect that the documents will not be disclosed further.

And, above all this:

David Gauke The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Let me turn to the substance of universal credit then. Universal credit is the biggest modernisation of the welfare state in a generation. The old system traps people in a cycle of benefits dependency, incentivising working only 16 hours or fewer a week and preventing people from reaching their potential. Universal credit frees people from those hours limits and lets them keep more of what they earn. Under universal credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the previous system. Once universal credit is fully rolled out, it will boost employment by around 250,000, which is equivalent to 400 extra jobs per constituency. It is improving the welfare system and the lives of those who use it.

Not to mention this reply to Gauckey,

Ruth George Labour, High Peak

If the Minister is so convinced of all the facts about universal credit that he claims, why does he not release the post-implementation review that the Department was apparently putting together and give us the full details of how universal credit is working, instead of relying on a study of a tiny sample of single people without jobs that was conducted more than two years ago, before the cuts, in order to make these wild claim

Read the full – long –  debate here.

This is what most people will remember.

Tory MP breaks down in tears at Labour MP’s story about family invited to a funeral just so they could eat

Heidi Allen urges colleagues to ‘make this better’ after hearing tales of despair the policy is causing Ben Kentish Independent.

 A Conservative MP was moved to tears after listening to a Labour colleague describe how the Government’s universal credit left one of his constituents contemplating suicide and others forced to attend a funeral in order to eat.

Heidi Allen was visibly upset as she rose to speak in a debate on the controversial policy, the implementation of which has been the subject of criticism from across the political spectrum.

The South Cambridgeshire MP was speaking moments after Labour’s Frank Field, who represents Birkenhead, told the Commons he had had to persuade a man not to take his own life because of the “destitution” the welfare policy has caused.

Speaking immediately afterwards, Ms Allen paused and said: “I don’t know where to start after that. I’m humbled by the words from my honourable, good friend from Birkenhead.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 6, 2017 at 11:30 am

Stop and FIX Universal Credit Day of Action. Some Images.

with 61 comments

Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action Saturday 2nd of December: Ipswich, Giles Corner.

There was a really good atmosphere, and people came to give support.

It was helped by this, even without mince pies!

The Mirror notes:

The government has consistently refused to “pause and fix” the scheme which has seen families pushed in to debt and rent arrears – despite losing a vote called by the Labour Party to do so.

The document titled “Universal Credit Transition Rollout Schedule” was published on the DWP website the day after the budget, replacing a previous version.

It lists the point at which UC will be rolled out in each JobCentre.

However, an analysis of the new timetable for, comparing it to the previous rollout schedule, showed that Maidenhead, Ashford, Hemel Hempstead, Walthamstow and Redbridge Job Centres Plus will all now delay the roll out by three months.

These cover the bulk of the constituencies of Maidenhead, Ashford, South West Hertfordshire and Chingford and Woodford Green.

Last week the Government caved in to pressure to cut the waiting time for first payments from six to five weeks.

But it will be too late for struggling families at Christmas as the change will not come in until February.

The move means that all three Work and Pensions Secretaries who designed and implemented the Universal Credit across much of the country will all see it delayed for their own seats – until the reduced waiting time and other reforms are in place.

Only South Oxhey, a small, working class and generally Labour-voting area of David Gauke’s constituency will continue to have Universal Credit imposed on time.

The other Job Centre Plus in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, which serves Labour seats rather than Iain Duncan Smith’s seat, will implement UC earlier.

When questioned on the decision in parliament David Gauke told MPs: “We are rolling out Universal Credit in a way that is safe, we are making adjustments as and when we need to but I am pleased to say the date on which UC will be fully rolled out remains unchanged March 2022 if it could be earlier I would make it earlier but that is the safest point at which we can do it.”

Stephanie Peacock had asked the minister: “I note in his department’s recent statement last week the right honorable gentleman postponed the rollout of Universal Credit in his constituency and those of the prime minister and the first secretary of state.“As he’s in the mood to reconsider the policy, can he do the same and pause the rollout of Universal Credit for the people of Barnsley East

There are more reports on the protests  circulating. Here are some.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2017 at 10:28 am

Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action, Saturday 2nd of December.

with 85 comments

Like many people I buy the ‘I’ Newspaper.

This story today gives lots of reasons – if we needed them – why everybody should be protesting against Universal Credit this Saturday.

Evictions, poverty and stress: Life for single parent families on universal credit

Hunger, anxiety, shame: the universal credit ‘catastrophe’ is hitting lone parents hardest of all. Emily Goddard meets mothers facing a grim Christmas. ‘I have to borrow from my child’s paper round money to top up the meter,’ one tells her.

Lily can smell the cigarette smoke from the next room along the corridor seeping through the crack under the door of her Croydon bed-and-breakfast room that she shares with her seven-year-old daughter. They have spent nearly a month here already after becoming homeless when they were evicted from their privately rented home in another part of the town because Lily couldn’t make the rent payments while waiting for her first universal credit payment.

Every day the 39-year-old returns from working her two low-pay, part-time jobs with her daughter to this room, which contains two single beds. The pair uses a potty in the room to go to the toilet because they don’t have a bathroom of their own – nor a shower, kitchen or washing facilities – and all the communal rooms that are shared by the other 40 to 50 residents are filthy.

Sometimes the noise is overwhelming, with doors banging, arguments raging on and “sex sounds”. And, as if the smell of cigarette smoke hanging heavy in the air was not bad enough, there have been people rolling and smoking joints in the kitchen that every resident in this wholly inadequate emergency accommodation has to share.

If you need more reasons the Mirror has them.

Universal Credit claimants face ‘disaster’ as helpline shuts for most of Christmas

MP Frank Field, who leads the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, has written to the Prime Minister as he warned there’ll be further ‘guerilla war’.

Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action

Saturday 02 December 2017 at 08:00-20:00

Fix universal credit ident

This Christmas will be cancelled for thousands of families claiming the new benefit Universal Credit. Despite knowing Universal Credit causes serious problems for claimants, Theresa May’s Tory government is pressing ahead and rolling it out to thousands of people who will have to wait weeks to receive any money.

Claimants are descending into debt, relying on food banks, getting into rent arrears and in many cases getting evicted from their homes because of in- built problems with Universal Credit.

Take action NOW against Universal Credit

On Saturday 2 December 2017 Unite Community will be staging a national day of action against Universal Credit to send a message to the Tory government that they must STOP & FIX Universal Credit before rolling it out and further or thousands of families face a cold a hungry Christmas and the threat of losing their homes.

Who gets Universal Credit

Universal Credit replaces five benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit.

Seven million households will be affected, including over one million low paid part-time workers. For the first time ever people in work could face being sanctioned (having their benefits stopped) if they don’t prove to the job centre that they’re searching for better paid work or more hours.

What needs fixing

Unite is calling on the government to:

  • Abandon the long waits for claimants to receive money
  • Allow people to apply for Universal Credit in a jobcentre, not just online
  • Provide people with better help when the system fails them
  • Pay landlords directly to stop people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes
  • End benefit sanctions for in-work and out-of-work claimants
  • Stop payments going to one named member of a household
  • Make work pay – Universal Credit takes 63p in every £1 people earn

Tell us your story

Get in touch and tell us about your Universal Credit stories. Send your stories to Liane.groves@unitetheunion.org

Sat 11:00 · The Giles Statue · Ipswich
All welcome, this is an activity for everyone who is concerned about the impact of Universal Credit, not just union members.

Contacts and actions in your area

Contact your local community coordinator and get involved on Saturday 2 December.

REGION AREA TIME ADDRESS
North East Yorkshire & Humber Ashington 10.00-11.30 Argos, Wansbeck Square, Station Road, Ashington, NE63 9XL
John Coan Barnsley 12.00-13.30 May Day Green, Outside Barnsley Town Hall, Barnsley, S70 1RH
0113 236 4830 Consett  10.00-12.00 Unit 4, 26 Newmarket Street, Consett, County Durham, DH8 5LQ
07711 375536 Grimsby 10.00  1 DEC Freshney Place Shopping Centre, Grimsby, DN31 1ED
John.coan@unitetheunion.org Huddersfield 14.00-15.00 Huddersfield bus station, Upperhead Row, HD1 2JL
Leeds 11.00-13.00 Outside Debenhams, 121 Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6LX
Middlesbrough 14.00-15.00 Middlesbrough Town Hall, Albert Road, Middlesbrough, TS1 2QJ
Newcastle 11.00-12.30 Sports Direct, 15/21 Northumberland Road, Newcastle NE1 7AL
Redcar 10.00-12.00 Redcar High Street, Redcar, TS10 3BZ
London & Eastern Central London from 14.00 Costa Coffee: Oxford Street and turn left on to Great Portland Street.
Dave Condliffe Barking, Dagenham & Havering 10.00-16.00 Chequer’s Corner to highlight how important Dagenham JobCentre
0208 800 4281 Brent 12.00-14.00 Neasden Parade Kilburn Unemployment WC
07791 113806 Cambridge All day Mill Road Winter Fair
David.condliffe@unitetheunion.org  Clacton-on-Sea 10.30-14.00 Brotherhood Hall
Colchester 16.00-18.00 Town Hall, Colchester High Street
Essex 11.00-14.00 Waltham Abbey
Herts & Beds 13.00- St Mary’ Square, leafleting in Watford High Street
Lambeth 11.00-13.00 Brixton tube station
Norfolk 11.00-14.00 Magdalen Street flyover, Anglia Square
Peterborough 11.45-14.00 Peterborough Bus station within central shopping area
Suffolk 11.00-14.00 Suffolk Unite Office
Tower Hamlets 10.00-13.00 Whitechapel Road by tube
West London TBC
South East Bracknell 12.30-14.30 Princess Square, by the War Memorial
Kelly Tomlinson Crawley 13.00-14.30 Crawley, Queens Square (by old bandstand site)
02392 824 514 Dover 10.00-12.00 Dover Biggin Street
07941 342835 Eastbourne 11.00-13.00 Bankers corner, Terminus Road, Cornfield Road
Kelly.tomlinson@unitetheunion.org Gillingham 11.00-13.00 Outside the Conservative club, 122-124 High Street
Hastings 12.00-14.00 Town centre opposite Lloyds, joint stall with the LP.
Herne Bay 10.00-12.00 Corner of Mortimer Street / Sea Street
Hove 13.00-15.00 Hove town hall, Church Rd/Tilsbury Place corner
Milton Keynes 12.00-14.00 Central MK, outside McDonalds
Oxford 11.00-13.00 Carfax tower, junction of Cornmarket Street, High Street, Queen Street and St. Aldgate’s
Portsmouth 14.00-16.00 Commercial Road, by the Fountain
Sittingbourne 10.00-12.00 High Street entrance to The Forum
Slough 10.30-13.00 Slough Square, outside the cinema
Southampton 12.00-14.00 Meet at The Bargate midday
South West Bath 11.00- Xmas Market, meeting point Bath Spa Station  BA1 1SU
Brett Sparkes Barnstaple TBC
01793 836480 Bridgwater 11.00-13.00 Cornhill, Bridgwater TA6 3BU
07718 666593 Bristol 11.00- Fountains (opposite the Hippodrome) St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol BS1 4UZ
brett.sparkes@unitetheunion.org  Bude 11.00-14.00 The Triangle, Belle Vue EX23 8JJ
Gloucester 11.00- Gloucester Eastgate St. GL1 1PA
Minehead 11.00- Iceland The Avenue, Minehead TA24 5AZ
Truro 11.00-14.00 Lemon Quay TR1 2PU
Yeovil 11.00-14.00 Middle Street, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 1LS
Ireland Belfast 13.00- DfC HQ, Causway Exchange, Bedford Street, Belfast
Albert Hewitt Derry TBC Derry Foyle Jobs and Benefits office
02890 020418
07711 375537
albert.hewitt2@unitetheunion.org
Scotland TBC
Jamie Caldwell
0845 604 4384
07711 376562
jamie.caldwell@unitetheunion.org
North West  Cumbria TBC TBC
Sheila Coleman Ellesmere Port 11.00-14.00 York Rd, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0DB
0151 203 1907 Lancashire TBC TBC
07711 375538 Liverpool 11.00-14.00 Williamson Square, Liverpool city centre
sheila.coleman@unitetheunion.org Manchester TBC TBC
Wirral 11.00-16.00 Open day for advice on Universal Credit, St Anne Street, Birkenhead, CH41 3SU
Midlands  Chesterfield TBC Chesterfield Unite Community, New Square
Shaun Pender East Staffs 10.00-11.45 Outside Primark in Burton town centre
01332 548400 Northampton 10.00-13.00 The entrance of the Grosvenor Centre Northampton town centre
07885 803449 Nottingham TBC Brian Clough Statue, Junction of Queen & King St, Off Market Sq, Nottingham, NG1 2BL
shaun.pender@unitetheunion.org Stoke/North Staffs 11.00-13.00 The Iron market, Newcastle-under Lyme town centre
Wolverhampton City centre
Wales  Aberystwyth 11.00-13.00 TBC
Ian Swan Cardiff 11.00-13.00 Cardiff central library
02920 394521 Merthyr 11.00-13.00 Merthyr town centre
ian.swan@unitetheunion.org Rhyl 11.00-13.00 TBC
Wrexham 11.00-13.00 Wrexham town centre

Written by Andrew Coates

November 29, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Where Introducing Universal Credit Will be Delayed, and where it will not – Ipswich for starters (April 2018).

with 111 comments

Image result for David gauke

After a Hard Day’s Work Bringing Universal Credit Joy to the People, David Gauke Relaxes with a Pint. 

The Minister at the Helm of the DWP is a busy chap.

He Tweets,

He goes on telly:

David Gauke: ‘Universal Credit is about transforming lives’ – Channel Four.

He even deigns to speak to Parliament,

With permission, Mr Speaker, following the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in his Budget speech yesterday, I shall make a statement on universal credit.

Universal credit represents the biggest modernisation of the welfare state in a generation. It supports those who can work and cares for those who cannot. Under universal credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the previous system. Once it is fully rolled out it will boost employment by about 250,000, which is equivalent to about 400 extra jobs for every constituency. It was introduced to replace the complex and failed benefit system run by the last Government, which created cliff edges, discouraging people from working more than 16 hours a week and trapping 1.5 million on out-of-work benefits for nearly a decade. Members on both sides of the House have voiced their support for the principles underpinning universal credit. It is a modern welfare system which—through one simple monthly payment—ensures that work always pays, mirrors the world of work, and helps people to earn their way out of financial insecurity and welfare dependency.

