Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Digital Welfare Nightmares.

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“Claimants struggle with Universal Credit’s online portal…”

Following the post on Surveillance Welfare and sending out our newshawks to investigate the main thing they found was that for many people it is becoming bloody hard to to get to grips with a “online” benefits system.

The local facthounds confirm that this story, from the start of the year, is well the case in Ipswich and elsewhere.

As a librarian I spend most of my time helping benefits claimants work out the Universal Credit system

Georgia Grainger is happy to help but wishes library services were not cut so frequently because they do such important work

  • Librarian says some claimants have no idea how computers work
  • Says libraries forced to prop up services not provided by Jobcentres
  • Says benefits claimants feel ’embarrassed’ to ask for help with forms.

The reality of being a librarian at Charleston Community Library in Dundee, Scotland, couldn’t be more different. The 23-year-old, whose job title is library and information assistant, says she spends most of her time helping benefits claimants attempt to navigate the Universal Credit system from the library computers.

Hard pressed library staff across the country help people deal with a system designed to help the DWP and their private providers, not claimants.

Our contributors have unearthed many a merry tale as well but this latest news opens up a worse prospect.

What they could call the “digital divide” exists across the world.

It’s not just access to services online, which are not always available. Not everybody wants to, or can, use computers and the internet.

In French they even have an expression for those unable to use computers, L’illectronisme – illiteracy in electronic devices. 

There may not yet be any systematic studies to translate into figures the rate of “digital illiteracy” (or DI — we will use this term, pending an English equivalent to the French illectronisme) but we already have a feeling of how bad it may be. Again, the social consequences of DI and plain illiteracy are similar.

Digital illiteracy – a real handicap Jean-Claude Elias 

Now we have this report:

Universal Credit: UN report warns of ‘digital welfare dystopia’ around DWP benefits system

Ruchira Sharma The ‘I’.

The report said that many claimants struggle with Universal Credit’s online portal, stopping them from even understanding their own case.

The report, which will be presented to the to the General Assembly on Friday, cited the DWP’s Universal Credit system and how its use of online portals stops many claimants who lack digital skills from understanding their own case and having the ability to appeal.

..

The report highlighted that despite being a wealthy country, in 2019 in the UK there are 11.9 million people (22 per cent of the population) who do not have the essential digital skills needed for day-to-day life.

An additional 19 per cent cannot perform fundamental tasks such as turning on a device or opening an app, while 4.1 million adults (8 per cent) are offline because of fears that the internet is an insecure environment – proportionately almost half of those are from a low income household and more than half are over 60.

Welfare Weekly has the story.

World stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia’, warns UN report

A UN human rights expert has expressed concerns about the emergence of the “digital welfare state”, saying that all too often the real motives behind such programmes are to slash welfare spending, set up intrusive government surveillance systems and generate profits for private corporate interests.

“As humankind moves, perhaps inexorably, towards the digital welfare future it needs to alter course significantly and rapidly to avoid stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia,” the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, says in a report to be presented to the General Assembly on Friday.

The digital welfare state is commonly presented as an altruistic and noble enterprise designed to ensure that citizens benefit from new technologies, experience more efficient government, and enjoy higher levels of well-being.

But, Alston said, the digitization of welfare systems has very often been used to promote deep reductions in the overall welfare budget, a narrowing of the beneficiary pool, the elimination of some services, the introduction of demanding and intrusive forms of conditionality, the pursuit of behavioural modification goals, the imposition of stronger sanctions regimes, and a complete reversal of the traditional notion that the state should be accountable to the individual.

“Digital welfare states thereby risk becoming Trojan Horses for neoliberal hostility towards social protection and regulation,” said the UN Special Rapporteur.

“Moreover, empowering governments in countries with significant rule of law deficits by endowing them with the level of control and the potential for abuse provided by these biometric ID systems should send shudders down the spine of anyone even vaguely concerned to ensure that the digital age will be a human rights friendly one”.

It continues,

“Most Governments have stopped short of requiring Big Tech companies to abide by human rights standards, and because the companies themselves have steadfastly resisted any such efforts, the companies often operate in a virtually human rights free-zone,” said Alston.

The human rights community has thus far done a very poor job of persuading industry, government, or seemingly society at large, of the fact that a technologically-driven future will be disastrous if it is not guided by respect for human rights and grounded in hard law.

There is no shortage of analyses warning of the dangers for human rights of various manifestations of digital technology and especially artificial intelligence.

“But none has adequately captured the full array of threats represented by the emergence of the digital welfare state,” the UN expert said.

Here is the summary of the report,

Report of the Special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

The digital welfare state is either already a reality or is emerging in many countries across the globe. In these states, systems of social protection and assistance are increasingly driven by digital data and technologies that are used to automate, predict, identify, surveil, detect, target and punish. This report acknowledges the irresistible attractions for governments to move in this direction, but warns that there is a grave risk of stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia. It argues that Big Tech operates in an almost human rights free-zone, and that this is especially problematic when the private sector is taking a leading role in designing, constructing, and even operating significant parts of the digital welfare state. The report recommends that instead of obsessing about fraud, cost savings, sanctions, and market-driven definitions of efficiency, the starting point should be on how welfare budgets could be transformed through technology to ensure a higher standard of living for the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 18, 2019 at 10:46 am

Surveillance Capitalism Comes to the Dole.

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New DWP HQ.

I, and many other people ,have got interested in Surveillance Capitalism recently.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power Professor Shoshana Zuboff

It’s a book, a bloody long one,  about “the unprecedented form of power called “surveillance capitalism,” and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control us.”

She says,  “human experience is subjected to surveillance capitalism’s market mechanisms and reborn as ‘behaviour”.

It seems people are very willing to give up their private information in return for perceived benefits such as ease of use, navigation and access to friends and information. Zuboff recasts the conversation around privacy as one over “decision rights”: the agency we can actively assert over our own futures, which is fundamentally usurped by predictive, data-driven systems. Engaging with the systems of surveillance capitalism, and acquiescing to its demands for ever deeper incursions into everyday life, involves much more than the surrender of information: it is to place the entire track of one’s life, the determination of ones path, under the purview and control of the market.

Guardian.

Universal Credit, which we do not even ‘buy’ is a much more complex version.

It’s modelled on it.

We have to fill in all our details, and personal problems, not to mention physical difficulties if we want Disability Allowances.

In return they watch our search for work like hawks.

On-line journals and the rest.

Not to mention the threat of sanctions.

The next stage is coming.

The UK government is accelerating the development of robots in the benefits system in a digitisation drive that vulnerable claimants fear could plunge them further into hunger and debt, the Guardian has learned.

The Department for Work and Pensions has hired nearly 1,000 new IT staff in the past 18 months, and has increased spending to about £8m a year on a specialist “intelligent automation garage” where computer scientists are developing over 100 welfare robots, deep learning and intelligent automation for use in the welfare system.

As well as contracts with the outsourcing multinationals IBM, Tata Consultancy and CapGemini, it is also working with UiPath, a New York-based firm co-founded by Daniel Dines, the world’s first “bot billionaire” who last month said: “I want a robot for every person.” His software, used by Walmart and Toyota, is now being deployed in a bid to introduce machine learning into checking benefit claims.

Note this,

The DWP is also testing artificial intelligence to judge the likelihood that citizens’ claims about their childcare and housing costs are true when they apply for benefits.

It has deployed 16 bots to communicate with claimants and help process claims and is building a “virtual workforce” to take over some of the jobs of humans. One recent tender document requested help to build “systems that … can autonomously carry out tasks without human intervention”.

The developments emerged during a Guardian investigation into one of the most radical but least understood welfare reforms since the roll-out of universal credit that will apply to 7 million people.

And this,

But claimants have warned the existing automation in UC’s “digital by default” system has already driven some to hunger, breakdown and even attempted suicide. One described the online process as a “Kafka-like carousel”, another as “hostile” and yet another as a “form of torture”. Several said civil servants already appeared to be ruled by computer algorithms, unable to contradict their verdicts.

This,

Key details about the automation push remain secret. The DWP has refused freedom of information requests to explain how it gathers data on citizens. Simon McKinnon, the chief digital and information officer of DWP Digital, said this year it was developing a way to “build a holistic understanding of digital personas”, but refused to say what information was gathered to do this.

The ministry has previously told parliament it gathers data from private credit reference agencies, the police, the Valuation Office Agency, the Land Registry and the National Fraud Initiative, which gather information from public and private bodies. But it is now declining to update the list, claiming it would “compromise the usefulness of that data”.

“There are concerns that government is accelerating the automation of the welfare system without a proper evidence-based consultation about its impacts,” said Dr Lina Dencik, co-founder of the Data Justice Lab at Cardiff.

More,

Staff are using UiPath to develop machine learning to check claims for fraud, which suggests welfare computers will autonomously learn and alter the way they make decisions with minimum human intervention.

One recent staff member at Newcastle told the Guardian they already “have ways of creating a digital image of somebody”. He stressed much of the work was secret, but said this did not mean it was against citizens’ interests.

The digital transformation is costing hundreds of millions of pounds. The DWP Digital’s budget has risen 17% to £1.1bn in the past year and IT firms have been awarded huge contracts to help run the system. The DWP is also rapidly expanding its own private technology company Benefits and Pensions Digital Technology Services, which recruited more than 400 staff in the year to April, while DWP Digital recruited 520.

