Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Esther McVey Defends Universal Credit, Hell or High Water!

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The Right Honourable Esther McVey: My door is always open.

Yesterday in the House of Commons Esther McVey was on rare form.

Bertie Wooster once recommended that when confronted with a misdeed the best response was stout denial.

Readers of Hansard and no doubt those who watch the BBC Parliamentary Channel can see her Ladyship following his sage advice.

Universal Credit. 17 October 2018. Volume 647

 

Labour’s Margaret Greenwood ‘umbly but impertinently  began,

 

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that the following papers be laid before Parliament: any briefing papers or analysis provided to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions since 8 January 2018 on the impact of the roll-out of universal credit on recipients’ and household income and on benefits debts.

Universal credit, the Government’s flagship social security programme, has been beset by flaws in its design and delivery. It is causing immense hardship for many people wherever it is rolled out. It is hard to believe now, but universal credit was designed to lift people out of poverty and smooth the transition into work to ensure that it always pays. The reality is that universal credit is a vehicle for cuts: cuts in support for families with a disabled child for whom the basic rate of support is half what it is in tax credits; cuts in support for disabled people in work, such as the disabled person who wrote to us saying that they are more than £300 a month worse off since switching from claiming working tax credits; and cuts in support for lone parents bringing up children who will get more than £20 a week less on average, with many losing far more.

..

Let me make some progress.

Overall, 3.2 million families with children could lose around £50 a week. People are worried, but there is no clarity from Government. The Prime Minister told this House that no one would be worse off, yet The Times reported that the Secretary of State told Cabinet colleagues that households could lose up to £200 a month. Being forced to manage on a low income that is then cut still further means tough choices for the families affected. The DWP’s own survey of claimants published in June showed that nearly half of new universal credit claimants are falling behind with bills. Even six months later, four in 10 are still struggling to cope financially.

And so it went. And went – it’s pretty long so I skip.

Her Royal Highness (for it was she, Esther) replied,

Members want to speak in this debate. I know too, Mr Speaker, that you are always anxious to hear Back Benchers speak, as am I, so I will keep my remarks as brief as possible.

I have been forthright with colleagues across the House—and in my speech at Reform earlier this year—about universal credit’s strong merits and the areas that we need to improve. In fact, in my Reform speech, I said that I would improve universal support, and I delivered on that this month. Since becoming Secretary of State, I have changed the system to provide extra support for those with severe disabilities, vulnerable young 18 to 21-year-olds and kinship carers. I am also working with colleagues to identify areas where we can make more improvements.

This is also long so I will just cite a few of her gracious words,

We have taken a mature approach to rolling out universal credit. We have said that we will test, learn, adapt and change as we go forward. That has resulted in a series of improvements, and I will read some of those out. We are providing extra universal support with Citizens Advice, an independent and trusted partner. We have brought in the landlord portal. We have brought in alternative payment arrangements, 100% advances and housing running costs. We have removed waiting days and are providing extra support for kinship carers and those receiving the severe disability premium.

My door is always open. We will make sure we get this benefit right, and Government Back Benchers, who have genuine concerns, want to get it right.

Here is a more readable report:

Tories block Labour bid to reveal government assessment of Universal Credit impact

Politics Home.

After a heated four-hour debate, they voted by 299 to 279 against the release of the documents, which Labour hoped would reveal the detrimental effect of the welfare shake-up which rolls six existing benefits into a single payment.

Labour used an arcane parliamentary procedure known as a humble address – previously used to force the release of the Government’s Brexit impact assessment – to try to compel the publication of analysis of the shake-up on people’s incomes.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey last week admitted that some people “could be worse off” under the reform, despite Theresa May’s claim that would not be the case.

Ms McVey’s opposite number, Margaret Greenwood, today called for the Government to publish all reports and analysis it has carried out into the effects of Universal Credit since Ms McVey took office in January.

“The social security system should be there for any of us should we need it, yet the Government’s flagship programme has brought real hardship,” she said.

“How did it come to this in the fifth largest economy in the world that we have people facing hunger and destitution?

“It cannot be right, the Government must wake up, it must open its eyes to what’s happening and that is why we are calling on the Government to stop the roll-out of Universal Credit.”

Ms McVey yesterday confirmed that the “migration” of existing welfare claimants to Universal Credit would be delayed until later in 2019.

Meanwhile the BBC reported that the deadline for full implementation could be pushed back by another nine months to December 2023.

Ms McVey today prompted angry shouts from Labour MPs when she opened her comments by saying: “It’s good to be here again for my department to update the House on Universal Credit for the third time this week.”

She later added: “We will continue with Universal Credit. We will continue to roll it out. We will engage with colleagues across the House… my door is always open, but we will make sure we get this benefit right. You know why? Because of the genuine concerns of the people on our backbenches who want to get it right.”

Then there is this:

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 18, 2018 at 10:43 am

Benefits Freeze Adds to Universal Credit Misery.

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More than the usual ‘system error’.

The controversy about Universal Credit continues to develop.

Today the Currant Bun, not the Claimants’ chum,  headlines

Universal Credit revolt by THIRTY Tory MPs as they urge Chancellor to plug £2bn black hole which will leave millions worse off.

At least two dozen have signed a letter to the Treasury highlighting their fears to the Chancellor – urging him that an extra £2billion is needed for the reform.

Around a million people are expected to go onto Universal Credit next year as part of the rollout to everyone over the next five years.

The letter reads: “As it stands 3.2million working families are expected to be worse off, with an average loss of £48 a week.

“Enabling hard working parents to keep more of what they earn and thus encouraging them to take up more work is at the heart of Conservative policy.

“This measure would boost the incomes of 9.6million low income parents and children.”

In July 2015, having promised £12 billion of welfare cuts – reportedly on the assumption that the Liberal Democrats would argue this down – George Osborne announced exactly that. Chief among these cuts was a further working age benefits freeze. So no matter what the rate of inflation was, benefits would not be increased in April 2016, 2017, 2018 or 2019.

One thing that risks being forgotten is the impact of the Benefit Freeze.

Last week (October the 13th) the Resolution Foundation published this.

Despite ‘the end of austerity’, April promises another deep benefit cut

Adam Corlett.

How important this nominal freeze would prove to be couldn’t be known exactly in advance – only predicted – as its real impact depends on inflation. At the time, it was thought that inflation would be below 2 per cent in every year, as the table below shows. At first, the inflation forecast actually proved too high, with very small price rises in 2015 and 2016. This meant that the benefits freeze had only a limited impact in its first two years. But with the Brexit vote and resultant price increases, CPI inflation reached 3 per cent in September 2017. Normally, that September figure would have been used to uprate working-age benefits for the next tax year but, due to the freeze, that didn’t happen. And now inflation for September 2018 is expected to be around 2.7 per cent. Working-age families will again be denied that inflationary benefits increase next April.

Overall, the real cut to many benefits from the four-year freeze is over 6 per cent (and that’s before considering separate or earlier cuts).

….

If we exclude pensioners and working-age non-parents, the impacts become even clearer. The average couple with kids in the bottom half of the income distribution will be £620 poorer in 2019-20 than if inflationary uprating had occurred since 2016-17, and the average poorer single parent will be £760 worse off. The April 2019 freeze alone will mean a £210 hit for an average poorer couple with kids and £260 for poorer single parents.

This chart is depressing to look at.

This, the long-term decline in the value of benefits, is significant.

Corlett’s conclusion is important:

Whether or not the final freeze goes ahead, there is also a tough question for the opposition parties. Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats have all said they would end the freeze. But CPI uprating is already set to return from April 2020. The big question is whether those parties would actually undo the real term cuts that have already happened (i.e. though a real terms increase) if they got the chance, or if that £5 billion, 6 per cent cut will simply be accepted as a fait accompli.

The talk of the town may be of ‘the end of austerity’ and ‘Brexit dividends’, but for low to middle income working-age families – particularly parents – the outlook is quite different. On top of weak pay growth, their outlook includes a further benefits freeze, the transition to Universal Credit with its slashed work allowances, the phasing out of the valuable ‘family element’ and phasing in of a two-child limit. Ending the freeze one year early, with benefits rising just after Brexit day, would help to turn that outlook around.

This is exactly the issue, what exactly would the parties do to repair the damage caused by the benefit freeze?

Written by Andrew Coates

October 15, 2018 at 10:30 am

As Revolt Against Universal Credit Grows Esther McVey Tries to Ban Charity Critics.

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Esther McVey: Needs Protection for her “standing and reputation”.

The world has turned against Universal Credit.

You know that when Gordon Brown attacked it, saying, “Halt universal credit or face summer of discontent” and and was followed by fomrer Tory PM, John Major rubbishing the hare-brained scheme.

And the Tory papers jumping on the bandwagon.

Not to mention yer actual present day Tory MPs:

The House of Commons,

Tory backbenchers have urged the government to slow down the roll out of universal credit. The new all-in-one benefit, which replaces six existing benefits, is being introduced gradually, but in areas where it has been implemented there have been multiple complaints about people being impoverished by having to wait for money. In an interview on the World at One, Nigel Mills said:

If you have any doubts that we can make it work for these volumes, let’s slow down. Let’s not get this wrong for the sake of sticking to a timetable.

Another Tory backbencher, Johnny Mercer, said UC was “politically undeliverable” in his Devon constituency, and called for a planned increase in income tax thresholds to be scrapped in order to make the benefit more generous. The MPs spoke out as Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, said some claimants would be worse off under UC, despite Downing Street saying otherwise. (See 4.59pm and 5.04pm.)

Guardian.

One of the things that stuck in the craw was McVey’s claim that if people lost money under Universal Credit they could always earn the shortfall by working more.

But, there you go….

Then there was this yesterday (Independent):

Some people “could be worse off” when they switch to universal creditEsther McVey has admitted – directly contradicting Theresa May’s pledge to “protect” them.

The work and pensions secretary said “tough decisions’ had been made which would hit claimants – following reports that she told the cabinet their loss could reach £2,400 a year.

The admission comes just one day after the prime minister told the Commons that current claimants “will not see any reduction”, promising: “They will be protected.”

Thin-skinned Esther is not one to take this lightly.

The Independent reports today:

Charities working with Universal Credit claimants required to ‘sign contracts to protect Esther McVey’s reputation’

Charities and companies working with Universal Credit (UC) claimants have reportedly been required to sign clauses pledging not to damage the reputation of Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey.

At least 22 organisations – covering contracts worth £1.8 billion – have been required to sign the clauses as part of their involvement with programmes getting the unemployed into work, The Times reported.

Officials at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) denied they were “gagging clauses” intended to prevent criticism of ministers or their policies, insisting they were just “standard procedure”.

However a spokesman confirmed that the contracts did include references to ensure both parties “understand how to interact with each other and protect their best interests”.

Eagle-eyed observers will have noticed in recent weeks a string of stories about charities, such as CAB,  being contracted to do the DWP’s work….

As in, “Citizens Advice to provide support to Universal Credit claimants.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will fund Citizens Advice to provide Universal Support from April 2019, the government has announced.

The support scheme will help claimants through every step of making a Universal Credit claim. It will offer people the comprehensive and practical support they need to get their first payment on time and be ready to manage it when it arrives.

Universal Support provides advice and assistance to help claimants manage their Universal Credit claim, with a focus on budgeting advice and digital support. Since 2017, Universal Support has been delivered by individual local authorities, funded by grants from DWP.

From April 2019 Citizens Advice (England and Wales) and Citizens Advice Scotland will take on the responsibility for delivering a strengthened Universal Support service, a move which will ensure a consistent and streamlined service for claimants across the country.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Esther McVey said:

Since becoming Secretary of State in January, I have listened to the concerns of claimants, constituents, charities, welfare organisations and colleagues and I have made significant changes to the system, like extra support for those with mental health conditions, more support for vulnerable young people and more support for families who look after other family members’ children.

I have always said we will steer a new direction and work with partners to deliver vital services, and get Universal Credit right. The state cannot, and should not work in isolation and must reach out to work with independent, trusted organisations to get the best support to vulnerable people.

This brand new partnership with Citizens Advice will ensure everyone, and in particular the most vulnerable claimants, get the best possible support with their claim that is consistently administered throughout the country.

Citizens Advice are an independent and trusted organisation, who will support people as we continue the successful rollout of Universal Credit.

But….

The signatories to contracts must undertake to “pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of the Work and Pensions Secretary, the newspaper reported, adding that they must “not do anything which may attract adverse publicity” to her, damage her reputation, or harm the public’s confidence in her.

A DWP spokesperson said: “It’s completely untrue to suggest that organisations are banned from criticising Universal Credit. As with all arrangements like this, they include a reference which enables both parties to understand how to interact with each other and protect their best interests.

Even the Murdoch press is turning:

As the Mirror says,

The Times said at least 22 organisations signed the pledge as part of contracts worth £1.8 billion to run projects getting the unemployed into work

Written by Andrew Coates

October 12, 2018 at 11:04 am

Gordon Brown Joins Charge Against Universal Credit: Warns of coming “Summer of Discontent”.

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Sign the Petition from Our Friends from the Mirror!

It’s obvious that Universal Credit is going the way of the Poll Tax.

People you would not expect to talk about these things are angry about it at the drop of  a hat.

The local CAB is jammed with the number of cases they have to help.

MPs, including Ipswich’s, are besieged by those in dire straits because of the system.

I would hazard a guess, just a little guess, and say that the DWP is well aware of the train crash that is Universal Credit.

Now after John McDonnell called on Sunday for getting rid of the system Gordon Brown is set to make this speech.

Halt universal credit or face summer of discontent, Gordon Brown tells PM

Guardian – Larry Elliott

Britain is on course for a summer of discontent and poll tax-style chaos unless Theresa May scraps plans for a full national rollout of universal credit next year, the former prime minister Gordon Brown is to say.

In a ferocious attack on the government’s flagship welfare reform, Brown predicts that a complex application process alongside Treasury spending cuts will plunge a million more children into poverty and increase reliance on food banks.

The former Labour leader, who sought to tackle poverty through the introduction of tax credits in the early 2000s, will say on Wednesday that the government’s amendments are cruel and that a U-turn is needed before more suffering is caused.

Even this Blog, which does not mince its words, is shaken by Brown’s next statement,

Speaking in Edinburgh, Brown will say: “Surely the greatest burning injustice of all is children having to go to school ill-clad and hungry. It is the poverty of the innocent – of children too young to know they are not to blame. But the Conservative government lit the torch of this burning injustice and they continue to fan the flames with their £3bn of cuts. A return to poll tax-style chaos in a summer of discontent lies ahead.”

Writing in the Mirror Gordon Brown explains:

Universal Credit is cruel far beyond austerity – and it’s becoming Theresa May’s Poll Tax, says Gordon Brown

It is now time to abandon the national roll out of the disastrous benefit-cutting Universal Credit .

Call a halt to this experiment – cruel and vindictive far beyond austerity – that is pushing child poverty among millions of hard-working British families to record levels.

From next July when three million more families begin to be herded on to Universal Credit, our country will face the kind of chaos we have not seen since the days of the hated Poll Tax.

With the convulsions of Brexit in March and the Universal Credit four months later we face a summer of division and despair.

From July each family on tax credits today will have to submit a wholly new form for Universal Credit – a policy Ministers have been warned will risk a breakdown in the system.

Instead the Government should order a review into what is going wrong – and give emergency help to those families now in despair because of benefit cuts.

With child poverty rising inexorably from three million in 2015 to four million now and to more than five million by 2022, October 29 should bring a Budget for children.

And to halt the rising epidemic, Child Benefit should be raised and child tax credits should be improved – as the one way, alongside a decent living wage, that we can get low-paid families out of poverty.

Today’s poverty explodes the myth that children are in poverty because their parents are work-shy and indolent.

Two thirds of the children in poverty have a parent in work – but earning too little to lift them out of poverty. In fact, nearly half – 42% – of households are in poverty where there is one breadwinner only in work and no other adult working.

The majority of the rest who are in poverty have disability in the family.

Savage Cuts are pushing them on to the breadline.

And after freezing Child Benefit and children’s tax credits for years Universal Credit is taking £3-billion out of the social security budget as it is introduced. Almost 3.2-million working families will, according to the Resolution Foundation, stand to lose an average of £48 a week.

Read the full article.

This stands out:

So I am calling today for the Government to abandon the 2019 national roll out of Universal Credit and end this harsh, harmful and hated experiment.

We need an urgent review on the lines suggested by the Child Poverty Action Group to be instigated and we must hear the voices of those who know what it’s like to have help cut short I join individuals and organisations who have called for a rethink including The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Church of Scotland, The Mayor of London, Disabled Against The Cuts, The Mayor of Liverpool, Mind, The Trussell Trust, Unison, Unite and Citizens Advice Bureau as well as the Child Poverty Action Group and most disabled charities.

The review should look closely at three options: redesign Universal Credit to make it fit for purpose; axing it in favour of reverting to the old system if UC is unfixable; or introduce a brand new system altogether.

The Mirror has launched a petition:

Universal Credit is harsher on people both in and out of work, and some families could end up £200 a month worse off.

The Mirror are demanding a halt to the expansion of UC and for a review to take place. We say there are three options:

  • Redesign UC to be fit for purpose
  • Axe it in favour of the old system if UC is unfixable
  • Introduce a brand new system

Sign our petition to stop the rollout of Universal Credit across Britain and to replace it with a fairer system.

You can sign through here.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 10, 2018 at 10:42 am

Hold the Front Page! McDonnell says, “Universal Credit Has to Go!”

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LIVE: Labour likely to scrap Universal Credit – McDonnell

The shadow chancellor tells Sky’s Sophy Ridge the government’s benefit systems is past being fixed, in a change of policy.

Huff Post:

Universal Credit ‘Has Got To Go’, Says Labour’s John McDonnell

 Rachel Wearmouth

“I think most people now are coming to the conclusion it has got to be scrapped.”

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has said Universal Credit “has got to go” in the strongest signal yet that Labour would scrap the government’s flagship benefit scheme.

Speaking on Sky News, McDonnell said: “I think most people now are coming to the conclusion it has got to be scrapped.”

Labour has previously called for Universal Credit to be paused and reformed.

But McDonnell said the government’s attempts to shake-up the benefit “haven’t worked” and Universal Credit “is not the safety net that people expect when they need support.

“I think we’re moving to a position now where it’s not sustainable, it will have to go,” he said.

It comes amid reports that Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has privately warned that families could lose £200 a month.

According to The Times, McVey told fellow cabinet members that the rollouts could result in millions of families losing out on the equivalent of £2,400 a year.

It is thought that half of single parents and two out of three working-age couples will be affected by the new system.

McDonnell said the system was “in shambles”.

“These are some of the poorest families in our communities and it’s just not acceptable,” he said. “We are moving toward the conclusion now that you can’t save the thing. It has got to go.”

Asked what Labour would replace Universal Credit with, McDonnell called for a cross-party debate and said it would consult widely.

Brought in by the former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Universal Credit was designed to simplify the benefits system, but the benefit has been associated with a huge rise in the use of foodbanks.

McVey, on Monday, unveiled plans for a £39 million partnership with charity Citizens Advice to support applicants in getting their first payments on time.

Research by the Child Poverty Action Group in August warned that Universal Credit claimants in employment were facing cuts of more than £250 a month as a result of pay day coinciding with assessment periods.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 7, 2018 at 10:45 am

Local Papers, and *some* nationals , do their Job in Reporting Universal Credit Train crash.

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Talk to the Media!

It is very noticeable that the press, including local papers, has been doing its job in reporting on the Train Crash that is Universal Credit.

Obviously I exclude right-wing comics…..

I just cite a few examples this weekend:

Daisy Wyatt

The ‘I’ – a paper lots of us read.

Low-income families set to lose £200 a month in Universal Credit changeover.

Millions of families are set to lose £200 a month under the new Universal Credit system, it is understood. Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey confirmed the figures privately to colleagues as ministers are said to be increasingly concerned about the rollout of the new universal credit system, The Times reported. Ms McVey told cabinet colleagues that half of lone parents and around two thirds of working age couples with children would lose the equivalent of £2,400 a year, according to the newspaper. Labour MP Jess Phillips has since said the monthly figure lost by low-income families was closer to £300 in her constituency in Birmingham Yardley.

Banbury Guardian.

New service to help struggling Universal Credit claimants

A new service to better help people having difficulty claiming Universal Credit in north Oxfordshire and south Northamptonshire will be launched next year by Citizens Advice. Citizens Advice North Oxfordshire and South Northamptonshire has been given a Government grant to build on its benefits support service from April, 2019.

DWP: Universal Credit claimants get help from Citizens Advice as Teesside rollout continues

Teesside Live.

The Citizens Advice Bureau has been drafted in to help those applying for Universal Credit navigate their claim.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will fund Citizens Advice to provide ‘Universal Support’ from April next year, which hopes to help those on benefits through every step of the process.

The DWP says it will offer people the “comprehensive and practical support they need to get their first payment on time and be ready to manage it when it arrives”.

The Mirror:

Universal Credit’s next stage ‘could spark a huge increase’ in people being forced to rely on food banks

The Trussell Trust have warned issues with benefits are the main reason for referrals to receive emergency food supplies.

I could continue…

Why not keep up the pressure by contacting the press?

Local media obviously feel, and the genuineness of their concern is clear, that this is a top story.

Give ’em a ring, a text or an E-mail…

Written by Andrew Coates

October 7, 2018 at 9:55 am

Trussell Trust fears the next stage of Universal Credit will see Foodbank Use Soar.

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The Trussell Trust has published this Press Release, which should be taken very very seriously indeed.

Not least because many of our contributors are already on Universal Credit and many will also be affected by “managed migration” onto Universal Credit.

Charity warns next stage of Universal Credit could further increase foodbank use.

Anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust fears the next stage of Universal Credit – which will see three million people moving from tax credits and the old benefits system onto the new system – could lead to a significant increase in foodbank use as new research highlights a major increase in the proportion of foodbank referrals made for people moving onto Universal Credit.

Issues with benefits are the main reason for all Trussell Trust foodbank referrals. Analysis of data from frontline agencies referring to foodbanks across the UK between April 2016 and April 2018 shows that benefit transitions, most likely due to people moving onto Universal Credit, are increasingly accounting for more referrals and are likely driving up need in areas of full Universal Credit rollout. Waiting for the first payment is a key cause, while for many, simply the act of moving over to a new system is causing hardship.

The findings come as the Department for Work and Pensions finalises its plans for the next stage of Universal Credit to take to Parliament later this month. Until now, only people making a new application for benefits in certain areas have been able to apply for Universal Credit. This next stage – ‘managed migration’ – will see the three million people currently receiving tax credits or benefit payments under the old system sent a letter telling them to reapply for these payments under Universal Credit.

The report  (The next stage of Universal Credit. Moving onto the new benefit system and foodbank use) says,

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The rollout of Universal Credit to all Jobcentres will soon be complete, and the next stage of Universal Credit will begin. 3 million people currently claiming benefits and tax credits will have to move onto the system. The Trussell Trust is concerned that, given the links between Universal Credit, financial hardship, and foodbank use, this next stage could lead to increased financial need and more demand for foodbanks. The report uses referral data from Trussell Trust foodbank vouchers to examine the impact of Universal Credit on foodbank use, and finds that:

  • When Universal Credit goes live in an area, there is a demonstrable increase in demand in local Trussell Trust foodbanks. On average, 12 months after rollout, foodbanks see a 52% increase in demand, Credit for 3 months or less. This increase cannot be attributed to randomness and exists even after accounting for seasonal and other variations.
  • More detailed foodbank referral data show that benefit transitions, most likely due to people moving onto Universal Credit, are increasingly accounting for more referrals and are
    likely driving up need in areas of full Universal Credit rollout. Waiting for the first payment is a key cause, while for many, simply the act of moving over to a new system is causing hardship.

This poses serious questions for the next stage of Universal Credit, where many people could lose their benefits entirely or find themselves with less income. The Department’s current plans involve sending letters to people informing them their claim will be terminated if they do not apply for Universal Credit within a four week period. Each claimant will then have to wait at least five weeks for their first payment.

Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, explains:

“We created our benefits system in this country to free people from poverty, not lock them into it. As we look at the current plans for the next stage of Universal Credit, we’re really worried that our network of foodbanks could see a big increase in people needing help. Leaving three million people to wait at least five weeks for a first payment – especially when we have already decided they need support through our old benefits or tax credits system – is just not good enough. 

“It doesn’t have to be like this. We know the problems people are likely to face as they move over to the new system, so we can learn from them. The Department for Work and Pensions has shown they can act on evidence from the frontline to make a real difference to people who need our benefits system’s vital support. Now is the time for our Government to take responsibility for moving people currently on the old system over, and to ensure no one faces a gap in payments when that moves happens. Universal Credit needs to be ready for anyone who might need its help, and it needs to be ready before the next stage begins.”

The Guardian reports:

Trussell Trust calls for urgent changes to policy of moving 3m people on to new system

Last month the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, warned that managed migration posed a “significant threat of harm” to vulnerable claimants, and that the rollout should be paused to enable stronger protections to be put in place.

Universal credit, which rolls six working-age benefits into one monthly payment, has been dogged by delays – it is currently six years behind schedule – and has been much criticised over design flaws that leave thousands of claimants in hardship.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 5, 2018 at 9:28 am

Esther McVey screams abuse at “ugly, destructive, Marxist, Militant, socialists” and subcontracts DWP to Citizens’ Advice.

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Pretty constructive Esther Attacks “ugly, destructive, Marxist socialists.”

Tory Esther McVey suggests her own party’s benefit cuts are “fake news” in shameless conference speech,

Reports the Mirror

The Work and Pensions Secretary launched her attack despite cuts being well-documented by experts and her predecessor Iain Duncan Smith.

She told Tory members in Birmingham: “If you were to believe everything you heard from Labour or read on social media you’d think we were somehow letting down the most vulnerable in society – especially disabled people.

“However, those who say we are cutting budgets are peddling fake news.

“So here’s the real news – we have never spent more on those with disabilities and long-term health conditions. We spend over £50billion a year, up £9billion on 2010.”

Ms McVey said she became a Conservative to stand against the “ugly, destructive, Marxist, Militant, socialists of the past”.

Today the Independent reports.

DWP calls in Citizens Advice to aid rollout of universal credit to claimants

The organisation has repeatedly raised alarming concerns over the rollout of universal credit, and last year said its expansion was a ‘disaster waiting to happen’

Citizens Advice Bureau has been called in to aid the highly contentious rollout of the government’s flagship welfare programme, Esther McVey has revealed as she announced a £39m fund for the partnership.

Ms McVey, the work and pensions secretary, said the cash would fund advisers to help claimants get their first payment on time and be ready to manage it when it arrives.

Citizens Advice –  a network of independent charities – has repeatedly raised alarming concerns over the rollout of universal credit, and last year said its expansion was a “disaster waiting to happen” with claimants being pushed into further debt.

Background:

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has publicly condemned the UK Government’s flagship Universal Credit scheme, claiming the widely criticised welfare reform makes falling into debt and hardship “practically inevitable”.

Welfare Weekly.

His comments are the latest in a long-line of criticisms and come only a few weeks after the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, slammed the new benefit for leaving the UK’s poorest citizens even more “worse off”.

Writing in the Yorkshire Post, John Sentamu, a long-spoken critic of Tory welfare changes, says: “People have already been struggling with rising living costs and stagnating incomes, but emergency food providers such as the Trussell Trust report that in areas where Universal Credit has been introduced, demand has risen far more steeply than in other areas.

The Archbishop of York: Why a fresh rethink is needed over Universal Credit and its implementation

Yorkshire Post.

 IT is five years now since Universal Credit was launched in an attempt to simplify the UK welfare system. Had everything gone to plan, the system would have been up and running across the country by now. Instead, the policy remains a source of ongoing controversy. As a follower of Jesus Christ, my greatest concern is for how this policy affects the poorest members of our community. In the Bible, we are called to uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. It is right that we look at the impact that Universal Credit, in its current form, is having on our poorest neighbours living in poverty.

If those changes can be made, then Universal Credit still has the potential to be a successful, effective policy, and one which makes work pay a Living Wage – and not the present so-called National Living Wage (topped up minimum wage). Our churches will continue to show the love of Jesus in their neighbourhoods. We will continue to run community projects; food banks, holiday clubs, breakfasts for children, debt advice, support for those who are struggling. Our churches are places of welcome where all can find a home. The Government should take immediate steps to support many people who find themselves, through no fault of their own, in desperate circumstances. I urge them to think again.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 1, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Jobcentre Goes Mad: Demands People Have Smartphones.

with 109 comments

Related image

Soon to Include Jobcentre AP? 

eople are starving over Universal Credit – telling me to use a credit-hungry smartphone is beyond the pale

Arthur Chapple. The ‘I’. Today.

This story keeps developing

See, Man on Universal Credit says he was told by Jobcentre he had to get a smartphone to search for a job )

 

I am long-term unemployed. Few employers take me seriously: I’m 56, a credit risk due to high debt, can’t drive and therefore dependent on public transport which means I cannot pursue jobs with shift patterns outside the bus or train times. A history of agency temping jobs makes running a full five-year history check for potential employers too demanding. A degree in literature and philosophy makes me over-qualified by not being very vocational.

I was moved to a proto-version of Universal Credit (from Jobseeker’s Allowance) in Manchester a few years before moving to Preston in 2016.

I am transferring to the ‘full roll out’ of Universal Credit on 27 September 2018. I learned this at my last meeting with advisers at the Preston Jobcentre on 6 September.

Every fortnight I have a meeting with an adviser who looks at my job search activity, suggests a few job leads for me to consider and makes my next appointment. My job search log is on a flash drive which I can show advisers by clipping the drive to my tablet. T

he Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can’t check my records on their computers for data protection reasons but can absurdly look at my own devices directly if I lug them in. On 6 September, I was sent to an adviser – not my usual – who had no interest in my job search record at all. He looked at my tablet in disdain. He insisted that I use an iPhone instead.

I told him I don’t have an iPhone, just a basic mobile – which he saw – and a landline at home. “I questioned [the smartphone’s] affordability. He told me of one going cheap at Argos and said the DWP would contribute up to £40 towards a new model.” It’s a very simple phone that will only take calls and texts, but it’s good enough for somebody phoning me up to say we’ve got a job you might be interested in. I’ve got a computer at home as well.

‘Must get a smartphone’

The adviser told me my full roll-out signing session is on 27 September and that by then I must get a smartphone, which he said would be easier to carry and access. I questioned its affordability. He told me of one going cheap at Argos and said the DWP would contribute up to £40 towards a new model.