As we introduce universal credit, we are constantly improving the way in which the system works. We recently introduced changes to ensure that everyone who needs advance payments has access to them, and we are making our telephone lines Freephone numbers. I have consistently made it clear that we will continue to introduce universal credit gradually. Of the total number of households that will eventually move on to it, 9% are currently receiving it, and the number will increase to 12% by February. That will enable us to make improvements over time.

Colleagues have had concerns about the waiting time for the first payment, and I am grateful to my parliamentary colleagues for their constructive engagement on this issue. There have been several debates here and in the other place. This statement responds to them and fulfils the commitment made on behalf of the Government by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House in relation to the resolution of the House on 18 October 2017. We are now offering a balanced package of improvements that puts more money into claimants’ hands earlier, ensuring extra support for those who most need it.

Rest via link.

Probably he even bleeding sings for his supper.

But we are bored with him already.

Meanwhile. 

The Mirror reports,

After months of protests, the Tories finally announced a £1.5billion lifeline for people on Universal Credit at this week’s Budget.

The waiting time for first payments under the controversial benefit will be shortened from six weeks to five from February.

They mean Universal Credit’s rollout has been delayed – for arguably the EIGHTH time in its chaotic history.

It will now be introduced to just a thin trickle of Jobcentres in February, March and April, instead of the torrent that was planned.

The paper lists the places where it’s delayed.

And the others…

The full list of that ‘thin’ trickle where the disaster that is Universal Credit is coming  is here.

It includes:

April 2018 Universal Credit Transition Rollout Schedule
Local Authority Jobcentre area
Denbighshire County Council Rhyl JCP
Ipswich Borough Council Ipswich JCP
North Lanarkshire Council Airdrie JCP
Bellshill JCP
Cumbernauld JCP

Motherwell JCP
Slough Borough Council Slough JCP*
(*Also serves South Bucks District Council)
South Bucks District Council Slough JCP*
(*Also serves Slough Borough Council)
Wigan Council Ashton in Makerfield JCP
Leigh JCP
Wigan JCP

Note,

Are you already claiming benefits?

Existing benefits and tax credits claimants who do not have a change of circumstance (see below) will not be asked to claim Universal Credit until July 2019 at the earliest. The government expects to finish moving existing benefit and tax credit claimants onto Universal Credit by March 2022.

What counts as a change of circumstance?

There’s no published list of what counts as a change of circumstance to trigger a move from one of the existing benefits to Universal Credit but below is a guide of the changes likely to be included:

  • If your entitlement to the current benefit ends prompting a need to claim a new one, for example if you stop being entitled to Working Tax Credit because you lose your job (or regularly reduce your hours below the minimum number of hours you must work) or you stop being entitled to income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance because you start working more than 16 hours a week.
  • If you become entitled to a different or extra benefit, for example you are claiming income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and have a child so you would have become eligible for Child Tax Credit, or you separate from a partner and would have become eligible for help with your rent through Housing Benefit.
  • If you have a change in your relationship, for example if you move in with somebody already claiming Universal Credit you will claim Universal Credit together.

It is not currently clear if moving house counts as a change of circumstances but it may be the case that moving within the same local authority doesn’t count as a change but moving to a new authority does. We will update this guide when this has been confirmed.

There are also a few changes that are unlikely to count as a change of circumstance, which will generally be changes to benefits you are already claiming. For example, you are already getting Child Tax Credit and you have another child, you are already getting Working Tax Credit and you change jobs (as long as you still meet the hours rules) or you are already getting Housing Benefit and your rent increases.

In many cases you are obliged to report a change of circumstances. If you are in any doubt as to whether a change in your circumstances means you will have to claim Universal Credit see if a local advice agency is able to help you or contact the relevant benefits team to ask.

And then there is this:

A standoff between banks and the government means that loan applicants could be rejected if they receive the new payment.

Thousands – perhaps even millions – of people could have trouble obtaining a mortgage because of problems with the way the government’s universal credit system and banks and building societies “talk” to each other.

A Guardian Money investigation into the difficulties experienced by a homebuyer living in one of the areas chosen to test the new benefit has revealed that some recipients could be at risk of being turned down for a mortgage. Some lenders are saying they will not accept universal credit at all when calculating how much they will lend, while others have apparently not amended their IT systems to deal with it – leading to problems and delays. On its published list of acceptable income types, Halifax’s website simply gives a blunt “no”.

Many lenders do accept it in some situations, but a key problem is that the most up-to-date version of universal credit is fully online and paperwork-free. Many banks and building societies, however, still insist on an official “hard copy” letter detailing how much benefit someone is getting. In essence, it’s an “old tech v new tech” clash.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Budget: Universal Credit Sticking Plaster Announced.

with 102 comments

Image result for universal credit unite community

 

As Ace Reporter, Breaking News, informs us, with the rest of our tip top team of Contributors, there are some changes to Universal Credit in the Budget.

I was initially confused with all this talk of 1,5 Billion, which it turns out, is not the Queen’s Billion,  a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000),  but a miserable US thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000).

But here it is,

The Mirror, which is pretty good on these things, reports,

Chancellor Philip Hammond has bowed to pressure over Universal Credit with a £1.5 billion package to cut the waiting period for payments- by a week.

He has also removed the seven-day waiting period so entitlement starts on the day of the claim.

Changes announced today will also mean any household needing an advance can access a full month’s payment within five days of applying instead of half a month’s worth.

While the repayment period for advances will increase from six to 12 months.

He said that any new Universal Credit claimant in receipt of housing benefit will continue to receive that benefit for a further 2 weeks.

But Jeremy Corbyn slammed the U-turn as simply not good enough.

He told the House of Commons: “Wouldn’t it have been better to pause the whole thing and look at the problems it has caused?”

In response to Mr Hammond, Mr Corbyn said: “The Chancellor’s solution to a failing system causing more debt is to offer a loan,” referring to increased ‘advances’ for people in need.

It’s pretty clear what us lot think, but it’s good to hear somebody say it in a national paper,

The reaction from the Child Poverty Action Group, who have campaigned passionately for changes to Universal Credit, was mixed.

The charity’s Chief Executive Alison Garnham welcomed changes to the waiting days but said the chancellor had missed an opportunity to completely overhaul the flawed system.

She said: “We were the first to sound the alarm over the waiting days for universal credit, so we’re pleased the Chancellor has acted to remove them and put in place new arrangements for receiving advances as part of an emergency rescue package, but this should have been the budget that ushered in much needed structural reform of Universal Credit to revive the central promise to strengthen the rewards from work and that didn’t happen.”

The trusty lot at the Mirror put all this into place,

Hammond’s Budget is no game changer and tinkering with Universal Credit is a con when deep, painful welfare cuts for families in and out of work will plunge more kids into grinding poverty.

Branding a £7.83 an hour minimum wage a “living wage” adds insult to injury when independent experts calculate the real rate would need to be £8.75 – or in expensive London, £10.20.

Sunny BBC reporters summarise this dream-package for those who wish to go a but further:

“For the average person claiming the benefit, they’ll have £73 extra in their pockets plus housing costs and any other elements they qualify for – like childcare support.”

More details:

People claiming universal credit will now wait, to be precise, 35 days rather than 42 before they get their first payment.

It’s helpful to think of the current waiting period before people can receive their first universal credit in three chunks:

  • Four weeks to assess how much someone has earned in the last month
  • An administrative week set aside to process the payment
  • A further seven “waiting days” during which claimants are not eligible for any benefit – this is what the chancellor is scrapping

The four weeks is more or less baked into the design of the system. Universal credit was designed to be paid in arrears once a person’s monthly income has been assessed. Changing this feature would have required a fairly significant change to the whole structure of the benefit.

So it was in the other 14 days that the government had some leeway.

The reduction in the waiting period announced in the Budget strips away seven of those extra days, leaving a full week to process the payment. Arguably, the chancellor could have shortened the payment processing time too.

It was the seven additional “waiting days” many took issue with, since it’s difficult to see what purpose those days served other than to save money.

David Finch, a senior policy analyst at think tank the Resolution Foundation, described them as a “completely unnecessary saving” which had a disproportionate negative impact on claimants.

And a report on the six week waiting period by a cross-party group of MPs, chaired by Labour MP Frank Field, described the motivation of those extra days as “primarily fiscal”.

But the motivation behind universal credit was not a cost-saving one – it was supposed to be all about getting more people into work.

The report’s authors added that they had been told by a wide range of charities, councils and housing associations that the seven waiting days did “nothing to further the stated objectives of Universal Credit but contribute to claimant hardship.”

Who will benefit?

Just over a third of people eligible for universal credit have always been exempt from having to go for seven “waiting days” with no benefits.

This group includes people who are moving on to universal credit from a relevant existing benefit, those who have claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance in the past three months, young people under the age of 22 leaving local authority care and victims of domestic abuse.

The other 64% of new claimants will benefit from this change.

The actual number of people will vary – there were 47,000 new people starting to receive universal credit in the most recent month we have data for (13 September to 12 October).

Still, while we pause,  this is a good larf..

But…..(leaving aside the rest of the unfit for purpose system stays in place),

Benefits are still frozen.

Food prices, to begin with, are rocketing.

Butter has gone up by 40%’: readers on rising UK food prices.

As inflation sticks at a five-year high of 3%, readers share their experiences of how they are coping with the squeeze.

It’s very generous of the Chancellor to extend rail cards for young people, to those who are under 30.

“Discount railcard extended for people aged up to 30”.

I shall bear that in mind the next time I am under 30.

But duty on high-strength “white ciders” to be increased in 2019 via new legislation.

Like the kind of po-faced Scottish nationalists who do not want the poor to drink the devil’s buttermilk, and who have introduced ‘Minimum Pricing’ for alcohol, you can see here an attempt to stop the really hard up getting pissed up on the cheap with White Lightening.

One to watch out for, as there are  temperance lobbyist in other parties in the UK who’d  like to do the same here.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 22, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Universal Credit to bring Misery for over 100,000 over Christmas.

with 87 comments

DWP Explains Universal Credit for Dummies.

(What the hell this design means hell knows…)

A friend in Ipswich told me about this story this morning, and WhoKnew has posted about it, but it’s still hard to get to grips with something quite so bad.

Universal credit: Households to miss out on benefits over festive season.

Thousands of people on universal credit may not be paid over the festive season or may get a reduced payment, the BBC Money Box show has highlighted.

Those hit will be some of the 67,000 people who claim the benefit while working and who are paid weekly.

This is because there are five paydays in December, so their monthly income will be too high to get any or some of the benefit. Some will have to reapply.

The government said only a “minority” of claimants would be affected.

The Department for Work and Pensions warns on its website that people who are paid five times in a month may have an income that is too high to qualify for the benefit in that period.

It says people will be notified if this happens and told to reapply for the benefit the following month.

Other people who are paid fives times in a month but do not earn enough for universal credit to end will have their benefit reduced.

Kayley Hignell, from Citizens Advice, said the way universal credit was calculated brought some benefits but also “significant budget challenges”.

She said: “The key thing here is about communication.

“People need to know that if they’re getting extra income in one month… it may stop their universal credit payment, and that they then subsequently need to put in a new claim to make sure that they continue to get those payments.

“If you’ve got extra money in the month, don’t necessarily bank on the fact that your universal credit is going to stay the same, because it could change it either in this month or the next.”

The Independent shares our initial disbelief.

100,000 people on universal credit will not receive a payment at Christmas

‘It sounds like nonsense doesn’t it? A script from a political farce. But no, it’s actually what’s happening’ Rob Merrick

At least 100,000 low-paid people on universal credit will receive no payment at Christmas, in a fresh controversy about the new benefit.

The claimants will be hit because they are paid weekly and their income “will likely go over the universal credit limit”, officials say.

They will be able to reapply in January – but, it is feared, will be left without money over the Christmas and New Year period.

 The same problem will re-occur in other months which, like December, have five paydays, because universal credit is calculated on a monthly basis.

“It sounds like nonsense doesn’t it? A script from a political farce. But no, it’s actually what’s happening,” said one worried claimant on the Mumsnet website.

Here is the Official Cheery Yuletide Message from the DWP,

 If you’re paid weekly

If you’re paid weekly by your employer, you will get either 4 or 5 payments of earnings within a Universal Credit assessment period. Depending on the amount you get paid this may affect your Universal Credit.

When you have 5 weekly earnings payments within an assessment period, your income may be too high to qualify for Universal Credit in that month.

If this happens you will be notified that your income is too high and you will no longer get Universal Credit.

You can re-apply the following month as you should only get 4 wage payments in your assessment period then.

You will need to be prepared for a month when you get 5 wage payments in one assessment period and budget for a potential change in your monthly Universal Credit payments.

Find out what you need to do if you need to start your Universal Credit claim again within 6 months of your previous claim ending. For example, because you’ve received more earnings in an assessment period than usual.

There’s plenty of other side-splitting stuff on the same site:

Guidance

Universal Credit: different earning patterns and your payments (payment cycles).

This is real larf: “Personal Budgeting Support (money advice).”

If you have any complaints do not hesitate to fill this in, it’s at the bottom of the DWP page:

 

Help us improve GOV.UK

Don’t include personal or financial information like your National Insurance number or credit card details.

What you were doingWhat went wrong

Send

Written by Andrew Coates

November 18, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Government to Cut Universal Credit Wait to…..5 Weeks!

with 98 comments

Image result for universal credit campaign

I Week off the Wait, to meet Universal Credit Crisis.

Our best mate and Mentor, Tutor and Guide,  Google informs us of this,

Government preparing to trim wait for new benefit after Tory backbenchers raised concerns about impact on constituents.

The government is preparing to confirm that it will cut the six-week waiting time for universal credit, caving in to Conservative backbench rebels.

After being promised concessions by ministers, a group of Tory MPs concerned about the impact of the delay on their constituents were persuaded not to vote against the government in a Labour-led debate on universal credit last month.