I bet this is just the beginning of an almighty row.

Then there is this:

Down with Machine Rule!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 14, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Universal Credit on World Homeless Day.

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Yesterday was World Homeless Day.

Anybody walking around our towns can see people begging in the streets.

It’s back to the kind old world of Dickens and Jo the Crossing Sweeper.

Related image

 

Talk to most people and they go on about the astronomical cost of rents, and, when it’s anybody on the dole, how ‘local Housing Allowance’ increasingly does not cover real housing costs.

Now some people try and do something to help street sleepers.

Bus Shelter Ipswich project for the homeless gets £5K boost

July 2019. EADT

Established in November 2017, The Bus Shelter Ipswich is a community interest company that provides free accommodation, advice and support to vulnerable people in and around the Ipswich area via its first converted bus, called ‘Tiffers’, and two outreach vans.

The organisation was appealing for funds to help finalise a second bus, called ‘Cheys’, which will be a mobile drop-in and advice centre. According to the Rough Sleeping in England report, homelessness in Ipswich has increased by over 60% since 2010.

The kind folk at the DWP think of everything!

 

Last year (2018)  this was one of many reports:

Observer investigation finds system in chaos, putting chancellor under pressure to change tack

Government welfare reforms are fuelling a rise in homelessness in towns and cities across the country, an Observer investigation has found.

Interviews with homelessness charities across England reveal a support system in crisis as the rollout of universal credit and freezes to local housing allowance rates put even basic accommodation beyond the means of many. One shelter said universal credit was a factor in a third of its clients ending up in its care.

Now we have this:

1 in 7 people in England directly hit by the housing crisis

More than 8m people in England – around 1 in 7 – are living in an unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable home, according to the first ever ‘state of the nation’ report on the housing crisis, released today by the National Housing Federation.(i)

Benefits freeze pushing low-income families to the brink of homelessness

Welfare Weekly.

94% of properties in the private rented sector are unaffordable for families on benefits.

More than nine in ten properties in the private rental sector are unaffordable for families on benefits and with a chronic shortage in social homes an increasing number of people are struggling to find an affordable home.

This is according to a new report from the National Housing Federation (NHF), which warns that the benefits freeze is “pushing low-income families to the brink”.

The report finds that 94% of private rental properties are unaffordable for families on Housing Benefit, or the equivalent Local Housing Allowance (LHA), and 65% of these are families in work.

The NHS says this is fuelling the rise in homelessness, which is now at record levels, as well as contributing to children living in overcrowded and poor quality accommodation.

LHA was initially designed to cover bottom 50% of market rents in any area. However this was reduced to 30% in 2011. Rates were then divorced from market rents altogether in 2013; and finally frozen in 2016, so they stopped keeping up even with inflation.

This means that in some parts of the country less than 1% of private rented properties are covered by LHA.

The National Housing Federation is calling on the government to end the freeze and increase LHA payments, so that they cover at least the bottom 30% of private rent homes in any local area.

They are also calling for £12.8bn annual investment in building new social housing, so that fewer families are forced to seek more expensive housing in the private rented market.

Channel Four found a really bad case of how this is affecting people.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 11, 2019 at 10:09 am

Abuse of Claimants, DWP Manager, “We should nominate one person to throw a grenade in.”

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Universal Credit staff taped making disgusting comments about claimants

Mirror.

EXCLUSIVE: One member of staff was recorded saying disabled people were “faking it” to get government cash

Benefits managers have been caught on tape making horrifying comments about claimants.

One advocated blowing them up with a grenade, another accused them of getting money for nothing while the disabled were accused of “faking it.”

In one disturbing taped conversation a manager says: “The police sometimes have sting operations where they gather people together.

“We should nominate one person to throw a grenade in.”

Another reveals a case manager railing at claimants, who can be out of work because of ill health.

They rant: “It does my head in. They’re getting something for nowt, they don’t really have to do a great deal to get it. And they still whinge.”

Another says they “have absolutely no time” for claimants with depression and anxiety.

 

Today the incompetent  lazy bones managers  at the DWP are shown up.

DWP Universal Credit: 700 ‘suspected errors’ flagged by one council in 18 months

Mirror.

EXCLUSIVE: Labour-run Tower Hamlets demanded the DWP halt the benefit’s rollout after compiling the figures for 18 months

More than 700 “suspected errors” in Universal Credit have been flagged in 18 months by a single town hall.

Labour-run Tower Hamlets began compiling the figures in April 2018 over fears the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was not dealing robustly enough with problems.

Since then the deprived London borough’s officers have reported 728 cases to the DWP – identifying £335,000 in alleged overpayments and £215,000 in underpayments.

Officials claimed some cases took months and several attempts to contact the DWP before they were resolved.

The Borough’s mayor John Biggs said: “The roll out of Universal Credit should be halted. It’s failing our most vulnerable residents and pushing them into hardship.

“It’s simply not good enough that these blunders continue.”

Deputy Mayor Rachel Blake added: “The continuing errors we are seeing due to Universal Credit show it’s not fit for purpose.

Not to mention the present mess find ourselves in:

This has always struck people as inevitable.

Poverty is rising for all groups – even those in work – according to a new financial inclusion monitor report.

Research from the University of Birmingham and the University of Lincoln shows nearly 1.6 million people falling behind with council tax payments, with six in ten people in the poorest fifth of the population reporting they are in problem debt – mainly council tax payments, rent or utility bills.

Nearly 1 million people are behind with their rent, while over a 1 million people are behind on water bills.

The 2019 Briefing, found that nearly 2.2 million people report having been contacted by bailiffs and nearly one million experiencing bailiffs breaking the rules.

A growing number of personal insolvencies were also highlighted, with over 70,000 Individual Voluntary Arrangements (formal alternative to bankruptcy) made in 2018, up from 40,000 in 2015.

Karen Rowlingson, Professor of Social Policy and Deputy Director of the Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management (CHASM) at the University of Birmingham and co-author of the report, said: “The government is saying that austerity is over but our research shows that millions of people are still struggling to pay essential bills.

“Much more needs to be done to increase income levels to help people make ends meet.”

Electric Dog Collar Shock Coffey is on a high:

Written by Andrew Coates

October 7, 2019 at 12:42 pm

DWP MInister Thérèse Coffey on her “Dream Job” and Universal Credit.

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Thérèse Supporting People into Work (Falcon Inn in #Felixstowe).

DWP Secretary attacks Labour’s plan to scrap Universal Credit

DWP Secretary Therese Coffey’s speech at the Conservative Party.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, the new Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “Conference I’m delighted to be here in Manchester for my first speech as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

“Let me tell you that there are a lot of unexpected things that have happened to me very late on a Saturday evening. But taking a phone call from the Prime Minister to become a cabinet minister was certainly a new one.

Electric Shock Dog Collar finally got to Universal Credit,

“Universal Credit provides a safeguard for the most vulnerable in our society. It supports strivers, who are not content living a life on welfare.

“We know that work is the best route out of poverty. But Jeremy Corbyn would scrap our benefits system that makes work pay. With no alternative – from the Party that only knows how to trap people on benefits.

“And just like last time – it’s working people who would end up paying the price for Labour’s incompetence. Instead, our party, the Conservatives, want to increase the incomes of the lowest paid.

“And since last year working people have benefited from a £1,000 increase in work allowances in Universal Credit providing those in work with a much needed financial boost.

“And workers across the country are receiving a well-earned pay rise – now at 4 per cent – the highest in over a decade – alongside 18 months of real pay growth.

“Conference, we are not blind to the challenges that face some families. That for some the money coming in does not stretch to cover the costs at the end of the month.

“And so let me say to you: we are on your side. We will work for you. Because this is a compassionate Conservative government.

“So my priorities for my Department are simple…

  1. To continue to improve Universal Credit to ensure people get the money they need in a timely manner, are helped into work, and onto an escalator up to better work.
  2. To help with the cost of living across the country to ensure     that people feel secure in their homes and can support themselves financially.
  3. To support everyone in society – especially disabled people –     so we all can share in the success and prosperity of this county.

“Which is I have today announced a further £4 million package to support people to find not just any job, but that dream job.

Not everybody wishes the pious Minister well.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 2, 2019 at 9:33 am

Labour Pledge to Abolish Universal Credit.

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Labour Plans to Abolish Universal Credit. 

Universal credit: Labour pledges to scrap welfare scheme

BBC.

Mr Corbyn will promise that a Labour government would introduce “an emergency package of reforms” including:

  • scrapping the two-child limit, whereby families only receive welfare support for the first two children of a family
  • suspending sanctions whereby a claimant’s support can be reduced if they miss appointments

His party also wants to drop the benefit cap which limits the amount of benefit a person can receive.

Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne said while the system could not be “completely replaced overnight”, the announcement was “more than an aspiration” and “the next Labour government will replace universal credit”.

Mr Corbyn will make his announcement on Saturday at a rally in Chingford and Woodford Green – the Greater London parliamentary seat of Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, who originally implemented the universal credit scheme when he was work and pensions secretary.

The Labour leader is expected to criticise the welfare project for being “over-budget” and “inhumane”.

“Social security is supposed to give people dignity and respect, not punish and police them, make them wait five weeks for the first payment or fill out a four-page form to prove their child was born as a result of rape,” he will say.

The BBC notes some further points and the initial reactions:

Labour also says it would drop the system’s “digital-only” requirement, arguing that it excludes those who do not have access to the internet.

