Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Esther McVey: Universal Credit, an “agile, adaptable system, fit for the 21st century.”

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Image result for esther mcvey cartoon universal credit

Esther McVey hails universal credit scheme as ‘great British innovation’, days after scathing watchdog report.

Independent.

Since it is exceptional that the  The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  Ms Esther McVey  takes time off from her busy schedule to do her Ministerial job trather than the press reports  it is worth looking at the full statement she made today in the House of Commons in Hansard.

Universal Credit and Welfare Changes

It includes this:

Today, I am updating the House on the changes we have made to UC as a result of this iterative approach we are taking. That is why last autumn we abolished the seven waiting days from the application process; we put in place the two-week housing benefit run-on to smooth the transition for an applicant moving to UC from the previous system; we ensured that advance payments could be applied for from day one of the application process, for up to 100% of a person’s indicative total claim; and we extended the recovery period for these advances to 12 months. Extra training was given to our work coaches to embed these changes.

Prior to that, we also changed the UC telephone lines to a freephone number to ensure ease of access for claimants enquiring about their claim. Earlier this year we reinstated housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds, and ensured that kinship carers are exempt from tax credits changes. Just last week, we announced changes to support the severely disabled when they transition on to UC; within our reforms, we want to ensure that the most vulnerable get the support they need. These proactive changes were made to enhance our new benefits system.

….

Let me turn to the report on universal credit published last week by the National Audit Office, which did not take into account the impact of our recent changes. Our analysis shows that universal credit is working. We already know that it helps more people into work, and to stay in work, than the legacy system. Universal credit has brought together six main benefits, which were administered by different local and national Government agencies. Once fully rolled out, it will be a single, streamlined system, reducing administration costs and providing value for money for all our citizens. The cost per claim has already reduced by 7% since March 2018 and is due to reduce to £173 by 2024-25—around £50 less per claim than legacy cases currently cost us to process.

Beyond the timespan of the NAO report, we have greatly improved our payment timeliness: around 80% of claimants are paid on time, after their initial assessment period. Where new claims have not been paid in full and on time, two thirds have been found to have some form of verification outstanding. Verification is a necessary part of any benefits system and citizens expect such measures to be in place. We need to ensure that we pay the right people the right amount of money.

As opposed to the wrong people the wrong money…..

Turning her face resolutely to the gales The Rt Hon MInister  ends on a note of defiance:

In conclusion, we are building an agile, adaptable system, fit for the 21st century. We want people to reach their potential, regardless of their circumstances or background, and we will make changes, when required, to achieve that ambition. I commend this statement to the House.

Labour’s Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) replied saying notably,

The Secretary of State says that universal credit is based on leading-edge technology and agile working practices. However, the National Audit Office report says that 38% of claimants were unable to verify their identity online and had to go to a jobcentre to do so. It makes no sense to accelerate the roll-out of universal credit at the same time as rapidly closing jobcentres. The NAO report reveals that a significant number of people struggle to make and manage their claim online. The Department for Work and Pensions’ own survey found that nearly half of claimants are unable to make a claim online unassisted, and that a fifth of claims are failing at an early stage because claimants are not able to navigate the online system.

The Government claim that the introduction of universal credit will result in 200,000 more people finding long-term work than under legacy benefits. They repeatedly cite evidence from 2014-15, but that was before the cuts to work allowances were introduced and covers only single unemployed people without children. If one looks at the range of claimants in areas where universal credit has been rolled out, there is no evidence that it is helping more people find long-term work. Delays in payments are pushing people into debt and rent arrears on such a scale that private and even social landlords are becoming increasingly reluctant to rent to universal credit claimants.

The NAO report also points out that 20% of claimants are not being paid in full and on time, and more than one in 10 are not receiving any payment on time. The people who are most at need from the social security system are the ones most likely to have to wait for payments. A quarter of carers, over 30% of families who need support with childcare and, most shockingly of all, two thirds of disabled people are not being paid in full and on time. The report points out that the Department does not expect the time limits of the payments to improve over the course of this year, and that it believes that it is unreasonable for all claimants to expect that they will be paid on time because of the need to verify each claim. Does the Secretary of State find the expectations of her own Department acceptable? She has made some claims that things have improved greatly since the closure of the report, so will she substantiate that by putting that information in the Library?

The impact of universal credit on some of our most vulnerable people is clear. Universal support is supposed to help people, but funding is severely limited and provision is patchy. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of it? Is she satisfied that her Department is doing enough to support people who are struggling?

Universal credit was supposed to offer personalised support to claimants, but stressed and overloaded staff are often failing to identify vulnerable claimants. The DWP is aiming to increase the workloads of work coaches fourfold and of case managers nearly sixfold as the Government try to cut the cost of universal credit still further.

The NAO is very clear that the DWP should not expand universal credit until it is able to cope with business as usual. The Government must now listen to the NAO, stop the roll-out of universal credit, and fix the flaws before any more people are pushed into poverty by a benefit that is meant to protect them from it. Universal credit is having a devastating impact on many people and will reach 8.5 million by 2024-25. The Secretary of State must now wake up to the misery being caused by her policy.

In her response McVey relied on the DWP alternative facts service,

Please allow me, Mr Deputy Speaker, to mention some of the real people I have met and spoken to and what they are saying about universal credit. Shafeeq, who was homeless, got an advance that got him temporary accommodation and put him in a better place to look for work. He said it

“helped me out a great deal and I’d have been lost without it”.

He is now in a job. Lisa said an advance payment helped her to secure a place with a childcare provider. She is paying it back over 12 months, which she says means a great deal to her. Gemma, a lone parent, said,

“it’s amazing being able to claim nearly all my childcare costs back, it’s a real incentive to go out to work – I’m going to be better off each week”.

Ben in Devon had a work coach, who helped him to progress in work from day one. Ryan from Essex had a lack of work experience and confidence, and his work coach helped him through universal credit. I will end it there—with the people receiving the benefit.

This gem should not go unnoticed,

I thank my right hon. Friend for her statement. The NAO report is, to be frank, a shoddy piece of work. It has simply failed—[Interruption.] Genuinely; anyone who reads it—I do not know if anyone on the Opposition Benches has bothered—will realise that it fails to take account of a series of issues, not the least of which are that the Treasury signed off annual recurring savings of £8 billion and, more importantly, that the changes last November and December have made a huge difference to people’s lives. I urge her to carry on and to tell the Public Accounts Committee to ask the question: who polices this policeman? This piece of work does it no credit at all. Will she now apply her efforts to universal support to make sure that every council area delivers the extra bit that is supposed to go alongside universal credit?

Obvious a well-shoddy copper, these uncreditworthy types behind the NAO.

Esther smiles, smirks and simpers,

My right hon. Friend has done more than most people in the House to support people into work, and I thank him for his question. He emphasises the point about universal support—the £200 million for local councils—to help people with debt management and IT. That is one thing we are definitely doing. Equally, he raises an important point about the NAO report. I am sure that Opposition Members have not read it. It does not say stop the roll-out; it says continue with the roll-out and do it faster. Please read about stuff before talking about it!

Wise advice!

To further Parliamentary questions  the Rt Hon continues in this vein (various McVey replies).

“We have said quite clearly that this report is out of date and does not take into account the significant changes that we have made.”

“Genuine people who get support from work coaches are saying, “It has transformed our lives.””

“I invite the hon. Lady to visit a jobcentre and meet the coaches in her area to see how revolutionary this process is.”

“The hon. Lady should stop scaremongering. “

 “Darren from Wales, who was put on a confidence course—we were utilising our flexible support fund—said:“My…work coach was fantastic…helped me turn my life around…fulfilling a lifelong dream”.”

 If anybody has been made homeless through this, I will meet them.

“Think about technology, automation and people online—the world has changed. We have to deal with the gig economy, with flexible working hours, with part-time and multiple jobs, and with the difference in working life for people who have caring responsibilities for children and adults. That is what this system takes into account; the legacy system could not do that.”

Please look sometimes at the positive news and help your constituents a little bit more by focusing them on that additional support.

“It was lovely listening to my hon. Friend—my learned friend, who knows so much about technology—because those words needed to be heard. As I said, this is at the leading edge of technology. Great Britain is leading the way. Countries that are coming to see us range from Sweden to the United States, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Canada, Cyprus, France and Denmark. They all want to know how it works to take it back home to their countries.”

“I thank the right hon. Gentleman for mentioning work coaches in such a positive way, because they are doing a significant amount of work, and I hear only praise wherever I go. “

we have provided significantly more money for the most vulnerable, particularly for those with disability and health conditions. We want to support people into work and reduce poverty.”

If you are too exhausted after this long bout of stout denial just look at this:

We have said that the NAO report sadly was out of date and therefore has not taken into account all the changes that have been made. That is unfortunate, because it means that the report is not a true reflection of what is happening. It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman was not here for the statement, but if he reads it in Hansard tomorrow, he will have his answers on how well the system is working.

Reactions are now pouring in:
Frank Field, the chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, said: “Rather than that banal offering, which did nothing for our poorest constituents, a more realistic statement from the secretary of state would have acknowledged that universal credit is helping to transform the welfare state from one which protects people from poverty, to one that drives them into destitution.”

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Written by Andrew Coates

June 21, 2018 at 3:34 pm

Artificial Intelligence and the DWP: Synths to Replace Job Coaches?

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Image result for synths channel four

Your New Job Coach?

Thanks to Newshound Superted.

DWP to increase role of AI. Mel Poluck

Monday 18 June 2018

Department’s head of data strategy highlights potential for machine learning, natural language processing and image processing plans

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) head of data strategy has said the use of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques will play an increasing role in improving service delivery, providing a fuller picture of customers’ situations so they no longer need to explain their circumstances repeatedly.

Pause for breath:

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While DWP has already been using some machine learning in its fraud detection and cyber security work, and while it uses “to some extent most of the cutting edge techniques,” the department is now looking to use natural language processing and image processing.

Among the uses for the techniques would be to route incoming letters or understand the sentiment of a question put to the DWP more effectively.

“What we’re keen to do is to make sure we fully understand our customers’ situations,” Pavey said. “For the typical citizen of Britain, they’d expect that if they’re dealing with government they shouldn’t be asking them the same questions over and over again.

“We try to make our services as relevant as possible. Better use of data analytics is really the key to that. We see that machine learning will play an increasing role in the way we operate.”

“Through a combination of transparency and trust and being guided by a strong ethical framework, we’ll demonstrate the uses of data, we’ll demonstrate that sharing of data can push forward public good and through the ethical use of machine learning we’ll be able to deliver more relevant services in a more efficient manner.

“The rise of data and the rise of new techniques can only be good for us.”

Challenges outlined

He also highlighted some of the hurdles that lie ahead, including understanding citizen behaviours and using it to provide services that produce the outcomes government wants.

“We’re delivering a service that’s incredibly important to people and is also highly regulated, so we want to be very clear on any decisions we’ve made when it comes to the outcome people receive. We need to be mindful of being transparent in everything we do,” he said.

To this end, DWP plans to publish its data strategy online later this year, which will include a charter of the department’s data use.

For other future developments, Pavey said he was very keen to work with academia, start-ups or any UK company interested in using data for public good. “We’d never be so arrogant to think we have a monopoly on these things and we’re very keen to learn from outside.”

Listen to the full podcast.

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It follows this: (Telegraph, 31st december 2017)

Criminal gangs committing tens of millions of pounds worth of benefit fraud are being tracked down using newly-developed artificial intelligence, ministers have disclosed.

Experts at the Department for Work and Pensions have produced computer algorithms that have been gradually rolled-out over the course of the year to identify large-scale abuse of the welfare system.

The system, which is being trialed across the country, detects fraudulent claims by searching for patterns such as applications that use the same phone number or are written in a similar style. It then flags up any suspicious cases to specialist investigators.

It comes as part of a drive by ministers to make more use of artificial intelligence…

Earlier experiments in the use of AI by the DWP were not a success.
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Written by Andrew Coates

June 19, 2018 at 10:40 am

NHS Mental Health Recruiting 300 Employment Coaches as “Work as a Clinical Outcome” returns.

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Yuk!

The NHS is set to roll out mental health employment specialists across the country, as a new analysis of services shows that 2,300 patients have been helped into work in the last year.

NHS mental health job coaches help thousands of people into work.

Investment in improving employment prospects via health services like IPS can increase productivity and reduce demand for employment and disability support payments like Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.

NHS England. 12 of June.

The NHS really ought to get up to date about the Vale of Tears that is Universal Credit.

Not to mention the stress of work outlined in books like James Bloodworth’s Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain.

This move is part of a broader picture.

It seems that with the Work and Health Programme (“The Work and Health Programme helps you find and keep a job if you’re out of work it’s voluntary – unless you’ve been out of work and claiming unemployment benefits for 24 months”),   the DWP, Job Centres and the NHS are getting even closer.

Recently in Ipswich I was asked by Coachey if I’d like to have a health check up – NHS – at the Job Centre.

The below marks another step in the merging of services, in a much more contestable area.

The NHS is to hire 300 employment coaches to find patients jobs to “keep them out of hospital.”

 

It is essential to read the full article but here are some important points made by ‘Kitty’.

There has already been an attempt to provide mental health services for people who claim social security support, which includes a heavily resisted pilot to put therapists into job centres. Another heavily opposed government proposal was announced as part of the  health and work pilot programme to put job coaches in GP surgeries. The proposals have been widely held to be profoundly anti-therapeutic, potentially very damaging and professionally unethical.

….

The government announced the creation of the Joint Health and Work Unit and the Health and Work Service in 2015/16, both with a clear remit to cut benefits and “get people into work.” Given that mental health is a main cause for long-term sickness absence in the UK, a key aspect of this policy is to provide mental health services that get people back into work.

There has already been an attempt to provide mental health services for people who claim social security support, which includes a heavily resisted pilot to put therapists into job centres. Another heavily opposed government proposal was announced as part of the  health and work pilot programme to put job coaches in GP surgeries. The proposals have been widely held to be profoundly anti-therapeutic, potentially very damaging and professionally unethical.

The government have planned to merge health and employment services, and are now attempting to redefine work as a clinical outcome. Unemployment has been stigmatised and politically redefined as a psychological disorderthe government claims somewhat incoherently that the “cure” for unemployment due to illness and disability, and sickness absence from work, is work.

Pause.

Remember this? (BBC June 2015).

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

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

This can be “humiliating” for job seekers and does not help them find suitable work, the researchers say.

Here is the report:

 

 

Back to Kitty:

The latest strand of this ideological anti-welfare crusade was recently announced: the NHS is to hire 300 employment coaches who will find patients jobs to “keep them out of hospital.” The Individual Placement and Support services (IPS) is aimed at ‘supporting’ people with severe mental illness to seek work and ‘hold down a job’. Job coaches will offer assistance on CVs, interview techniques and are expected to work with 20,000 people by 2021. Pilot schemes running in Sussex, Bradford, Northampton and some London boroughs suggest that the coaches manage to find work for at least a quarter of users. The scheme is to be extended nationwide.

The roll out of mental health employment specialists across the country is based on  analysis of the pilots, which is claimed to show that 2,300 patients have been helped into work in the last year. However, the longer term consequences of the programme are not known, and it is uncertain if there will be any meaningful monitoring regarding efficacy, safeguarding and the uncovering of unintended consequences and risks to participants.

It is held that those in work tend to be in better health, visit their GP less and are less likely to need hospital treatment. The government has assumed that there is a causal relationship expressed in this common sense finding, and make an inferential leap with the claim that “work is a health outcome”.

However, support for this premise is not universal. Some concerns which have been reasonably raised are commonly about the extent to which people will be ‘pushed’ into work they are not able or ready to do, or into bad quality work that is harmful to them, under the misguided notion that any work will be good for them in the long run.

Of course it may equally be the case that people in better health work because they can, and have less need for healthcare services simply because they are relatively well, rather than because they work.

Undoubtedly there are some people who may be able to work and who want to, but struggle to find suitable employment without adequate support. This section of the population may also face the lack of knowledge, attitudes and prejudices of potential employers regarding their conditions as a further barrier to gaining appropriate employment. The scheme will be ideal for supporting this group. That is, however, only provided that engagement with the service is voluntary, and does not become mandatory.

It must also be acknowledged that there are some people who are simply too ill to work. Again, it’s a serious concern that this group may be pressured and coerced to find employment, which may prove to be detrimental to their wellbeing. Furthermore, placing them in work may present unacceptable risk to both themselves and others. How can we possibly know in advance about the longer term risks presented by the impact of an illness, and the potential effects of some medications in the workplace? If something goes catastrophically wrong as a consequence of someone taking up work when they are too unwell to work, who will hold the responsibility for the consequences?

In the current political context where the public are told “work is the route out of poverty” and “work is a health outcome”, people feel obliged to try to work, when they believe they can. But what happens when they are wrong in that belief? Who is responsible, for example, when someone has a loss of consciousness or an episode of altered awareness, caused by a condition or medication, while operating machinery, at the wheel of a taxi, bus or refuse waggon?

This is the key point: work as a “clinical outcome”.