The six-week wait was the central concern of the group, which includes Heidi Allen and Johnny Mercer, and the government is expected to reduce it, most likely by eliminating the seven-day mandatory waiting time at the start of any new claim.

The move comes as MPs prepare to vote on a cross-party motion to cut the wait for a first payment from 42 days to a month. The backbench business debate in the House of Commons on Thursday will focus on the recommendations of the recent work and pensions committee inquiry report on universal credit.

The committee chair, Frank Field, warned that a government defeat would send a clear message to ministers that the long wait had to go: “Universal credit’s design and implementation have been beset with difficulties that knock claimants into hunger, debt and homelessness, but the most glaring of these in the first instance is the six-week wait for payment.

“I doubt many households in this country could get by for six weeks, and for many, much longer, with no income, never mind those striving close to the breadline. The baked-in wait for payment is cruel and unrealistic and government has not been able to offer any proper justification for it.”

But wait, hark, what is this we hear?

The massive concession turns out to be a lonely 5 week wait.

Government backs down on Universal Credit wait.

Sky News understands the concession will be made in the coming days as Theresa May tries to see off a Tory rebellion.

The Government is to cut the controversial six-week wait for Universal Credit payments in the comings days in a bid to see off a Conservative rebellion.

A Government source familiar with the plans told Sky News there would be “some movement [on the wait time] in the early part of next week” after intensive behind-the-scenes discussions with a group of up to two dozen rebel MPs.

The source said ministers were working on plans to cut the wait to five weeks or less in a significant concession to backbench MPs.

And Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke is also said to be looking to do more on advance payments for claimants as the roll-out of Universal Credit is expanded from five to 50 job centres a month.

Universal Credit combines six benefits into one single benefit and is designed to simplify the welfare system and to “make work pay”.

It was the flagship welfare reform of David Cameron’s coalition government, but has been plagued with delays since its inception and by criticism over its design.

One flaw is the six-week wait time which has been criticised across the political divide amid concerns it is pushing claimants into arrears on rent and council tax, and forcing some to use food banks.

The 5 week wait and “more” to get people into debt with advance payments is miserable, miserable, penny-pinching, Scrooge’s idea of a Christmas present.

As Julia Rampen says in the New Statesman says,

The government is set to cut the six week initial waiting time for Universal Credit, Sky News reports. If this retreat on welfare is true, it’s welcome. The expectation that people forced to rely on this country’s meagre safety net would somehow have the cash to tide themselves over for six weeks was always fantasy.

As increasingly panicked reports from the areas where the new “streamlined” benefit is being rolled out attest, six weeks is a long time when you have no money in your pocket, and rent and bills to pay. Claimants can get an advance payment, but this can easily turn into yet another debt to pay. Evictions are mounting, and stories from frontline workers are harrowing – such as the one from a foodbank manager, who met a young boy picking through the bins while his mother waited for her first Universal Credit payment.

All the same, there is not much to celebrate. Commuting the waiting time from six weeks to five, as the report suggests will happen, still means a very long wait for access to food or heating, or the resources to pay your rent and other bills. It suggests that Universal Credit will still be structured around a monthly payment, and allocated based on monthly income – even though Resolution Foundation research found the majority of claimants had previously been paid weekly or fortnightly, and many in-work recipients have different hours from month to month. Nor does there seem to be any movement on the fact that Universal Credit is paid to only one member of the household – a structure ripe for abuse. And then there’s the whole question of whether the benefit designed to “make work pay” is actually penalising workers, since any increases in payment under the new system are minimal.

Most worryingly, though, a climbdown on the waiting period does nothing to address the cause of much Universal Credit misery – the glitches. As an anonymous Universal Credit manager wrote for the New Statesman, benefits case managers are overwhelmed, with 300 cases on the go at once. A rigid, automised priority list means that many claims with fall through the cracks. With Jobcentres closing, claimants are set to be even more reliant on communicating with these overworked staff through online messaging or crowded phonelines.

CAN YOU CREDIT IT?

 

Brits spend £6.5million ringing Universal Credit helpline between April and September

 

Shocking figures reveal there were 4.2million calls to the helpline over the five months with an average landline fee of up to 12p

Pile it on against the bastards!

More from Sky just now,

The Prime Minister has been warned thousands of families are being put through the “trauma” of fearing eviction over Christmas due to flagship benefit changes.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tackled Theresa May over the roll-out of Universal Credit, as he revealed a letting agency’s warning to tenants that they could be asked to leave their properties.

In a letter from Lincolnshire-based GAP Property, tenants are told the company cannot sustain arrears “at the potential levels Universal Credit could create” when the new benefits system is introduced in the area next month.

Highlighting a six-week wait claimants will face for their first benefit payments under Universal Credit, the agency adds: “IF YOU DO NOT PAY YOUR RENT WE WILL HAVE NO OPTION BUT TO LEAVE AND RECOVER LOSSES FROM YOUR GUARANTOR”.

GAP Property insists to tenants the letter is “not intended to cause you alarm, rather to inform you of the problems that could very well occur during the roll-out of Universal Credit”.

Challenging Mrs May over the letter at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Corbyn asked: “Will the Prime Minister pause Universal Credit so it can be fixed or does she think it is right to put thousands of families through Christmas in the trauma of knowing they’re about to be evicted because they’re in rent arrears because of Universal Credit?”

In response, Mrs May acknowledged concerns about people managing their budgets to pay rent during the Universal Credit roll-out, but added: “What we see is after four months the number of people on Universal Credit in arrears has fallen by a third.”

The Labour leader told the Prime Minister he suspects “it’s not the only letting agency that’s sending out that kind of letter” and highlighted increased food bank usage and child poverty fears as he demanded the Government pause the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Mrs May countered the new benefits system “is ensuring that we are seeing more people in work and able to keep what they earn”.

And,

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams repeated Labour’s demand for a pause to Universal Credit while “these issues are fixed”.

She said: “The Government is reportedly planning to reduce the six week wait for Universal Credit payments.

“I hope they have now listened to Labour’s repeated calls to significantly reduce the waiting time, which has driven many into debt, arrears and evictions.

“Much more needs to be done.

“The Government must confirm that alternative payment arrangements will be offered to all recipients, including fortnightly payments, and bring forward plans to restore the principle that work always pays under the programme.”

Before I forget (and after seeing the rise in Food Prices today): End the Benefits Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 15, 2017 at 4:19 pm

Stop the Roll Out of Universal Credit! Protests on December the 2nd.

with 66 comments

Image may contain: one or more people and text

Stop the rollout of Universal Credit

 

Organising  has  begun.

 Unite Community Day of Action for Universal Credit on December 2nd.

Contact: community@unitetheunion.org to find out where your local action is or to offer your help.

Please do your bit and share the articles to your networks. Get the word out so we can maintain the pressure on this Tory Govt.

Solidarity comrades.

Latest news stories, BBC.

The Scottish government is calling on the chancellor to stop the rollout of Universal Credit to enable “fundamental flaws” to be fixed.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has written to Philip Hammond asking for improvements to be made to the payments system in his autumn Budget.

He said a delay in payments had caused hardship to families across Scotland.

The UK government said the vast majority of people were paid their Universal Credit in full and on time.

The controversial measure, which is being rolled out across the UK, brings six existing benefit payments into one – but critics have claimed the six-week wait some people have for their first payment is contributing to a rise in debt, rent arrears and evictions.

In his letter to the chancellor, Mr Mackay said the announcement by the work and pensions secretary to offer Universal Credit advances upfront would “do nothing to fix the fundamental design flaws with Universal Credit”.

He said: “The Universal Credit system is fundamentally flawed and causing unnecessary hardship and suffering to families across Scotland.

“It is vital that the UK government addresses these failings and that the roll-out is halted until the problems are fixed.

“I strongly urge the chancellor to use the autumn Budget to pause the roll-out, reduce the first payment wait time to a maximum of four weeks, move to a twice-monthly payment system and reverse cuts to work allowances.

“These measures would help ease financial pressures and stop pushing more families into poverty.”

Telegraph,

Theresa May faces revolt over Universal Credit as MPs prepare to vote on reducing wait times

Theresa May is facing a second revolt over the roll-out of one of the Government’s key welfare reforms after ordering her MPs to abstain on an earlier vote.

The Sunday Telegraph understands that more than a dozen Conservative MPs are intending to back a cross-party motion this week demanding that ministers reduce the waiting period for Universal Credit payments.

The Democratic Unionist Party, whose MPs are propping up Mrs May’s Government, is also believed to be considering supporting the motion.

The vote is likely to cause embarrassment to the Prime Minister in a week when she is attempting to reassert authority over her party after losing two Cabinet ministers in the space of a week.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Universal Credit and Elaine Morrall who “Died Cold and Alone”.

with 109 comments

 

Mum-of-four dies cold and alone after missing Universal Credit meeting

Elaine “Died Cold and Alone”. “How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?’

 

This story makes everything else look small.

A mum-of-four died cold and alone after her benefits were cut because she was too ill to attend a Universal Credit meeting. Elaine Morrall was found dead in her home wearing a coat and scarf, her family claimed. Metro.

The 38-year-old had her benefits stopped because she failed to attend a meeting about Universal Credit while she was in a hospital intensive care unit, they said.

Elaine, who suffered from an eating disorder and mental health problems, was found dead earlier this month in Runcorn, Cheshire. Her family claims she wouldn’t put her heating on until her kids got home from school because of the cost. Her grieving mother Linda Morrall blamed the Department of Work and Pensions for her untimely death.

In an open letter on Facebook, she wrote: ‘How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?’ ‘My daughter lived in Boston ave. She died on the afternoon of 2 November 2017 at home on her own. She was 38yrs. ‘In the cold with her coat & scarf on. Because she wouldn’t put her heating on until her kids came home from school. Why?? Because she couldn’t afford it. ‘Because she was severely depressed. Suffered from eating disorder & many other problems for many years. ‘Mainly due to authoritarians of 1 form or another. I can give you details. Was in & out of hospital in recent months in intensive care. ‘But was deemed not ill enough for ESA. Had her benefits stopped numerous times, which in turn stopped her housing benefit. ‘No income but expected to be able to pay full rent. Was told being in intensive care was not sufficient reason for failing to attend a universal credit interview. ‘I went to the job centre to inform them that she couldn’t attend. But benefits stopped again. ‘Uncaring housing taking her to court. She’s due to go to court on monday. Is being dead now enough reason. Is that what’s had to happen to prove she was ill?? ‘How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?? ‘What are you and your fellow councillors going to do to protect your constituents??’

Background to the growing crisis.

Demand for Suffolk and Essex food banks continues to grow.

Ipswich Star. 7th of November. 

Changes in the benefit system and the rising cost of living are among the issues driving a surge in demand on Suffolk and Essex food banks, it has been claimed.

Ipswich charity Families in Need (FIND) has given out around 3,400 food parcels so far in 2017, and founder Maureen Reynel said more people were using the service every year.

Food bank bosses say the roll out of Universal Credit, which is replacing most means-tested benefits, is leaving local people struggling because new applicants have to wait around six weeks after a successful assessment to receive the cash.

Mrs Reynel said: “It means people are waiting for money, even though it’s back dated they have to eat in the meantime so any change in benefits, doesn’t matter what label they put on it, has an adverse affect on people using those benefit systems.

“It’s just a mess really. We just have to keep trying to plug a gaping hole to see these people through until something else good happens for them.”

Demand on FIND is “non-stop”, Mrs Reynel said, with the number of food parcels handed out hitting double figures most days.

The same evening there was a report on the effect of Universal Credit on people, driving them into utter poverty, on the BBC Look East.

Trussell Trust foodbanks report record surge in demand amid Universal Credit rollout

The statistics lay bare the link between the welfare reform and rising need for emergency handouts.

The controversial rollout of the Tories’ flagship welfare reform has triggered a 30% surge in hungry families, shock figures reveal today.

Foodbanks handed out 586,907 emergency rations between the start of April and end of September – a 13% rise on the same period last year, according to the Trussell Trust.

With each parcel having enough food for three meals a day for three days, volunteers handed out the equivalent of almost 5.3 million meals.

And foodbanks in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out for six months or more have seen an average 30% spike in the first six months after its launch compared to a year before.

Charity leaders fear the crisis will deepen in the run-up to Christmas when the number of foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit service will triple, and when demand for food traditionally rises.

Trussell Trust chief executive Mark Ward said: “We’re seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 8, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Work and Health Programme: After Universal Credit another Opportunity for Government Cock-up.

with 124 comments

 Image result for work and health programme

Work and Health Programme?

Providers announced for the Work and Health Programme (Thanks to contributors for flagging this up)

The Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work, Penny Mordaunt, has announced the 6 providers for the new Work and Health Programme.

Area Successful provider
Central England Shaw Trust
North East Reed In Partnership
North West Ingeus
Southern Pluss
Home Counties Shaw Trust
Wales Remploy

Local government partners in London and Greater Manchester have been given funding under devolution deals and are selecting their own providers.

In Scotland, funding for employment programmes for unemployed and disabled people was devolved in line with the Scotland Act.

The Work and Health Programme is not available in Northern Ireland.

As this Ipswich Unemployed Action I will concentrate on the Shaw Trust – which will provide services in ‘Home Counties’ East Anglia.

Past criticisms:

To be put on a 2 year Work Course is Compulsory, you have no choice, other words! My CV is sent, without my permission or any discussion with myself, to any Employers, whether I can do the job or not! Sometimes I will only get a few hours notice that an interview has been arranged for me! Plus I never get told what the hours are or the hourly rate, so I’m going into the interview ‘blind’. As I have a hernia, I was told not to tell the Employer.I had to lie just so I could get the job?
I will not lie, give false information that may be to my detriment, just so they can get rid of me! Despicable and underhand treatment of a human being!

More criticisms here

Example: May 2017

Terrible charity to work for bullying , harassment, under mining rife by management . Take my words of warning DO NOT WORK FOR THIS ORGANISATION YOU WOULD HAVE A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

Advice to Management

Stop the bullying and harassing culture that is rife in the organisation, absolutely disgusting that’s why I left….. . if DWP only knew how they treat their staff and how it would impact on the customers we support that they are paying us to do using taxpayers money. Get rid of the existing management team and directors and start again worst place I have worked in my entire LIFE!

