Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Citizens Advice Speaks out on Cut to Universal Credit.

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Please join day of action vs £20 cut to Universal Credit - 6 Feb 2021 - DPAC

Dame Clare Moriarty chief executive of Citizens Advice.

Cutting Universal Credit will undermine the government’s levelling up agenda.

Pushing benefit levels lower will hurt working families and take money out of local economies, not accelerate our recovery.

As MPs return to their constituencies for the summer, millions of families are set to hear that their Universal Credit will drop by over £1,000 a year from October. Families disproportionately located in areas the government has said it wants to “level up”.

An extra £20 a week doesn’t just stop people having to choose between putting food on the table or keeping the lights on. It gives a critical cash boost to the very regions identified as most at risk of being ‘left behind’. For this reason, a cut to Universal Credit is at odds with the government’s own agenda of narrowing the inequality gap.

Levelling up is a slippery term. It can cover any number of things – regenerating town centres, faster broadband, better jobs and tackling the skills deficit. But these sit under one umbrella: improving living standards for the people and places most in need.

Comment: who on earth takes ‘levelling up’ seriously?

A group of Conservative MPs has formed a levelling-up taskforce, and is calling for the government to set out geographical analysis of how tax and spending changes affect different areas. Boris Johnson has also appointed Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough in Leicestershire, as his levelling-up adviser.

The government says it will set out its plans later this year.

Clearly it has been busy with the pandemic (which has itself highlighted problems of inequality in the UK) since the election.

The report continues.

Of course, levelling up is about more than just geography. It’s about tackling inequalities. More than a third of people who’ll be hit by the cut are already in jobs but still rely on Universal Credit to make ends meet. Some can’t work because of a disability or caring responsibility. Others have weathered furlough or shielding and are picking up the pieces from this crisis.

The Chancellor’s counter-argument to keeping the £20 increase is that the focus must be jobs. Supporting people into the labour market is vital and job creation schemes are welcome. But frontline staff at Citizens Advice know a job doesn’t mean income security, particularly when it’s low paid or zero hours. Pushing benefit levels lower will hurt working families and take money out of local economies, not accelerate our recovery.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 30, 2021 at 3:53 pm

Posted in DWP, Universal Credit

Tagged with , ,

Universal Credit Cut: Channel Four News Report.

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Campaign Against the Government's £20 Cut to Universal Credit - Nick Brown  MP

This was a really hard-hitting and to-the-point report last night:

23 Jul 2021

Universal Credit: what it’s like to lose £20 a week

By Jane Dodge

The UK is heading towards the “biggest overnight social security cut” since the modern welfare state was founded, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

They’ve been investigating the impact of the decision to cut Universal Credit payments by £20 a week from October, and they say it could plunge half a million more people into poverty, as well as putting millions of low income families under further financial strain.

UK ‘heading for biggest overnight social security cut since Second World War’

Written by Andrew Coates

July 24, 2021 at 10:03 am

Homelessness Expected to Rise as Universal Credit Boost Ends.

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Rough Sleeping and Homelessness in Exeter - Exeter City Council News

Avalanche’ of homelessness expected as furlough and Universal Credit boost end

More people are at risk of homelessness now than at any time in living memory,” Bird said. By Charlene Rodrigues

homelessness will rise this autumn as furlough and Universal Credit schemes are set to end in September, The Big Issue has warned.

The Big Issue writes:

There are 564,000 people in rent arrears, 190,000 owner-occupied homes in financial difficulty, 4.3 million people are behind on household bills.

Our research also found a shocking statistic. In the first quarter of 2021, there were 632 mortgage repossessions and rental evictions. This means that a household was made homeless on average every three-and-a-half hours.

Since the first lockdown last year, we have supported steps to protect and prevent people losing their income. As the furlough scheme ends and the eviction ban lifts, we are approaching a cliff edge that could see unprecedented numbers of people being made homeless through no fault of their own.

For three decades we have fought for people who have lost their homes and now we really need to step it up.

This week we launch our Stop Mass Homelessness campaign with the aim to prevent the immediate threat of mass homelessness and invest for the future.

We are making simple demands of government:

  • Pay off £360m in rent arrears
  • Suspend no-fault evictions until a Renters’ Reform Act is passed
  • Make permanent the £20 Universal Credit uplift
  • Improve access to Discretionary Housing Payment and unfreeze Local Housing Allowance

To address long-term challenges we also call for:

  • A Future Generations Act to end short-term thinking of government policy
  • Expand social housing and encourage innovative ways to increase housing stock
  • Improve support for financial  literacy education
  • Increase support for ethical property and letting firms
  • Invest to create new green jobs

UK parliaments back continued universal credit boost

The £20 a week increase in Universal Credit should be permanent, according to senior politicians from across the UK.

In a letter, the chairs of four welfare committees from around the UK say removing the temporary top-up would affect families on the lowest incomes.

And sources have also told the BBC that Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey supported keeping the uplift.

The government insists the extra £20 is a short-term measure ending in October.

The letter calling for the top-up to be made permanent was signed by the chairs of committees at Westminster, the Scottish Parliament, Senedd in Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly.

The joint letter from the four committee chairs of the UK’s four parliaments is thought to be a first.

It is signed by Labour’s Stephen Timms at Westminster, the SNP’s Neil Gray for Holyrood, Paula Bradley of the DUP for Stormont and Welsh Labour’s Jenny Rathbone at the Senedd in Cardiff.

They say: “Ending the uplift would mean that the six million people claiming Universal Credit will lose £1,040 in annual income overnight.

“The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has estimated that removing the uplift would force 500,000 people, including 200,000 children, into poverty.

“Families on the lowest incomes, those with children and particularly single parents, BAME families, and families where someone is disabled are disproportionately affected.”

They also call for the extra £20 a week to be extended to people on legacy benefits – which were created before universal credit.

They warn the chancellor and Ms Coffey: “You also risk removing this support from families at the very time unemployment is expected to peak, as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme comes to an end.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 21, 2021 at 11:25 am

Dole Cut – Universal Credit Reduction Opposed.

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Image

Bit of history,

“to cut costs, the government introduced the Means Test in 1931. Officials visited families to assess whether they were entitled to help. This involved finding out how much the families earned or possessed.

In order to qualify for dole, a worker had to pass the Means Test, and the sum paid to each family would be based on this test.

The test created many problems for families. Tensions were caused because, if an older child had some work, or a mother had a part-time job, or a grandparent was living in the house without paying rent, the Means Test could result in dole being refused. Heirlooms and items such as pianos had to be sold, and savings spent before the dole was received.

To make matters even worse, the dole was cut by 10 per cent in 1931.

Now…

Johnson under mounting pressure on universal credit as northern Tory MPs’ group warn against cut

Northern Research Group say £20 uplift has been ‘life-saver’ for families, as Labour say they will ‘use every parliamentary mechanism available’ to force vote on issue

Boris Johnson is facing mounting resistance over plans to cut the £20-per-week universal credit uplift, as a group of northern Conservative MPs warned the government it would “hamper” the economic recovery.

Describing the emergency payments as a “life-saver” for people during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Northern Research Group (NRG), representing around 50 MPs, again called on ministers to keep the increase in place.

It comes amid growing Tory unease over the reluctance in No 10 and the Treasury to extend the measure – first introduced at the onset of the pandemic – beyond September, despite the impact of the crisis continuing to reverberate.

….

The NRG spokesperson added: “The effects of coronavirus restrictions have been disproportionately felt by the North. We have been in lockdown longer than any other area of the country. That is why we have seen such a rapid growth rate in new universal credit claims.

“This uplift goes hand-in-hand with the government’s jobs-led recovery by supporting people in the right way. To end it now would only hamper the economic recovery ahead”.

The call from the group representing northern Tory MPs comes after six former Conservative work and pensions secretaries, including Iain Duncan Smith, wrote to the government urging the uplift, introduced by ministers as a temporary measure, to be put on a “permanent footing”.

Speaking to The Independent, Stephen Crabb, one of the former ministers who signed the letter to the chancellor, said the “evidence is pretty clear and overwhelming is that this is a measure that will hurt many, many families”.

At least the Northern Research Group, whose aim is to shore up Tory support in the North and get voters to say, Bless the Squire and his Relations and Keep us in our Proper Station, are consistent. January:

Written by Andrew Coates

July 13, 2021 at 11:52 am

Universal Credit Cut of £20 to go ahead in the autumn.

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We are questioning Dr Thérèse Coffey MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Watch live on Wednesday 7 July at 9.30am

“Ahead of October we will start communicating with current claimants who receive £20 to make them aware that will be being phased out and they will start to see an adjustment in their payments”.

The result of the meeting?

Covid: Universal credit £20 top up to be phased out

BBC

The £20-a-week increase to universal credit will be “phased out” in the autumn, the government has confirmed.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told MPs the boost – introduced in April last year to help deal with the economic effects of Covid – would face an “adjustment”.

Six former work and pensions secretaries have urged ministers not to end the uplift.

Ms Coffey said the change had been a “collective decision” by ministers.

Universal credit is claimed by more than 5.5 million households in the UK.

The top up was extended by six months in March and Labour has called for it to continue beyond the autumn.

……

Campaigners say the extra money – which is worth around £1,000 a year – has made the difference for some families between getting by and falling further into poverty.

Ms Coffey told the Commons Work and Pensions Committee that it would change this autumn alongside other measures put in place to help those affected by the pandemic.

“Ahead of October we will start communicating with the current claimants… to make them aware that will be being phased out and they will start to see an adjustment in their payments,” she said.

“We will be recognising that this was brought in with the temporary measures to support [people] during the pandemic.”

The ‘I’ carries the same story:

Universal Credit: Emergency £20 payment will be withdrawn in September, Therese Coffey confirms

Speaking at the Work and Payments Committee, she said: “Ahead of October we will start communicating with current claimants who receive £20 to make them aware that will be being phased out and they will start to see an adjustment in their payments.

“I think it will largely start to kick in during October but it will be September for some people.

“The current proposal is that we will be recognising this was brought in in line with temporary measures to support people during the pandemic. It’s being phased out in line with all the other temporary measures.”

Tory MP for Amber Valley, Nigel Mills, pressed the Secretary of State on whether she had lobbied Chancellor Rishi Sunak for the top up to be kept but she said the decision to end it had been collective.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic the Government announced it would be increasing Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits by £20 a week to support households.

Universal Credit is currently claimed by more than 5 million households in the country and the uplift if estimated to be worth around £1000 a year.

Campaigners have argued that the extra money has been the difference between falling into poverty for some families.

And there are concerns that coinciding the end of the payment at the same time as the furlough scheme comes to an end would hit households in need hard.

But the Secretary of State argued that there would be no need for the £20 uplift because more people will be able to enter the workforce after lockdown is lifted.

Ms Coffey said her focus was on jobs and “all the things we can do to help people work more hours”, she added.

Mr Mills argued that the Department did not yet have data to prove that families would no longer need the top-up payment, accusing the Government of basing the decision on “dates not data”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 7, 2021 at 12:03 pm

Cut to Universal Credit Payments Still on the Cards.

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Image

Let’s Not Forget that not everybody. those on Legacy Benefits for example, Got the £20.

DWP could cut Universal Credit when lockdown ends in less than a month

Lockdown restrictions were due to end on June 21 but were delayed by four weeks to July 19

Universal Credit and Tax Credit claimants say £20 cut to ‘vital lifeline’ leaving them struggling to sleep

Daily Record’

Almost half (46%) of adults in households on Universal Credit or Tax Credits are worried that the upcoming £20 cut will affect their ability to afford food.

This is according to national poverty charity Turn2us who added that some families were suffering from anxiety, stress, depression and loss of sleep.

Almost half (46%) of adults in households on Universal Credit or Tax Credits are worried that the upcoming £20 cut will affect their ability to afford food, according to national poverty charity Turn2us.

The release of the research marks the start of a three month countdown to the cut, when Universal Credit claimants will lose £20 a week from their benefits. The September removal of this vital lifeline could see half a million people, including 200,000 children, pulled into poverty overnight.

For the five million households on Universal Credit, and one million on working tax credits, the concerns are widespread; nearly one in two (44%) will struggle to pay bills, one in three (29%) don’t know if they will be able to continue pay their rent or mortgage, and one in five (20%) will not be able to stay out of debt.

The financial consequences of the cut are leading to a worsening mental health crisis for people relying on social security to survive:

  • 47% are experiencing anxiety about the cut
  • 32% are experiencing depression about the cut
  • 30% are experiencing loss of sleep about the cut
  • 46% are experiencing stress about the cut

Thomas Lawson, Chief Executive at Turn2us, said:

“A decade of caps, cuts and freezes to the UK’s social security payments has left it one of the least generous in Europe. Many of us already struggle to pay for the bare essentials. If the government forges ahead with its cut to Universal Credit, it could plunge many more into hunger and debt. It’s just not right that families are left unable to afford to put food on their tables and are having to turn to food banks so they and their children don’t go hungry.

“We urge the government to not just keep the £20 benefit increase, but to make it permanent and extend it to legacy benefits. Failure to do will have a detrimental impact on people’s lives and livelihoods – and their ability to contribute to our recovery.”

The charity is working in partnership with a coalition of other organisations and lived experts as part of the #KeepTheLifeline campaign. Previous findings from the campaign show that the vast majority of the British public (59%) want the uplift to be made permanent.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 1, 2021 at 5:19 pm

As One Britain One Nation Day Approaches Nearly Half Universal Credit Claimants Have Benefits Reduced.

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Strong Britain, Great Nation

One Britain One Nation Day is due to be celebrated in schools on Friday through the singing of a patriotic song.

Almost half of Universal Credit claimants are having their monthly benefits reduced

Mirror.

Almost half of Brits on Universal Credit are not getting the full benefit payment every month because they are paying back debts to the DWP.

Some 45% of all claims in February – 2.2million – had a deduction, meaning the claimant did not get their full entitlement that month.

Many were people who took out an advance from their own future benefits – to bridge the five-week wait for their first UC payment.

Some 49% of all deductions, worth £86million in February alone, were to pay back an advance.

The DWP claim there is nothing wrong with this, because advances mean people are being paid the same amount of benefits over a longer time.

But campaigners say the five-week wait must be scrapped, because many skint Brits have no choice but to borrow against their own future benefits.

Update, now Trending:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 23, 2021 at 1:36 pm

Reports Slams Rising Financial Difficulties for Universal Credit Claimants.

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Peterborough social housing tenants buried in debt by Universal Credit,  investigation reveals | Peterborough Telegraph

This story has appeared in a number of news outlets.