As the Royal College of Psychiatrists says,

Work is a key clinical outcome

Employment is Nature’s physician, and is essential to human happiness’

Galen of Pergamon, Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher, 172 AD

As the quote from Galen, the Greek physician shows, it has long been recognised that work, be it paid or unpaid, plays a central role in the health and well-being of most people.  We know that work gives us material rewards, but it also gives people a sense of identity and connection with others in our society; it gives us a sense of personal achievement; it is a means of structuring and occupying our time and helps us to develop mental and physical skills.  Work also provides us with the financial and material resources necessary for our daily lives.

 

The problem is, unemployment is not a clinical problem to be solved by psychiatrists or Job Coaches.

 

Universal Credit – Rubbish (Official). National Audit Office Report.

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This morning on the BBC Breakfast carried a report on this “The National Audit Office said the £1.9bn Universal Credit system could end up costing more to administer than the benefits system it is replacing.”

Key findings in the National Audit Office included:

  • Eight years after work began on UC, only 10% (815,000) of the expected eventual number of claimants are on the system
  • Some 20% of those paid late – usually the more needy and complicated cases – were waiting five months or more to be paid
  • Ministers would never know if their aim of putting 200,000 extra people in employment, or saving £2.1bn in fraud and error, would work
  • Government expectations that UC would deliver £8bn of net benefits annually depended on “unproven assumptions”
  • UC currently costs £699 per claim – four times as much as the government intends to spend when the systems are fully developed
  • So many changes had been made to job centres and working practices that there is no “alternative but to continue”

To discuss it they had a woman from the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and some ponce from  the Centre for Social Justice (set up by… Iain Duncan Smith, yes really…).

The CAB spokesperson said a few home truths about what a mess UC has been for many people.

The Mr Ponceworth admitted a few spots on the Sun of Universal Credit but said it has proved its worth as a way of helping people back to work.

Since us Bloggers and our contributors have been going on about the mess from the origins of UC it would have been good to have somebody form our side on.

But the report is devastating enough.

Summary – Rolling out Universal Credit.

Key facts £1.9bn spend to date on Universal Credit, comprising £1.3bn on investment and £0.6bn on running costs £8.0bn

Department for Work & Pensions’ expectation of the annual net benefi tof Universal Credit, which remains unproven

Number of late payments of new claims in 2017,113,000.

Other elements:

  • One in five claimants do not receive their full payment on time.
  • Universal Credit is creating additional costs for local organisations that help administer Universal Credit and support claimants.
  • Some claimants have struggled to adjust to Universal Credit. We spoke to local and national bodies that, together, work with a significant minority of claimants. They showed us evidence that many of these people have suffered difficulties and hardship during the rollout of the full service. These have resulted from a combination of issues with the design of Universal Credit and its implementation. The Department has found it difficult to identify and track those who it deems vulnerable. It has not measured how many Universal Credit claimants are having difficulties because it does not have systematic means of gathering intelligence from delivery partners. The Department does not accept that Universal Credit has caused hardship among claimants, because it makes advances available, and it said that if claimants take up these opportunities hardship should not occur. However in its survey of full service claimants, published in June 2018, the Department found that four in ten claimants that were surveyed were experiencing financial difficulties.

This is a good newspaper report.

NAO says core claims about flagship welfare programme are based on unproven assumptions

  Guardian.

The government’s ambitious change to the benefits system, universal credit, fails to deliver promised financial savings or employment benefits and leaves thousands of vulnerable claimants in hardship, according to the public spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office effectively demolishes ministerial claims for universal credit, concluding that the much-delayed flagship welfare programme may end up costing more than the benefit system it replaces, cannot prove it helps more claimants into work and is unlikely to ever deliver value for money.

The NAO report paints a damning picture of a system that despite more than £1bn in investment, eight years in development and a much hyped digital-only approach to transforming welfare, is still in many respects unwieldy, inefficient and reliant on basic, manual processes.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “We think the larger claims for universal credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”

Opposition politicians and campaigners seized on the report to renew calls for universal credit to be delayed and its multiple design flaws fixed before the government continues its rollout to millions more claimants over the next four years.

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow secretary for work and pensions, said: “This report shows just how disastrously wrong the government has got the rollout of universal credit. It has shamelessly ignored warning after warning about the devastating impact its flagship welfare reform has had on people’s lives.

“The government is accelerating the rollout in the face of all of the evidence, using human beings as guinea pigs. It must fix the fundamental flaws in universal credit and make sure that vulnerable people are not pushed into poverty because of its policies.”

Our friends in the Mirror– who have covered the story with great verve for a long time –  noted this,

 …campaigners have used the report to call for reform of the benefit, which has already cost the state £1.9bn to date.

There are many, many, other news articles on the National Audit Office report….

This is another BBC report.

35 Hours a Week Job Search. The Nightmare Continues.

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Image result for ian duncan smith

Iain Duncan Smith’s 35 Hour Job Search: “The evil that men do lives after them….”

 

35 hours a week jobsearch tool-2

35 Hours a Week Job Search.

A few years ago we published the above.

This obligation was introduced by Iain Duncan Smith in 2013, as his mates in the far-right Daily Express gloatingly reported.

In revolutionary changes to the way people receive benefits, those out of work and in receipt of state handouts will be made to put their name to a binding agreement.

The document will make it “abundantly clear” that if an individual fails to spend 35-hours-a-week looking for work they will have their allowance stopped under a “three strikes and out” rule.

The radical plan is the idea of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith who said a job search should be a full-time occupation in itself.

The unemployed will be expected to fill their “working” weeks searching for work, attending interviews, training, assessments and workshops.

If they deviate from their signed commitment, their benefits will be stopped for 13 weeks for a first offence, then 26 weeks and then three years.

This week I heard a Coachy telling a young woman to follow the above regulation by keeping a ‘log’ of all her activities.

Some people have posted comments saying the same.

The new Find a Job site has this section – so if you agree to let them see it this is what this will focus on.

Your activity.

It is not clear if the sanctions regimes is still as tough as the above but as Boycott Workfare rightly predicted before Find a Job and Universal Credit were introduced this is creating new worries.

There are fears that the new system will be used to police claimants when Universal Credit is introduced next year. Under the new benefits regime, claimants will be expected to spend 35 hours looking for work each week. The DWP, or even Work Programme contractors like A4e, could use the new system to force claimants to spend hours clicking through the site or pointlessly applying for unsuitable vacancies just to meet this 35 hour a week condition. Part-time workers, sick or disabled claimants and single parents will face similar conditions.

It is possible that there may be some attempt to bully claimants to sign up via a Jobseekers Direction. This is a formal order which means a claimant can be forced to take any reasonable steps dictated by Jobcentre advisors to find work or face a benefit sanction. People should also be advised that Jobseekers Directions can now be given verbally. We suggest if you are unclear on anything your Jobcentre advisor says to you that you should ask them to clarify whether it is a direction, and take notes of what is said to you.

Should this happen then claimants could sign up but refuse to grant the DWP access to their online account. Claimants are also advised to set up anonymised email accounts with providers like yahoo and hotmail. Don’t tell them anything you don’t have to.

We hope this helps clarify the situation by reference to past enquires into what obligations you have under the 35 a week rule

Following enquiries by What do they Know published this response to the 35 Hours a Job Search obligation,

 

Dear M Imran,
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request dated 29 October 2015. You
asked:
“Could the Department please clarify if it is a mandatory requirement and stated in
legislation for claimants of Jobseekers Allowance to spend there time job searching
for 35 hours a week or 5 hours a day.
Jobcentre advisors are telling claimants to spend 35 hours a week for job searching
but this is not mentioned or stated in the signed Claimant Commitment.
Could the Department please clarify this”?

The response includes this:

To be helpful you may find the following explanation useful about the entitlement
condition for JSA claimants to actively seek work. This has however been provided
outside our obligations under the Freedom of Information regime.
There is no `set’ time that a person must be engaged in looking for work whilst
claiming JSA, rather it is a legal requirement for them to do all that is reasonable for
them to do each week
In order to qualify for JSA, a person must be actively seeking work in each week of
their claim. This means they are generally expected to do all they reasonably can
each week to give them the best prospects of securing employment. The actions that
it would be reasonable for the claimant to take will be personalised and tailored to
the individual and will be specified on their JSA Claimant Commitment. The
expectation is that for most JSA claimants, looking for work will be a full time job in
itself, taking into account any restrictions applied to their availability.
If you have any queries about this letter please contact us quoting the reference
number above.

Yours sincerely,
DWP Central FoI Team

In this response the DWP is seeking to suggest that Jobsearch activity is a full-time activity for people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, when in fact this is not the case. CPAG outlines the situation more accurately:

“If you have carried out all or most of the steps in your claimant committment, this should be sufficient to show that you are actively seeking work. However, a failure to carry out all, or some, steps should not mean you are automatically treated as not actively seeking work. This is particularly relevant where your claimant commitment includes many more steps than the legal test of ‘more than two’.

Case law [1] confirms that whether you are actively seeking work is a test of what you do, rather than what you do not do. The test is whether you take such steps as you are reasonably required to take to secure the best prospects of obtaining employment, and not whether you take all the steps set out in your claimant commitment. The DWP should consider whether you have taken at least three steps in a week, or whether fewer steps are reasonable; what steps are taken; and whether those steps are reasonable. If you satisfy the test, it is irrelevant that you fail to take other steps, whether or not they are in your commitment.”
http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/ask-cpag-…

[1] – CJSA/1814/2007
https://docs.google.com/gview?url=http:/…

Another  request asked,

UNDER NEW RULES UNIVERSAL CREDIT A JOB SEEKER HAS TO DO 35
HOURS A WEEK JOB SEARCH PLEASE DETAIL WHAT THIS MUST
CONSIST OF HOW MUCH TIME MUST BE SPENT ON LINE HOW MUCH
MUST BE PHONEING WRITING OR LOOKING IN PAPERS OR VISITING
FIRMS ALSO IF YOU ARE DOING AFTER WORK PROGRAM SIX MONTHS
COMMUNITY TYPE WORK DURING BUSINESS OPENING HOURS HOW DO
SUPPOSE A CLAIMANT FITS IN 35 HOURS A WEEK JOB SEARCH AS HE OR
SHE WILL BE HAMPERD IF HE OR SHE IS DOING COMMUNITY BASED
WORK DURING BUSINESS HOURS AND WILL BE AT MERCY IF A BIAS
DWP ADVISOR WHO WILL SANCTION THEM FOR SOMETHING THAT DWP
HAVE GOT THEM DOING HAVE YOU SET UP CLAIMANTS TO FAIL IN THIS
WAY AND WILL IT MAKE THEM AT A DISADVANTAGE TO REST OF
CLAIMANTS AS THEY WON’T BE ABLE TO JOBSEACH IN BUSINESS
HOURS ALSO IF YOU DOING COMMUNITY WORK AFTER THE WORK
PROGRAM AND YOU GOT JOB INTERVIEWS ON MOST DAYS WILL YOU
BE ALLOWED TO ATTEND THESE WITHOUT IT AFFECTING ONES CLAIM
ALSO IF YOU ARE SUBJECT TO HAVING TI ATTEND DWP WEEKLY HOW
FAR DOSE A CLAIMANT HAVE TO LIVE BEFORE THE DWP HAVE TO PAY
FOR A CLAIMANT TO ATTEND DWP WHAT HELP DOSE A HOMELESS
PERSON RECEIVE TAKING IN TO ACCOUNT THEY ARE AT A
DISADVANTAGE TO REST OF CLAIMANTS IE NO HOME NO ACCESS TO
INTERNET OR PHONE OR PAPERS HOW IS A HOMELESS PERSON DEALT
WITH TO A NORMAL CLAIMANT.

This was the response.

Claimants in the “all work-related requirements” group have a responsibility to
find work. Claimants should treat this responsibility as their “job” and our
intention is that claimants should aim to spend as many hours looking for work
as we would expect them to spend in work.
Work search expectations will differ for each claimant depending on their
individual circumstances and job goals and advisers will tailor requirements
for each claimant, setting activities which will give each claimant the best
prospects of finding work.
If an adviser sets any work preparation activity, such as attending a training
course or any such relevant community work, it will effectively be offset
against the time a claimant is expected to spend looking for work. We will
also take into account any voluntary or paid work the claimant is engaged in.
Our regulations allow that where a claimant has done all that could
reasonably be expected of them – for example they have applied for all
suitable jobs and undertaken all the activities set out in their work search and
work preparation plan – this may be considered sufficient even where the time
taken was less than the hours expected.
It should also be noted that not all work search has to be conducted within
usual business hours, for example online work search is not limited to
business hours. As long as claimants meet their work search requirements,
they are free to plan the hours they undertake this to suit their circumstances.
Claims will not be affected where an individual has notified their adviser that
they are attending a verifiable job interview.
Travelling expenses may be refunded for pre-arranged interviews in
connection with benefit claims, where the claimant is asked to attend more
frequently than the minimum fortnightly schedule.
The Universal Credit regulations allow the adviser the flexibility to make
decisions based on the claimant’s individual circumstances. The term
homelessness covers a broad range of situations – including rough sleeping,
living in a hostel, and bedding-down on the floors or sofas of family and
friends. So a one-size-fits-all conditionality easement would be wrong.
Advisers will set tailored work search and work preparation requirements,
dependent on claimants’ personal circumstances. In some instances it may be
appropriate to temporarily lift work search and availability requirements while
a claimant secures a place to stay, or moves to new or temporary
accommodation.

As far as I know these guidelines have not changed as this mad list of tips indicates.

The Daily Job Seeker.

2018. “Tips and advice to help give your job search a boost.”

Undertaking 35 hours each week of job searching activity can at first appear hard to achieve. However, there are lots of ways to look for work and to keep your job search productive and you can find tips and advice on this site. It is also important to fully record what you have done so that this can easily be discussed with your work coach. Here is an example of some job searching activity and how to record it.

1. What I did:

I checked the job pages of the Barnet and Finchley Echo when it came out on 21 and 28 February. I made a note of one job as a part-time admin assistant in the finance department at Barnet Council.

I rang up and asked them to send me an application form and I completed the form when it came and sent it back on 4 March.

What this involved: I asked a friend to check the form before I sent it off and added some information as a result. I amended my CV to make sure it was relevant for this job.

What was the result? I completed the application form and sent them my revised CV.

I did this on: 21/2/18, 28/2/18, 4/3/18

Total time taken: 1 hour – checking paper and 2 hours – completing form and amending CV

What I’ll do next: The closing date is 15 March. If I haven’t heard anything by 26 March, I’ll ring the personnel section.

2. What I did:

Looked on job websites – Total Jobs, Indeed, In Retail – for retail jobs.

What this involved: Took bus into town and went to the library to use the internet. Found websites through Google and searched for retail jobs.

What was the result? Found two possible jobs at

1) Sports Direct – closing date 29 March

2) New Look – closing date 5 April

Completed online application form for both jobs and attached my CV.

I also did this type of search on: 22/2/18, 24/2/18, 26/2/18, 4/3/18, 8/3/18

Total time taken: 22 hours

What I’ll do next: Will contact both employers a week after closing date if I haven’t heard anything.

3. What I did:

I registered on Universal Jobmatch on 11 March.

What this involved: I used one of the computers in the Jobcentre after I’d seen my work coach.

What was the result? I applied for two jobs at

1) Subway – closing date 14 March

2) Greggs – closing date 18 March

Completed online application form for the Subway job and attached my CV.

Phoned Greggs to ask for an application form. Job included bakery duties as well as serving customers, so I updated my CV to include my experience doing this. Completed form, included my CV and posted to Greggs.

I repeated this type of search on: 11/3/18, 12/3/18, 13/3/18

Total time taken: 10 hours

What I’ll do next: Will contact both employers a week after closing date if I haven’t heard anything.

This is just an example of some ideas for your job search and how to record it. Take a look at more jobseeking advice to help with your 35 hours a week total. 

As can be seen the 35 hours target  is just that, a target.

Until the get round to 24 hours a day surveillance of claimants (including those in part time work subjected to this regime by Universal Credit, which makes it even madder), they cannot note how you spend every minute of the day. 

This is funnier.

Click here to find out how Universal Credit can make sure you’re better off in work.

Though this is wise advice.

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Destitution in the UK Set to Rise with Universal Credit.

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Image result for destitution in the uk

During the week this story hit the headlines:

1.5 million people are ‘destitute’ in the UK. The ‘I’ (the well-informed Claimant’s Daily read).

The figures are startling: an estimated 1.5 million people were destitute in the UK at some point in 2017, 365,000 of them children. This is the conclusion of a report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of the charity, said actions by the Government, local authorities and utility companies is leading to “destitution by design”. “Social security should be an anchor holding people steady against powerful currents such as rising costs, insecure housing and jobs, and low pay, but people are instead becoming destitute with no clear way out.”

..

The report blamed benefits sanctions, low benefit levels, delays in receiving benefit payments, high housing costs, pressures – financial and otherwise – facing people with poor health and disability, lack of eligibility for benefits for people such as migrants and “harsh and uncoordinated” debt recovery practices by authorities and utility companies.

Here is the full report: Destitution in the UK 2018

There is plenty to remind you of this walking around Ipswich, where people begging is a daily sight.

James Bloodworth’s book,  Hired. Six Months Undercover in Low-wage Britain (2018) comes to mind at the same time.

The author  worked for Amazon in Rugeley, for a Call centre in the South Wales Valleys, for Uber, and for a private care firm in Blackpool.