The Department for Work and Pensions says claimants can get paid urgently if required.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “This is totally irresponsible from Jeremy Corbyn, who now admits he would happily scrap financial support for vulnerable people with no plan as to what Labour would replace it with.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said it would welcome significant reform “but any changes need to avoid further upheaval for those who depend on it”.

The charity’s director for policy and partnerships, Helen Barnard, said Labour’s proposals appeared to “get rid of some of the worst bits of universal credit which we know are pulling some people into really difficult poverty and debt”, citing sanctions and the five-week wait for the first payment.

However, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there were also aspects of the system, including the way it avoids people moving to a different benefit when they begin work, which should be preserved.

Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies Paul Johnson said while Labour was proposing a series of changes to universal credit, the announcement did not appear to be calling for an end to the idea of merging six benefits into one payment, which he said had simplified the system.

Food bank charity the Trussell Trust welcomed the end of the five-week wait proposed by Labour – but warned that the party’s plans could create further problems.

It said that “scrapping universal credit may only result in further upheaval”.

The Guardian notes some of the details,

Although Labour says it will “scrap” universal credit it seems it will not drop all aspects of the payment, which merges six benefits into one. It will remain digital in nature, although Labour says it will end the current “digital only” approach and will hire 5,000 advisers to support claimants unable to access the internet or manage their claims online.

It will also allow claimants to be paid fortnightly rather than monthly as now and allow households to split payments between two adults. The current single household payment has been criticised as enabling domestic abusers to control family finances.

Benefit sanctions, the two-child limit on child benefit and the benefit cap – seen as unfair, ineffective and key drivers of child poverty – will be scrapped. The party already has plans to scrap the bedroom tax.

Commenting on the proposals, Adam Corlett, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Labour has set out some significant reforms, but they sensibly do not amount to actually scrapping universal credit. Now isn’t the time for another huge overhaul of our social security system.

“Instead, Labour have focused on reforming universal credit, and scrapping entirely separate benefit cuts that are set to drive up child poverty.”

Our contributors are always noting difficulties, and scepticism about the statement.

But bear this in mind (from the father of Universal Credit):

And this (Retweeted by Thérèse Coffey):

Here is how the Brexit lot greet the news:

 

Here

Written by Andrew Coates

September 28, 2019 at 9:20 am

Universal Credit, Not Fit For Purpose, New UNITE Community Report.

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New Report Slams Universal Credit.

 

Here

 

‘Bombshell’ report lays bare the misery of Universal Credit chaos

UNITE the Union.

A ‘bombshell’ report and survey of nearly 1,200 Universal Credit claimants by the community section of the UK and Ireland’s largest union, Unite, lays bare the misery of the scheme’s failed introduction with evidence of people becoming suicidal, going without food, being forced into debt and unable to pay bills.

The survey of 1,173 Universal Credit claimants published today (Monday 23 September) found that 70 per cent had skipped meals and 42 per cent had been forced to use a food bank as result of claiming Universal Credit.

Just under two-thirds (65 per cent) of respondents said they could not afford bills such as heating, electricity, and water, while over three-quarters (78 per cent) said they relied on friends and family to make ends meet. 48 per cent said they had been pushed into debt because of Universal Credit, with nearly a fifth (19 per cent) saying they had been forced to turn to payday loan companies and 8 per cent to loan sharks, to make ends meet.

The survey also points to kids losing out at school because of Universal Credit, with 27 per cent of respondents saying they had been unable to buy school uniforms or school equipment for their children, while just over a quarter (26 per cent) said they could not afford school trips.

Elsewhere, the report and survey called Universal Credit: Not fit for Purpose, powerfully captures the catastrophic toll of Universal Credit on people’s lives and families with respondents’ comments, including:

“Since we were forced onto Universal Credit I’ve tried to commit suicide three times, me and my eight year old have had to spend a month living off crackers and tins or frozen veg in bowl.” Claimant one

“I can’t afford a new uniform for my youngest daughter. My middle daughter has had to skip meals at college and is behind on her A-levels because I can’t afford the textbooks she needs for her courses.” Claimant two

“The five weeks wait left me in rent arrears and my landlord served me with an eviction notice because of this.” Claimant three

Unite is calling for the government to stop and scrap Universal Credit. The report and survey, Universal Credit: Not Fit for Purpose is being launched at a fringe meeting at Labour party conference in Brighton today at 12:30 in The Grand Hotel. It can be downloaded here.

 

Universal Credit Not Fit For Purpose has these Key findings.

• The experience of Universal Credit claimants is overwhelmingly bad, and many claimants believe they are not getting the money they are entitled to.
• Sanctions in particular are cruel and unfair and make the impact of Universal Credit worse.
• Universal Credit is causing food poverty and driving the use of food banks. In some cases it has forced claimants into prostitution and illegal activity such as theft in order to survive.
• Universal Credit is pushing claimants into debt, including into the arms of pay day loan companies and loan sharks.
• Universal Credit is having a detrimental impact on claimants’ mental health which is increasing the risk of suicide.
• The application process is unfair, complicated and difficult to access. It is also rigid and unresponsive, for example most respondents would prefer to be paid fortnightly.
• Universal Credit is causing serious problems with housing, including rent arrears and homelessness.
• Universal credit is discriminatory, disproportionately impacting on disabled people, carers and parents.
• Parents struggle to pay for school trips, school uniforms and feeding their kids, particularly during school holidays, birthdays and Christmas.
• Families and friends having to fill the State’s role in providing a social safety net.
• Legacy benefit claimants overwhelmingly fear being moved onto Universal Credit.
• Universal Credit is an industrial issue that impacts on working people. It is particularly unfair to part-time, low-paid, zero hours and agency workers as well as the self-employed.

The Press Statement  continues.

Commenting Unite assistant general secretary with responsibility for Unite Community, Steve Turner said: “Universal Credit is causing untold misery and heartache for people across the country. Its failed introduction is leading to people becoming suicidal and going without food, or being forced into debt and unable to pay the bills.

“Universal Credit is not just an issue that affects people out of work. At the beginning of the year over 530,000 employed people were receiving Universal Credit in a ‘corporate welfare’ cash grab to top up poverty wages.

“The government needs to immediately scrap the five-week wait for Universal Credit which is pushing people into debt and benefit sanctions that are plunging people into the depths of despair.

“Ultimately, this cruel and flawed system which penalises families who are trying to make ends meet and keep a roof above their head must be scrapped and replaced with a humane system based on social solidarity and support that treats people with dignity.”

Meanwhile out Boss Tweets:

 

 

The longer Universal Credit exists in an area, the higher the need for food banks – Trussell Trust.

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In areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out for at least a year, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network have seen a 30% increase in demand. In  areas with the new system for at least 18 months this jumps to 40%, and increases again to 48% for food banks in areas with Universal Credit for at least two years*

The Trussell Trust is urging the government to end the five week wait** for Universal Credit, as it publishes a new report revealing the longer the new benefits system has been rolled out in an area, the more people are plunged into poverty.

The charity highlights that while the Department for Work and Pensions has attempted to find solutions to issues with Universal Credit, the wait for a first benefit payment, which is often longer than five weeks, is continuing to cause unnecessary hardship. Government loans, which are currently offered during the wait, are also pushing more people into debt, the charity says.

The longer Universal Credit exists in an area, the higher the need for food banks  

This report has received news attention:

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said:

“Universal Credit should be there to anchor any of us against the tides of poverty.  But the five week wait fatally undermines this principle, pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution.

“In a society that believes in justice and compassion, this isn’t right. But it is something that can be fixed. Universal Credit was designed to have a wait. Now it’s clear that wait is five weeks too long, and we must change that design.

“The recent Spending Review was a lost opportunity to protect people on the lowest incomes.  Our Prime Minister must take action to end this wait, and help prevent thousands more of us being swept away by poverty. With the nation at a crossroads, now is the time to loosen the grip of poverty and make sure Universal Credit is able to protect people from needing a food bank, instead of pushing them to one.”

A similar pattern of financial hardship in areas where Universal Credit has rolled out is revealed by new evidence in the report from the Riverside Group, a large provider of social housing and homelessness services.

On average, people claiming Universal Credit at July 2019 had experienced a 42% increase in rent arrears since rollout began in 2015. By stark contrast, those claiming Housing Benefit (the previous ‘legacy’ benefits system) experienced a 20% decrease , analysis shows.

Hugh Owen, Director of Strategy and Public Affairs at Riverside said:

“Riverside is calling on the government to end the five week wait for Universal Credit because increasing numbers of our tenants are experiencing hardship while waiting for their first payment. Our data clearly shows that the wait is causing many of our tenants to get into rent arrears which can take months or even years to clear.

“A recent survey of many of our tenants told us that they are struggling to keep afloat when they move onto Universal Credit; the long wait means that many people are going without food or heating and they are forced to use foodbanks in order to feed their families. We welcome the simplicity that moving to an integrated benefit is intended to bring, but the way Universal Credit is being implemented means that instead of acting as a safety net, it is dragging people into debt.”

The #5WeeksTooLong study also reveals the detrimental impact the wait is having on people’s mental health. Many people reported experiencing high levels of anxiety, especially as they did not know how much they would receive and when. Some even reported feeling suicidal.