(which to their credit the Shaw Trust registers and replies to).

Accounts up to 31st of March 2017,

The accounts reveal that the number of staff at the Wiltshire-based trust increased from 1,597 to 1,814 and the number of employees earning more than £60,000 increased from 46 to 56. The document says this “is substantially due to the conversion of three new schools into Shaw Education Trust during 2016-17”.

The highest salary paid during the year was in the £170,000 to £180,000 pay band. The recipient of this money is not identified in the accounts. 

Aspects of the new Programme:

Groups targeted:

Who is the eligible group for the Programme? (1)
It is expected that the Programme will support individuals from the following
participant groups:
• A person with a disability, as defined in the Equality Act 2010 can volunteer
to join the programme at any time including additional places for eligible and
suitable WRAG claimants
• Long Term Unemployed (LTU) – these will be claimants in the intensive work
search regime in Universal Credit or JSA claimants – who have not moved into
employment within 24 months of their claim

 

Programme participation
Participants will remain on the programme for up to 15 months of job finding
support
• If in that period they find a job they will stay on the programme until they
achieve a sustained Job Outcome
• If after 15 months support they do not find a job they return to the JCP offer
• Following a job start, the provider will be required to provide light touch inwork
support, for the participant if the provider and claimant agree it is
necessary in order for the claimant to remain in work.
• In-work support will continue until a sustained Job Outcome is achieved (not
indefinitely) and arrangements for continuation of support are in place if
necessary before the provider support ceases.
• The details and type of support will be set out by providers in their bids and
should complement other in work support.

Comment: One of the greatest concerns is shown by the head image.

Will this programme involve putting unemployed people into ‘therapy’?

More information on this programme welcome.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 4, 2017 at 10:49 am

Tory U-Turn on Universal Credit?

with 114 comments

 

Image result for universal credit

Conservatives ‘planning Budget U-turn’ over rollout of Universal Credit regime

The Independent says,

It was reported that Chancellor Philip Hammond is set to make an announcement at the autumn Budget – scheduled for 22 November.

Ministers are reportedly preparing for a major U-turn on the rollout of Universal Credit in the Budget by reducing the controversial six-week wait to four for the first payment to claimants.

It comes after weeks of sustained pressure on Downing Street from Conservative backbenchers, the Labour party and charities warning the Government’s flagship welfare programme – due to be accelerated this month – is pushing recipients into poverty, arrears and a reliance on food banks.

The main anxiety among MPs and charities focuses on the six-week wait claimants are forced to endure before receiving their first payment under the new regime after transferring from the legacy benefits system.

Meanwhile :

Call for Merseyside to have new powers to stop Universal Credit “misery”

A new system could mean struggling families are not left waiting for four weeks for payments

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 30, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Even Tories Want End to Universal Credit Madness.

with 112 comments

 

Image result for Ian duncan smith cartoon

Even IDS now regrets his past.

 

Some of us lot think this is a Poll Tax Moment.

Hat-tip to whoknew.

The Independent reports,

Tory voters want universal credit waiting time cut, finds poll

 

Three-quarters of the British public – including the majority of Conservative voters – want government action now to cut the time vulnerable people are waiting before receiving universal credit benefit payments, a poll has revealed.

The exclusive survey by BMG Research for The Independent showed 74 per cent of people think the average six-week wait facing most new claimants before they get a first full payment is too long.

There is growing pressure to use the Budget next month to tackle the issue, with a group of Tory MPs and even the benefit’s architect Iain Duncan Smith saying the waiting time should be shorter.

Can I also signal this article by somebody many of us consider one of the best activists in the UK.

She would blush at this, but Pilgrim  came to Ipswich and we talked for quite a while.

We were  impressed.

Universal credit has poleaxed the jobless. Now for low-income workers

Guardian.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 25, 2017 at 12:52 pm

Gawd Bless you Ma’am ! Theresa May scraps universal credit helpline charges.

with 159 comments

 

 

Theresa May scraps universal credit helpline charges.

People will be able to call the government’s universal credit helpline without being charged, within weeks.

Prime Minister Theresa May said she had listened to criticism of the charges, which can be up to 55p a minute, and decided it was “right” to drop them.

But she again rejected calls by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to “pause” the roll-out of the controversial benefit amid fears it is causing hardship.

MPs are currently debating Labour’s call for a rethink.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 18, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Prime Minister’s Questions: May and Corbyn Clash on Universal Credit.

with 190 comments

 

Image result for flying saucer

Happy Universal Credit Claimants on Job Search.

The Tories seem to have decided on a policy of Stout Defence of Universal Credit.

On the World at One today some Tory MP claimed she was besieged by constituents queuing up to praise the new benefits system.

I can’t recall who it was but a Labour chap said that was surprisingly far from his experience.

Unfortunately the exchange was cut short before said Tory could tell us about the gifts of flowers and chocolate she”d had from over-the-moon claimants on Universal Credit.

Correction: that should have read, claimants, from the moon and well further afield.

Which neatly answers Corbyn today,

Jeremy Corbyn questioned “I wonder which planet the Prime Minister is on?” when she failed to see the problems with Universal Credit.

Guardian.

Jeremy Corbyn has called on Theresa May to rethink the troubled universal credit benefits system and abolish the charge for its helpline, which costs frustrated claimants up to 55p a minute to call from a mobile phone

The call happened during Prime Minister’s Question Time.

BBC

Theresa May has defended the expansion of the government’s flagship welfare reform as Jeremy Corbyn said it was increasing poverty and homelessness.

The PM said the government was listening to concerns about universal credit and said it was getting more people into work.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Corbyn urged her to “wake up to reality” and pause the rollout.

And he called it “absurd” that calls to the helpline cost up to 55p a minute.

Universal credit, which merges six working-age benefits into a single payment, is being introduced in 50 job centres across the UK every month.

It is paid in arrears, and there have been complaints about the six-week wait for payments, with almost a quarter of claimants waiting for longer because of delays in the system.

In the leaders’ first clash since Parliament returned from party conference season, Mr Corbyn said the reform was “driving up poverty, debt and homelessness”, with people facing eviction due to a shortage of cash.

It was “irresponsible to press on regardless”, he said, also urging the PM to “show some humanity” and make the helpline – which costs between 3p and 55p a minute from a mobile phone – free of charge.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the hotline was charged at standard local rates so was free for many people as part of their phone contracts. It added that people could request a free call back from the department.

Mrs May said the government was building a welfare system that provided a safety net for those who need it and which also helps people to get into the workplace and earn more.

Responding to questions about payment delays, she said more people were receiving advances which are available to those in need, adding that the government would continue to monitor the roll-out.

The previous system put in place by the Labour government of 1997 to 2010 was “far too complicated” and left many people better off on benefits, she added.

Conservative MP Heidi Allen also quizzed the PM on universal credit, saying the six-week delay “just doesn’t work”.

Mrs May agreed to have a meeting with Ms Allen.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 11, 2017 at 3:11 pm

John Major Joins in Chorus Against Universal Credit.

with 64 comments

Image result for John major cartoon Steve bell

Major to the Rescue!

Back in the old days we all used to laugh at John Major.

Rory Bremner did a great impersonation.

There was also his affair with Edwina Currie, (BBC)

Former Prime Minister John Major has admitted he had a four-year affair with the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie.

Mr Major described it as the most shameful event of his life, but said his wife Norma had long known of the relationship and had forgiven him.

Mrs Currie made the disclosure in her diaries, which are being serialised in the Times newspaper.

The affair began in 1984 when Mrs Currie was a backbencher and Mr Major a whip in Margaret Thatcher’s government.

Mrs Currie – who later became a health minister – said the affair ended in early 1988 after his swift promotion to the Cabinet as chief secretary to the Treasury.

What the wags of the Internet could make of that today is …a happy thought.

Now Major is an elder statesman.

With Boris and Rees Mogg around – preceded stage right by Iain Duncan Smith, not to mention David Gauke – you could feel a big nostalgic for those days.

Major obviously has more than a grain of sense left.

John Major calls for Tory review of ‘unfair’ universal credit

reports the Guardian.

Former PM says party needs to ‘show its heart again’ or it risks opening door to ’return of a nightmare’.

Sir John Major has called for an urgent change of tone from the Conservative government, including a review of universal credit, which he described as “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving”.

The former prime minister said his party needed to “show its heart again, which is all too often concealed by its financial prudence”, if it hoped to fight off a Labour resurgence in the next general election.

“We are not living in normal times and must challenge innate Conservative caution,” he said.

However, he suggested the implementation of the policy, which has led some claimants to turn to foodbanks as they wait up to six weeks for payments, required a rethink.

To rub this in we learn the following today,

More than 25 Tory MPs  prepared to rebel over Universal Credit roll-out

More than 25 Tory MPs are now prepared to rebel over the Government’s flagship welfare reforms amid mounting calls for a “pause” in the roll-out of Universal Credit.

David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, last week tried to broker a truce with MPs by insisting that a system of advance payments was already in place to help those struggling when they change systems.

Despite the move, Sir John Major, the former Tory Prime Minister, described the system on Sunday as “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving”.

The Guardian outlines the mammoth task before the government.

Universal credit: why is it a problem and can the system be fixed?

What are the design flaws?

There are manifold problems, but the political focus centres on the minimum 42-day wait for a first payment endured by new claimants when they move to universal credit (in practice this is often up to 60 days). For many low-income claimants, who lack savings, this in effect leaves them without cash for six weeks. The well-documented consequences for claimants of this are rent arrears (leading in some cases to eviction), hunger (food banks in universal credit areas report striking increases in referrals), use of expensive credit, and mental distress.

What have ministers proposed to do about the six-week wait?

The work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, recognised the widely held concerns about the long payment wait (including 12 of his own party’s backbenchers) in his speech to the Tory party conference on Monday. He said he was overhauling the system of advance payments available to claimants to enable them to access cash up front to see them through the six-week waiting period. Payments would be available within five days, and in extreme cases within hours.

Will this solve the problem?

The payments are loans that must be repaid. Claimants can only get an advance for a proportion of the amount they are owed as a first payment, and must repay it within six months. Normally, claimants must prove to officials that an advance is needed to pay bills, afford food or prevent illness. Official figures show about half of new universal credit claimants apply for an advance payment. Ministers say this is good news as it shows they are getting help. Critics say the high demand proves the wait is too onerous for too many people.

What other options do ministers have?

Charities and landlords could reduce the long wait marginally by cutting the seven-day “waiting period” introduced in 2013 (an arbitrary period during which new claimants are prevented from lodging a claim after being made redundant). They could introduce more flexible repayment terms for advance loans. And they could speed up the payment process (currently slower than the supposedly cumbersome “legacy” benefits they replace).

So it is all about ironing out a few technical glitches?

Not quite. Multibillion-pound cuts to work allowances imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne mean universal credit is far less generous than originally envisaged. According to the Resolution Foundation thinktank, about 2.5m low-income working households will be more than £1,000 a year worse off when they move on to universal credit. Reversing those cuts requires a political decision, not a technical fix.

What is the future for universal credit?

Gauke confirmed today that the current rollout will continue to the planned timetable (which will see, in theory, universal credit extended to about 7 million people by 2022). However, the problems of universal credit are unlikely to go away, and it has some powerful critics, including the Treasury, which has always opposed the project. It would be possible to cancel the project, or overhaul it substantially. However, some argue the billions pumped into universal credit – and the huge amount of political capital and credibility invested in it – mean it is too big to fail.

For those who’ve lost the will to live after this lot, Rory Bremner is still a laugh!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 9, 2017 at 10:22 am

Universal Credit is Working – DWP.

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Image result for universal credit cartoon david Gauke

Look Upon My Works Ye Mighty, and Tremble!

Latest on the sorry saga of Universal Credit.

Full extent of Universal Credit pain in East Lothian is revealed in shocking new reports.

East Lothian Courier,

THE full impact of Universal Credit in East Lothian has been laid bare in two new reports.

A survey carried out by East Lothian Council’s revenues and welfare support service shows the significant level of negative impact that Universal Credit (UC) is having on county recipients.

While new research carried out by the Citizens Advice Bureau in Musselburgh and Haddington has highlighted how the scheme is having a severe impact on residents.

A total of 209 people responded to the council’s survey, which showed only one quarter managed financially while waiting for their first payment.

Waiting time for that first payment was about six to eight weeks for 82 per cent of respondents, with a further 18 per cent having to hold on for longer than that.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, East Lothian Council deputy leader, said: “This research provides a shocking insight into the impact of Universal Credit on people in East Lothian. It shows that UC affects many people with ill health and disability and that almost half of all claimants need to be referred for money or debt advice.

“East Lothian Council continues to work with its partners to mitigate the impact of Universal Credit on local people and at the same time continue to campaign for improvements and changes with the Scottish and Westminster Governments.”

The survey also found that 53 per cent of respondents required a loan from their families to tide them over; 28 per cent had to get benefit advance; 10 per cent had to apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund and 14 per cent went to the foodbank.

Then there’s this:

Anyone who’s ever worked with the benefit system knows that the principle of amalgamating our overly bureaucratic social security system (where Housing Benefit is administered by your local council, tax credits by HMRC and Job Seekers Allowance by the DWP) is a good thing. Universal Credit – where benefits are combined – therefore sounds like a great idea.

But at Gingerbread, we’re seeing first-hand, through the calls to our helpline and our research, that Universal Credit is too ‘universal’ in practice. It is ignoring the needs of single parents bringing up children on their own. In the last few months I have travelled across England to interview single parents about their experience of Universal Credit and the impact it is having on them and their children.

According to the most recent DWP statistics, there are currently over 65,000 single parents receiving Universal Credit. This system is simply not ready to take on the complexity of their situations.

….

And this from the Guardian.

‘In a year, not one payment correct’: a council tenant on the misery of universal credit

The government has been warned by councils, charities and now even its own backbenchers that universal credit is a social policy disaster. But how does it feel to be on the receiving end of this controversial benefits overhaul?

In the video, visually impaired council tenant Jo King, who lives on Newcastle’s Newbiggin Hall Estate, talks about dealing with delays and miscalculations ever since she was moved on to universal credit over a year ago. She explains how she has twice been left without any benefits at all. In order to survive, she was forced to stop paying her carer and request emergency food parcels.