Almost half of Universal Credit claimants ‘behind on bills’ before pandemic struck

Cambridgeshire Live.

Around 46 per cent of people receiving the six-in-one benefit were not up to date with bills by last November, according to analysis by a think tank.

According to a new report by think tank Bright Blue released this week, 46 per cent of Universal Credit claimants were struggling to pay household bills and were still not to up-to-date by November.

As the name suggests this is a Tory think tank, “ the independent think tank for liberal conservatism “a party run by chancers and people who with a less trusted reputation than Trotter Enterprises,

Bright Blue: Almost half of long-term Universal Credit claimants had fallen behind on household bills during the Covid-19 pandemic

The main findings from this analysis are:

  • A significant minority of both existing UC and new UC households reported not being up to date with household bill payments throughout the pandemic. Among existing UC claimants, this rose from 25% in 2018-19 to up to 38% in March 2021, peaking at 46% in November 2020. Similarly, 32% of new UC claimants reported not being up to date with at least some household bills near the start of the pandemic in May 2020, before declining to a low of 17% in March 2021, indicating that new UC claimants were less likely to face this specific financial challenge as the pandemic continued. These compare to just 5% of non-UC respondents in 2018-19, 6% in May 2020 and 4% in March 2021.The difference between existing UC claimants and non-UC respondents reporting not being up to date with at least some household bill payment rose by 14 percentage points between before the pandemic (2018-19) and March 2021.
  • A significant minority of both existing UC and new UC households also reported not being up to date on housing payments, such as rent or mortgage payments, during the pandemic. For existing UC claimants, between 26% reported facing this financial challenge in November 2020, before falling to 18% in March 2021. Similarly, 16% of new UC claimants in May 2020 and 23% in July 2020 report not being up to date with housing payments, falling to 11% in March 2021. In contrast, only 7% of non-UC respondents in 2018-19 reported falling behind on housing payments, with no increase beyond that during the pandemic. 
  • Existing UC claimants were more likely to face a worsening than an improving level of personal debt in the initial part of the pandemic. 30% of existing UC claimants reported increasing the size of their debts compared to 13% decreasing it in July 2020. However, this fell to 12% by March 2021, by which time 21% reported decreasing their debt. Both non-UC respondents and new UC claimants were more likely to be decreasing the size of their debt than increasing it at different points of the pandemic. Aside from this, among all population groups and during all time periods, the majority of people’s debt levels have stayed the same.
  • A significant minority of UC claimants reported finding it ‘quite’ or ‘very’ difficult to manage financially during the pandemic. 34% of existing UC claimants reported this in 2018-19 which declined to 22% in July 2020, before rising back to 34% in November 2020, and falling down to 19% in March 2021. Similarly, 35% of new UC claimants reported this in May 2020, but this largely fell to 18% in July 2020, 19% in November 2020 and 15% in March 2021. Overall, the difference between existing UC claimants and non-UC respondents actually declined by 11 percentage points between 2018-19 and March 2021.
  • Both existing and new UC claimants are much more likely than the rest of the population to think there is a major chance they will have difficulty paying for bills and expenses in the next three months, despite a decline in such fears since the start of the pandemic. There was a decline from 54% to 32% among existing UC claimants worried about their financial future between May 2020 and March 2021 and a decline from 51% to 22% among new UC claimants in the same time period. The difference between the number of existing UC claimants and non-UC respondents reporting this financial anxiety actually declined by 14 percentage points between May 2020 and March 2021 and the difference between new UC claimants and non-UC respondents declined by 21 percentage points in the same period. 
  • Reported life satisfaction of non-UC respondents has remained significantly above that of existing UC claimants throughout the pandemic. The reported gap was biggest between non-UC and new UC claimants at the start of the pandemic in May 2020, with a 30 percentage point difference. The reported gap was biggest between non-UC and existing UC claimants in November 2020, with a 35 percentage point difference. While new UC claimants reported lower life satisfaction than existing UC claimants in May 2020, this reversed by November 2020, before the two largely aligned by March 2021. By the later stage of the pandemic in March 2021, 46% of existing and 48% of new UC claimants reported being satisfied with their life, compared to 67% of the rest of the population.

Anvar Sarygulov, Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue and analysis author, commented:

“Even with the Government increasing financial support provided through Universal Credit in March 2020, many claimants have continued to face significant financial difficulties as the pandemic progressed. However, the financial situation for existing and new UC claimants has shifted throughout the pandemic, with some evidence for improvement as the pandemic progressed, especially by March 2021.

Fully withdrawing the Universal Credit uplift in September 2021 will put an even greater number of claimants at risk of financial problems at a point when the economic recovery is only gathering pace.” 

Even the hard right Spectator agrees:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 17, 2021 at 3:00 pm

Benefit Sanction Changes.

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Benefit sanctions are largely ineffective and can push people into poverty  and crime finds study - About Manchester

It is hard to tell what this means, and given the far-right paper that publishes it many will be sceptical.

DWP halts benefit sanction plans due to Covid – Universal Credit claimants to be affected

UNIVERSAL credit and other benefit claimants are required to follow certain rules when getting their support and if these rules aren’t followed, sanctions can be issued. These sanctions could reduce or even hold benefit payment amounts and today, the DWP addressed how the sanction system may change going forward.

This could also impact other state benefits and recently, the Government was pushed on potential changes to the sanction system.

Chris Stephens, the Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow South West, recently asked the following question in Parliament: “To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what progress her Department has made on plans to roll out yellow card warnings in place of immediate benefit sanctions.”

Today, this question was answered by Mims Davies, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the DWP.

She said: “The Department committed to look at processes to give claimants a written warning, instead of a sanction, for a first sanctionable failure to attend a Work-Search Review.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 12, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Government Dismisses Work and Pensions Committee Report on Problems with Universal Credit.

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"It has taken the Government nearly two years to produce this wholly unconstructive response. That approach is symptomatic of the Government's dismissive attitude to well-evidenced concerns about flaws in UC."

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair
Work and Pensions Committee

MPs have condemned the ‘dismissive’ response of ministers to concerns over Universal Credit, after the government took two years to respond to a damning report.

The Work and Pensions Committee has just published the government’s response to its 2019 report on the switch to the Universal Credit system for paying benefits. In it, the government rejects every substantive recommendation of the committee on how to improve the UC system to protect claimants.

Ministers once again refused to fix the five week wait for the first UC payment, and failed to provide details on the time it takes to make changes to the UC system.

The Government thanks the committee for its twenty-seventh Report of Session 2017–19, Universal Credit: Natural Migration.

The Universal Credit (UC) roll out was completed in December 2018. Parliament voted to make UC the social security system in the UK, and it is clear that legacy benefits will be stopped.

Natural migration to Universal Credit is required when a person needs to make a new claim for support because of a change of circumstances. It has always been the case that changes of circumstance can require claimants to make claims to a different benefit or have their current entitlement revised.

Claimants on legacy benefits can also choose to make a claim for Universal Credit. Claimants on legacy benefits considering making a claim for UC should check carefully their eligibility and entitlements under UC before applying, as legacy benefits will end when claimants submit their claim and they will not be able to return to them in the future. For this reason, prospective claimants are signposted to independent benefits calculators on GOV.UK. They can also get help through the government funded Help to Claim scheme via Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the benefit system is entirely devolved and the Department for Communities is the responsible department in the Northern Ireland Executive.

UC covers in and out of work support and is fundamentally different from legacy benefits. Where there has been a change in circumstance, it is right that the claimant’s entitlement is calculated under the rules of UC, as is the case with all other new claims to it where the claimant had not previously been receiving any legacy benefit. The change in circumstance would affect the calculation of benefit and, therefore, a like-for-like comparison cannot be made between UC and legacy awards. Claimants who naturally migrate to UC may have the same level of entitlement as their previous legacy benefit entitlement, they may see a reduction in their entitlement, or, as the report acknowledges, they may see an increase in their entitlement.

In addition, UC provides more comprehensive support than the legacy benefits it replaces. Examples of this include more generous support for childcare, tailored support that helps claimants find work and a tapering system that incentivises work, as opposed to legacy benefits where some welfare payments ended almost immediately.

The Government has noted all of the Committee’s recommendations and responded to them in turn below.

Recommendation 1:

We recommend that the Department makes an ongoing payment to meet any shortfall in income for:

  • All households that lose out compared to the legacy system as a result of moving home outside of their local authority; and
  • These should include back-payments where claimants in these circumstances have already moved to UC and lost out as a result. (Paragraph 23)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

All of the changes of circumstance that prompt a natural migration to UC, including moving to a new home in a different Local Authority area, are changes that would have resulted in a new claim for a legacy benefit. We think it is right that a claimant’s entitlement is reassessed when a significant change has happened. Although the report states that ‘witnesses raised concerns that some of the many changes which can lead to a natural migration might not seem significant to many people’,1 the reason that the change is deemed to be significant is that the change has a material effect on a claimant’s benefit entitlement.

Recommendation 2:

We recommend that the Government withdraws the draft Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 and replaces them with:

  • An instrument subject to negative resolution, to make provision for people previously entitled to a severe disability premium; and
  • An instrument subject to affirmative resolution, with the provisions for the pilot of managed migration. (Paragraph 31)

Recommendation 3:

The Department should ensure that the provisions for people previously entitled to the SDP should take into account the High Court’s recent ruling and it should lay the regulations as soon as possible. (Paragraph 32)

The Government notes these recommendations, and took appropriate legislative action in July 2019.

The Government responded to the High Court’s ruling and laid regulations, allowing the Department to begin making the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) transitional payments, on 22 July 2019.2 Provisions in the regulations, which came into force on 24 July 2019, allowed the Department to start making the SDP transitional payments for former SDP recipients who had already moved to UC immediately. The first of these payments was made the day that the regulations came into force.

By September 2020, the Department had paid the SDP transitional payment to more than 16,000 claimants. The Department worked at pace to consider eligible claimants and make these vital payments as quickly as possible.

The removal of a provision relating to appeal rights for the issuing, extension and cancellation of a migration notice meant that the new regulations were no longer subject to affirmative resolution. The Government’s view is that this was not necessary for this clarifying provision during the pilot phase.

We did not separate the regulations as Recommendation 2 suggests because the SDP transitional payments are fundamentally part of the wider transitional protection framework, and are therefore an essential part of the regulations that introduced transitional protection for managed migration.

These SDP transitional payments were not calculated in the same way as those who receive transitional protection as part of the managed migration process. Former SDP recipients who are eligible for SDP transitional payments received a flat rate payment that broadly reflected their previous SDP entitlement. It would be untenable to introduce SDP transitional payments that cannot erode or cease, and so from 8th October 2020 these payments have been converted to a transitional SDP element and paid as part of an individual’s UC award. As a consequence, this element is now subject to the associated erosion and cessation rules.

The Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 which were laid on 22 July 2019 set out the removal of the SDP gateway on 27 January 2021. From this date, those entitled to SDP as part of a qualifying legacy benefit are able to make a new claim to UC and can be awarded a transitional SDP element.

The rationale of transitional protection is that it is a temporary measure that allows claimants who are moved by the Department from one benefit to another to adjust to the new benefit rules, but it is not intended to carry on ad infinitum. It should erode and cease in order that claimants who move to UC with transitional protection eventually gain parity with new claimants, who are subject to the benefit rules and rates from the beginning.

Recommendation 4:

We recommend that the Department makes an ongoing payment to meet any shortfall in income for all households with any level of disability, including children with disabilities, who lose out when they move to UC. This should include making back-payments to claimants in these circumstances who have already moved to UC and lost out as a result. (Paragraph 39)

The Government recognises the issues the committee raises but does not accept this recommendation.

The Government is committed to supporting those with disabilities through UC and has focused support for those with the greatest need.

From 24 July 2019, claimants who were entitled to the SDP have been considered for backdated payments covering the period since they moved to UC, as well as an ongoing transitional payment.

The Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP) is a different premium with different qualifying conditions. Although it is not replicated in UC, EDP-only recipients are likely to gain when they migrate to UC as the ‘Limited Capability for Work Related Activity’ rate (LCWRA) is more generous than the ESA Support Group rate.

There are currently two different rates of disabled child addition (DCA) available in UC, payable depending on the level of Disability Living Allowance to which the child is entitled. This has been the design from the outset, which the Department believes strikes the right balance to help meet the varying financial needs placed upon families with disabled children. Also, whilst simplifying the provisions in the system, the Government took the opportunity to refocus vital resources on the most severely disabled children and adults as well as extending the eligibility for the higher rate of DCA to children who are certified blind.

Recommendation 5:

We recommend that the Department should allow people on legacy benefits to remain on legacy benefits for a grace period of one year after the death of their partner, so that they do not need to immediately apply for UC. (Paragraph 44) When claimants move to UC because of the death of their partner, the Department should provide them with transitional protection for their housing element for twelve months, as was the case in the legacy system(Paragraph 46)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

The Government understands how difficult the death of a partner can be. As the Committee has highlighted, a claimant may have to make a new UC claim when their partner dies in order to secure their entitlement as a single person.

It is important to note that that the death of a partner does not always mean a claimant will have to make a new claim to UC and, if UC did not exist, a claimant with the same circumstances may still have had to make a new claim to one or more of the legacy benefits that UC replaces as well. The fact that a single claim to UC can now be made simplifies the process of claiming support, thus reducing the burden on the claimant during this difficult period.

The report mentions the protection available for housing costs under UC in the event of a bereavement is ‘only available for 3 months’, rather than the 12 months under Housing Benefit.3 It is important to understand that the 3-month protection is not limited to the housing element only, but covers every other additional payment that the couple received; the entire amount runs on for 3 months. This includes any elements to which only the deceased partner was solely entitled. Depending on a claimant’s circumstances, this support is potentially far more generous than 12 months of Housing Benefit alone. In all cases, it focuses support to the 3 months immediately following a bereavement, which are likely to be the most difficult for the claimant.

In addition, the bereavement run-on in UC not only covers the death of a partner, but also where a child or a cared for person dies. In these situations, it is more generous than legacy benefits—it lasts for longer than the 8 weeks available in some legacy benefits, covers every benefit payment being received and eligibility has also been extended to cover the death of non-dependants.

As regards claimants with housing costs, since 2011 the government has provided over £1 billion in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to local authorities in England and Wales to help support vulnerable people affected by welfare reforms. DHPs can be paid to those entitled to Housing Benefit or the housing element of UC who face a shortfall in meeting their housing costs.