I asked if this included its top-ups or a contract, but no. Credit for my current phone costs an average of £5 every three months. I doubt if a smartphone would be as cheap. I was given no indication that I had a choice or that this decision was not mandatory.

Such power-play strikes me as highly unethical and bogus. I feel intentionally misinformed.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “There is no requirement for UC claimants to own a mobile phone, nor is a mobile phone required for a UC claim. Computers and free WiFi are available in all Jobcentres to enable claimants to maintain their accounts.”

‘Red tape hell’

With people starving and dying of suicide over the Universal Credit changes, forcing us to use credit-hungry phones is really beyond the pale. Many see the unemployed as scroungers but I do extensive voluntary work, have a book due for publication soon and Christmas work lined up for November and December. This is great but sadly temporary.

By January I will almost certainly be claiming benefits again and once more plunged into red tape hell, just as it seems to settle down from the last time. The whole, horrible process could be repeated on me.

Personally I rarely use even an ordinary mobile….

2013. Background.

Dear Jason Davies,

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request received on 16th July and your subsequent email of 19th July.

You asked for:

Are there any circumstances when a jobseeker (a JSA/ESA claimant) may be mandated by Jobcentre plus, by way of a Jobseeker’s Direction for example, to provide a telephone number and/or an email address on which the Jobcentre may expect to be able to contact them, if the jobseeker does not wish to provide this information?

Specifically, are there any circumstances in which a jobseeker would (note: not could, or may) be sanctioned for refusing to provide a telephone number and/or an email address?

If the jobseeker does not have a telephone (landline or mobile) is there any circumstance in which the Jobcentre can force the jobseeker to obtain one, even if this is being supplied at no cost to the jobseeker by, for example, the Jobcentre or a Work Programme provider? Would the jobseeker have to accept this or otherwise face a sanction?

Furthermore, are there any circumstances where a jobseeker would be sanctioned for refusing to allow the Jobcentre/DWP to keep a copy of their CV such that it would be permanently accessible to advisers etc?

If the jobseeker is not legally obliged to give a permanent copy to the Jobcentre/DWP is there a legal requirement to show a copy of a CV to the Jobcentre and, if so, would it be considered reasonable for a jobseeker to redact any personal information, such as telephone numbers, email addresses, employer details etc., from a CV being shown to an adviser?

Additionally, in the specific circumstance where a jobseeker is refusing to register with Universal Jobmatch, would the jobseeker be sanctioned if his reason for refusal is not wanting to supply an email address during the registration process (bearing in mind that supplying an email address is mandatory to set up a Government Gateway account and without which registration with Universal Jobmatch is impossible)? 

Reply: 

Providing a CV, email address or telephone number is not mandatory, therefore is not sanctionable.

However, a Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant may be issued with a Jobseeker’s Direction, requiring them to take a reasonable, specific activity that will help them find work, e.g. getting a

CV, telephone number or email address will help a claimant get a job. The decision to issue a Jobseeker’s Direction must always take into account the claimant’s individual circumstances.

Furthermore, claimants must demonstrate they have undertaken what is required in a Jobseeker’s Direction. Where the evidence provided is considered to be insufficient, the case will be referred to a Decision Maker for them to determine if the claimant has complied with the Jobseeker’s Direction. Failure to comply with a Jobseeker’s Direction, without good reason, will
affect benefit.

This is supported by Section 19A of the Jobseekers Act 1995, which can be found at the following internet address, via the DWP Website:
http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/a11-0101.pdf

It is for a Decision Maker to determine whether a Jobseeker’s Allowance claimant has good reason for refusing to create a profile and public CV in Universal Jobmatch, taking into account
the circumstances of each particular case.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number
above.
Yours sincerely,
DWP Central FoI Team

Written by Andrew Coates

September 20, 2018 at 11:37 am

Poverty Crisis Worsened by Universal Credit.

with 20 comments

Image result for poverty Social Metrics Commission

” total number of people living in poverty is 14.2 million.”

Poverty, anybody could see with their own eyes, is growing.

I was struck, visiting my old homeland, Haringey, by this recently.

It was not so much that seeing the homeless people on the streets was a surprise – we have plenty in Ipswich. Though I must admit that, coming out of Wood Green Tube station, the sight of a geezer with a sleeping bag sprawled out in front of the ‘Spoons on Spouters’ Corner was unexpected.

It was that walking from there to Turnpike Lane most people looked, well, not well off.

Same pound shops, charity shops, though a Mall looked a bit more prosperous than ours.

This is the real London, not Made In Chelsea.

Bounds Green, where I grew up, is (wrote the Guardian in 2013 and it’s still true), is “ordinary north London, like wot even Muswell Hill used to be: an endangered species these days.”, was another destination on this tour.

On a  round circuit from the Tube to my old gaff (a short 15 minutes)  I came across at least 10 off-licences and newsagents/food stores selling cheap booze.

Encouraging to see that people still appreciate white cider and 9% lager, no “shops selling single-estate, organic, truffle-dusted flat whites”.

But then………..

This report, then, does not come out of the blue.

More than two million Brits at risk of falling into poverty, report warns

The UK Government has been urged to take action at the Budget in order to tackle Britain’s growing poverty crisis, in response to the publication of a new report which shows that 2.5million people are at risk of falling into poverty.

The Social Metrics Commission has published a new framework for measuring poverty in the UK, which takes into account a wider range of interplaying factors which cause people to fall into poverty – including material resources, the cost of disability, and the cost of childcare.

Sam Royston, director of policy and research at The Children’s Society, said: “While we would welcome these changes to how poverty is measured being included in official statistics, concrete action is needed to tackle the shameful scale of poverty among our children, with all the damage it can do to their wellbeing, education and life chances.”

The Commission found that more than one in ten (12.1%) of the total UK population (7.7million people) live in persistent poverty. While a further 2.5million people in the UK are less than 10% above the poverty line – meaning relatively small changes in their circumstances could see them fall below it.

Philippa Stroud, the commission’s chair, said: “We want to put poverty at the heart of government policymaking and ensure that the decisions that are made are genuinely made with the long term interests of those in poverty in mind.”

The UK Government abolished child poverty targets under the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 – a moved condemned by the SNP who have reintroduced them in Scotland and have called for their reintroduction across the UK.

These are the conclusions of the above report:

The SMC report, available here,  reveals numerous key findings and challenges. The total number of people living in poverty is 14.2 million with the composition of poverty moving towards a better identification of children (4.5 million) and working-age adults (8.4 million). The good news is the shift away from pensioner poverty with far fewer pensioners living in poverty following a significant reduction of poverty amongst pension age couples, over the last 15 years.

The report reveals that people with a disability are much more likely to be living in poverty than previously thought, with around half of the 14.2 million people in poverty living in families with a disabled person.

The report also reveals the persistence and depth of UK poverty. More than one in ten (12.1%) of the total UK population are in poverty now and have been in poverty for at least two of the previous three years. A further 2.5 million people live less than 10% above the poverty line and are close to falling below it with relatively small changes to their circumstances; and around 2.7 million people live less than 10% below it.

 SMC KEY FINDINGS

  1. 2 million people in the UK population live in poverty: 8.4 million working-age adults; 4.5 million children; and 1.4 million pension age adults.
  2. Over half of those in poverty (58.2%) also live in persistent poverty. This means that more than one in ten (7.7 million) of the total UK population are in poverty now and have been in poverty for at least two of the previous three years. Persistent poverty is highest in families more than 10% below the poverty line, in workless families and families where someone is disabled.
  3. People with a disability are much more likely to be living in poverty. Nearly half of the 14.2 million people in poverty live in families with a disabled person (6.9 million people equal to 48.3% of those in poverty). The SMC metric recognises the inescapable costs of disability, accounting for them alongside the value of disability benefits, to reflect the lived experience of living with a disability.
  4. Far fewer pensioners are living in poverty than previously thought, with a significant fall in pensioner poverty over the last 15 years. Poverty rates amongst pension-age adults have nearly halved since 2001, and have fallen to one in ten, a drop from 17% of the total population in poverty in 2001 to 11% in 2017. There are, however some pensioner groups still experiencing high levels of poverty. For example, the poverty rate for pensioners who do not own their own home is 34.2%.

You can only note that all this is about to get a lot lot worse:

The Universal Credit Rollout Will Cause Liverpool Untold Harm – The Government Must Pause And Rethink. 

Joe Anderson Mayor of Liverpool

Huffington Post.

In a city described by the Joseph Rowntree Trust as having the second worst affected in the country when it comes to ‘destitution,’ Liverpool needs Universal Credit like a hole in the head.

Nevertheless, from this week, the remaining parts of my city not already covered by UC will start being migrated across to the new benefit.

The dread I feel is because we know what happens next.

Already, we can see a spike in hardship and a rise in council tax arrears from those who have already transitioned to UC. Not to mention the snaking queues at foodbanks and the families struggling with things like school uniform costs.

Around 55,000 Liverpool households will eventually see their claim move to Universal Credit. So far, we estimate that up to 2,800 people in Liverpool are affected by changes in work allowances in Universal Credit, resulting in a loss of income to families of between £40 and £200 each month.

The Council’s various discretionary schemes, set up to protect people in hardship, made 13,700 awards last year at a cost of just under £2.7million. 71% of all Discretionary Housing Payments made in Liverpool are to help people who have been hit by the ‘under occupation penalty’ – or as we know it, the bedroom tax.

It’s so frustrating because as a council, we have one of the best records in the country when it comes to maintaining discretionary benefits for the poorest and most vulnerable in our city. We are left picking up the pieces from failed central government changes.

Despite losing two-thirds of our government funding since 2010 (£444million), we have stretched our finances as far as we can in order to preserve basic human dignity, but also because it makes sense to address problems upstream before they swim downstream and cost even more to fix.

This is often down to the scandalous time lag between applying for Universal Credit and receiving a first payment. This is often as long as twelve weeks, with the National Audit Office recently reporting that four in ten applicants had experienced financial difficulties while transitioning across to UC, while one in five were not paid on time.

So my message to ministers is simple: pause this roll-out and listen to those of us on the frontline. It’s possible to reform Universal Credit to keep the original intention of simplifying the benefits system without deliberately causing misery for tens of thousands of people in my city and millions more across the country.

Drop the ideology for a start. There is no good reason to make desperate people wait for their benefits, simply because eight years ago Iain Duncan-Smith wanted to teach them budgeting skills. Pay up straightaway and take that terrible burden off the backs of some of the poorest people in our society.

Unnecessary delay simply throws vulnerably families into the clutches of payday lenders and loan sharks. This is a simple concession that Esther McVey could make that would transform the lives of millions of people for the better and show that the Department for Work and Pensions is listening to evidence about the ill-effects of UC.

I would also urge her to work with councils rather than ignoring us. Along with the voluntary sector, we are working to pick up the pieces of botched welfare changes. But give us the tools to do it. Provide ring-fenced funding so councils can create a local welfare scheme to address acute hardship.

But it’s also about practical steps, like understanding the system simply isn’t flexible enough for people on zero hours contracts and have no guarantees about their work situation from week to week. Also, the DWP could dramatically reduce the waiting time for connection to the DWP advice and information lines.

Before people in Liverpool are exposed to these poorly-conceived and badly implemented changes, I am asking Esther McVey to pause and #RethinkUC.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 18, 2018 at 9:23 am

All-digital Universal Credit system Creates Problems as DWP Goes Technology Tonto.

with 23 comments

Image result for universal credit GDS Verify online identity system problems

Problems with the all-digital Universal Credit system were flagged up in January by Computer Weekly,

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

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

In March the same journal said,

Universal Credit project warned over Gov.uk Verify performance in 2015

Government project management experts warned as long ago as 2015 that a problem with GDS’s Verify online identity system could undermine the Universal Credit business plan.

In June Computer Weekly reported,

The Government Digital Service (GDS) has lost responsibility for digital identity policy, with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) taking over.

There are still problems for users as the comments here indicate all too well.

Neil says:

You have to reclaim Universal Credit digitally, online. So basically you have to create a Universal Credit account with a user name, password, and and answers to a couple of security question (one of which is asked when you try to log on). You will be asked how you want your notifications to be sent to you, email or phone, and will have to confirm you email address (by clicking a link of an email the DWP sends you) or using a code sent to you phone as a text message. After that you have to go through the usual routine about rent, savings etc. That bit of it is quite simple really. You then have to telephone a call centre to make an appointment to go back to the Jobcentre to produce evidence to corroborate your identity, although if you’re lucky you might do all of this with one visit. If all goes well you will then get a message sent to you telling you that you’ve been transferred and are fully on the full digital service.

But,

It is a bit but what got me is having to take in documents to prove my identity again! I’ve been visiting the Jobcentre and claiming Universal Credit for months, had already proven my identity before, and then had to do it again when switching from the live system to the digital system. That’s proper nuts. But then most things are a bit mental when it comes to UC.

 

It’s not just Verification: the DWP is going Technology Tonto!

The ‘I’ reports, Serina Sandhu Friday September 14th

A Universal Credit claimant has alleged that his local Jobcentre ordered him to purchase a smartphone for his job search because his basic model was not good enough.

Arthur Chappell, who is unemployed, argued that his existing phone allowed him to answer calls and receive texts from employers and that he had a tablet with WiFi access to show the Jobcentre he was actively seeking work.

However an adviser told him he needed to own a smartphone by the end of September in time for his next session. The 56-year-old called the request “offensive… on many levels”.

With people starving and [dying of] suicide over the Universal Credit changes, forcing us to use credit-hungry phones is really beyond the pale,” he told i.

Basic phone is ‘good enough’

On 6 September, Mr Chappell attended his monthly meeting at the Friargate Jobcentre but was instead informed that he would be signed on to the Universal Credit “full service,” following the system’s roll-out in Preston. He was told he would need to bring his iPhone to the next briefing on 27 September.

Jobcentre offers to pay for phone

In a statement given to i, a Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “There is no requirement for Universal Credit (UC) claimants to own a mobile phone, nor is a mobile phone required for a UC claim. Computers and free WiFi are available in all Jobcentres to enable claimants to maintain their accounts.”

However Mr Chappell claims he was told in no uncertain terms that he needed a smartphone. When he raised that he could not afford one, the adviser told him they would pay £40 towards the device and specifically directed him to the Argos website.

One model can be found for £34.99. “He said they pay for the phone but not for the top-ups,” said Mr Chappell, who fears a smartphone will need topping up more frequently. “It’s obviously [going to cost] more than what my current arrangement is because I think they actually want me to have internet access on it as well which will obviously strain the budget a lot more than the unit I’m using now.”

The next passage is fair comment,

Mr Chappell said it felt as though the adviser wanted him to be able to search for a job round-the-clock with a smartphone.

“The official reply [from the DWP] seems to be about what they expect claimants to bring to the Universal Credit registration meeting while my adviser’s demand is going beyond the registration to a device he expects me to have on me 24/7.”

“It has been a standing rule that we should spend 35 hours a week job-seeking, though finding that many jobs in your skills range is extremely difficult. Having us contactable 24/7 by iPhone exceeds [this] boundary.

“Sleep, shower, being in a cinema, eating lunch, all go out the window if that all important call comes through. It is extremely intrusive and invasive. This isn’t remotely about improving our job searching. It’s about policing every move we make.

And,

Mr Chappell said he considered the adviser’s request “highly bogus”.

He also admitted it had initially caused him concern. “I might get sanctioned and that will cause me big problems. It’s only now they’re making this transition [to full Universal Credit] that I feel threatened by it all.”

He worried about how the public would perceive Universal Credit claimants with smartphones. “It is also likely to make more people look on the unemployed as scroungers. ‘Ooh, look at them walking round with the best [smartphones].’ That we didn’t pay for them and in some cases don’t want them is beside the point. We will get stigmatised.”

Having a smartphone paid for seemed unnecessary when some claimants, including himself at times, could not afford the basics and used food banks, he added.

Mr Chappell, who hopes to be working again by mid-November and is due to have his book on pub signs published in April, said he was managing at the moment but having to fork out for more credit for a new phone could mean he had to use food banks again. He said he would be sending a letter of complaint to the DWP and would hold off purchasing the phone until he heard back.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 15, 2018 at 11:02 am

Labour Needs Policies to Replace Universal Credit to Rebuild the Welfare State.

with 65 comments

Image result for mark Serwotka speech

“We need to see a Corbyn government commit to overturn decades of attacks on and ridicule of benefits claimants and return to the founding principles of a properly-resourced welfare state”  PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka.

A number of our commentators have been, rightly, dissatisfied with the lack of a strong Labour voice, above all, Labour Party Policy, on welfare issues.

These range from silence on the benefit freeze (which needs to be ended), to an alternative to the Universal Credit car-crash.

There remains talk about a pause to implementing Universal Credit (a 2017 petition – a bit late now).

The acting Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, Margaret Greenwood, seems to have said little since just before the long summer holidays, apart from continuing to criticise government policies (“Delays in payments of Universal Credit are sending victims back to abusive partners – Margaret Greenwood.” August the 1st).

Basic Income aside what are Labour policies, from funding to changing the whole miserable punitive structure of the benefit system?

What are Labour’s plans to fix Universal Credit?

No straightforward ideas seem available.

Although there is this:  John McDonnell attacks Tory disability cuts and vows to address suicides linked to welfare reforms.  Kitty S Jones

This suggested Contemporary Motion for the coming Labour Conference  (from the Clarion site) suggests some starting points:

SUPPORTING THOSE IN NEED: REBUILD THE WELFARE STATE

We note
• the 8 August ONS figures showing that improvement in life expectancy has virtually stopped.
• the 6 August Child Poverty Action Group report on how Universal Credit’s flaws are leading to low-income families arbitrarily losing as much as £258 a month!
• the July Resolution Foundation figures showing the poorest third’s incomes fell last year, even before inflation.

The situation is shameful. We must reverse the drive, accelerating since 2010, to make welfare less and less about supporting those in need and more and more stingy, punitive and coercive.

Neither Universal Credit nor the existing framework (JSA, ESA, etc) are good. We must redesign benefits in close consultation with recipients, workers and their organisations.

This must be part of a wider anti-poverty program, with a goal that by the end of our first term foodbanks disappear.

We commit to
1. Ending the benefit freeze; uprating with inflation or earnings, whichever is higher.
2. Reversing all cuts/reductions; increasing benefits to afford a comfortable, not minimum, income.
3. Entitlement conditions that are straightforward, inclusive and available to all, including migrants (scrap ‘No recourse to public funds’).
4. Paying benefits for all children and dependents.
5. Abolishing all sanctions.
6. Scrapping Work Capability and similar assessments.
7. Relevant health issues being addressed using medical professionals with appropriate knowledge of individuals’ conditions and impairments.
8. Delivery by paid public servants via networks accessible to everyone, including provision of face-to-face support for all who need it. Reversing DWP cuts and privatisation.

Whether this gets onto the agenda or not there are people calling for some serious policies.

‘Labour must return to the founding principles of the welfare state’, says union boss

Welfare Weekly reports (12th of September),

Labour must commit to over-turning years of cuts to social security benefits and end the stigmatisation of benefit claimants seen under Tony Blair and the current Tory Government, PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said at a TUC Congress fringe meeting on Tuesday.

Mark told the meeting held in Manchester that the current benefits system in “broken” and “causing much difficulty for people claiming benefits”, whilst adding the Tory Government is seeking to cause divisions between “people in work, those who work in DWP and those in receipt of benefits”.

He added that a future Corbyn-led Labour Government must “return to the founding principles of the welfare state that it is for all people and provide dignity for all people at all stages of their lives”.

Mark also said the rollout of Universal Credit needs to he halted because the new system is in chaos and there aren’t enough DWP staff to deliver it.

“We need to stop a system that is causing so much difficulty for people claiming benefits,” he said. “The benefits system is broken, under-resourced, inadequate and understaffed.”

He added: “The starting point of the debate on welfare needs to be the founding principles of the welfare state that it is for all people and provide dignity for all people at all stages of their lives.

Mark continued: “We had a system that wasn’t perfect but gave people money when they needed it. Almost exclusively people claim benefits because of a crisis out of their control.£

Mark said that ‘New Labour’ took stigmatisation of welfare claimants to new levels and there was a lot of work to do to put that right. He said we need to see some radical welfare polices from a future Labour government that gives everyone a welfare system that we can all be proud of.

£34bn has been cut from the welfare budget since 2012, with a further £12bn of cuts planned before 2022.

“More money is needed as we have some of the lowest rates of benefits in Western Europe,” said Mark.

PCS DWP Group assistant secretary Steve Swainton said: “Universal Credit has been understaffed and underfunded at every stage. Our members are doing everything they can do to mitigate the worst of the system but we need a radical redesign.”

Colin Hampton, co-ordinator of the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres (DUWC), told the meeting: “If we can spend money on bombing people we can spend money on putting people into work.

“The benefits issue is fundamental to the trade union movement. What happens to people on benefits affects what happens to people in the workplace and wider society.”

“We need to restore dignity and respect to people in and out of work”, he added.

The PCS site carries further details, including this:

Written by Andrew Coates

September 12, 2018 at 10:46 am

Crunch Time for Failing Universal Credit Scheme.

with 38 comments

Image result for universal credit better off in work

Please Verify £3 Billion Extra Funding.

Theresa May has been told that she must inject nearly £3 billion into controversial benefit reforms as the policy reaches its most delicate stage in parliament.

MPs will be asked this autumn to approve the extension of universal credit payments to 2.1 million less well-off families who at present claim income-linked benefits. These include about one million families in which parents work in low-paid jobs. This group of people who are “just about managing” have previously been identified by the prime minister as her political priority.

The Times.

Government faces crunch decisions this Autumn as Universal Credit enters its ‘most difficult phase’.

The Resolution Foundation says,

The government must get the final phase of Universal Credit (UC) right this Autumn if it’s to reboot the reputation of its flagship welfare reform programme and support millions of low income families, according to a new report published today by the Resolution Foundation.

The benefits of moving focuses on the final, and in many ways most difficult, phase of UC, which involves moving 2.1 million families currently claiming benefits (such as tax credits and Employment Support Allowance) onto the new system. This includes around a million ‘just about managing’ families who are in work.

The details of the crucial final phase are due to be decided upon in parliament this Autumn and rolled out from July 2019 onwards. This ‘managed migration’ is the most difficult phase yet for UC because it involves people that have not chosen to apply for the new benefit.

The report notes that the principle of Universal Credit has consistently enjoyed cross-party support on the basis of two key advantages – improved financial incentives and higher-take up for the simplified benefit.

However, the first advantage has been undermined by cuts in Summer Budget 2015 that reduced the generosity of the scheme. The small print of UC’s design also means that the financial incentives for single parents and second earners to enter and progress in work are weak.

The Foundation says that upholding the second key advantage of UC – encouraging higher take-up – should therefore be a top priority for government as it seeks parliamentary approval for the legal rules that will govern the upcoming managed migration this Autumn. It argues that the potential gains from higher take-up are significant, with the OBR estimating that 700,000 families could gain around £2.9bn in total.

The benefits of moving says that a smooth final phase of the rollout, which prevents cash losses and encourages more families to claim their full benefit entitlement, could help to reboot the reputation of UC. However, it warns that further design flaws – which need to be resolved this Autumn – risk further undermining the roll-out and could put people off claiming UC altogether.

The Foundation’s recommendations to make a success of the most difficult phase of UC include:

  • Speeding up UC payments. The government should show that 90 per cent of new claims to UC are paid on time and in full before it rolls out the managed migration process. In February 2018, 83 per cent of claims were paid in full and on time, with little improvement since June 2017.
  • Reducing financial risks. The government should ensure that the state, rather than individuals, bears any financial risk that may arise from teething problems in the managed migration phase. No existing claim should be closed until a new UC claim is in place, so that people don’t lose support altogether.
  • Boosting financial incentives. The government should introduce an earnings disregard for those being forced to move onto UC to prevent claimants with volatile earnings (such as self-employed workers or those on zero-hours contracts), or who have a short-term boost in pay, from losing out financially from the transition. More broadly, the government should improve incentives by increasing single parent work allowances and introducing one for second earners.

David Finch, Senior Economic Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said:

“Universal Credit enjoyed almost universal support when it was first announced. But its reputation has been undermined in recent years by significant cuts and payment delays that have left too many claimants in difficult financial straits.

“But despite these problems, the rollout of Universal Credit is still going ahead and is in fact about to enter its most difficult phase as two million families already claiming benefits start to be moved onto the new system – including one million just about managing families.

“Get this final phase of the rollout right and it could help to reboot Universal Credit’s reputation, but get things wrong and UC’s reputation risks taking another battering, and worryingly some families could be put off claiming UC altogether.”

 

Calls for further delays to fix flaws before million working families move on to benefit

Failure to manage the critical next phase of universal credit, during which about a million low-income working families will be moved on to the benefit, could sink the controversial welfare programme altogether, experts have warned.

The Resolution Foundation says ministers should consider further delays to the rollout of the benefit so that design flaws can be fixed and further safeguards put in place to protect claimants from risks of financial hardship.

There is concern that universal credit could prove politically explosive for ministers when the large cohort of “just-about-managing” working families in receipt of tax credits are subjected to its well-documented problems with payment delays.

More than 2 million households – including about a million working families, as well as 750,000 disabled and ill claimants unable to work – will be transferred to universal credit under so-called “managed migration” over three years from next July.

Meanwhile:

‘Debt, tears and suicidal thoughts’: This is the reality of universal credit in Cardiff

Carer Vivien Soloman, 60, from Tremorfa, has been told she cannot receive anything as her partner’s pension counts towards the maximum household income they’re entitled to under Universal Credit.

Despite being signed off work after breaking her wrist in April last year and suffering from stress, she is now without any income.In six years time, when she turns 66, she will be entitled to receive her own state pension yet under Universal Credit she is not entitled to any benefits.

Vivien recently received a letter from her housing association telling her she is nearly £1,000 in arrears and faces being forced out of her home after 24 years.She and her partner have seen their council tax bills jumped up by over double – rocketing to over £90 a month when she used to pay £24 a month.

That’s on top of a maxed out overdraft of £2,000, with bank charges of £35 a month, paying her sister £30 a month for credit card debt and still paying for her father’s funeral after he died in April.With no savings, she can’t afford to pay it back, and it’s making her have suicidal thoughts.Vivien, whose partner is a retired painter and decorator, feels trapped.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 8, 2018 at 11:45 am

Universal Credit Failing People With Mental Health Problems.

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This appeared recently on the Disabled People Against Cuts Site.

Given the importance of issues about mental health recently should be looked at by the widest possible audience.

Some background before the article:

Universal credit leaves claimants with mental health problems ‘tangled in bureaucracy’

July 2018: 

People with mental health problems are becoming “tangled up” in the bureaucracy and flaws of the government’s new universal credit benefit system, a committee of MPs have heard.

Members of the public accounts committee heard this week that claimants were facing “considerable hardship and considerable deterioration in their mental health” because of universal credit.

Sophie Corlett, director of external relations for the mental health charity Mind, told them: “They struggle with the process, but they end up tangled in the process and unable to dig their way out of it.

“They struggle with the online application, they struggle with the conditionality that comes while you wait for your work capability assessment (WCA), they struggle with waiting for their first payment and if they are able to get an advance payment they struggle to pay that back.”

She also highlighted concerns about the role of the government’s work coaches, who are based at jobcentres and have “discretion” about whether they make adjustments to the process, including whether to relax the conditions placed on disabled claimants.

A key concern, said Corlett, was the period between the start of a universal credit claim and the WCA, during which claimants can be forced to carry out the usual 30-plus hours of jobsearch activity while waiting to be assessed for their “fitness for work”.

Carrying out this jobsearch activity was “a huge barrier” for many people with mental health problems, who were often not even well enough to visit their jobcentre.

Mental Health in the Social Security System

As the number of unemployed social security claimants has declined, the government’s drive for reductions in the benefits bill has focussed increasingly on the chronic sick and the disabled. The government’s aim is not to improve the well-being of these claimants but rather to classify as many of them as possible as fit for work and to push them into whatever jobs are available by cutting their benefits and, very frequently, imposing sanctions upon them. This strategy is backed up by a simplistic account of the mental health problems which, today, account for most sickness claims.

The key problem today is that mentally distressed claimants are being offered simplistic and ineffective remedies and are being pressurised by the social security system to seek employment of any kind, including in poor quality jobs which can aggravate their mental health conditions


Analysis

Over the last two decades, mental health problems have become a key issue in social security policy. This is because, first, straightforward unemployment is much lower and state-provided unemployment indemnities are now a very small fraction of social security expenditures, so that long-term illness and incapacity, which affect many more people, dominate in terms both of case-loads and spending.

Second, long-term illness itself now predominantly takes the form of mental distress, with anxiety and depression more frequent than the physiological problems, such as back pain, which used to account for most sickness-related social security claims.

In Britain  and in many other advanced economies social security claims related to illness increased rapidly in the wake of the deindustrialisation of the 1980s. One can trace these increases to labour market conditions and interpret them as a form of disguised unemployment in that they would not have been as severe if labour markets for industrial workers had remained buoyant. The geography of sickness benefits confirms the interpretation: For example, Merthyr Tydfil, devastated by the decline in Welsh heavy industry, was a notorious sickness benefit black spot.

In the 1980s policy-makers tended to accept the increased sickness benefit bill as the lesser of two evils, as preferable to much higher levels of open unemployment and as providing a certain compensation to some of the most vulnerable victims of structural change. However, as high numbers of sickness claims persisted and began to affect more recent generations governments became less passive and started to search for ways to limit the problem. One sign of this switch was a reformulation of labour market objectives: an increase in employment rates was seen as a better target than a reduction in unemployment as such in that high rates of inactivity (either through sickness or for other reasons) were now seen as in general undesirable.

Women were adversely affected by this shift because, in the drive to maximise employment, social security systems became much less supportive of women claimants who were full-time mothers and housewives. From the 1990s on, governments also started to make less use of early retirement as a palliative for long-term unemployment.

These changes should not disguise the continuity both in labour market conditions and in the nature of incapacity. There is certainly an alarming rise in mental health problems across western countries but the musculoskeletal disorders which prevailed in the past were not necessarily a completely distinct phenomenon: in an economy where most jobs were manual they could act as a sickness-induced disqualification from employment in general; in today’s service-dominated economy psychological malfunctions can, in a similar way, indicate an inability to meet the typical constraints of existing labour market conditions.

Thus the changing forms of sickness in no way undermine the notion of “disguised unemployment” or, in less tendentious terms, adverse labour market conditions, as a principal source of incapacity. Recent British policy, however, completely inverts this widely accepted causal relationship: current policy is based on the view that the labour market is not the cause of, but rather the remedy for, sickness-related inactivity. This view has led to the imposition of policies towards claimants which needlessly aggravate their distress while leaving untouched the labour market structures and practices which actually disqualify so many people from employment.