Mike had to resign from his work as a support worker to care for his mother who was diagnosed with a long-term disease. During this time he had to claim Universal Credit. He found that he could no longer manage to pay his rent after he took an Advance Payment:

“It’s made me go from being a confident lad who loved working with vulnerable people to ending up needing the support I used to offer others. Now I’m unable to support them or myself.”

The Trussell Trust and Riverside are not alone in issuing this stark warning. Through the #5WeeksTooLong campaign the Trussell Trust is united with 45 other organisations and more than 14,000 individuals, in urging the government to end the five week wait now.

Politics Home: 

 

Ministers criticised as study claims foodbank hikes linked to length of Universal Credit roll-out

 

Research by The Trussell Trust found that where the controversial benefits scheme has been in place for at least a year, foodbanks in its network have seen a 30% increase in demand.

It also showed the figure rose to 40% over 18 months and then to 48% in areas with Universal Credit for at least two years.

The charity called on ministers to end the five-week wait applicants face before receiving their payment from the system – which was designed to combine all legacy benefits into one but is yet to be rolled out in full.

It said the stretch would see more claimants “plunged into poverty”, and said that Government loans as a stopgap were “pushing more people into debt”.

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said: “Universal Credit should be there to anchor any of us against the tides of poverty. But the five week wait fatally undermines this principle, pushing people into debt, homelessness and destitution.

“In a society that believes in justice and compassion, this isn’t right. But it is something that can be fixed. Universal Credit was designed to have a wait. Now it’s clear that wait is five weeks too long, and we must change that design.

“The recent Spending Review was a lost opportunity to protect people on the lowest incomes.  Our Prime Minister must take action to end this wait, and help prevent thousands more of us being swept away by poverty.

“With the nation at a crossroads, now is the time to loosen the grip of poverty and make sure Universal Credit is able to protect people from needing a food bank, instead of pushing them to one.”

Political response:

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Margaret Greenwood, said: “This latest shocking data from the Trussell Trust clearly shows that Universal Credit is forcing people to turn to food banks to survive, despite ministers’ repeated efforts to explain away any link.

“It is completely wrong for people to be left waiting five weeks or more for a first payment.

“Advances are not the answer; they are loans that have to be paid back, pushing people further into debt and leaving them vulnerable to scams.”

The Mirror adds,

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood said: “This latest shocking data from the Trussell Trust clearly shows that Universal Credit is forcing people to turn to foodbanks to survive, despite ministers’ repeated efforts to explain away any link.

and

Labour will stop the rollout of Universal Credit and ensure that our social security system lifts people out of poverty and supports any one of us in our time of need.”

DWP:

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson hit back at the report, which they said “uses unrepresentative data to reach an entirely unsubstantiated conclusion”.

“It categorically does not prove that Universal Credit is the reason behind increased food bank usage,” they added.

“With Universal Credit people can get paid urgently if they need it and we’ve changed the system so people can receive even more money in the first two weeks than under the old system.”

Yet,

However the Trussell Trust later condemned the Government’s response, by insisting that its “food bank referral data is trusted and the best available data on food bank use in the UK”.

It added: “It is very disappointing to see the Department for Work & Pensions’ response to this research. The experiences of people on Universal Credit cannot be denied.

“While the system may work well for many, it’s clear from the evidence of food banks and countless organisations there are also many people being failed.”

Written by Andrew Coates

September 19, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Labour to Pledge to End Universal Credit?

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Image result for labour universal credit

 

Has this been listened to?

The story goes:

Labour will scrap the Government’s universal credit scheme, with plans set to be unveiled next week, The Daily Telegraph can reveal.

The Opposition had previously denied that it was scrapping universal credit in July. However, The Telegraph understands that the intricacies of the policy have been discussed by shadow cabinet ministers in recent days, with plans having been discussed in multiple departments.

A senior source said Labour’s plan to scrap the policy was “medium-term” with a series of “short-term fixes” mooted in the meantime.

These short-term fixes are understood to include an end to sanctions, the five-week wait and the three child limit.

A source involved said the fixes were designed to “point in the direction of a bigger change”.

As you can imagine the Tories under Spaffing-Turd  Johnson do not like the idea,

Damian Green, the former welfare secretary, said: “If Labour will put [universal credit] at risk, they will be damaging the opportunities of people to get into work and move up the ladder, and that would be unbelievably stupid.”

Followed by the Hard Right:

Matthew Lesh, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute said: “There is always room for reform, but dismantling universal credit will cost billions, mean higher taxes, and undermine our record low unemployment.”

Looks like the Adam Smith Institute have been sampling the wares at this ‘happening’.

https://twitter.com/ASI/status/1173510794308390912?s=20

Groovy!

The Telegraph story follows this one at the end of August in Teesside Live. 

Labour has pledged to end Universal Credit after a damning report revealed a generation of children were being born into poverty.

New research published this week highlighted a “terrible reality” in which thousands of children are living in converted shipping containers, office blocks and B&Bs.

The Labour Party has pledged an end to Universal Credit.

And with MPs on all sides of the House of Commons heading for a collision course over the handling of Brexit and the Prorogation of Parliament, a General Election is likely in the near future.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has warned that the Government is “failing a whole generation of children”.

During a visit to a children’s lunch club in Wales, he said his party would take “radical action” to help children from all backgrounds and had a “moral responsibility” to “end the scandal of child poverty and homelessness”.

He also pledged to scrap Universal Credit and – as reported by our sister title Plymouth Live – Mr Corbyn said he wanted to reform the Conservative Government’s flagship benefits reform, which has been hamstrung by complaints and confusion.

He said during a visit in May that, if elected, he would immediately stop the roll-out of Universal Credit and end the hated five-week wait for a payment – which is blamed for putting claimants into debt: “We’d halt the roll-out straight away and end the waiting period for people going onto it.

John MacDonnell last year,

Universal credit has to go, says John McDonnell.

The government’s flagship welfare policy faces being scrapped by Labour because it is “just not sustainable”, the shadow chancellor has said.

John McDonnell said universal credit, which merges six working-age benefits into one payment, “will have to go”.

Labour announced at its party conference last month that it would review the system, which is being rolled out across the UK.

We shall see….

Written by Andrew Coates

September 16, 2019 at 9:09 am

Thérèse Coffey, a Right-winger in Charge of the DWP and Universal Credit.

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Our New Boss with ‘Mate’ Liz Truss.

Coffrey is an ardent Catholic Traditionalist, which, informed sources tell this Blog, helped get her a shore-in by the former MP for Suffolk Coastal Mr John Gummer.

 

For those not familiar with Suffolk Coastal – this writer’s parents were involved in the Labour Party there after retiring and moving from North London – the constituency is ‘solidly conservative” both big and small C, with some pockets of resistance in places like Leiston and a few wards in, say, Felixstowe.

Gummer used to do very little locally, except from a tour around his fief at election times, looking like a character out of a P.G. Wodehouse novel, gracefully blessing the people.

“God bless the Squire and this Relations, and Keep us in our Proper Stations.”

This has not changed.

These are the new MInister’s most relevant views reported in the local press, the East  Anglian Daily Times,

Following Mrs May’s resignation, Dr Coffey backed Boris Johnson’s Tory leadership bid, saying he had “the mojo to make Brexit happen and he can reach out to many parts of the country to deliver a better, brighter Britain”.

Here are some of the features of Coffey’s manor. Like many parts of the country, lost a lot of its council housing years ago. While there are now plans to build actual council houses, much is in the charge of these chancers, Flagship Housing. In what is now East Suffolk Council they are the main people offering places to live for “social housing” “affordable housing”.

This business, claiming the status of a social enterprise, engaged in empire-building across the East of England, is loathed by many of its tenants.

Its main concern is making money out of poor people.

We’re Flagship Group. We provide homes for affordable and market rent, and for sale across the East of England. We maintain our own housing stock and support the communities they’re part of. We do this through our housing arm of the business Flagship Homes, our repairs and maintenance specialists RFT Services, and our gas and boiler specialists Gasway.

This is their latest scandal (August 2019)

‘Callous’ care cuts blamed after bodies left rotting in retirement properties for month

Neighbours have urged Suffolk County Council to reinstate funding for wardens and sheltered accommodation following the tragedies at Mussidan Place in Woodbridge, which is owned by Flagship Housing.

The latest body was found on August 8 after a neighbour noticed the man’s kitchen was infested with flies. Residents believe he had lain there since June, when they first complained about a bad smell. They said they were shocked by the death – but it was not the first to go unnoticed.

Another body was found in February. Neighbours said the dead man’s relative told them it had been there since November last year. They said the bodies would have been found sooner if not for budget cuts stripping away wardens who used to check up on residents.

Valerie Kersey, 74, said: “There’s been a lot of reaction since the latest death. You feel guilty, thinking you should have noticed, and you feel angry. It shouldn’t happen. We’ve been through it twice now.”

But I digress….

 

Just before Parliament was suspended, Boris Johnson appointed one of the most hard-line and divisive women to replace Amber Rudd as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Her voting record reveals a tranche of reactionary views, likely to be offensive to the gay community, women, pensioners and non-smokers. She would also like millions of Europeans who live in the UK to have no right to stay here.

Cigar-smoking Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, would like to lift the ban on smoking in public places, bring back limitless betting odds on addictive gambling machines, and is an opponent of gay marriage.