It was in this seaside resort that he found this,

Bloodworth comes across the homeless. He sees an old man “buried under a pile of corrugated cardboard and bin liners”. In Blackpool’s main library there are people “who had been sent like badly behaved children to ‘job club’. There were the down-and-outs there too, “holding filthy carrier bags”, some falling asleep to be thrown back onto the streets. At moments like this you realise that only a comparison with George Orwell’s best writing will do.

Much of this seems to fit the way we live all over the country.

People in short-term employment, with few rights, thrown in and out of the benefits system. The down-and-outs.

One of one of the reasons we have so many young homeless wandering around in Ipswich is the closure of the Foyer last year.

Campaigner ‘disappointed’ as Ipswich Foyer housing scheme for young people to close in March.

Centra has failed to win a new funding contract from Suffolk County Council (SCC) to keep the Foyer, in Star Lane, running.

From April YMCA Suffolk and Orwell Housing Association will deliver housing-related support services for young people across the county.

Becki Bunn, who started a petition to save the hostel, said she was “really disappointed” that SCC had not reinvested in the Foyer.

At the age of 17 Miss Bunn lived at the Foyer for six months, enabling her to stay in education and finish her A-Levels.

Walking past it a few days ago I saw that the building, eminently suitable for the homeless, is empty and beginning to look shabby.

Thankfully Ipswich Labour has made some steps towards helping some of those without a roof over their heads.

The £2.8m investment Ipswich Borough Council is making in new temporary accommodation for people who are made homeless caught the headlines, writes Labour Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, David Ellesmere.

Ipswich Council has also reduced the Council Tax for those on benefits.

But a Borough Council does not have the funds the remedy the problems.

Some of the reasons for the massive level of destitution  began with the tough conditions to get JSA, such as the 35 jobsearch, ‘courses’, workfare, the sanctions regime, all of which are designed to throw people off the dole and onto the streets.

One that is bound to get worse with Universal Credit.

The must-read Bloodworth book talks of harassing bosses, poor working conditions, low-pay, snarls up in getting wages, and grasping Landlords.

Universal Credit – something people in the ‘gig economy’ he deals with will rely on – makes all of this a lot worse.

If levels of destitution apparently fell 25% with a loosening of sanctions between 2015 to 2017 the report says,

JRF warns more people could be at risk of destitution after Universal Credit is rolled out across the country because of the sanction rate. Universal Credit is being phased in gradually throughout the year. The roll-out schedule is here.

Here are the report’s recommendations.

Solutions to destitution

In our society, no-one should be left to starve or live on the streets and everyone should have access to basic essentials and shelter.
• The Universal Credit system must ensure that benefit gaps, sanctions and freezes do not push working-age people to the brink and make them destitute by design.
• Uncoordinated debt recovery practices can leave people with practically nothing to live on. This is unacceptable, and the Department for Work and Pensions and other public authorities must
address this.
• People facing destitution need emergency relief and this should be provided through Local Welfare Assistance schemes across England, drawing on positive lessons from other UK
countries, operating to a national minimum standard.
• Social landlords must be encouraged to play a central role in preventing and alleviating destitution amongst their tenants.

This can be summarised that immediately:

The UK Government needs to:

  • End the freeze on working-age benefits so they at least keep up with the cost of essentials and do not create destitution.
  • Change the use of sanctions within Universal Credit so that people are not left destitute by design.
  • Review the total amount of debt that can be clawed back from people receiving benefits, so they can keep their heads above water.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 10, 2018 at 9:35 am

As Universal Credit is Rolled out: Crime scene-style body outlines on Jobcentres across Birmingham.

with 56 comments

Body outlines from murder crime scenes appear outside JobCentres in Birmingham

DWP Suggests This Might be a Protest!

No automatic alt text available.

Body outlines indicating murder crime scenes are being sprayed outside Birmingham Jobcentres along with the slogan ‘fit for work’. (Metro)

Police have been alerted after mysterious crime scene-style body outlines were daubed on Jobcentres across Birmingham reports Birmingham Live.

Sites in Kings Heath, Sparkhill, Selly Oak, Ladywood and Longbridge were all targeted.

Pictures from the scene showed a chalk body outline painted on the ground at the entrance of the centre, with a bloody trail to a foot detached from the body.

The windows of the centre were also targeted, but were quickly covered with paper to shield it from onlookers.

Scotland Yard’s Top Copper is already working on the case.

Image result for Inspector clouseau

Helped by MI5 The DWP quickly got to the possible cause of the incidents.

“The Department for Work and Pensions, which manages job centres, hinted that the graffiti might have been done for the purpose of protest.”

A spokesman said: “Everyone has a right to protest peacefully, however vandalism is completely unacceptable. We’re in contact with the police.”

In April, police appealed for help to help to catch vandals who were spray-painting cars in Sutton Coldfield town centre.

A spokesperson for Sutton Coldfield’s Trinity neighbourhood team said: “We have noticed an increasing amount of graffiti, appearing across Sutton Coldfield town centre and within surrounding areas.

“We are appealing for information if anyone knows who is responsible for the personalised graffiti – as per the photograph.

“If anyone has any further information that could be of assistance within this matter; please contact PCSO Deputy Dawg  by calling 109999999 and stating extension number: 792843  (Calls charged at 50 pence a minute).”

 

Meanwhile, in today’s Guardian.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation says cuts, debts and housing costs push poor over the edge.

More than 1.5 million people in the UK, including more than 350,000 children, experienced destitution last year, a study has found, meaning they regularly went without food, toiletries, adequate clothing or shelter.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says a “tangled combination” of benefit cuts, delays and sanctions, together with harsh debt-recovery practices and high housing rental costs pushed people already in poverty over the edge into extreme deprivation.

Nearly two-thirds reported that they ate fewer than two meals a day for two or more days over the previous month, nearly half lacked clothing appropriate for the weather, more than 40% went without heating, and 15% slept rough.

The Independent today.

Nearly 4 million UK adults forced to use food banks, figures reveal

Exclusive: One in 14 Britons has used a food bank amid ‘shocking’ levels of deprivation

Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2018 at 10:20 am

Universal credit changes will bar 2.6 million children from free school meals.

with 47 comments

Image result for end of free school meals

No More Free Grub for the Nippers of 2,6 million UC Claimants.

Debbie Abrahams resigned from/temporarily stepped aside from her position as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary in March.

Since then we have heard little from Labour on the important issues surrounding Universal Credit, not least the hint of a serious worked out alternative to the shambles we can now see.

All you can find is a campaign to “fix Universal Credit’

Our campaign to fix Universal Credit

The Tories’ failing Universal Credit programme is plunging millions of people into poverty, leaving them unable to pay rent or put dinner on the table, and facing debt and eviction as a result.

So far, our campaigning has made major steps towards fixing the programme. The Tories were forced to scrap the up to 55p per minute helpline charge and the waiting time to receive the first Universal Credit payment was cut from six weeks to five weeks.

This is a great achievement, but there’s work still to do. Families are still going hungry, relying on food banks and unable to make ends meet.

Frankly, this is not much.

We need a full alternative worked-out policy.

However today this speech will flag up a very worrying area and state that, “Labour’s plan involves providing free school meals for all primary school children.”

Universal credit changes will bar 2.6 million children from free school meals, warns Labour.

Independent.

Eligibility changes mean 1.1 million children receive free school meals but 2.6 million would be entitled by 2022 if they had been kept the same.

Up to 2.6 million children whose parents are on benefits could be missing out on free school meals by 2022, the shadow education minister will warn.

Angela Rayner will tell a GMB union conference on Sunday that the Government’s claims on school meals are “falling apart” after changes to eligibility under Universal Credit (UC).

When the system was first introduced in 2013, all children of recipients – who were all unemployed – were eligible for free school meals (FSM), as they would have been under the old system.

But in April the criteria was tightened based on income. In England, the net earnings threshold will be £7,400 whereas in Northern Ireland it will be £14,000.

A government technical note published in May said that if the change had not been made, “around half of all (state school) children would become eligible for FSM and the meals would no longer be targeted at those who need them the most”.

Nursery World backs this claim up.

DfE admits millions of children at risk of losing free school meals

Up to 2.6 million children could lose out on free school meals by 2022, reveal newly published DfE figures.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 3, 2018 at 10:33 am

Universal Credit in Great Yarmouth, ” Food Bank has seen a 90pc increase in use since Universal Credit was introduced.”

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Image result for universal credit cartoon

“Please, Miss I want some more.” . “Oliver Twist has asked for more!”

Word reaches us the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux (CABs) across the country are being inundated with cases to do with Universal Credit.

One CAB worker  in particular spoke of how she had to deal with clear evidence of DWP staff unable to cope and making a mess of things.

It’s not hard to see why, given the paperwork they’ve handed us about the new system in Ipswich.

Hard to make head or tail of some of it.

Not to mention Find a Job….

This is an interesting properly researched article from Norfolk that has just appeared.

Disaster’ or making work pay? Lessons from Great Yarmouth in Universal Credit Tom Bristow

Great Yarmouth Food Bank has seen a 90pc increase in use since Universal Credit was introduced in April 2016. But the DWP said it was wrong to link the rise to the benefit changes. Picture: James Bass

 

Soaring demand at food banks, tenants being evicted and landlords left without rent.

These were the some of the problems when benefit system Universal Credit came to Great Yarmouth in April 2016.

The town was one of the first places in the country to test the Government’s flagship welfare reform, which replaced lots of different benefits with a single payment.

Universal Credit has been rolled out across the rest of the region, including King’s Lynn, Lowestoft and Dereham and is meant to be introduced to Norwich this October.

Claimants in Yarmouth still report problems of being overpaid some months and underpaid on others.

And one of the biggest headaches it has caused is for tenants and landlords.

Rent arrears have surged as tenants have to wait for the first payment, leaving them without money.

Landlords report some tenants leaving without paying rent when they got the first payment.

While under the previous housing benefit system the rent was paid directly to the landlord, it goes to the claimant under Universal Credit.

This is seriously not funny.

The DWP said “significant improvements” had been made to Universal Credit since it was introduced.

A spokesman said: “Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and under it people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer compared to the previous system.

The reality, as the New York Times writer  Peter S. Goodman said a couple of days ago,

Whatever the operative thinking, austerity’s manifestations are palpable and omnipresent. It has refashioned British society, making it less like the rest of Western Europe, with its generous social safety nets and egalitarian ethos, and more like the United States, where millions lack health care and job loss can set off a precipitous plunge in fortunes.

In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything

Written by Andrew Coates

May 30, 2018 at 11:57 am

Ipswich Joins  Stop Universal Credit Day of Action.

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Image may contain: 10 people, people smiling

Us lot in Ipswich.

11am-1pm, La Tour Café, Ipswich Waterfront.

Ironically or not the former home of  Cranfield’s Flour Mill in which our union had a strong membership.

 

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Thank you to everyone that joined the @Unite_Community   Stop Universal Credit day of action on Thursday 24  May   2018

Written by Andrew Coates

May 25, 2018 at 11:49 am

Find a Job to Create Bureaucratic Nightmare.

with 168 comments

 

 

 

Image result for replacing universal JObmatch

 

Bureaucratic Nightmare. 

 

Find a Job service to replace Universal Jobmatch

The Government has announced that Universal Jobmatch will be replaced by the Find a Job service on 14 May 2018. Your existing Universal Jobmatch account will not move to the new service.

 

I really do not like this bit:

Save any information you want to keep, like CVs, cover letters and application history by 17 June 2018.

Please ensure that you have a screenshot of the job advertisement on file taken on the first day of placement showing:

  • full and legible contents of the advert
  • location of the role
  • job title, duties and responsibilities
  • required skillset and experience
  • an indication of salary or a salary range, “competitive” or “competitive rates apply” is suitable if this an industry norm
  • vacancy reference number
  • date of placement
  • URL
  • closing date for applications (the advert must appear live for at least 28 days)

You will also need to download the following documents:

  • All applications shortlisted for final interview in the medium they were received – emails, CV, application form – each should include the applicant’s details such as name, address, date of birth
  • The names and total number of applicants shortlisted for final interview
  • For each settled worker rejected from the process (British or EEA national, holder of Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residence under the EEA regs, UK ancestry visa holder), you must retain interview notes which show reasons why they have not been employed
  • Details of any applicants who applied and the reasons they were rejected (applicable to new sponsor licence applications only).

Basic account information will be migrated to the new service. An email with further information about this will be sent to users.

New employer registrations on Universal Jobmatch will close on 10 May 2018 and open on Find a Job on 14 May 2018.

Doug comments,

Important points of findajob to take note on

Findajobs programme  and operation can and will if applicable share data that could be personal and this transaction may or may not legally require a person lawful consent.

Also it has the capability to monitor and record all transactions that take place off its site and can detail dates,times and keystrokes,etc.
Apart from having findajob list all existing third parties, you also need to know the following,

1: Are they asking for lawful consent to future third parties that as yet they have not entered into an arrangement with or any unknown thirdparties they may do in the future. By granting lawful consent, your be be giving findajob lawful permission the moment you register to give some or all of your personal data as per applicable with need and applicable laws (via those domains) that wont require any further announcement to you asking for permission.

2: What cookies and especially supercookies they are or intend to use. Whether or not they again are also trying to secure lawful consent at registration with a view should they add further unannounced cookies/supercookies in the future that they may do so without seeking any further lawful consent.

Doug.

Still somebody seems to be happy.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 16, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Channel Four Dispatches Lifts the Lid on Universal Credit.

with 104 comments

Image result for UNiversal credit

 

Last night’s Channel Four Dispatches on Universal Credit was a thorough dismantling of the last pretensions of  this failed system.

The Government is introducing the new Universal Credit in the biggest welfare reform in a generation. It is claimed the new benefit is helping people back into work, Dispatches investigates claims the new system is a shambles.

A mess is polite.

Some cases stuck out: the disabled single parent who ended up surviving on food banks, and who stands to lose £2,000 a year from the regime, the man who found that being self-employed lone parent of two children under Universal Credit was no longer financially possible, and the man who went from being a food bank volunteer to being a user.

It’s worth noting that Esther McVey did not appear, only one of her minions Alok Sharma Minister of State for Employment.

Sharma, somebody nobody’s heard of till now, apparently has responsibility for,

  • Universal Credit, including labour market aspects and overall programme management
  • employment strategy and labour market interventions, including:
    • conditionality and sanctions
    • youth employment
    • women’s employment
    • black, Asian and minority ethnic employment
    • Fuller Working Lives
    • New Enterprise Allowance
  • Jobcentre Plus, partnership working and employer engagement
  • EU and international affairs, including support to the Secretary of State on Brexit
  • support to the Secretary of State on devolution

“Prior to entering Parliament, Alok qualified as a chartered accountant with Coopers & Lybrand Deloitte, and then worked for 16 years within banking, first with the Japanese firm Nikko Securities and then Enskilda Securities (the investment banking arm of SE Banken), where he held senior roles based out of London, Stockholm and Frankfurt, including serving as a member of the bank’s Corporate Finance Global Management Committee.”

With this background it’s not surprising that he took the Bertie Wooster line of stout denial in the face of evidence of the misery he and his boss are inflicting.

Waits, muddles, mistakes, and…..

“Some 70% of DWP staff say the roll out of Universal Credit should be stopped”!

 

Civil servants’ concerns over Universal Credit roll out

The latest episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches series, aired last night, focused on the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Research for the programme found two in three staff working on the flagship welfare reform – which combines a number of working-age benefits into a single payment – think it should be paused.

The programme raised concerns about staff shortages and timeliness of payments. The Department for Work and Pensions described the survey, of 550 union members, as “small, self-selected and flawed”. Here is the Mirror’s report on the programme and research findings.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for housing and health to be more joined up. The i newspaper published a piece about this over the bank holiday weekend. Mr Burnham has also previously called for Manchester to get its own welfare budget.

Two-thirds of frontline Department for Work and Pensions staff have said the roll-out of crisis-hit Universal Credit should be stopped, a Channel 4 investigation reveals.

Most DWP Frontline Staff ‘Say Universal Credit Should Be Scrapped’

Shock poll suggests misgivings among benefits officials.

Some 70% of DWP staff say the roll out of Universal Credit should be stopped according to a survey carried out by a trade union.

The Public and Commercial Services Union poll found 79% of respondents felt there was not sufficient staff to meet demand from claimants.

The union, which represents frontline DWP staff, many of whom work in high street job centres, polled 550 of its members for a new Dispatches documentary.

A whistleblower who currently works for the DWP told the programme: “Sometimes we’ll have a couple of people on our team on leave or off sick and then the work really piles up at that point and these claims have not been given the due attention they deserve.

A lot of [claimants] can miss their payments… It could mean that they won’t be able to eat for another couple of days, it’s very tough on them.”

In response to the survey, a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We strongly dispute these claims entirely and this is an extremely small, self-selected and flawed survey that is unrepresentative of our staff delivering Universal Credit.”

Universal Credit is a flagship benefit reform which replaces six individual benefits with one monthly payment.

But it’s been beset by problems in its roll out amid claims it has led to a surge in foodbank use and poverty.

It was claimed last month that thousands of claimants were losing 40% of their benefit to pay back DWP debts.

The Dispatches documentary found that despite sweeping changes to the way Universal Credit works last year, many claimants continue to suffer hardship.

Mark Serwotka discussing Universal Credit on C4 Dispatches

Our general secretary Mark Serwotka will be appearing on the Dispatches programme “Britain’s Benefits Crisis” on Monday May 7th 7.30pm Channel 4.