Two main developments have led to the policy impasse: the degeneration of the universal credit (UC) social security reforms and the drive within the NHS to address mental health problems through “Improved Access to Psychiatric Therapies” (IAPT).

The original objectives of the UC reforms were to simplify the benefit system, by bringing together six of the most important benefits under a single means-test, and consequently to strengthen employment incentives by reducing the rate at which benefits were withdrawn as claimants re-entered employment or took on more hours of paid work. Because these goals were seen as moving social security in the right direction, UC was widely welcomed by both researchers and organisations concerned with poverty, such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Child Poverty Action Group.

Gradually the welcome gave way to critical concern. After the election of 2015 the Conservative government stated its intention to reduce expenditures on working-age social security benefits by £12 billion, more than 10%, that is, to claw back some £12 billion per annum from the three largest claimant groups: the unemployed, the chronic sick and the low-paid.

It is an indication of social attitudes towards social security claimants, even though many are in employment, that the Labour Opposition did not at that time condemn these cuts but decided to abstain when they were debated in Parliament, though some, including many now in leadership positions in Labour, did vote against them.

While positive incentives to seek and retain employment were reduced, an increasingly harsh and oppressive treatment of claimants was substituted. The conditions for benefit payments were tightened continually, while breaches of these conditions were increasingly met with frequent and severe sanctions. Claimants with health problems were subjected to repeated assessments of their capacity to work – often crudely administered by unqualified staff in the service of revenue-hungry corporations. It was clearly intended to re-designate as many sickness-related claimants as possible as actually or potentially fit for work.

Unemployed claimants had to sign contracts committing them to often futile hours of job search and to participation in often badly-designed “work experience” and training schemes – both of these outsourced to corporations more concerned with profit than either high quality services or accurate reporting of their own performance.

The explosion in the numbers resorting to food banks and the arbitrary benefit reductions following from the “bedroom tax” (the so-called “spare room subsidy” removal) can both stand as emblems of the increased pressures on claimants.

Meanwhile, actual conditions on the labour markets towards which claimants were being impelled continued to deteriorate in terms of both wage rates and job security. Indeed the increasingly harsh regime imposed on those without employment may be leading people to accept worse pay and conditions rather than become claimants. The roll-out of UC in place of previous benefits became in itself a source of concern as new and renewed claims now attracted substantially lower levels of benefit.

Now the epidemic of mental distress became ever more central to the drive for social security spending cuts since, with falling rates of open unemployment, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the corresponding sickness-related benefits under UC became a key item in social security spending and, at the same time, mental health problems increasingly predominated in these claims. The resulting policy difficulties could seem complex and intractable; they also called into question the punitive treatment of claimants which had in practice emerged from the UC reforms.

If claimants are suffering from anxiety and/or depression it is hard to see how suspending their benefits can improve their situation, and growing awareness of the severe consequences of sanctions – including suicides – may well have been a factor behind the unannounced but rapid and clearly policy-driven reduction in the use of sanctions after the peak they reached in 2014.

In this conjuncture the programme “Improving Access to Psychiatric Therapies” (IAPT) seemed to offer a silver bullet. Mental health problems could be easily overcome because:

  1. They were individual and not socio-economic in origin (after all, there are lots of people who cope);
  2. Thus the undeniable correlation between mental distress and socio-economic disadvantage should be interpreted as showing that mental health problems lead to disadvantage and not the other way round (the social security agenda does not require structural change in the sphere of employment);
  3. Most psychological problems can be easily dealt with by brief “talking therapies”;
  4. The essence of such “behavioural therapy” is not to improve the socio-economic situation of the sufferer but simply to alter their patterns of thought so that they cease to dwell on alarming or depressing features of their experience and so that they become – such is the hope – more likely to seek or retain employment;
  5. No great level of skill or knowledge is required to administer such therapy;
  6. Thus it can be provided cheaply;
  7. There will be a big pay-off in terms of employment and fewer claims for benefit since employment as such promotes psychological well-being and mental health.

One sign that this approach was completely unrealistic has been the failure to deal with many cases of depression and anxiety among claimants at the level of the least qualified mental health workers – the only group of workers in the field who have seen recruitment increase. Nor has the rolling out of IAPT led to any fall in the incidence of mental illness, nor any slowdown in the increasing prescription of psychotropic drugs in response to it.

Policy Framework

There is mounting evidence that current policies are aggravating the material and mental problems of many of the most vulnerable social security claimants. Social security reforms in the future must take fully into account their impact on mental health.

A complete refocus of policy on the well-being of the long-term sick and disabled is needed in the context of strategies which address the socio-economic determinants of poor mental health. Meanwhile, resources could be released by curtailing the frequently dysfunctional “assessments” and “work preparation” programmes to which mentally disturbed claimants are subjected, and by ceasing to contest large numbers of perfectly valid claims for sickness benefits.



John Grahl is Emeritus Professor of European Economics at Middlesex University. 

More: Rethink Mental Illness.

We know that money and mental health problems often go hand in hand. That’s why Rethink Mental Illness, as part of Mental Health UK, have set up a new website. It will help you understand, manage and improve your mental and financial health. You can find a wide range of information to help you with your benefits. Just visit www.mentalhealthandmoneyadvice.org to find out more.  

Clear, practical advice and support for people experiencing issues with mental health and money.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 4, 2018 at 10:26 am

As Rents Rise and People Risk Homelessness: End the Freeze on Local Housing Allowance!

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Housing benefit freeze leaving poorest private renters with shortfall of up to £140 a week

Low-income tenants in the private rented sector face a “heat, eat or pay rent” problem because housing benefit rates have failed to keep up with the soaring cost of accommodation, a study has found.

The benefit freeze is not just affecting people’s ability to pay bill, or to buy food in the shops (where massive price rises are predicted on basics)

Welfare Weekly reports,

Research from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) reveals that more than 90% of Local Housing Allowance (the equivalent of housing benefit for private renters) rates across Great Britain are insufficient to cover even the cheapest rents, as they were originally designed to do.

LHA rates were frozen for four years in 2016 and CIH is warning that they have fallen so far behind even the cheapest rents that private renting has become unaffordable for most low income tenants – putting them at risk of homelessness as they are forced to choose between basic living expenses and paying the shortfall. The organisation is calling on the government to review the policy and to end the freeze immediately.

LHA rates are meant to cover the cheapest 30%t of homes in any given area. But they haven’t been increased in line with local rents since April 2013 and they remain frozen until April 2020.

As a result, renters are facing gaps ranging from £25 a month on a single room in a shared home outside London to more than £260 a month on one to four-bedroom homes in some areas of London.

Over 12 months, those gaps rise to £300 and £3,120 – making it increasingly likely that renters will be forced to choose between paying for basic necessities like food and heating or their rent.

The government introduced targeted affordability funding in 2014 to bridge the biggest gaps but CIH’s new report has found that its impact has been negligible, covering only a handful of the shortfalls completely.

CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE said: “Our research makes it clear just how far housing benefit for private renters has failed to keep pace with even the cheapest private rents.

“We fear this policy is putting thousands of private renters on low incomes at risk of poverty and homelessness.

“We are calling on the government to conduct an immediate review and to look at ending the freeze on Local Housing Allowance.”

Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, said: “This report highlights just how much housing benefits for private renters are falling short of the levels needed, leaving many homeless people stuck in a desperate situation and putting yet more people at risk of homelessness.

“There are 236,000 people across Britain experiencing the worst forms of homelessness – this includes those sleeping on the streets, living in unsuitable hostels, and sofa-surfing. In many of these cases, people simply can’t find a home because there isn’t enough social housing and housing benefits are too low to cover private rents.

“Homelessness is not inevitable – there is clear evidence that it can be ended with the right policies in place. The government must urgently reform housing benefits for private renters, so they not only match the true cost of renting but also keep pace with future rent changes.”

There is some serious research behind this: MISSING THE TARGET? Is targeted affordability funding doing its job?

What are the consequences of the uprating freeze for private renters?

• Tenants are expected to make up any gap out of their jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) (or other basic benefits) even though basic benefits don’t include an allowance for rent. Basic working age benefits are also subject to the uprating freeze and are now only worth 93 per cent of their 2012 value.

• Single people aged under 25 only get the shared accommodation rate and a lower rate of JSA (£57.90). On average they are expected to contribute 10 per cent of their JSA on the gap (equivalent to a 17 per cent contribution in real terms).

• Young jobseekers’ resilience is severely limited because the basic benefit allowance for this group

 

Background: the local housing allowance and uprating policy (2008-2020)

How LHA rates become misaligned with local rents

• In April 2008 the government introduced the local housing allowance (LHA) which set a maximum rent that housing benefit can cover for private tenants. The LHA is the rent figure which a set percentage (currently 30) of all of the rents in that market fall below (‘the 30th percentile’) – ensuring that same percentage of homes is affordable to low income households.
• For each of the 192 distinct local housing markets across Great Britain there are five LHA rates, one for each category of dwelling (e.g. shared accommodation, one bedroom, two bedrooms etc.). Each LHA rate is calculated using a database of rental market evidence compiled by rent officers (professional valuers who work for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in England or the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales).
• In April 2013 the link with local market evidence was broken and henceforth (for an unspecified period of time) existing LHA rates were uprated by the consumer prices index (CPI) or a lower figure set by the government. From April 2014 for two years the uprating index was capped at one per cent, and from April 2016 LHA rates were frozen for four years.
• Over the medium to long term rents tend to rise faster than prices (i.e. CPI), so that from April 2013 when the link with local rents was broken, the LHA’s purchasing power receded and this has accelerated during the one per cent cap and the current freeze.
• From April 2014, to ensure that LHA rates remain reasonably well aligned with local rents, the government introduced targeted affordability funding (TAF). Under this policy a proportion of the savings that accrue from uprating by one per cent or zero instead of CPI is awarded to those LHA rates that have the lowest percentile value (i.e. cover the smallest proportion of the whole range of rents that are paid in that market).

Written by Andrew Coates

August 30, 2018 at 11:38 am

Government in the Courts Again over Universal Credit.

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Protests at a Crime Scene of Universal Credit.

There’s been – since we posted on the Ipswich Star’s report –   a string of more news stories  in local papers about Universal Credit claimants in work (Low wage fears as 10000 North-East workers claim Universal Credit, The Northern Echo MORE than 10,000 workers in the North-East and North Yorkshire are claiming Universal Credit because their wages are not enough to live on, …More than a third on Universal Credit in work  Shropshire star. ‘Shocking’ working benefits stats show two in five Universal Credit …Powys County Times21 hours ago.

Now we have this from the Disability News Service.

DWP facing court over claimant’s universal credit ‘fit for work injustice’

A disabled man who was unfairly found “fit for work”, and then saw his benefits slashed by almost £180 per month after he was forced onto the government’s new universal credit benefit system, is seeking justice in the high court.

It is the latest in a series of legal cases that have been taken on behalf of disabled benefit claimants against DWP, as a result of a series of welfare reforms introduced under successive Conservative and Conservative-led governments.

The man, known as IM for legal reasons, had been claiming employment and support allowance (ESA), but after undergoing a work capability assessment he was told in March last year that he was no longer eligible for ESA.

His jobcentre advised him to claim universal credit instead, which he did, but he also successfully appealed against the decision to find him fit for work.

Although the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) now accepts that he was unfairly found fit for work and that he has limited capability for work-related activity – the equivalent of being in the ESA support group – he has been treated as a new universal credit claimant.

As a new claimant, he is not entitled to the severe disability premium (SDP) he previously received as a top-up to ESA.

He is also not entitled to the partial compensation of £80 a month agreed by work and pensions secretary Esther McVey for those who lost entitlement to SDP when they were forced to move onto universal credit after their circumstances changed.

IM’s judicial review case has been taken by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), which has described DWP’s policy as “irrational” and discriminatory.

It has secured permission for a judicial review of the failure to provide IM with transitional protection after his move to universal credit, or, alternatively, the refusal to allow him to return to ESA.

Another case is in the pipeline:

CPAG is taking a similar legal action on behalf of AD, a single mother with a disabled child, which will be heard by the high court alongside IM’s case.

TD gave up her job to become a full-time carer but had her income support terminated when her child’s disability living allowance (DLA) was about to end and before it could be renewed.

She was also told by the jobcentre to claim universal credit, which she did.

Despite DWP eventually admitting that there had been a mistake, TD is now receiving almost £140 a month less under universal credit than she did when receiving income support.

The two cases are expected to be heard together in the high court early next year.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) welcomed the judicial review and warned that if it was not successful, many other disabled people would be affected in a similar way.

DPAC said DWP was clearly engaged in “another cost-saving exercise”.

A DPAC spokesperson said: “Financially, the incentive for DWP is to find as many claimants as possible fit for work.

“Even if the decision is overturned, DWP is saving money by transferring claimants to universal credit.

“This is clearly just more evidence that universal credit is beyond being fixed.

“People already living on poverty-level social security payments are simply and randomly being thrown even further into destitution.”

Claire Glasman, from the campaigning organisation WinVisible – which supports disabled women – said: “Families are being devastated by abolition of income support, which is some recognition of caring work.

“We are contacted by stressed out mothers at their wits’ end when their children’s DLA and their carer benefits are threatened by the brutal personal independence payment [which is replacing working-age DLA]and universal credit system.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We are not able to comment on an ongoing legal case.”

This site recommends DPAC .

Their activists, all over the country, including Suffolk and Ipswich, have campaigned against injustice not just in words but by active protests.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 25, 2018 at 10:30 am

Universal Credit and In-Work Poverty in East Anglia.

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“In-Work Poverty” Keeps People in this Spider’s Web.

Many, many, indeed, many, if not many,  local papers have reported on massive problems created by and increased by  the introduction of Universal Credit.

Well, the East Anglian Daily Times and the Ipswich Star have now got round to the issue.

Their angle is about people in work claiming the benefit – nothing about the bungling system itself, or the bungling it’s caused around the country..

‘In work poverty’ is a big, serious problem.

But a walk around Ipswich would reveal – as no doubt a keen newshound could find if it’s not too much trouble to do more than phone round various local charities and Food Banks –  that people are begging on the streets.

One of the principal reasons is that they do not get benefit at all.

Thanks to the compliance criteria, and sanctions.

There is also the fact that Universal Credit benefit rates are frozen.

A real newshawk might take the difficult step of going to the supermarkets, glancing at a few bills, and looking at the rising cost of living.

Low wages mean hundreds more workers are claiming Universal Credit.

Ipswich Star.

Michael Steward

Hundreds of workers across Suffolk and Essex are claiming Universal Credit as their low wages are not enough to live on.

Charities say that the “shocking” number of in-work applicants is due to low wages and housing costs.

In some areas, workers claiming the payment represented nearly half of the total people on Universal Credit, according to latest figures from the Department of Work and Pensions.

Universal Credit is a new benefit, slowly being rolled out by the Government, which replaces six legacy benefits and merges them into one payment.

It includes income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credits, and working tax credits.

Here the journalist give some figures,

In Colchester, there were 240 employed claimants on Universal Credit in July 2018, equating to 47% of the 516 people receiving the payment.

This was 93 more people than the previous month and one of the highest percentages of employed claimants in Britain.

In St Edmundsbury, the number of in-work claimants for July was 943, 142 more than the previous month and around 43% of the total.

In Suffolk Coastal, 169 people out of 413 claiming Universal Credit in July were employed (41%) and in Mid Suffolk, 259 people out of 648 were in-work (40%).

The figures for Babergh showed that 451 employed people were claiming Universal Credit – 39% of the total – and 63 people out of 172 claimants in Forest Heath (37%) were in-work in July.

Overall, there were 1,824 people on Universal Credit in Ipswich, 395 more than in the previous month, with 644 in-work – which is around 35% of the total.

There were 305 employed claimants in Tendring on Universal Credit in July – about 34% of the total – 25 fewer than the previous month.

Here the journalist phones around a few people.

Maureen Reynel, MBE, of foodbank FIND, which helps people in Ipswich and the surrounding areas who are experiencing poverty, said the charity has seen a increase in demand from a wide variety of people.

“It has been very noticeable for some months now,” she said.

“It isn’t just food, but also household items, which people aren’t able to replace.

“Everyone thinks of families, but it’s also the single people, males and females, who are really struggling.

“Some people have received Universal Credit but are finding huge deductions and have nothing to fall back on.

“It’s definitely had an impact.

“Many people who are working also have childcare costs or work part-time because of childcare and part-time jobs are very often low paid.”

Pritie Billimoria, from Turn2us, a charity which helps people who are struggling financially, said it was “shocking” that such a high number of workers earn so little that they are forced to rely on benefits.

“Every day we hear from working people who are living hand to mouth and facing impossible decisions about whether to buy food or pay their rent.

“We know that the rise of in-work poverty and in-work claimants is complicated. Households are dealing with low pay, the rising cost of living and changes to welfare support, which are all having a compounding effect on the daily lives of families across the UK.

“Work needs to be a route out of poverty so people are not left dealing with the intolerable stress and anxiety that their wages don’t cover their basic costs of living.”

Note: It would have been helpful for the ace reporters of the Star to mention that, “Turn2us”  links to this centre which helps rough sleepers and people who are homeless or socially excluded.

Ipswich Housing Action Group – Chapman Centre
Chapman Centre
1 Black Horse Lane
Ipswich
IP1 2EF

Public phone: 01473 232 426 / 01473 213102

Email: admin@ihagcc.co.uk

Website URL: http://www.ihag.co.uk

Service offered: The Chapman Centre provides advice and support to marginalised and vulnerable people over 18, including homeless people and rough sleepers, on issues such as housing, welfare benefits, money advice and health issues. The Centre also provides access to computers, shower facilities, use of phones, post collection, lunches, clothing and food parcels; and offers meaningful activities to enable and encourage individuals back to sustainable independence by supporting in their journey back into social inclusion – through structured training sessions and self-confidence boosting activities.

Target group: Rough sleepers and people who are homeless or socially excluded.

This Blog is very very far from convinced that, “a national charity helping people when times get tough. We provide financial support to help people get back on track” is in any sense whatsoever the real long-term way to deal with poverty and homelessness.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 20, 2018 at 4:02 pm

It’s Official: Nine times more people sanctioned under Universal Credit.

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Image result for sanctions universal credit campaigns

 

As a follow up to our recent post.

From Politics Home.

Nine times more people sanctioned under Universal Credit

The Government has released statistics detailing how many people who need support from benefits are being sanctioned – having their financial support cut or stopped entirely because they’re not able to do the things that are being asked of them, such as attend appointments with a work coach or Jobcentre Plus advisor.

Universal Credit (UC) is gradually replacing a combination of other benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), provided to those who aren’t currently able to work due to a mental and/or physical health problems, and Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) provided to people looking for paid work.

The figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show:

  • Sanctions under Universal Credit are at least nine times higher than the benefits it is replacing. In the last period for which data is available 2.8 per cent of people saw their benefits drop due to a UC sanction compared to 0.3 per cent of people on JSA and 0.1 per cent of people on ESA.
  • Disabled people receiving ESA are over three times more likely than people in receipt of JSA to still be receiving benefits six months after a sanction – 85 per cent of people receiving ESA compared to 27 per cent people receiving JSA.*

Responding to these data, Ayaz Manji, Senior Policy and Campaigns Officer at Mind, said:

“It’s concerning to see that people who are currently receiving Universal Credit are much more likely to be sanctioned than those receiving the benefits that it’s replacing. We have long been warning the Government that a punitive approach towards people who are out of work because of their health or disability is not only ineffective but is causing a great deal of distress. In addition to the harm they cause, sanctions are counter-productive, causing many people with mental health problems to become even more unwell and move further from hopes of getting back into paid employment as a result.

“We’re hearing from more and more people with mental health problems who are struggling to cope with far more stringent requirements under Universal Credit. That includes people who have had to stop claiming benefits altogether without another source of income because they couldn’t cope with the added pressure. The Government says that the higher sanction rate reflects technical changes to Universal Credit and that they do not think it is possible to compare different benefits.** We need urgently clarity on what is really happening and for the Government to put in place safeguards to protect people who are unwell and in need of support.”

*Benefit sanction statistics to April 2018 (p. 1 and p. 9)

**See para 22 of the Department for Work and Pensions response to the Work and Pensions Committee recent inquiry into benefit sanctions.

Mind itself posts this:

Some anonymous Mind supporters receiving Universal Credit share their experiences of being sanctioned, or threatened with sanctions:

“… I had to rearrange a signing on appointment as it clashed with a doctor’s appointment. When I rang UC to rebook it, she told me that if I ‘chose’ to go to the doctor’s rather than the job centre, they would sanction my benefits. Fortunately, my Job Centre advisor intervened and rebooked the appointment without any problems. I have been covered by sick notes (for fibromyalgia and depression) continually since November last year, but UC consider me able to work as I am actively looking for work – but if I don’t provide proof of my job searches, or if I fail to attend any appointments due to ill health, they threaten me with sanctions. The amount of times I’ve been crying my eyes out trying to explain why I can’t get the bus into central Manchester to attend the work programme is ridiculous.”

“It’s been awful, I became depressed and found the Job Centre staff very unsympathetic. One told me she knew all about my illness as her father and partner had Bipolar disorder like me. She was angry, telling me “you can’t sit on your bloody backside until you retire”, I am 57. I found it embarrassing as there is no privacy at all. Her attitude was terrible with obvious bad temper but I felt bad about it, it dwelled on my mind and I felt like a burden. Even felt suicidal for a while, I had fitness certificate from my GP, not sick certificates these days. Told that I had to commit to certain tasks which I found hard due to my mental state, otherwise I wouldn’t get paid yet had to wait anyway.”

“I was treated like a work shy nobody up until I had my work assessment and they realised I am actually struggling with my health at the moment, even after that point they can be very inconsiderate. They would change my appointments at a moment notice and borderline harass me to attend meetings even though my GP had provided me a sick note for several months at a time. Because of the stress of it all my step dad had to become my advocate and deal with them because it was making me more ill.”

Written by Andrew Coates

August 17, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Sanctions and Homelessness: Universal Credit in Action.

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Image result for homelessness and sanctions

The Threat Looming Over Universal Credit Claimants.

As the juggernaut of Universal Credit continues, and millions are caught up under its wheels, it’s sometimes best to illustrate its effects through individual cases:

This is one:

“I was sanctioned after missing a Universal Credit appointment due to seizures. The DWP should help job-seekers like me, not penalise them.”

By Luke O’Donnell in today’s ‘I’.

They said Universal Credit would make things more simple. Having fallen foul of the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) trigger-happy use of sanctions, I can say that this is not the case. I have epilepsy and missed a Job Centre appointment in November after having seizures.

I missed a second meeting in January after being in a status epilepticus, which left me in a hospital bed, connected to a drip. While I had evidence for this, I could not provide anything to prove why I missed my previous appointment. The DWP stated I had “failed without good reason to comply with a work-related requirement to attend a work-focused interview”. I was sanctioned for three of my four weeks’ benefits.

Sanctions demotivated me This showed me there was no common sense or discretion being applied by the DWP. In bundling all benefits into one system they appear to have lost the ability to use reasoning or any sense of fair play.

O’Donnel continues:

Their sanctions only served to demotivate me further than my health had already. Quite the opposite of the intended effect. It just augmented my worries about finding an employer who’d take my health seriously because if a Government agency doesn’t consider it worth taking into account, what would employers think when they find out about my brain damage?

My case was so outrageous that when I tweeted the letter upholding my sanctions after I’d navigated the DWP’s arbitrary “mandatory reconsideration” process, it quickly gathered momentum on social media and was picked up by i and BBC News. As a result of the widespread negative attention the DWP’s flagship new benefit service received, my case was given a “second reconsideration”. My benefits were hastily reinstated and I heard no more. I was lucky. But I still wanted the DWP to acknowledge it was aware of the effects Universal Credit was having on people. I got in contact with Esther McVey, Minister for Work and Pensions, but received no response. So I tried again, to no avail.

My case is just a drop in the ocean. A simple search on Twitter will reveal thousands of people with disabilities and serious health conditions are being penalised instead of helped. I personally believe there is now a culture of “sanction by default, for as much as possible” within the DWP. We are being treated as though we’ve done something wrong because of the effect our health has on our ability to work. What use is a social security system that works against those very people it was initially set up to help?

Background: 

DWP says sanction review of epileptic man who missed benefits appointment was due to press coverage Luke O’Donnell said it was ‘satisfying’ to read a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Serina Sandhu Wednesday August the 8th.

In March, i reported that Luke O’Donnell, who has epilepsy, was penalised after missing a work-related appointment for Job Seeker’s Allowance because he could not prove his seizures had prevented him from attending. At the time, the 24-year-old said the system was “cold-hearted”.

The story was widely shared and less than two weeks later, the Universal Credit department at the DWP informed him his sanctions would be reversed, saying “not enough consideration was placed on Mr O’Donnell’s health following three days of epileptic episodes”.

Even though his case was resolved and benefits fully reinstated, Mr O’Donnell wrote to Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey in June because he wanted acknowledgement that she was aware of the effects Universal Credit was having on claimants. “I wanted to see what she had to say. How does she justify these problems she’s causing people?”

A response from her office read: “The Department for Work and Pensions are committed to ensuring people with disabilities and health conditions get the right support they need, and we are sorry that we have not met this standard during a period of time when you were in ill health.” But it was also confirmed that the move to review Mr O’Donnell’s case was triggered by the press coverage. The decision to revoke the sanctions, however, was a result of a “full review of all evidence and information.”

It’s good that Luke O’Donnell found a way out of his problems.

But sanctions can have even more devastating effects.

The system cannot deal with the most “difficult” cases.

Welfare conditionality, benefit sanctions and homelessness in the UK: ending the ‘something for nothing culture’ or punishing the poor?

We have here a ‘multiple-miscreant’ population (homeless, unemployed, poor, many dependent on drugs or alcohol) but a policy (benefit sanctions) virtually impossible for them to comply with. It is, therefore, difficult to see how any moral rectification can flow from such a policy. It can, however, discipline or punish. Rather than producing a compliant working class, then, it pushes people out of the very system (social security) initially designed to protect them

The impact of Universal Credit and sanctions can be seen in this area, the news story that’s hit the headlines today.

Rough sleeping: £100m government plan to tackle homelessness unveiled

The Guardian  publishes this commentary:

Homelessness is caused by policies: decisions on how many houses to build, and in which price range. Universal credit, sanctions, the child benefit cap – these are political decisions that have contributed to people being unable to afford their rent. Up to a third of universal credit claimants are having their payments deducted because they are in rent or council tax arrears. The government is acting like its own incompetent opposition, decrying a situation of its own making, offering solutions that are nowhere near the source of the crisis.

Homelessness is back on the Tories’ agenda, yet it’s they who made this crisis worse

Written by Andrew Coates

August 14, 2018 at 11:28 am

Benefit Sanctions Rate Under Universal Credit Twice The Rate Under Jobseeker’s Allowance.

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Image result for benefit sanctions

Benefit Sanctions Rise Under Universal Credit.

People may have thought that benefit sanctions had gone away.

Not only have they not disappeared into a new more liberal system but the numbers have got worse under Universal Credit.

Benefit sanctions may do more harm than good

The ultra-liberal Economist this week says,

Reforms to Britain’s welfare system are not nearly as helpful as their supporters claim

MORE than half Britain’s jobcentres now offer “universal credit”, which merges six working-age benefits into one. Most discussion of universal credit, which will eventually offer payments to one in four households, has been about its botched rollout. Less attention has been paid to its tough sanctions regime. Those who fail to comply with requirements that include spending 35 hours a week job-hunting may see their benefits docked. In America, where there is talk of tightening conditions for receiving food stamps, reformers are looking at the British experiment with interest.

From 2010 the coalition government enforced sanctions more vigorously still. Under universal credit, claimants who have received several sanctions are often made to serve them one after the other, rather than concurrently, as under the old system. Research by David Webster of Glasgow University suggests that the sanction rate for jobless universal-credit claimants is twice the rate for jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), the old unemployment benefit.

….

…the government has published little research on the impact of the tightening since 2010, despite sitting on a mound of data.

A new paper in the Cambridge Journal of Economics offers a pessimistic assessment. Focusing on the period from 2001 to 2014, it finds that sanctions under JSA increase the flow of people into work—but only in the short run. It may be that claimants, fearful of having their money cut off, take the first job they find, which turns out not to suit them. This also suggests that they may be taking jobs which do not pay as well as they might. In a speech last year Michael Saunders of the Bank of England drew a link between tough welfare rules and recent low wage growth.

As the evidence builds, the government may at some point have to tweak its approach. A recent study by Rachel Loopstra of King’s College, London, and colleagues, finds some correlation between tougher benefit sanctions and a rise in the use of food banks. A government that tones down sanctions would doubtless be accused of going soft. But it would have the evidence on its side.

This is the source:

BRIEFING 

David Webster (Glasgow University)

Benefit Sanctions Statistics 24 July 2018

Of the 920,000 claimants on Universal Credit at May 2018, two-thirds (67.3%) were subject to conditionality. For the first time, a majority (50.7%) of all unemployed claimants were on UC rather than JSA. UC is now significantly boosting the number of people recorded as claimant unemployed, by making people look for work who would previously not have done.

In the 12 months ended January 2018 there were a total of approximately 355,000 sanctions before challenges on all the four benefits subject to conditionality (UC, JSA, ESA and IS). This compares to 383,000 in the 12 months to October 2017. Of the 355,000 sanctions, approximately 264,000 or almost three-quarters (74.4%) were on UC.

The overall rate of sanction under UC is typically around 5% per month, and the unemployed sanction rate within UC will be considerably higher. Only for relatively short periods in 2010-11 and 2012-14 has the JSA rate ever been as high as 5%.

This is the crucial section of the research:

The rate of sanction under Universal Credit continues to be strikingly high. It is typically around 5% per month, far higher than the rate for JSA. In fact only for relatively short periods in 2010-11 and 2012-14 has the JSA rate ever been as high as this. It also needs to be remembered that this overall UC rate includes sanctions on groups with much lower sanction rates than the unemployed. The unemployed accounted for under three-quarters of the UC claimants subject to conditionality in the three months to January 2018. The unemployed sanction rate within UC will therefore be considerably higher than the overall rate shown in Figure 2.

Thus, “sanctions don’t just ‘appear’ higher in UC; they are higher.”