There is no limit to the length of time over which a DHP award may be made. It may be awarded for a short period to give a claimant time to deal with their financial circumstances or for an indefinite period until their circumstances change. The start and end dates are decided by local authorities on a case-by-case basis.

Recommendation 6:

We recommend that the Department should look at practical options to eliminate the five-week wait. This could, for example, involve the Department making advance payments to claimants non-repayable. It could adjust for any differences in the estimate on which a claimant’s advance is calculated and the calculation of their final award through additions or deductions to the claimant’s future UC payments. (Paragraph 55)

Recommendation 7:

In the meantime, while the five-week wait remains, we recommend that the Department bring the run-on of all legacy benefits forward to Autumn 2019, so that people moving now through natural migration and those moving later have the same amount of help while they wait for their first UC payment. If the Department cannot automate this process in time, it could for example:

  • calculate these amounts manually; or
  • achieve a similar result by reducing the proportion of an advance that claimants who naturally migrate have to pay back to the Department. (Paragraph 56)

The Government does not accept these recommendations.

Nobody has to wait for a payment in UC. Advance payments are available to claimants in need of urgent financial help to support them through to their first Universal Credit payment. Previously, claimants who required an advance had their UC award spread across thirteen payments in a year rather than twelve. As announced in the Spring Budget, we have now given claimants additional flexibility by providing the option to spread twenty-five payments over twenty-four months for New Claim or Benefit Transfer Advances issued from 12 April 2021. For claimants who find themselves in unexpected hardship, the impact of taking an advance on the spreading of UC payments can be deferred for up to 3 months.

In addition, in July 2020, the Department successfully introduced a non-repayable two-week run-on for Jobseeker’s Allowance (Income Based), Employment and Support Allowance (Income Related) and Income Support where a UC claim stops the award. This is in addition to the Transition to UC Housing Payment, a non-repayable two-week extension of Housing Benefit where a UC claim stops the award.

Recommendation 8:

We also recommend that the Department provide the Committee with a list of the policy changes in the Department’s development schedule. This should also include:

  • a timeframe for the completion of each change;
  • the number of hours work each change is expected to take; and
  • a time-frame and the number of hours’ work involved in implementing the system changes required for the benefit run-ons. (Paragraph 57)

The Government in part accepts this recommendation.

The policy changes in the programme’s development schedule are ones that have been announced via fiscal events, spending reviews or other separate announcements. The Department will update the Committee when policy changes have been incorporated into the UC service and are fully live.

It is not possible to provide the Committee with a breakdown of timeframe and man hours for specific changes, as no change to the UC service is implemented in isolation. As noted in the then Secretary of State’s letter to the Committee dated 31 January 2019, the Department utilises an iterative agile development process to develop the UC service. This ongoing process is not time-limited and means the service—and each policy change within it—is being continuously developed. Once a change is introduced, it then requires constant refresh and update when subsequent changes are made.

Recommendation 9:

We recommend that the Department should tell claimants about natural migration as part of its ongoing communications about UC. This should include stating explicitly that some people may lose out financially as a result of a move to UC. This information should be added to the UC claim homepage along with a link to the benefit calculation websites such as entitled to and the Citizens Advice website. The Department should signpost claimants to organisations able to give accurate independent advice. It could for example, include this in the Citizens Advice “Help to Claim” offer, which provides help to claimants with aspects of making a claim through to first payment. However, it must ensure this is adequately funded. (Paragraph 75)

Recommendation 10:

We recommend that the Department work with stakeholders to develop clearer and comprehensive guidance on when claimants need to move to UC and how this can affect different claimant groups. It should make this guidance publicly available. In addition, the Department should publish a comprehensive list of the changes in a claimant’s circumstances which could lead to them needing to claim UC. (Paragraph 77)

The Government does not accept these recommendations.

Neither this Department nor HMRC can advise individual claimants whether they would be better off moving to UC or remaining on legacy benefits. While Natural migration to UC is required when a person needs to claim new support because of a change of circumstances, claimants on legacy benefits can voluntarily make a claim for UC if they believe that they will be better off even if there is no change in circumstances. Parliament has voted to bring an end to legacy benefits in Great Britain and move to UC as its benefits system, so it is not appropriate for claimants to pick and choose between UC and parts of the legacy benefits system.

The Department encourages claimants thinking of claiming UC to read the information about it available on GOV.UK and to use the links to independent benefit calculators to check carefully their eligibility.

Once a claimant has made a claim to UC, the Department will inform them at the earliest opportunity the level of financial support they are expected to receive. We will continue to review and update our guidance to ensure this is the case and also that we outline all additional discretionary support that may be available.

The Department regularly updates gov.uk pages, including the publication of the “understandinguniversalcredit4 microsite. This information was also supported by already published signposts to independent benefit calculators so that prospective claimants could find out about potential entitlement, and information about the government-funded Help to Claim service provided by Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland on the “How to claim UC: step by step” page on gov.uk.

Particularly during the course of the pandemic, the Department has also used the DWP Twitter and Facebook channels to share messages with citizens, and also used paid media to ensure we reached millions of people.

The Department has also added a ‘check-through’ box that must be navigated through before beginning an online UC claim. This is intended to ensure that the claimant understands that legacy benefit payments will end and that they will not be able to return to them in the future, even if the claimant is not entitled to UC.

Recommendation 11:

We recommend that the Government review these triggers for natural migration and consider whether it is appropriate that these changes of circumstance should require a new claim for Universal Credit. If it believes that they are appropriate, it should clearly explain why. (Paragraph 79)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

The triggers for natural migration are the same as those circumstances that would have required a new claim to be made for a legacy benefit. Parliament has voted to make UC the social security system in the UK replacing the legacy benefits. Claiming UC instead is therefore in line with the decisions Parliament has made.

Recommendation 12:

We recommend that the Department provides full compensation to all claimants who have lost out financially because they have moved to UC prematurely, despite their circumstances remaining the same. This could be done separately from the Department’s maladministration process. Payments should compensate for the additional amount they were previously receiving in the legacy system and should apply regardless of whether the move is a result of the claimant’s own misunderstanding or mis-advice from DWP staff or other organisations. (Paragraph 84)

The Government does not accept this recommendation. The existing maladministration process is sufficient.

Where a claimant suffers a loss of statutory benefit entitlement solely due to the Department’s maladministration or service failure, and it is not possible to restore the lost benefit entitlement, the Department can already make special payments of the equivalent amount to restore the claimant to the position they would have been in without our maladministration.

Providing special payments in circumstances where the Department is not at fault would not be a responsible use of taxpayer funds.

Recommendation 13:

We recommend that the Department allows claimants who have an ongoing legacy benefit appeal to remain on legacy benefits until their application has been processed, where the legacy benefit allows them to receive money they would be entitled to under JSA. For instance, claimants awaiting an ESA appeal decision should be able to remain on the assessment phase of ESA. Where this is not possible, the Department should pay claimants who win their appeal transitional payments, which should equate to the difference between their entitlement under UC and the amount they would have received in legacy benefits had the Department not made the wrong decision. (Paragraph 90)

The Department does not accept that claimants who have an ongoing legacy benefit appeal should be able to remain on legacy benefits until their application [to appeal] has been processed.

When a claimant has their entitlement to a legacy benefit that UC replaces terminated, it is important that they apply for UC to continue receiving support from the benefit system. Allowing claimants to remain on legacy benefits would require legislative change and potentially leave claimants with repayable overpayments should a mandatory reconsideration and any subsequent appeal prove unsuccessful.

The Committee will be aware that the Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 already provide transitional payments where a challenge to a legacy decision results in backdated entitlement to a Severe Disability Premium.

The Department is considering its response to the judgment, R (on the application of TD and others) (AP) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Appellant) UKSC 2020/0119. The Department will communicate further details in due course.

Recommendation 14:

The Department should review whether all changes in circumstances should trigger EEA nationals to re-take a right to reside test. Where claimants have failed a right to reside test, it should provide clear reasons why this is the case. (Paragraph 97)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

All claimants, regardless of nationality, must demonstrate that they are both legally and habitually resident in the UK in order to access income-related benefits such as UC. The Department assesses this through the Habitual Residence Test (HRT), which has two elements: a legal right to reside test and an objective assessment of factual evidence of habitual residence.

UK and Irish citizens and non-UK nationals who are granted indefinite leave to remain can access UC regardless of whether they are in work or out of work. Under UK immigration law, EEA nationals are not able to access UC until they are exercising an EU Treaty right, e.g., worker or self-employed status, or have been resident in the UK for 5 years and granted settled status (indefinite leave to remain) by the Home Office.

EEA nationals are advised to regularise their immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Those who have lived in the UK for at least 5 years will usually be granted settled status by the Home Office. EEA nationals with settled status will satisfy the HRT and are eligible to access UC once they have demonstrated habitual residence in the UK, on the same basis as comparable UK nationals.

The existing rules will apply for EEA nationals with less than 5 years’ residence. EEA nationals with pre-settled status have the same access to benefits as they did prior to the introduction of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). They will satisfy the right to reside element of the HRT and can access benefits if they are exercising a qualifying right to reside, such as a worker or self-employed person, and are habitually resident in the UK.

Recommendation 15:

We also recommend that the Department should conduct a review of its data retention policies. This should look specifically at the impact its policies have on EEA nationals who it has previously assessed as having the right to reside in the UK. It should cease destroying records, where doing so could negatively impact claimants. (Paragraph 98)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

All claimants, regardless of nationality, must demonstrate that they

a)have a qualifying legal right to reside, and

b)are habitually resident in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Certain categories of claimant, including refugees and EEA “workers” and their family members, are automatically treated as satisfying the HRT.

Whether a claimant meets the necessary conditions to satisfy the HRT is not fixed forever and may change after a claim has been initially determined. Therefore, to protect taxpayer funds, the Government believes it is right that the Department reviews entitlement when a change of circumstances occurs and the onus is on claimants to demonstrate that they meet the HRT and report all changes in their immigration status. In return, eligible claimants receive the same level of support afforded to UK citizens for as long as their circumstances remain the same.

Should an EEA national fail the HRT, they may choose to start exercising an EU Treaty Right, e.g., worker or self-employed status in order to access UC. Alternatively, and for claimants of any other nationality, they can request a written explanation giving the reasons for the decision, and a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) if they do not agree with the decision. If claimants do not agree with the subsequent MR decision, they can appeal to an independent tribunal.

The Department regularly reviews data retention policies and its current policies are set with the requirements of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) firmly in mind. In practice, this means that the Department does not retain personal information for any longer than there is a business need to do so. As a claimant’s right to reside can be fluid, it is the Government’s view that keeping such information indefinitely is unnecessary and may not be compliant with GDPR.

In March 2019, the Government introduced a settlement scheme for all EEA nationals. EEA nationals who are not exercising a qualifying right to reside are advised to regularise their immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Those who have lived in the UK for at least 5 years will usually be granted settled status by the Home Office and, therefore, have full access to UC. This will remove any ongoing queries about a claimant’s immigration status and make it much easier for claimants to demonstrate their right to reside should they be asked to do so.

Recommendation 16:

We recommend that the Department explore ways to make the carry-over of WCA decisions from legacy benefits to UC a more automated process, to reduce the risk of human error. If this is not possible, the Department should provide the Committee with quarterly reports on the number of cases where this is not happening on time so that we can continue to monitor the issue. (Paragraph 107)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

Whilst we have not automated a solution, we have invested in and made significant improvements to the clerical processes. These improvements mean that, on average, we apply the ESA WCA to UC award in the vast majority of cases within the first Assessment Period.

1 House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, ‘Universal Credit: natural migration, Twenty-seventh Report of Session 2017–19’, (HC 1884), published 17 July 2019, p. 13: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/1884/1884.pdf

2 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2019/1152/made

3 House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, ‘UC: natural migration, Twenty-seventh Report of Session 2017–19’, (HC 1884), published 17 July 2019, p. 20: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/1884/1884.pdf

4 https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/

Written by Andrew Coates

June 3, 2021 at 5:22 pm

As Covid Protection Eviction Ban Ends Private Renters Face Uncertain Future.

with 77 comments

Image

Private renters in England on ‘cliff edge’ as eviction ban ends

Almost two million private renters fear they will be unable to find another property if they lose their home after the eviction ban is lifted, ministers are being warned.

With the ban coming to an end this week, the government is facing demands for emergency legislation to increase the permanent protection for those struggling to pay their rent as a result of the Covid pandemic. Councils are also warning of a “cliff edge” of homelessness in the months ahead unless action is taken, with a potential £2.2bn bill for the state.

Private renters are those most at risk at the end of the ban, which has been repeatedly extended amid concerns about the build-up of rent arrears during the crisis. Among private renters in England who are worried about losing their home and who are already cutting back on heating and food to pay rent, 72% are worried they will be unable to find another home in the future. The finding, from a study by homelessness charity Shelter, equates to about 1.9 million privately renting adults.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 30, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Posted in DWP, Housing Benefit, Welfare State

Tagged with ,

Benefits Crackdown.

with 145 comments

Universal credit journal update - YouTube

You’ll be contacted via your online journal or a call from your Jobcentre.

This appeared a couple of days ago in the Mirror,

One million Universal Credit claimants told to act now as DWP starts benefit crackdown

Citizens Advice is warning claimants to check their online journals weekly and answer Jobcentre calls to ensure their payments are not terminated.

The Department for Work and Pensions is cracking down on benefit fraud in a move that will see over a million new claims over the past year investigated.

The government body said it has lost £8.4billion in the past 12 months – a figure it estimates is largely down to fraudulent claims and errors in a year when more than six million people joined Universal Credit.

Over that period, identity checks were processed online, for instance, rather than face-to-face and some information was taken on trust, such as the cost of rent.

The overall level of fraud and error across the benefits system increased by almost two-thirds, from 2.4% last year to 3.9%, the highest ever reported rate.

The fraud rate on the main benefit, Universal Credit, was up by more than 50%, it said.

We’ve teamed up with charity Citizens Advice to explain everything you need to know on the DWP’s Trust and Protect scheme, and the steps you should take to ensure you don’t lose out on benefits you’re entitled to.

What is the Trust and Protect scheme?

In the early stages of the pandemic last year, the DWP introduced new measures to make sure people could apply for benefits quickly, without the need to visit a Jobcentre.

This meant that some of the requirements relating to proof of identity, housing costs and household circumstances were eased.

Citizen’s Advice:

Citizens Advice – DWP’s ‘Trust and Protect’ scheme: Your need-to-knows

People who applied for Universal Credit as Covid hit could be subject to a benefits check by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The DWP is now looking at all claims made in the early stages of the pandemic  and asking people for this evidence to support their application. People who claimed New Style JSA and New Style ESA last spring may also be contacted.