The roll out of Universal Credit (UC) has been a disaster for people on benefits. It is driven by the government’s choice to cut public services and is inflicting misery on those who need a supportive benefits system.

We have consistently made representations to DWP about the level of stress existing across Universal Credit Service Centres and, increasingly now, in the jobcentres, where staff are also being used to clear UC tasks. Despite this, DWP has refused to work with PCS.

Our members in DWP are under huge pressure and are suffering due to the chaotic reforms taking place, job cuts and the closure of offices.

They are fully aware of the devastating effects of this policy on the most vulnerable members of society which is why our union is calling for the roll out to be suspended immediately.

Please tune into the programme and if you are on Twitter, follow our live updates during the programme at @pcs_union

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 8, 2018 at 9:04 am

Judicial Review of Universal Credit’s “Hostile Environment”.

with 29 comments

Disabled people protesting against benefit cuts

Judicial Review of Universal Credit,

4 February 2018

Law firm Leigh Day has been given permission to take the first judicial review in the High Court over the controversial decision by the Government to implement Universal Credit, a single benefit which replaces a range of existing means-tested welfare benefits.

Following a successful application for permission, the judge ordered the full judicial review to be expedited and to take place at the High Court between May and July at a date yet to be confirmed.

It is being taken on behalf of a 52-year-old terminally ill man, who is suffering from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and Castleman’s Disease, over the decision by the Government to remove disability benefits from people with severe disabilities leaving them in financial difficulties.

The man whose identity is protected, and is referred to as TP, is a Cambridge graduate who had worked in the City and around the World within the financial sector.

He became terminally ill in 2016 and was in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP), which were specifically aimed at meeting the additional care needs of severely disabled people living alone with no carer.

However, following the recent introduction by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions of Universal Credit, both EDP and SDP have been removed when a person makes a claim for Universal Credit with no replacement provision put in place.

How a terminally ill man is leading the fight against inhumane universal credit

a terminally ill man is set to take on the government – and with it, the disastrous universal credit (UC) policy. Known only as TP, a 52-year-old ex-City worker – who has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the lymph node condition Castleman disease – is launching a landmark challenge at the high court after becoming financially worse off under the new benefit system.

DPAC:

Join us today for the 2nd day of the vigil outside the high court  to support the first judicial review against the Government’s decision to bring in Universal Credit. The case will focus in particular on the removal of the Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums which will have a devastating impact on Disabled people. When the Government introduced Universal credit they said no one will be worse off, but this simply isn’t true. Research in 2013 estimated that 450,000 households containing a Disabled person would lose essential income.

The case is being taken by Leigh Day solicitors on behalf of a man who is terminally ill and through the removal of SDP and EDP has lost £178 per month.

Vigil called by Disabled People Against Cuts and Winvisible.

In its latest report on the case the Mirror picks up the theme of the “hostile environment” created by Universal Credit.

Vulnerable, sick and hungry: these devastating testimonies of people on Universal Credit are being used to fight Esther McVey’s benefits department in Court

The Department for Work and Pensions is facing the first judicial review of the controversial new benefit system.

If there comes to be a watershed moment for the human disaster known as Universal Credit, it should be the testimonies of two severely disabled men heard this week in the High Court.

During the landmark legal challenge, one dying man, known as TP, told how he had moved to London on his cancer specialist’s advice to be near pioneering treatment.

Yet the move into a Universal Credit (UC) area led to him becoming so destitute he was unable to get to chemotherapy sessions and lived in levels of squalor that endangered his weakened immune system.

The other man, who is severely bipolar, had been forced to move by the bedroom tax from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool, a UC ‘full service’ area.

The discovery that he was even worse off because of hidden cuts inside the new controversial benefit and his new isolation left him suicidal.

I run out of food at least once a month and have to go without,” said the 36-year-old man, identified in court as ‘AR’. “I have twice had to use the food bank in ­Hartlepool.

“I just have one meal a day in the evening and that’s all… I cannot afford to buy clothes or shoes. My shoes have got holes in them… I cannot afford to run the heater.”

They continue,

After eight years of vicious welfare reform, the testimonies should be familiar by now. Yet they are freshly poignant. “My two dogs and two cats eat better than I do,” AR told the court. “I make sure they eat, as they are the only reason I have not committed suicide by now.”

‘TP’, a 52-year-old former City worker who has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the lymph node condition Castleman disease, told me how he was forced to live in “undignified, unhygienic conditions” while undergoing three types of gruelling chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. The Hickman Line fitted into his chest meant “it was dangerous for me to do many household chores”. He called his situation “a grave injustice”.

This is the ‘hostile environment’ faced by a different type of migrant – those undergoing “natural” or “managed migration”, in Government speak, into Universal Credit.

Together, the two men – backed by lawyers Leigh Day – are bringing the first judicial review of the Tories’ controversial Universal Credit.

The defendant is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey.

 

This is a striking detail:

Both men’s ‘journals’ – the way claimants must now communicate with the Department for Work and Pensions – make for harrowing reading. TP’s entry for May 4, 2017 reads: “I completely lost my SDP which is greatly needed, struggling at home by myself, disabled and sick.

“I have terminal cancer and am receiving chemotherapy and other treatments to try and control the disease. I have submitted two DWP DS1500 terminal illness reports – one from my GP and one from the hospital consultant. Please advise…”

The bald reply, which took three weeks, stated: “Severe Disability premium is not an element B16 of Universal Credit and therefore not payable…”

As well as the deep cut to support, both men describe being plunged into a bureaucratic nightmare, spending hours a day on to the DWP.

Join the @Unite_Community Stop Universal Credit day of action on Thursday 24 May 2018

Unite community will be staging a STOP Universal Credit day of action. 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 5, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Universal Credit Behavioural Change Scandal to Follow Windrush.

with 65 comments

Image result for Behavioural change universal credit

Claimants forced into Experiment in Behavioural Change.

A commentator writes,

Based on the Windrush and Universal Credit scandals one might think that the government didn’t know what it was doing.

Many will no doubt be impressed by the sheer scale of the misery inflicted by Windrush, brought to people’s attention, let it be noted, first through a drip drip of petitions on FB, then newspaper articles, and last, but not least by the efforts of Diane Abbott and David Lamey.

The more you read about Universal Credit the angrier you get.

As people here show.

The intellectual journal Prospect obviously read our contributors’ minds when it writes today,

A landmark legal challenge shows the cruel reality of Universal Credit for disabled people

The Windrush scandal currently engulfing the government is evidence not only of the great damage ministers can inflict on marginalised people’s lives—but the revolt that can occur when it goes too far. Yet look to the High Court this week and you’ll see the same damage being inflicted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), right at the centre of a flagship ‘welfare’ policy.

Two disabled people—aided by the law firm Leigh Day—have launched a landmark legal challenge against the government, arguing Universal Credit (UC) “unlawfully discriminates” against disabled benefit claimants.

It’s well established now that UC is creating financial misery, with those witnessing the fallout of the new benefit system describing it as “hell on earth.” Just last month, research by the Trussell Trust found food bank use is, on average, 52 per cent higher in areas where the full universal credit service has been in place for 12 months or more.

But like the Conservative’s ‘welfare reform’ generally, it’s disabled people who are taking the brunt. This is because two key disability benefits—the severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP)—are being abolished under the new system. The move will see claimants lose as much as £395 a month, according to the disability charity Scope.

It’s estimated a staggering 230,000 disabled people will be affected 

…..

Universal Credit has been hailed as the biggest transformation of the welfare state in sixty years—which would be laudable if it were not taking place at a time in which the government was simultaneously undertaking unprecedented cuts to the ‘welfare’ budget. Disabled people alone will collectively lose £2 billion in disability premium payments by the time UC fully rolls out (a particularly galling fact considering delays mean it is estimated to be costing taxpayers £16 billion by 2020).

‘Behavioural change’ is at the centre of these UC cuts. This is insulting enough for anyone—a single mum doesn’t need to be left hungry to ‘motivate’ her to look for work; she needs affordable childcare and flexible work opportunities. But with disabled people it’s particularly egregious; as if their disability will suddenly improve the moment they transfer to Universal Credit.

This travesty is a product of Conservative governments but opposition should come from all sides. By any political leaning, reform of the social security system that actively makes the lives of those experiencing illness and disability worse—rather than supporting them—is ultimately a failure. If this week’s court case goes in disabled people’s favour, the government could be forced to learn that lesson whether it likes it or not.

Let’s look at  aspects this programme of “behavioural change”.

One, dealt with in the previous post, is the “on-line Job search”.

It is part of this:

Digital challenge of Universal Credit. (Local Government)

Given that many residents’ main source of income will be via the UC method, the challenge for claimants, Government and all stakeholder is how to get people to engage digitally while avoiding significant delays in UC applications.

Our experience tells us that the first obstacle is getting people to actually attend a digital workshop. With lives, full of stress and concern, getting a resident to attend a workshop – which might be wrongly perceived as another way to criticise perceived inadequacies – can be a difficult sell. We utilise a variety of methods to combat this, from guerrilla marketing to ‘nudge’ behavioural change theory, to positively encourage this attendance. We talk to residents in ways that are clear and jargon-free, no blame is ever ascribed to their lack of knowledge and we use the communication channels that they use, such as text messaging or mobile phone calls. We also incentivise people, whether that’s free prizes from local businesses to using tempting food treats. Sounds simple, but it works.

These marketing and engagement devices encourage people to attend events, but the content of the workshop is, of course, crucial to maintain attendance. One area we’ve found particularly powerful is a successful replica UC portal for practicing and getting used to the online form – www.we-are-digital.co.uk/help. This warms residents to the structure, questions and information they need for when they fill in the actual form, answering many of their concerns ahead of time – a move we’d like to see replicated nationwide.

In addition, it is important to consider that, once claimants start filling in their forms, they will still need support and reassurance. For housing associations, we recommend promoting the toll-free UC telephone support claims line – which residents can call to get support over the phone to complete a real claim, regardless of which HA they are from. For the most difficult cases, in-home support is also an option, with a tutor taking them through a real claim, one-to-one. Ultimately, these methods will help to prevent sanctions and decrease arrears.

With a delay in UC rollout politically unpalatable, the emphasis is on increasing claimants’ skills base, and quickly. This urgency of this expediency is most pronounced on housing association tenants.

Isn’t it wonderful being part of a vast social experiment in “behavioural change”?

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2018 at 10:04 am

‘Find a Job’ service to Replace Universal Job Match for Claimants.

with 69 comments

Image result for adzuna chief ninja

Universal Jobmatch will be replaced by the Find a job service on 14 May 2018.

Important: If you have an existing Universal Jobmatch account it will not move to the new service.

Save any information you want to keep, like your CV, cover letters and application history by 17 June 2018.

New ‘Find a Job’ service to support thousands of jobseekers into work

One of the UK’s largest recruitment websites Universal Jobmatch is to be re-named ‘Find a Job’.

The free government recruitment service – now operated by Adzuna – will continue to connect jobseekers with thousands of employers across the UK.

The change will come into effect on 14 May, and access to existing ‘Universal Jobmatch’ accounts will be available up until 17 June 2018.

The Minister for Employment, Alok Sharma, said:

With the employment rate the highest it has been since records began, I want those still looking for work around the country to have the very best opportunity to find a role that suits their needs.

Our new Find a Job service offers one of the largest free job search functions out there – and with a near record number of vacancies, there are plenty to choose from.

The service will offer jobseekers and employers a simpler and more streamlined way to log in and access their information. The site will continue to allow jobseekers to search for work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Through the creation of an account, they will be able to track their activity, create tailored job alerts and store multiple CVs, to ensure their applications are the best they can be when applying for roles.

Following a competitive procurement process, Adzuna has been providing the new service from early 2018. The site will offer a faster, more efficient experience. A more powerful search using Adzuna’s technology will match jobseekers to employers’ available roles quickly and effectively.

The unemployment rate (4.2%) has not been lower since 1975 and the number of people out of work is down by 136,000 compared to a year ago. This shows the enormous progress that is being made to help even more people benefit from being in work.

This change will incur no extra cost for the Department for Work and Pensions.

Our Newshounds  (JS, j joop, ken, and othershave been on the trail of this new scam.

So it’s true then. But is Find-a-Job going to be mandatory and an integral part of Universal Credit? Universal Jobmatch was originally built as a means to police the job seeking activity of Universal Credit claimants, allowing anybody, anywhere, with the right permission, to scrutinise the activities of every claimant on UJM online hence the logging of applications and compromising questions like “Or, tell us why you don’t wish to apply for this job” which appears on the advert for every vacancy on UJM. Such things are obvious tripwires created expressly to catch people out and get them sanctioned for not applying for some vacancy, or other, without good reason. My bet is that the “Find a job” site will be more of the same, just tarted up with a new front end, but Universal Jobmatch at its core and that most of us will carry on going straight to Indeed.co.uk to look for work unless forced to do otherwise.

Besides being ugly and unfriendly for users good employers stopped advertising on UJM years ago.

Why should Find-a-Job be any different?

Percy S.

Universal Jobmatch was supposed to allow Work Coaches (or anybody else) to “communicate” with “jobseekers” and blitz them with idiotic and unsuitable jobs to apply for. I denied the DWP access and haven’t been bothered while a friend of mine allowed them unrestricted access and got sent shitloads of low-paid part-time vacancies, miles away from where he lived, e.g., replenishment staff (shelf stackers) with a supermarket, working five days a week, from 8.00pm to 9.00pm, for £7.50 ph, with a two hour commute and had to explain why he didn’t apply for them. Here’s the reason: Being on Universal Credit meant that 63% of the £7.50 earned per day was deducted from his benefits, leaving him with £2.78; as his bus fare was £4.60 return he would have been £1.83 out of pocket and that was before his Council Tax contribution got tweaked upwards!

You’ve hit the nail on the head about the policing aspect of Universal Jobmatch.

Quote: “The new service offers an easy, streamlined process for both jobseekers and employers to log in and access their information. The site will continue to allow jobseekers to search for work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Through the creation of an account, they will be able to track their activity, create tailored job alerts and store multiple CVs, to ensure their applications are the best they can be when applying for roles.”

I’m guessing the Jobcentre will try and tell you creating an account will be mandatory. Has anyone put in an FOI request for the toolkit?

JJ.Joop.

I was talking to my Work Coach today and she said the Find-a-Job will be different and have a different logon using an email address and password, same as most other sites use. She didn’t know much else about it or how it will differ from or be similar to the vile Universal Jobmatch. I wonder if users will have the power to delete their accounts and data? With Universal Jobmatch you had to ask for your account to be deleted or stop using it and wait for it to expire and auto-delete after eighteen months I think it was. She also said that in my area “we” would be switching over to the “full digital service” where you are supposed to report changes in your circumstances and such like be means of an online “Journal”.

Universal Credit looks set to be a bigger scandal than the Windrush farrago.

Percy S.

Seasoned commentator Superted says,

wow so the new find a job service is going to do what every job site does now anyway and provide links to apply for jobs on another web site.

if ur not mandated to use it via a job seekers direction and create a account why even bother to use it in the first place lol.

Adzuna will laughing all the way to the bank, yet another service that is not needed and more tax payers money down the drain.

Expert advice from Ken,

Adzuna will laughing all the way to the bank, yet another service that is not needed and more tax payers money down the drain.

I think you are correct superted.Universal Jobmatch was a tired site often with multiple ad’s placed by the same company.I found the amount of times it said I couldn’t apply because I had applied before was enormous at least more looked to have been viewed lately.

None of this is going to overcome barriers to work such as health age and lack of experience even down to own transport.Being out of work for long periods is extreamly common these days also.Agencies want people who are at immediate call,jump straight into a car to work odd hours.It amounts to caught in the benefits trap.

What kind of jobs will they circulate?

Here are some of the latest top-tips from the Adzua Blog:

Developer Evangelist, Chef Ninja, Data Wrangler, Play Planner.

And,

The Deadliest Jobs in The UK – 2018.

And, today’s job:

Eyebrow Expert – Liverpool

BENEFIT COSMETICS UK – LIVERPOOL , MERSEYSIDE

Benefit Cosmetics UK – Brow Expert Stunning lashes and beautiful brows aren’t too much to ask for, are they? We don’t think so. Which is why, alongside our best-selling products, we have Brow Bar Experts like you making our customers look amazing. From The …JOBSWORTH: £18,328 P.A.?

What is the company behind the pretentious name?

Adzuna
Private company
Industry Internet, Job search engine
Founded April 2011
Founder Doug Monro and Andrew Hunter
Headquarters LondonUnited Kingdom
Area served
Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, United Kingdom, USA
Products Jobs, Property, Cars
Services Classifieds search
Number of employees
c. 50
Website Adzuna.co.uk

Adzuna is a search engine for job advertisements. The company operates in 16 countries worldwide and the UK website aggregates job, property and car ads from several hundred sources.