“Since summer 2017 about 8 % or 1 in 12 of all unemployed UC claimants has been serving a sanction at any one time, this proportion having reached a peak of over 10% in March 2017.  The proportion under sanction for unemployed claimants is now higher than it was when the statistics began in August 2015 – about 8% compared to about 6%, whereas for all other groups it is similar or lower. Evidently the administration of UC has become harsher towards unemployed claimants as the system has bedded in. Moreover it must be remembered that if 8% of claimants are under sanction at any one time, the proportion sanctioned at some point during, say, a year, will be much higher.

The second highest proportion under sanction is found among in-work claimants, running at around 2% except at the time of the backlog drive in early 2017. Rates for the other groups are around 1%.

A striking feature of the figures is that there are people serving sanctions who are in the groups which are not supposed to be subject to conditionality at all: ‘no working requirements’ and ‘working – no requirements’.

At January 2018 there were a total of 1,108 people in this position. This is  because they will have received a sanction when they were in a different group which was subject to conditionality.

One of the many problematic consequences of the ‘simplification’ of benefits by combining them into UC is that sanctions follow claimants into no-conditionality groups even though there is no longer any point to them. Previously the sanctions would have lapsed when people moved to another benefit. The number of people in this position will grow as UC expands.

Some other key findings from this survey of UC claimants relevant to issues of conditionality are:

  • Fewer than two-thirds (63%) of claimants thought their Claimant Commitment was achievable, and only 54% and 55% respectively thought that it took account of their personal circumstances and would help them to obtain or increase employment (p.41)
  • Around 40% of claimants found it difficult to complete the hours of work search or preparation required by their Claimant Commitment, and almost half (47%) had completed fewer hours. (p.59)
  • For around one third of those finding it difficult to meet the Claimant Commitment, the main reason was a lack of jobs available in their area. Suitability of the claimant’s skills, childcare responsibilities, and health problems were other common factors. (p.60)
  • Meetings with the Work Coach and the online Journal were generally favourably regarded, with around three-quarters taking a positive view (pp.50-51)
  • long-term health condition (55 per cent). This suggests a serious mismatch between requirements and capabilities. (p.28)
  • Claimants were asked to identify circumstances that could lead to a sanction. The circumstance which was least often correctly identified (by 80% of claimants) was failing to apply for a job when required by the Work Coach. This is serious as this carries the heaviest penalty, a ‘higher level’ sanction of three months for a first ‘failure’. (p.43)
  • Two thirds (64%) of those sanctioned considered their sanction to have been unfair (p.52)
  • 10% of those sanctioned did not know or understand the reason, while 7% believed that the sanction was due to an error made by the Jobcentre (p.52)

Observer May 2018.

Study concludes that punishing claimants triggers profoundly negative outcomes

Benefit sanctions are ineffective at getting jobless people into work and are more likely to reduce those affected to poverty, ill-health or even survival crime, the UK’s most extensive study of welfare conditionality has found.

The five-year exercise tracking hundreds of claimants concludes that the controversial policy of docking benefits as punishment for alleged failures to comply with jobcentre rules has been little short of disastrous.

“Benefit sanctions do little to enhance people’s motivation to prepare for, seek or enter paid work. They routinely trigger profoundly negative personal, financial, health and behavioural outcomes,” the study concludes.

Despite claims by ministers in recent years that rigorously enforced conditionality – including mandatory 35-hour job searches – incentivised claimants to move off benefits into work, the study found the positive impact was negligible.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 10, 2018 at 10:31 am

Universal Credit Leaves Families in Debt.

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Protests as Universal Credit is rolled out in Clacton (6th August)

One of the first things you noticed in the changing High Street of the last decade was the invasion of loan companies, and pawn brokers and companies like BrightHouse,

Got no money but need a new TV? No problem. BrightHouse will sell you one in instalments… for a huge mark-up

Then there’s the Wonga, QuickQuid, and licenced loan sharks ads all over the telly.

Debt, the cause and the result of this has become a major problem.

But there’s nothing that Universal Credit can’t make worse.

Universal credit flaws leaving families in debt, campaign group says

Low-income working families are losing hundreds of pounds each year – and being wrongly denied free healthcare entitlements – because of flaws in the way universal credit is designed, campaigners say.

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG ) said arbitrary rules built in to the way universal credit is calculated leave some families unable to predict how much they will be paid each month, leaving households in debt and unable to budget.

It can lead to claimants being wrongly benefit-capped – a penalty designed to “incentivise” jobless or low-earning households by severely limiting their benefits – because the system fails to spot they are working and earning enough.

In other instances, the problem means claimants doing the same job and earning identical salaries can end up being paid different amounts of universal credit simply because their respective claims begin on different days of the month.

The complication, which occurs when pay dates fall close to the start of universal credit assessment periods, can result in claimants who are parents or disabled losing up to £258 of work allowance each month, CPAG has estimated.

The charity has called for universal credit to be halted in order to fix the problem before the benefit is extended to over two million people – including many families who are currently in receipt of working tax credits – from July 2019.

It says erratic payments have left families stressed and in hardship: “Claimants are often left flummoxed by how much – or how little – universal credit they will receive from one month to the next,” said the CPAG chief executive, Alison Garnham.

The full report is:

Rough justice: problems with monthly assessment of pay and circumstances in universal credit, and what can be done about them

The lengthy press release from the Child Poverty Action Group says that it’s people working who are hit hard,

Universal credit assessment system is leaving claimants out of pocket

Working people claiming universal credit are having their benefits capped when they shouldn’t be, and losing the effects of ‘work allowances’ worth up to £258 per month simply because of the dates on which their paydays and universal credit ‘assessment periods’ happen to fall, new evidence from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) shows. Last month the Work and Pensions Secretary acknowledged the need to look at “ … payment cycles for those in work.” (3)

In the worst cases workers are losing hundreds of pounds each year simply because their paydays clash with the monthly ‘assessment periods’ in universal credit (UC). Far from offering much-vaunted simplicity, universal credit rules leave many workers unable to predict what their payments will be from one month to the next. People who happen to move house at the ‘wrong’ point in their assessment period can also lose hundreds of pounds in help with rent.

One in 20 cases coming in to the charity’s Early Warning System – which gathers case evidence from welfare rights advisers across the UK – indicates a problem with the monthly assessment system in UC. ​

Universal credit assessment periods run for a calendar month, starting from the date Universal Credit is awarded. At the end of each month, claimants’ circumstances and income are assessed to determine their entitlement to UC, with payment made a week later in arrears. But where a claimant’s monthly payday is on or close to the first day of their assessment period and they are paid a day or two early some months, because their normal payday would fall on a weekend or bank holiday, they are then recorded as having had two paydays in one assessment period and none in the one after.

Two pay cheques in one assessment period can leave claimants facing unexpectedly low universal credit awards as well as losing the effect of one month’s work allowance (see below). Claimants can even lose help with prescription charges or travel costs for NHS treatment because when paid twice they appear to earn more than they do. And if they appear to have no earnings in the following assessment period – because they received two pay cheques in the preceding one – then rather than seeing their universal credit increase to compensate for this they may find that they are in fact subject to the benefit cap (which was designed to limit how much support is paid to people out of work or with very low earnings) so their support for that month is reduced too. Had they simply received one paycheque in each assessment period they would have a consistent UC award and would be recognised as earning enough not to face the benefit cap.

Claimants whose assessment period start-date and payday are both close to the end of the month are especially likely to miss out, as bank holidays are often in the last days of the month.

A worker paid on the last working day of each month in 2018, with assessm​ent periods dated 30th – 29th of the month will have:

§ 6 assessment periods with one payday

§ 3 assessment periods with two paydays

§ 3 assessment periods with no paydays.

People who are paid weekly, fortnightly or four-weekly will also have different numbers of paydays in different assessment periods over the course of a year, which makes budgeting challenging and also means that they may be eligible for passported help with health costs in some months but not others, or may be benefit capped in some months but not others, when their pay has not in fact changed at all.

For couples where both partners work on different pay cycles, the variability of their UC award month to month can make budgeting almost impossible – see case study Katie and Luke (page 9 of full briefing).

There is a lot more.

They conclude:

Commenting on the findings from CPAG’s Early Warning System, the charity’s Chief Executive Alison Garnham said:

“Universal Credit isn’t working for working people. Our Early Warning System shows​ claimants are often left flummoxed by how much – or how little – universal credit they will receive from one month to the next.​ But we believe most of the problems created by the monthly assessment system can be fixed relatively easily if the political will is there. The mass migration of families on to universal credit should not begin until these fundamental problems are resolved.”

And:  Child Poverty Action Group is taking legal action on the rigidity of assessment periods

Just to remind people where this ends:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 8, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Basic Income: An Alternative to Universal Credit?

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Are a few Basic Income Pilot Schemes an Alternative to Universal Credit? 

Could a basic income replace Universal Credit? 

The BBC reports today.

A survey has found support for local experiments to explore paying people a basic income as an alternative to Universal Credit.

The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) found 40% of people questioned backed local tests to see how such payments would work.

Only 15% would oppose the idea, a Populus survey of 2,070 people found.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions questioned the idea.

It said a basic income “would not work for those who need more support”.

The RSA describes a basic income as “a regular, unconditional payment made to every adult and child. It is not dependent on other earned or unearned income, is not means-tested and is not withdrawn as earnings rise”.

The article gives some discouraging  examples .

Some countries have tested paying a basic income to citizens.

In western Kenya, the government is paying every adult in one village $22 a month for 12 years to see if a regular payment can help lift them out of poverty.

The Netherlands and Italy have also launched trials, while Scotland is considering piloting basic income schemes in four cities, including Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell recently said that Labour would include a plan for universal basic income in its next general election manifesto.

However, a two-year trial in Finland, where a sample of 2,000 unemployed adults were given €560 a month, will not be extended.

And in Canada, Ontario’s newly elected centre-right government said it was scrapping a three-year basic income pilot project that hoped to discover whether it was better than existing welfare schemes.

The RSA survey found the cost of funding basic income was a concern for the public, with 45% of those questioned fearing it was “unaffordable”.

The examples could have been extended to Italy where the 5 Star Movement’s proposals never got beyond voter-bait and France, where a watered down version proposed by failed Socialist Party Presidential candidate Benoît Hamon last year was basically laughed out by trade unionists.

They conclude:

Anthony Painter, director of the RSA’s action and research centre, said: “Basic income is no magic bullet, but with HM Opposition exploring the idea and the Scottish government looking to pilot it with four Scottish councils, basic income is increasingly seen as one plausible response to modern economic insecurity.”

A DWP spokesman said: “A universal basic income would not work for those who need more support, such as disabled people and those with caring responsibilities.

“It’s reasonable for people to meet certain requirements to receive their Universal Credit payment and these are agreed with people in advance – sanctions are only used in the minority of cases when someone doesn’t meet these requirements without a good reason.”

Not to mention the details of the above Canadian trial:

Canada’s Ontario government cuts basic income project short

The Independent adds,

The findings emerge after the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, told The Independent that Labour is set to include a pilot of the scheme in the party’s next manifesto for a general election.
Mr McDonnell revealed to The Independent earlier this week that he had recently discussed the idea with former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who was “really keen” on getting a pilot of the scheme in the next manifesto.

Asked whether he could envisage a pilot of basic income forming part of Labour’s next blueprint for government, he replied: “It’s one of those things I think we can get into the next manifesto and see, it’s worth a try. There have been pilots elsewhere. I’m trying to wait for the feedback.”

He continued: “If you look at what’s happened elsewhere in other countries – and I think Scotland is looking at it as well – they are doing it on a small geographical basis in particular towns. Guy is looking at that now and coming forward with proposals.

“It will be thrown into the discussions about the next manifesto – that’s one of the ideas that a lot of people are pressing for.”

Most people are pressing for a replacement to Universal Credit, not Basic Income.

An opinion survey, to stir up interest in a report issued in February this year (to resounding indifference)  proves little.

But it’s is no secret that the key McDonnell’s adviser, the pro-Brexit James Meadway, who worked for the  New Economics Foundation, has long been favourable to this idea.

No doubt others in this small circle are as well.

The reasons why Meadway and the Shadow Chancellor  imagine amid the chaos of a post-Brexit economy a Labour government is going to be the time and place for the plan are open to imaginative speculation.

It would be a better idea if Labour were to concentrate on preparing a Universal Replacement for Universal Credit rather than speculating on the merits of “pilot schemes” for Basic Income.

And as for the principles of Basic Income….

Extreme Caution is recommended.

For a start, would it mean enough income for all to live on, including rent, bills and all the rest?

Next, setting it up would be a mammoth task, which governments have shown, with Universal Credit, frankly not up to the job, not to mention all their private contracting friends who keep getting shown up as incompetent bunglers.

Is the Civil Service, its New Public Management, and all the chancers making a profit out them, up to the task?

This is also unlikely to mean “luxury communism” as some of its enthusiasts, and detractors,  claim.

It’s hard to see more than a minimum being offered.

The ‘basic’ would be pretty basic, and the luxury remain in the hands of those with the best jobs and, above all, the ownership to keep themsleves in the style to which they are accustomed.

We should look at the background as well.

Love the idea of a universal basic income? Be careful what you wish for

Given that UBI necessarily promotes universalism and is being pursued by liberal governments rather than overtly rightwing ones, it’s tempting to view it as an inherently leftwing conceit. In January, MEPs voted to consider UBI as a solution to the mass unemployment that might result from robots taking over manual jobs.

But UBI also has some unlikely supporters, most prominent among them the neoliberal Adam Smith Institute – Sam Bowman, the thinktank’s executive director, wrote in 2013: “The ideal welfare system is a basic income, replacing the existing anti-poverty programmes the government carries out.” He added that UBI would result in a less “paternalistic” government.

From this perspective, UBI could be rolled out as a distinctly rightwing initiative. In fact it does bear some similarity to the government’s shambolic universal credit scheme, which replaces a number of benefits with a one-off, lower, monthly payment (though it goes only to people already on certain benefits, of course). In the hands of the right, UBI could easily be seen as a kind of universal credit for all, undermining the entire benefits system and providing justification for paying the poorest a poverty income.

In fact, can you imagine what UBI would be like if it were rolled out by this government, which only yesterday promised to fight a ruling describing the benefits cap as inflicting “real misery to no good purpose”?

Despite the fact that the families who brought a case against the government had children too young to qualify for free childcare, the Department for Work and Pensions still perversely insisted that “the benefit cap incentivises work”. It’s not hard to imagine UBI being administered by the likes of A4e(now sold and renamed PeoplePlus), which carried out back-to-work training for the government, and saw six of its employees receive jail sentences for defrauding the government of £300,000. UBI cannot be a progressive initiative as long as the people with the power to implement it are hostile to the welfare state as a whole.

So, with the present ‘agile’ IT in the DWP system it looks even less of a going proposal.

There are other reasons to reject the idea:

The respected Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – who seem not to be part of the charmed Basic Income circle around the Shadow Chancellor- have made an extensive, very critical, examination of Basic Income.

Solution or illusion? – the implications of Universal Basic Income for Disabled people in Britain (June 2018)

These are their conclusions.

UBI is not the demand we should be making if we want an end to the suffering that welfare reform is causing. We urgently need the abolition of sanctions and conditionality, of benefit assessments designed to deny disability and Universal Credit. The social security system is now one that is intended to create an intolerable environment for benefit claimants. The social security system of the future must be one capable of providing adequate social protection and standard of living for all in need of safety net support. Achieving such a radical transformation is no small task, requiring wholesale scrapping of existing systems and a fundamental redesign. Given the history of disabled people’s exclusion and the marginalisation of our issues it is reasonable for disabled people to fear that attention and resources dedicated to the task of implementing a UBI will be at the expense of effecting the level of change needed to ensure disabled people receive adequate support.

Costs.

Proponents of UBI tell us that disabled people would not be worse off under UBI but there is a dearth of evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, simulations for the introduction of a UBI to the UK indicate that the only way to ensure this would be through a partial UBI system run in parallel to a continuation of disability benefits. Supporters for such a system are then silent on the detail of how this separate system would work for disabled people, how it would address the many and considerable failings of the current system and how it would be afforded. A recent paper from the University of Bath presents an idea for a UBI with additional disability and severe disability premiums which when micro-simulated produces strong reductions in inequality and poverty but would be very expensive and require significant increases in income tax. The report author concludes: “The unavoidable reality is that such schemes either have unacceptable distributional consequences or they simply cost too much.”

No Improvement on Low Benefit levels.

Financing even a modest UBI set at a Guaranteed Minimum Income level in the UK would require high tax rises, as demonstrated by an OECD study . The World Bank report, which promotes the idea of UBI as an international response to the changing nature of work, concludes that when it comes to the UK, “taxing cash benefits and eliminating tax allowances is not enough to cover for the UBI” . This is because the level at which current benefits are paid is so far below a Guaranteed Minimum Income level that it would require the raising of significant additional funds to afford. In the UK a monthly BI amount that would cost the same as existing benefits and tax free allowances would pay £230 yet the poverty line for a single person is £702. The fact that benefit levels in Britain are so far below the poverty line point back to issues with the current social security system that need urgently addressing.

While many disabled people would be in favour of tax rises to fund welfare provision – particularly corporation tax and a progressive rise in the higher rate of income tax – the use of this for a UBI rather than more traditional forms of disability and unemployment support would mean much of the benefit flowing back to employers rather than those in most need. In functioning as a wage subsidy UBI would act to significantly reduce employers NI contributions. It would be hard to make a case that this is a more progressive solution than simply reversing the damage that the Tories have done to current systems. For example measures such as restoring the Independent Living Fund, scrapping conditionality and sanctions, and re-establishing the principle of universal benefits payed for by progressive taxation where the rich pay a greater proportion.

Poorest households featuring as losers

The distributional impacts of a UBI mean that there are winners and losers with the poorest households featuring as losers under certain models and simulations . This has the potential to divide against each other groups of people who are currently united in our opposition to the rich elite who we see as responsible for growing inequality and poverty. Maintaining this unity is essential if we are to bring about society that is structured in the interests of the mass of ordinary people before the pursuit of profit by a tiny minority.

Britain is currently home to the biggest socialist movement in Europe where demands for a living wage, for health and social care support services free at the point of need and a social security system that provides an adequate standard of living free from conditionality are all popular. These are what we need to fight for, not opening the door to policies that will be used to maintain existing power inequalities, facilitate greater job insecurity and low wages and risk further public service cuts.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 3, 2018 at 4:44 pm

Universal Credit lets “abusers control family finances.”

with 46 comments

Image result for universal credit abusers

2015 Report warned of risk of Abuser Control under Universal Credit.

Just when you thought that the stupidity of Universal Credit could not get any worse.

Now I – and I bet more than a few people here do as well – know women who had got so such a hard time from their partners that they fled to a women’s refuge.

To say that the new Universal Credit would have made their already hard lives harder bring rage to my throat.

Universal Credit hands power to abusers, MPs say.

BBC.

Welfare payments are turning the clock back to the 1950s and allowing abusers to control family finances, MPs say.

Under Universal Credit, payments are made to one person per household, often leaving abuse victims and their children dependent, a report by the Work and Pensions Committee said.

One abuse survivor said she feared the new system could leave her and her children with “nothing for weeks”.

The government said abuse support teams are on hand in every Jobcentre.

The Universal Credit system, which has been rolling out across the UK since 2015, aims to simplify the benefits and tax credits system with a single monthly payment.

Claimants typically provide details of one bank account for payments. The committee heard that they can request split payments, but Jobcentres are advised to only offer them in “very exceptional circumstances”.

The Huffington Post highlights this:

One domestic abuse survivor with children told the Commons Work and Pensions select committee: “He’ll wake up one morning with £1500 in his account and piss off with it, leaving us with nothing for weeks.”

Heidi Allen MP (Tory), Committee Member, said:

“One of the key improvements of Universal Credit over legacy benefit systems is the way it seeks to proactively support individuals. So it can’t be right that payments are made by default as a single block to a household. In the 21st Century women deserve to be treated as independent citizens, with their own aspirations, responsibilities and challenges. Good Government develops solutions that are dynamic and responsive to the individual as well as offering value for the tax payer, so I urge the DWP to show what I know to be true – that it can deliver both.”

We could have done without the claim that Universal Credit” has any “improvements”, and the (split infinitive)  “to proactively support individuals”.

The Huffington Post quotes this response,

Women’s Aid’s Katie Ghose said: “Universal Credit was not designed with survivors’ safety in mind. We have long been warning that Universal Credit risks making the domestic abuse worse for survivors and putting an additional barrier in the way of them escaping the abuse.

“It is clear from this report that there are major concerns about the safety of Universal Credit in cases where there is domestic abuse.”

This is what Women’s Aid had already found in 2015

Women’s Aid and the TUC wanted to find out more about women’s experiences of financial abuse and the potential implications for Universal Credit.

We conducted focus groups and an online survey with women survivors of domestic violence to find out more about their experiences and the impact that financial abuse had on their lives. We are grateful for the support of the TUC on this research project.

Key findings

  • Financial abuse includes control over money, exploitation of the survivor’s assets and sabotage of survivor’s efforts to work, study or interact with others.
  • Some survivors had no money or were given an allowance by the abusers
  • Many had little or no access to money even in a joint account
  • 67% of survivors in paid work at the time of the abuse agreed that their partner had monitored their work activities
  • Higher–income or ‘professional’ women can also experience financial abuse but may not be believed if people think domestic abuse is only linked to poverty
  • Disabled women are particularly at risk of abuse from partners, other family members or carers because of their impairments and additional benefit entitlement that they may have
  • Impacts of financial abuse included going without (71% of survey respondents went without essentials, 41% had to use the children’s birthday money or savings to buy essentials); 61% were in debt and 37% had a bad credit rating; 77% said their mental health had been affected
  • In interviews and focus groups, emotional or financial abuse came before other types of abuse (survey responses were less conclusive); but this does suggest that if we could identify and support survivors encountering these types of abuse earlier we might be able to prevent abuse escalating
  • Financial abuse is a barrier to leaving the abuser – some women had no money of their own. 52% of women survey respondents still living with their abuser said they could not afford to leave
  • Financial abuse continues after separation, often concerning difficulties getting child maintenance arrangements in place; legal disputes including court summonses; and disentangling joint assets
  • Of survey respondents, 36% had asked no-one for help with the financial abuse. 35% had told family and 26% told friends. 25% had asked a domestic violence service
  • Some abusers take women’s wages or benefits or get their benefits put in the abuser’s name. Abusers got benefits meant for the family, children or survivor – including Child Benefit. There were particular problems for non-UK nationals claiming benefit
  • The Government has said that, in cases of financial abuse, they can consider splitting Universal Credit between partners. But almost 85% of survey respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that split payments would make the abuse worse when their partner found out.

In May this year the FT published this:

Universal credit increasing risk of domestic abuse, critics claim

Payments for couples are paid into a single bank account following UK benefit reform

When “Anne” and her family were enrolled in the UK’s new universal credit benefits system, she and her children went hungry.

Instead of helping the family with their expenses, the new lump sum was paid into the bank account of her abusive husband, who “allocated” a tiny amount to her each month.

With the help of friends, Anne (who has asked that her real name not be used) escaped her husband and has applied for her own universal credit. But the process has been torturous, with a staff member at her local jobcentre confessing that she was “unsure of what exactly to do but they’d learn together”.

This what the present report’s summary says:

Universal Credit and domestic abuse 

Since 2010, the Government has begun to make great strides in tackling domestic abuse. This includes welcome recognition of the damage wrought by perpetrators of coercive control, including financial abuse—where a survivor is deprived of their financial independence. Accountability for domestic abuse lies squarely with the perpetrator. But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP/The Department) has a duty to ensure that it is providing the right support for survivors of abuse.

Universal Credit aims to bring the benefit system into the 21st century by mirroring the modern world of work. Claimants—whether single or couples—receive a single, monthly household payment in arrears. From this, they are expected to provide for the whole household and manage rent, bills and living expenses.

Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches are the frontline of social security. They are expected to build a personal relationship with Universal Credit claimants and to tailor support to meet their needs. That means that they need to be equipped with the right skills, knowledge and advice to support survivors of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is hugely complex, and the training Work Coaches currently receive leaves them ill-equipped to perform this vital function. The Department should, with specialist organisations, design and introduce a new training module for all Work Coaches. It should also introduce domestic abuse specialists in every Jobcentre, building upon and enhancing its existing disability employment and self-employment specialist model. Their role would be to act as a single point of contact in Jobcentres to foster links with domestic abuse services, and as a source of advice for individual Work Coaches.

Like all claimants, survivors of abuse need to keep in regular contact with their Work Coach. But if an abusive partner can access those communications, they may be at risk of further harm. The Department should add a private individual communication log to claimants’ joint online Universal Credit accounts by default and provide private rooms in all Jobcentres. This will help survivors to communicate safely and securely with their Work Coach, supporting disclosure of abuse and ensuring they receive support that they are due.

DWP should further consider co-location with domestic abuse services to enhance co-operation, and how Universal Support funding might be used to enhance links with these services. Universal Support could also incorporate more in-depth advice on bank accounts and financial management. This would help equip survivors with the support, confidence and resources they need in order to leave, and promote equitable money management amongst couples more widely.

As well as support in Jobcentres, the Department must also make sure that its systems are providing the most effective support possible for survivors of abuse. For a minority of claimants, single household payments can be misused by abusive partners to further abuse survivors. Under Universal Credit, claimants living with domestic abuse can face seeing their entire monthly income—including money meant for their children—go into their abusive partner’s account. There is no guarantee that any of the money they need to live or care for their children will reach them. That risks them remaining dependent on their abusive partner and making it harder for them to leave, should the opportunity present itself.

Universal Credit currently only allows claims to be split between partners in exceptional circumstances. DWP itself recognises the risk that requesting such an arrangement poses to survivors. The perpetrator will realise the survivor has requested the split when their own payments fall, potentially putting them in great danger. In light of this risk, many survivors simply will not request a split.

Survivors, and the organisations who represent them, told us there is a strong case for splitting Universal Credit couple payments more routinely, or even by default. This alone cannot prevent financial abuse. Some abusers will find a way to control their partner’s finances, whatever systems the DWP puts in place. Nevertheless, the Department must give serious consideration to any changes which might offer some protection, albeit limited, to survivors of abuse.

The process of splitting payments is complicated. Payments could be split in several different ways—from a simple 50:50 split to more complex calculations. Even amongst those who advocated splitting payments by default, we found no clear consensus on which approach would be best for claimants. Neither is it clear what would be within the capacity of Universal Credit’s IT and administrative systems, which have been mired in difficulty as the roll out progresses.

The Scottish Parliament, however, is convinced: it has passed legislation which requires the Scottish Government to introduce split payments by default. This offers a chance to explore the practicalities, understanding whether, and how, split payments by default could work for claimants and for the Department. The UK Government must seize this opportunity by supporting the Scottish Government’s experiments. DWP should view the introduction of split payments in Scotland as an opportunity to learn about the part that splitting payments more routinely could play in supporting survivors of abuse.

The Department should engage positively and quickly with the Scottish Government to support and negotiate the roll out of split payments, and to scope and agree different forms to trial. To enable a clearer understanding of the challenges, costs and feasibility of splitting by default, the Department should commit in response to our report to provide quarterly updates to Parliament on its progress with the Scottish Government. The Department must also learn from the Scottish experience. It should agree with the Scottish Government to co-commission and publish a full, independent evaluation of the split payment trials in Scotland, including detailed costings. When the final evaluation report is published, the Department should givecareful consideration to whether, on the basis of the evidence, there is a case for splitting payments by default in the rest of the UK.

More immediately, the Department should ensure that Universal Credit serves, as best possible, all parties it is intended for throughout the UK. Where claimants have dependent children, the entire Universal Credit payment should be made to the main carer by default. Where alternative split payment arrangements are permitted, the higher proportion of the split payment should remain with the main carer, other than in exceptional circumstances.

The Department must also act urgently to collect the data it needs to ensure that it is supporting abuse survivors effectively. DWP claims that it has no reason to be concerned about the effects of UC on survivors, but it collects no data to enable it to know for sure. We heard compelling evidence that there is a serious risk of Universal Credit increasing the powers of abusers. The Department must prioritise gathering and publishing data on disclosures of abuse and split payment requests—including the number of requests, reasons for request and the number of split payments being made. This will help make sure vulnerable claimants are receiving the right support in the safest possible way.

The Government aspires, through Universal Credit, to create a new, modern welfare system. It has also demonstrated a clear commitment to being more supportive of survivors of domestic abuse. Ensuring Universal Credit reaches all members of a family it is intended for, and seizing the opportunity to learn valuable lessons on whether and how split payments could help survivors of abuse, will make vital contributions to achieving these objectives.

Recommendations of the Committee:

Ensure the benefit system does not facilitate abuse

Accountability for domestic abuse obviously lies squarely with the perpetrator, but the Committee says DWP has a moral duty to ensure the benefit system does not in any way facilitate abuse. The Committee heard evidence that, for a minority of claimants, single household payments of Universal Credit can make it easier for perpetrators to abuse and control their victims.

At one stroke, single payments allow perpetrators to take charge of potentially the entire household budget, leaving survivors and their children dependent on the abusive partner for all of their basic needs. As one survivor with children colourfully put it: “He’ll wake up one morning with £1500 in his account and piss off with it, leaving us with nothing for weeks.”

Ensure payments are received fairly

Universal Credit is intended to mirror the world of work, but neither male nor female employees are obliged to have their wages paid into the bank account of their partner. Instead, the principle of Universal Credit is that it is a single payment made to a household for the benefit of everyone in that household. DWP must do more to ensure that payments are received fairly by everyone in a claimant household.

The Committee says that the Department must give serious consideration to any policies that might offer some protection to survivors of abuse and deliver fairer payments to households. This includes splitting Universal Credit payment by default. The Scottish Government is already making arrangements to introduce split payments by default, but its ability to do this depends on DWP adapting Universal Credit’s systems to accommodate them.

The Committee recommends the Government engages quickly and positively with the Scottish Government, seizing the opportunity to pilot different ways of splitting payments and to reach an evidence-based conclusion on whether there is a case for splitting payments by default in the rest of the UK.

Pending the outcome of split payment pilots in Scotland, the Committee says that where claimants have dependent children, the entire UC payment should be made to the main carer, by default. Where alternative split payment requests are permitted, the higher proportion of the split payment should remain with the main carer other than in exceptional circumstances.

Improved safeguards and services

The Committee also recommends improved safeguards and services for abuse survivors in Jobcentre Plus. For survivors of domestic abuse, the consequences of unsecure communications can be devastating.

Like all claimants, survivors of abuse need to keep in regular contact with their Jobcentre Plus Work Coach and update them on their circumstances.

But holes in the system mean doing so can put them at risk of further harm. DWP must ensure it has every safeguard in place to protect vulnerable claimants, starting with a private room in every Job Centre, “without delay”, the Committee says, and privacy changes to the online journal.