How will the DWP contact me?

You’ll be contacted via your online journal or a call from your Jobcentre. This may show up as a withheld number. Make sure your contact details are up to date and try to check your online journal at least once a week for new notifications.

If you’re struggling to manage your online claim for any reason – including lack of access to a computer – you should be able to change to a non-digital claim. Citizens Advice can support you with this.

What happens if I can’t provide the right evidence?

If you can’t provide the right evidence, or you cannot be contacted by officials seeking to verify your claim, your payments could be stopped or changed. 

Universal Credit

This campaign relates to policy or practice in England and Wales.

We’ve helped over 300,000 people with Universal Credit issues since the beginning of the pandemic. Our clients’ evidence helps us play a key role in influencing the Government to ensure the welfare system works for all those needing support.

#KeepTheLifeline Campaign

We welcomed the Government’s decision at the start of pandemic to increase Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits by £20 a week. This uplift has provided a lifeline for millions of families across the UK, during extraordinarily tough times.

The uplift is in place until September 2021. We’re calling for it to be made permanent to provide financial security for millions of people and help support the country’s longer term economic recovery.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 24, 2021 at 5:28 pm

Government Slash Emergency Fund for UC Claimants and Refuse to stop Benefit Cut because it will “cost Billions”.

with 148 comments

Image

Thérèse Coffey Enjoys a Celebratory Feed on the 17th of May.

The Mirror,

Tories refuse to stop Universal Credit cut because it would cost ‘billions on benefits

Tory ministers have refused to stop a £20-a-week Universal Credit cut this Autumn – because it would cost “billions more on benefits”.

DWP minister Will Quince today attacked Labour for asking for the lifeline for six million people to be extended beyond September 30.

He claimed “I certainly don’t recognise” that 4million children in poverty are “going to bed at night with no food in their tummy”.

And despite 37% of people on Universal Credit having a job, Mr Quince said the DWP would instead “shift its focus to supporting people back into work”.

Universal Credit is due to be slashed back by £20 a week from October after it was raised for 18 months due to the pandemic.

Emergency fund for hard-up Brits on Universal Credit slashed by £3million in a year

A POT of emergency cash for struggling Brits on Universal Credit has been slashed by £3million in a year.

A freedom of information request by The Sun found that the Flexible Support Fund (FSF) shrunk from £40.7million in the 2018/19 tax year to £37.8million the following year.

In four years, the lifeline for millions of families in poverty has been cut by £13.9million.

The FSF is used to pay grants to help those on Universal Credit with the cost of getting back into work.

The grants are issued on top of other benefits and can be used to cover the costs of things like childcare, uniforms or work tools as long as they help you get a job.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decides how much is set aside for the fund each year.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 19, 2021 at 10:57 am

£20 Universal Credit uplift set to end before the winter.

with 171 comments

Image

Its a Big Thumbs Up for a cut the Dole.

£20 Universal Credit uplift set to end before the winter, Cabinet minister signals

Evening Standard.

Exclusive: Pensions Secretary tells the Standard: ‘We need to try to get people into work.’

The £20 uplift to Universal Credit is set to end before the winter, a Cabinet minister signalled today.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has already extended the £20-per-week benefit boost to the end of September.

But asked if the government would consider doing it again during a winter surge, Work and Pension Secretary Therese Coffey told the Standard: “We need to try to get people into work.”

Ms Coffey said she was not anticipating the Government would have to take measures “out of the ordinary” this winter.

It comes after Boris Johnson warned there could still be another surge of Covid-19 during the winter period.

Here’s Coffey at ‘work’.

Update: more on this story:

Written by Andrew Coates

May 15, 2021 at 12:09 pm

PCS Balloting on Strike Action in Job Centres.

with 195 comments

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Consultative ballot over safety in jobcentres

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) is balloting members on potential strike action

.

The Department for Work and Pensions says it is “disappointing to hear” that Jobcentre Plus staff are considering industrial action after the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) launched a ballot for members as to whether to strike.

The union launched the ballot this week amid an ongoing dispute over staff being asked to return to working in-person at jobcentres around the country, rather than continuing to work from home during the pandemic.

In response, the DWP told Plymouth Live it was disappointed that the union had “chosen this course of action, as the country re-opens and our jobcentres return to full opening hours”.

The department said it remains “absolutely committed to maintaining all our services to customers, and [to] ensuring our sites remain Covid-secure for colleagues and customers in line with the latest public health and Government guidance”.

Use your vote in the PCS DWP safety ballot

07 May 2021

PCS is asking DWP members to share their views in a consultation ballot about the safety risks caused by the extension of services in jobcentres and rushed plans for video calling

Are you worried about being forced back into a jobcentre when your work can be done from home? Then you need to vote yes in our safety ballot.

This ballot, which ends on 21 May, is not just about work coaches and face-to-face work. It is equally about the safety of all staff in jobcentres.

  1. Are you concerned about your safety?
  2. Are you an AO band B being forced back into a jobcentre when you don’t really do face-to-face work and your job could just as easily still be done more safely from home?
  3. Are you an HEO being forced back into a jobcentre when your job could just as easily still be done more safely from home.
  4. Are you concerned about the safety risks from management’s rushed plans for video calling?

PCS is opposed to AOs and HEOs being forced into offices and put at risk. We say the DWP is rushing too many people back too soon. They are putting you, security guards, cleaners and the public at risk.

Video calling is another ill conceived, rushed idea that endangers staff. There is no guaranteed protection against your identity being shared publicly, or your video call being recorded and shared. And DWP isn’t prepared to pay the money it will take to safeguard you against these risks.

If you vote yes in the PCS safety ballot it will mean your union has more strength in negotiations to stop AOs and HEOs being forced into jobcentres and to stop video calling being forced on our members.

If you are angry and concerned about these thing vote yes.

This is an electronic online ballot for members who have registered a personal email with PCS and postal for those that haven’t. 

Non-members who join by noon on 12 May can vote.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 9, 2021 at 3:57 pm

Benefits Sanctions Return.

with 158 comments

A survival guide to benefit sanctions | Advicenow

This story appeared recently.

the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), who count a number of Jobcentre workers among their members, fears that this could also lead to a rise in the number of benefit claimants who are subjected to sanctions.

Requirements placed on benefit claimaints prior to the pandemic meant that vulnerable people could see their benefit payments for failing to adhere to strict and often unreasonable criteria.

This includes people who saw their benefits stopped or reduced for being a few minutes late for an appointment, due to travel issues, or missing a meeting due to being in hospital.

These sometimes draconian rules were temporary suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic, but are now being slowly reintroduced as the country gradually recovers from the pandemic.

Today we learn:

Thousands of people’s benefits cut by DWP sanctions in Birmingham and Black Country

Birmingham Live.

The financial penalties are imposed on those claiming Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment & Support Allowance and Income Support.

Thousands of people across the West Midlands have seen their benefits cut by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Sanctions have been imposed on claimants in the Black Country boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Sandwell, and Walsall as well as in neighbouring Birmingham and Solihull.

These are penalties when the DWP says someone has failed to stick to the rules of a benefit claim such as by missing a work coach appointment, training course or job interview. Others are for reasons such as being late to sign on for Jobseeker’s Allowance.


But there have been cases where claimants said it was not their fault. A former Birmingham bus driver was sanctioned after he missed the DWP’s online notifications of appointments because he could no longer afford his home internet service when he lost his job.

Between April 2019 and October 2020, statistics show that 4,899 UC recipients were sanctioned in Sandwell, 4,172 in Wolverhampton, 4,039 in Dudley and 3,796 in Walsall.

By far the most Universal Credit sanctions were in Birmingham where 22,632 claimants had money docked as a punishment.


A further 2,241 UC recipients were penalised in Solihull borough.

See: A survival guide to benefit sanctions

This guide will help you to plan ahead to avoid a benefit sanction where possible, and if not, will help you to work out what to do about it. This guide is for you if you want to avoid getting sanctioned, work out what to do about a benefits sanction, or understand more about how the benefit sanctions system works.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 4, 2021 at 3:18 pm

High court bid to end discrimination against Legacy Benefit claimants.

with 116 comments

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This has been an issue our contributors have long been concerned with:

Universal Credit increase: High Court challenge piles pressure on DWP to extend £20 uplift to all benefits.

The ‘I’.

The Government has come under renewed pressure to raise the value of all benefits in line with the increase ministers introduced for universal credit claimants at the start of the pandemic.

It comes as the High Court gave two people on employment and support allowance (ESA), one of the benefits being replaced by Universal Credit, permission to challenge the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) policy on the uplift, which they claim is discriminatory.

In March 2020, the Government announced that people on universal credit and working tax credit will temporarily receive an extra £20 a week to cope with the disruption caused by coronavirus, but stopped short of extending the increase to people still on the old benefits system, many of whom are carers and those with disabilities. Nearly two million people on ESA have missed out on the uplift, worth £1,040 a year.

…..

The High Court’s decision to grant permission for the claim to be heard shows leaving out certain benefit claimants from the £20-a-week increase is arguably “unlawful”, he said.

“People dependent on the basic allowances provided by benefit payments are facing higher living costs during the pandemic. However, there is a difference in treatment between those on universal credit and those on legacy benefits, despite the fact that claimants in each group may have very similar circumstances.

“It is therefore welcome that this difference in treatment will be scrutinised by the High Court, particularly given the fact that almost two million disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision.”

Written by Andrew Coates

April 30, 2021 at 5:49 pm

Face-to-face Jobcentre meetings to restart.

with 306 comments

Big Universal Credit change as face-to-face Jobcentre meetings restart

The Mirror which has campaigned for the rights of claimants reports.

Universal Credit change as face-to-face meetings re-starting this month

All face-to-face Jobcentre services had been paused since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic

Brits who claim Universal Credit and other benefits could be called into face-to-face meetings at their local Jobcentres from this month.

This will follow in-person work capability assessments in May for those who claim certain health and disability benefits.

All face-to-face Jobcentre services have been paused since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have used video calls to assess some benefit claims.

Face-to-face appointments returned in England and Wales from April 12, with Scotland to follow from April 26.

The Currant Bun, which is no friend of the out-of-work, reports,

Then there is this, an opportunity for the usual chancers to make money out of claimants:

There is of course this in the news..

The i weekend

Written by Andrew Coates

April 24, 2021 at 11:59 am

Jobcentre staff may go on strike

with 277 comments

This story came up a few days ago, which our contributors noted:

Covid: Strike ‘possible’ over longer job centre opening

The return to normal opening hours for job centres is putting users and staff “in harm’s way”, a union has warned.

The PCS said it would not rule out strike action, arguing the extension should instead put back until Covid vaccines were “fully rolled out”.

Job centres went back to their pre-lockdown hours on Monday, having previously been cut to 10am to 2pm.

Today we hear:

Universal Credit fears as Jobcentre staff could go on strike

Wales on Line reports.

A union says staff do not feel safe during the pandemic

Most Jobcentre workers do not feel safe going into offices after they fully reopened last week, a union has said as it warned of industrial action over the issue.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said a survey of more than 1,000 of its members found around three in five feel unsafe, while another one in five are unsure about their safety because of continuing fears about the virus.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “These results reflect the anger and frustration our members feel every day. Thousands of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff have been providing support to claimants safely from home throughout the pandemic.

“The only logical reason they would insist on fully reopening is because management’s obsession with sanctioning vulnerable claimants.

“These stats show how staff feel and should send a strong signal to ministers that they need to urgently meet with the union to avoid potential industrial action.”

Then there is this story:

Written by Andrew Coates

April 19, 2021 at 5:31 pm

Half a million Universal Credit claimants hit by tax debt deduction.

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Universal credit: how to claim, and how much you will receive | Consumer  affairs | The Guardian

Half a Million of Them Hit by New Deductions.

But all is far from going well in Universal Credit land, and here’s a further reminder that the system does not just replace JSA and other benefits, but also includes that who used to receive Tax Credits. That is, people in work.

Half a million Universal Credit claimants shocked by sudden tax debt deduction

Carers and frontline workers among those targeted with many people unaware they even owed the money

Birmingham Live reports:

Around half a million people claiming Universal Credit or other benefits have been hit by a sudden tax deduction this year.

They have been targeted as the Government claws back tax credit overpayments from as far back as 17 years ago.

In response to a freedom of information request, the DWP revealed they had been docking payments to Universal Credit claimants because of tax credit overpayments at a rate of 47,000 cases per week this year – effectively wiping out the £20 a week boost given to Universal Credit recipients.

Cuts started on January 18 for people who had newly started claiming Universal Credit for the first time during the pandemic.

Many of the debts being chased are for thousands of pounds. The total amount owed in overpayment of tax credits is estimated to be £6 billion.

….

For those still receiving tax credits, the money is taken out of that with 10 per cent to 50 per cent of a person’s payment cut to claw it back, depending on earnings.

For those only on the family element of Child Tax Credits, payments are slashed by 100 per cent, meaning income is stopped completely until the overpayments are cleared.

And for those no longer on tax credits but now on Universal Credit or other state benefits, the debt is taken from those payments. The Department for Work and Pensions can impose deductions on Universal Credit and other benefits to recover third-party debts to HMRC and other organisations.

Only 1 per cent of tax credit overpayments are a result of fraud or negligence by the recipient. In the majority of cases, it’s said to be due to system errors by the HMRC.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2021 at 3:43 pm

As Local Housing Allowance is Frozen DWP Minister Thérèse Coffey Gets £1,885 for her London Pied à Terre.

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Robert Goodwill's visit to Scotland and Minister Coffey's visit to  Salisbury pub re-opening - Defra in the media

Coffey Celebrates Nice Little Earner for Tory MPs.

Tory MPs claim almost £3m in housing rent on expenses

Welfare secretary Thérèse Coffey, whose department runs the LHA system, claimed £1,885 a month.

Revelation comes at same time as government freezes housing allowance, which could drive many tenants into debt.

A spokesperson for tenants’ union Acorn said: “To commit to this [LHA] freeze at the same time as huge swathes of the government’s own MPs are claiming extortionate amounts on expenses to pay rent on second homes is disgraceful and perfectly demonstrates the contempt with which they treat low-income people in this country – particularly given many of these MPs are claiming these expenses for second homes at the same time as raking in profit from homes they are renting out to tenants, while already taking home salaries far beyond what most people could ever imagine.”

The Tory MP claiming the highest rent expenses is Helen Whately, minister for social care. Despite earning £113,612 as an MP and minister, she claimed £3,250 in housing rent from the taxpayer each month between April and November 2020 – £26,000 in total during those eight months.