Adzuna was founded in 2011 by Andrew Hunter, former head of marketing of Gumtree and VP of marketing at Qype, and Doug Monro, former MD of Gumtree and COO of Zoopla. The beta site was launched in April 2011 with £300,000 seed investment from Passion Capital and Angel Investors, followed by a public press launch in July 2011.[13][14][15] In January 2012, Adzuna announced further investment of £500,000 from Index Ventures and The Accelerator Group to expand into other verticals and countries.[16] In April 2013, Adzuna raised a further £1M from the same investors.[17] In July 2015, Adzuna raised an additional £2M from over 500 investors via a crowdfunding campaign on Crowdcube. [18]

Adzuna was named by Startups.co.uk as one of the top 20 UK startups of 2011,[19] and by V3 Magazine as one of the top ten up-and-coming UK technology startups of 2013.[20] In the same year it was also listed by Wired as one of the top 10 startups in London[21] and in 2015 was named to UK government agency Tech City’s ‘Future Fifty’ high growth startups accelerator.[22]

In January 2014, Fairfax Media announced a joint venture with Adzuna in Australia to challenge the job board market leader there, SEEK.[23]In September 2017, Adzuna announced the relaunch of improved ‘ValueMyCV’.[24]

Written by Andrew Coates

April 28, 2018 at 10:11 am

Food Bank Need Rockets as Universal Credit Hits Benefit Claimants.

with 54 comments

Food bank chart

Thanks to Who Knew.

Food bank charity gives record level of supplies.

BBC.

The biggest network of food banks in the UK says it provided record levels of “emergency food supplies” last year.

The annual figures from the Trussell Trust charity show a 13% increase, providing 1.3 million three-day food packages for “people in crisis”.

It warns the increase has been driven by those on benefits not being able to afford basic essentials.

The Department for Work and Pensions says: “The reasons why people use food banks are complex.”

A department spokeswoman, who rejected linking the increasing use of food banks with changes to benefits or to the introduction of Universal Credit, added: “It’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause.”

At this point the Mirror helpfully points this out.

Benefit delays accounted for 24% of the network’s referrals in 2017-18, with benefit changes cited in 18% of cases.

And the Trussell Trust itself says,

Between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2018, The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network distributed 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, a 13% increase on the previous year. 484,026 of these went to children. This is a higher increase than the previous financial year, when foodbank use was up by 6.64%.

For the first time, new national data highlights the growing proportion of foodbank referrals due to benefit levels not covering the costs of essentials, driving the increase in foodbank use overall. ‘Low income – benefits, not earning’ is the biggest single, and fastest growing, reason for referral to a foodbank, with ‘low income’ accounting for 28% of referrals UK-wide compared to 26% in the previous year. Analysis of trends over time demonstrates it has significantly increased since April 2016, suggesting an urgent need to look at the adequacy of current benefit levels.

Debt accounted for an increasing percentage of referrals – 9% up from 8% of referrals in the past year – and the statistics show the essential costs of housing and utility bills are increasingly driving foodbank referrals for this reason, with the proportion of referrals due to housing debt and utility bill debt increasing significantly since April 2016.

The other main primary referral reasons in 2017-18 were benefit delays (24%) and benefit changes (18%). New data about the types of benefit change driving foodbank use is clear: whilst referrals due to ‘benefit sanction’ have declined over the last year, those due to ‘reduction in benefit value’ have the fastest growth rate of all referrals made due to a benefit change, and those due to ‘moving to a different benefit’ have also grown significantly.

Universal Credit is not the only benefit people at foodbanks are experiencing issues with, but it is a significant factor in many areas. New analysis of foodbanks that have been in full UC rollout areas for a year or more shows that these projects experienced an average increase of 52% in the twelve months after the full rollout date in their area. Analysis of foodbanks either not in full UC areas, or only in full rollout areas for up to three months, showed an average increase of 13%.*

The Trust continues,

The release of the figures is accompanied by the publication of Left Behind: Is Universal Credit Truly Universal? , a new report into Universal Credit and foodbank use published today. The findings, from a survey of 284 people on UC referred to foodbanks, show the adverse impact of the initial wait, the lack of available statutory support, the inability of UC payments to cover the cost of living for people who most need it, and poor administration.

 The charity is consequently calling for benefit levels to be uprated in line with inflation to ensure payments keep pace with the cost of living, particularly for disabled people and families with dependent children who are particularly at risk of needing a foodbank, and for a requirement to be placed upon Local Authorities to deliver a true Universal Support service to everyone who starts a Universal Credit claim. It is also asking for an urgent inquiry into poor administration within Universal Credit, so errors such as incorrect payments along with poor communication issues can be tackled.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 24, 2018 at 10:38 am

Charities Providing Work and Health Programme Face Gag on Criticising Esther McVey.

with 67 comments

Image result for Esther mcVey cartoon

Esther McVey on a Good Day.

Proof that disreputable Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has a thin skin  comes today from The Disability News Service.

 

Disability charities that sign up to help deliver the government’s new Work and Health Programme must promise to “pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, official documents suggest.

The charities, and other organisations, must also promise never to do anything that harms the public’s confidence in McVey (pictured) or her Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Disability charities like RNIB, the Royal Association for Deaf People and Turning Point have agreed to act as key providers of services under the Work and Health Programme – which focuses on supporting disabled people and other disadvantaged groups into work – and so appear to be caught by the clause in the contract.

At least one of them – RNIB – has also signed contracts with one of the five main WHP contractors that contain a similar clause, which explicitly states that the charity must not “attract adverse publicity” to DWP and McVey.

The £398 million, seven-year Work and Health Programme is replacing the Work Programme and the specialist Work Choice disability employment scheme across England and Wales, with contractors paid mostly by results.

All the disability charities that have so far been contacted by Disability News Service (DNS) insist that the clause – which DWP says it has been using in such contracts since 2015 – will have no impact on their willingness to criticise DWP and work and pensions secretary Esther McVey or campaign on disability employment or benefits issues.

But the existence of the clause, and the first details to emerge of some of the charities that have agreed to work for DWP – which has been repeatedly attacked by disabled activists and academics for harassing and persecuting disabled people, and relying on a discriminatory benefit sanctions regime to try to force them into work – will raise questions about their ability and willingness to do so.

How does this work?

The contracts signed by the five organisations – the disability charity Shaw Trust, the disability employment company Remploy (now mostly owned by the discredited US company Maximus), Pluss, Reed in Partnership and Ingeus UK – all include a clause on “publicity, media and official enquiries”.

Part of that clause states that the contractor “shall pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of DWP and ensure it does nothing to bring it “into disrepute, damages the reputation of the Contracting Body or harms the confidence of the public in the Contracting Body”.

The contract defines the “Contracting Body” as the work and pensions secretary, a position currently occupied by the much-criticised Esther McVey (see separate story).

And it warns that these promises apply whether or not the damaging actions relate to the Work and Health Programme, and it says they also apply to any of the contractor’s “Affiliates”.

This suggests that none of the organisations involved in providing services under the programme – and particularly those carrying out key elements of the contracts – will ever be allowed to criticise, or damage the reputation of, DWP or McVey during the course of the contract in connection with any area of the department’s work.

There is still considerable confusion over exactly how many disability charities will be paid to work for the five main contractors.

More details follow in the article including this:

The contractual documents include the names of scores of organisations, including charities, local authorities, education providers and companies.

But some of the disability charities named – including Mencap and the National Autistic Society – made it clear this week that they have not agreed to carry out services under the Work and Health Programme, despite being named as “stakeholders” in the documents.

Other disability charities, though, have confirmed that they will be providing services under the WHP.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2018 at 10:24 am

McVey calls ‘rape clause’ an ‘opportunity’ for victims.

with 73 comments

Image result for sack esther mcvey

 

It is the opinion of many people, including this Blog, that Esther McVey is unsuited for the post of Work and Pensions Secretary.

That is putting things mildly.

Nicola Sturgeon blasts ‘out of touch’ Esther McVey over Tory rape clause claims.

Speaking after her speech at the STUC annual congress, Nicola Sturgeon said: “To me that just illustrates how out of touch Esther McVey and the Tory government are on these really sensitive issues of social security policy.

“I think most people think the rape clause is just abhorrent – the very notion of asking a woman or expecting a woman to prove she has been raped in order to access benefits for her children, no woman should even have to contemplate that, so to try to justify that by saying that it offers some benefits, I think, adds insult to injury.”

Labour said McVey’s presentation of the rape clause was “skin crawling”, the Lib Dems said it was “deluded” and the Greens said she tried to “defend the indefensible”.

As the latest scandal at her behaviour broke out she has made no public apology, no doubt finding more time for such pressing issues as this:

This is the scandal:

McVey calls ‘rape clause’ an ‘opportunity’ for victims.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has been criticised for describing the so-called “rape clause” as an opportunity for victims to get help.

The minister was giving evidence to the social security committee at Holyrood.

She told MSPs that sexual assault victims having to give DWP staff details of their ordeal was offering “potentially double support”.

The session was disrupted twice by heckling from members of the public.

Ms McVey was invited to the hearing to discuss the universal credit policy and the controversial “rape clause” changes to child tax credits.

Reforms of the welfare system, which came into force last April, mean child tax credits are now capped at two children.

A clause in the new rules means mothers who have a third child as a result of rape can be exempted – but would have to provide evidence to do so.

There has been a political row over the policy, which Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called “disgusting”.

Tory welfare chief Esther McVey heckled in furious scenes after claiming rape clause ‘supports’ women

One audience member shouted “you can’t get into work if you’re dead” as the Work and Pensions Secretary was grilled in the Scottish Parliament

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2018 at 10:11 am

New Benefits Sanctions Inquiry.

with 37 comments

Related image

With Universal Credit the Sanctions Regime will apply to people in work getting the benefits which they used to have as of right as Tax Credits

Universal Credit Sanctions

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

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

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

The Work and Pensions Committee launches an inquiry into benefit sanctions: how they operate, recent developments, and what the evidence is that they work – either to deter non-compliant behaviour or to help achieve the policy objectives of getting people off benefits and into work.

Absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions

Sanctions, which take the form of docking a portion of benefit payments for a set period of time, can be imposed for breaching benefit conditions like attending a work placement, or for being minutes late for a Job Centre appointment.

This has not received the attention it deserves.

If I were the Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions I would be shouting about the fact that people in work are now going to be affected.

Benefit sanctions inquiry launched

Media reports of the Committee’s last inquiry into benefit sanctions in 2015 Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review, described “copious evidence of claimants being docked hundreds of pounds and pitched into financial crisis for often absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions, or for administrative errors beyond their control.”

There have also been serial reports in the media of extreme instances of the use and effects of sanctions – people hospitalised for life threatening conditions or premature labour being sanctioned for weeks or months for consequently missing a benefits appointment, or being unable to afford the transport to a distant job placement and being sanctioned for failing to attend it – and speculation over the degree of discretion Job Centre Plus staff have in these instances.

Recent policy developments

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

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

In 2016 the NAO released a report on the subject; and in February 2017 the Public Accounts Committee published its report “Benefit sanctions“. The Government accepted the recommendations of that PAC report and described progress on implementation in the January 2018 Treasury Minutes Progress Report:

  • The Government initially agreed to undertake a trial of warnings for a first sanctionable offence. This recommendation has not been implemented.
  • The Government agreed to monitor variation in sanction referrals and to assess the reasons for such variation. The Department’s research on variation is due to be completed in March.
  • The Government agreed to monitor the use and take-up of protections for vulnerable groups. The Department is “still considering the best way to qualitatively assess the use and effectiveness of protections for vulnerable claimants”.
  • The Government agreed to improve data systems, including on linking information e.g. earnings and sanctions
  • The Government initially agreed to work with the rest of Government to estimate the impacts of sanctions on claimants and their wider costs to government. This recommendation has not been implemented.

Send us your views

The Committee invites evidence on any or all of the following questions, from benefit recipients with experience of the system, or experts in the field:

  1. To what extent is the current sanctions regime achieving its policy objectives?
  2. Is the current evidence base adequate and if not, what further information, data and research are required?
  3. What improvements to sanctions policy could be made to achieve its objectives better?
  4. Could a challenge period and/or a system of warnings for a first sanctionable offence be beneficial? If so, how should they be implemented?
  5. Are levels of discretion afforded to jobcentre staff appropriate?
  6. Are adequate protections in place for vulnerable claimants?
  7. What effects does sanctions policy have on other aspects of the benefits system and public services more widely? Are consequential policy changes required?
  8. To what extent have the recommendations of the Oakley review of Jobseekers’ Allowance sanctions improved the sanctions regime? Are there recommendations that have not been implemented that should be?

The deadline for written submissions is 25 May 2018.

Sanctions need to be proportional and fair

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

“Sanctions are an important part of any benefits system but they need to be applied proportionately and fairly and to account for individual circumstances.

I’ve seen deeply troubling cases in my constituency that suggest these objectives are not always being achieved. We will be reviewing the evidence to see if sanctions policy is working properly and if not, we will recommend improvements.”

 

Scope of the inquiry

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

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

Terms of reference: Benefit sanctions

Related image

Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2018 at 9:29 am

Universal Credit Misery Comes to Suffolk.

with 52 comments

Universal Credit Full Service is expected to be introduced at Ipswich Jobcentre on the 25th of April 2018.

Already people are talking about what this will mean for them.

One group seriously affected are the self-employed and others reliant on tax credits.

Friends who work for a number of jobs over the year are particularly worried as they reckon they will lose up to a couple of thousand pounds annually.

They have been good girls and boys, getting into the “gig economy” (that is, the only employment on offer for many),  doing jobs like taxi driving,  a host of other things which are now down by the ‘self-employed’ , short-term posts for particularly events.

Now they face losing cash in a big way.

Not to mention the way it will bear down on them in other ways as pictured above.

There are plenty of reports on how this will attack them in the pocket.

The TUC goes into some detail.

The complexity and hardship with which Universal Credit (UC) threatens to engulf self-employed workers is one of the underreported stories of the design of UC.

In UC, they will face in-work benefit cuts if they do not meet the ‘Minimum Income Floor’ (MIF), which requires them to earn the equivalent of 35 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage. There is no such requirement for employees.  In addition, the monthly income assessments in UC are expected to be problematic for the self-employed, as they are more likely to have unpredictable and fluctuating earnings.

The new self-employed

Self-employment has grown significantly since the recession. There are now almost an extra million self-employed workers, increasing the self–employed workforce to just under five million and 15 per cent of the total workforce.  Part time self-employment has seen the biggest expansion, rising by 55 per cent to reach around 1.5 million people.

Earnings data for the self-employed indicate that they are more likely to be on lower earnings compared to employees. The Family Resources Survey shows that median earnings for the self-employed are around 60 per cent of those of employees. The Social Market Foundation (SMF) estimates that in 2016 there were 1.7 million self-employed workers paid below the National Living Wage. This group accounts for 45 per cent of the self-employed in the UK.

The SMF also estimates that around a fifth (19 per cent) of families with an individual whose main job is self-employment are claiming in-work benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit that will be replaced by Universal Credit.

This makes the results clear.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT WILL BE A DISASTER FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED. WHO IS LISTENING?

As the table below shows, two people can earn the same amount over the course of the year yet end up with very different UC payments because one has lumpier income patterns than the other. The MIF may also be triggered when claimants have a large expense in one month, such as an investment in tools or a hefty energy bill.

And there is this:

40,000 Universal Credit claimants will see 40% of their benefits clawed back. Mirror. 8th of April.

As the Department of Work and Pensions says it has a ‘duty’ to recover outstanding overpayments, Labour claims the move will force some into debt

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants are having 40% of their benefits deducted to claw back outstanding cash owed.

Labour MP Ruth George said the move “will see more people with no option but to go into debt”.

The Department for Work and Pensions can directly collect debts from Universal Credit including for previous benefit and tax credits overpayments.

Remember!

Help is at hand from Ipswich Citizens Advice as Universal Credit roll out continues

Ipswich Citizens Advice is encouraging people to turn to them for help if they have questions about Universal Credit and how it affects them, as new government figures reveal 50 people across Ipswich are now on the benefit and with all single, non-home owning people claiming an out of work benefit being moved on to this benefit, the numbers will grow exponentially.

Since its introduction in Ipswich in November 2015, Ipswich Citizens Advice has helped people with 17 issues relating to Universal Credit. This represents almost a third of claimants.

Most enquiries to Ipswich Citizens Advice are about who is eligible for the benefit and requests for help with the application process. ‘We are keen to help people through this new benefits roadmap and particularly to help them understand the major changes that claiming this benefit will mean for them in terms of payment periods and the necessary budgeting and money management that will be needed to avoid debts building up or threatening tenancies,’ says Nelleke van Helfteren, Deputy Manager at Ipswich Citizens Advice.

Data released by the Department for Work and Pensions on 17 February shows that nearly 200,000 people are now on Universal Credit.

Universal Credit rolls six working-age benefits into one single monthly payment, supporting people who are on a low income or out of work. It is being introduced in stages across the country, in the first instance to single people who are making new  claims. It will eventually be rolled out to couples, families and people who are sick or disabled.

As new Universal Credit figures are released, Ipswich Citizens Advice is sharing its five key things you need to know about Universal Credit:

  1. Universal Credit is a new benefit for people in and out of work, which will eventually merge six benefits into one: Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. Currently you can still apply for ESA separately from Universal Credit.
  2. Universal Credit does not include Council Tax Support – you will still need to apply for this locally.
  3. You apply for Universal Credit via a single application; you’re usually expected to do this online, but you can apply over the phone or in person if you need to.
  4. Universal Credit payments are made on a monthly basis, rather than weekly or fortnightly like previous benefit.
  5. You can ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit to help you get by while you’re waiting for your first payment. This is called a ‘short term advance’.