Appoint a domestic abuse specialist

The Committee says every Jobcentre plus should be required to appoint a domestic abuse specialist. For many survivors of domestic abuse, Universal Credit will be the lifeline out of abuse, the income that enables them to provide for themselves and their new household.

JCP must work closely with expert services and the survivor to establish the claim and get the right support in place. Flaws in the current system obstruct lines of communication and prevent this from happening. An expert point of contact in Jobcentres to foster external links would ensure claimants get the support they vitally need.

Getting the right support and systems in place for Universal Credit claimants will not end domestic abuse. But it could play a small, vital role in minimising harm and implementing the Prime Minister’s wishes within the social security system.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 1, 2018 at 3:27 pm

Esther McVey gets brought down from Summer Jobs Cloud Cuckoo Land.

with 37 comments

It’s a hard life being Esther McVey.

Attacked for her handling of Universal Credit, and making a fool of herself vaunting the merits of the DWp’s “agile” information system…

Esther McVey apologises for misleading parliament – video

Unkind people have suggested that this has brought about an identity crisis.

But she takes what comfort she can get.

Her Summer Job wheeze is the latest case of what experts in psychology call “flaying around helplessly”.

But even delivered with a winsome smile her latest trip into cloud cuckoo land has not met universal admiration.

Apart from this unhelpful thread (there is a lot, a real lot, of the above)  the media has got into the act:

Esther McVey told teenagers to get summer jobs and it did not go down well Independent.

Happy Hols Esther!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 29, 2018 at 9:36 am

Universal Credit is Creating Debt – Citizens’ Advice.

with 23 comments

Universal credit forces people into debt because application process is so complicated, says charity reports Jessica Morgan in the Independent.

Many claimants have fallen into debt after not receiving their first full payment on time.

Universal credit is forcing people into debt because the applications process is so complex, a new study has found.

Citizens Advice has revealed more than a third of people supported by the charity were left struggling to provide the evidence needed to complete their claim.

And as a result, a quarter of claimants fall into debt because they haven’t received their first full payment on time.

Many claimants, who must wait at least five weeks for the first payment, struggle to provide evidence for health conditions, childcare and housing and are stumped by multiple deadlines.

The charity is now calling on the government to simplify the process.

….

The Citizens Advice’s study comes after service centre workers lifted the lid on the “fundamentally broken” universal credit IT system, which was causing a surge in delayed payments.

Whistle-blowers have spoken out about the glitches and errors that the system has, which repeatedly leads to benefits being delayed for weeks, or wrongly slashed, The Guardian reported.

One said: “The IT system on which universal credit is built is so fundamentally broken and poorly designed that it guarantees severe problems with claims.”

They claimed the systems were overly complex, prone to breaking, and any errors were slow to fix.

“In practical terms, it is not working the way it was intended and it is having an actively harmful effect on a huge number of claimants,” they added.

This their Press Release:

Universal Credit claims falter due to complicated application process and lack of support

More than a third of people helped by Citizens Advice struggle to provide the evidence needed to complete their Universal Credit claim, new research from the charity finds.

With government data showing late Universal Credit payments are usually due to challenges submitting evidence, Citizens Advice asked people who came to the charity for help how difficult it was to meet these requirements. Of the people helped who qualify for extra costs under Universal Credit:

  • 48% found it difficult to provide evidence for health conditions

  • 40% found found it difficult to provide evidence for housing

  • 35% found it difficult to provide evidence for childcare

The charity also found that people receiving their first full payment late stood a higher chance of getting into greater debt, or falling into it. When people didn’t receive their first Universal Credit payment on time, their chances of being in debt increased by a quarter (23%). They were also 60% more likely to borrow money from a lender to help tide them over.

One mum-of-two had to wait an extra three weeks for her first full Universal Credit payment, which covered her rent. She was not told to bring her tenancy agreement to her Jobcentre appointment and struggled to get another appointment quickly. In the meantime, she went to a foodbank and borrowed money from friends and family members to tide her over.

As people must wait 5 weeks before receiving their first Universal Credit payment, their finances are often already stretched. This is particularly problematic if they have no income beyond an Advance Payment, which they are required to apply for. Any delays to this mandatory wait can then be more acute.

In total there are 10 stages to making a Universal Credit claim, many of which are time sensitive. If a deadline is missed, a claim may have to be started again. Some people are finding the process so complex that 1 in 4 people who were helped by Citizens Advice spent more than a week completing their claim.

Despite the demands of making a claim for Universal Credit, there is inconsistent support available with many not even aware it exists. Of those who took part in the research, 45% said they did not know about the support on offer but would have taken it up if they had been.

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to simplify the claims process, make it easier to provide evidence for extras costs and make sure adequate support is on offer. The charity says these improvements must be urgently put in place as roll out of the new benefit continues to increase.

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to:

  • Introduce an automatic payment for those who don’t get paid on time to help cover their immediate costs

  • Extend the support on offer so people can get help when making and completing a claim

  • Make it easier for people to provide evidence online at the start of making a claim

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“While Universal Credit is working for the majority of people, our evidence shows a significant minority are struggling to navigate the system. With people already having to wait 5 weeks as a matter of course for their first payment, any further delays risk jeopardising people’s financial security.

“Last year the government showed it was listening by taking important steps to improve Universal Credit. Those measures are starting to have an impact, but more needs to be done. Top of the government’s list should be simplifying the process and making sure adequate support is in place so that claims can be completed as quickly as possible.”

Citizens’ Advice relies on this research:

Making a Universal Credit Claim

23 July 2018

● DWP evidence shows currently 1 in 6 new claimants aren’t paid in full on time, and for many this is because they are struggling to provide the
right evidence.
● 40% of people Citizens Advice helps find it difficult to evidence their housing costs.
● 43% of Universal Credit claimants surveyed by DWP said they needed more help setting up their claim.
● 45% of Universal Credit claimants we help didn’t know support was available when applying for the benefit, but would have used it if they had.
● 1 in 4 of the people Citizens Advice helps take more than a week to make their claim, while DWP information for claimants says it should take up
to an hour.
●Universal Credit claimants we help who are paid late are 23% more likely to get into debt than claimants who aren’t.

(Too many people struggle to make a Universal Credit claim – summary [ 470 kb]

Making a Universal Credit Claim – full report [ 0.64 mb] )

In 2017 they stated:

Fixing Universal Credit.

We believe that roll-out should be paused while DWP addresses a number of signicant issues with Universal Credit. At the moment,  our research suggests that nearly a third of the people we help have to make more than 10 calls to the UC helpline to sort out their UC, over a third are waiting more than 6 weeks for their first payment of benefit and half are having to borrow money to cope with the initial wait for payment. The move to UC is causing significant financial challenges – our UC clients are nearly one and a half times as likely to seek advice on debt issues as those on other benefits.

Action is needed to reduce the waiting period for first payment, improve support for people receiving UC, and help people achieve financial stability once they are on the benefit.

Amongst the main recommendations was to call for a “pause” in the roll-out (ignored), reducing the waiting time (done: from 6 to 5 weeks…), and creating systems of “support” .

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 25, 2018 at 10:46 am

Esther McVey: After Swan Song at Reform Think Tank is She about to Flee the Sinking Ship?

with 67 comments

Image result for esther mcVey singing

“Swans sing before they Resign – ’twere no bad thing should certain persons die before they sing.” 

Our Newshawks have been keeping a beady eye on Esther McVey.

It looks as if she may be about to jump ship.

The far-right Express gloats,

ANOTHER blow to Theresa May Brexit plan as Esther McVey REFUSES to publicly support it

ESTHER McVey refused to publicly support Theresa May’s Brexit plan in another blow to the Prime Minister’s attempts to restore unity in her warring party.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said she was confident the Prime Minister will deliver the “Brexit that Britain voted for”.

Ms McVey was asked by the Reform think tank whether she had full confidence in the Chequers plan, to which she replied: “I will say that I have full confidence in the Prime Minister to deliver the Brexit that Britain voted for.”

But she would not give her backing to proposals agreed at Chequers, which Brexiteers have lambasted as being too soft.

Ms McVey and Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary, have been put on “resignation watch” by Downing Street after privately raising concerns about the Chequers plan.

The Work and Pensions Secretary’s partner, Conservative MP for Shipley Philip Davies, revealed he had submitted a letter of no confidence in the Prime Minister after losing trust in the Chequers deal.

This follows efforts to cover her  tracks (Guardian Thursday) in this remarkable Whooper Swan Speech.

In a speech to the Reform thinktank on Thursday, McVey said universal credit was adapting the welfare system to changing patterns of work and using the latest technology to create an agile service offering “tailor-made support”.

But in an almost unprecedented official admission that not all is going well with the benefit, which is six years behind schedule, she said changes were needed.

McVey added: “And where we need to put our hands up, admit things might not be be going right, we will do.”

The DWP needed to reach out to, and learn from, all organisations that could help officials design and implement a system that fully supported claimants, she said, such as the National Audit Office. . A highly critical report by the public spending watchdog into universal credit triggered a controversy that ended with McVey being accused of misleading parliament and facing calls to resign.

McVey said she was working on changes to universal credit including debt repayment, support for the self-employed and benefit payment cycles for working claimants, but gave no further details.

As is often the way it is interesting to read her Highness’ peroration beyond the newspaper’s report (extracts):

On 19 July 2018, the Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, gave a speech to Reform on ‘Universal Credit: Delivering the welfare revolution’.

..it really is great to be here today to talk about my vision for the welfare revolution and the changing world of work.

And it’s terrific to be on a Reform platform.

Because Reform is a fierce advocate for public services in this new age of technology.

(Pardon Ma’m what the hell do you mean here?)

This a good bit,

Interestingly, I’m the only Minister I believe who has spent their whole Ministerial career in one department- Work and Pensions – moving from Parliamentary Private Secretary into a Junior Minister role to a Minister of State to now Secretary of State – even with a spell of unemployment in the middle!

One moment Minister of State for Employment the next moment unemployed!

(Indeed …)

She continued, pontificating on the new ‘Immaterial world’ (thanks to her speech-writer for citing Paul Mason…)

there was nothing personal about a complex, indiscriminate ‘one-size fits all’ system – which, I think it is fair to say, embedded low expectations on both sides of the claim desk.

So change has to come – and change that also reflects the rapidly changing world of work in which we live.

Lots of work is changing – it is now online, tasks are being automated, and new industries are being created.

This is a great time to be alive and to be in charge of the DWP!

The gig economy matches people and tasks more dynamically than ever before – creating new opportunity.

Flexible working is no longer an exception, and we are seeing an increasingly inclusive workforce, where work fits around personal circumstances and caring responsibilities.

Gone is the job for life.

And our welfare system should reflect that. It should be nimble and adaptive – reflecting changing working patterns in this fast-paced moving world.

Our vision is one of a personalised benefit system, a digitised system.

Audience dozes off..

This digital system personalises Universal Credit. And we are constantly updating it.

This is not just IT: it is using next-generation technology, design thinking and data to support work coaches.

Sound of loud snoring.

But hark!

But we are not complacent that that all is working like clockwork.

And where we need to put our hands up, admit things might not be be going right, we will do so. We will be a culture of mea culpa, hands up and then we need to change. For just as we are adopting agile technology in this fast paced world, Ministers have to be agile too.

Nimble is Esther’s Middle name.

The speech drones on…

Personal advancement is key to social mobility and ensuring people reach their potential.

And it is by empowering people, giving them choice and flexibility to carve their own path, that everyone is able to reach this potential.

We are working hard to make Universal Credit work for all. And we want to work with you all to achieve that.

We are both a pragmatic and a visionary government, listening to business, listening to charities, listening to people on the frontline and putting in place the right support to help people taking back control of their lives. (Grammar note, that should have been ‘take’ unless she meant helping a group of people who are already taking ‘back control’ and nobody else). And most importantly, always listening to the claimant. Thank you.

Off to the bar….

And now there is this:

Universal Credit rollout bungle blamed as over 1million people are fined for mistakenly claiming free prescriptions

Mirror. 20th of June.

The bungled Universal Credit rollout has been blamed for more than a million people being fined for mistakenly claiming free prescriptions.

Labour accused Government of “penalising ill people” by failing to inform them of entitlement after moving to the all-in-one benefit.

Helen Goodman blasted the Department for Work and Pens­ions and called on Employment Minister Alok Sharma for refunds.

Fines can be as high as £100 per prescription. The MP said: “This is the minister’s fault.

“They should not penalise ill people because of their shambolic rollout of Universal Credit.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 22, 2018 at 10:00 am

After NAO Report on Universal Credit, Benefit Sanctions in Work and Pensions Committee’s Spotlight.

with 53 comments

Image result for benefit sanctions

The issue of Benefit Sanctions has not gone away.

Today (18th of July)  the Work and Pensions Committee, which has been conducting an inquiry into the issue, issued this statement.

DWP must give “facts behind the claims” on benefit sanctions

Work and Pensions Committee publish correspondence between the Chair and Alok Sharma

The Committee writes to employment minister Alok Sharma querying data on benefit sanctions supplied by the Department.

The Department’s published data consistently understate the number of sanctions applied for UC, JSA and ESA claimants by updating figures to reflect the post-appeal status. This means that every time a sanction decision is overturned at appeal, it no longer appears in the number of sanctions applied.

The pre-appeal figure for ESA sanctions was, in one month, as much as 57% higher than the post-appeal figure published by the Department. The Committee is asking for an explanation and for the Department to publish pre-appeal figures routinely so that the true picture can be understood.

The data also shows that in February 2018 1,108 Universal Credit claimants were still subject to a sanction despite having moved into in the “Working Enough” or “No Work-Related Requirement” conditionality group – usually because they are medically not fit for either work or to look for work.

The Committee is pushing for an answer on what possible purpose a sanction can serve for claimants whose circumstances mean there are no conditions attached to their benefits.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee. said:

“What is the point of applying sanctions to people who cannot work and are not expected to look for jobs? The DWP have yet to make the case that benefit sanctions work to get people into employment and it’s difficult to see how they can have that effect for people who are ‘working enough’ or cannot work. Benefit sanctions are the only major welfare reform this decade to have never been evaluated, and the picture DWP paints of the policy doesn’t match the troubling stories we’ve heard. In the wake of the NAO’s damning assessment of Universal Credit, we more than ever need the facts behind the claims.”

Note the figures indeed show the above, “) According to the data published in Annex 1 to your letter, in February 2018 1,108 Universal Credit claimants were subject to a sanction despite being in the “Working Enough” or “No Work-Related Requirement” conditionality regimes..”

The letter also adds, “Overall the statistics understate the scale of sanctions, because they change each record to update to the latest status of the case, which means that the figures are showing you sanctions after any successful appeals, rather than before. That particularly affects ESA sanctions,
where there is a very high rate of appeal and a high success rate.

Background:

Following the NAO’s devastating report on DWP’s failure to assess Universal Credit’s impact on claimants, or prove the benefits it has claimed for the massive welfare reform , we’ll question minister Alok Sharma on benefit sanctions, the “only major welfare reform since 2010 that has not been evaluated” at all.

The  inquiry will look at recent sanctions policy developments, like the “yellow card” system which gives claimants 14 days to challenge a decision to impose a sanction before it is put into effect. The system was announced in late 2015 although there is still no date for introducing it.

The inquiry will also consider the evidence base for the impact of sanctions, both that emerging from newly published statistics, and the robustness of the evidence base for the current use of sanctions as a means of achieving policy objectives.  Previously published in the Department’s quarterly statistical summaries, the Benefit Sanctions Statistics will now be a separate quarterly publication.

Earlier this year these stories showed the problems sanctions cause:

Groundbreaking Demos study reveals ‘culture of disbelief’ about disability among jobcentre staff leads to money being docked.

A comprehensive analysis of the treatment of unemployed disabled claimants has revealed that they are up to 53% more likely to be docked money than claimant who are not disabled. This raises serious concerns about how they and their conditions are treated.

The findings, from a four-year study by academic Ben Baumberg Geiger in collaboration with the Demos thinktank, will cause worry that a government drive to help a million more disabled people into work over the next 10 years could lead to more unfair treatment.

Sanctions – the cutting or withholding of benefits – are applied as a punishment when claimants infringe the conditions of their payments by, say, as missing appointments or failing to apply for enough jobs.

While the sanctions regime has been championed by the government as a means of encouraging people to take a job or boosting their chances of finding one, most experts consulted as part of the Demos project concluded that conditionality has little or no effect on improving employment for disabled people. There was also widespread anecdotal evidence that the threat of sanctions can lead to anxiety and broader ill health.

The study found that disabled claimants receiving jobseekers’ allowance – given to people who are out of work – were 26-53% more likely to be sanctioned than claimants who were not. Those hit by sanctions reported that the disparity arose because jobcentre staff failed to take sufficient account of their disabilities.

Less noticed amidst the chaos that is Universal Credit there are many harrowing tales of hardship (May 23rd 2018. My Disability Matters).

A disabled campaigner has told MPs how she was thrown out of a shelter and forced to sleep in her college library after she was unfairly sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Jen Fidai described yesterday (Wednesday)* how she spent nearly a year with no benefits after being wrongly sanctioned while studying for her A-levels in 2012, and was forced to leave the temporary accommodation where she had been staying.

She had to rely on friends for somewhere to sleep, or even the library at the sixth form college where she was studying, which also provided her with food during the day.

She had been sanctioned for failing to tell the jobcentre that she would not be attending a meeting, even though she was in full-time education at the time and had told them both in person and by phone that she would not be able to attend.

It later emerged that she had been placed on the wrong benefit and should not have been claiming jobseeker’s allowance.

Fidai, who is now chief executive of the LGBT mental health charity Rainbow Head, told the Commons work and pensions select committee that she had tried to explain the situation to the jobcentre “but they wouldn’t listen”.

This is a reaction from the legal profession:

The current system of benefit sanctions is failing to treat claimants with dignity and respect and causing severe hardship for some of the most vulnerable people in society, according to the Law Society of Scotland.

In its response to the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into benefit sanctions, the Law Society has also highlighted that the system is not meeting the UK Government’s policy objectives.

The professional body for Scottish solicitors has said there is an urgent need for effective monitoring and a review of training provided for Department of Work and Pensions staff.

Richard Henderson, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Administrative Justice committee, said: “Reviewing decisions around sanctions, through mandatory reconsideration and through appeal to the First-tier Tribunal, is not sufficiently effective or speedy enough to be regarded as satisfactory means of redress – resulting in real hardship for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The DWP urgently needs to put in place an effective mechanism for monitoring the quality of decision-making across all of its operations and should also undertake a review of the decision making training it provides to its staff.

“While we accept that there may well need to be power to make reasonable directions to claimants, and for some sanctions to be available if these directions are not followed, evidence shows that the UK Government’s policy objectives in this area – namely that benefit sanctions are there to positively assist claimants and that there is appropriate support available to help people return to work – are not being achieved.

“Claimants are not being treated with dignity and respect. Best practice is not being developed through learning from appeal decisions and, in some individual cases, human rights may well have been breached. It has long been apparent that there are some very serious issues to be examined in this area, and this inquiry offers a real opportunity to create a better benefit system across the UK and also provide much needed insight as a new benefit system is developed in Scotland.”

The terms of the benefit sanctions inquiry of the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee can be read online: Benefit Sanctions Inquiry

Daily Misery of Universal Credit.

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Image result for esther mcvey universal credit cartoon

Esther McVey is facing accusations of dishonest behaviour worthy of Donald Trump ..

Somebody should produce a digest of stories about Universal Credit misery.

With a long list of Esther McVey’s Trump like fact-denials.

These are just some of the latest stories:

Birmingham Live.

Universal Credit left one mum so poor she couldn’t buy socks for her children

Birmingham children had to go without socks on their feet because of Universal Credit chaos, says MP.

Liam Byrne, Labour MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill, said “chaos” in the way the new benefit system was administered had left parents without money.

Universal Credit replaced benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit, Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. It was Irolled out across Birmingham between November 2017 and February this year.

But critics say mistakes meant some people were forced to wait longer than expected for money, or received the wrong amount.

Mr Byrne told the House of Commons: “In my Birmingham constituency, we have the DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] telling my constituents that they cannot apply for housing credit through Universal Credit.

They get sent to Birmingham City Council, which then sends them back to the DWP.

“There is still a level of chaos on the frontline that meant that one of my constituents told me that not only could they not afford to eat, she could not afford to put socks on her children’s feet.”

Esther gave her normal Trump style reply:

In response, Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, the Minister responsible for the benefit, highlighted the note written by Mr Byrne when he was a Labour Treasury Minister following the banking crisis.

She said: “And this from the man who said there was no money left. But to be fair, he actually has some honour, because that was correct.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 15, 2018 at 10:34 am

“Welfare” in the USA under Trump: An Ipswich Unemployed Action Special.

with 10 comments

US Food Bank Queue.

Trump is in the news today.

The orange ‘orror is not just loathed for all the usual things, or for having ordered the UK to follow his Brexit line after having shat after a good Feed at Blenheim, including a turd directed at his host.

He has been busy destroying the already feeble level of social security in the USA.

Trump wants to slash welfare with stricter work requirements. Tara Golshan 

Vox. 10th of April 2018.

Trump calls on his Cabinet to propose stronger work requirements for welfare across the board.

President Donald Trump is making a big push to expand work requirements in the nation’s social safety net, calling on his administration to propose tougher rules for America’s most vulnerable population to benefit from welfare programs.

Trump signed the Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility executive order privately Tuesday, ordering secretaries across the government to review their welfare programs — from food stamps to Medicaid to housing programs — and propose new regulations, like work requirements.

The executive order calls on federal agencies to enforce current work requirements, propose additional, stronger requirements, and find savings (in other words, make cuts), and to give states more flexibility to run welfare programs.

Background:

United States Welfare Programs: Myths Versus Facts.

The Balance.June 26th 2018.

There are six major U.S. welfare programs. They are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Supplemental Security Income, Earned Income Tax Credit, and Housing Assistance. The federal government provides the funding; the states administer them and provide additional funds.

Welfare programs are not entitlement programs; those base eligibility upon prior contributions from payroll taxes. The four major U.S. entitlement programs in the United States are Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and worker’s compensation.

On April 10, 2018, President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to review work requirements for many welfare programs. The programs include TANF, Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance. Trump wants agencies to standardize work requirements between programs and states.

For example, food stamp recipients must find a job within three months or lose their benefits. They must work at least 80 hours a month or participate in job training. But several states, such as Alaska, California, and Nevada, have opted out of the work requirement. They say unemployment rates are too high. The executive order encourages agencies to make sure all states follow the same rules.

The Six Major U.S. Welfare Programs Myths Versus Facts

TANF is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Most people refer to this program as welfare. On average, TANF provided income to 2.5 million recipients in 2017. Of these, 1.9 million were children.

In 2015, TANF assisted only 23 percent of the families living in poverty. On average, a three-person family received $429 a month. Despite this help, they still live below the poverty line of $1,702 a month.

Welfare received a bad reputation due to President Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign. He portrayed the welfare queen who cheated the system to get enough benefits to drive a Cadillac. He also warned of how welfare created a cycle of poverty. As a result, 61 percent of Americans believe the government should provide jobs instead of welfare payments.

Fraud like Reagan described has been cut since 1996. That’s when President Clinton created TANF out of the ashes of Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The number of families “on the dole” dropped from 10 million before welfare reform to 1.9 million in 2017.

The new requirements were the reason for this decrease. Families who receive TANF must get a job within two years. They might not get more money if they have another child. They can own no more than $2,000 in total assets. They can only receive TANF for five years or less in some states.

Rest on site.

Trumps’ ‘reforms’ are widely admired by ‘hard-Brexit Tories, indeed all Tories like the US punitive and miserly US ‘welfare’ system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 13, 2018 at 10:23 am

Esther ‘Poor Law’ McVey Clings on like a Limpet.

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Image result for limpet

Esther McVey Tries to Weather Cabinet and DWP Storm.

Fun and games at Chequers,

It seems that Esther McVey did not need the taxi.

Unlike David Davis she has not resigned in the wake of the Brexit Bust-up.

She did not sound off about “polishing turds”, no doubt little concerned about the quality of her regular stool production:

A bungled Universal Credit roll-out is forcing some Ashford claimants to travel more than two hours on public transport to sign on – in Folkestone.

With the issue affecting some 6,000 properties, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says it is “working to resolve it as quickly as possible”.

Kent on-Line. 8th of July.

Like a limpet she is clinging to office, making these sounds…

Some, such as Esther McVey, sounded off about Brexit compromise.

So let us pause and have a look at her.

This, which appeared yesterday,  is a harsh, but essentially kind hearted, summary of our Boss’s politics,

Will Hutton.

 For Brexiters, truth is what you believe – even if it’s a lie

Esther McVey is a passionate Thatcherite believer and fully paid-up Eurosceptic – crucial attributes for success in today’s Conservative party. But her faith is a closed, druidic belief system that, whatever its dubious merits 40 years ago, now has no relationship with today’s economic and social realities.

She is work and pensions secretary, charged with delivering the biggest change in the welfare system for more than half a century – consolidating six income-based benefits and tax credits into one: the universal credit.

There were good arguments for trying to simplify the system – one means test rather than many – but the reality is that it was complex because the lives and circumstances of Britain’s tens of millions of very poor people are also complex. But the belief of the Thatcherite architects of universal credit, notably Iain Duncan Smith, was that the complexity was encouraging claimants to game the system, creating a dependency culture and making poverty worse not better. Best consolidate the six benefits into one in the name of simplicity – making it available only to those in desperate and obvious need who cannot pass the tough availability-to-work tests – save billions in welfare payments and end the dependency culture.

In his and now McVey’s mind the intent was what mattered – even if it is obvious that reality means that universal credit is de facto a regression to the Victorian poor laws, offering a mean, inflexible payment to the “deserving” poor and varying degrees of destitution for the rest.

Last week reality closed in on McVey. The independent National Audit Office (NAO), beleaguered custodian of reality, has a responsibility to tell the truth. Its report last month was damning. Not only was the system operationally faulty, but pilots showed that many claimants were worse off, with a significant minority not receiving any benefit at all. It should not be extended until these faults were remedied. What’s more, it did not promote employment and was not value for money.

Amazingly, McVey told the House of Commons, under questioning, that the NAO, notwithstanding its criticisms, wanted the rollout of universal credit to be accelerated. Last week Sir Amyas Morse, auditor general, published an open letter to her. The NAO had decidedly not said that. Rather, it had suggested the opposite: a pause while the issues it raised were addressed. He wanted the record set straight. Two hours later, McVey apologised to the Commons for misleading it. But she made no commitment to address the new system’s deep faults.

It was shameless, a degradation of our public life. But sealed in the bubble of her ideology, protected by a rightwing press locked in the same bubble, she was able to get away relatively unscathed – despite Labour calls for her resignation. She may have overtly lied: but the greater integrity, she will have told herself, was to be truthful to her beliefs.

We await Esther’s Resignation: Now!

Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has lied to Parliament – her false claim that the National Audit Office was concerned about the slow pace of the Universal Credit Universal Credit rollout has been exposed as a fabrication by an open letter from Sir Amyas Morse of the National Audit Office clearly stating that this was “not correct”.

McVey’s lie is a deliberate one – intended to distract from the actual content of the National Audit Office’s report of Jun 15 which highlighted the hardship Universal Credit caused to claimants. 1 in 5 are not being payed in full on time, 40% are experiencing financial difficulties and 25% said they couldn’t make an online claim.

The report also stated that the Universal Credit system was “not value for money now, and that its future value for money is unproven”. This proves what Disabled People Against Cuts have always said – that Universal Credit is an expensive white elephant which undermines provision for disabled people, those without work and the low-paid. McVey has lied to throw dust in the eyes of Parliament and the public because our calls for this damaging policy to be stopped and scrapped are being proved to be well founded.

That McVey has given this false information knowingly is without doubt; in his letter to McVey on 27 June Sir Amyas Morse wrote: “Our report was fully agreed with senior officials in your Department. It is based on the most accurate and up-to-date information from your Department. Your Department confirmed this to me in writing on Wednesday June 6 and we then reached final agreement on the report on Friday June 8.”

The Cabinet office’s own standards state: “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister”. Other ministers who have misled Parliament such as Priti Patel have been expected to resign – there should be no exception made in the case of McVey.

It is clear that in her fanatical pursuit of creating a hostile environment for disabled people and other claimants Esther McVey has breached this code, knowingly misleading Parliament over the position of the National Audit Office regarding Universal Credit.

We call on Esther McVey to resign now – if she refuses to do the right thing and go we call on The Prime Minister, Theresa May to sack her.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 9, 2018 at 10:35 am

Esther McVey on the Way Out?

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Steve Bell 5.7.18

Esther Tries to Ride out the Storm.

Our Newshawks spotted this one:

Esther McVey has to go. Her downright lies are dangerous

In a world of fake news and downright mendacity, lying to parliament may seem like just another day in politics. But the work and pensions secretary Esther McVey’s non-apology in the Commons on Wednesday, deliberately repeating fabrications about the universal credit (UC) disaster, takes indifference to facts to a new level of insolence.

The comptroller and auditor general, Sir Amyas Morse, who is in charge of the rigorously independent National Audit Office, has a reputation for strict propriety and extreme circumspection in his public comments. It takes unprecedented misrepresentation of an NAO report to force him to take the extraordinary step of publishing his letter of reprimand to the minister in charge of the Department for Work and Pensions. What else can he do when this minister has the effrontery to refuse to meet him? She plainly takes a Trumpist approach to inconvenient realities, so why bother meeting this annoying nitpicker?

McVeyism is everywhere. Duncan Smith, the architect of UC and many other calamities in one of the most disaster-causing political careers of our time, had the gall to tell parliament that Morse’s report is “a shoddy piece of work”. As he appears on our screens day after day propounding preposterous Brexit unrealities, broadcasters should ask if there comes a point when a politician found responsible for an act of such monumental failure is stripped of all public credibility? As for McVey, her deliberate misleading of parliament is considerably worse than the actions that led to Amber Rudd’s resignation as home secretary earlier this year after she inadvertently misled the home affairs select committee. But there is no sign of any such honourable resignation from McVey.

Our friends in the Mirror report,

Esther McVey faces calls to quit after apologising for misleading MPs about benefits shake-up

Labour demanded a probe into whether the Work and Pensions Secretary broke the Ministerial Code after her humiliating climbdown over Universal Credit.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett demanded Mrs May investigate whether Ms McVey broke the Ministerial Code – which governs Whitehall ethics.