If Whately claims £3,250 a month for the whole of 2020/21, she will receive £39,000 towards her rent during the financial year. This is higher than the estimated average annual pay of her constituents, the average full-time earnings in the UK, the average nurse’s salary – and over double the average full-time care worker’s pay in 2019/20.

Suffolk Coastal, Coffey’s Constituency, is within commuting range of London.

This is the background:

Benefits system increasing homelessness in London, research finds.

A report from Homeless Link, titled Homelessness and welfare benefits in London, found that both the frozen Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and the benefit cap mean people claiming benefits cannot afford the housing that is available in the capital.

The report notes that the number of single people claiming Universal Credit in London increased by 88% between March, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the UK, and August last year.

Meanwhile, an analysis found that 24 of the 32 boroughs in London do not have enough shared private rented accommodation to house those claiming the housing element of Universal Credit or housing benefit.

Across those 24 boroughs, only 54% of shared private rented accommodation would be affordable to those claiming benefits for their housing, the analysis found.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, chancellor Rishi Sunak reversed a multiyear freeze on the LHA rate, which determines how much housing benefit private renters receive, to ensure benefits covered the lowest third of rents in a local area.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 11, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Monitoring of Claimants “suspected of Fraud” Extended to Social Media.

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Social Media Surveillance #infographic - Visualistan

This story has appeared. Some suggest it is scare tactics, even scare-mongering, but it is still threatening. What has social media got to do with making a benefit claim?

20 million benefits or Universal Credit claimants hit by warning over their social media accounts Birmingham Live.

Welfare claims including Universal Credit are managed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)

The DWP can look at your bank account and social media if it suspects benefit fraud, claimants have been warned.

Welfare claims including Universal Credit are managed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

And it has emerged the body has the power to investigate potential crimes in several different ways.

More than 20million people are using welfare support in Britain – a figure that is expected to rise.

In case you had not got the messages Cambridgeshire Live headlines.

Universal Credit: Social media stalking and covert surveillance used to investigate suspect benefit claims

Manchester Evening News

Anyone who is on benefits or Universal Credit can have their social media and bank accounts monitored at any time, it has been reported.

And so it goes:

Meanwhile by coincidence….

DWP confirms when Universal Credit and PIP claimants will see face-to-face assessments restart

North Wales Live:

Face-to-face assessments of certain benefits are set to resume next month, it’s been revealed.

It comes after they were suspended last year by officials at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 7, 2021 at 3:23 pm

DWP Launches Train and Progress (TaP).

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With Special Tap Scheme for Universal Credit Claimants.

Universal Credit claimants TAP into employment

Millions of jobseekers will be able to access longer work-related training while in receipt of benefits to boost their chances of finding employment.

Later this month, DWP Train and Progress (TaP), a new DWP initiative aimed at increasing access to training opportunities for claimants, will see an extension to the length of time people can receive Universal Credit while undertaking work-focused study.

Initially available for 6 months, the amount of time Universal Credit claimants can take part in full-time training will extend to up to 12 weeks throughout Great Britain – up from the current 8 weeks.

The change will ensure those receiving UC and in the intensive work search group can take advantage of sector-specific training from digital skills to social care and engineering while receiving the financial support they need.

It includes access to the level 3 adult offer, with the Department for Work and Pensions today announcing it will go even further and increase this to 16 weeks for those enrolled on level 3 Skills Bootcamps.

It is not entirely clear what these courses are, and exactly what this entails. The only media reports simply reproduce the DWP Press Release.

Will Legacy Claimants be eligible?

This name is alone is not welcoming. It sounds like something delinquent Americans got sent to in the 1950s.

Skills bootcamps

As part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, the Prime Minister also announced the skills bootcamp programme.

Skills bootcamps offer free, flexible courses of just 12 to 16 weeks for adults aged 19 or over and who are either in work or recently unemployed (some skills bootcamps have additional eligibility criteria). They give people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer.

It is not clear that many new qualifications will help, given that employers and workers already say that a large number of differently named certificates confuses peeople;

The move comes as the UK government launches almost 400 additional free qualifications as part of the UK government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, and follows the announcement earlier this week of a further 13,500 Work Coaches in Jobcentres across the country.

People will also wonder if this statement relates to claimants:

There does not appear to be a current version of ‘Community Work Placement’ and all the rest, or is there? Things like that are hardly going to happen during Lockdown.

Tiah Paige Burrell says job seeking during Covid has felt “impossible”, leaving her low and close to despair. BBC 2 Days Ago.

The creative professional from Great Yarmouth, 20, left a job just before the pandemic began and has only worked for a month at her local theatre since.

According to new research from the Prince’s Trust, people under 25 account for three in five of the jobs lost during the crisis so far.

And it warns youth unemployment could rise even higher.

The problem, it says, is that younger workers are over-represented in sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, such as hospitality and entertainment, and these will take longer to recover.

They are also under-represented in occupations likely to see the strongest job growth coming out of the crisis, such as health and social work.

Meanwhile;

Written by Andrew Coates

April 1, 2021 at 2:46 pm

Surveillance of Jobseekers.

with 119 comments

Working from home? How to stay in touch and stay secure | Cybercrime | The  Guardian

Surveillance Capitalism.

This is an old topic but it remains there, “If your Claimant Commitment includes looking for work, you will be expected to do everything you reasonably can to prepare for and find work. In most cases, you will need to complete up to 35 hours of work search activity per week in order to receive Universal Credit.” (it began before Universal Credit).

People have already discussed this and how we fulfil it by applying for jobs, to be the honest the only thing that counts

Just hoping this does not give the DWP ideas….

Missing from desk’: AI webcam raises remote surveillance concerns

The Guardian reports.

System developed by French firm Teleperformance monitors home workers for ‘breaches’

For anyone concerned that an era of home working could also become one of remote surveillance, the training video for Teleperformance’s in-house webcam security system, called TP Observer, is the stuff of bad dreams.

Explained by “Anna”, a desk-sitting avatar complete with an artificial voice, the video introduces TP Observer as “a risk-mitigation tool that monitors and tracks real time employee behaviour, and detects any violations to pre-set business rules”.

Anna explains that this means home workers will have an AI-enabled webcam added to their computers that recognises their face, tags their location and scans for “breaches” of rules at random points during a shift.

Now the libraries are going to open again, I recommend this book. It’s a bit long, wordy, wildly generalising and breathless, but full of facts and ideas.

Book Review: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff.

Unlike industrial capitalism, which profits from exploiting natural resources and labour, surveillance capitalism profits from the capture, rendering and analysis of behavioural data through ‘instrumentarian’ methods that are designed to cultivate ‘radical indifference […] a form of observation without witness’ (379). The surveillance capitalists found an untapped reservoir of information that their services were collecting for internal analytics and programming, and they saw an opportunity: they could sell that ‘data exhaust’ to advertisers. For them, the humans attached to that data are just accessories.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2021 at 9:25 am

Call to raise Benefits to cope with Mental Health Crisis.

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Proper Benefits a Key to a Fairier Future.

People often talk of their worries about money, and none of more than those on benefits. It is less common to speak about their mental health, and the issues about plain and simple anxiety. It is one of those that governments do not admit but systems like Universal Credit and designed to create anxious claimants desperate to get out of a system that is designed to make them complete piles of job application, spend their time in ‘job search’, and constantly aware that they do not receive enough money to live properly on. Not to mention that many consider that they are being treated as refuse.

 

Raise benefits to curb UK crisis in mental health, expert urges

The welfare system is damaging the health of the poor and needs to be overhauled in the wake of the Covid pandemic, Britain’s leading expert on health inequalities has warned.

Sir Michael Marmot said increasing out-of-work benefits and support for low-paid workers as the country emerged from the pandemic could have a big impact in curbing a mental health crisis and even save lives.

Marmot, who chaired a seminal government review on health inequality in 2010 and warned last year that life expectancy had stalled for the first time in more than 100 years in England, said in an interview with the Observer that ministers should not “fiddle around the edges”, and instead should drastically reform the “uncaring” system in place.

“During the pandemic, we have seen that poor people got poorer,” he said. “We know that food insecurity went up. The likelihood of being in a shut-down sector increased the lower the income. So you’re either in a sector that was shut down, if you were low income, or you had to go out to work in an unsafe sector, or frontline occupation. Where we were in February 2020 was undesirable – and what happened with a pandemic is it made those inequalities worse.

“I have seen evidence that for some people in receipt of universal credit, there are mental health consequences. It is a brutalising system. Everyone should have at least the minimum income necessary for a healthy life. That means, ideally, all people of working age should be in work. That’s the desirable state.

“And in work, they should be paid a living wage. If they can’t work, for whatever reason, then the welfare system should be sufficiently generous for their health not to be damaged by that experience. We know what needs to be done. Let’s do it.”

This of course hardly helps people’s anxiety:

 

EXCLUSIVE Southampton MP Royston Smith charge the taxpayer £1 for his car parking during a visit to a food bank in November last year.

Still someone’s happy today:

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2021 at 3:54 pm

Freeze on Local Housing Allowance to Hit Low-waged and Claimants.

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Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance (LHA) in UK | DNS Accountants

Tories Ready to Throw Us Out of our Gaffs.

This really struck me yesterday.

Coming originally from London, and having many friends there, people talk all the time about the sky-high rents from the thieves, sorry, landlords. Someone I know spends nearly half her salary on funding the lifestyle of these idlers. Hell knows how you can get by if you’re on Universal Credit or Legacy Benefits.

When I had a gaff down Kentish Town in the 1970s we paid about a quarter of our wages in rent.

 

Benefits freeze will leave tenants across Britain facing rent arrears of £1,000

Guardian.

Low-income tenants across much of Britain will be left hundreds of pounds worse off from next month due to the government quietly imposing a real-terms cut in housing benefit, the Observer can reveal.

From April, the government is freezing the amount of local housing allowance (LHA), meaning tenants will receive the same amount of money as last financial year, even where rents have gone up. LHA is paid to tenants in privately rented homes, including those on universal credit.

In some parts of the country, tenants are set to lose more than £1,000 a year as a result of a combination of rising rents and the new benefit freeze, Observer analysis of government data shows. Those tenants affected will have to find the money from elsewhere, or else face growing rent arrears.

There is already evidence of an arrears crisis, with Citizens Advice estimating that half a million private tenants are behind on rent. The ban on most evictions, imposed at the start of the pandemic, was extended last week to the end of May.

“The freeze to LHA rates is yet another example of the government abandoning tenants – this will force many out of the private sector and on to the streets, and will force many more to choose between feeding their families and paying their rent,” said Nick Ballard, head organiser of tenants’ union Acorn.

Now this is the Tories’ responsibility, and specifically fat boy Eric Pickles who when not eating babies, introduced the ‘local’ Housing Allowance,  but I can’t help remembering this:

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 15, 2021 at 11:10 am

Kickstart Employment Scheme fails to get off the ground.

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“Fewer than 5,000 young people have started job placements on a £2bn Covid scheme that launched six months ago.”

There do seem to be people on Universal Credit assigned to ‘schemes’ to get them back into employment, or at least somebody I know told me in town this morning that he’d  had been put on one. How they can take place at the moment is hard to see.

 

But as Superted says, this is also the case

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey is aiming to create 250,000 jobs through the scheme – but in six months, fewer than 5,000 people have started their placements.

Fewer than 5,000 young people have started job placements on a £2bn Covid scheme that launched six months ago.

Cabinet minister Therese Coffey updated MPs today after admitting there had been a “backlog” in the flagship Kickstart scheme – which she intends to create “250,000 jobs”.

The Work and Pensions Secretary boasted there were now “almost 150,000 roles approved”, of which 30,000 vacancies were “live right now”.

But she told MPs the number of actual roles started was “over 4,000” – up from 1,868 in mid-January. It’s understood the figure is between 4,000 and 5,000.

Ms Coffey hailed a 75% jump in firms’ applications to host a young person after a minimum number of places was axed.

Not that you would read this on her Twitter feed.

 

Or here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 9, 2021 at 5:20 pm

Budget, Cut to Benefit Postponed for Six Months.

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Response from Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The Government’s decision to cut Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit in six months – just as the furlough scheme ends and unemployment peaks – will pull 500,000 people including 200,000 children into poverty as we head into winter….”

 

 

The £20 weekly uplift to universal credit payments will continue for a further six months, the chancellor has announced.

Rishi Sunak said in his Budget speech that the benefit uplift introduced last April to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on household finances, which was due to end on 31 March, will remain in place until September.

He said working tax credit claimants would receive equivalent support over the next six months through a one-off payment of £500, due to the way that system works operationally.

The number of people claiming universal credit in the UK has doubled since the start of the pandemic, surging from 3 million in March 2020 to 6 million at the start of this year.

Around 446 people were still making new claims every hour in the first week of 2021, and a total of 4.5 million people have made a claim for the benefit since the start of the public health crisis.

Independent.

 

 

On Radio Four’s News at One today they gave a decent section on the effects that the eventual cut to Universal Credit will have on people.

Budget 2021: Sunak announces extension to universal credit £20 top up

The chancellor has announced that the £20 a week increase in universal credit payments will be extended for another six months.

Rishi Sunak said the measure, which is worth £1,000 a year, would help those hit hardest by coronavirus.

But campaigners said the top up, introduced at the start of the pandemic, should be permanent.

Labour said the move does nothing to address insecurity and inequality.

Universal credit is claimed by more than 5.5 million households across the UK.

The payment was increased by £20 a week in April 2020 as part of the Chancellor’s early economic response to the pandemic.

This issue remains:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 4, 2021 at 4:22 pm

Universal Credit “Has not Worked” – Labour.

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While we are waiting for the Budget this week…

 

No clear answer yet:

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds says Universal Credit system needs radical reform but for now the £20 uplift must be retained during the pandemic

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has declared that Universal Credit “simply has not worked” and should be scrapped.

The call from Labour’s finance chief comes as claimants wait to hear if a coronavirus top-up on the benefit – £1,040 a year, equivalent to £80 a month or £20 a week – will be extended into the next financial year

Ms Dodds said the temporary rise for six million Brits must be “maintained during the pandemic” but in the long term, the welfare scheme must be replaced.

She spoke about Universal Credit on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, where she said: “In the near term what we’ve got to do is be clear to families that in the middle of a pandemic, they should not be seeing £20 less a week coming in when they’re struggling.

“In the longer term, what we really need to see is radical reform, scrapping that Universal Credit system because it simply has not worked for families.”