Let’s not forget this, if you have a problem: Phone them!

Contact Universal Credit

  1. It’s easiest to use your online journal.
  2. Or, you can call 0345 600 4272 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm (closed on bank holidays).

Cost of calls

Calls to 03 numbers may be included in your contract. If not, calls cost up to 45p a minute from mobiles and up to 12p a minute from landlines. If you’re unsure, check with your provider.

If that’s too pricey adapt and update this top-tip from the reputable advisers of Viz.

Image result for Viz Top tip save money phone calls

If you have connection problems try this:

Image result for Viz Top tip save money phone calls

Meanwhile the Chronicle has the scoop of the year.

All of the above is Fake News!

A further Hat-tip to those douty chaps and chapettes in the DWP!

Universal Credit is working and, despite calls for the controversial policy to be put on hold, it’s roll out is to continue.

That’s according to the Department for Work and Pensions in response to questions we put to it as increasing criticism of it leading 12 Conservative MPs to call for it to be put on hold.

The Tory flagship reform of the benefits system, rolling together six benefits (including unemployment benefit, tax credits and housing benefit) into one, online-only system, has been piloted in Newcastle .

However, due to late payments it has seen recipients needing to take out loans to feed themselves and also caused rent arrears.

Here is the DWP’s response to our questions in full.

1. Universal Credit has been characterised in many quarters as a failure so far. Do you think that’s fair?

A DWP spokesman said: “Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes. It provides additional, tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.

“And it’s working. With Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

“Universal Credit is already in every Jobcentre for single claimants, and we are rolling it out to a wider range of people in a safe and controlled way.”

2. The biggest issue is the delay in the first payment which is often six weeks while 10 and 12 week delays are not uncommon. What is being done about this?

The DWP spokesperson said that if someone cannot wait for a first payment because they are in financial need, we want to make sure they can claim an advance payment as quickly as possible. Once we know they are entitled to an advance it is paid within three working days. If someone is in urgent need a payment can be made on the same day.

3. And what about problems of late payments in general?

The DWP spokesperson said its latest research shows that around 80% of all new claims were paid in full and on time. In June 2017, 92% of all claimants received their full payment on time and the trend is improving.

The DWP said that when new claims are not paid on time, it is estimated that two-thirds have an outstanding verification issue, such as providing bank statements, evidence of childcare costs, or proof of rent. Other times it’s because a claimant has not signed their claimant commitment.

4. In Newcastle it has been reported that 80% of council tenants on Universal Credit are in arrears? Do you accept that figure. If not, what is your figure?

The DWP said it could not speak about specific centres.

However the spokesperson said Universal Credit gives people control over their finances, and paying their own rent is an important part of this – just like someone in work would do.

5. There were calls among even a number of Conservative MPs for the roll out to be delayed. Why is the roll out going ahead anyway?

The DWP spokesperson said this was a political question which it couldn’t address and referred us to the speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester.

At it Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke said he recognised concerns over prolonged waiting periods. He said people in hardship will now be able to have their payments ‘fast tracked’ – meaning they’d get a payment within five days – or on the same day in emergency cases.

But he said the system’s roll-out would go ahead as planned, despite calls for a delay until all issues – including problems with the Universal Credit helpline are addressed.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 6, 2017 at 10:37 am

Universal Credit Introduction to Continue as Gaucke Eyes Chancellor’s Jobs.

with 163 comments

Image result for david gauke caricature

From Springboard of  Universal Credit to Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Yesterday:

David Gauke Reveals He Wants To Be Chancellor Of The Exchequer

The Huffington Post continues:

But Tory cabinet minister plays down idea he could become prime minister.

It was expected that he is as deaf as doorpost to all the misery he’s left in his wake, so no surprise to see this:

Today:

Universal credit rollout will go ahead despite Tory MPs’ call for delay

Reports  the Guardian.

Work and pensions secretary David Gauke confirms introduction of controversial benefit will continue as planned.

The government is to press ahead with its rollout of universal credit, the work and pensions secretary has confirmed, despite a last-minute appeal from Tory backbenchers for a delay.

More than a dozen Conservative MPs had raised concerns with David Gauke’s department that claimants were being forced to use food banks because of the mandatory six-week wait to receive money.

On Monday, the MP who led the plea, Heidi Allen, appealed directly to Theresa May to intervene.

But in his speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Gauke praised the controversial system, which is being gradually introduced around the country.

“Universal credit is working,” he said. “So I can confirm that the rollout will continue, and to the planned timetable.

“We’re not going to rush things; it is more important to get this right than to do this quickly, and this won’t be completed until 2022. But across the country, we will continue to transform our welfare system to further support those who aspire to work.”

Gauke said the government would be “refreshing the guidance” to staff at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over the possibility of giving advance payments to claimants in difficulty.

“Claimants who want an advance payment will not have to wait six weeks, they will receive this advance within five working days,” Gauke said. “And if someone is in immediate need, then we fast-track the payment, meaning they will receive it on the same day.”

Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary, condemned the confirmation of the rollout, saying Gauke “should immediately end the misery caused by the six-week wait for payment of universal credit”.

Charities and campaign groups also expressed concern. Child Poverty Action Group said it welcomed the government being more proactive on advance payments, but its chief executive, Alison Garnham, said: “Given the serious and wide-ranging concerns about nearly every aspect of universal credit, we had hoped for more on how the government plans to address the funding, policy design and administrative problems plaguing universal credit before it is rolled out to families.”

Meanwhile: Theresa May asked about woman who has 4p to her name due to Universal Credit.

Department for Work and Pensions data shows that 42 per cent of families in arrears under Universal Credit said it was due to the waiting time to receive payment, support being delayed or stopped, or administrative errors in the system.

From the Independent.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 2, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Speaking out on Universal Credit Disaster.

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Image result for universal credit

 

Well we did, finally find one Labour politician speaking about Universal Credit this week.

Newcastle was chosen for an experiment with Universal Credit and it was a disaster

Chronicle. 

Leader of Newcastle City Council says the rest of the country will be in for a shock when Universal Credit is rolled out

And he said the rest of the country would be “in for a shock” when Universal Credit is rolled out across the rest of the country.

Speaking at an event during Labour’s annual conference in Brighton, council leader Nick Forbes said most people on Universal Credit in Newcastle were behind on their rent payments.

And in some cases this put them at risk of becoming homeless.

Universal Credit is a new benefit created by the Government to replace a range of existing payments including housing benefit.

It has been introduced gradually, with some places moving onto the new system before others.

Mr Forbes, who is also leader of the Labour group in the Local Government Association, said: “We are the first whole city to be a pilot area for the rollout of Universal Credit.

“And if Universal Credit is rolled out in the same way as it’s affected my city, the country is in for a hell of a shock.

“Because we’ve found that the vast majority of people on Universal Credit in Newcastle are in rent arrears.

“And if the are in rent areas in the social rented sector then we can deal with that, because we can work with them and provide them with support.

“But if they are in rent arears of sometimes 16 to 18 weeks in the private rented sector, that is causing havoc with homelessness and making sure that people feel secure in their own homes.”

Your Homes Newcastle, which manages homes on behalf of Newcastle City Council, told an inquiry by MPs that it was helping struggling claimants to try to prevent them becoming homeless.

Donna Gallagher, Universal Credit Implementation Manager at Your Homes Newcastle, highlighted the difficulties as she gave evidence to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee at a hearing in Westminster.

She said: “In terms of rent arrears, we’ve got over £1.1m additional rent arrears as a result of the cohort, which is just shy of 3,000 that we know about, that is claiming Universal Credit full service.”

Newcastle City Council said delays in sending the first payment to claimants was “frequently referred to as a fundamental problem with Universal Credit”.

In a written submission to the inquiry, the council said: “We think that Universal Credit can place some vulnerable residents at risk of destitution and homelessness.”

Just out….Eastern Daily Press (Principally Norfolk).

The EDP says… Universal Credit must be fixed before roll-out continues

Universal Credit has led to people falling into debt as they wait weeks for their first payments. 

It is right for the government to slowly roll out dramatic changes such as universal credit.

But when problems with it are exposed in that gradual introduction the government must stop and listen.

The criticisms of this benefit change are not coming from one political party but from a range of MPs, tenants, landlords and charities.

Those affected by the reform are best placed to say whether it is working – not a civil servant in Whitehall.

It is unusual for Citizens Advice to take such a strong position on government welfare changes as it does in today’s article.

We have seen evidence from Great Yarmouth, where it was introduced last spring, that universal credit in its current form is causing huge problems.

People in need of benefits can not wait a minimum of six weeks for payment. Asking them to wait that length of time causes added misery for those already in a desperate situation.

Universal credit should be there to help them, not plunge them into rent arrears.

It is also very worrying that landlords are refusing to take tenants on universal credit. This again adds to the problems faced by those who have just lost jobs.

Before it is introduced anywhere else delays around paying it must be fixed.

When problems with a system have been exposed, it is irresponsible of the government to continue regardless.

End the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 28, 2017 at 2:54 pm

The Labour Conference: When will the Party offer an Alternative to failed Universal Credit scheme?

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Image result for universal credit

Is Labour Ready to Mend this?

Anybody hoping for a serious debate on the major issue facing millions of people faced with Universal Credit will be looking to the Labour Party.

Well, while John McDonnell talks about plans to ” cap credit card interest payments” there are no signs of one at the Labour Conference.

Yesterday Nick Cohen wrote,

Universal credit is a shambles because the poor are ignored 

Poverty is a disease that silences its victims. It is impossible to imagine a government or institution designing a programme to combat racism without listening to members of ethnic minorities or a new road without consulting the home and business owners it would disturb. The poor, however, never have a say. Society infantilises them. It deems them no more worthy of an opinion on the welfare state that rules and increasingly wrecks their lives than it deems schoolchildren worthy of an opinion on the national curriculum.

We will see the doleful consequences as universal credit rolls out from being a niche benefit forced on a few hundred thousand claimants in pilot projects to the essential living allowance for eight million people. In theory, it’s a lovely idea. Even now, critics always begin by saying: “Of course, everyone agrees the benefit system must be simplified but…” Or: “Iain Duncan Smith had noble aims but…” It is as if the mere presence of good intentions is enough to dilute objections; as if, not only conservative commentators but liberals and leftists have never heard of the road to hell – and what paves it.

It is hard not to disagree with comrade Cohen’s conclusion:

The argument about poverty has become an argument between the left and right wings of the middle class. Universal credit is the malign result of the failure to listen to working-class voices or develop the imaginative sympathy to understand the constraints on their lives. In no other area of public policy would we accept it, but with the poor we nod it through without a blush of shame.

Bang on time the Guardian today follows the story up today, Priya Thethi, Universal credit is a social policy disaster in the making

Universal credit is the biggest change to our welfare system in 40 years. By the time it has been fully rolled out in 2022 it will potentially affect 8 million people across the UK. The rollout so far has been controversial, and fraught with difficulties. Social housing organisations, in which only around 2.6% of tenants (pdf) are currently claiming universal credit, have been hit particularly hard by the speed and scale of the change.

In August 2017 the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) released a guide for landlords, in a bid to to explain what the changes will mean and how they can support their tenants. Unfortunately, it made little to no mention of how to deal with the slew of administrative issues, faults and delays, which have already caused hardship for so many claimants.

Take note Labour Party!

Last week the BBC showed a documentary about the Manchester Police: The Detectives, Murder on the Streets.

There’s another, sadder story: a tale of two cities within one. Two Britains, even. Within sight of – but unnoticed from – smart downtown offices and yuppy flats, in a homeless camp under a railway arch, a man is murdered. An anonymous charred body, until he is identified from fingerprints from the one hand that remains unburned. Then he becomes someone, 23-year-old Daniel Smith, with friends and family who loved him and will miss him. “They are never going to get over it,” says Supt Chadwick, who now has a duty to make sure whoever killed Danny is brought to justice.

Viewers of the programme will know that vital CCTV evidence was lacking because the cameras were trained on the said offices and flats.

Something like that seems to be happening with Universal Credit.

For all the furore rightly stirred up by MPs and the media, key sections of the public have turned their backs.

End the Benefit Freeze. 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 25, 2017 at 9:59 am

David Gauke Keeps on Boosting Universal Credit as Misery extended to Northern Ireland.

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Image result for david gauke

Gauke, a rare picture of him in Ipswich, Boost, Boost, Boost!

David Gauke, the man at present responsible for the train wreck that is Universal Credit, is a happy kind of chap.

He does not let even the carping of the Eastbourne MP (a place our spies tell us is not the Red Heartland one might assume, although it appears the man in the video below is a member of something called the Liberal Democrats), saying this,

Eastbourne’s MP has called Universal Credit a ‘train wreck’ and has said Christmas will be ‘bitterly hard’ for the town’s families unless it is paused. Stephen Lloyd, the Work and Pensions spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, criticised the policy in a speech at the party’s conference yesterday.

A defiant Gaucky spends his days  boosting the success of the Tories’ madcap plans 24/7.   “The work and pensions secretary has signalled that the government will press ahead with controversial welfare changes, insisting the system of universal credit is “making work pay and transforming lives”.

Yet, in the rare moments he finds time to relax, he, or his minions tweet, addressing the masses on important occasions like this one.

Or sticking to his job at this event,

 

But there is a method in the Gauke.

We learnt today that Northern Ireland is his latest target.

Universal Credit will be introduced on a phased basis in Northern Ireland from next week. Replacing six existing benefits with one, Universal Credit is for people aged 18 to State Pension age. It aims to remove many of the barriers to work which exist in the current welfare system. It will be introduced gradually across Northern Ireland, starting on Wednesday, September 27 until September 2018. New claimants from the Limavady area will be the first to receive Universal Credit. People already claiming the existing benefits will not be affected until 2019, unless their entitlement changes.

Now I am just guessing on this one, but the potential for people getting into rent arrears in Northern Ireland, and the risk of rows about this turning nasty, very nasty, looks pretty big from the outside. Not to mention those wandering around without money for the infamous 6 week waiting period.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 21, 2017 at 3:28 pm

Pressure Grows on Universal Credit Rollout.

with 137 comments

Image result for universal credit cartoon

You Don’t have to be Mad to Work in this Team, but it Helps. 