He wrote to the Prime Minister: “I urge you to conduct a full investigation into [Ms McVey’s] conduct to determine whether she knowingly misled Parliament.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood said: “The NAO report is damning about the roll out of Universal Credit, the Government’s flagship welfare programme.

“If she didn’t read it properly, that’s incompetence. If she did read it properly and knowingly misled Parliament, then she should resign.”

Lib Dem welfare spokesman Stephen Lloyd said: “ Esther McVey ’s contempt for inconvenient facts and independent, reputable bodies such as the NAO shows she is unfit for office. Theresa May should replace her.”

Commons Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field added: “I’ve never seen a letter from the National Audit Office like this before in the 40 years I’ve been in Parliament.

“It’s clearly a call to end this Trumpism in British politics when you think you can stand up and say anything about what any other people have actually said.”

PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The apology from the minister will do nothing to convince those using Universal Credit, or our members who administer it, that the scheme works.

“The fact that the Auditor General has felt the need to make a public statement that the minister’s claims that Universal Credit is working are not ‘proven’ is a damning indictment.”

But who would have guessed that the far-right Mail would say this?

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey is facing calls to quit after issuing a grovelling apology for misrepresenting the findings of a Whitehall watchdog.

Ms McVey has said sorry for ‘inadvertently misleading’ MPs by wrongly claiming the National Audit Office (NAO) had concluded benefit reforms were working.

The admission in the House yesterday came after the NAO went public with a spat over a report it published last month savaging the government’s flagship benefits shake-up.

 

 

 

This is her last known Tweet:

 

If she won’t resign boot her out!

Written by Andrew Coates

July 5, 2018 at 10:08 am

Health Checks at Jobcentres as Auditor General diagnoses Esther McVey’s Advanced Porky Malady.

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Image result for esther mcvey ill

Auditor General Says McVey Suffering from Advanced Porky Malady.

“I’m a GP in Kent, with an interest in public health. I’ve really enjoyed the discussion, and this has been really useful to us. We do NHS Health Checks here in my practice. In terms of targeting the people who would most benefit, and I’m aware that there’s an issue with who would do this, but I think we should use places like job centres, food banks and the housing team to publicise this – because, that is where a lot of the people who would benefit most might be found. “

Health Matters – Using NHS Health Checks to optimise CVD care – Your questions answered.

Lo and Behold, in Ipswich…

Our Health Check team are conducting health checks at Ipswich Jobcentre EVERY Wednesday 10:00am-4pm. Please speak with your Work Coach, call 01473 298772 or respond to this email  to make an appointment.
 
https://onelifesuffolk.co.uk/
NHS Health Checks are a bit like a midlife MOT
Not had a health check in the past 5 years?
If you are aged 40-74 OneLife Suffolk can offer you a FREE NHS health check to assess your general health and your risk of cardiovascular disease.
http://onelifesuffolk.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Health-Checks-June-2017.pdf
Access Criteria:

 

  • 40-74 years old
  • Not had an NHS Health Check in the last 5 years
  • Resident in Suffolk, Essex, or Norfolk

 

  • No current diagnosis for hear  (sic) disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, kidney disease or vascular dementia.

Perhaps Esther McVey – apparently suffering from Advanced Porky Malady – should give this one a whirl.

(Just out from the Independent)

Esther McVey made incorrect statements to MPs over universal credit roll out, says government spending watchdog

Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse said Ms McVey’s claim the NAO was concerned that universal credit was rolling out too slowly was ‘not correct’.

Whitehall’s spending watchdog has written to cabinet minister Esther McVey to complain over a series of incorrect claims to parliament about its critical report of the roll-out of universal credit.

The National Audit Office (NAO) took the highly unusual step to rebuke the work and pensions secretary, after she dismissed the catalogue of failing outlined by auditors last month in their major report into the government’s flagship welfare programme.

In an open letter to Ms McVey, which is likely to raise questions about her future as a cabinet minister, Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse said that elements of her statement to Parliament on the report were incorrect and unproven.

He said it was “odd” that Ms McVey told MPs that the NAO did not take into account recent changes in the administration of universal credit, when the report had in fact been “fully agreed” with senior officials at the Department for Work and Pensions only days earlier.#

Sir Amyas added that Ms McVey’s claim that the NAO was concerned that Universal Credit was rolling out too slowly was “not correct”.

Her assurance, in response to the report, that Universal Credit was working was also “not proven”, said Sir Amyas.

In its report on June 15, the NAO highlighted the hardship caused to claimants by delays in receiving payments under universal credit.

It concluded that the new system – being gradually introduced to replace a number of benefits – was “not value for money now, and that its future value for money is unproven”.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 4, 2018 at 10:36 am

Iain Duncan Smith Rumoured to Seek Cognitive Therapy as his Universal Credit System Worsens.

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Image result for iain duncan smith

Creator of Universal Credit Rumoured to be up for Cognitive Therapy.

Every day I walk past Major’s Corner in Ipswich.

Often there are people in a dire state.

Every day I walk round Ipswich town centre and get asked for money from people in a dire state.

I hear all the time from people with problems with finding work, pay, bills, and with benefits.

This is not remarkable: it’s the case for just about every town and city in the country.

What is is clear is that the more that the government’s welfare ‘reforms’ it’s getting worse.

From , Two-child policy’ cuts benefits of more than 70,000 families

Campaigners warn poverty will rise as low-income families lose financial support.

To this, which is typical of the hundreds of reports now filling local and regional papers,

Ex-serviceman facing eviction after receiving just £84 Universal Credit for one month

Grimsby live. 28th of June.

Brian Lister has fallen into rental arrears after receiving only £84 Universal Credit in one month.

An ex-serviceman is facing eviction from his home after receiving just £84 of Universal Credit to live on in one month.

Brian Lister, 61, of Hildyard Street, served for 15 years in the RAF as a telecommunication operator, where he toured in Northern Ireland during the height of the troubles, and is now being told that he faces eviction from his Lincolnshire Housing Partnership home after falling behind on his rent because of Universal Credit.

He owes his landlord £260, and has been threatened with court costs of £325, if he is not able to clear his debts.

He says that the problems all started because his Universal Credit payment was heavily deducted due to him having been working for an agency, and Universal Credit deducted 63p for every pound that he is meant to have earned.

It has come to a sorry pass when even Money Week, not a journal of the radical left, publishes this,

Universal credit and the Tories’ stumbling welfare reforms

What happened?

Two big problems. First, as part of his spending cuts, George Osborne (as chancellor in 2010-2016) cut the level that claimants could earn before their benefits were withdrawn, thus saving money but reducing the reform’s effectiveness in creating an incentive to work. The overall result is that the universal-credit system is expected to be about 3% less generous overall than the previous system, shaving £2bn off the total spend. That means that many claimants – in particular self-employed people – will be worse off than under the previous system. Meanwhile, the Office for Budget Responsibility argues that the reform may in practice not save as much as ministers hope, and that the uncertainty poses a “significant risk” to the public finances in coming years as the numbers grow. Only 660,000 people (around 10% of all claimants) were in receipt of universal credit by last November, but the rollout of the benefit is expected to gather pace this year, with two million people projected to be covered by March 2019 and about seven million by 2022-2023.

And the second big problem?

The rollout, costing £2bn to date, has been shambolic – due to multiple management and IT failures and to radical flaws in the overall design. For example, a key benefit of universal credit is supposed to be simplicity and a smoother claim system. But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) greatly overestimated the number of claimants who would be able to confirm their identity online using the government’s online interface Verify. The officials reckoned on 90%, but the reality is just 38% (according to the National Audit Office, or NAO), meaning the supposed savings are much lower amid administrative chaos. Additionally, under the new system claimants receive one monthly payment, but have to wait five weeks – and in many cases much longer – for their claim to be assessed.

Why is that such a problem?

Many low earners are paid weekly, not monthly, and reams of research show that people on low incomes struggle to budget over long periods. And the five-week wait for money, in cases where people have no other savings or resources, has proved disastrous – leading to real hardship: a surge in the use of food banks in the areas where universal credit has been brought in; a spike in rent arrears and evictions; and widespread reports of private landlords now refusing to let to benefit claimants. The NAO report is harsh in its criticism of the DWP for failing to react to the mounting evidence of real hardship – from claimants and other stakeholders including landlords and welfare advisers – and instead being “defensive, insensitive,
and dismissive”.

Will it get more people into work?

No one knows, but there are reasons to be sceptical. The NAO says that the DWP will “never be able to measure” whether universal credit actually leads to 200,000 more people in work, because it cannot isolate the effect of the reform from other factors that raise employment. The way the DWP has rolled out the reform means it “lacks appropriate control groups” of legacy (old system) claimants, says the NAO, and “the larger claims for universal credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in the future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”

Wilson concludes,

 Despite evidence that it should pause the scheme, change course, or “risk doing real damage”, the government seems determined to plough ahead with this “giant, increasingly unpopular project”.

No wonder the creator of Universal Credit, Iain Duncan Smith is rumoured to be shortly bundled off for treatment by “nerve specialist” Sir Roderick Glossop with cognitive therapy in a special rest home.

Here is his cry for help:

Tory Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith links CBI to Nazi appeasement.

“Before World War II, as the historian Andrew Roberts has pointed out, the Federation of British Industries – the forerunner of the CBI – supported both the Gold Standard (which, in its constraints on a government’s ability to manage the economy is an instrument of jobs destruction), and the appeasement of Nazi Germany.

“Between 1937 and 1939, while the Nazis were opening their concentration camps, the FBI oversaw the creation of no fewer than 33 separate agreements between British and German business groups.”

Also citing CBI support for nationalisation, the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and the euro, as well as hostility to Margaret Thatcher’s policies, Mr Duncan Smith said the organisation has historically been “wrong” with “amazing consistency”.

“Yet the worry is, despite the CBI’s appalling track record, when it comes to Brexit, aggressive corporate campaigning could have a pivotal impact on government policy by forcing Britain to remain, in effect, under EU rules,” he added.

“There are already signs that this is happening, with key figures in the cabinet now acting as cheerleaders for the argument – made by BMW and Airbus – that Britain must remain as closely aligned to the single market and customs union as possible.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 1, 2018 at 11:51 am

Plans to Extend Universal Credit Misery to all Claimants.

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Image result for esther mcVey miserable

Esther McVey: Universal Credit Misery Loves Company.

The government is “considering” “to move existing claimants in receipt of a working age income-related benefit to Universal Credit. that is, they intend everybody on benefits to submit to the new system.

Why?

Eight years after implementation of Universal Credit began still only 10 per cent of the expected eventual number of claimants are on the system and significant numbers of those are not paid on time. Some 20 per cent of those paid late, usually the more needy and complicated cases, have waited a staggering five months or more to be paid. These aren’t early teething problems as now, eight years after the first introduction of the benefit one-fifth of new claimants in March 2018 did not receive their full entitlement on time.

Indeed homelessness and depression is likely to arrive more quickly than payment of the benefit. Without reliance on families and friends, foodbanks and other charities, Universal Credit claimants would be likely to lose their health and their housing. This is the very essence of the Dickensian Britain the Tory government presides over.

It looks like a lot more Dickens is about to hit Britain as plans are afloat to move all claimants onto Universal Credit.

Universal Credit next steps: have your say

The end of my time as Chair of SSAC is now rapidly approaching – I stand down at the end of July. But this week’s meeting (June 20) of the Committee saw us considering perhaps the most important set of legislative proposals – in the form of draft regulations – coming to us from the Government for scrutiny in the last few years. The rollout of Universal Credit (UC) is reaching a critical point as DWP plan for the launch next year of moving all recipients of the old “legacy” benefits – mainly employment support allowance, housing benefit and tax credits – to the new integrated UC system. This so-called “managed migration” will affect around three million people.

The implementation plan for UC has changed very considerably from when the Committee scrutinised the initial regulations for the new benefit back in 2012. Rollout is now, very sensibly, much more gradual and the Committee welcomes the stated intention to “test and learn”, as well as some of the detailed changes in the policy already announced. The challenges encountered so far, and the resulting mix of successes and setbacks, have been widely publicised. But the move to full national rollout unquestionably raises those challenges to an even higher, more demanding, level.

The Committee therefore quickly concluded that we should undertake a full public consultation exercise before completing our scrutiny process – at which point we will put our advice to Ministers which they are then obliged to publish before the draft regulations are debated in Parliament. We are launching that consultation process today.

The draft regulations now include some important further developments in the detailed design of the policy – notably the requirement for all existing benefit and tax credit recipients to make a claim for UC and ensure they do so within precise timescales, plus the detail and extent of the “transitional protection” arrangements for those claimants who might otherwise see a fall in their benefit entitlement. But there are also important proposals on the delivery logistics for the rollout, and the Committee is keen for the consultation to generate input on all aspects of this package.

We recognise that the timetable for this consultation – in the run up to the main holiday season – is a challenge in itself. But we hope that providing two months for responses will allow the opportunity for interested parties in all parts of the UK to participate in the exercise.

By the time this consultation finishes I will have taken my leave from SSAC. It’s been both a privilege and a pleasure to chair the Committee since late 2011, and I am most grateful to everyone who has engaged with SSAC and enriched our work during that time. I am delighted to be handing over the role to Ian Diamond, who I’m sure will find it as rewarding and enjoyable as I have. Do please ensure that the evidence and insights Ian and the rest of the Committee have at their disposal following this consultation is as full and rich as it can be, so that they can prepare a compelling, independent, evidence based and constructive report for Ministers and Parliament on the proposals for this important next stage in the evolution of the UK social security system for people of working age.

Amongst the comments (Leave a comment here) these stand out,

Universal Credit is based far too much on coercion through sanctions.

Making people on legacy benefits make a fresh claim is putting more pressure on disabled people. Many of whom have mental health problems.

Stop this inhumane and disastrous Universal Credit it has caused more harm than good and the people who instigated it should be deeply ashamed about it .It is savage and cruel and ill conceived and the sooner it is stopped the less casualties there will be.

The whole ethos of “Universal Credit” is to inflict hardship and destitution to the most vulnerable people in society.

Transferring the sick and disabled onto UC from legacy benefits is the worst idea possible. It means an immediate wait of up to 8 weeks before funds are received – for people that are already living on the breadline and have no savings to live on during the waiting period – people who rely on these funds for things like food, power, medicine and rent who will risk losing their homes, starvation and inability to pay carers or take their medication, in effect – condemning them to misery and fear – deliberately.

Government proposal to move claimants on ‘legacy’ benefits to Universal Credit: consultation announced.

.

Seeing as this document is not handed out in Job centres we give it in full.

The SSAC is consulting on proposals to move existing claimants in receipt of a working age income-related benefit to Universal Credit.

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has today launched a public consultation on proposals for moving all existing claimants of a working age income-related benefit to Universal Credit.

From next year DWP will begin the process of moving claimants in receipt of one or more of the following benefits to Universal Credit:

  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit

The wide-ranging draft legislation, which was presented to the committee for scrutiny at its meeting on 20 June 2018, sets out the government’s proposals on:

  1. requirements for claimants on existing benefits to make a claim for Universal Credit (including the deadlines for doing so) and arrangements for ending their existing benefit
  2. the calculation, award and ongoing treatment of transitional protection

The task of safely moving around 3 million claimants (in around 2 million households) from legacy benefits to Universal Credit raises important questions about the delivery challenge facing the department and the potential impact on claimants.

SSAC has therefore decided to examine this draft legislation, and the impacts that flow from it, in more detail. To help inform this work, the committee would welcome evidence from a broad range of organisations and individuals who have good insight into and/or experience of the following aspects of these proposals:

  • the overall migration timetable
  • arrangements for contacting claimants and inviting claims from them
  • issues associated with making a claim, and ending legacy benefit claims
  • the calculation of transitional protection (including the treatment of earnings and capital)
  • the impact of proposed transitional protection (including how easily it will be delivered and the degree to which it will be understood by claimants)
  • the impact on workers, including the self-employed
  • equality impact (whether there will be particular effects for different groups and how these can best be addressed), for example are there any groups that will not be covered by transitional protection?
  • monitoring and evaluation

The committee would welcome responses to ensure that its advice to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is informed by a range of perspectives. The committee would welcome real or hypothetical case studies or specific examples as part of that evidence.

Paul Gray, the committee’s Chair, said:

The planned rollout of Universal Credit is now reaching its most critical and challenging stage. The government’s draft proposals involve major issues on both detailed entitlement rules and delivery logistics, and are due to be debated in Parliament later this year. SSAC is keen to ensure that the scrutiny report it submits to ministers and Parliament is as well informed as possible, and we therefore strongly encourage all organisations and individuals with relevant evidence to take part in this consultation process.

Please note that we are not consulting on the government’s overarching Universal Credit policy, which is enshrined in primary legislation following Parliamentary scrutiny during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. Comments on this will not be considered.

Responses should be submitted to the Committee Secretary by no later than 10am on Monday 20 August:

The Committee Secretary
Social Security Advisory Committee
5th Floor
Caxton House
Tothill Street
London
SW1H 9NA

Written by Andrew Coates

June 27, 2018 at 4:20 pm

Universal Credit Registering Online (Gov.Uk Verify) Causes Chaos.

with 74 comments

Image result for Gov uk verify

Certifiable Company Causes Benefit Misery.

GOV.UK Verify overview

GOV.UK Verify is a secure way to prove who you are online.

It makes it safe, quick and easy to access government services like filing your tax or checking the information on your driving licence.

When you use GOV.UK Verify, you don’t need to prove your identity in person or wait for something to arrive in the post.

Despite the easy-peasy, quick and safe assertion, this happened earlier this year,

“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.”

Computer Weekly.

And,

MPs point to Verify as one of universal credit problems

UKA.

Committee report says slow take-up of identity assurance mechanisms is hold back the digitisation element of the DWP’s flagship programme

The GOV.UK Verify service is not being used as widely as expected in claims for universal credit and is contributing to delays in the digitisation of the process, according to a new report by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

It has pointed to the problem in its latest project assessment review for universal credit, the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) flagship programme for the consolidation of state benefits.

Verify, the online identity assurance platform developed by the Government Digital Service (GDS), was identified as a possible mechanism for claimants to prove their identities in 2015 trials of the digital service. But the report says that by March of last year only 30% of claimants were able to complete the process for Verify, compared with an original projection of 80%.

DWP responded by developing an in-house system named Prove your Identity, and in July of last year said that this and Verify combined could achieve a verification success rate of 50%. A third option working to a lower assurance standard, Verify LOA 1, has also been developed with GDS, but there is still a perception that digitisation is moving too slowly.

Subsequently, the reliance on face-to-face processes to authenticate claimants’ identities is likely to continue, which in turn undermines the chances of DWP achieving its promised efficiency gains.

Additional issues

This has been one of handful of problems affecting the roll out of the digital service supporting universal credit: an assurance and action plan in March of last year also pointed to issues around automation, IT performance and management information, and said that operational targets were not being met. Subsequently, the digital service is now operating with more staff and fewer claimants than DWP had expected.

Overall, the report says there have been chronic delays and revisions in the implementation of universal credit since it was conceived in 2010, and that the digital service is being rolled out much more slowly than forecast: now at 10 Jobcentres per month rather than an earlier plan’s rate of 60.

Bryan Glick (Computer Weekly) wrote in March,

The government’s major project experts warned as early as 2015 that performance problems with the Gov.uk Verify identity assurance system would have a “material effect” on the business plan for Universal Credit.

This is on Friday: (BBC. 22nd of June)

Jenny Lewis has never owned a passport or a driving licence – and it meant she had to wait months to receive her benefit money.

The documents are needed to apply for Universal Credit online but Jenny said cars and holidays are luxuries she cannot afford.

Delays in her application left her “degraded” and looking for food.

The UK government said “arrangements are in place” to support people who cannot apply online.

“The system is terrible, it’s stupid – if you can’t afford to go abroad you’re not going to get a passport, if you can’t afford a car you’re not going to get a driving licence,” said Jenny, from Newport.

Staff at the Pobl Group, which provides care, support and housing in the Newport area, said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is wrong to believe most people will have a passport, driving licence or even access to the internet.

They believe only around a third of people are registering for Universal Credit online and it is causing a backlog for face-to-face appointments.

The article continues all too believably,

Kath Hopkins, Moneysaver Project Officer with the Pobl Group, said the “vast majority” cannot apply online.

“Most people on low incomes don’t have photographic identification,” she said.

“Why would you have a passport or driving licence – you can’t go on holiday, you can’t afford to buy a car.

“Without that you can’t go through the online process and we’re finding that as an advice organisation we haven’t been able to help one single person verify their identification online”.

She added: “Some people have been going to high cost lenders, and some people have been going to loan sharks because of this delay”.

There is concern that this delay is in addition to other delays in the Universal Credit system. It can take more than a month to receive your first payment after submitting an application.

The issue was raised recently in the House of Commons by Newport East MP Jessica Morden, who called on ministers to review and speed up the process for initial Universal Credit claims.

This is her question: Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)

Constituents who cannot afford a driving licence or a passport cannot do an initial online verification of their universal credit claim, meaning that they have to wait up to two weeks in order to be seen for a personal appointment. That is driving people to see loan sharks in some cases, so will the Minister look at it?

This is the feeble reply,

Alok Sharma

I will look at it, but if the hon. Lady would come forward with specific cases, that would make it easier.

The DWP Alternative Facts Department (Artificial Intelligence Bureau)  gets space to issue a stout defence of their system.

A DWP official said it was working to ensure its Verify identity scheme is “an effective and secure means to confirm someone’s identity when they make a claim to full Universal Credit”.

They said it is expected that most people will use the Verify scheme it when they first make their online claim.

“In a minority of cases where it’s not possible for claimants to have their identity confirmed through Verify arrangements are in place to support those people,” said the DWP spokesperson.

The UK government department said a complimentary service called “Prove Your Identity” has been trialled in a number of sites, with a view to rolling out the service later in the year following a review.

The official added: “We are rolling Universal Credit out successfully across the country and we’ve made a number of improvements.

“We’ve introduced 100% advances to support people before their first payment, removed the seven waiting days and implemented two weeks’ extra housing support for claimants moving onto Universal Credit.”

Written by Andrew Coates

June 24, 2018 at 10:38 am

Esther McVey: Universal Credit, an “agile, adaptable system, fit for the 21st century.”

with 28 comments

Image result for esther mcvey cartoon universal credit

Esther McVey hails universal credit scheme as ‘great British innovation’, days after scathing watchdog report.

Independent.

Since it is exceptional that the  The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  Ms Esther McVey  takes time off from her busy schedule to do her Ministerial job trather than the press reports  it is worth looking at the full statement she made today in the House of Commons in Hansard.

Universal Credit and Welfare Changes

It includes this:

Today, I am updating the House on the changes we have made to UC as a result of this iterative approach we are taking. That is why last autumn we abolished the seven waiting days from the application process; we put in place the two-week housing benefit run-on to smooth the transition for an applicant moving to UC from the previous system; we ensured that advance payments could be applied for from day one of the application process, for up to 100% of a person’s indicative total claim; and we extended the recovery period for these advances to 12 months. Extra training was given to our work coaches to embed these changes.

Prior to that, we also changed the UC telephone lines to a freephone number to ensure ease of access for claimants enquiring about their claim. Earlier this year we reinstated housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds, and ensured that kinship carers are exempt from tax credits changes. Just last week, we announced changes to support the severely disabled when they transition on to UC; within our reforms, we want to ensure that the most vulnerable get the support they need. These proactive changes were made to enhance our new benefits system.

….

Let me turn to the report on universal credit published last week by the National Audit Office, which did not take into account the impact of our recent changes. Our analysis shows that universal credit is working. We already know that it helps more people into work, and to stay in work, than the legacy system. Universal credit has brought together six main benefits, which were administered by different local and national Government agencies. Once fully rolled out, it will be a single, streamlined system, reducing administration costs and providing value for money for all our citizens. The cost per claim has already reduced by 7% since March 2018 and is due to reduce to £173 by 2024-25—around £50 less per claim than legacy cases currently cost us to process.

Beyond the timespan of the NAO report, we have greatly improved our payment timeliness: around 80% of claimants are paid on time, after their initial assessment period. Where new claims have not been paid in full and on time, two thirds have been found to have some form of verification outstanding. Verification is a necessary part of any benefits system and citizens expect such measures to be in place. We need to ensure that we pay the right people the right amount of money.

As opposed to the wrong people the wrong money…..

Turning her face resolutely to the gales The Rt Hon MInister  ends on a note of defiance:

In conclusion, we are building an agile, adaptable system, fit for the 21st century. We want people to reach their potential, regardless of their circumstances or background, and we will make changes, when required, to achieve that ambition. I commend this statement to the House.

Labour’s Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) replied saying notably,

The Secretary of State says that universal credit is based on leading-edge technology and agile working practices. However, the National Audit Office report says that 38% of claimants were unable to verify their identity online and had to go to a jobcentre to do so. It makes no sense to accelerate the roll-out of universal credit at the same time as rapidly closing jobcentres. The NAO report reveals that a significant number of people struggle to make and manage their claim online. The Department for Work and Pensions’ own survey found that nearly half of claimants are unable to make a claim online unassisted, and that a fifth of claims are failing at an early stage because claimants are not able to navigate the online system.

The Government claim that the introduction of universal credit will result in 200,000 more people finding long-term work than under legacy benefits. They repeatedly cite evidence from 2014-15, but that was before the cuts to work allowances were introduced and covers only single unemployed people without children. If one looks at the range of claimants in areas where universal credit has been rolled out, there is no evidence that it is helping more people find long-term work. Delays in payments are pushing people into debt and rent arrears on such a scale that private and even social landlords are becoming increasingly reluctant to rent to universal credit claimants.

The NAO report also points out that 20% of claimants are not being paid in full and on time, and more than one in 10 are not receiving any payment on time. The people who are most at need from the social security system are the ones most likely to have to wait for payments. A quarter of carers, over 30% of families who need support with childcare and, most shockingly of all, two thirds of disabled people are not being paid in full and on time. The report points out that the Department does not expect the time limits of the payments to improve over the course of this year, and that it believes that it is unreasonable for all claimants to expect that they will be paid on time because of the need to verify each claim. Does the Secretary of State find the expectations of her own Department acceptable? She has made some claims that things have improved greatly since the closure of the report, so will she substantiate that by putting that information in the Library?

The impact of universal credit on some of our most vulnerable people is clear. Universal support is supposed to help people, but funding is severely limited and provision is patchy. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of it? Is she satisfied that her Department is doing enough to support people who are struggling?

Universal credit was supposed to offer personalised support to claimants, but stressed and overloaded staff are often failing to identify vulnerable claimants. The DWP is aiming to increase the workloads of work coaches fourfold and of case managers nearly sixfold as the Government try to cut the cost of universal credit still further.

The NAO is very clear that the DWP should not expand universal credit until it is able to cope with business as usual. The Government must now listen to the NAO, stop the roll-out of universal credit, and fix the flaws before any more people are pushed into poverty by a benefit that is meant to protect them from it. Universal credit is having a devastating impact on many people and will reach 8.5 million by 2024-25. The Secretary of State must now wake up to the misery being caused by her policy.

In her response McVey relied on the DWP alternative facts service,

Please allow me, Mr Deputy Speaker, to mention some of the real people I have met and spoken to and what they are saying about universal credit. Shafeeq, who was homeless, got an advance that got him temporary accommodation and put him in a better place to look for work. He said it

“helped me out a great deal and I’d have been lost without it”.

He is now in a job. Lisa said an advance payment helped her to secure a place with a childcare provider. She is paying it back over 12 months, which she says means a great deal to her. Gemma, a lone parent, said,

“it’s amazing being able to claim nearly all my childcare costs back, it’s a real incentive to go out to work – I’m going to be better off each week”.

Ben in Devon had a work coach, who helped him to progress in work from day one. Ryan from Essex had a lack of work experience and confidence, and his work coach helped him through universal credit. I will end it there—with the people receiving the benefit.

This gem should not go unnoticed,

I thank my right hon. Friend for her statement. The NAO report is, to be frank, a shoddy piece of work. It has simply failed—[Interruption.] Genuinely; anyone who reads it—I do not know if anyone on the Opposition Benches has bothered—will realise that it fails to take account of a series of issues, not the least of which are that the Treasury signed off annual recurring savings of £8 billion and, more importantly, that the changes last November and December have made a huge difference to people’s lives. I urge her to carry on and to tell the Public Accounts Committee to ask the question: who polices this policeman? This piece of work does it no credit at all. Will she now apply her efforts to universal support to make sure that every council area delivers the extra bit that is supposed to go alongside universal credit?

Obvious a well-shoddy copper, these uncreditworthy types behind the NAO.

Esther smiles, smirks and simpers,

My right hon. Friend has done more than most people in the House to support people into work, and I thank him for his question. He emphasises the point about universal support—the £200 million for local councils—to help people with debt management and IT. That is one thing we are definitely doing. Equally, he raises an important point about the NAO report. I am sure that Opposition Members have not read it. It does not say stop the roll-out; it says continue with the roll-out and do it faster. Please read about stuff before talking about it!

Wise advice!

To further Parliamentary questions  the Rt Hon continues in this vein (various McVey replies).

“We have said quite clearly that this report is out of date and does not take into account the significant changes that we have made.”

“Genuine people who get support from work coaches are saying, “It has transformed our lives.””

“I invite the hon. Lady to visit a jobcentre and meet the coaches in her area to see how revolutionary this process is.”

“The hon. Lady should stop scaremongering. “

 “Darren from Wales, who was put on a confidence course—we were utilising our flexible support fund—said:“My…work coach was fantastic…helped me turn my life around…fulfilling a lifelong dream”.”

 If anybody has been made homeless through this, I will meet them.

“Think about technology, automation and people online—the world has changed. We have to deal with the gig economy, with flexible working hours, with part-time and multiple jobs, and with the difference in working life for people who have caring responsibilities for children and adults. That is what this system takes into account; the legacy system could not do that.”

Please look sometimes at the positive news and help your constituents a little bit more by focusing them on that additional support.

“It was lovely listening to my hon. Friend—my learned friend, who knows so much about technology—because those words needed to be heard. As I said, this is at the leading edge of technology. Great Britain is leading the way. Countries that are coming to see us range from Sweden to the United States, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Canada, Cyprus, France and Denmark. They all want to know how it works to take it back home to their countries.”

“I thank the right hon. Gentleman for mentioning work coaches in such a positive way, because they are doing a significant amount of work, and I hear only praise wherever I go. “

we have provided significantly more money for the most vulnerable, particularly for those with disability and health conditions. We want to support people into work and reduce poverty.”