 

Today:

 

 

 

h

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2021 at 10:28 am

Calls for new Beveridge Report: building a decent welfare system

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This was on Channel Four last night:

These serious calls have been made in the last few days.

What British politicians won’t admit – we need to transform the welfare state

A conversation about a fundamentally different welfare state ought to fall two ways: between immediate answers to the cruelties of our current systems, and longer-term ideas about how to completely reinvent it. The former might include an end to universal credit’s built-in five-week wait, the abolition of the cruel and arbitrary benefit cap, and no more sanctioning. It should extend to a recalibration of housing benefit so that people – including key workers – can afford to live in even high-cost areas, a watershed rise in our miserable rates of statutory sick pay, and the upgrading of the minimum wage and national living wage to the so-called real living wage (£9.50 across the UK and £10.85 in London), with an ongoing link to inflation.

 

Louise Casey: ‘Are we ever going to create a Britain for everyone?’

 

The former homelessness tsar thinks we need big, radical reform to tackle hunger, rough sleeping and poverty. And she has a plan

“We need to move into Royal Commission territory,” she says. “A new Beveridge Report [drafted by the economist William Beveridge in 1942, this was the document that led to the founding of the welfare state]. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.” Crikey. Is this a job she would like to take on herself? I look at her steadily, wondering if she’s going to indulge in a bout of it’s-not-for-me-to-say. But, no. She doesn’t much go in for let’s pretend. “Yes, I’d love to be part of that,” she says. “Government can, if it wants to, do something on a different scale now. The nation has been torn apart, and there’s no point being defensive about that. We’ve got to gift each other some proper space to think. We’ve got to work out how not to leave the badly wounded behind.”

….

We can get there quite quickly,” she says. “By March, there will be 6 million people on universal credit [in October, there were 5.7m]. Almost 4 million people are furloughed, and those still working are on less income [in a survey by the Resolution Foundation, 26% of adults reported suppressed wages during the first lockdown]. Unemployment has doubled [it stood at 1.72 million in November 2020], and will keep rising. Two million people are still on legacy benefits – which means they didn’t get the £20 uplift that came with universal credit. Then you add in the 5 million people who are in debt [42% of adults report using at least one form of borrowing to cover everyday living costs].

….

Pre-pandemic, there were 280,000 homeless in England and Wales. Earlier this month, the government announced that the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions, which protects private renters, would be extended to the end of March. But it will end eventually. “At which point, family homelessness will rise,” says Casey. “If 25% of your population is affected, then you can’t just tweak old policies, working out the least expensive, least challenging thing that can be done. You need big new policies.”

Most of us will have views on this!

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2021 at 10:03 am

Warning about the impact of cuts to Universal Credit.

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The National Government of 1931 cut benefits of insured workers by ten per cent.

I mention this because it was something that people, including my Glaswegian father,  remembered for years afterwards, Glasgow was of course on the places heavily affected by mass unemployment during the depression.

The Covid pandemic has had enormous economic effects as experts in the bleeding obvious say.

Specifically,

The number of people being made redundant in the UK is rising at the fastest pace on record as the second wave of Covid-19 and tougher lockdown measures put increasing pressure on businesses and workers.

Unemployment has hit the highest level for four years, while millions more workers have been placed on furlough. Although the jobs crisis has not been as bad as feared earlier in the pandemic, the government’s independent economics forecaster – the Office for Budget Responsibility – expects the jobless rate to more than double from pre-pandemic levels to 7.5% this summer after furlough ends, representing more than 2.6 million people out of work.

The UK’s Covid-19 unemployment crisis in six charts

This is from the East Anglian Daily Times, yesterday.

120% increase in Universal Credit claimants

The number of claimants for Universal Credit in Babergh and Mid Suffolk has increased by 120% amid the fallout from coronavirus – with a tsunami of extra demand expected.

Citizens Advice figures presented to Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils’ joint scrutiny committee on Monday revealed that Universal Credit claimants had gone up by 119% in Babergh and 122% in Mid Suffolk compared to December 2019.

Today the story about the looming cut to Universal Credit continues,

 

New Fabian Society research finds that over 700,000 people in working or disabled households are to be pulled into poverty by universal credit cuts. 

The report shows how the cut to universal credit will reduce the living standards of households in many different circumstances:

  • Households with a disabled adult will be hit by 57 per cent of the cuts (£3.7bn per year)
  • Families with children will be hit by half the cuts (£3.2bn per year)
  • Households where someone is a carer will be hit by 12 per cent (£700m per year).

Only 13% of the savings will come from non-working, non-disabled households.

 

New research has found that 95% of those who will be pushed into poverty by the cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit planned by Rishi Sunak this year are in working or disabled households.

Following the publication of the Fabian Society report Who Loses? today, supported by the Standard Life Foundation, the Labour affiliate has said the £20-per-week reduction to the benefit “raises fundamental questions of justice”.

Analysis found that 87% of the cut, £5.5bn, will fall on working and disabled households, while half, £3.2bn, will hit homes where someone is in work. Households with someone in employment will make up 65% of all those pulled into poverty.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Andrew Harrop warned that scrapping the £20-per-week uplift, introduced to help people cope with the pandemic last year, will “overwhelmingly punish working families and disabled people”.

The Fabian Society general secretary added: “The Chancellor’s planned cut will strip £1,000 per year from six million families and plunge three quarters of a million people into poverty.

“Some politicians like to pretend that social security is just for the work-shy. But the reality is that millions of working households need benefits and tax credits to make ends meet, as do disabled people who are out of work through no fault of their own.

“If ministers are considering a few months’ temporary extension to the Universal Credit uplift, that just isn’t good enough. The 2020 benefit increase must be placed on a permanent footing.”

The Chancellor introduced the increase last March. It is not available to those on legacy benefits: child tax credit; housing benefit; income-related employment and support allowance; income-based jobseeker’s allowance; income support.

It took the standard rate for a single claimant on Universal Credit for those over 25 from £317.82 to £409.89 a month. The extra support, worth over £1,000 annually to each household, is currently set to be withdrawn in April.

The paper published today shows that people who are not expected to be job hunting – those already in work or disabled – will be the main long-term victims of Sunak’s insistence on scrapping the uplift.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 17, 2021 at 10:59 am

Food Banks and Universal Credit.

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Queuing for a Soup Kitchen in Glasgow.

 

 

xclausx signals this.

When exactly did Food Banks become an established part of life in the UK?

In theory social security was meant to cover people’s basic needs, with enough money to get what you need to eat as a part of benefit levels. The welfare state is based on rights, a kind of universal insurance, but also a a minium protection for all,.

There are countries without a welfare state, and those with such a small cover for those in need that food provision is the principal last resort for the poor, working or not. ” In the US the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal nutrition program. Known previously as “food stamps,” SNAP benefits can help you stretch your food budget if you have a low income. SNAP (food stamps), D-SNAP, and WIC for women, infants, and children. “

That said, people have fallen through that net for a long time (dole is very limited, and can simply come to a complete end after a fixed time), soup kitchens, have been part of the US landscape for decades.

The idea is that people should succeed if they merit it. Real failures, ‘losers’ as they call then, should have to reply on the generosity, if they can get it,  of strangers. Or go to the gutter. If really genuinely unfortunate the kindness of charity is available,

The world’s first food bank was established in the US in 1967, and since then many thousands have been set up all over the world. In Europe, which until recently had little need for food banks due to extensive welfare systems, their numbers have grown rapidly since the 2006 and even faster since the global economic crisis.

In the UK, traditionally food hampers have been given out to the elderly and vulnerable members of communities at Harvest festivals and at Christmas but all year-round hunger has been a prominent issue since 2007 and has dramatically increased since 2011. Most, but not all, UK food banks are co-ordinated by The Trussell Trust – a Christian charity based in Salisbury which serves as the UK’s only food bank network. The Trussell Trust was established in 2000; in 2004 they only ran two food banks but as of August 2012 a massive 252 were being operated.

In the UK, a food bank is not a “soup kitchen”. Whilst the majority of food banks do give food directly to the hungry it is done by the issue of a voucher system which is issued from a third party. Soup kitchens can be accessed by the hungry without the intervention, assistance or referral of any professional body.

The History of Food Banks

Trump did this at the end of 2019,

Hundreds of thousands of Americans who rely on the federal food stamp program will lose their benefits under a new Trump administration rule that will tighten work requirements for recipients.

The move by the administration is the latest in its attempt to scale back the social safety net for low-income Americans. It is the first of three proposed rules targeting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as Snap, to be finalized. The program feeds more than 36 million people.

The plan will limit states from exempting work-eligible adults from having to maintain steady employment in order to receive benefits.

Trump admirer (“Jacob Rees-Mogg MP says he would vote for Donald Trump” and Brexit fanatic Jacob Rees-Mogg, now Leader of the House of Commons said in 2019 that,

The voluntary support given to food banks is “rather uplifting” and “shows what a compassionate country we are”, Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has said.

He told LBC radio the only reason for the rise in their use was “that people know that they are there”.

..

“To have charitable support given by people voluntarily to support their fellow citizens I think is rather uplifting and shows what a good, compassionate country we are,” he said.

“Inevitably, the state can’t do everything, so I think that there is good within food banks.

“The real reason for the rise in numbers is that people know that they are there and Labour deliberately didn’t tell them.”

Thérèse Coffey agrees,

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has described food banks as the “perfect way” to help the poor.

 

The Honourable Lady is right to praise volunteers at her local food bank who support vulnerable people in their area.  The Honourable Lady is right to praise volunteers at her local food bank who support vulnerable people in their area.

“Marrying the two is a perfect way to try to address the challenges that people face at difficult times in their lives.

“The Hon. Lady will be aware of the work that we have been trying to do with the Trussell Trust, and I am pleased to say that we will also be having a roundtable of independent food banks to understand how we can help them and their customers to move forwards.”

You have to say that if Universal Credit is such a success, why on earth do we need these providers? Do we want to a society, a Trump utopia, where the poor dutifully queue for food? What about rights and equality, the right to a minium decent living standard for all?

Trump has gone. His fellow national populists in the UK should be booted out..

But now this is what people are saying,

https://twitter.com/jrf_uk/status/1359108381710163969?s=20

Here is what Moggy is concerned about today:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2021 at 4:41 pm

Protest over Universal Credit cut.

with 107 comments

 

white background: blue text reads: Apply the uplift to Legacy benefits! #20More4All. Bottom left of image is the DPAC Sheffield logo

There is no sign of any attempt to deal with the looking crisis that mass unemployment and a system, Universal Credit, is creating.

People on this site mention the difficulties the end of face-to-face contact with the Job Centre, and the problems those without the Net face: making claims in the first place, job search, threats of sanctions. There is also the issue, as Superted points out of “Universal Credit telephone interviews”, a rollicking ride for many. As Trev says, “No date or time specified, just “over the next few weeks I will be phoning you to book a telephone appointment”.

On one point Aleister writes,

The 35 hour jobsearch is unenforceable because it is left up to individuals to carry it out, as they see fit, and everybody therefore approaches it in different ways with different competences.

..

As long as you do something plausible by way of applications and write something jobsearch related down for the Jobcentre to see you should be fine.

This is good advice, but people who do apply for work on a regular and systematic basis, often still feel very anxious because this headlined 35 hour rule . That libraries and Jobcentre computers are not available at the moment will obviously make them worry a lot more.

You have the impression that already isolated people are in dire straits, that those who’ve been on the street are hovering around not knowing what the future will bring, that those forced to rely on food banks are pushed further to the margins, that debts and rent arrears are mounting.

The DWP is keen to remind people that it not just the unemployed who get Universal Credit.

 

This Saturday there was a Day of Action, web based, on the latest threat hovering over claimants.

 

 

 

 

Ministers told to publish impact assessment of removing £20-per-week universal credit increase

Independent.

Ministers are being urged to publish an internal government assessment probing the impact of removing the £20-per-week increase in universal credit payments on low-income families and poverty levels in Britain.

It comes as discussions between the Treasury, No 10 and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) continue over the future of the uplift, which was introduced at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic to give struggling families extra support.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is reported to be pushing against the extra payments, costing £6 billion annually, becoming permanent despite intense opposition from some Conservative MPs, opposition parties and anti-poverty campaigners.

Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey told MPs on Wednesday that no decision had been reached on whether to extend the payments and it is expected Mr Sunak will announce any changes to the scheme at the Budget in March.

 

 

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

February 6, 2021 at 4:09 pm

Benefits ‘Top-Up’, All Party Parliamentary Groups Urges Extension.

with 155 comments

Keep universal credit top-up and scrap benefits cap, says all-party committee on poverty.

The government has come under renewed pressure from Tory backbenchers to extend the £20-a-week Covid top-up to universal credit as part of a range of measures to increase the level of pandemic welfare support.

A report published on Monday by the all-party parliamentary group on poverty – co-chaired by Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake – asks for the top up, worth £1,050 a year, to be retained beyond April and for the benefit cap to be suspended.

It also urges ministers to widen the £20-a-week boost to about 2 million people on so-called legacy benefits, including hundreds of thousands of disabled claimants who have received no extra social security support during the pandemic. It warns that failure to do so will create a two-tier benefits system.

…..

Separately, a group of Tory MPs are backing a bill by fellow backbencher Paul Maynard calling for a review of council-run local welfare schemes in England, which provide food, clothes, replacement cookers, fridges and beds for people in extreme hardship, but which have withered in recent years.

London now has the highest number of Universal Credit claimants in the country.

 

Universal Credit change sees half a million claimants warned of benefits switch

Birmingham Live.

As many as 500,000 benefit claimants have been warned of changes to the Universal Credit and benefits system.

It means some are at risk of being forced on to Universal Credit.

Between January 16, 2019 and January 27, 2021 a block was put in place stopping those on Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Housing Benefit or Pension Credit from being moved on to Universal Credit, if they also receive a top-up called SDP (Severe Disability Premium).

This was to prevent them suffering a big drop in income.

As that transitional protection policy ended on January 27, claimants could find themselves being switched on to Universal Credit.

But do not worry, all is fine!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 1, 2021 at 10:24 am

Big Rise in Unemployment.

with 134 comments

How To Get The Most From Your Visits To The Jobcentre | Renovo UK

Unemployment hits 5-year high as 828,000 jobs disappear.

This is not surprising. You only to walk in our town centre to see that it is not probable that the fewer number of people there is not just the result of people working at home. Empty shops, closed pubs and cafés, are the most visible signs.

COVID-19: Jobless rate hits 5% as unemployment rises by 202,000 in three months

Sky.