As a former member of the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee, in the past she has defended Rupert Murdoch over the phone hacking inquiry and was a staunch supporter of Rebekah Brooks, the former News of the World editor and the current CEO of News UK, who she claimed was a victim of “a witch hunt”.

Further extracts:

Coffey opposed gay marriage in Britain in 2013, following up this year by voting against a Commons measure to extend the right of gay marriage to Northern Ireland. She also supports parents who want to withdraw their children from sex education in schools.

On human rights, she voted both to repeal the EU Fundamental Charter of Rights and the Human Rights Act. She is in favour of allowing discrimination against Indians of lower caste and also wants the human rights watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, to lose some of its powers.

On Europe, although she voted Remain, she has since been hostile to Europeans from both the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA) living here after a ‘no deal’ Brexit. She voted against giving them and their families residential rights, but made an exception for the Irish.

On benefits and pensions, she is a firm supporter of the so-called bedroom tax, under which disabled people have to fund for themselves any extra bedroom for a carer. She does not believe that people who are long-term disabled need higher benefits, wants pensioners in work to pay National Insurance, and supports cutting the welfare bill.

Image

Written by Andrew Coates

September 11, 2019 at 11:56 am

Forever Amber: Amber Rudd Resigns, Thérèse Coffey, (Suffolk Coastal MP) Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions.

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If you had better sense you’d have learned by now that nothing thrives so well as wickedness”
 Forever Amber

This Blog has long been supportive of Amber Rudd.

Posts such, “God Bless you Ma’am”, “You’ve Done a Grand Job!” “Thanks to you Coachie helped me get started as a fully-qualified Mud Urchin on the River Orwell” will be there, for all time, on the Net, to show how highly we looked up to her.

Is this the way to express our feelings?

 

Amber – we feel her pain – shows dignity.

Image

 

“Therese Coffey Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal.”

Image result for Amber Rudd

Biography

Thérèse Coffey was appointed Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions on 8 September 2019.

Thérèse was previously Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs between 25 July 2019 and 8 September 2019.

She was previously Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 17 July 2016 to 25 July 2019. She was elected the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal in May 2010.

Education

Thérèse graduated from University College London (UCL) with a PhD in chemistry.

Political Career

Thérèse Coffey served as Deputy Leader of the House of Commons from May 2015 until July 2016.

Thérèse served on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee until she was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to Michael Fallon, Minister for Business and Energy.

Thérèse has campaigned on stopping the A14 toll, improving NHS experience for patients and better broadband.

Wikipedia says,

Coffey’s decision to author a paper for the Free Enterprise Group recommending pensioners should be forced to pay National Insurance provoked a backlash among older constituents, who claimed that in an already tough economic environment, it was wrong to tax pensioners further. However, she said that she had “no regrets writing about National Insurance” and that it was “a policy proposal – it is by no means, at this stage, anymore than that.”[23]

Coffey also faced criticism from Suffolk residents over her support for the Government’s proposal to sell off forestry and woodland in public ownership, in 2011. Protestors argued that “previous experience shows us that when private landowners come in they close car parks and make access as difficult as possible.”[24] Although Coffey voted for the bill,[25] the proposal was afterward dropped by the government.[26]

In October 2016, she was criticised by the then Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron for accepting hospitality worth £890 from Ladbrokes after supporting the gambling industry in parliament as part of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Coffey denied that she had been “influenced in her considerations on matters of related policy by any hospitality received”.

More:

Career outside politics

Thérèse worked for the international company Mars. When Thérèse qualified as a chartered management accountant, she became Finance Director for a UK subsidiary of Mars. She has also worked at the BBC.

Personal life

Thérèse enjoys watching football, gardening and music, especially Muse. She is a CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) member.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

The Secretary of State has overall responsibility for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). They have direct responsibility for departmental expenditure and departmental management.

DWP is responsible for the administration of the State Pension and working age benefits system, providing support to:

  • people of working age
  • employers
  • pensioners
  • families and children
  • disabled people

Here

Written by Andrew Coates

September 8, 2019 at 10:13 am

Spending Plans – End the Benefits Freeze!

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Amongst all the spending plans by the Johnson Junta there is no mention of ending the Benefit Freeze.

Now it is true that Benefits are a matter of the Budget, not the spending review.

 

It’s a Care Bears Government that we have now – Cor Bless You Squire, You’re a Scholar and a Gentleman  Mr Cummings.

Image result for Dominic cummings johnson advisor drunk

Look at this natty nattering by our very own Boss.

 

You’d have thought they could have used the occasion to pop a promise of a few bob for the down-on-their-luck.

More than a third of people affected by the Conservative government’s freeze on benefits have less than £100 a month to live on after they have paid rent and bills for food, council tax and gas and electricity, according to the Citizens Advice service.

Universal credit claimants were especially badly affected, with more than half reporting that they had gone without essentials such as food and toiletries. Nearly the same proportion said they had lost sleep over their dire finances, the charity reported.

Disabled people and those with children were most likely to have gone without essentials, with nearly half of both groups reporting that this had happened to them at least once in the past 12 months.

Citizens Advice said it was ‘totally unacceptable that our benefits system is not providing the financial safety net that people need’

End the Benefits Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 6, 2019 at 10:32 am

Government Urged to Publish Secret DWP Analysis of Impact of Brexit on Poverty, Wages and People on Low Incomes.

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DWP Keeps Report on Brexit Impact Secret.

Already poverty is a major problem in the UK.

But we hear from the latest from Welfare Weekly that they are keeping the impact of Brexit on this under wraps.

 

DWP Urged To Publish ‘Secret’ Brexit Impact Analysis

The SNP has called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to publish secret analysis that reveals the impact of different Brexit outcomes on poverty levels, wages and low-income households in Scotland and the UK.

Neil Gray MP warned that vulnerable people were already suffering under a decade of Tory austerity and that the DWP’s refusal to publish the figures was a “damning indictment” of a Tory government intent on inflicting a damaging policy no matter the cost.

The call for the full publication of the findings comes after the Poverty Alliance used a Freedom of Information request to ask whether or not the DWP had carried out any assessments to look at the impact of different Brexit scenarios on levels of poverty and inequality in the UK, as well as analysis on the impact on low-income households, on wages, employment and costs of living.

The DWP replied to confirm that it does hold some of the analysis but that it would not publish any of the findings as it was not in the public interest to do so.

Economic analysis has already shown that crashing out of the EU without a deal will be devastating for Scotland – costing up to 100,000 jobs and hitting people’s pockets to the tune of £2,300 a year per person.

This is the origin of the story:

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance: “The UK Government’s failure to disclose the analysis they’ve undertaken on Brexit’s impact on poverty is alarming. We’re a society that believes in justice and compassion, and it is clearly in the public interest to know whether Brexit – especially a no-deal Brexit – will inflict harm upon people already struggling to get by.

 

Gordon Brown in Liverpool to warn that city’s most vulnerable will suffer under no deal Brexit

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has warned life will get harder for Liverpool’s poverty-stricken families under a no deal Brexit.

Speaking in Anfield today, Mr Brown said that leaving the EU without a deal would see the cost of food increase and put pressure on local communities like those in north Liverpool that are already struggling.

The outspoken critic of leaving the EU, said that the consequences of a no deal Brexit on the UK’s food supply are already being felt with suppliers having to raise prices.

He also warned that the reliance on food coming in from the EU via Calais and Dover would see the UK’s food supply seriously disrupted in the event of no deal.

He said: “With a no deal Brexit you have two problems. One the cost of food and second the supply of food.”

“One third of our food comes from continental Europe, particularly fruit and vegetables come in from Dover and Calais.

“If we lose that supply of food, or if it’s interrupted, then prices go up again.”

 

Poverty Alliance join forces with over 85 civil society organisations to express grave concerns about no-deal

August the 29th.

The Poverty Alliance have today joined forces with over 85 organisations in expressing our grave concerns about the impacts a no-deal Brexit will have on civil society.  Together with organisations from across the UK, we have called on the Prime Minister to urgently engage with our concerns about leaving the EU without a deal on the 31st October.

Signatories of the letter have serious concerns about how a no-deal exit will be a direct threat to communities across the country, including the possible regression of rights and standards, the uncertainty of the future, and a lack of adequate engagement and support from the UK Government.

The Poverty Alliance has particular concerns about how a no-deal Brexit could impact people living on low incomes, with the likelihood that the economic impact of such a scenario could lead to significant impacts on employment and the cost of living.

Peter Kelly, Director of the Poverty Alliance, said:

“We’re a society that believes in protecting each other from harm. Yet a no-deal Brexit would represent a failure to protect people living on low incomes.

Communities across the country are already experiencing low pay, the effects of social security cuts, and high living costs. A no-deal Brexit threatens to tighten the grip of poverty further. We simply cannot allow that to happen.”

Not that Forever Amber cares tuppance:

Written by Andrew Coates

September 2, 2019 at 3:57 pm

As Country faces Brexit Chaos “Managed Migration” of Claimants into Universal Credit Mayhem continues.

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Looks Sinister – it is.

The migration of all claimants onto the chaotic and unfair Universal credit system continues.

 

Not that you’d notice that much is happening from Amber Rudd’s latest statements.

 

The social security benefit changes that will force you on to Universal Credit

Birmingham Mail.

Universal Credit edges closer for thousands of people who are unemployed and on low income as managed migration means these existing benefits are phased out.

Key section:

What if you’re receiving one of those old benefits already?