If you are too exhausted after this long bout of stout denial just look at this:

We have said that the NAO report sadly was out of date and therefore has not taken into account all the changes that have been made. That is unfortunate, because it means that the report is not a true reflection of what is happening. It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman was not here for the statement, but if he reads it in Hansard tomorrow, he will have his answers on how well the system is working.

Reactions are now pouring in:
Frank Field, the chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, said: “Rather than that banal offering, which did nothing for our poorest constituents, a more realistic statement from the secretary of state would have acknowledged that universal credit is helping to transform the welfare state from one which protects people from poverty, to one that drives them into destitution.”

Written by Andrew Coates

June 21, 2018 at 3:34 pm

Artificial Intelligence and the DWP: Synths to Replace Job Coaches?

with 39 comments

Image result for synths channel four

Your New Job Coach?

Thanks to Newshound Superted.

DWP to increase role of AI. Mel Poluck

Monday 18 June 2018

Department’s head of data strategy highlights potential for machine learning, natural language processing and image processing plans

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) head of data strategy has said the use of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques will play an increasing role in improving service delivery, providing a fuller picture of customers’ situations so they no longer need to explain their circumstances repeatedly.

Pause for breath:

Image result for synths channel four

While DWP has already been using some machine learning in its fraud detection and cyber security work, and while it uses “to some extent most of the cutting edge techniques,” the department is now looking to use natural language processing and image processing.

Among the uses for the techniques would be to route incoming letters or understand the sentiment of a question put to the DWP more effectively.

“What we’re keen to do is to make sure we fully understand our customers’ situations,” Pavey said. “For the typical citizen of Britain, they’d expect that if they’re dealing with government they shouldn’t be asking them the same questions over and over again.

“We try to make our services as relevant as possible. Better use of data analytics is really the key to that. We see that machine learning will play an increasing role in the way we operate.”

“Through a combination of transparency and trust and being guided by a strong ethical framework, we’ll demonstrate the uses of data, we’ll demonstrate that sharing of data can push forward public good and through the ethical use of machine learning we’ll be able to deliver more relevant services in a more efficient manner.

“The rise of data and the rise of new techniques can only be good for us.”

Challenges outlined

He also highlighted some of the hurdles that lie ahead, including understanding citizen behaviours and using it to provide services that produce the outcomes government wants.

“We’re delivering a service that’s incredibly important to people and is also highly regulated, so we want to be very clear on any decisions we’ve made when it comes to the outcome people receive. We need to be mindful of being transparent in everything we do,” he said.

To this end, DWP plans to publish its data strategy online later this year, which will include a charter of the department’s data use.

For other future developments, Pavey said he was very keen to work with academia, start-ups or any UK company interested in using data for public good. “We’d never be so arrogant to think we have a monopoly on these things and we’re very keen to learn from outside.”

Listen to the full podcast.

Image result for synths channel four

It follows this: (Telegraph, 31st december 2017)

Criminal gangs committing tens of millions of pounds worth of benefit fraud are being tracked down using newly-developed artificial intelligence, ministers have disclosed.

Experts at the Department for Work and Pensions have produced computer algorithms that have been gradually rolled-out over the course of the year to identify large-scale abuse of the welfare system.

The system, which is being trialed across the country, detects fraudulent claims by searching for patterns such as applications that use the same phone number or are written in a similar style. It then flags up any suspicious cases to specialist investigators.

It comes as part of a drive by ministers to make more use of artificial intelligence…

Earlier experiments in the use of AI by the DWP were not a success.
Herman.Munster.jpg

Written by Andrew Coates

June 19, 2018 at 10:40 am

NHS Mental Health Recruiting 300 Employment Coaches as “Work as a Clinical Outcome” returns.

with 52 comments

Image result for work and health programme cartoon

Yuk!

The NHS is set to roll out mental health employment specialists across the country, as a new analysis of services shows that 2,300 patients have been helped into work in the last year.

NHS mental health job coaches help thousands of people into work.

Investment in improving employment prospects via health services like IPS can increase productivity and reduce demand for employment and disability support payments like Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.

NHS England. 12 of June.

The NHS really ought to get up to date about the Vale of Tears that is Universal Credit.

Not to mention the stress of work outlined in books like James Bloodworth’s Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain.

This move is part of a broader picture.

It seems that with the Work and Health Programme (“The Work and Health Programme helps you find and keep a job if you’re out of work it’s voluntary – unless you’ve been out of work and claiming unemployment benefits for 24 months”),   the DWP, Job Centres and the NHS are getting even closer.

Recently in Ipswich I was asked by Coachey if I’d like to have a health check up – NHS – at the Job Centre.

The below marks another step in the merging of services, in a much more contestable area.

The NHS is to hire 300 employment coaches to find patients jobs to “keep them out of hospital.”

 

It is essential to read the full article but here are some important points made by ‘Kitty’.

There has already been an attempt to provide mental health services for people who claim social security support, which includes a heavily resisted pilot to put therapists into job centres. Another heavily opposed government proposal was announced as part of the  health and work pilot programme to put job coaches in GP surgeries. The proposals have been widely held to be profoundly anti-therapeutic, potentially very damaging and professionally unethical.

….

The government announced the creation of the Joint Health and Work Unit and the Health and Work Service in 2015/16, both with a clear remit to cut benefits and “get people into work.” Given that mental health is a main cause for long-term sickness absence in the UK, a key aspect of this policy is to provide mental health services that get people back into work.

There has already been an attempt to provide mental health services for people who claim social security support, which includes a heavily resisted pilot to put therapists into job centres. Another heavily opposed government proposal was announced as part of the  health and work pilot programme to put job coaches in GP surgeries. The proposals have been widely held to be profoundly anti-therapeutic, potentially very damaging and professionally unethical.

The government have planned to merge health and employment services, and are now attempting to redefine work as a clinical outcome. Unemployment has been stigmatised and politically redefined as a psychological disorderthe government claims somewhat incoherently that the “cure” for unemployment due to illness and disability, and sickness absence from work, is work.

Pause.

Remember this? (BBC 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 can be “humiliating” for job seekers and does not help them find suitable work, the researchers say.

Here is the report:

 

 

Back to Kitty:

The latest strand of this ideological anti-welfare crusade was recently announced: the NHS is to hire 300 employment coaches who will find patients jobs to “keep them out of hospital.” The Individual Placement and Support services (IPS) is aimed at ‘supporting’ people with severe mental illness to seek work and ‘hold down a job’. Job coaches will offer assistance on CVs, interview techniques and are expected to work with 20,000 people by 2021. Pilot schemes running in Sussex, Bradford, Northampton and some London boroughs suggest that the coaches manage to find work for at least a quarter of users. The scheme is to be extended nationwide.

The roll out of mental health employment specialists across the country is based on  analysis of the pilots, which is claimed to show that 2,300 patients have been helped into work in the last year. However, the longer term consequences of the programme are not known, and it is uncertain if there will be any meaningful monitoring regarding efficacy, safeguarding and the uncovering of unintended consequences and risks to participants.

It is held that those in work tend to be in better health, visit their GP less and are less likely to need hospital treatment. The government has assumed that there is a causal relationship expressed in this common sense finding, and make an inferential leap with the claim that “work is a health outcome”.

However, support for this premise is not universal. Some concerns which have been reasonably raised are commonly about the extent to which people will be ‘pushed’ into work they are not able or ready to do, or into bad quality work that is harmful to them, under the misguided notion that any work will be good for them in the long run.

Of course it may equally be the case that people in better health work because they can, and have less need for healthcare services simply because they are relatively well, rather than because they work.

Undoubtedly there are some people who may be able to work and who want to, but struggle to find suitable employment without adequate support. This section of the population may also face the lack of knowledge, attitudes and prejudices of potential employers regarding their conditions as a further barrier to gaining appropriate employment. The scheme will be ideal for supporting this group. That is, however, only provided that engagement with the service is voluntary, and does not become mandatory.

It must also be acknowledged that there are some people who are simply too ill to work. Again, it’s a serious concern that this group may be pressured and coerced to find employment, which may prove to be detrimental to their wellbeing. Furthermore, placing them in work may present unacceptable risk to both themselves and others. How can we possibly know in advance about the longer term risks presented by the impact of an illness, and the potential effects of some medications in the workplace? If something goes catastrophically wrong as a consequence of someone taking up work when they are too unwell to work, who will hold the responsibility for the consequences?

In the current political context where the public are told “work is the route out of poverty” and “work is a health outcome”, people feel obliged to try to work, when they believe they can. But what happens when they are wrong in that belief? Who is responsible, for example, when someone has a loss of consciousness or an episode of altered awareness, caused by a condition or medication, while operating machinery, at the wheel of a taxi, bus or refuse waggon?

This is the key point: work as a “clinical outcome”.

As the Royal College of Psychiatrists says,

Work is a key clinical outcome

Employment is Nature’s physician, and is essential to human happiness’

Galen of Pergamon, Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher, 172 AD

As the quote from Galen, the Greek physician shows, it has long been recognised that work, be it paid or unpaid, plays a central role in the health and well-being of most people.  We know that work gives us material rewards, but it also gives people a sense of identity and connection with others in our society; it gives us a sense of personal achievement; it is a means of structuring and occupying our time and helps us to develop mental and physical skills.  Work also provides us with the financial and material resources necessary for our daily lives.

 

The problem is, unemployment is not a clinical problem to be solved by psychiatrists or Job Coaches.

 

Universal Credit – Rubbish (Official). National Audit Office Report.

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Image result for universal credit unite community universal credit

This morning on the BBC Breakfast carried a report on this “The National Audit Office said the £1.9bn Universal Credit system could end up costing more to administer than the benefits system it is replacing.”

Key findings in the National Audit Office included:

  • Eight years after work began on UC, only 10% (815,000) of the expected eventual number of claimants are on the system
  • Some 20% of those paid late – usually the more needy and complicated cases – were waiting five months or more to be paid
  • Ministers would never know if their aim of putting 200,000 extra people in employment, or saving £2.1bn in fraud and error, would work
  • Government expectations that UC would deliver £8bn of net benefits annually depended on “unproven assumptions”
  • UC currently costs £699 per claim – four times as much as the government intends to spend when the systems are fully developed
  • So many changes had been made to job centres and working practices that there is no “alternative but to continue”

To discuss it they had a woman from the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and some ponce from  the Centre for Social Justice (set up by… Iain Duncan Smith, yes really…).

The CAB spokesperson said a few home truths about what a mess UC has been for many people.

The Mr Ponceworth admitted a few spots on the Sun of Universal Credit but said it has proved its worth as a way of helping people back to work.

Since us Bloggers and our contributors have been going on about the mess from the origins of UC it would have been good to have somebody form our side on.

But the report is devastating enough.

Summary – Rolling out Universal Credit.

Key facts £1.9bn spend to date on Universal Credit, comprising £1.3bn on investment and £0.6bn on running costs £8.0bn

Department for Work & Pensions’ expectation of the annual net benefi tof Universal Credit, which remains unproven

Number of late payments of new claims in 2017,113,000.

Other elements:

  • One in five claimants do not receive their full payment on time.
  • Universal Credit is creating additional costs for local organisations that help administer Universal Credit and support claimants.
  • Some claimants have struggled to adjust to Universal Credit. We spoke to local and national bodies that, together, work with a significant minority of claimants. They showed us evidence that many of these people have suffered difficulties and hardship during the rollout of the full service. These have resulted from a combination of issues with the design of Universal Credit and its implementation. The Department has found it difficult to identify and track those who it deems vulnerable. It has not measured how many Universal Credit claimants are having difficulties because it does not have systematic means of gathering intelligence from delivery partners. The Department does not accept that Universal Credit has caused hardship among claimants, because it makes advances available, and it said that if claimants take up these opportunities hardship should not occur. However in its survey of full service claimants, published in June 2018, the Department found that four in ten claimants that were surveyed were experiencing financial difficulties.

This is a good newspaper report.

NAO says core claims about flagship welfare programme are based on unproven assumptions

  Guardian.

The government’s ambitious change to the benefits system, universal credit, fails to deliver promised financial savings or employment benefits and leaves thousands of vulnerable claimants in hardship, according to the public spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office effectively demolishes ministerial claims for universal credit, concluding that the much-delayed flagship welfare programme may end up costing more than the benefit system it replaces, cannot prove it helps more claimants into work and is unlikely to ever deliver value for money.

The NAO report paints a damning picture of a system that despite more than £1bn in investment, eight years in development and a much hyped digital-only approach to transforming welfare, is still in many respects unwieldy, inefficient and reliant on basic, manual processes.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “We think the larger claims for universal credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”

Opposition politicians and campaigners seized on the report to renew calls for universal credit to be delayed and its multiple design flaws fixed before the government continues its rollout to millions more claimants over the next four years.

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow secretary for work and pensions, said: “This report shows just how disastrously wrong the government has got the rollout of universal credit. It has shamelessly ignored warning after warning about the devastating impact its flagship welfare reform has had on people’s lives.

“The government is accelerating the rollout in the face of all of the evidence, using human beings as guinea pigs. It must fix the fundamental flaws in universal credit and make sure that vulnerable people are not pushed into poverty because of its policies.”

Our friends in the Mirror– who have covered the story with great verve for a long time –  noted this,

 …campaigners have used the report to call for reform of the benefit, which has already cost the state £1.9bn to date.

There are many, many, other news articles on the National Audit Office report….

This is another BBC report.

35 Hours a Week Job Search. The Nightmare Continues.

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Image result for ian duncan smith

Iain Duncan Smith’s 35 Hour Job Search: “The evil that men do lives after them….”

 

35 hours a week jobsearch tool-2

35 Hours a Week Job Search.

A few years ago we published the above.

This obligation was introduced by Iain Duncan Smith in 2013, as his mates in the far-right Daily Express gloatingly reported.

In revolutionary changes to the way people receive benefits, those out of work and in receipt of state handouts will be made to put their name to a binding agreement.

The document will make it “abundantly clear” that if an individual fails to spend 35-hours-a-week looking for work they will have their allowance stopped under a “three strikes and out” rule.

The radical plan is the idea of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith who said a job search should be a full-time occupation in itself.

The unemployed will be expected to fill their “working” weeks searching for work, attending interviews, training, assessments and workshops.

If they deviate from their signed commitment, their benefits will be stopped for 13 weeks for a first offence, then 26 weeks and then three years.

This week I heard a Coachy telling a young woman to follow the above regulation by keeping a ‘log’ of all her activities.

Some people have posted comments saying the same.

The new Find a Job site has this section – so if you agree to let them see it this is what this will focus on.

Your activity.

It is not clear if the sanctions regimes is still as tough as the above but as Boycott Workfare rightly predicted before Find a Job and Universal Credit were introduced this is creating new worries.

There are fears that the new system will be used to police claimants when Universal Credit is introduced next year. Under the new benefits regime, claimants will be expected to spend 35 hours looking for work each week. The DWP, or even Work Programme contractors like A4e, could use the new system to force claimants to spend hours clicking through the site or pointlessly applying for unsuitable vacancies just to meet this 35 hour a week condition. Part-time workers, sick or disabled claimants and single parents will face similar conditions.

It is possible that there may be some attempt to bully claimants to sign up via a Jobseekers Direction. This is a formal order which means a claimant can be forced to take any reasonable steps dictated by Jobcentre advisors to find work or face a benefit sanction. People should also be advised that Jobseekers Directions can now be given verbally. We suggest if you are unclear on anything your Jobcentre advisor says to you that you should ask them to clarify whether it is a direction, and take notes of what is said to you.

Should this happen then claimants could sign up but refuse to grant the DWP access to their online account. Claimants are also advised to set up anonymised email accounts with providers like yahoo and hotmail. Don’t tell them anything you don’t have to.

We hope this helps clarify the situation by reference to past enquires into what obligations you have under the 35 a week rule

Following enquiries by What do they Know published this response to the 35 Hours a Job Search obligation,

 

Dear M Imran,
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request dated 29 October 2015. You
asked:
“Could the Department please clarify if it is a mandatory requirement and stated in
legislation for claimants of Jobseekers Allowance to spend there time job searching
for 35 hours a week or 5 hours a day.
Jobcentre advisors are telling claimants to spend 35 hours a week for job searching
but this is not mentioned or stated in the signed Claimant Commitment.
Could the Department please clarify this”?

The response includes this:

To be helpful you may find the following explanation useful about the entitlement
condition for JSA claimants to actively seek work. This has however been provided
outside our obligations under the Freedom of Information regime.
There is no `set’ time that a person must be engaged in looking for work whilst
claiming JSA, rather it is a legal requirement for them to do all that is reasonable for
them to do each week
In order to qualify for JSA, a person must be actively seeking work in each week of
their claim. This means they are generally expected to do all they reasonably can
each week to give them the best prospects of securing employment. The actions that
it would be reasonable for the claimant to take will be personalised and tailored to
the individual and will be specified on their JSA Claimant Commitment. The
expectation is that for most JSA claimants, looking for work will be a full time job in
itself, taking into account any restrictions applied to their availability.
If you have any queries about this letter please contact us quoting the reference
number above.

Yours sincerely,
DWP Central FoI Team

In this response the DWP is seeking to suggest that Jobsearch activity is a full-time activity for people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, when in fact this is not the case. CPAG outlines the situation more accurately:

“If you have carried out all or most of the steps in your claimant committment, this should be sufficient to show that you are actively seeking work. However, a failure to carry out all, or some, steps should not mean you are automatically treated as not actively seeking work. This is particularly relevant where your claimant commitment includes many more steps than the legal test of ‘more than two’.

Case law [1] confirms that whether you are actively seeking work is a test of what you do, rather than what you do not do. The test is whether you take such steps as you are reasonably required to take to secure the best prospects of obtaining employment, and not whether you take all the steps set out in your claimant commitment. The DWP should consider whether you have taken at least three steps in a week, or whether fewer steps are reasonable; what steps are taken; and whether those steps are reasonable. If you satisfy the test, it is irrelevant that you fail to take other steps, whether or not they are in your commitment.”
http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/ask-cpag-…

[1] – CJSA/1814/2007
https://docs.google.com/gview?url=http:/…

Another  request asked,

UNDER NEW RULES UNIVERSAL CREDIT A JOB SEEKER HAS TO DO 35
HOURS A WEEK JOB SEARCH PLEASE DETAIL WHAT THIS MUST
CONSIST OF HOW MUCH TIME MUST BE SPENT ON LINE HOW MUCH
MUST BE PHONEING WRITING OR LOOKING IN PAPERS OR VISITING
FIRMS ALSO IF YOU ARE DOING AFTER WORK PROGRAM SIX MONTHS
COMMUNITY TYPE WORK DURING BUSINESS OPENING HOURS HOW DO
SUPPOSE A CLAIMANT FITS IN 35 HOURS A WEEK JOB SEARCH AS HE OR
SHE WILL BE HAMPERD IF HE OR SHE IS DOING COMMUNITY BASED
WORK DURING BUSINESS HOURS AND WILL BE AT MERCY IF A BIAS
DWP ADVISOR WHO WILL SANCTION THEM FOR SOMETHING THAT DWP
HAVE GOT THEM DOING HAVE YOU SET UP CLAIMANTS TO FAIL IN THIS
WAY AND WILL IT MAKE THEM AT A DISADVANTAGE TO REST OF
CLAIMANTS AS THEY WON’T BE ABLE TO JOBSEACH IN BUSINESS
HOURS ALSO IF YOU DOING COMMUNITY WORK AFTER THE WORK
PROGRAM AND YOU GOT JOB INTERVIEWS ON MOST DAYS WILL YOU
BE ALLOWED TO ATTEND THESE WITHOUT IT AFFECTING ONES CLAIM
ALSO IF YOU ARE SUBJECT TO HAVING TI ATTEND DWP WEEKLY HOW
FAR DOSE A CLAIMANT HAVE TO LIVE BEFORE THE DWP HAVE TO PAY
FOR A CLAIMANT TO ATTEND DWP WHAT HELP DOSE A HOMELESS
PERSON RECEIVE TAKING IN TO ACCOUNT THEY ARE AT A
DISADVANTAGE TO REST OF CLAIMANTS IE NO HOME NO ACCESS TO
INTERNET OR PHONE OR PAPERS HOW IS A HOMELESS PERSON DEALT
WITH TO A NORMAL CLAIMANT.

This was the response.

Claimants in the “all work-related requirements” group have a responsibility to
find work. Claimants should treat this responsibility as their “job” and our
intention is that claimants should aim to spend as many hours looking for work
as we would expect them to spend in work.
Work search expectations will differ for each claimant depending on their
individual circumstances and job goals and advisers will tailor requirements
for each claimant, setting activities which will give each claimant the best
prospects of finding work.
If an adviser sets any work preparation activity, such as attending a training
course or any such relevant community work, it will effectively be offset
against the time a claimant is expected to spend looking for work. We will
also take into account any voluntary or paid work the claimant is engaged in.
Our regulations allow that where a claimant has done all that could
reasonably be expected of them – for example they have applied for all
suitable jobs and undertaken all the activities set out in their work search and
work preparation plan – this may be considered sufficient even where the time
taken was less than the hours expected.
It should also be noted that not all work search has to be conducted within
usual business hours, for example online work search is not limited to
business hours. As long as claimants meet their work search requirements,
they are free to plan the hours they undertake this to suit their circumstances.
Claims will not be affected where an individual has notified their adviser that
they are attending a verifiable job interview.
Travelling expenses may be refunded for pre-arranged interviews in
connection with benefit claims, where the claimant is asked to attend more
frequently than the minimum fortnightly schedule.
The Universal Credit regulations allow the adviser the flexibility to make
decisions based on the claimant’s individual circumstances. The term
homelessness covers a broad range of situations – including rough sleeping,
living in a hostel, and bedding-down on the floors or sofas of family and
friends. So a one-size-fits-all conditionality easement would be wrong.
Advisers will set tailored work search and work preparation requirements,
dependent on claimants’ personal circumstances. In some instances it may be
appropriate to temporarily lift work search and availability requirements while
a claimant secures a place to stay, or moves to new or temporary
accommodation.

As far as I know these guidelines have not changed as this mad list of tips indicates.

The Daily Job Seeker.

2018. “Tips and advice to help give your job search a boost.”

Undertaking 35 hours each week of job searching activity can at first appear hard to achieve. However, there are lots of ways to look for work and to keep your job search productive and you can find tips and advice on this site. It is also important to fully record what you have done so that this can easily be discussed with your work coach. Here is an example of some job searching activity and how to record it.

1. What I did:

I checked the job pages of the Barnet and Finchley Echo when it came out on 21 and 28 February. I made a note of one job as a part-time admin assistant in the finance department at Barnet Council.

I rang up and asked them to send me an application form and I completed the form when it came and sent it back on 4 March.

What this involved: I asked a friend to check the form before I sent it off and added some information as a result. I amended my CV to make sure it was relevant for this job.

What was the result? I completed the application form and sent them my revised CV.

I did this on: 21/2/18, 28/2/18, 4/3/18

Total time taken: 1 hour – checking paper and 2 hours – completing form and amending CV

What I’ll do next: The closing date is 15 March. If I haven’t heard anything by 26 March, I’ll ring the personnel section.

2. What I did:

Looked on job websites – Total Jobs, Indeed, In Retail – for retail jobs.

What this involved: Took bus into town and went to the library to use the internet. Found websites through Google and searched for retail jobs.

What was the result? Found two possible jobs at

1) Sports Direct – closing date 29 March

2) New Look – closing date 5 April

Completed online application form for both jobs and attached my CV.

I also did this type of search on: 22/2/18, 24/2/18, 26/2/18, 4/3/18, 8/3/18

Total time taken: 22 hours

What I’ll do next: Will contact both employers a week after closing date if I haven’t heard anything.

3. What I did:

I registered on Universal Jobmatch on 11 March.

What this involved: I used one of the computers in the Jobcentre after I’d seen my work coach.

What was the result? I applied for two jobs at

1) Subway – closing date 14 March

2) Greggs – closing date 18 March

Completed online application form for the Subway job and attached my CV.

Phoned Greggs to ask for an application form. Job included bakery duties as well as serving customers, so I updated my CV to include my experience doing this. Completed form, included my CV and posted to Greggs.

I repeated this type of search on: 11/3/18, 12/3/18, 13/3/18

Total time taken: 10 hours

What I’ll do next: Will contact both employers a week after closing date if I haven’t heard anything.

This is just an example of some ideas for your job search and how to record it. Take a look at more jobseeking advice to help with your 35 hours a week total. 

As can be seen the 35 hours target  is just that, a target.

Until the get round to 24 hours a day surveillance of claimants (including those in part time work subjected to this regime by Universal Credit, which makes it even madder), they cannot note how you spend every minute of the day. 

This is funnier.

Click here to find out how Universal Credit can make sure you’re better off in work.

Though this is wise advice.

Image result for viz top tips

Destitution in the UK Set to Rise with Universal Credit.

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Image result for destitution in the uk

During the week this story hit the headlines:

1.5 million people are ‘destitute’ in the UK. The ‘I’ (the well-informed Claimant’s Daily read).

The figures are startling: an estimated 1.5 million people were destitute in the UK at some point in 2017, 365,000 of them children. This is the conclusion of a report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of the charity, said actions by the Government, local authorities and utility companies is leading to “destitution by design”. “Social security should be an anchor holding people steady against powerful currents such as rising costs, insecure housing and jobs, and low pay, but people are instead becoming destitute with no clear way out.”

..

The report blamed benefits sanctions, low benefit levels, delays in receiving benefit payments, high housing costs, pressures – financial and otherwise – facing people with poor health and disability, lack of eligibility for benefits for people such as migrants and “harsh and uncoordinated” debt recovery practices by authorities and utility companies.

Here is the full report: Destitution in the UK 2018

There is plenty to remind you of this walking around Ipswich, where people begging is a daily sight.

James Bloodworth’s book,  Hired. Six Months Undercover in Low-wage Britain (2018) comes to mind at the same time.

The author  worked for Amazon in Rugeley, for a Call centre in the South Wales Valleys, for Uber, and for a private care firm in Blackpool.

It was in this seaside resort that he found this,

Bloodworth comes across the homeless. He sees an old man “buried under a pile of corrugated cardboard and bin liners”. In Blackpool’s main library there are people “who had been sent like badly behaved children to ‘job club’. There were the down-and-outs there too, “holding filthy carrier bags”, some falling asleep to be thrown back onto the streets. At moments like this you realise that only a comparison with George Orwell’s best writing will do.

Much of this seems to fit the way we live all over the country.

People in short-term employment, with few rights, thrown in and out of the benefits system. The down-and-outs.

One of one of the reasons we have so many young homeless wandering around in Ipswich is the closure of the Foyer last year.

Campaigner ‘disappointed’ as Ipswich Foyer housing scheme for young people to close in March.

Centra has failed to win a new funding contract from Suffolk County Council (SCC) to keep the Foyer, in Star Lane, running.

From April YMCA Suffolk and Orwell Housing Association will deliver housing-related support services for young people across the county.

Becki Bunn, who started a petition to save the hostel, said she was “really disappointed” that SCC had not reinvested in the Foyer.

At the age of 17 Miss Bunn lived at the Foyer for six months, enabling her to stay in education and finish her A-Levels.

Walking past it a few days ago I saw that the building, eminently suitable for the homeless, is empty and beginning to look shabby.

Thankfully Ipswich Labour has made some steps towards helping some of those without a roof over their heads.

The £2.8m investment Ipswich Borough Council is making in new temporary accommodation for people who are made homeless caught the headlines, writes Labour Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, David Ellesmere.

Ipswich Council has also reduced the Council Tax for those on benefits.

But a Borough Council does not have the funds the remedy the problems.

Some of the reasons for the massive level of destitution  began with the tough conditions to get JSA, such as the 35 jobsearch, ‘courses’, workfare, the sanctions regime, all of which are designed to throw people off the dole and onto the streets.

One that is bound to get worse with Universal Credit.

The must-read Bloodworth book talks of harassing bosses, poor working conditions, low-pay, snarls up in getting wages, and grasping Landlords.

Universal Credit – something people in the ‘gig economy’ he deals with will rely on – makes all of this a lot worse.

If levels of destitution apparently fell 25% with a loosening of sanctions between 2015 to 2017 the report says,

JRF warns more people could be at risk of destitution after Universal Credit is rolled out across the country because of the sanction rate. Universal Credit is being phased in gradually throughout the year. The roll-out schedule is here.

Here are the report’s recommendations.

Solutions to destitution

In our society, no-one should be left to starve or live on the streets and everyone should have access to basic essentials and shelter.
• The Universal Credit system must ensure that benefit gaps, sanctions and freezes do not push working-age people to the brink and make them destitute by design.
• Uncoordinated debt recovery practices can leave people with practically nothing to live on. This is unacceptable, and the Department for Work and Pensions and other public authorities must
address this.
• People facing destitution need emergency relief and this should be provided through Local Welfare Assistance schemes across England, drawing on positive lessons from other UK
countries, operating to a national minimum standard.
• Social landlords must be encouraged to play a central role in preventing and alleviating destitution amongst their tenants.

This can be summarised that immediately:

The UK Government needs to:

  • End the freeze on working-age benefits so they at least keep up with the cost of essentials and do not create destitution.
  • Change the use of sanctions within Universal Credit so that people are not left destitute by design.
  • Review the total amount of debt that can be clawed back from people receiving benefits, so they can keep their heads above water.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 10, 2018 at 9:35 am

As Universal Credit is Rolled out: Crime scene-style body outlines on Jobcentres across Birmingham.

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Body outlines from murder crime scenes appear outside JobCentres in Birmingham

DWP Suggests This Might be a Protest!

No automatic alt text available.

Body outlines indicating murder crime scenes are being sprayed outside Birmingham Jobcentres along with the slogan ‘fit for work’. (Metro)

Police have been alerted after mysterious crime scene-style body outlines were daubed on Jobcentres across Birmingham reports Birmingham Live.

Sites in Kings Heath, Sparkhill, Selly Oak, Ladywood and Longbridge were all targeted.

Pictures from the scene showed a chalk body outline painted on the ground at the entrance of the centre, with a bloody trail to a foot detached from the body.

The windows of the centre were also targeted, but were quickly covered with paper to shield it from onlookers.

Scotland Yard’s Top Copper is already working on the case.

Image result for Inspector clouseau

Helped by MI5 The DWP quickly got to the possible cause of the incidents.

“The Department for Work and Pensions, which manages job centres, hinted that the graffiti might have been done for the purpose of protest.”

A spokesman said: “Everyone has a right to protest peacefully, however vandalism is completely unacceptable. We’re in contact with the police.”

In April, police appealed for help to help to catch vandals who were spray-painting cars in Sutton Coldfield town centre.