The UK’s unemployment rate has hit 5% for the first time since 2016, according to official figures which suggest over 200,000 people lost their jobs in the three months to November.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also said 828,000 fewer people were on company payrolls through December compared to the pre-COVID-19 crisis month of February 2020.

The latest figures covered a time of continuing restrictions on the economy to curb the spread of the virus, including a four-week November lockdown for England, though the core statistics were better than many economists had predicted.

 

Big rise in redundancies among young people

BBC.

The number of people out of work in the UK has continued to rise, with those aged 25 to 34 facing the biggest risk of losing their jobs.

In the three months to November, people in that age group had a redundancy rate of 16.2 per 1,000, a fivefold increase on the same period a year earlier.

Unemployment rose to 5% from 4.9% as Covid continued to hit the jobs market.

Some 1.72 million were jobless, the Office for National Statistics said, the highest level in five years.

That was 418,000 more than in the same period the previous year, the biggest increase since late 2009.

Analysis: The unemployment rate hit a four-year high in the autumn and there is a risk it could go higher

The DWP …

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 26, 2021 at 10:37 am

Thérèse Coffey: Age and Obesity Behind Covid Deaths.

with 44 comments

 

John Glen: 'A week is a long time in politics' | Salisbury Journal

Grande Dame Coffey Pulls a Pint Load on Covid Deaths.

Most people would think that the Work and Pension Secretary would be concerned about er…Work and Pensions.

There’s plenty for her to talk about, rising visible and hidden unemployment, the coming cut to Universal Credit, homelessness, people queuing at food banks.

She, or a minion,  could take a strictly necessary trip from her nearby stronghold in Suffolk Coastal and look at the Sunday food distribution in Rope Walk, Ipswich, and see people begging in front of Sainsbury’s in Upper Brook Street. Both places are very close to the Catholic Church, St Pancras.

Well she is now trying to divert attention from herself…

 

In normal times I bump into the geezer who wrote this by these very places.

 

The Grande Dame has time to throw a wobbly on GMB.

WATCH: Therese Coffey ‘walks out’ of Piers Morgan interview on GMB

Paul Geater.

Suffolk Coastal MP and cabinet minister Therese Coffey cut off TV interviewer Piers Morgan as a discussion on ITV’s Good Morning Britain became heated when she was questioned about the number of deaths and those in hospital with Covid.

After Dr Coffey, who is Work and Pensions Secretary,  said the age of those who had caught the disease and the obesity in the population needed to be recognised, Mr Morgan said: “So are you saying the reason for us having the worst death rate in the world is the public: that they’re too old and too fat?”

Dr Coffey said that was a very insulting thing to say and that there were a variety of factors.

After they then talked across each other, Dr Coffey said: “Unfortunately I have to go to other interviews,” and Mr Morgan reminded her that government ministers had boycotted his programme for many months last year.

As he said: “You’re not going to explain why you think I was insulting . . .” Dr Coffey turned off her Zoom feed, saying: “You’ve already had 20 minutes of my time, I appreciate it’s 20 minutes of your time. Thank You, bye bye.”

We have put in a request to Dr Coffey’s office for her to call us about the interview.

H

Here is a reaction, as they pour in:

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 25, 2021 at 12:14 pm

Universal Credit Cut: Real Issues are Low Benefits and Failing Social Security System.

with 178 comments

No Cuts To Universal Credit

 

 

This was the alt-right reaction:

 

Universal credit: MPs urge PM to keep £20 benefit ‘lifeline’

BBC,

MPs have urged Boris Johnson to extend benefit increases worth £20 a week.

A non-binding Labour motion calling for the universal credit top-up to be kept in place beyond 31 March passed by 278 votes to none after a Commons debate.

Six Tory MPs defied party orders to abstain and voted with Labour, adding to the pressure on the PM on the issue.

 

 

The prime minister said the government had provided £280bn worth of support during the pandemic but all measures would be kept under “constant review”.

The motion, which will not automatically lead to a change in policy, was put forward by Labour as a way to put additional pressure on the government to continue the increase, worth £1,000 a year.

The Treasury is considering a partial climbdown over plans to end the boost to universal credit amid pressure from the work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, and after six Conservative MPs defied a call to abstain on a non-binding vote in the Commons.

Boris Johnson also hinted at a rethink over the £20-a-week uplift, which is due to end in April, saying the government wanted to ensure “people don’t suffer as a result of the economic consequences of the pandemic”.

The welfare minister, Will Quince, said a decision would be made closer to the 3 March budget because of the uncertain economic outlook. But the Institute for Fiscal Studies

Written by Andrew Coates

January 19, 2021 at 10:41 am

Cut to Universal Credit?

with 140 comments

Image

Now as people here have, those on legacy Benefits never got the extra £20 a week.

 

But the bonus, or rather a small raise, is important to millions.

Boris Johnson raises fears he’ll cut Universal Credit by £20 a week for millions

Boris Johnson has dropped the strongest hint yet that he may cut millions of families’ Universal Credit by £20 a week in April.

The Prime Minister is facing desperate pleas not to remove almost a fifth of 5.7million people’s basic allowance.

But today he said he would “rather see a focus on jobs and a growth in wages than focusing on welfare”.

He added “the best thing is to get people into employment” – despite the fact 39% of the 5.7million people on Universal Credit in October already had a job.

Universal Credit was raised by £1,040 for the 2020/21 financial year to help with the impact of coronavirus.

This is the crucial bit,

Mr Johnson stressed any final rate was still under review – but refused calls to end the agony for families now.

He said: “I take your point. I think what we want to see is jobs. We want to see people in employment, we want to see the economy bouncing back.

“I think most people in this country would rather see a focus on jobs and a growth in wages than focusing on welfare.

“But clearly we have to keep all these things under review.”

 

Responses:

 

Here our contributors concerns are raised:

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 14, 2021 at 3:34 pm

A Million Covid-19 Universal Credit Claimants Have Deductions From Benefits.

with 260 comments

 

Child Poverty Action Group. 7th of January Press Release.

New Year call for an end to clawback of UC advances

More than one million households forced to claim universal credit (UC) when coronavirus struck are entering the New Year having debt deductions taken from their UC, and almost all include repayments of an advance taken out to get them through the five-week wait for a first UC payment, new analysis for the Covid Realities research project shows.

Nearly two thirds (63%) of those who claimed UC between March and June (‘Covid-claimants’) are having deductions taken from their monthly UC payments, compared with 41% of all UC claimants, the analysis by Child Poverty Action Group for the Covid Realities research project shows. That means a million new UC claimants living on less than their assessed need.

The Government suspended some deductions for three months from April 2020 as part of its emergency response to the pandemic. However, deductions for the repayment of UC advances were not part of the suspension and continue to be made as another lockdown begins in England and Scotland and more job losses and UC claims look likely.

Deductions can be taken from benefits for a range of reasons including repayment of a UC advance, legacy benefit overpayments, budgeting loans, rent arrears, utilities bills and mortgage interest. For UC claimants, deductions are limited to 30% of the UC monthly standard allowance but this still means that £179 (for couples) can be deducted each month.

For claimants already living below the poverty line, deductions can deepen their poverty significantly. Ignoring deductions, CPAG analysis shows that, the average household in poverty is 23% below the poverty line; in pounds and pence, for a couple with two children, that means they are £400 per month below the after housing costs poverty line.* However, if this family has to repay an advance, this will push them to £500 per month below the poverty line.** And if they have additional deductions on top of repayments of a UC advance, they could drop to £579 per month under the poverty line.***

1,060,000 ‘Covid claimants’ have a deduction of some kind from their UC. Of those, 810,000 are repaying an advance only, 50,000 have a deduction for another reason and 200,000 have deductions to repay a UC advance and another debt.

More news:

More news:

Regulator investigates DWP over universal credit ‘cover-up’

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is claiming not to possess documents that show estimates for the eventual impact of universal credit on disabled people, despite telling both the statistics regulator and MPs that they exist.

In the latest stage of an apparent attempt to hide estimates of how many disabled people will lose out financially through the introduction of universal credit, DWP has told Disability News Service (DNS) that no such written equality impact assessments (EIAs) exist from 2012 onwards.

The freedom of information response contradicts a statement made to MPs by the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson.

It also contradicts information passed by DWP to the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).

This week, OSR promised DNS that it would investigate the apparent discrepancy.

The existence of any fresh EIAs is important because ministers, including work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey and Tomlinson, have stated on several occasions that around one million disabled households will receive a higher entitlement under UC than they would have received under the previous “legacy” benefits system.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 8, 2021 at 3:42 pm

Benefit System Realities.

with 288 comments

Universal Credit: We were panicking for a month, says working father-of-three | Belfast News Letter

Happy New Year!

As we all know one of the most frustrating things about benefits, or anything else, is having to make a query by telephone.

Even something like contacting your medical centre/GP can be hard these days, for obvious reasons.

xclausx  signals one of the worst cases this site has heard of recently.

The reasons do not seem that easy to work out.

EXCLUSIVE: Huge numbers of people were not even able to get into the queue for its overburdened Debt Management hotline – for people who are told they owe the DWP money.

Up to 50,000 people a day have been blocked from calling a crucial debt hotline run by the government.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has apologised after admitting a “large number” of people could not get through to its Debt Management line – which is used to reclaim money from people who are “overpaid” benefits.

It meant people facing destitution due to repayments were unable to speak to an advisor – even when the debt was not their fault.

When people are overpaid benefits, it is often due to DWP errors – or because they are a victim of fraud by someone claiming in their name.

The staggering number of blocked calls was revealed to Labour MP Stephen Timms, chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

Ministers told him 77% to 80% of calls “presented to agents” were answered between August and November.

But….

But that figure did not include people who could not make it into the system, because it only allowed a certain number into the queue at any time.

The DWP said “large numbers” of callers couldn’t get through when demand surged in November, thanks to a rise in automated debt notifications.

“At the height of this issue, an average of over 51,000 calls were blocked each day,” DWP minister Will Quince admitted.

This fell to less than 6,000 per day for December 7-11, he said.

Our contributors highlight many aspects of their own experiences with the benefit system

The ‘I’, a paper which is highly recommended, and only costs 65 pence to buy, has been running a series.

i‘s First time on Universal Credit series looks at the benefits system through the eyes of first time claimants during the coronavirus pandemic. We hear what it’s like to suddenly find yourself in this situation, the reality of a new life on benefits, and how opinions of the welfare system are changing after the number of Universal Credit claimants nearly doubled to 5.7 million this year.

Here is their most recent story,

First time on Universal Credit: I thought benefits were for other people, not me

Before receiving her first Universal Credit payment in August this year, Sarah McNicol had not claimed unemployment benefits for more than 30 years.

Still, someone’s had a nice time;

Written by Andrew Coates

January 1, 2021 at 4:43 pm

Food Banks: Demand Rising and Rising just as Food Supply Crisis Looms.

with 350 comments

What food banks are crying out for this Christmas – the items you can donate and how to do it - Mirror Online

Demand Keeps Growing.

 

In our town there is usually a queue outside Gregg’s in Upper Brook Street.

Just a few metres away there are, most of the time, people begging.

Grazia today,

Food banks across the UK have seen a 47% rise in need during the pandemic, according to The Trussell Trust, a charity that supports a network of more than 1,200 food banks, including this one. Between April and September, their food banks provided more than 1.2 million emergency food parcels – over 470,000 went to children. And their figures are just the tip of the iceberg.

We Want To Make Food Banks Extinct, But This Year They’re Busier Than Ever

This is worth reading;

 

COVID-19: Sainsbury’s warns of fruit and veg shortages if freight chaos not solved within days

Now with the real prospect of food shortages, which will affect everybody,  this toss-pot is saying this;

Here’s a suggestion for Xmas Presents.

Image may contain: text that says "Christmas tip: Give the Brexiter in your life an empty box on Christmas morning and tell them it's full of sovereignty. See their little faces light up!"

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 21, 2020 at 11:24 am

Universal Credit Fraud, DWP Hounds People for Debts they do not owe.

with 223 comments

It's a nightmare': woman faces £1,300 demand due to universal credit fraud | Identity fraud | The Guardian

 

This story appeared a couple of days ago and has raised a whole series of questions.

Stop hounding victims of universal credit fraud, DWP told

Guardian.

People whose identities have been stolen hit by demands for repayment for debt they do not owe.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is coming under pressure to stop hounding unwitting victims of a multimillion-pound universal credit fraud.

In November, the Guardian revealed how benefits staff were struggling to deal with calls from people whose stolen identities had been used to make fraudulent universal credit claims in their name.

We featured the case of a Hampshire woman who had known nothing of the claim she had supposedly made until the DWP’s debt collectors demanded she repay a £1,300 advance payment.

Further victims have come forward to say they, too, are facing demands for £1,400-plus and are being told that 20% of their December pay packet will be seized by the DWP, unless they agree to set up a repayment plan – all for a debt they do not owe.

Today, the Scotsman,

Pilot pursued by UK Government over ‘fraudulent’ benefits claim

A Scots pilot has told how he is being pursued by the UK Government for benefit fraud after having his identity stolen.

Andrew Simpson* was contacted in September by a debt management company run by the Department of Work and Pensions claiming he owed £821 due to fraudulently claiming Universal Credit while being employed. The debt collectors wrote to his employer, demanding that the money was deducted from his next pay cheque.

However, Mr Simpson, from Edinburgh, who has been in full-time work with his current employer for the past eight years, has never claimed Universal Credit or any other kind of benefit

Our old chum meanwhile is enjoying some sexy-time looking at her achievements.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 13, 2020 at 10:53 am

Day of Action to Stop Cut to Universal Credit as Fabian Society Warns of ‘Double Trouble’.

with 160 comments

Image

Join the Protest!

The Guardian reports,

Rishi Sunak’s cuts ‘risk plunging more than 3 million into poverty’

Fabian Society study outlines threat if chancellor goes ahead with planned cut to welfare payments

Rishi Sunak risks plunging more than 3 million people into poverty if he goes ahead with a planned cut in welfare payments next spring, one of Britain’s leading leftwing thinktanks has warned.

A new study by the Fabian Society found that returning benefits to their pre-pandemic levels after a year-long boost would leave an additional 1.1 million people below the poverty line even on the most optimistic assumptions for the economy.

It added, however, that if the government removed the £20 a week supplement to universal credit (UC) against a backdrop of mass unemployment, the impact would be three times as severe, with 3.2 million people living in poverty.

The chancellor announced at the start of the Covid-19 crisis that he would spend £6bn on a one-year increase in UC, but did not say in last week’s spending statement whether he intended to.