If you’re already on Housing Benefit, Jobseeker’s Allowance or one of the other legacy benefits, then you will eventually end up on Universal Credit.

There are two ways this will happen.

The first way is called natural migration. It means you are moved across to Universal Credit if your circumstances change – such as starting or leaving work, a partner moving in or out of your home after a relationship begins or ends, having a child, or changing address.

When your situation changes, your existing benefits are stopped and you will be put on Universal Credit instead.

The second way is called managed migration. This will switch across the remaining two million people on legacy benefits even though their circumstances have not changed.

It has started to happen with a pilot scheme in Harrogate that began at the end of July 2019. That will see up to 10,000 people – more likely 3,000 to 5,000 people, according to latest estimates – transferred to Universal Credit.

In the case of this managed migration, the DWP is offering transitional protection – this means it will top up the Universal Credit payouts so they aren’t lower than the existing benefits these people already receive.

And this is when the managed migration is expected to be finished – that means everyone on one of the old benefits will instead be receiving Universal Credit by then.

More information:

Benefit Changes Timetable – Benefit Changes Timetable 2019

This guide will provide information on the Benefit Changes Timetable.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 30, 2019 at 10:26 am

Cornwall: Work Coaches to refer people with mental health conditions to specialist support, without the need for a GP or clinical assessment.

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Work “coaches” to refer people with mental health conditions to specialist one to one support, without the need for a GP or clinical assessment

This is controversial.

The  DWP announcement:

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd announces funding for life-changing project.

Hundreds of residents from Bude to Penzance are set to benefit from improved mental health support as Amber Rudd announces £100,000 funding for a life-changing project.

The initiative means work coaches can continue to refer people with mental health conditions to specialist one to one support, without the need for a GP or clinical assessment.

As a result, people are able to get help early to tackle their condition before it worsens. The support is also designed to help people find their way back into the workplace when they’re ready.

Amber Rudd, Work and Pensions Secretary, said:

We want to reach people before their mental health spirals downwards – and this money will help to do just that.

The pilot proved that work coaches are well placed to make sure people get help quickly and are supported to get their lives back on track so I’m delighted that it can continue.

Importantly it has also shown that people trust their work coach to help them during their toughest times – and I’m very proud of that.

Now a 100,000 pounds is barely enough for a few paragraphs of Boris Johnson’s ramblings in the Telegraph.

But the principle, and above all the potential practice, is worrying.

 

Jobcentre Staff to ‘Assess’ Claimants Mental Health

 

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has come under fire after it announced a scheme whereby jobcentre staff assess claimants mental health. The £100,000 scheme being rolled out in Cornwall will see claimants on Universal Credit assessed by the work coach to as “to avoid seeing their GP”.

The DWP have announced a controvertial £100,000 scheme for benefit claimants in Cornwall. The plan is for Universal Credit claimants to have their mental health assessed by their Work Coach to determine if they require extra support. The DWP describe the scheme as;

“The initiative means work coaches can continue to refer people with mental health conditions to specialist one to one support, without the need for a GP or clinical assessment.”

Now usually, offering claimants extra support would not be an issue. However, the last sentence above shows the DWP have an ulterior motive – “without the need for a GP or clinical assessment.”

While training work coaches how to interact with claimants with mental health conditions is a good step, Having them replace trained health professionals is simply unacceptable.

Claimants with a health condition already have to go through assessments with “Healthcare Professionals” who’ve done a 30 minute seminar on mental health. These leads to, as it did in my own case, the initial assessment being incorrect.

Only a GP or HCP involved in a person’s ongoing care can give a qualified opinion on a patients mental state. Outsourcing it to staff who are already overworked is bound to see more mistakes made.

The Blog Black isle Media rightly comments,

Now they think work coaches can replace a claimants GP. This is yet another way to force vulnerable benefit claimants to seek work before they are ready.

I hope I am wrong, but unfortunately when it comes to the DWP, I like many others, am not.

The story has a background:

DWP slammed by charity for plan to hold mental health assessments in JobCentres

Mirror March 2010.

EXCLUSIVE: Mind told the Mirror Jobcentres are “completely inappropriate” and could throw vulnerable benefit claimants into further distress

New pilot for jobcentres to refer claimants directly to Improving Access to Psychological Therapies

4 APRIL 2019, 01:49 PM

This seems quite dangerous to me.  Surely someone with mental health problems needs referral to a specialist through the NHS by their GP?  If they need a referral to this kind of clinician I have not heard of before – a work psychologist – and are not getting it then we need to be concerned that such a valuable resource is not available on the NHS.  If they don’t need it why is an unqualified jobcentre plus employee allowed to refer them to the wrong specialist, possibly with damaging effects? This seems an outrageous way of bullying people with mental health issues.  Why stop there? Could people with back problems be referred to chiropractors? With Crohn’s disease prescribed probiotics? Ruth

Written by Andrew Coates

August 27, 2019 at 4:02 pm

Universal Credit Staff to Strike.

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Image result for pcs universal credit strike

 

DWP Universal Credit staff to strike next week after ‘running out of patience’

The Mirror.

Universal Credit call handlers will stage a two-day strike next week after “running out of patience” with what they say are cuts and overwork.

More than 200 workers are set to stage a walkout at a contact centre in Stockport, Greater Manchester, next Tuesday and Wednesday after approving the action in a strike ballot.

Some 227 Public Commercial Services union (PCS) members at the centre were balloted. 162 voted, of which 148 backed a strike.

It comes after two walkouts at centres in Wolverhampton and Walsall earlier this year over similar issues.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The decision to take strike action has not been taken lightly by our members in Universal Credit. They do their best to help claimants get the support they need.

The Guardian,

Workers at a centre dealing with universal credit are to stage a two-day strike in a row over workloads and staffing levels, the Press Association reports. Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) at the office in Stockport, Greater Manchester, will walk out from August 27. More than 200 UC staff in Stockport will go on strike for two days next Tuesday in a row over workloads and staffing levels. The union said staffing at the centre has been in decline since the flagship benefit was introduced three years ago, but the Department for Work and Pensions ( DWP) said it is confident that staffing levels are sufficient, PA reports.

23 Aug 2019

PCS members fighting to improve their Universal Credit service centre are striking for 2 days next week.

In a ballot declared earlier this month, members voted 91.9% in favour of strike action and 95% in favour of action short of strike on a 71.4% turnout. Our members will be taking strike action next week, on Tuesday (27) and Wednesday (28), with a demand for extra staff to be recruited and for working practices to be changed to allow them to process the cases of some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Staffing at the Universal Credit Service Centre, Millennium House in Stockport has been in decline since its introduction in 2016/17. Despite existing staff being switched to UC to support hard-pressed members and further staff from the remaining legacy command incoming in September, PCS members are clear this is not going to tackle the problem of increasing workloads and the demands placed upon staff.

PCS is equally clear that action is needed to make important changes for members and this is reflected in the support in the ballot. Case managers have seen their caseloads increase week by week. The volume of telephone calls has gone up in line with those caseloads and members are now expected to be working on several claims at the same time. Stress-related absences are higher on the UC command compared to the legacy commands.

PCS demands the DWP:

  • Recruits 100 new staff members
  • Limits calls to 30 a week for case managers
  • Increases the one minute time allowed for after-call work
  • Allocates time for case work to be completed
  • Ends the attack on flexi
  • Ends the unnecessary restrictions on breaks and lunches
  • Ends the victimisation of a local PCS representative and a PCS member and the dropping of cases against them.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 23, 2019 at 11:33 am

Food Banks Face New Challenges under no-Deal Brexit

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Why a no-deal Brexit could be calamitous for food banks

RUAIRI CASEY New Statesman.

As our contributors have been discussing the merits of eating US rat droppings and chlorinated orange juice  this prospect looms.

Bad news seems to be accumulating at a record pace. Thanks to the frequent and stark warnings about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit, so are stockpiles of food.

Britons have already spent billions amassing private stores of provisions, while big supermarkets like Tesco and Marks and Spencer’s have been filling their warehouses with non-perishables since just after the Christmas rush.

I know people in real life who are already doing just this…

 The modern cross-border food supply chain is a wonder of efficiency and, presently, a ceaseless whirr of containers passes unencumbered through ports like Folkstone and Dover, speeding Italian tomatoes and Spanish heads of lettuce towards our local supermarket shelves, all in the quick and convenient manner to which we’ve become accustomed.

But if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal on 31 October, gridlock caused by radically different customs arrangements will knock the balance of this finely-calibrated operation sharply out of kilter.

What has been less remarked upon regarding these premonitions of calamity is that the UK is already living through a crisis in food security of its own making, caused by nearly a decade of punitive austerity measures, which will likely be significantly worsened in a no-deal scenario.

The number of Britons relying on food banks to meet their needs has been rapidly increasing since 2010. The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest network of food banks, gave out 1.6 million emergency food packages in the year ending this March.

It marked a rise of 19 per cent on 2018, driven by benefit sanctions, in-work poverty and delays tied to the roll-out of Universal Credit. Now, no-deal Brexit could be a perfect storm of disaster for the country’s most vulnerable households.

Disruption to food supply chains will mean less food on the supermarket shelves, and stockpiling by households and businesses means much-needed donations towards food banks will probably decline.

This continues, to the real point of the article,

The Trussell Trust does not have the facilities to centrally stockpile food supplies, and so plans to shift supplies around its network of some 1,200 food banks.