Today,Birmingham Mail.

Universal Credit seemed like a good idea but will the Government admit it’s not working out?

A new benefits system has left people behind with their rent or dependent on food banks – and taxpayers are footing the bill.

West Midland MPs have urged the Government to delay plans to introduce Universal Credit to parts of Birmingham in November and December, saying it’s not what people need at Christmas.

A letter to the Department for Work and Pensions was signed by Jack Dromey (Lab Birmingham Erdington), Jess Phillips (Lab Birmingham Yardley), Khalid Mahmood (Lab Birmingham Perry Barr), Richard Burden (Lab Birmingham Northfield) and Roger Godsiff (Lab Birmingham Selly Oak).

A delay wouldn’t mean the new benefit was scrapped. It would mean taking things slowly until the problems are ironed out.

But will Ministers listen?

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman to call for next month’s rollout to be cancelled until overhaul takes place

Sunday:  The Observer view on the rollout of universal credit

‘We will govern in the interests of ordinary working families”, pledged the latest Conservative manifesto, a line that will ring increasingly hollow in the next few years. By 2022, millions of families will find themselves thousands of pounds a year worse off: not as a result of sluggish wage growth or the rising cost of essentials, rather, as a direct result of this government’s decisions to cut financial support for low-income working parents while it delivers expensive tax cuts for more affluent families.

…universal credit has morphed from an ambitious attempt to improve the benefits system into a cruel instrument that loads the burden of austerity on families who can least afford it. As a result of Osborne’s cuts, universal credit is significantly meaner than the system it is replacing.

Combined with other welfare cuts, it will leave low-income families with children up to £3,400 a year worse off by 2020. The Resolution Foundation has warned that the unprecedented scale of these welfare cuts means they are on course to forge the biggest increase in inequality in a generation. At the same time, Conservative chancellors will have instigated more than £80bn of tax cuts a year by 2021, including £22bn of income tax cuts, four-fifths of which benefit the richest half of families, and more than £13bn in corporation tax cuts.

The cuts to universal credit make a mockery of the policy’s original objective to improve work incentives. More people will face worse, rather than better, incentives to increase their earnings. For example, a second earner in a couple who earns £5,000 a year will only see their family’s income go up by less than £2,000 – before allowing for childcare costs.

Beyond the cuts, flaws in the design of universal credit are imposing serious hardship on families, pushing them into debt spirals. Unlike the current system, new claimants have to wait at least six weeks to receive their first payment after losing a job. Many have no way of filling this gap in income. A Citizens Advice survey found that three in five have to borrow money while waiting for this first payment. The government’s own figures show two in five renters on universal credit are in rent arrears eight weeks after their initial claim.

….

Universal credit also does nothing to address the key weaknesses in the labour market. Thanks in large part to the success of the welfare-to-work initiatives of the last two decades, worklessness is no longer the problem it used to be – Britain now enjoys record employment rates. But low pay is a huge problem: more than one in five workers in the UK is low paid, one of the worst rates in the OECD.

Low pay underpins the record levels of in-work poverty we are seeing: getting a job is far from a guaranteed route out of poverty. However, rather than provide support to people to progress in the workplace, universal credit introduces a system of sanctions for those deemed not to be taking enough action to increase their hours, putting significant discretion in the hands of jobcentre advisers as to how and when such sanctions are applied.

Given the problems already rife in the sanctions system – people having benefits docked for missing appointments for reasons completely out of their control, such as public transport delays – it is not difficult to envisage this manifesting itself in a terrible catch-22, where people not only can’t get more work from their employer but face a double whammy of having their benefits docked as a result.

The rollout of universal credit must be put on hold while these fundamental flaws are addressed. According to the Resolution Foundation, it would cost just £6bn a year to reverse the cuts to the universal credit system, a fraction of what the government has spent on unnecessary tax cuts for the more affluent.

If not, universal credit will come to be a symbol of the callous, cruel Conservatism that, far from being limited to the party’s fringes, has defined the way it has run Britain since 2010. It is a political creed that thinks nothing of driving more parents towards debt, pushing child poverty up to record levels and forcing more people to live on the street. Make no mistake: this Tory party is as nasty as ever.

But, as people here have pointed out…

DWP Secretary considering whether to ‘push the button’ on accelerating Universal Credit regime, says Tory MP

The Independent understands that while David Gauke is hopeful to push ahead he is listening to concerns raised over the new system.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 18, 2017 at 10:34 am

When will Universal Credit Fall off a Cliff?

with 90 comments

Image result for falling off a cliff

Warning: Universal Credit Ahead!

Sometimes you wonder when or where  it will all end.

Or Collapse, as the image above suggests.

Ken already notes on the comments that people are racking up debts because of Universal Credit,

Newcastle tenants on Universal Credit rack up £1.1 million in rent arrears

Housing managers say a new benefits system is leading people into debt and forcing some to use food banks.

Ken adds this to boot,

An automated system is leeching cash away from essentials like clothes and food to cover costs elsewhere

StepChange Debt Charity said the use of direct deductions from people’s benefits, by utility companies, housing providers, councils and others, to cover arrears payments is making it harder for families to pay for essentials forcing many to use credit to keep on top of bills.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/third-party-deductions-dwp-policy-11164892

That’s just a a sample of our contributors’ news from the media, their own experience and comments.

Is the Government worried?

Do they take account of the stream of criticism that’s levelled at the madcap scheme that’s causing widespread misery?

They and the DWP are in denial.

The Ghost of Iain Duncan Smith, in a rage at the fate of his love child,  speaks through one of his minions,

THIS BLOG IS A DISGRACE!! IT EXISTS ONLY TO DISCOVER LOOPHOLES IN DWP RULES AND REGULATIONS, AND TO FIND WAYS AND MEANS FOR SHYSTERS TO AVOID DWP JUSTICE. ITS OWNER – ANDREW COATES – WHO LIKES TO PRETEND HE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING ON HIS OWN BLOG AND ALL THE OTHERS WHO SOUGHT TO BRING ABOUT THIS PERVERSE DECISION WHICH ALLOWED A GUILTY MAN TO EVADE DWP JUSTICE SHOULD BE PROSECUTED FOR CONSPIRACY TO PERVERT THE COURSE OF JUSTICE AND CONSPIRACY TO DEFEAT THE ENDS OF JUSTICE. FUMING!

This is the news today, from the Independent,

Universal Credit delays leave claimants to ‘drop off a cliff’ in rent arrears, hear MPs

It comes after Citizens Advice warned the accelerated roll-out of the new regime was a ‘disaster waiting to happen’.

Claimants “drop off a cliff” and “remain in freefall” in rent arrears due to delays in receiving payments under the new Universal Credit regime, MPs have heard.

It comes as the Government plans to accelerate the delayed roll-out of Universal Credit – devised by the former welfare chief Iain Duncan Smith – to 50 new areas in the autumn despite warnings that it is a “disaster waiting to happen”.

Speaking to MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee in Westminster, council leaders, food banks and charities from across the country raised concerns about the system which intends to merge six existing benefits into one single monthly payment from claimants.

One councillor from the London council of Southwark – where Universal Credit is already up and running – said an additional £1.3m of rent arrears was attributable to the new regime since its introduction by the council two years ago.

Southwark Councillor Fiona Colley told the committee, chaired by the former Labour minister Frank Field, that the roll-out had a range of impacts on the council and its residents due to typical 12-13 weeks to administer the first payment.

“The most significant for us that I want to tell you about is how it has impacted rent arrears and on payment of rent,” she said. “That has very much dominated our experience.

“What we are particularly concerned about is the speed at which rent arrears are increasing after people claim Universal Credit. We see them drop off a cliff once the claim goes in and remain in free-fall for about three months thereafter until people start getting into payment.”

Pressed on whether the system had got any better in the two years the council had been administering Universal Credit, she replied: “I don’t think so.”

“We’re looking to make this work – we can’t afford for it not to.”

Not to mention this:

Universal Credit roll-out a ‘ticking timebomb’, say private landlords

Welfare Weekly.

The Government’s flagship Universal Credit (UC) system is pushing a growing number of private sector tenants into rent arrears, with the number falling behind on payments rising by 10% over the last year.

A survey of almost 3,000 landlords by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), who represent landlords in the private sector across England and Wales, found that 38% of tenants in receipt of UC experienced rent arrears in the last year – up from 27% in February 2016.

The average amount of rent arrears owed by private tenants to their landlords is now £1,150, with the RLA blaming the long wait before UC claimants receive their first payment.

Then there was this:  Homelessness rise ‘likely to have been driven by welfare reforms’

The number of homeless families in the UK has risen by more than 60% and is “likely to have been driven” by the government’s welfare reforms, the public spending watchdog has said.

Homelessness of all kinds has increased “significantly” over the last six years, said the National Audit Office.

It accused the government of having a “light touch approach” to tackling the problem.

The government said it was investing £550m by 2020 to address the issue.

There has been a 60% rise in households living in temporary accommodation – which includes 120,540 children – since 2010/11, the NAO said.

A snapshot overnight count last autumn found there were 4,134 rough sleepers – an increase of 134% since the Conservatives came into government, it added.

A report by the watchdog found rents in England have risen at the same time as households have seen a cut to some benefits.

Homelessness cost more than £1bn a year to deal with, it said.

Reforms to the local housing allowance are “likely to have contributed” to making it more expensive for claimants to rent privately and “are an element of the increase in homelessness,” the report added.

Homelessness rise

England, 2010-2017

134% rise in rough sleepers

60% rise in households living in temporary accommodation

  • 77,000 families in temporary accommodation, March 2017, including…
  • 120,000 children
  • £1.15bn council spending on homelessness 2015-16

Welfare reforms announced by the government in 2015 included a four-year freeze to housing benefit – which was implemented in April 2016.

Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse said the Department for Work and Pensions had failed to evaluate the impact of the benefit changes on homelessness.

“It is difficult to understand why the department persisted with its light touch approach in the face of such a visibly growing problem.

“Its recent performance in reducing homelessness therefore cannot be considered value for money.”

The ending of private sector tenancies – rather than a change in personal circumstances – has become the main cause of homelessness in England, with numbers tripling since 2010/11, said the NAO.

Its analysis found private sector rents in England have gone up by three times as much as wages since 2010 – apart from in the north and East Midlands.

While in London, costs have risen by 24% – eight times the average wage increase.

I saw people sleeping in doorways in Ipswich last night.

Not at all unusual.

Anywhere.

Update: still somebody’s happy:

Written by Andrew Coates

September 14, 2017 at 11:14 am

Millions Face Income Cut with Welfare Reform.

with 121 comments

Tories Welfare ‘Reform’. 

I thought a lot about this yesterday.

First of all, let’s not forget that the Benefits Freeze means we are no longer able to keep up with every rising prices in the shops, utility charges and higher Community Charge.

Next, the report highlights the fact that many people on Local Housing Benefit,  are no longer getting their rents fully paid.

FInally you can guess the DWP’s response without even reading the article.

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “This report assumes that people won’t make any attempt to change and to improve their lives. But our welfare reforms incentivise work and, for the first time, universal credit helps working people progress and earn more, so they can eventually stop claiming benefits altogether.

“Under universal credit people are finding a job faster and staying in it longer than under the old system, and since the benefit cap was introduced, 34,000 households have moved off the cap and into work.”

In other words, ‘improve your lives” by getting out of the claws of the DWP and its so-called Universal Credit.

As Gauke would say, “I have made myself perfectly clear.”

Two million UK families face £50-a-week cut in income

Guardian.

Households with children make up more than 80% of those set to lose out as pressure grows for end to austerity

In a bleak assessment of the plight of the poorest families in Britain, the study commissioned by the Local Government Association found that more than 84% of those set to lose £50 a week or more are households with children, either lone parents or couples. Almost two-thirds of them are working households, despite claims from ministers that they wish to create a welfare system that encourages work.

The analysis, by the Policy in Practice consultancy, also undermines claims from ministers that moves to cut taxes and increase the wages of the poorest are compensating them for years of austerity and the rising cost of living.

While some of the seven million low-income households in Britain will be better off by 2020, the group as a whole faces an average loss of £40.62 a week by 2020 compared with the end of last year, once benefit and tax changes, wages, housing costs and inflation are all taken into account.

….

The study finds that the introduction of the government’s flagship policy of universal credit, which combines a series of benefits into a single payment, will lead to an average income loss of £11.18 per week. It coincides with new warnings from Citizens Advice that the rollout of the system should be halted, amid claims that some of those already receiving it have found themselves in serious debt.

With charities and councils warning of rising homelessness, increasing housing costs are identified as a main cause of falling income. More than 2 million low-paid private renters face an average real-terms loss of £38.49 a week by 2020.

For low-income private renters with three or more children, the average income loss that they face by 2020 in real terms is £67.21 a week. This compares with £30.67 for private renters without children.

The authors also say rents are rising faster in some areas than others, with housing benefit not rising to match it. The study found rents are set to rise by 20.7% in the south-west by 2020, but by just 3.5% in the north-east. The report warns that there is now a looming “affordability crisis” because cuts to housing benefit, known as local housing allowance (LHA) for private renters, mean it is no longer linked to real rents, pushing people into poverty or even homelessness.

This is the Report:

The Cumulative Impact of Welfare Reform: A National Picture

Extracts,

The combined effects of the major reforms implemented before 2017, namely the underoccupation charge (NOTE by Ipswich Unemployment Action, the Bedroom Tax) , the localisation of CTRS, the LHA shortfall and both benefit caps, result in an average nominal income loss of just over £23 per week for each working-age household.

The transition to Universal Credit will lead to a further average income loss of £11.18 per week.

This is largely due to cuts in work allowances which will hit households, often with children and previously in receipt of tax credits, particularly hard. The introduction of the National Living Wage and increases to the personal tax allowance will generate almost £3.2 billion for working, low-income households, reducing the average nominal income loss by 2020 to £7.62 per week.

However, these mitigating measures will only benefit 2.5 million of the 7.1 million affected working-age households, half of whom are not affected by welfare reform to begin with. Critically, the continued impact of reforms implemented before 2017 will increase the cumulative loss from welfare reform to an average of £40.62 per week by 2020. This is a consequence of expected inflation and private rent growth, combined with the freezing of benefits rates for working-age people through to 2020 and means that many households see
falls in real income. Private renters will be particularly hit because the link between the Local Housing Allowance rate and market prices has been broken.