Just to help the thieving Tories who run Suffolk County Council have cut CAB funding.

Citizens Advice charities are facing a £20,000 funding cut from Suffolk County Council for 2018-19 – an average of just over £2,000 for each of the nine charities in Suffolk.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 11, 2018 at 10:20 am

Margaret Greenwood, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions: Speaking out on Universal Credit.

with 35 comments

Image result for Margaret Greenwood defeated esther mcvey

Margaret Greenwood Defeats Esther McVey (General Election. 2015)

In  March 2018 Greenwood began acting as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after Debbie Abrahams temporarily stepped aside.

In a very nice touch, “Greenwood will be shadowing Esther McVey, the previous MP for Wirral West

Last year as Shadow for Employment Greenwood showed she grasped the depths of the problems Universal Credit was causing,

Margaret Greenwood MP, Shadow Employment and Inequalities Minister, has given a cautious welcome to changes to Universal Credit announced in the Budget today, but warned that they go nothing like far enough to help families on low income struggling to pay bills, with inflation overall at nearly 3% and food prices rising at the highest rate for 4 years.

Margaret Greenwood MP said:

“Just a few weeks ago, the government was defeated in the House of Commons over their plans for Universal Credit.

“After strong pressure by Labour and a long list of voluntary organisations, it’s welcome that the government is at last listening to the widespread concern about the problems with Universal Credit.

“However, the changes announced today don’t go anything like far enough to fix it and they will not even start until the New Year, leaving tens of thousands of families with children facing a bleak Christmas.

“Food prices are rising at their highest rate for 4 years and the Trussell Trust recently reported that foodbanks in areas where the full service of UC has been rolled out have seen a 30% increase in requests for help in the first six months compared to last year.

“7 million households are expected to be claiming Universal Credit by 2022.

“The Chancellor failed again to reverse cuts to work incentives in Universal Credit which were meant to ensure that work always pays as people enter employment.

“The full service of Universal Credit is being introduced in Wirral this month and I will be keeping up the pressure on the government to try to ensure that people are not pushed into poverty by a benefit supposed to prevent it.”

23 Nov 2017

At the end of December she said,

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

Fri 29 Dec 2017  Councils forced to fund emergency help for universal credit claimants

And (Morning Star)

COUNCILS are having to use their own cash to fix the damage caused by the introduction of universal credit (UC), Labour’s shadow employment minister Margaret Greenwood charged yesterday.

She said that local authorities are diverting funds to plug gaps in the government’s flagship benefit reform scheme.

Measures taken by councils include providing funds for tenants in rent arrears, hiring extra staff, as well as working with foodbanks and Citizens Advice to “offset the impact” of UC, according to responses to Freedom of Information requests submitted by the party.

Ms Greenwood says in a statement published today: “UC has been causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces.

“It’s clear councils are committing their own valuable resources from already stretched budgets to offset the impact of UC and to prepare for the damage its roll-out could cause.

“This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll-out of UC so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Some authorities are having to spend sums over and above the usual discretionary housing payments provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), according to Ms Greenwood.

The London borough of Tower Hamlets has set aside £5 million over three years to help those affected by UC.

Gateshead Housing Company, which manages Gateshead Council’s housing stock, is planning to spend an estimated £90,000 in 2017/18 and £270,000 in 2018/19 on extra staff to support UC claimants and help prevent rent arrears, Labour said.

And Newcastle City Council is spending nearly £400,000 of its own cash to support UC claimants, with non-collection of rent as a result of the new scheme, in which all benefit payments are rolled into one lump sum, is more than £1.2 million from among its 27,000 tenants.

Claimants who fall under the new scheme now receive housing benefit in their bank accounts rather than the amount being paid directly to landlords as previously.

A DWP spokesman said: “Councils have been providing welfare advice and housing payment top-ups as standard since long before the introduction of universal credit.

“Universal credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes.

“It provides additional tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.

“The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money, but advances are available for anyone who needs extra help and arrangements can be made to pay rent direct to landlords if needed.”

So far we have this.

But we hope that Greenwood keeps up her work and goes for the jugular on Universal Credit.

Discretionary Welfare Payments being “Hacked Away” by Tory Attack on the Most Vulnerable.

with 16 comments

 

Image result for esther mcvey

Why Not Forget Benefit  Troubles During This Enticing Evening? 

The history of the discretionary social fund is one of those unglamourous topics few tackle unless they have to.

But essentially it replaced a system in which people in dire need – on benefits – could get money for emergencies, and essentials like bedding or clothing when they had no resources.

It is the ultimate safety net against absolute destitution.

In 2012 the system that was set up abolished the  “discretionary social fund”, already tilting towards ‘loans’ rather than grants.

This is the skinflint replacement.

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 provides for the abolition of the discretionary social fund – ie, crisis loans, community care grants and budgeting loans.1 Crisis loans and community care grants are abolished from 1 April 2013. No applications can be made after that date but applications made before 1 April must be determined and can result in a payment after 1 April.2 Budgeting loans can still be applied for by claimants in receipt of income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance and income-related employment and support allowance until they are transferred onto universal credit (UC). Budgeting loans will also remain available to pension credit claimants for the time being.3 Claimants in receipt of UC will be eligible to apply for a ‘budgeting advance’ (see below).

In essence, there will be two main sources of provision in place of the social fund:

  • The first is ‘payments on account of benefit’ from the DWP. These are ‘short-term advances’ (loans) to benefit claimants in financial need waiting for an initial payment or an increase in their entitlement. Payments on account in the form of ‘budgeting advances’ will also be available to claimants in receipt of universal credit as a replacement for SF budgeting loans.
  • The second is local welfare provision provided by LAs and the devolved administrations.

Child Poverty Action Group.

This already tight-fisted system – one can imagine what “local provision” is like under professional haters of the poor, Tory local government – is now under threat.

It is no coincidence that Frank Field, a man, who for all his faults, has kept in touch with own past in the Child Poverty Action Group (Before his election in 1979 he ran the Child Poverty Action Group, and was director of the UK’s Low Pay Unit) takes a keen interest.

DISCRETIONARY WELFARE BEING ‘HACKED AWAY’ AS £300 MILLION AXED FROM MAJOR BENEFIT FUNDS.

Care Appointments.

Discretionary welfare payments are being “hacked away”, a senior MP has claimed, after new figures showed more than £300 million has been axed from two major benefits funds.

Fresh analysis shows the scale of cutbacks to the discretionary social fund and flexible support fund, which can be awarded to poor claimants for a wide range of issues.

Ministers have confirmed that £419.5 million will be made available through the discretionary social fund next year, compared to £679.7 million given out in 2010/11.

Money awarded through the flexible support fund, meanwhile, has fallen from £115 million in 2012/13 to £51 million in 2016/17.

The Department for Work and Pensions says it spends around £90 billion on working age welfare and the changes were part of wider welfare reform “which is restoring fairness to the system”.

Labour MP Frank Field, a former welfare minister and now chairman of the Work and Pensions select committee, said: “Once, we had a universal safety net protecting everybody from destitution.

“Then we moved to discretionary payments which might prevent destitution. Now, that even more crucial safety net is being hacked away.”

The discretionary social fund is made up of interest-free loans.

Budgeting loans are available to claimants of certain benefits to help them cope with the purchase of major items or services, such as paying to get fuel reconnected or replacing a broken freezer.

In real terms, the amount awarded for budgeting loans fell from £495 million in 2010/11 to £411.5 million in 2016/17, according to figures released to Parliament.

Crisis loans, to cover payments associated with serious risks, were also part of the discretionary fund but were abolished in 2013.

The discretionary social fund has now been devolved to local authorities, which DWP says has allowed greater choice over how money is used to meet the needs of local people.

The flexible support fund is a separate pot of money designed to give Jobcentre advisers greater flexibility to award money to help claimants back into work.

Examples include travel expenses, training courses and clothing for interviews.

Figures uncovered by Labour former shadow cabinet minister Lucy Powell show spending on the fund has fallen every year since 2012/13.

The scheme was given a huge boost in its budget in 2014/15 in order to meet travel and childcare costs to facilitate additional support for claimants.

However, DWP says there was a lack of demand and that year the scheme underspent by £87.3 million against its budget.

“Funding from the flexible support fund can be a lifeline to some people, making the difference between a job and remaining out of work,” said Ms Powell.

“With many people still unemployed, entrenched worklessness in some areas, and higher costs for some groups to get back into the labour market, the fund is an important tool to break the cycle of joblessness and provide extra support to help people get a job and keep it.

“It’s worrying then that the total budget for the fund has more than halved in recent years.

“If ministers really want to shift the dial on unemployment, they’ll ensure that there is adequate support for all those who need it.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We’re committed to providing support for people who need it and spend around £90 billion a year on working-age welfare, an amount that will continue to rise.

“Changes to discretionary benefits are part of our wider welfare reform which is restoring fairness to the system, supporting those who can into work and helping those who can’t.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 4, 2018 at 3:07 pm

As McVey Tells Young People to “take Saturday Jobs” as “Bureaucratic and Cumbersome” Benefits System is Condemned Again

with 45 comments

 

Image result for mcvey esther

Esther McVey and some Saturday Shoes.

Teenagers should take Saturday jobs to prepare for future employment, says work and pensions secretary Esther McVey

‘It’s about people understanding what a boss wants and what you want out of a job.

Ms McVey told The Daily Telegraph: “Let’s not put ourselves down, we’ve got a very hard working nation, we’ve now got record numbers of people in employment and nine out of 10 are UK nationals doing those jobs, that has increased significantly.

“But what we’ve got to make sure we do for business leaders is to say we’ve got to support you, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right people you want to employ going into your business.

“What you’ve seen from the 1980s, particularly in this country, is far fewer people doing Saturday jobs and doing jobs after school.

“It’s about people understanding what a boss wants and what you want out of a job and I think we’ve come a long way in supporting people in that and that’s why you’ve seen more people getting employed and more British people getting employment.”

Ms McVey indicated the means-testing of universal pensioner benefits is still on agenda, according to the newspaper.

Ms McVey said she worked in her family’s business and a bistro when she was still in education.

“From 2000 to 2006, McVey was a director of her family’s Liverpool-based construction business J. G. McVey & Co. (run by her father)[6] which specialised in demolition and site clearance,[7] land reclamation and regeneration. In 2003, the firm received two immediate prohibition safety notices with which the company complied.”

Meanwhile….(as anybody knows, this,

comes up every time you use the computers here –  Ipswich Library could tell a few tales…)

Britain’s ‘bureaucratic and cumbersome benefits system helps nobody’

Welfare Weekly.

MS nurses say they are under increasing pressure to help their patients navigate the benefits system.

MS nurses have hit out at Britain’s “bureaucratic and cumbersome benefits system”, as they increasingly find themselves having to support MS sufferers in their benefits claims.

A survey of more than 100 Multiple Sclerosis nurses reveals they are under extreme pressure to help their patients navigate the social security system, with 90% saying they have provided supporting evidence for benefits applications.

The findings also show that 58% worked outside of working hours to provide this evidence, 75% said providing evidence increased their workload either a moderate amount or a lot, and 83% said their patients asked for help with filling in benefits applications.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 31, 2018 at 11:03 am

DWP Lies about Universal Credit (Part 591) : Official.

with 58 comments

Image result for universal credit lies

Spot the lies!

Google “DWP and Lies” and the list you get is a long one.

Type in Universal Credit…

In 2017 there is:

Civil Service World.

The Department for Work and Pensions has been accused of inaccurately using research from the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies to justify the projected employment boost from the flagship Universal Credit benefit reform.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee today released emails from IFS director Paul Johnson stating that the think-tank could not support the DWP’s assessment that Universal Credit, which will merge six benefit payments into one, would result in 250,000 more people in employment.

However, the DWP said the committee’s statements were misleading and  that the committee had not taken up an offer to receive a list of published academic literature which supports the department’s estimates.

Dear Kitty Blogs on the story in the context of long-standing DWP porkies, fake testimonies from fake characters, malarky and skullduggery,  including, “only this month that the UK statistics watchdog censured the DWP for “understating the scale” of its sanctions regime”.

The DWP are being Conservative with the truth, yet again

This is the merry tale of the moment.

DWP’s ‘clumsy and ill-judged attempt to piggyback’ on IFS.

26 March 2018

A central part of the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) case for the benefit of Universal Credit (UC) is their assertion of its effect on employment. In to a request for an estimate of the magnitude of that effect, DWP stated it has “determined” that UC will result in 250,000 more people in employment once it is fully implemented

How the Department arrived at these figures

In a follow up letter to Employment Minister Alok Sharma (PDF PDF 1.38 MB)Opens in a new window the Chair asked a set of specific questions about how the Department had arrived at each of the stated constituent parts of that figure:

  • 150,000 more due to “increased financial incentives to work”
  • 50,000 more due to “increased conditionality”
  • 60,000 due to “simplification of the benefit system”

The Department’s response (PDF PDF 800 KB)Opens in a new window did not answer any of the Chair’s specific questions, although it did supply an account of academic research papers that have informed the Department’s work on UC, and restated the principles underlying those three ostensible benefits of the reform.

DWP concluded by stating: “The approach to our analysis underpinning these estimates was reviewed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.”

Accordingly, the Committee wrote to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) (PDF PDF 141 KB)Opens in a new window asking if, in that review, it had found those three estimates reasonable, and what the margin of statistical error might be on the numbers.

The IFS’ reply (PDF PDF 197 KB)Opens in a new window starts out “clarifying the role we had in reviewing DWP’s approach” in coming up with the numbers:

“Note that at no stage did we review their approach to estimating the impact of increased conditionality or simplification, to which they attribute 50,000 and 60,000 respectively of the overall 250,000 forecast effect on employment”.

The employment impact of Universal Credit is highly uncertain

The IFS goes on: “Neil Couling’s letter to Baroness Hollis on 16 November states that the 250,000 figure is based on the same methodology we reviewed in 2012. For the reasons given above, that can only be true of the element (150,000) which is a result of changes to financial incentives. And we are not in a position to confirm whether and to what extent DWP took on board our comments and implemented our recommended improvements before applying the methodology….”

“The employment impact of UC is highly uncertain. The move to UC involves a number of changes for which it is hard to find comparable precedents (especially UK precedents)” — casting doubt on DWP’s use of academic evidence to substantiate its estimates — “It is not even possible to produce statistical margins of error for estimates of the employment impact, as the nature of the uncertainty is not conducive to standard statistical analysis…”

“Sadly, it will be difficult even after the event to produce convincing estimates of the overall employment impact of UC. The early impact estimates that DWP have published – cited in the Minister’s letter of 12 March – apply only to a small group of claimants who are not affected by UC in the same way as most other claimants […]” and;

“We emphasise that the overall employment impact of UC will conceal very different effects for different groups in the population, with employment rates likely to rise for some and fall for others.”

The last point contradicts what DWP have previously told the Committee when asked about the impact on other groups:

“We remain committed to producing robust comparative analysis of the employment impacts of Universal Credit. As we informed the Committee we are planning to expand the analysis for single cases in the Live Service to couples and families in both services.

This analysis will estimate a labout market impact for these broader claimant groups. In this instance it is misleading to draw a distinction between two services. The underlying policy for both is the same so any comparative analysis will hold true for both systems”.

Lack of evidence

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

“The ongoing lack of evidence to back up the much-vaunted employment impact of Universal Credit was already extremely disappointing. But to have our specific queries about basis of this claim answered with airy, irrelevant and, it appears, plainly inaccurate assertions adds insult to injury.

The IFS’ letter shows that Old Mother Hubbard hasn’t got much in the cupboard, despite the bragging of the Department. This clumsy and ill-judged attempt to piggyback on one of the most trusted, unimpugnable authorities on public policy and finance would be farcical if it was not so deeply worrying.”

In the interests of fairness this is the DWP’s reply,

 DWP spokeswoman told Civil Service World the committee’s claims were “false and misleading”, and highlighted that the IFS review of the 150,000 estimate for the number of people that would move into work found it to be reasonable, adding that the IFS had not questioned the DWP’s claim that simplifying the system and bringing more people into conditionality would have an even greater impact, which the department said represented “mainstream labour market theory”.

She added: “Research already shows that through Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system. And we have said we can supply further information that supports our estimate that 250,000 more people will be in employment once UC is fully rolled out.”

Written by Andrew Coates

March 27, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Work and Health Programme Looms with more ‘Schemes’.

with 44 comments

First Thing to Learn: Never Trust a Dummy’s  Guide to a Work Programme.

Material about this latest scheme has begun appearing in local Job Centres.

The Work and Health Programme helps you find and keep a job if you’re out of work.

It’s voluntary – unless you’ve been out of work and claiming unemployment benefits for 24 months.

There follows this little list of eligibility – which does not mean, of course that you are not going to be “eligibalised” regardless if you’ve been on the dole for more than 24 months.

The Shaw Trust, the people offering this scheme in this region, are in partnership with the ominous looking lot   Realise Futures
Realise Futures, CPA 5, Suffolk.

The various bodies put this little list on their pages.

“The Work and health programme is different from other employment programmes because it recognises that everyone:

  • Is different
  • Has their own set of challenges
  • Has their own individual reasons for being out of work
  • Will have a different path to finding a job

It is not a “one-size” fits all approach.