“We’re giving Brexit guidance to food banks – but there’s a limit to how much we can prepare for and mitigate its consequences,” said Garry Lemon, the Trussell Trust’s director of policy, external affairs and research.

“The responsibility to prevent more people being pulled into poverty lies with our Government. We cannot rely on support driven by volunteers and food donations to pick up the pieces, particularly in the event of no-deal.”

INnother words it will be Food Banks, not to mention those, like us, who often rely on the cheapest food, who will suffer.

The Benefit Freeze means we are already living close to the edge.

This will get worse.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 20, 2019 at 9:46 am

Sanctions Regime Scandal Continues As Calls Made for Root-and-Branch Reform of the System.

with 119 comments

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There’s lot to Dramatise about Universal Credit…..

Perhaps it’s just us lot, but the sanctions regime really sticks in the craw.

This is in the Daily Record.

Universal Credit sanctions imposed on 256,000 claimants as charity demands halt to harsh regime

Citizens Advice Scotland demanded an immediate halt to the harsh benefit sanctions regime after a quarter of a million people across Britain were penalised in a year.

The Department for Work and Pensions published a report confirming 256,000 sanctions between May last year and April for people on Universal Credit.

It comes days after a woman said she had thousands of pounds cut when she missed an appointment because she suffered a miscarriage.

Mhoraig Green, from Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “We have long raised concerns about cases where people have had their benefits unfairly sanctioned, leaving them without any income for a sustained period, causing them to require crisis support including food bank referrals.”

In Scotland, the network of Citizens Advice offices helped people with sanctions 1273 times in the past financial year.

Earlier this week, Danielle John’s story sparked revulsion after she revealed a 229-day sanction was imposed because she
forgot to inform her work coaches about a miscarriage suffered the day before an appointment.

A DWP spokesman said: “It is only right that we expect some claimants to meet certain agreed commitments in exchange for their benefits.

“We want to ensure sanctions are effective and support claimants, which is why we constantly review them and have announced an end to single fixed-period sanctions lasting more than six months.”

Benefit sanctions statistics to April 2019

This is from the Background to the Report,

There are four sanction levels in UC: –
• Lowest Level: Failure to attend or take part in a Work-Focused Interview. The sanction lasts until the claimant attends or takes part in one, or moves to either the Working – no requirements or No Work Requirements conditionality regimes.
• Low Level: The sanction lasts until the claimant does what they previously failed to do and were sanctioned for (e.g. failing to attend a training course) or because either the requirement is no longer appropriate or an alternative compliance condition has been met, plus 7, 14 or 28 days for the first, second or third low level sanction in any 12-month period.

• Medium Level: The sanction lasts 28 days for the first sanction in any 12 month period, and 96 days (approximately 3 months) for a second medium level sanction. Medium level sanctions apply, for example, where the claimant has to meet the work availability requirement, but has failed to be available to attend an interview or start work.

• High Level: The sanction lasts for 96 days (approximately 3 months) for the first sanction in any 12-month period, 182 days (approximately 6 months) for a second high level sanction and 1095 days (approximately 3 years) for a third.
Universal Credit Sanctions Official Statistics

Which lead to this, apart from the Play above

this is extremely interesting:

Selection of Recommendations.

  • Recommendation: The DWP needs to abolish the 5 week wait for Universal Credit.
  • Recommendation: The DWP needs to urgently comply with the findings of the High Court, that people paid monthly but whose earnings for two months fall into one assessment period should be treated as having been paid for the period when their wages were earned, rather than the date they were received.
  • Recommendation: People who are self-employed should be able to request 3-monthly assessment periods for earnings and costs. This would even out sporadic payments and fit with reporting requirements for Making Tax Digital, reducing bureaucracy for micro businesses.
  • Recommendation: The rigidity of monthly assessment periods needs to be urgently reviewed. People who are paid on a different schedule should be able to average their earnings. Those who have a change of circumstances during the assessment period should have the option to average out the impact
  • Recommendation: Claimants should be paid twice-monthly by default as they are in Northern Ireland, and in pilots in some Jobcentres, with the option to be paid monthly if they wish.
  • Recommendation: All claimants should have the option of direct payments to their landlord from the start of the claim.
  • Recommendations: Benefits should rise by 2% above inflation for each of the next 4 years in order to restore their value to 2015 levels.
    A minimum standard of income for benefits claimants should be assessed and implemented by the DWP for all elements of Universal Credit.
  • Recommendation: The value of Local Housing Allowance should be restored to accurately reflect the lowest 30% of market rents in every area.

 Sanctions.

The DWP’s UC Full Service Survey showed that 11% of claimants had been sanctioned, of whom 18% had been sanctioned more than once.

These are far higher rates than JSA or ESA.

  • Recommendation: The DWP should publish a list of common circumstances that constitute ‘good reason’ for breaching the claimant commitment. There needs to be a standardised sanctions process across the country to reduce reliance on judgement and increase fairness and accountability in the application of sanctions.
  • Recommendation: All DWP staff and work coaches should receive training on the definition of ‘good reasons’ for claimants not to be issued with a Universal Credit sanction. This should include an ‘other circumstances’ category where judgement can be applied. The training must also ensure that DWP staff are aware of and follow standardised procedure in relation to sanctions. This should be followed up with a requirement for decision makers to ensure that these procedures have been applied before sanctions are implemented.
  • Recommendation: Remove fixed term sanctions – sanctions should end when claimants have complied with their requirements. Sanctions should also end if the claimant becomes unable to comply, for example due to becoming unwell or having a new baby.

 

There’s a lot more: read it!

Followed by:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2019 at 11:15 am

Sanctions Regime: The Story of Danielle John.

with 77 comments

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Beginning of a Spiral of Sanctions.

DWP cuts woman’s Universal Credit ‘for missing appointments after miscarriage’

Mirror.

Danielle John from Cardiff saw her life spiral out of control following the sanctions imposed by the Department for Work and Pensions

A woman says she was driven to shoplifting and drug abuse after having thousands of pounds from her Universal Credit payments cut after missing an appointment the day after suffering a miscarriage .

Danielle John forgot to inform her work coaches about the miscarriage and later received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions telling her that she would be sanctioned as a result.

The letter said: “You didn’t come to a meeting with us […] because of this, you’ll lose some or all of your universal credit payment for a time.

“We call this being sanctioned.”

The letter explained she would lose £10.40 every day for 229 days, a total of £2,381.6

The system lifted me from poverty. Today, Danielle John is not so lucky

Last week, a woman’s sanction letter from the Department for Work and Pensions went viral on Twitter. Danielle John, from Cardiff, simply wrote: “Was told to put this up on Twitter… this was because I had a miscarriage and missed appointment.”

These stories are fairly common now. We are used to seeing reports about people being sanctioned because of attending a funeral/cancer treatment/their child being in hospital. But this one struck me in particular because the language was so coldly efficient. Brief to the point of cruelty. I didn’t know it was possible, even in a business letter, to say: “We’re about to ruin your whole life” without a shred of empathy.

The letter, written in February 2017, starts in large font: “You’ll lose some of your payment… This reduction will last 229 days.” Two hundred and 29 days for a single missed appointment. That’s almost 32 weeks of punishment. Or, if you prefer, February until August, with no money at all. When you consider that the harsher punishments for domestic violence introduced in 2018 suggest a sentence towards the upper limit of “a fine to up to 26 weeks’ custody” for common assault, you have to wonder what fantastical, sadistic metric the DWP has used to calculate sanctions.

The letter goes on to say that for her missed appointment – I just want to pause to remind you here that Danielle John was having a miscarriage at the time of missing this appointment – she would be sanctioned £10.40 for each of those days. So, a total of £2,381.60.

Because of this Daneille John got attacked,

Contributors to this Blog are familiar with sanctions.

In February 2019, 66% the UC caseload were in the conditionality groups that could be subject to sanction, compared to 81% in August 2015. service decisions resulted in a sanction. This is up 5 percentage points from August 2018 to October 2018. migration to Universal Credit.14 May 2019

A few months ago this was the story,

Tories ditch ‘ineffective’ three-year benefit sanctions

Punishment, criticised for being pointlessly cruel, doesn’t work, admits Amber Rudd

The government is to abolish “counterproductive” three-year benefit sanctions, in an official acknowledgement that depriving jobless people of social security income for long periods undermines their attempts to move into work.

The announcement, made by the work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, during a speech on employment on Thursday morning, was welcomed by campaigners and MPs, who encouraged her to make further changes to the controversial policy.

But

Mentally ill universal credit claimant receives less than £6 for month after £312 deducted for sanctions

‘This poverty has no prejudice. This is the kind of thing that drives people to homelessness, and to suicide’

May Bulman 

Amber Rudd has yet to comment on the latest case.

End the Sanctions Regime! 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 12, 2019 at 11:40 am

Universal Credit Faces New Legal Challenge.

with 56 comments

Merseyside Job Centre has been covered in graffiti protesting against the government’s controversial Universal Credit benefit policy (August 2019)

A lot of social security legislation and the bodies administering it  seem to end up in legal cases.

From the private chancers running parts of the welfare state there is Capita.

Capita seeks to reverse ‘reputational damage’ after death of claimant

BBC.

Benefit-assessment company Capita is going to court to try to reverse the “reputational damage” it says it suffered after a claimant died.