The growing disconnect between rents and LHA rates means that the gap between housing support and housing costs will increase disproportionately for private sector renters. Nominally, private renters will be £2.75 per week better off by 2020, as they are more likely to be in work and so benefit from the increase in the National Living Wage and Personal Tax Allowance. However, once expected inflation and private rent growth is factored in, private renters will face average real terms losses of £38.49 per week, with higher losses for larger families.

Squeeze on living standards is down to welfare cuts, not the fall in the pound

Guardian

..for millions of low- and middle-income Britons, living standards looked under threat even when Brexit was nothing more than a twinkle in Boris Johnson’s eye. The key moment came when, fresh from the Conservatives’ 2015 general election victory, the chancellor George Osborne delivered a budget that promised to “reward work and back aspiration”.

True to his word, he presented some very good news by introducing the national living wage – a sizeable and welcome supplement to the minimum wage for employees aged 25 and over. But the good news was eclipsed by the bad. The estimated £4bn boost from the national living wage was dwarfed by savings of £14bn from cuts to working-age welfare. What’s more, the welfare cuts are concentrated among poorer households. In the coming years, Britain faces the prospect of the first significant rise in inequality in three decades.

There is plenty to add: as people have already noted they’ve found the cash for the Police and the Prison Officers.

End the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 11, 2017 at 10:36 am

​Inquiry into Universal Credit – or Yet Another Inquiry…

with 93 comments

Related image

Even Owls Can be Flummoxed…

Earlier this year we had this:

Universal Credit rollout: inquiry re-launched

21 February 2017

Following compelling evidence of the problems in the rollout of Universal Credit in its recent follow ups the Committee has re-launched its inquiry and is now accepting written submissions.

Followed by,

Due to the general election on 8 June 2017 the Committee has now closed this inquiry. Following the dissolution of Parliament on 3 May 2017, all Select Committees cease to exist until after the general election. If an inquiry on this subject is held in the future, the Committee may refer to the evidence already gathered as part of this inquiry.

Then, post General Election,  this:

The National Audit Office is engaged in ‘work in progress’ in producing yet more reports on Universal Credit.

The Department is due to increase the pace of roll-out from October 2017, so that full service will be available to new claimants in all jobcentres by September 2018. The Department then plans to transfer existing claimants to Universal Credit by March 2022.

In this study we will examine whether the Department is on course to deliver Universal Credit in accordance with its plans. We will also assess whether there are early signs that Universal Credit is delivering its objectives, and what impact it is having both on claimants and on local stakeholder

In this study we will examine whether the Department is on course to deliver Universal Credit in accordance with its plans. We will also assess whether there are early signs that Universal Credit is delivering its objectives, and what impact it is having both on claimants and on local stakeholders.

After a mountain of complaints about Universal Credit,, which take up a big part of this Blog and others, we had Gaucke’s response a few weeks ago,

The work and pensions secretary has signalled that the government will press ahead with controversial welfare changes, insisting the system of universal credit is “making work pay and transforming lives”.

Responding to a letter signed by 30 Labour MPs and the Green co-leader Caroline Lucas, expressing concerns about UC and calling for its implementation to be paused, David Gauke underlined his commitment to the policy.

“Getting UC right is a priority for me,” he said. “UC is revolutionising the welfare system by making work pay and transforming lives. Those on UC are moving into work significantly faster and working longer than under the old system. Only through this balanced approach can we as a country provide effective and holistic support for families and individuals to enter the world of work while ensuring fairness for the taxpayer.”

He added this touching note,

he does acknowledge the concerns of claimants struggling to navigate the new system, saying: “I know change of any kind can be difficult, especially for families struggling to get by.”

Since then, silence from the chap who shows such concern for families “struggling to get by”.

But lo!

Now we learn of this:

Inquiry into Universal Credit follows landlords’ criticism

Simple Landlords.The National Audit Office is launching an inquiry into the effectiveness of Universal Credit after a leading landlord body criticised the system.The probe will assess whether the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is on course to deliver Universal Credit, in accordance with its plans.

It will also determine whether there are early signs that Universal Credit is delivering its objectives, and what impact it is having both on claimants and on local stakeholders.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA)  has criticised the controversial system, which ‘bundles’ individual benefits into a single monthly payment, as it makes it tougher for landlords to rent to people who are on low incomes, because they lack the confidence that they will receive the rent.

Richard Jones, the Residential Landlords Association’s (RLA) policy director, said: “We strongly believe that the Government’s whole approach is flawed and although the objective of helping tenants manage their financial affairs is in isolation a laudable one, the Government has wholly failed to appreciate the consequences of this.”

When Universal Credit was initially unveiled, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) predicted the changes would be “a much higher level of arrears, an unwillingness of landlords to house benefit claimants, increased unwillingness by banks to lend for this kind of property, much higher levels of evictions and much greater homelessness.”

Sue Sims, a Birmingham based landlord, is one of those who thinks she’ll have to stop renting to tenants on benefits – because the numbers simply don’t add up anymore. At a Simple Landlords Insurance event, landlords discussed the challenges ahead. Sue explained: “It’s already been proved that the arrears rates in the areas which have universal credit have gone up hugely. You need the security that you’re going to get your rent paid on time, otherwise you can’t pay your mortgage. As a result, I won’t even consider housing benefit tenants in my properties any longer.”

Indeed, recent research published by Residential Landlords Association (RLA) research lab PEARL shows that out of 2,974 landlords, 38 per cent reported that they have experienced Universal Credit tenants going into rent arrears in the past twelve months and were owed an average £1,600 in rent arrears. And Sue is not alone in her reluctance to rent to Universal Credit – another survey of more than 1,000 landlords in found that 91.6 per cent of landlords said the introduction of universal credit would make them less likely to rent to those on benefits.

Our Newshounds will have to track this one down but I find no evidence anywhere else –  though who could doubt the seriousness of the Landlords and their associations? –  of this inquiry.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 7, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Workfare Returns and Benefits Sanctions Shoot Up.

with 117 comments

Poundland has been criticised for employing jobseekers, without pay, for up to two months under a deal with the government.

Several of those who have worked on the scheme told the Guardian they had worked up to 30 hours a week for at least three weeks stacking shelves in Poundland. They were told that the work experience was voluntary but one said: “I had no say in it really.”

It’s not clear how many jobseekers have been used by Poundland under the scheme as the government said it did not collect information centrally and the work experience was managed locally by jobcentres across the country. However, one store in Bolton has taken on 21 placements since last August, according to information provided in response to a freedom of information request by the Boycott Workfare pressure group.

 

Origin of the story,

Is Poundland using unpaid workers again? Graduate says he’s stacking shelves for free on ‘demoralising’ Government work scheme

JOB CENTRE TOLD HIM AND NINE OTHERS TO COMPLETE SIX WEEK PLACEMENT IN BOLTON SHOP

* GRADUATE FOG EXCLUSIVE *

Poundland has denied using unpaid workers to stack shelves in its stores, directly contradicting a source who has told Graduate Fog that he and nine others are currently working for free in the chain’s Bolton store, in placements set up by his local job centre.

This website has spoken to Billy (not his real name), a recent graduate from the University of Central Lancashire, who says he has been told by his local job centre that he must work for free at the discount retailer for 30 hours a week for six weeks. Billy and nine others are required to wear black, unbranded polo shirts, black trousers and black shoes when working in Poundland’s stores, all provided by the job centre. 

familiar snip

Of 10 unpaid workers at that store, Billy says eight are under 25 years old. One of the older pair has 27 years’ experience as a teacher. All are on the DWP’s ‘Work Experience Programme’. Billy told us:

“I was so excited to graduate from university but, one month on, I’ve never felt so low. Having struggled to find paid work, three weeks ago I signed on to Universal Credit, and I’ve been told to do unpaid work experience stacking shelves at Poundland. There are 10 of us in our branch working 30 hours a week, and none of us is being paid a penny by Poundland. I hate it and have no idea what this is supposed to be teaching me. I’m not learning anything and I can’t work out why taxpayers are subsidising my unpaid work for a hugely profitable company.

“I don’t have a set schedule. They just literally tell me to come in. Monday 26th June was my first day, I worked from 2:30-8:30pm. There were five of us in total. Once we completed the day we were told to come in again on Wednesday from 2:30-8:30pm. It’s not set hours and days but we have to do 30 hours a week for 6 weeks. We have been given black polo shirts to wear during our shifts. They’re the exactly same as the uniform the regular Poundland staff wear, but without the Poundland logo.

“I am keen to get on and apply for a jobs in my chosen industry, but working for nothing is so demoralising that it’s hard to stay motivated. I can’t understand how the politicians think unpaid work is a solution to youth unemployment. The quality of these placements is poor and they lead nowhere. Those of us who do them end up exhausted and miserable, and I suspect we’ve probably replaced a few paid workers too, who will be missing out on the shifts we now cover. Meanwhile, Poundland must be laughing all the way to the bank. The scheme needs shutting down. The only people benefiting from it are Poundland.”

Since graduating this summer with a 2:1 in Film and Media Studies, Billy has been living at home with his dad, who has bipolar disorder, his mum, who is a carer, and his brother who is also looking for work. The whole family is struggling financially and Billy says: “We all feel trapped”.

Meanwhile….

Benefit Tales posts,

The number of benefit sanctions imposed on job seekers has shot up by 50% in the space of six months, Politics.co.uk can reveal.

The number of sanctions imposed on people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit rose from 18,994 last July to 33,860 in December, before falling back to the 30,000 mark by March this year.

In the six months to March, the most recent month for which data is available, the number of sanctions had risen by 50%.

“It is a matter of real concern that the number of people on Universal Credit being sanctioned is increasing,” shadow employment minister Margaret Greenwood said.

“This data shows further evidence of the Tory government letting vulnerable groups down, fuelling poverty and even destitution in the UK.

“A recent Public Accounts Committee report suggested that sanctions are being ‘applied inconsistently’ and used as a ‘blunt instrument’.”

Politics.co.uk has combined both published and unpublished data from the Department for Work and Pensions. While figures for the old Jobseeker’s Allowance benefit are routinely published, recent data for the newer Universal Credit system is much harder to come by.

The true sanctions figures are actually likely to be higher, as the Universal Credit data excludes claimants in numerous parts of the country. (also, these figures don’t include sanctions on people with disability  benefits)

Originally on the Politics Co site: Benefit sanctions shoot up 50% in six months

Written by Andrew Coates

September 4, 2017 at 1:39 pm

UN – Ministers have failed those with disabilities through their welfare policies.

with 63 comments

Disability rights campaigners protest in Westminster

Protest for Disabled Rights – Ipswich activist on the right.

The rights of the disabled affect us all.

Not only is there is a principle involved, an injury to one is an injury to all, but many people on unemployment benefit, and disability benefits, cross from one category to the other.

The cruel regime applied to the disabled is a sign of how the DWP can treat all claimants.

There is no need to repeat the individual cases – many many of us are very familiar with them – of people mistreated by the likes of ATOS and Capita.

With the UN Report –  UN denounces British government for failing to protect disabled peoples’ rights, Damning report finds ministers have failed those with disabilities through catalogue of welfare policies in recent years – the issues involved have come to national attention,

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) has been covering this story for some time.

November 2016.  The UN Report into UK Government maltreatment of disabled people has been published.

Yesterday DPAC posted,

A ‘human catastrophe’ – New UN condemnation for UK human rights record

The UK Government’s claim to be a ‘world leader in disability issues’ has today been crushed by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee has released damning Concluding Observations on the UK, following its first Review of the government’s compliance with the Convention.

The highlights of the press conference held by the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People at this afternoon are:

  • The Committee has made the highest ever number of recommendations to the UK.
  • The UK’s retrogression in ensuring Independent Living is a major concern. There is not adequate funding, resulting in too much institutionalisation.
  • There is a significant problem with Deaf and disabled people’s standard of living. Disabled people continue to be disadvantaged in employment, and are not adequately compensated for disability by the state.

The Observations conclude last week’s public examination of the UK Government’s record on delivering disabled people’s rights. The examination was declared by the UK rapporteur Mr Stig Langvad, to be “the most challenging exercise in the history of the Committee”. Mr Langvad raised deep concerns on the UK Government’s failure to implement the rights of disabled people. He also noted the government’s “lack of recognition of the findings and recommendations of the (2016) Inquiry” which found ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights’.

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) were hailed as the genuine “world leaders” for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on disabled people in the UK.

The UK Delegation of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations has issued the following joint statement:

“Today the UN(CRPD) Committee has, once again, condemned the UK Government’s record on Deaf and Disabled People’s human rights. They have validated the desperation, frustration and outrage experienced by Deaf and Disabled people since austerity and welfare cuts began. It is not acceptable for the UK Government to ignore the strong and united message of the disability community.

UK Government representatives committed during the review to rethinking the way they support Deaf and Disabled People to monitor our rights. We welcome this commitment.  However, we are clear that our involvement must be genuine and inclusive and that we cannot accept anything less than progress on delivering the human rights enshrined in the Convention, and denied us for too long.

DDPOs have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with following a long campaign of challenging the Government’s blatant disregard for the lives of Deaf and disabled people in the UK. The unity and solidarity demonstrated by the Committee and the UK Independent Mechanism in supporting our calls for justice continue to strengthen us.”

Charities say report is grim reality check and Labour says it highlights how disabled people are bearing brunt of austerity.

The UK government is failing to uphold disabled people’s rights across a range of areas from education, work and housing to health, transport and social security, a UN inquiry has found.

The UN committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities examined the government’s progress in fulfilling its commitments to the UN convention on disabled people’s rights, to which the UK has been a signatory since 2007.

Its report concludes that the UK has not done enough to ensure the convention – which enshrines the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work and to enjoy social protection without discrimination – is reflected in UK law and policy.