That is why it works.”

So, the Shaw Trust has a “partner” (that is they cream off DWP money and get others to do the delivery):

8th of March 2018. Realise Futures wins contract to deliver Work and Health Programme in Suffolk”

Who are Realise Futures?  you may well ask.

“Realise Futures, which was spun out of Suffolk County Council as a community interest company a year ago, provides advice, training, skills development and paid employment for people who are disabled or disadvantaged.” (EADT. 2013).

In other words it’s a profit making body for ‘social’ ends, that replaced a public service owned and run by an elected council.

Anybody able to find out how much the Directors make at Realise Futures?

There is this, less than glowing report about conditions for those working there:

I  loved the teaching role, and the development of the learners and watching the achieve their goals was a great experience.

However, as the role was zero hours contract, and paid for only the teaching hours, the weekly teaching was approximately 14 hours, and the paperwork approximately 25 hours, with 14 weeks no teaching, this was not a feasible way to earn a living.

No doubt some people may get something out this programme.

But not everybody want to have to do yet another “scheme”.

By running a wide range of subjects and courses as well as working together with local and voluntary groups, we aim to achieve:

 Healthy lives

 Progression to further learning

 Employability

 Positive social and individual relationships

 Active engagement in the community – including volunteering

 Capacity building in the community

Written by Andrew Coates

March 23, 2018 at 5:23 pm

Food Bank Use Set To Soar with Universal Credit.

with 49 comments

Image result for Food banks supermarkets

Charity Replacing Rights.

Like many people I have mixed feelings about Food Banks.

If I had no money and I really needed to eat I would use them.

But I do not like the idea of charity help replacing welfare rights.

The involvement of supermarkets, like Asda, and the toffs’ shop Waitrose, as the hungry claimants’ new best friends.

Asda, The Trussell Trust and Fareshare launch £20 million partnership to help a million people out of food poverty.

Tesco, Food Collection

The Food Collection is part of our ongoing effort to encourage customers to donate long-life food to charity. The December 2016 collection contributed 3.4 million meals to people in need. Since we ran our first collection in 2012, we have collected over 46 million meals.

 You can’t thinking that the glow of satisfaction donors would be better directed at ending the system which makes people queue up and beg for some grub.
Be that as it may this looks like happening.

Food bank use ‘could rise after universal credit roll-out.

BBC Today.

The full roll out of universal credit could see a significant rise in people needing emergency food supplies in Wales, the Trussell Trust has warned.

Director Tony Graham said food banks in Wales were already preparing for more people needing help as the new benefits system is rolled out.

The new system replaces six benefits including housing benefit, unemployment benefits and tax credits.

The DWP said it will help to improve people’s lives.

But some claimants who are on universal credit claim long delays in receiving benefits or changes to the money they receive has left them in poverty.

Mr Graham said: “We have seen a 30% increase in food bank usage in areas of universal credit roll-out in England, so we would expect similar sorts of averages to happen here in Wales when universal credit is fully rolled out.”

The new system has been fully rolled out in Torfaen and Flintshire, and the rollout has begun in some other Welsh counties including Cardiff.

Wales’ first Trussell Trust food bank was set up at Festival Church in Ebbw Vale 10 years ago this week.

In its first year, it gave out 76 three-day emergency food supplies but the network has since grown to include 37 food banks and 110 distribution centres across Wales.

Last year, 95,190 three-day supplies were given out to families in crisis across Wales.

They summarise:

  • The Trussell Trust says the majority of people need emergency food because of changes or delays to benefit payments, but low wages and rising living costs means many working people also cannot manage
  • All food is donated by churches, supermarkets and local people
  • Increasingly, food banks are receiving donations of other items, including toiletries, washing powder and pet food
  • People in crisis are referred to a food bank by services including charities, social services and GPs
  • Supplies can be tailored to individual circumstances, including giving kettle bags – with items such as Pot Noodles – to people who do not have access to cooking facilities other than a kettle.

Background.

Trussell Trust. 

Putting food on the table: the human right to eat in the fifth richest country in the world

On World Social Justice Day, Elliot Marcus, law graduate and human rights advocate, explains why the Government must uphold the right to food

Call for urgent cut to six-week Universal Credit wait as foodbank demand soars across the UK.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 20, 2018 at 10:24 am

Ian Duncan Smith – Yes, Ian Duncan Smith – Calls for Reversing Universal Credit Cuts.

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Image result for ian duncan smith cartoon we're getting people off benefits

IDS: A Sinner Repents.

There is no doubt rejoicing in heaven at Ian Duncan Smith’s call.

But for those with a less than angelic disposition will remember this before reading today’s reports:

I, Daniel Blake: Iain Duncan Smith slams Ken Loach’s benefits sanctions film.

Mr Duncan Smith presided over £15bn of cuts to the benefits system in the five years after 2010.

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Duncan Smith said: “I did think that whilst on the one level this was a human story full of pathos and difficulty, and I’m not saying  for one moment there aren’t serious difficulties and issues when you’re under pressure, when things like this happen … the film has taken the very worst of anything that can ever happen to anybody and lumped it all together and then said this is life absolutely as it is lived by people, and I don’t believe that.”

There were £15bn of cuts to the welfare budget over the five years between 2010 and 2015, during which time Mr Duncan Smith was Work and Pensions Secretary. He eventually quit over further cuts to the Universal Credit system he helped design.

Reverse universal credit cuts, Iain Duncan Smith tells chancellor

Guardian.

The former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has warned the chancellor that he risks undermining the whole purpose of welfare reform if he fails to reverse cuts to universal credit (UC) in his spring statement.

Philip Hammond is under mounting pressure from across the party to use better than expected tax revenues to reverse cuts made after the 2015 election. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that 340,000 people could be taken out of poverty by reversing the cuts to work allowances.

I think he’s under a lot of pressure. There are a lot of colleagues around who would like to see the money restored to UC as a step in the right direction,” said Duncan Smith. “Hammond has got more money to spend. But will he? He says no … The answer to that is, we’ll see.”

UC, which rolls six major working-age benefits – including job seeker’s allowance, tax credit and housing benefit – into one monthly payment, has been beset with problems. It is years behind schedule and there have been four different secretaries of state since Duncan Smith resigned in 2016, protesting about cuts to disability benefits – saying they were a “compromise too far” that made the cuts look political rather than economic.

These four Universal Credit changes spell bad news for families

Birmingham Live.

The four key benefit cuts coming in to force on April 9 are:

– Year three of the four-year cash freeze in working age benefits, affecting almost 11 million families.

– The 3% real terms cut in working age benefits this year is set to be by far the biggest of the four-year benefit freeze.

– A two child limit for benefit claims , costing up to £2,780 for a family having a third child. This will affect 150,000 families.

– Withdrawal of the family element of support for new tax credit and universal credit claims from families with children , costing up to £545 and affecting 400,000 families.

The rollout of Universal Credit , saving £200m this year due to lower entitlements than the existing benefit system for long term sick and working families in particular.

Before we feel warm and shed a little tear of sympathy for Ian Duncan Smith…

Not fit for work: All the times Iain Duncan Smith has got it badly wrong.

This week two heavily critical reports were published on Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit programme, joining a long list of damning critiques of his time as work and pension secretary. As a result, now seems as good a time as any to take a closer at his record and all the times he has got it badly wrong.

Claim: In 2012 IDS boasted that the roll out of Universal Credit would improve the lives of millions of claimants by “incentivising work and making work pay.”

Reality: A report published yesterday by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says that although the policy would encourage some people into work this was’t the case for everyone. In fact some groups, like single parents, will have even less of an incentive to work under Universal Credit than under the old system. Crucially it also suggested the changes would leave working families worse off on average, with their research suggesting 2.1 million families will face an average loss of £1,600 a year.

Claim: The Bedroom Tax would help tackle the housing shortage

One of Duncan Smith’s key defences of the Bedroom Tax was that it would help free up social housing for those who most need it. The idea being that rather than take a cut in housing benefit for having a spare room, people would move out of their properties and into smaller accommodation, thereby freeing it up for larger families.

Reality: A shortage of smaller properties meant that the overwhelming majority of people affected by the bedroom tax stayed put. A recent government study into the impact of the changes found that 76% of those affected have been forced to cut back on food, with thousands more claimants being driven into taking on payday loans. Only a small fraction of those affected moved into alternative accommodation.

Claim: Face-to-face assessments of disability benefit claimants would mean payments would only go to those who most need them

Reality: Many people with serious disabilities and even life-threatening conditions have been judged as fit-for-work under the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) scheme. In 2013 Linda Wootton died in hospital just nine days after the government stopped her benefits and ordered her to go back to work. Amid growing criticism of the assessments, in March 2014, it was confirmed that ATOS, the private company contracted to carry out the assessments, were to end their contract with the government a year early.

Claim: Personal Independence Payments would “better reflect today’s understanding of disability” than the Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Reality: The switchover from DLA to PIP was a disaster with thousands of people waiting months for their applications to be assessed. This was made even worse by the introduction of a new step in the appeals process. The Mandatory Reconsideration stage resulted in many of those who had already waited long periods for a decision to be made being left waiting even longer to have the opportunity to challenge .

And so it goes….

Role in Universal Credit as  Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

He also announced a far more radical series of reforms intended to simplify the benefits and tax credits scheme into a single payment to be known as Universal Credit. A major aim of welfare reform was to ensure that low earners would always be better off in employment. “After years of piecemeal reform the current welfare system is complex and unfair,” said Duncan Smith, citing examples of people under the existing system that would see very little incremental income from increasing their working hours due to withdrawal of other benefits.[30] Outlining the scheme in more detail in November 2010, Duncan Smith promised “targeted work activity for those who need to get used to the habits of work” and sanctions, including the possible removal of benefits for up to three years for those who refused to work. He said welfare reform would benefit all those who “play by the rules” and ensure “work always pays more” by easing the rate at which benefits are withdrawn as income rises.[31]

The next phase of welfare reform announced by Duncan Smith in late 2011 required benefits claimants with part-time incomes below a certain threshold to search for additional work or risk losing access to their benefits. “We are already requiring people on out of work benefits to do more to prepare for and look for work,” he said. “Now we are looking to change the rules for those who are in-work and claiming benefits, so that once they have overcome their barriers and got into work, in time they can reduce their dependency or come off benefits altogether.”[32] He said that benefits were not a route out of child poverty but hundreds of thousands of children could be lifted out of child poverty if one of their parents were to work at least a 35-hour week at the national minimum wage.[33]

He also argued that a proposed £26,000-a-year benefits cap, would not lead to a rise in homelessness or child poverty “The reality is that with £26,000 a year, it’s very difficult to believe that families will be plunged into poverty – children or adults,” he told BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme. “Capping at average earnings of £35,000 before tax and £26,000 after, actually means that we are going to work with families make sure that they will find a way out.”[34] but added there would need to be “discretionary measures”.[34] Duncan Smith led the governments legislation in the House of Commons in January 2013 to cap most benefit increases at 1%, a real terms cut.[35]

On 1 April 2013, Duncan Smith said he could live on £53 per week as Work and Pensions Secretary, after a benefits claimant told the BBC he had £53 per week after housing costs.[36]

In September 2013, Duncan Smith’s department cancelled a week of “celebrations” to mark the impact of enhanced benefit sanctions. Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) commented: “It is distasteful in the extreme and grossly offensive that the DWP would even consider talking about celebrating cutting people’s benefits.”[37] In the same month, Duncan Smith’s department was subject to an “excoriating” National Audit Office report. The department he runs was accused of having “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance; a fortress mentality, a “good news” reporting culture, a lack of transparency, inadequate financial control, and ineffective oversight” as well as wasting 34 million pounds on inadequate computer systems.[38]

The Department for Work and Pensions had said that 1 million people would be placed on the new Universal Credit benefits system by April 2014, yet by October 2014 only 15,000 were assigned to UC. Duncan Smith said that a final delivery date would not be set for this, declaring “Arbitrary dates and deadlines are the enemy of secure delivery.”[39] In 2014, it was revealed that his department was employing debt collectors to retrieve overpaid benefits, the overpayment purely down to calculation mistakes by HMRC.[

Written by Andrew Coates

March 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

Key Benefit Cuts this Year. End the Benefit Freeze!

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Image result for benefit freeze

 

The Labour Party has been criticised for not campaigning for an end to the Benefit Freeze.

This is the last time it came up, on the 25th of August 2017, “Jeremy Corbyn will today call on the Government to end the benefits freeze – despite failing to contain a similar pledge in Labour’s election manifesto.” (Politics Home).

The Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Debbie Abrahams, has said nothing recently on this burning issue – at least that can be tracked down.

She has however retweeted the following article:

Anybody  worried about fuel bills after the hard winter, and the fact that everytime you go to the supermarket some price seems to go up, not to mention the next round of Council Tax demands (payable up to 20% of the total in some councils even for even those on benefits), would want an answer, beginning with calls to end the benefit freeze.

Today (as in the above Tweet) the Observer publishes a long article, Millions of families on brink face deepest benefit cuts in years by 

He highlights that this is far from a minority concern.

There are four key benefit cuts this year. Working-age benefits will be frozen for a third year, saving £1.9bn and affecting almost 11 million families. The 3% real-terms cut in working-age benefits this year will be by far the biggest of the freeze, set to last four years.

A measure limiting benefit claims to a family’s first two children, costing up to £2,780 for a family having a third child, saves £400m this year and affects 150,000 families.

The withdrawal of the family element of support for new tax credit and universal credit claims from families with children will cost families up to £545. It saves the public purse £200m this year and will affect 400,000 families.

Finally, the rollout of the controversial universal credit system, which combines several benefits into one payment, saves £200m because some claimants have lower entitlements compared with the existing system, especially the long-term sick and working families.

This is particularly striking,

New research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the decision to press ahead and freeze most working-age benefits and tax credits this year would see a couple with two children left £380 worse off compared with a scenario in which their universal credit claim had increased in line with prices.

Savage says this,

Labour is planning to embarrass the government and Tory MPs on Tuesday by forcing them to have a vote on controversial changes that are set to leave some poor families without free school meals for their children or free childcare.

What we need is an end to the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

March 11, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Esther McVey Forced to Reveal Secret – Damming – Universal Credit Reviews.

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Image result for Esther mcVey

McVey Forced to Reveal Secret Universal Credit Reports.

Thanks to Whoknew for flagging this up.

Like the Liverpool Echo angle…

Tory benefits minister Esther McVey forced into embarrassing U-turn over Universal Credit

The Merseyside-born MP wanted to keep secret policy reviews from the public

Universal credit: Government to publish internal reviews of controversial benefit in new U-turn.

Tory cabinet minister Esther McVey has been forced to make an embarrassing U-turn over Universal Credit and release secret reviews of the controversial benefits shake-up.

The Work and Pensions Secretary announced today she will yield in a two-year battle keep the Project Assessment Reviews’ from the public.

Mirror Online’s political reporter Dan Bloom reports the decision comes just weeks after Ms McVey refused to publish the documents and was due to face challenges at a tribunal.

The contentious reviews chart the progress of the Tories’ massive benefits shake-up between 2012 and 2015 – and they don’t bode well for Universal Credit.

Mirror Online reports that of 10 reviews completed, not a single one gave Universal Credit a “green” rating – meaning a clean bill of health.

Independent.

Assessments failed to produce evidence that more people would be helped into work, say MPs who viewed them.

Internal reviews of universal credit, which expose holes in the case for the controversial new benefit according to MPs, will be published in a government U-turn.

Ministers have abandoned attempts to keep the assessments under wraps after being forced to release them to a Commons committee and after criticism by the independent Information Commissioner.

Esther McVey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, conceded there was “no point in continuing to argue” for restricted access to the documents, after the committee issued a report on them.

….

Ms McVey said the committee had agreed “the historic issues” have now been addressed and “substantial achievements have been delivered since 2013”.

They commended the department for running the universal credit programme “more professionally and efficiently with a collective sense of purpose”, she said.

And she insisted the decision to release the assessments to the public was “exceptional”, with future reports still to be “treated as confidential”.

Last year, Conservative MPs forced extra help for universal credit claimants, after joining with opposition parties in pleading for an urgent rethink.

The Government agreed to slash the wait for a first payment from six weeks to five, although the revolt had demanded a cut to four weeks.

However, cuts to the “work allowance” – the amount of earnings kept before claimants lose benefits – has swiped more than £1,200 a year from many families.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 8, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Protests, “No More Death on our Streets” as “Open Season” on Street People Grows.

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Background:

Homeless charities slam ‘open season’ on street people

 Guardian.

Police and vigilantes are seeking to ‘other’ people on the street, says chief executive of Crisis.

Charities have expressed concern about an “open season” on homeless people following tough language by police and political figures and vigilante threats to “fake homeless”.

Those working on the frontline suggested that rough sleepers and others might be facing a cold climate in a broader sense even as a major operation swung into action to shelter homeless people amid heavy snow and falling temperatures.

At least one homeless man has died during the freezing weather: he was found dead on Tuesday in his tent in the snow in Retford, Nottinghamshire.

Police in Cambridgeshire claimed last week that every single “homeless” beggar in Ely was making “substantial amounts of money” and that the city had no genuine rough sleepers.

In Ipswich, by contrast, there a number of initiatives to help homeless people.