A spokesperson for Sutton Coldfield’s Trinity neighbourhood team said: “We have noticed an increasing amount of graffiti, appearing across Sutton Coldfield town centre and within surrounding areas.

“We are appealing for information if anyone knows who is responsible for the personalised graffiti – as per the photograph.

“If anyone has any further information that could be of assistance within this matter; please contact PCSO Deputy Dawg  by calling 109999999 and stating extension number: 792843  (Calls charged at 50 pence a minute).”

 

Meanwhile, in today’s Guardian.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation says cuts, debts and housing costs push poor over the edge.

More than 1.5 million people in the UK, including more than 350,000 children, experienced destitution last year, a study has found, meaning they regularly went without food, toiletries, adequate clothing or shelter.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says a “tangled combination” of benefit cuts, delays and sanctions, together with harsh debt-recovery practices and high housing rental costs pushed people already in poverty over the edge into extreme deprivation.

Nearly two-thirds reported that they ate fewer than two meals a day for two or more days over the previous month, nearly half lacked clothing appropriate for the weather, more than 40% went without heating, and 15% slept rough.

The Independent today.

Nearly 4 million UK adults forced to use food banks, figures reveal

Exclusive: One in 14 Britons has used a food bank amid ‘shocking’ levels of deprivation

Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2018 at 10:20 am

Universal credit changes will bar 2.6 million children from free school meals.

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Image result for end of free school meals

No More Free Grub for the Nippers of 2,6 million UC Claimants.

Debbie Abrahams resigned from/temporarily stepped aside from her position as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary in March.

Since then we have heard little from Labour on the important issues surrounding Universal Credit, not least the hint of a serious worked out alternative to the shambles we can now see.

All you can find is a campaign to “fix Universal Credit’

Our campaign to fix Universal Credit

The Tories’ failing Universal Credit programme is plunging millions of people into poverty, leaving them unable to pay rent or put dinner on the table, and facing debt and eviction as a result.

So far, our campaigning has made major steps towards fixing the programme. The Tories were forced to scrap the up to 55p per minute helpline charge and the waiting time to receive the first Universal Credit payment was cut from six weeks to five weeks.

This is a great achievement, but there’s work still to do. Families are still going hungry, relying on food banks and unable to make ends meet.

Frankly, this is not much.

We need a full alternative worked-out policy.

However today this speech will flag up a very worrying area and state that, “Labour’s plan involves providing free school meals for all primary school children.”

Universal credit changes will bar 2.6 million children from free school meals, warns Labour.

Independent.

Eligibility changes mean 1.1 million children receive free school meals but 2.6 million would be entitled by 2022 if they had been kept the same.

Up to 2.6 million children whose parents are on benefits could be missing out on free school meals by 2022, the shadow education minister will warn.

Angela Rayner will tell a GMB union conference on Sunday that the Government’s claims on school meals are “falling apart” after changes to eligibility under Universal Credit (UC).

When the system was first introduced in 2013, all children of recipients – who were all unemployed – were eligible for free school meals (FSM), as they would have been under the old system.

But in April the criteria was tightened based on income. In England, the net earnings threshold will be £7,400 whereas in Northern Ireland it will be £14,000.

A government technical note published in May said that if the change had not been made, “around half of all (state school) children would become eligible for FSM and the meals would no longer be targeted at those who need them the most”.

Nursery World backs this claim up.

DfE admits millions of children at risk of losing free school meals

Up to 2.6 million children could lose out on free school meals by 2022, reveal newly published DfE figures.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 3, 2018 at 10:33 am

Universal Credit in Great Yarmouth, ” Food Bank has seen a 90pc increase in use since Universal Credit was introduced.”

with 63 comments

Image result for universal credit cartoon

“Please, Miss I want some more.” . “Oliver Twist has asked for more!”

Word reaches us the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux (CABs) across the country are being inundated with cases to do with Universal Credit.

One CAB worker  in particular spoke of how she had to deal with clear evidence of DWP staff unable to cope and making a mess of things.

It’s not hard to see why, given the paperwork they’ve handed us about the new system in Ipswich.

Hard to make head or tail of some of it.

Not to mention Find a Job….

This is an interesting properly researched article from Norfolk that has just appeared.

Disaster’ or making work pay? Lessons from Great Yarmouth in Universal Credit Tom Bristow

Great Yarmouth Food Bank has seen a 90pc increase in use since Universal Credit was introduced in April 2016. But the DWP said it was wrong to link the rise to the benefit changes. Picture: James Bass

 

Soaring demand at food banks, tenants being evicted and landlords left without rent.

These were the some of the problems when benefit system Universal Credit came to Great Yarmouth in April 2016.

The town was one of the first places in the country to test the Government’s flagship welfare reform, which replaced lots of different benefits with a single payment.

Universal Credit has been rolled out across the rest of the region, including King’s Lynn, Lowestoft and Dereham and is meant to be introduced to Norwich this October.

Claimants in Yarmouth still report problems of being overpaid some months and underpaid on others.

And one of the biggest headaches it has caused is for tenants and landlords.

Rent arrears have surged as tenants have to wait for the first payment, leaving them without money.

Landlords report some tenants leaving without paying rent when they got the first payment.

While under the previous housing benefit system the rent was paid directly to the landlord, it goes to the claimant under Universal Credit.

This is seriously not funny.

The DWP said “significant improvements” had been made to Universal Credit since it was introduced.

A spokesman said: “Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and under it people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer compared to the previous system.

The reality, as the New York Times writer  Peter S. Goodman said a couple of days ago,

Whatever the operative thinking, austerity’s manifestations are palpable and omnipresent. It has refashioned British society, making it less like the rest of Western Europe, with its generous social safety nets and egalitarian ethos, and more like the United States, where millions lack health care and job loss can set off a precipitous plunge in fortunes.

In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything

Written by Andrew Coates

May 30, 2018 at 11:57 am

Ipswich Joins  Stop Universal Credit Day of Action.

with 85 comments

Image may contain: 10 people, people smiling

Us lot in Ipswich.

11am-1pm, La Tour Café, Ipswich Waterfront.

Ironically or not the former home of  Cranfield’s Flour Mill in which our union had a strong membership.

 

.Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people standing, motorcycle and outdoor

Thank you to everyone that joined the @Unite_Community   Stop Universal Credit day of action on Thursday 24  May   2018

Written by Andrew Coates

May 25, 2018 at 11:49 am

Find a Job to Create Bureaucratic Nightmare.

with 168 comments

 

 

 

Image result for replacing universal JObmatch

 

Bureaucratic Nightmare. 

 

Find a Job service to replace Universal Jobmatch

The Government has announced that Universal Jobmatch will be replaced by the Find a Job service on 14 May 2018. Your existing Universal Jobmatch account will not move to the new service.

 

I really do not like this bit:

Save any information you want to keep, like CVs, cover letters and application history by 17 June 2018.

Please ensure that you have a screenshot of the job advertisement on file taken on the first day of placement showing:

  • full and legible contents of the advert
  • location of the role
  • job title, duties and responsibilities
  • required skillset and experience
  • an indication of salary or a salary range, “competitive” or “competitive rates apply” is suitable if this an industry norm
  • vacancy reference number
  • date of placement
  • URL
  • closing date for applications (the advert must appear live for at least 28 days)

You will also need to download the following documents:

  • All applications shortlisted for final interview in the medium they were received – emails, CV, application form – each should include the applicant’s details such as name, address, date of birth
  • The names and total number of applicants shortlisted for final interview
  • For each settled worker rejected from the process (British or EEA national, holder of Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residence under the EEA regs, UK ancestry visa holder), you must retain interview notes which show reasons why they have not been employed
  • Details of any applicants who applied and the reasons they were rejected (applicable to new sponsor licence applications only).

Basic account information will be migrated to the new service. An email with further information about this will be sent to users.

New employer registrations on Universal Jobmatch will close on 10 May 2018 and open on Find a Job on 14 May 2018.

Doug comments,

Important points of findajob to take note on

Findajobs programme  and operation can and will if applicable share data that could be personal and this transaction may or may not legally require a person lawful consent.

Also it has the capability to monitor and record all transactions that take place off its site and can detail dates,times and keystrokes,etc.
Apart from having findajob list all existing third parties, you also need to know the following,

1: Are they asking for lawful consent to future third parties that as yet they have not entered into an arrangement with or any unknown thirdparties they may do in the future. By granting lawful consent, your be be giving findajob lawful permission the moment you register to give some or all of your personal data as per applicable with need and applicable laws (via those domains) that wont require any further announcement to you asking for permission.

2: What cookies and especially supercookies they are or intend to use. Whether or not they again are also trying to secure lawful consent at registration with a view should they add further unannounced cookies/supercookies in the future that they may do so without seeking any further lawful consent.

Doug.

Still somebody seems to be happy.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 16, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Channel Four Dispatches Lifts the Lid on Universal Credit.

with 105 comments

Image result for UNiversal credit

 

Last night’s Channel Four Dispatches on Universal Credit was a thorough dismantling of the last pretensions of  this failed system.

The Government is introducing the new Universal Credit in the biggest welfare reform in a generation. It is claimed the new benefit is helping people back into work, Dispatches investigates claims the new system is a shambles.

A mess is polite.

Some cases stuck out: the disabled single parent who ended up surviving on food banks, and who stands to lose £2,000 a year from the regime, the man who found that being self-employed lone parent of two children under Universal Credit was no longer financially possible, and the man who went from being a food bank volunteer to being a user.

It’s worth noting that Esther McVey did not appear, only one of her minions Alok Sharma Minister of State for Employment.

Sharma, somebody nobody’s heard of till now, apparently has responsibility for,

  • Universal Credit, including labour market aspects and overall programme management
  • employment strategy and labour market interventions, including:
    • conditionality and sanctions
    • youth employment
    • women’s employment
    • black, Asian and minority ethnic employment
    • Fuller Working Lives
    • New Enterprise Allowance
  • Jobcentre Plus, partnership working and employer engagement
  • EU and international affairs, including support to the Secretary of State on Brexit
  • support to the Secretary of State on devolution

“Prior to entering Parliament, Alok qualified as a chartered accountant with Coopers & Lybrand Deloitte, and then worked for 16 years within banking, first with the Japanese firm Nikko Securities and then Enskilda Securities (the investment banking arm of SE Banken), where he held senior roles based out of London, Stockholm and Frankfurt, including serving as a member of the bank’s Corporate Finance Global Management Committee.”

With this background it’s not surprising that he took the Bertie Wooster line of stout denial in the face of evidence of the misery he and his boss are inflicting.

Waits, muddles, mistakes, and…..

“Some 70% of DWP staff say the roll out of Universal Credit should be stopped”!

 

Civil servants’ concerns over Universal Credit roll out

The latest episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches series, aired last night, focused on the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Research for the programme found two in three staff working on the flagship welfare reform – which combines a number of working-age benefits into a single payment – think it should be paused.

The programme raised concerns about staff shortages and timeliness of payments. The Department for Work and Pensions described the survey, of 550 union members, as “small, self-selected and flawed”. Here is the Mirror’s report on the programme and research findings.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for housing and health to be more joined up. The i newspaper published a piece about this over the bank holiday weekend. Mr Burnham has also previously called for Manchester to get its own welfare budget.

Two-thirds of frontline Department for Work and Pensions staff have said the roll-out of crisis-hit Universal Credit should be stopped, a Channel 4 investigation reveals.

Most DWP Frontline Staff ‘Say Universal Credit Should Be Scrapped’

Shock poll suggests misgivings among benefits officials.

Some 70% of DWP staff say the roll out of Universal Credit should be stopped according to a survey carried out by a trade union.

The Public and Commercial Services Union poll found 79% of respondents felt there was not sufficient staff to meet demand from claimants.

The union, which represents frontline DWP staff, many of whom work in high street job centres, polled 550 of its members for a new Dispatches documentary.

A whistleblower who currently works for the DWP told the programme: “Sometimes we’ll have a couple of people on our team on leave or off sick and then the work really piles up at that point and these claims have not been given the due attention they deserve.

A lot of [claimants] can miss their payments… It could mean that they won’t be able to eat for another couple of days, it’s very tough on them.”

In response to the survey, a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We strongly dispute these claims entirely and this is an extremely small, self-selected and flawed survey that is unrepresentative of our staff delivering Universal Credit.”

Universal Credit is a flagship benefit reform which replaces six individual benefits with one monthly payment.

But it’s been beset by problems in its roll out amid claims it has led to a surge in foodbank use and poverty.

It was claimed last month that thousands of claimants were losing 40% of their benefit to pay back DWP debts.

The Dispatches documentary found that despite sweeping changes to the way Universal Credit works last year, many claimants continue to suffer hardship.

Mark Serwotka discussing Universal Credit on C4 Dispatches

Our general secretary Mark Serwotka will be appearing on the Dispatches programme “Britain’s Benefits Crisis” on Monday May 7th 7.30pm Channel 4.

The roll out of Universal Credit (UC) has been a disaster for people on benefits. It is driven by the government’s choice to cut public services and is inflicting misery on those who need a supportive benefits system.

We have consistently made representations to DWP about the level of stress existing across Universal Credit Service Centres and, increasingly now, in the jobcentres, where staff are also being used to clear UC tasks. Despite this, DWP has refused to work with PCS.

Our members in DWP are under huge pressure and are suffering due to the chaotic reforms taking place, job cuts and the closure of offices.

They are fully aware of the devastating effects of this policy on the most vulnerable members of society which is why our union is calling for the roll out to be suspended immediately.

Please tune into the programme and if you are on Twitter, follow our live updates during the programme at @pcs_union

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 8, 2018 at 9:04 am

Judicial Review of Universal Credit’s “Hostile Environment”.

with 29 comments

Disabled people protesting against benefit cuts

Judicial Review of Universal Credit,

4 February 2018

Law firm Leigh Day has been given permission to take the first judicial review in the High Court over the controversial decision by the Government to implement Universal Credit, a single benefit which replaces a range of existing means-tested welfare benefits.

Following a successful application for permission, the judge ordered the full judicial review to be expedited and to take place at the High Court between May and July at a date yet to be confirmed.

It is being taken on behalf of a 52-year-old terminally ill man, who is suffering from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and Castleman’s Disease, over the decision by the Government to remove disability benefits from people with severe disabilities leaving them in financial difficulties.

The man whose identity is protected, and is referred to as TP, is a Cambridge graduate who had worked in the City and around the World within the financial sector.

He became terminally ill in 2016 and was in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP), which were specifically aimed at meeting the additional care needs of severely disabled people living alone with no carer.

However, following the recent introduction by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions of Universal Credit, both EDP and SDP have been removed when a person makes a claim for Universal Credit with no replacement provision put in place.

How a terminally ill man is leading the fight against inhumane universal credit

a terminally ill man is set to take on the government – and with it, the disastrous universal credit (UC) policy. Known only as TP, a 52-year-old ex-City worker – who has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the lymph node condition Castleman disease – is launching a landmark challenge at the high court after becoming financially worse off under the new benefit system.

DPAC:

Join us today for the 2nd day of the vigil outside the high court  to support the first judicial review against the Government’s decision to bring in Universal Credit. The case will focus in particular on the removal of the Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums which will have a devastating impact on Disabled people. When the Government introduced Universal credit they said no one will be worse off, but this simply isn’t true. Research in 2013 estimated that 450,000 households containing a Disabled person would lose essential income.

The case is being taken by Leigh Day solicitors on behalf of a man who is terminally ill and through the removal of SDP and EDP has lost £178 per month.

Vigil called by Disabled People Against Cuts and Winvisible.

In its latest report on the case the Mirror picks up the theme of the “hostile environment” created by Universal Credit.

Vulnerable, sick and hungry: these devastating testimonies of people on Universal Credit are being used to fight Esther McVey’s benefits department in Court

The Department for Work and Pensions is facing the first judicial review of the controversial new benefit system.

If there comes to be a watershed moment for the human disaster known as Universal Credit, it should be the testimonies of two severely disabled men heard this week in the High Court.

During the landmark legal challenge, one dying man, known as TP, told how he had moved to London on his cancer specialist’s advice to be near pioneering treatment.

Yet the move into a Universal Credit (UC) area led to him becoming so destitute he was unable to get to chemotherapy sessions and lived in levels of squalor that endangered his weakened immune system.

The other man, who is severely bipolar, had been forced to move by the bedroom tax from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool, a UC ‘full service’ area.

The discovery that he was even worse off because of hidden cuts inside the new controversial benefit and his new isolation left him suicidal.

I run out of food at least once a month and have to go without,” said the 36-year-old man, identified in court as ‘AR’. “I have twice had to use the food bank in ­Hartlepool.

“I just have one meal a day in the evening and that’s all… I cannot afford to buy clothes or shoes. My shoes have got holes in them… I cannot afford to run the heater.”

They continue,

After eight years of vicious welfare reform, the testimonies should be familiar by now. Yet they are freshly poignant. “My two dogs and two cats eat better than I do,” AR told the court. “I make sure they eat, as they are the only reason I have not committed suicide by now.”

‘TP’, a 52-year-old former City worker who has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the lymph node condition Castleman disease, told me how he was forced to live in “undignified, unhygienic conditions” while undergoing three types of gruelling chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. The Hickman Line fitted into his chest meant “it was dangerous for me to do many household chores”. He called his situation “a grave injustice”.

This is the ‘hostile environment’ faced by a different type of migrant – those undergoing “natural” or “managed migration”, in Government speak, into Universal Credit.

Together, the two men – backed by lawyers Leigh Day – are bringing the first judicial review of the Tories’ controversial Universal Credit.

The defendant is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey.

 

This is a striking detail:

Both men’s ‘journals’ – the way claimants must now communicate with the Department for Work and Pensions – make for harrowing reading. TP’s entry for May 4, 2017 reads: “I completely lost my SDP which is greatly needed, struggling at home by myself, disabled and sick.

“I have terminal cancer and am receiving chemotherapy and other treatments to try and control the disease. I have submitted two DWP DS1500 terminal illness reports – one from my GP and one from the hospital consultant. Please advise…”

The bald reply, which took three weeks, stated: “Severe Disability premium is not an element B16 of Universal Credit and therefore not payable…”

As well as the deep cut to support, both men describe being plunged into a bureaucratic nightmare, spending hours a day on to the DWP.

Join the @Unite_Community Stop Universal Credit day of action on Thursday 24 May 2018

Unite community will be staging a STOP Universal Credit day of action. 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 5, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Universal Credit Behavioural Change Scandal to Follow Windrush.

with 65 comments

Image result for Behavioural change universal credit

Claimants forced into Experiment in Behavioural Change.

A commentator writes,

Based on the Windrush and Universal Credit scandals one might think that the government didn’t know what it was doing.

Many will no doubt be impressed by the sheer scale of the misery inflicted by Windrush, brought to people’s attention, let it be noted, first through a drip drip of petitions on FB, then newspaper articles, and last, but not least by the efforts of Diane Abbott and David Lamey.

The more you read about Universal Credit the angrier you get.

As people here show.

The intellectual journal Prospect obviously read our contributors’ minds when it writes today,

A landmark legal challenge shows the cruel reality of Universal Credit for disabled people

The Windrush scandal currently engulfing the government is evidence not only of the great damage ministers can inflict on marginalised people’s lives—but the revolt that can occur when it goes too far. Yet look to the High Court this week and you’ll see the same damage being inflicted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), right at the centre of a flagship ‘welfare’ policy.

Two disabled people—aided by the law firm Leigh Day—have launched a landmark legal challenge against the government, arguing Universal Credit (UC) “unlawfully discriminates” against disabled benefit claimants.

It’s well established now that UC is creating financial misery, with those witnessing the fallout of the new benefit system describing it as “hell on earth.” Just last month, research by the Trussell Trust found food bank use is, on average, 52 per cent higher in areas where the full universal credit service has been in place for 12 months or more.

But like the Conservative’s ‘welfare reform’ generally, it’s disabled people who are taking the brunt. This is because two key disability benefits—the severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP)—are being abolished under the new system. The move will see claimants lose as much as £395 a month, according to the disability charity Scope.

It’s estimated a staggering 230,000 disabled people will be affected 

…..

Universal Credit has been hailed as the biggest transformation of the welfare state in sixty years—which would be laudable if it were not taking place at a time in which the government was simultaneously undertaking unprecedented cuts to the ‘welfare’ budget. Disabled people alone will collectively lose £2 billion in disability premium payments by the time UC fully rolls out (a particularly galling fact considering delays mean it is estimated to be costing taxpayers £16 billion by 2020).

‘Behavioural change’ is at the centre of these UC cuts. This is insulting enough for anyone—a single mum doesn’t need to be left hungry to ‘motivate’ her to look for work; she needs affordable childcare and flexible work opportunities. But with disabled people it’s particularly egregious; as if their disability will suddenly improve the moment they transfer to Universal Credit.

This travesty is a product of Conservative governments but opposition should come from all sides. By any political leaning, reform of the social security system that actively makes the lives of those experiencing illness and disability worse—rather than supporting them—is ultimately a failure. If this week’s court case goes in disabled people’s favour, the government could be forced to learn that lesson whether it likes it or not.

Let’s look at  aspects this programme of “behavioural change”.

One, dealt with in the previous post, is the “on-line Job search”.

It is part of this:

Digital challenge of Universal Credit. (Local Government)

Given that many residents’ main source of income will be via the UC method, the challenge for claimants, Government and all stakeholder is how to get people to engage digitally while avoiding significant delays in UC applications.

Our experience tells us that the first obstacle is getting people to actually attend a digital workshop. With lives, full of stress and concern, getting a resident to attend a workshop – which might be wrongly perceived as another way to criticise perceived inadequacies – can be a difficult sell. We utilise a variety of methods to combat this, from guerrilla marketing to ‘nudge’ behavioural change theory, to positively encourage this attendance. We talk to residents in ways that are clear and jargon-free, no blame is ever ascribed to their lack of knowledge and we use the communication channels that they use, such as text messaging or mobile phone calls. We also incentivise people, whether that’s free prizes from local businesses to using tempting food treats. Sounds simple, but it works.

These marketing and engagement devices encourage people to attend events, but the content of the workshop is, of course, crucial to maintain attendance. One area we’ve found particularly powerful is a successful replica UC portal for practicing and getting used to the online form – www.we-are-digital.co.uk/help. This warms residents to the structure, questions and information they need for when they fill in the actual form, answering many of their concerns ahead of time – a move we’d like to see replicated nationwide.

In addition, it is important to consider that, once claimants start filling in their forms, they will still need support and reassurance. For housing associations, we recommend promoting the toll-free UC telephone support claims line – which residents can call to get support over the phone to complete a real claim, regardless of which HA they are from. For the most difficult cases, in-home support is also an option, with a tutor taking them through a real claim, one-to-one. Ultimately, these methods will help to prevent sanctions and decrease arrears.

With a delay in UC rollout politically unpalatable, the emphasis is on increasing claimants’ skills base, and quickly. This urgency of this expediency is most pronounced on housing association tenants.

Isn’t it wonderful being part of a vast social experiment in “behavioural change”?

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2018 at 10:04 am

‘Find a Job’ service to Replace Universal Job Match for Claimants.

with 72 comments

Image result for adzuna chief ninja

Universal Jobmatch will be replaced by the Find a job service on 14 May 2018.

Important: If you have an existing Universal Jobmatch account it will not move to the new service.

Save any information you want to keep, like your CV, cover letters and application history by 17 June 2018.

New ‘Find a Job’ service to support thousands of jobseekers into work

One of the UK’s largest recruitment websites Universal Jobmatch is to be re-named ‘Find a Job’.

The free government recruitment service – now operated by Adzuna – will continue to connect jobseekers with thousands of employers across the UK.

The change will come into effect on 14 May, and access to existing ‘Universal Jobmatch’ accounts will be available up until 17 June 2018.

The Minister for Employment, Alok Sharma, said:

With the employment rate the highest it has been since records began, I want those still looking for work around the country to have the very best opportunity to find a role that suits their needs.

Our new Find a Job service offers one of the largest free job search functions out there – and with a near record number of vacancies, there are plenty to choose from.

The service will offer jobseekers and employers a simpler and more streamlined way to log in and access their information. The site will continue to allow jobseekers to search for work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Through the creation of an account, they will be able to track their activity, create tailored job alerts and store multiple CVs, to ensure their applications are the best they can be when applying for roles.

Following a competitive procurement process, Adzuna has been providing the new service from early 2018. The site will offer a faster, more efficient experience. A more powerful search using Adzuna’s technology will match jobseekers to employers’ available roles quickly and effectively.

The unemployment rate (4.2%) has not been lower since 1975 and the number of people out of work is down by 136,000 compared to a year ago. This shows the enormous progress that is being made to help even more people benefit from being in work.

This change will incur no extra cost for the Department for Work and Pensions.

Our Newshounds  (JS, j joop, ken, and othershave been on the trail of this new scam.

So it’s true then. But is Find-a-Job going to be mandatory and an integral part of Universal Credit? Universal Jobmatch was originally built as a means to police the job seeking activity of Universal Credit claimants, allowing anybody, anywhere, with the right permission, to scrutinise the activities of every claimant on UJM online hence the logging of applications and compromising questions like “Or, tell us why you don’t wish to apply for this job” which appears on the advert for every vacancy on UJM. Such things are obvious tripwires created expressly to catch people out and get them sanctioned for not applying for some vacancy, or other, without good reason. My bet is that the “Find a job” site will be more of the same, just tarted up with a new front end, but Universal Jobmatch at its core and that most of us will carry on going straight to Indeed.co.uk to look for work unless forced to do otherwise.

Besides being ugly and unfriendly for users good employers stopped advertising on UJM years ago.

Why should Find-a-Job be any different?

Percy S.

Universal Jobmatch was supposed to allow Work Coaches (or anybody else) to “communicate” with “jobseekers” and blitz them with idiotic and unsuitable jobs to apply for. I denied the DWP access and haven’t been bothered while a friend of mine allowed them unrestricted access and got sent shitloads of low-paid part-time vacancies, miles away from where he lived, e.g., replenishment staff (shelf stackers) with a supermarket, working five days a week, from 8.00pm to 9.00pm, for £7.50 ph, with a two hour commute and had to explain why he didn’t apply for them. Here’s the reason: Being on Universal Credit meant that 63% of the £7.50 earned per day was deducted from his benefits, leaving him with £2.78; as his bus fare was £4.60 return he would have been £1.83 out of pocket and that was before his Council Tax contribution got tweaked upwards!

You’ve hit the nail on the head about the policing aspect of Universal Jobmatch.

Quote: “The new service offers an easy, streamlined process for both jobseekers and employers to log in and access their information. The site will continue to allow jobseekers to search for work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Through the creation of an account, they will be able to track their activity, create tailored job alerts and store multiple CVs, to ensure their applications are the best they can be when applying for roles.”

I’m guessing the Jobcentre will try and tell you creating an account will be mandatory. Has anyone put in an FOI request for the toolkit?

JJ.Joop.

I was talking to my Work Coach today and she said the Find-a-Job will be different and have a different logon using an email address and password, same as most other sites use. She didn’t know much else about it or how it will differ from or be similar to the vile Universal Jobmatch. I wonder if users will have the power to delete their accounts and data? With Universal Jobmatch you had to ask for your account to be deleted or stop using it and wait for it to expire and auto-delete after eighteen months I think it was. She also said that in my area “we” would be switching over to the “full digital service” where you are supposed to report changes in your circumstances and such like be means of an online “Journal”.

Universal Credit looks set to be a bigger scandal than the Windrush farrago.

Percy S.

Seasoned commentator Superted says,

wow so the new find a job service is going to do what every job site does now anyway and provide links to apply for jobs on another web site.

if ur not mandated to use it via a job seekers direction and create a account why even bother to use it in the first place lol.

Adzuna will laughing all the way to the bank, yet another service that is not needed and more tax payers money down the drain.

Expert advice from Ken,

Adzuna will laughing all the way to the bank, yet another service that is not needed and more tax payers money down the drain.

I think you are correct superted.Universal Jobmatch was a tired site often with multiple ad’s placed by the same company.I found the amount of times it said I couldn’t apply because I had applied before was enormous at least more looked to have been viewed lately.

None of this is going to overcome barriers to work such as health age and lack of experience even down to own transport.Being out of work for long periods is extreamly common these days also.Agencies want people who are at immediate call,jump straight into a car to work odd hours.It amounts to caught in the benefits trap.

What kind of jobs will they circulate?

Here are some of the latest top-tips from the Adzua Blog:

Developer Evangelist, Chef Ninja, Data Wrangler, Play Planner.

And,

The Deadliest Jobs in The UK – 2018.

And, today’s job:

Eyebrow Expert – Liverpool

BENEFIT COSMETICS UK – LIVERPOOL , MERSEYSIDE

Benefit Cosmetics UK – Brow Expert Stunning lashes and beautiful brows aren’t too much to ask for, are they? We don’t think so. Which is why, alongside our best-selling products, we have Brow Bar Experts like you making our customers look amazing. From The …JOBSWORTH: £18,328 P.A.?

What is the company behind the pretentious name?

Adzuna
Private company
Industry Internet, Job search engine
Founded April 2011
Founder Doug Monro and Andrew Hunter
Headquarters LondonUnited Kingdom
Area served
Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom, USA
Products Jobs, Property, Cars
Services Classifieds search
Number of employees
c. 50
Website Adzuna.co.uk

Adzuna is a search engine for job advertisements. The company operates in 16 countries worldwide and the UK website aggregates job, property and car ads from several hundred sources.

Adzuna was founded in 2011 by Andrew Hunter, former head of marketing of Gumtree and VP of marketing at Qype, and Doug Monro, former MD of Gumtree and COO of Zoopla. The beta site was launched in April 2011 with £300,000 seed investment from Passion Capital and Angel Investors, followed by a public press launch in July 2011.[13][14][15] In January 2012, Adzuna announced further investment of £500,000 from Index Ventures and The Accelerator Group to expand into other verticals and countries.[16] In April 2013, Adzuna raised a further £1M from the same investors.[17] In July 2015, Adzuna raised an additional £2M from over 500 investors via a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube. [18]

Adzuna was named by Startups.co.uk as one of the top 20 UK startups of 2011,[19] and by V3 Magazine as one of the top ten up-and-coming UK technology startups of 2013.[20] In the same year it was also listed by Wired as one of the top 10 startups in London[21] and in 2015 was named to UK government agency Tech City’s ‘Future Fifty’ high growth startups accelerator.[22]

In January 2014, Fairfax Media announced a joint venture with Adzuna in Australia to challenge the job board market leader there, SEEK.[23]In September 2017, Adzuna announced the relaunch of improved ‘ValueMyCV’.[24]

Written by Andrew Coates

April 28, 2018 at 10:11 am