Areas of concern highlighted by the report, which contains more than 60 recommendations for the UK government, include:

  • The rising numbers of disabled children educated in segregated “special schools” in the UK. The report calls for legislation to ensure mainstream schools provide “real inclusion” for disabled children.
  • High levels of poverty for disabled people and their families and reduced standards of living as result of multiple welfare reforms and benefit cuts. It calls for a review of benefit sanctions, which it says have a detrimental effect on recipients.
  • The failure of the UK government to recognise the rights of disabled people to live independently in the community. It calls on ministers to provide sufficient resources to support disabled people to live at home.

In November the same UN committee issued a scathing report on austerity policies pursued by the UK government in welfare and social care, which it described as “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities. The government dismissed that report as patronising and offensive

Channel Four News did a long report yesterday on this.

A United Nations inquiry has accused the government of failing to uphold the rights of disabled people in a whole range of areas, from health and housing to work and education.

Channel Four site.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 1, 2017 at 11:15 am

On Food Banks: Don’t Institutionalise Food Poverty.

with 87 comments

Image result for food banks

Institutionalised Food Poverty.

The will to feed people who are hungry is one of the most basic reasons to have some hope in human beings.

The ‘Better Angels of our Nature’, showing sympathy for others, still comes out, for all that we are pushed to hate and selfish ideas.

But…

Making concern for other people, or – let’s be honest –  a dose of pity,  a substitute for the right to social security is not a good idea.

We don’t have to be the philosopher Kant to see that if eating is made conditional on the generosity of others, we are making people dependent on the Good Will of Others. Whether it’s done out of true moral obligation or from a wish to seem good, we are still dependent on others.

A right is something we claim against an institution, and stands the same for all, not provided by a market of charitable initiatives.

Our contributors and the papers are full of stories about the rise in Food Bank demand.

The idea of the Welfare State as a “safe home” for people in difficulty is replaced by concerns about the voluntary  provision of something to eat is weakened.

At the foundation of the Welfare State, Beveridge talked of ending Want,

Poverty was seen as the key social problem which affected all others. In 1946 the National Insurance Act was passed which extended the Liberal Act of 1911 to include all adults. This provided comprehensive insurance against most eventualities.

It provided sickness and unemployment benefit, retirement pension and widow and maternity benefit. It was said that social provision was made for citizens from the ‘cradle to the grave’, catering for their needs from their time of birth to their death.

Beverdige did not talk of bringing back 1930s Soup Kitchens.

But in the US, as this article pointed  out a couple of years ago, they never got away from the 30s level of ‘welfare’.

In the U.S., we take it for granted that government help is not enough to live on, that private charities and philanthropic donations fill the holes in income, housing and health care that our welfare system leaves gaping. Disaster relief, meals on wheels, homeless shelters — for us they’re just part of the economic landscape, the extra stitches in our safety net.

But in Britain, the idea of a significant portion of the population being fed, clothed and housed by private charities is genuinely new, at least in the post-war era, and the British haven’t decided how they feel about it. Are privately run social services a scandal of government neglect, or simply a country taking responsibility for its runaway spending?

 

This piece, in 2012,  makes some of the points we need to think about again.

Guardian 2012.

David Cameron recently said he “welcomed” the work done by food banks and, for many in his party, their growing presence is a happy embodiment of the concept of the “big society”. In a debate on food poverty earlier this year, Caroline Spelman, secretary of state for environment and food, described them as an “excellent example” of this in action.

For others, the growth is a reflection of a new approach to providing assistance to people in real need. Whereas previously this was a service that the state would have provided, now feeding large numbers of people who are not able to feed themselves is being subcontracted out to charities. Those who have scrutinised the progress of the Welfare Reform Act, say this move from state to charity reflects the general direction of travel.

Once these services move beyond the realms of state provision, there are potential problems – they lose neutrality, some uncertainty comes with initiatives that are volunteer-run, the food on offer is (despite the best efforts of the Trussell Trust) idiosyncratic, the religious environment in which food is provided raises questions for some recipients. It becomes charity rather than basic state support, and for many this brings a degree of unease.

Stephen Timms, shadow work and pensions secretary, says it is a “pretty worrying reflection of what’s going on in the country, when people are dependent on these charitable handouts. My worry is that we are really just at the start of cutting back the benefits system and already a large number of people are not able to to buy food for their families. This shouldn’t be happening on the scale that it is now happening.”

Manchester Labour MP, and former head of the Child Poverty Action Group, Kate Green describes the growth of food banks as a disgrace. “I feel a real burning anger about them,” she says. “People are very distressed at having to ask for food; it’s humiliating and distressing.”

In fact what’s happened is that we have institutionalised food poverty. (Food banks don’t solve food poverty. The UK must not institutionalise them 2014).

Update:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 29, 2017 at 11:25 am

Posted in Cuts, DWP, Food Banks, Sanctions

Tagged with , ,

Minister silent as desperate DWP launches helpline for landlords and Allegations about “massaged” Benefit Sanction Figures made.

with 92 comments

Image result for David Gauke DWP

Gauke, Taking it Easy as DWP Descends into Omnishambles.

Parliament briefly heard of Work and Pensions secretary David Gauke  when he announced in Parliament in July that the state pension age will rise to 68 .

Since that time this is his last known statement of the Man,  as key policies of his government, which his Department is in charge of, such as Universal Credit, are in a condition worse than omnishambles.

6th August 2017

After a busy year so far, the summer recess comes as a welcome slow-down for most MPs.  There has been no shortage of drama in politics for the past couple of years and recent months have been no exception.  General elections tend to be somewhat exhausting and, on this occasion, it resulted in a less than conclusive result.

The General Election was then followed by a reshuffle and, on a personal note, I moved on from the Treasury to the Department for Work & Pensions.

The summer recess is a good opportunity for ministers in new departments to get their heads round new issues and attempt to get on top of their brief.  In my case, I am spending some of the period when Parliament isn’t sitting visiting DWP offices around the country, meeting staff and understanding the breadth of work undertaken by the department.  I am also spending plenty of time reading into the various subjects covered by the department – employment, disability benefits, pensions and so on.

This should, I hope, be helpful for the autumn when Parliament returns and we have the party conferences.

Much of the work is quite technical in nature but my previous ministerial experience is helpful, whether it is experience of a big operational part of government (I previously worked closely with HMRC), pensions policy (I worked on pensions tax policy when at the Treasury) or just an understanding of large parts of public spending (which was key when I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury).

Meanwhile, the constituency work continues with the correspondence and regular constituency surgeries.

Parliamentary recess is not a long holiday (a point MPs often make, somewhat defensively!) but it should enable us to recharge our batteries for a busy few months.

We imagine he in some quiet holiday retreat away from the world, ready to re-assume his pressing duties here, “David is a Patron of the Hospice of St Francis, the Watford Peace Hospice and the Three Rivers Museum.  He writes regularly for the Croxley, Rickmansworth and Chorleywood editions of My Local News magazines and The Berkhamsted & Tring Gazette.”

Meanwhile while Gauke relaxes, the Residential Landlords Association announces,

 

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has introduced a new helpline for landlords whose Universal Credit tenants will not communicate with them.

The new number 0345 600 4272 can be used by landlords who are unable to obtain the tenant’s co-operation to get DWP to supply information when it comes to enquiries about major payments –  such as a direct payment to the landlord.

This is a significant change as, before now, landlords were totally dependent on the goodwill of the tenant when it came to accessing information.

The new number can only be used by landlords in areas where Universal Credit has been fully rolled out.

The official Universal Credit guidance says the landlord should:

  • In the first instance engage with their tenant about the issue.  The tenant has access to their own information via their online account and can share it with their landlord
  • If more assistance is required the claimant can ask to share their personal information with their landlord or other representative via their online journal, face to face or by calling the service centre and giving explicit consent
  • When contacting Universal Credit the claimant’s representative will be asked to confirm their identity so the case manager can speak to the landlord direct.

Earlier this summer DWP said it will address problems faced by landlords who house Universal Credit tenants following a meeting with the RLA.

RLA directors David Smith and Chris Town met with Caroline Dinenage MP, the new Minister responsible for housing cost support, to discuss issues including rent arrears and direct payments.

This came about after the RLA’s most recent quarterly survey showed 38% of landlords with tenants in receipt of UC had seen them fall into rent arrears in the past 12 months. With tenants owing an average of £1,600.

The RLA runs a course on Universal Credit, with dates currently available in Manchester and Leeds.

The other story the Gentleman of Leisure is avoiding is this:

The London Economic (TLE)

A freedom of Information request shows that new welfare reforms are allowing the government to distort the true figures of those sanctioned on welfare, disability and in receipt of pensions

The very latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) obtained by The London Economic in response to a freedom of information request I submitted show that new welfare reforms such as Universal Credit are allowing the true figures regarding people sanctioned to go grossly unreported.

Today 20 million people in the UK are claimants, 13.8 million are on a pension, and a further 6.8 million people are of working age.

The DWP has started, from August 2017, to publish a Quarterly Statistical Summary of information on the length of time over which a reduction in benefit due to a sanction lasts.

In this report, they say for the first time, the duration of sanctions to be implemented for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC), Jobseekers  Allowance (JSA) and Income Support (IS).

Furthermore, they say they are working on the methodology used to calculate sanction durations.

Yet, when you look at the Government’s own headline figures, a staggering 4.4 million people have been sanctioned up to 31 March 2017 and these figures probably underestimate the true number by a further 2 million under-reported sanctions, as Government figures do not include people sanctioned more than once; people who are presently challenging their sanctions or the huge number of people who have been successful in winning their appeals.

Moreover, Universal Credit is also helping the Government to massage the sanction figures downwards.

Rest of Story here.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 24, 2017 at 4:12 pm

“Far from a welfare state which protects the weaker underbelly in society, it is attacking them.” Frank Field.

with 84 comments

 

Image result for food banks a conservative triumph

I had just bought my copy of the ‘I’ this morning and was glancing at the story below (it’s the basis of the Front Page) when I saw a group of Street People squatting on the Corner of Upper Brook Street and Tacket Street in Ipswich.

They did not look over supplied with wealth….

 

I immediately thought of this article, written by somebody with the ideas not too far from  Patrick Minford, the man who says, “Our economy will gain billions after Brexit”.

Minford was a pioneer in the “rational expectations revolution’. Not being an economist I have little idea of the details, but his premise was the unfettered free market. “Work by Minford’s team at Liverpool was also influential on unemployment policy, especially labour market liberalisation, where the Liverpool Model was the first model to develop a ‘supply side’ designed to explain the underlying trend or ‘natural’ unemployment rate.”

More recently, apart from his his promise of a rosy future under Brexit, he has said this, “New living wage will penalise the poor with unemployment, economist warns” “Cardiff University economics professor Patrick Minford says the new rate of £7.20 an hour prices people out of jobs” (March 2016)

Why food banks are a conservative triumph

By   (‘Senior fellow’ at the Adam Smith Institute)

We’re told, endlessly that this food network exists because of austerity – that the need is something new. But this doesn’t pass the laugh test for anyone rich in maturity. The British state has always been lousy at paying benefits on time and in full – even before Mrs Thatcher, I recall people waiting weeks and weeks for unemployment benefits, which is why we would chip in to keep them fed.

So, in one sense, we should be celebrating the rise of the food bank network. Here we’ve a long running and pernicious problem to which a solution has been found. Government’s not very good at the £10-here-and-£20-there problems, and the very bureaucracy of government seems to be the cause of many of them. We’re solving one of these problems.

But this leads us to question why this is a conservative (but not Conservative) movement and system of organisation. The clue to that being Edmund Burke’s “little platoons”. There has been no governmental nor societal mobilisation of the populace to achieve this, Simply a realisation that a problem, previously seemingly intractable, can now be solved.

….

So, it is being solved entirely through the voluntary action of individuals and groups and purely from the goodness of their hearts. And, again, note, in reaction to the incompetence of government and the state.

The alleviation of poverty is a good idea, the alleviation of hunger a great one. That it’s being done through entirely voluntary interaction of a free people is indeed a conservative moment and victory.

For a different point of view we turn back to the ‘I’.

Here is more about this Tory Triumph:

Vulnerable people ‘being forced to use foodbanks because of benefits system problems’

Vulnerable people are being driven into destitution and reliance on foodbanks because of major flaws in the benefits system, a former welfare minister has claimed. Frank Field has called for a review of the operation of benefits, including the new universal credit (UC), to prevent claimants being unintentionally forced into poverty. His intervention follows warnings that foodbank use continues to climb, with large numbers of families with young children asking for emergency help.

The Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest foodbank network, handed out a record number of emergency food parcels in 2016-17. It said foodbank referrals in areas where UC had been fully rolled out were running at twice the national average. Mr Field, the chairman of the work and pensions select committee, said: “Far from a welfare state which protects the weaker underbelly in society, it is attacking them.”

In a letter to the new Work and Pensions Secretary, David Gauke, he listed a series of complaints about the benefits system. Advance loans Mr Field said UC claimants only receive their first payments after six weeks, relying on advance loans to tide them over. Others faced problems because they cannot produce adequate paperwork – such as proof of tenancy – to back up claims for the housing costs element of universal credit, he added.

The Labour MP warned of disabled people being forced to use foodbanks as their benefits have been “wrongly withdrawn or drastically reduced” when they moved on to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) system. He backed an urgent review of the assessment system for evaluating PIP claims amid frequent complaints that it was too rigid to assess accurately claimants’ ability to work.

Mr Field said he had been told homeless people faced penury because they were unable to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance without a fixed address. Travel costs He added that he also had evidence from around the country that people who found jobs were relying on foodbanks in the gap between the final benefit payments and first pay cheque. He suggested they could be given special help with expenses such as travel costs over this period to make ends meet and stop them going hungry.

Mr Field told i: “For the first time ever, we have now got a welfare state which is causing destitution and nobody, but nobody, set out for the welfare state to do that. “A number of benefit changes have stopped people getting help they need. “Those benefits are meant to knit together and give us a safety net. What we now have is far from a safety net – the welfare state is by accident being reshaped into an agent that causes destitution.” Mr Field was particularly critical of the six week gap before the first universal credit payments are received – and said the cash often did not arrive that quickly. “If you are down on your luck and you aren’t going to get benefit for six weeks, and they make it three months – and you have got kids, it’s the summer, then there’s the school uniform and electricity bills to pay and you have got to get the rent – then the whole thing is intolerable.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 21, 2017 at 3:27 pm