Anyone with concerns about someone sleeping rough can make a report to StreetLink, which will be sent to street outreach teams.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 4, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Cuts, DWP, Esther McVey, Food Banks

Tagged with , ,

Universal Credit, the Revolt Continues….

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Some Public Day of Action Activities May be Postponed Because of Bad Weather but  Protests will continue as….

How a terminally ill man is leading the fight against inhumane universal credit 

Next month, a terminally ill man is set to take on the government – and with it, the disastrous universal credit (UC) policy. Known only as TP, a 52-year-old ex-City worker – who has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the lymph node condition Castleman disease – is launching a landmark challenge at the high court after becoming financially worse off under the new benefit system.

This couldn’t come sooner. In October, I warned of the hidden cut within UC for disabled people: thanks to the abolition of both the severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP). As a result, according to the disability charity Scope, the move to UC will see claimants lose as much as £395 a month. The outcome of the legal challenge could have widespread ramifications for 230,000 disabled people who it is estimated will be hit by the removal of disability premiums under UC.

Launching a multibillion pound benefit system only to remove vital income from some of the poorest people in the country is a particularly warped use of public money – and a move that exemplifies just how low the Conservatives are willing to sink in their rush to gut Britain’s safety net. The campaign group, Disabled People against Cuts, is launching a national protest in response on 1 March. As UC is hailed as the biggest reform to the welfare state since Beveridge, there’s a very real risk that its greatest achievement will be making more disabled people hungry and housebound. Led by one terminally ill man, the time has come to fight it.

Benefit delays leave hundreds of thousands penniless and reliant on foodbanks

Welfare Weekly,  Steven Preece

DWP failed to meet its own target of processing new benefit claims within ten days on 214,000 occasions last year, new figures show.

Delays in processing new benefit claims are leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable adults and children without money for long periods of time and dependent on foodbanks to stave off hunger, damning figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal.

Minister of State for Employment Alok Sharma confirmed in a written Commons answer that the DWP failed to achieve its own target of processing new claims within ten days on 214,000 occasions last year.

This is equivalent to more than 1 in 10 claims, leaving some of the poorest in society struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table.

The same figures also reveal how more than 970,000 claims took longer than a week to be processed.

The article follows this report on the ‘I’ yesterday,

Foodbank use driven by benefit delays

“How else can those people put food on the table and keep their homes warm, let alone apply for jobs, if it takes weeks and weeks to register their claim and establish an income?”

According to Mr Sharma’s answer, 110,180 Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants and 103,650 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants waited more than two weeks for their applications to be assessed.

A total of 671,250 JSA claimants and 302,900 ESA claimants waited more than a week for news of their applications.

The DWP does not have information about the number of claimants receiving emergency advances to tide them over.

Around one-quarter of people who use foodbanks say they are visiting because of delays receiving their benefit payments, according to the Trussell Trust, which co-ordinates the national network of foodbanks.

‘Cash advances available’ Mr Field said he was contacted last week by a mother with a one-year-old child who had been left with “7p to my name” as a result of her benefit claim being delayed. A DWP spokeswoman said: “We strongly believe people should be able to access support when they need it and the vast majority of JSA and ESA claims are processed within 10 working days. “Anyone who needs financial support during that time can apply for an advance on their first payment, or should speak to their jobcentre ..

Day of Action. Update.

We are sorry to announce that due to the bad weather forecast for London this week, and the associated travel difficulties this will bring, we have taken the decision to CANCEL the planned action this Thursday 1st March at the Houses of Parliament.

All of the online actions planned for 1st March will continue as planned

We leave decisions about local actions to the local groups and urge organisers to update us with any decisions (to proceed or to cancel) as soon as possible so we can get the word out.

Check DPAC for more information.  Updates on local actions against UC

And more reasons to Revolt!

Written by Andrew Coates

February 27, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Compulsory Employment “Schemes” for Jobseeker’s Claiming Council Tax Support.

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Image result for workfare

Is Workfare For Council Tax Support part of the new Austerity Agenda?

Council Tax support is falling apart.

This affects people on Job Seeker’s Allowance, and now, Universal Credit,.

Hard.

You can expect a great deal of thieving from Tory Councils.

Barnet led the way:

Everyone of working age has to pay a minimum contribution of 20% from 01 April 2015 (the contribution for the period 01 April 2013 to 31 March 2015 will remain at 8.5% as agreed in January 2013) of their Council Tax liability unless they are in a protected group. (War pensioners, war widow(er)s and people who receive Armed Forces compensation scheme payments will not have to pay the minimum contribution).

This 20% rule is pretty widespread now.

A hefty sum, around £287.8 a year (National average, band D,  Band D property to £1,439).

In Labour run Ipswich, by contrast,

In Ipswich, all people of working age have to pay at least 8.5% of their Council Tax bill, regardless of their income. From 1st April 2018, this will reduce to 5%.

But now we learn Leeds Labour Council is running this compulsory scheme.

Personal work support programme

If you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and have been claiming Council Tax support for 26 weeks or more, you will be offered a place on the personal work support programme.

You will have to complete this programme to keep receiving Council Tax support unless you’re part of one of the exempt or protected groups (PDF 1.2MB)​​.

You will be required to complete five review appointments with one of our employment advisors who are able to support all aspects of looking for work which includes:

  • Help to update your CV
  • Advice and support for applying for vacancies online
  • Advice on how to find the type of work you are looking for
  • The latest job vacancy information
  • Free access to our computers
  • Help with any health, money, benefit or housing concerns that you may have

To book an appointment with an advisor, please call 0113 222 4404.

You can find further information on the package of support available in our Council Tax Support for Jobseekers leaflet (PDF 223KB)​​.

Ipswich Unemployed Action has been informed that there are other councils, some Tory, who have similar schemes.

Some, it is said, involve workfare.

In the opinion of a professional Welfare Adviser this is not legal

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2018 at 3:43 pm

The Feckless Poor, The Stigma of Welfare. Mary O’Hara

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Tory Pick-Pockets Idea of Poverty.

There is a theory, a well-attested theory, that the key to the  government ‘welfare reform’ is that they intend to make life for claimants as unpleasant as possible. This will not only reduce the number of people willing to apply for benefits, it will compel them to take whatever work they can get. Over the years they have tried to a variety of schemes, The Work Programme, and now (for a more limited group), the Work and Health Programme, that are intended to guide people into employment.

Over the years ‘nudges’ (this is not a joke, they tried at one point with this daft plan, “Jobcentres try ‘nudging’ the workless” 2013), were replaced with pushes, sanctions.

Some would say that the massive increase in rough-sleeper numbers, a result of housing crisis and the fact that these days the down and out get not benefits  is – for the more hard-line Tories – a welcome ‘nudge’, a constant reminder of where you could fall if you do not pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get work.

Now Universal Credit looks set to cause a lot more misery for a much wider group of people.

Not to mention this:

A lot has to do with the cock-ups of those who created the system, and the way its run.

But the message about the feckless poor keeps on and on.

Mary O’Hara is the author of Austerity Bites,

After coming to power in May 2010, the Coalition government in the United Kingdom embarked on a drastic programme of cuts to public spending and introduced a raft of austerity measures that had profoundly damaging effects on much of the population. This bestselling book by award-winning journalist Mary O’Hara chronicles the true impact of austerity on people at the sharp end, based on her ‘real-time’ 12-month journey around the country just as the most radical reforms were being rolled out in 2012 and 2013. Drawing on hundreds of hours of compelling first-person interviews, with a broad spectrum of people ranging from homeless teenagers, older job-seekers, pensioners, charity workers, employment advisers and youth workers, as well as an extensive body of research and reports, the book explores the grim reality of living under the biggest shakeup of the welfare state in 60 years. with a new Foreword by Mark Blyth, Professor of International Political economy and International Studies at Brown University, USA, Austerity Bites dispels any notion that “we are all in this together” and offers an alternative to the dominant and simplistic narrative that we inhabit a country of “skivers versus strivers”.

This is a review of the book,

Mary O’Hara, Austerity Bites: A journey to the sharp end of cuts in the UK, Policy Press, 2014, xiv + 320 pp, 1 4473 1560 5, hbk, £19.99

During 2012 and 2013 Mary O’Hara travelled the UK to find out what effects the Coalition Government’s public sector cuts were having by interviewing some of the people affected by them: both those suffering directly from the austerity measures and those working with them to try to mitigate the measures’ effects.

The introduction describes in broad terms the ways in which wages have fallen, poverty and debt have increased, new sanctions have been imposed on jobseekers, and public services have been cut – and all this in the cause of an austerity that further damages the economy.

O’Hara’s visits and interviews reveal the depth of the crisis: increasing food poverty (and hence the rise in the number of food banks); mounting pressure on household budgets as costs rise but incomes – both in and out of work – stagnate; the disruptive effects of the bedroom tax; and the rise of personal debt and of high-street high-interest lenders. They also reveal the increasing stigma imposed on people who cannot find employment, and on people with disabilities and long-term health problems; declining wages and job security; cuts in local authority services on which some of our most vulnerable citizens depend; and rising rents and homelessness.

This is in many ways a familiar story, but what gives this particular telling of it an added authenticity are the excerpts from the interviews. Here we find the voices not of statisticians, journalists, or politicians, but of those suffering the effects of cuts in services. In the concluding chapter, we hear the voices of those voluntary sector workers who are coping with increasing demand, disappearing grants, and staff redundancies. The concluding chapter ends with a description of the way in which the Government and the tabloid press have succeeded in persuading us that the previous Labour Government and the poor are responsible for the country’s financial problems, and therefore for austerity; and with a description of small-scale resistance to that austerity – as if local pressure groups can defeat the Government- and media-driven prejudice to which we have been submitted for the past four years. They can’t.

Perhaps for our readership the most significant finding from O’Hara’s visits and interviews is that ‘the social security system that had protected much of the population from the worst vagaries of inequality was being ripped from its foundations’. She goes on:

I saw at first hand how destabilised and fearful it was leaving people. What I observed during my travels was a society in deep existential as well as economic and political flux. It seemed to me that austerity was generating social and economic schisms faster than they could be tracked, never mind adequately countered. There was a sense of an expanding segregation of the rich and poor, the entrenchment of a ‘them and us’ view of the world that produced not only a lack of social contract but also a political gap so wide as to seem unbridgeable. (p.15)

As a society we need to take to heart what is being said here, and determine to build a new social security system that will protect everyone from ‘the worst vagaries of inequality’ and will heal our ‘social and economic schisms’.

Today she writes in the Guardian.

Let’s tell the truth about poverty – and stop this assault on welfare

When the Department for Work and Pensions last week decided to issue a Valentine’s message to people on benefits – clearly implying that recipients lie about their “living arrangements” to fleece the state – it was the latest attack designed to blame and shame. It is a well-worn pattern, especially for people who qualify for benefits.

Since the emergence almost a decade ago of the poisonous rhetoric of “skivers and strivers” that has helped to prop up the fiasco that has been Tory austerity, a culture of dismissing poor people has become well and truly entrenched. The despicable idea that being poor is somehow the byproduct of personal flaws rather than bad policy, and that strong welfare systems should be rejected, is pervasive.

How else to explain the fact that food banks have become normalised or that the repeated denial of benefits – and dignity – to people with disabilities has failed to provoke a nationwide revolt? How else to compute that a homeless person dies on the doorstep of the Houses of Parliament and registers only as a temporary blip on the national consciousness?

The DWP’s Valentine’s message on Twitter to benefit recipients

 

In the early days of austerity Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP framed the slashing of the welfare state as welfare reform in order to sell it to the public as an improvement that would prevent the system being exploited. This tactic was straight out of the American playbook from the mid-1990s when Bill Clinton all but ended the welfare system under the guise of reform, only to exacerbate poverty.

This pernicious, repetitive narrative that has underpinned bad poverty policy for so long is a maliciously clever ruse. But if what it means to be poor can be framed one way, then it can be framed in another, more truthful way, too. In fact, it is already starting. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has launched an initiative called “talking about poverty”,to which I will be contributing, that explicitly aims to examine how to change the conversation. It is incumbent on us to make that happen.

I am not entirely convinced that O’Hara is right to refer exclusively to the USA.

In France there’s been political and media attacks on unemployed ‘spongers’ – if not on the UK scale (France has no Daily Mail, no Express and no Sun for a start)  – for some time.

Presidential Macron announced at the end of last year something that looks to me a ‘job seeker’s agreement’ for the out-of-work on benefits complete with a sanctions regime if you don’t look hard enough for employment (Le gouvernement va renforcer le contrôle des chômeurs.  27.12.17).

I could extend this to other European countries.

But her overall points are well taken.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2018 at 4:36 pm

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

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McVey Goes Back to Cruel Sanctions Regime.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour’s Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, said: “Benefit sanctions punish some of the poorest people in the country. But despite the anxiety and misery they cause, it seems to be pot luck who gets sanctioned.”

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

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

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

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

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

Today we hear:

By John Pring Disability News Service 15th February 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Universal Credit Sanctions

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

February 16, 2018 at 11:16 am

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

with 26 comments

Government Responds to Critical Report by Wheeling out Lies.

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

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

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

Disability benefit assessors failing to meet Government’s quality standards

Independent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article concludes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Francis Ryan writes in the New Statesman.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Smulian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

Government Claimant Survey and Universal Credit Review Attacked.

with 33 comments

Image result for universal credit cartoon

Happy Shiny People Like Universal Credit!

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

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

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

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

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

Who carried out this well-rewarded task?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Independent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The world is waiting for Esther McVey’s response…

Opps, another problem popped up today:

 

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

with 70 comments

SALFORD SONGWRITER CREATES NATIONAL SACK ESTHER MCVEY CAMPAIGN TRACK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile….

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

The Mirror.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell even spoke about lynching her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

She  has this to muse over,

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2018 at 11:30 am

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

with 77 comments

Image result for Gov.uk Verify problems universal credit

A Cause of Major Snarl Ups for Universal Credit Claimants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bryan Glick

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

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

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

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

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

The article  continues,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Campaigners warn people will lose control of their identity

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2018 at 10:48 am

Benefit Assessors Capita in Financial ‘Problems’.

with 38 comments

Image result for Capita PIP

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Independence Payment Assessments

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

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

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

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

April 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said:

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

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

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

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

22nd January 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.c

Latest news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…..

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

February 1, 2018 at 11:45 am

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

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Image result for personal independence payment latest news

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

Personal Independence payments: All 1.6 million claims to be reviewed

BBC.

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

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

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

The review could cost £3.7bn by 2023.

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

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

As the Mirror rightly adds,

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

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

 Some details are emerging,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams comments,

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

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

“This sorry debacle is one of their own making.

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

Written by Andrew Coates

January 30, 2018 at 11:46 am

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

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Related image

What Labour is up against.

Labour’s policy on Universal Credit, 

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

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

Say you’re with us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is some good work Debbie Abrahams is doing now.

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

 

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

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

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

Being Rude about Esther McVey.

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Image result for esther mcvey cartoon

Is it wrong to be rude about Esther McVey?

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

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

The I reports yesterday

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

Lynching the b*****d

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

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

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

Threats are always wrong, being rude is not.

The Tories manage to mix the two things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And another.

Then there is – horror of horrors! – this:

Image result for esther mcvey threatening tweets

People say all kinds of things on Twitter.

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

Image result for Ipswich Tory leader resigns tweet Nadia Cenci

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

This is a story about McVey herself,

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

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

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

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

BBC

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

January 23, 2018 at 11:03 am

The New Dependency on Universal Credit.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poster-pursuithappyness.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plans for Universal Credit itself began seriously in 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The result is,

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

Guardian.

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

Our heart meanwhile, goes out to Esther McVee.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 20, 2018 at 11:06 am

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

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Image result for fat tory minister pickles

Eric Pickles Former Minister Set Example to Loafing Unemployed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then it was this on the BBC.

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

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

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

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

The Daily Record adds,

Tory MP apologises for suggesting poor people should be sterilised

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2018 at 11:59 am

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

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Image result for cognitive therapy for unemployed protests

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

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

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

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

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

The key service providers are:

Service Providers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To remind us of this Kitty S jones wrote last year

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

Kitty noted that,

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

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

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

Well it was all announced.

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

Controversies surrounding G4S

At the start of last year this  was one response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She said contracts would be awarded this autumn.

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

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

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

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

Esther McVee has got off to a flying start!

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

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

Warm and Caring McVey on GMTV.

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

“Reports” the Telegraph.

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

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

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

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

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

Here it is:

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

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

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

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

Welcome to the world of personal development.”

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

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

Daily Mirror.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 11, 2018 at 9:54 am

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

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Image result for Sack Esther McVey Day"

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

Well, Gauck’s silence is now explained.

He was up for the chop.

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

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

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

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

Mirror.

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

Liverpool Echo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Vox Political has the background on this individual,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the site for more.

There is more, more and more….

There is also this.

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

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

Update:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 9, 2018 at 9:53 am

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

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DWP Minister with Best Friend. 

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

More on the Telegraph. 

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

Latest today:

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

January 8, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Gauke Gives Up on Twitter after Hectic Christmas.

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David Gauke

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

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

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

This is the latest

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

Written by Andrew Coates

January 4, 2018 at 11:51 am

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

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Image result for david gauke christmas

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

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

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

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

But lo, this has just happened….

Councils forced to fund emergency help for universal credit claimants

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

December 29, 2017 at 11:31 am