Fabian Society:

DOUBLE TROUBLE: MASS UNEMPLOYMENT AND BENEFIT CUTS AFTER THE PANDEMIC

New Fabian Society analysis shows that planned benefit cuts could push between 1 and 3 million people into poverty.

The government’s decision this year to increase the support available in universal credit was a huge boost to millions of families. In 2020 temporary social security rises brought vital help to people who lost work or who saw their earnings fall, as well as providing a welcome supplement to many already on low incomes.

However, in 2021 these measures will be even more important, after other emergency schemes come to an end. From April next year people who lose their job or whose earnings drop will not have other forms of protection. Huge numbers are likely to be affected, given expectations of widespread job losses.

Fabian Society analysis reveals that, with the planned benefit cuts, poverty will rise significantly over the medium term whether unemployment remains low or climbs to levels last seen in the 1980s:

No change in unemployment: the number in poverty rises by 1.1 million and child poverty rises by 400,000
Mass unemployment: the number in poverty rises by 3.2 million and child poverty rises by 850,000
Without action, family incomes and spending power will fall and poverty will rise dramatically, compared to the position we have seen this year with emergency protective measures in place. It is now essential that ministers put the 2020 social security increases on a permanent footing.

Download.

Coffey has other things on her mind:

Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2020 at 7:34 pm

Universal Credit to be Cut and Local Housing Allowance Frozen?

with 136 comments

Universal Credit: Thérèse Coffey confident in system during coronavirus  crisis | Personal Finance | Finance | Express.co.uk
Future plans for Benefit cuts?
After Wednesday’s announcements it is  unclear what the government’s plans for Universal Credit are:
https://twitter.com/imajsaclaimant/status/1332058593848385537?s=20

Universal Credit: Millions face losing £1,000 in benefits, campaigners warn

BBC

 Six million households face a £1,000 cut to their benefits if a temporary increase to Universal Credit is not kept in place, new research claims.

Claimants were given a £20-a-week boost in response to the coronavirus pandemic in April, which will end in April 2021.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak says he will make his mind up about whether to keep the higher rate going next year.

Left-leaning policy researchers the Resolution Foundation urged him to keep it, to protect vulnerable families.

Failing to extend the £20 increase would hit families just as unemployment levels were expected to peak, the foundation said, with the government predicting 2.6 million could be out of work by the middle of next year.

Share

The director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, Paul Johnson, said it was “disappointing” Mr Sunak did not make an announcement on whether he would keep the temporary increase or not.

“If the government is not going to maintain it at its current level it should say so explicitly and give people time to prepare – £20 a week is a lot for those dependent on benefits,” he said.

“If it does delay announcing the increase until March and is once again unable as a result to increase legacy benefits and contributory benefits at the same time, then that would be simply inexcusable.”

Mr Sunak said the measure was introduced on a “temporary” basis, during a “many months of a national lockdown [with a] very severe set of restrictions”, saying it was a “period of acute panic”.

Other sources are already predicting the worst.

Universal Credit to be cut and Local Housing Allowance to be refrozen from April

 

Inside Housing.

Universal Credit will be cut and Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates refrozen despite a predicted surge in unemployment #UKhousing
Early in the coronavirus crisis in late March, the government boosted the Universal Credit standard allowance and working tax credits by £20 a week and increased LHA rates – which determine how much welfare support for housing costs private renters can claim – to reflect the cheapest third of rents in an area.

But Spending Review documents published today indicate that neither of these measures will be kept in place.

That is despite chancellor Rishi Sunak revealing today that unemployment is expected to surge to 2.6 million by the middle of the year due to the pandemic’s impact on businesses.

Budget tables show that ministers do not anticipate the £6bn spent on boosting Universal Credit and working tax credits in 2020/21 to reoccur next financial year.

And an accompanying report by spending watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said the government has decided that LHA rates “will be frozen in cash terms from 2021/22 onwards”.

Somebody’s happy:

here

Written by Andrew Coates

November 27, 2020 at 9:41 am

Thousands of New Work Coaches Being Recruited.

with 220 comments

Suffolk Coastal: Therese Coffey MP appointed Beer Parliamentarian of the Year after visiting all 118 pubs in her constituency | East Anglian Daily Times

Thérèse Anne Coffey Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

People begging in the streets have began to reappear in Ipswich.

There is at least one outside Sainsbury’s in Upper Brook Street every day.

But …

Jobcentre to recruit 170 ‘work coaches’ amid Covid-19 crisis

East Anglian Daily Times. 19th of November.

Jobcentres across East Anglia are to recruit 170 “work coaches” to help people find work during the coronavirus crisis.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – led by Suffolk Coastal MP, Dr Therese Coffey – is now recruiting thousands more work coaches in Jobcentres across the UK to help give people the skills they need to find new work.

”’

The 170 work coaches being recruited across East Anglia will also provide “expert mentoring” through people’s job search, with the DWP telling applicants: “Your tailored coaching can make a huge difference to their ability to find, stay in and progress in a job.”

The department, which has also brought in the Kickstart scheme to help young people and the JETS programme to give expert help to those out of work for three months, added: “More expert work coaches means more personal, tailored support for jobseekers who are looking to get going with a new career or to move on from a struggling sector.”

Dr Coffey added: “Work coaches deliver invaluable local employment advice, opportunities to develop skills for new sectors and vital new job support schemes su”tach as Kickstart and JETS, which we have put in place to give everyone the chance to succeed and will help drive East Anglia’s economic recovery.”

It hard to think of more irritating expression than Work Coach, but “tailored support” comes close.

Meanwhile:

Written by Andrew Coates

November 20, 2020 at 10:20 am

Food Bank Britain Faces Bleak Winter.

with 147 comments

Image

 

Food banks report huge surge in demand for food parcels amid Covid pandemic

This is no surprise.

Most things like this you can see if you care to look, right bang in your area (obviously not in IDS’s manor).

As this Blog has mentioned there is a queue of people outside the Seventh Day Adventist Church in  this area waiting for food on a Sunday.

This is outside of the main local Food Bank network. FIND foodbank

It is just a lot more visible to anybody in the centre of the town.

Trussell Trust reports that it has already helped more than a million people affected by the Covid pandemic.

More than a million food parcels have been handed out families and individuals in crisis since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, according to new figures from the UK’s largest food bank network.

The Trussell Trust, who operate more than 1,200 food bank centres, says it has helped to support over 1.2 million households who have been negatively affected by the economic fallout, caused by the outbreak.

It includes 470,000 food parcels given to parents to feed their children, a 52% rise on last year, and is equivalent to 2,600 food parcels for children being given out every day since the start of the pandemic.

There is also an article by James Bloodworth which is really really worth reading:

Why the poor eat poorly

The Government has U-turned on free school meals. But moralising about people’s diets won’t help

BY 

 

When I was researching a book on low-wage Britain, I stumbled across an article in the Daily Mail about a woman who managed to survive on £1 a day. “Frugal Kath Kelly, 51, ate at free buffets, shopped at church jumble sales and scrounged leftovers from grocery stores and restaurants,” ran the story. “She even collected a staggering £117 in loose change dropped in the street.”

The story was written in admiring tones — Kath Kelly was presented as a sagacious and resourceful example to the poor. The underlying message was that the lower orders were feckless and stupid. Instead of sourcing and preparing healthy ingredients, they chose to plonk themselves in front of a television set and inhale pot noodles and multipacks of crisps.

 

…..

For those on low wages or benefits, poverty is the thief of time. Being poor invariably consists of countless hours spent waiting around for public transport, bosses, landlords or public sector bureaucrats. And that’s before one adds up the additional time it takes to care for a family. Even if it can be done relatively cheaply, preparing a healthy meal invariably takes longer than putting a pizza in the oven.

….

We no longer dictate the food those on unemployment benefits must consume (though the argument that we ought to is a frequent saloon-bar trope). But a peculiar moral tone to our conversations about food persists. This is not confined to one political tribe. Nowadays liberals too are often heard laying down pious strictures as to what the poor should eat and drink. Sugar taxes have been introduced and junk food advertising is set to be banned before the 9pm watershed. Newspapers such as The Guardian have called for the government to go even further in terms of regulating what people eat.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2020 at 11:03 am

Paying the Rent and Universal Credit.

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“Uplifted” SoS for Work and Pensions. 

This story has just appeared on the Guardian site – a paper that should be recommended for not taking its eye of the ball on the issue of Universal Credit.

When first asked to extend free school meals over the holidays, the British government pointed to its “uplift” to universal credit of £20 per week. The media dutifully mentioned the “uplift”, but when did it become impermissible to say simply “raise” or “increase”?

…….

It was the American writer Nathaniel Parker Willis, friend of Edgar Allan Poe, who first used “uplift” as a compound noun in 1845, in a poem describing the baby prophet Nathan’s presentation to King David: “His brow / Had the inspired up-lift of the king’s.” In the following decade geologists described how land could be subject to “uplift” over time. Not until the mid-20th century was it adopted in business to mean (at first) an increase in prices, and therefore profits – as in the fees charged to the government by Serco.

Perhaps the government hopes that by causing everyone to refer to an “uplift” in universal credit, they will seed the idea that their policies are uplifting in the happy-making sense (from the late 19th century). Meanwhile scientists have been keeping a close eye in recent years on “uplifts” in Yellowstone Park, caused by fresh magma deep in the supervolcano. A new mega-eruption would surely be very 2020.

I suppose Yankee Doodle Dandies are now running our benefits system.

This below shows what life is really like for the ‘uplifted’ claimants.

It  is a very high percentage.

Families hit by Covid-19 face debt as universal credit doesn’t cover housing costs

The rents alone in London are beyond belief to start with.

Here is some more news:

Written by Andrew Coates

November 4, 2020 at 4:09 pm

Universal Credit – Threat to Self-Employed Claimants.

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DWP has its finger on the Pulse.

A couple of days this was published;

Universal Credit ‘loans’ trap new claimants in debt and leave them unable to afford repayments, say MPs.

An influential group of MPs has called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to introduce new Universal Credit “starter payments”, to ensure that new claimants can support themselves while waiting for an initial payment.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPSC), a cross-party group of MPs charged with scrutinising government welfare policy and recommending improvements, says the mandatory five-week-wait for a Universal Credit payment can leave many people unable to afford food and pay vital household bills.

The Committee’s new report, titled ‘Universal Credit: the wait for a first payment‘, finds that the current system of ‘advance payments’, that allow new claimants to borrow up to a full month’s worth of Universal Credit.

Today this is the news:

Self-employed people could lose hundreds of pounds per month if a little-known ‘Minimum Income Floor’ resumes as planned on November 13

A major change to Universal Credit on November 13 is set to cost self-employed people hundreds of pounds a month unless the DWP decides to delay it.

A little-known policy called the Minimum Income Floor (MIF), which limits how much the self-employed can get in benefits, was suspended for eight months due to Covid-19.

But that suspension is due to end on November 13, according to current laws.

Unless that date is extended, the MIF will take force again from that date – deducting some strivers’ benefits just as swathes of England are plunged into new lockdowns.

Ministers today told the House of Commons they are still reviewing whether or not to delay the November 13 date.

But they refused to rule out sticking to the date – despite the nation entering a second wave.

There’s also this:

Always at the cutting edge of social issues Coffey has herself been re-tweeting on subjects that concern us all, visiting the Golden Key and The Plough and Sail for a good lunch:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 21, 2020 at 10:40 am

Job Support Scheme Meets Universal Credit Problems.

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New Scheme Hits Problems.

Last week the Mirror pointed this out:

The coronavirus Job Support Scheme has been updated so workers whose venues are shut down will no longer be high and dry. But millions will still fall through the cracks.

1. It won’t help curfew-hit pubs – or theatres, cinemas and wedding venues

2. There’s no new help for the self-employed

3. Some workers in local lockdowns will get nothing for weeks

4. Shielding workers could fall through the cracks

5. And workers will be stuck on 67% of usual pay

 

The Mirror.

On Wednesday, the gaffe-prone PM said ‘whatever happens’ government schemes will mean ‘nobody gets less than 93% of their current income’ in Tier 3 lockdowns – but that isn’t true

Boris Johnson has quietly corrected a a false claim he made about the level of support people could receive during a Tier 3 lockdown.

On Wednesday, the gaffe-prone PM said “whatever happens”, government schemes will mean “nobody gets less than 93% of their current income” if their bar or pub is shut.

But it quickly emerged that that was untrue, because while many workers can get this sum, not all of them can.

The Tory leader said the 93% could be reached by taking the Job Support Scheme, which pays 67% of wages, and topping it up with Universal Credit.

Today appearing at a Downing Street press conference where he was quizzed about the Government’s response he didn’t repeat the error – although he has yet to correct the record in the House of Commons

They continue,

In reality, Universal Credit is not paid to anyone who has £16,000 or more of savings, or if their partner has more than £16,000 of savings.

It is also paid on the basis of household income, so if a husband has their income cut to 67% and a wife is on 100%, the husband may not be able to top up to 93%.

What’s more, some people will get less than 67% of their wage under the Job Support Scheme, because it is capped at £2,100 a month.

The Job Support Scheme is only open to workers whose businesses are forced to shut completely by government, not those that can stay open but are hit by restrictions.

Then there is this:

n

Written by Andrew Coates

October 16, 2020 at 7:21 pm

Unemployment Rises, Out-of-Work Face Universal Credit Low Benefits.

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.Universal Credit tweaked to make it easier for self-employed to get cash quicker

Drastic Cuts in Income for Workers Who Become Unemployed.

 

This is the news today:

The UK unemployment rate has surged to its highest level in over three years as the pandemic continues to hit jobs.

BBC>.The unemployment rate grew to 4.5% in the three months to August, compared with 4.1% in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile redundancies rose to their highest level since 2009, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

It comes as the government prepares to impose tough local lockdown rules that will force some businesses to close, potentially leading to more job losses.

UK job figures: why there is worse to come

The big picture is that unemployment is going up while employment and participation in the labour market are going down.

These trends look sure to get worse as the economic recovery seen during the summer peters out and the government cuts back on its support for wages. Rishi Sunak’s response to the figures from the Office for National Statistics was telling.

The DWP are hot off the mark:

What about the social security system for those out of work?

This is the basic problem:

Then there is this:

The Rowntree Trust notes:

They are campaigning for the £20 extra to be made permanent, but no word about the legacy claimants who do not get this.

Somebody has pointed this out:

People on this site have noticed the importance of this:

And so it continues…

Written by Andrew Coates

October 13, 2020 at 5:00 pm