Victoria Smith died months after her personal independence payments were stopped following a Capita assessment.

The outsourcing company was ordered to pay £10,000 in damages over its handling of her disability claim.

It was found to have made incorrect statements but wants the county court verdict set aside and the case reheard.

The company conducts health assessments for personal independence payments (PIP), the main disability benefit, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

While the decision over whether someone receives the benefit is made by a DWP official, Capita’s assessment of how a person’s disability affects their life is a crucial part of the process.

Now there is this:

Universal Credit bosses face new legal battle over ‘unfair’ payments in ‘flawed and illogical policy’

Claimants threaten legal proceedings because they are being short-changed.

Birmingham Live.

Universal Credit bosses are facing another legal battle over the amount some claimants are paid.

The Government is being taken to court for a third time over the way disabled people are treated when moved on to the new benefit.

Those who previously received Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP) say they’ve lost out since being forced to go on to Universal Credit instead.

Two men, who are only identified as TP and AR, have already won two legal challenges against the DWP over the issue.

The High Court ruled the way claimants were treated was unlawful discrimination on both occasions.

The pair have now written again to Amber Rudd, Secretary of State of Work and Pensions, after she said the level of payments for severely disabled individuals who have moved onto UC will be set at £120 for single claimants.

They say this is unfair and does not reflect the money they have actually lost, which is about £180 per month.

TP and AR argue that “the Universal Credit migration arrangements announced on 22 July 2019 are still unlawful as they short-change individuals who previously received the Severe Disability Premium and Enhanced Disability Premium and moved onto Universal Credit before 16 January 2019 when the SDP Gateway Regulations came into force.”

The regulations meant that anyone on Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Housing Benefit will not be forced on to Universal Credit if they also get the Severe Disability Premium.

But now TP and AR say those who moved across before those rules came into effect will receive £50 less a month than those who no longer face being moved on the new benefit.

TP and AR have asked the DWP how the £120 figure was reached and argue that the full £180 per month shortfall should be given, otherwise the regulations will still be unlawful discrimination.

They also ask why the new regulations provide discretionary hardship payments for individuals who are subject to “managed migration” onto UC but not for those who have already had to move onto the benefit because their circumstances changed.

They argue that this is a further difference in treatment between the two groups.

The Government has been given a deadline of August 15, 2019, to reply to the letter, or the men say they will launch further legal proceedings.

Of course the law gets involved for simpler reasons:

Woman ‘unable to survive’ on £44 a month Universal Credit shoplifts from Primark

Mirror.

Universal Credit claimant Lisa Payne draped £117 worth of jeans over her arm and walked out of the Primark in Grimsby.

A woman left with just £44 a month on Universal Credit was caught stealing nine pairs of jeans from Primark, a court heard.

Lisa Payne “simply couldn’t survive with £44” over an entire month, her solicitor claimed.

The court heard Payne stole £117 worth of jeans from a Primark at the Freshney Place shopping centre in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

The 46-year-old draped the pairs of jeans – costing £13 each – over her arm and walked out of the shop, but she failed to elude security officers, GrimsbyLive reported.

A guard followed her out of the store and the jeans were recovered during the theft on May 23.

Amber Rudd is hot on the job of making things better:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 7, 2019 at 9:46 am

After Day of Protest on Universal Credit: What is the Labour Party Doing?

with 226 comments

 

SALFORD JOINS STOP UNIVERSAL CREDIT DAY OF ACTION 

Unite the Union, above all Unite Community held a day of action on August the 1st (there will be a street stall in Ipswich soon).

These are the demands:

Unite is campaigning to #STOPUniversalCredit. The government must:

  • Abandon the long waits for claimants to receive money
  • Allow people to apply for Universal Credit in a jobcentre, not just online
  • Provide people with better help when the system fails them
  • Pay landlords directly to stop people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes
  • End benefit sanctions for all claimants.

Here are the reasons for the protests:

10 reasons why Universal Credit should be stopped

  1. Unbearably long waits for claimants to receive money
  2. People can only apply for Universal Credit online making it inaccessible for many
  3. Not enough help for claimants when the system fails them
  4. Rent paid directly to claimants instead of Landlords causing people to get into arrears and even to lose their homes
  5. Letting agents are already refusing to rent to anyone claiming Universal Credit
  6. Cruel sanctions for both in-work and out-of-work claimants
  7. Payments only go to one named member of a household
  8. Universal Credit takes 63p in every £1 people earn
  9. Universal Credit leaves many working families much worse off than the old system
  10. People in part-time work could be forced to give up work that suits their disability or family life in order to take up worse paid full-time work or risk sanctions.

There is a long list of events that took place:

#StopUniversalCredit
NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION – 1 August 2019
List of events across the country.

 

This is the most recent story that I can find on Labour’s policy:

Confusion – again – after Labour backtracks on Corbyn pledge to scrap universal credit

Labour’s policy on universal credit has again become mired in confusion after its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, promised to scrap the government’s “catastrophic” and “iniquitous” benefit system if his party wins the next general election.

Such a move would be seen as a significant victory for disabled activists and allies who have pushed the party to promise to scrap universal credit, instead of pledging only to halt the rollout of the system and fix its many flaws.

Interviewed after the party’s success in last week’s Peterborough by-election, Corbyn told Channel 4 News (pictured): “We are ready for a general election, and that general election will deliver a Labour government.”

He added: “If you voted Remain in 2016, and you’re on universal credit, if you voted Leave in 2016 on universal credit, you actually want to get rid of universal credit. That’s what Labour offers.”

Despite Corbyn’s comments, what seemed to be a significant change in policy appeared not to have been noticed by any mainstream media.

And the party’s press office today (Thursday) issued a statement that conflicted with what Corbyn said, merely stating again that a Labour government would pause the rollout of UC and try to make it fit for purpose.

A party spokesperson said: “Universal credit isn’t working and cannot continue in its current form.

“Labour will stop the roll-out, and ensure our social security system genuinely protects people from poverty.”

Disabled activists, particularly Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), have campaigned for the government – and any future Labour government – to “stop and scrap” universal credit (UC).

Only last week, DPAC released new research which detailed media articles on UC published between January and May this year, which it said was “a damning record of UC systemic and catastrophic failures”.

It said that UC had reached a point where it was “unable to adapt to claimants’ complex circumstances, and is forcing people with the least resources into further poverty, homelessness, and hunger”.

DPAC said it was calling for UC to be scrapped because it had become a social security system “which not only does not offer security, but actively undermined people’s ability to cope with the hazards of life”.

A DPAC spokesperson said last night (Wednesday), in response to Corbyn’s comments, but before the party had released its statement: “We welcome it as it’s the only credible position that Labour or any other party can take given UC’s well-evidenced fundamental failings, enormous waste and terrible harm but we remain unsure of Labour’s position until there is a firm public commitment.”

It is not the first time that Labour has appeared to call for UC to be scrapped and then retreated from that position.

This – there is no recent reference to Universal Credit – has been retweeted by the Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, Margaret Greenwood.

She is, rightly, concerned about this:

Labour seems more interested in this scheme, which looks unlikely to solve the immediate problems of Universal Credit.

Critics point to three major flaws in Universal Basic Income

  • It is not redistributive: the Tories and their business friends can continue to trouser as much money as they wish.
  • It does not cover the real costs of living, nobody could pay their rent (housing benefit),  and cover all the costs of a decent life on this ‘basic’ unless it were set at a much higher rate than is feasible to pay out to everybody in the county.
  • It does not cover special needs, the money needed by disabled people to begin with.

In this vein,

DPAC warns Labour to rethink support for universal basic income

The DPAC report warns that too little attention has been paid to the implications of UBI for disabled people.

The report warns that it is likely that housing benefit and disability benefits would remain outside a UBI system.

This would mean the need for continuing disability assessments, and the risk that the high cost of running a UBI system would mean further cuts to benefits and services relied on by disabled people, such as social care support.

DPAC’s Ellen Clifford, author of the new report, said: “While we would be in favour of tax rises to fund welfare provision – particularly corporation tax and a progressive rise in the higher rate of income tax – the use of this for a UBI rather than more traditional forms of disability and unemployment support would mean much of the benefit flowing back to employers rather than those in most need.”

Two other grassroots organisations of disabled people, Black Triangle and WinVisible, have this week added their voices to the concerns raised by DPAC about UBI.

Clifford’s report concludes that implementing UBI “risks detracting attention and resources from the urgent task required to overhaul the disability benefits system and make it fit for purpose”.

It adds: “Given the history of disabled people’s exclusion and the marginalisation of our issues it is reasonable for disabled people to fear that attention and resources dedicated to the task of implementing a UBI will be at the expense of affecting the level of change needed to ensure disabled people receive adequate support.”

There are also concerns, says the report, that a more flexible employment market ushered in by UBI, with greater job insecurity and the likelihood of poorer working conditions and lower wages for lower-paid workers, would further disadvantage disabled workers.

They also say that right-wing versions of UBI are seen as a way of saving money by avoiding spending on a decent living wage and social protection.

And the report says that pushing for UBI risks deferring demands for full reasonable adjustments at work for disabled workers, and “full and unconditional support” for those unable to work, while “ending up with a system that is more of a helping hand for employers than for disabled people”.

The report says DPAC’s concerns are born out by the results of pilot UBI schemes that have been run across the world, including one in Finland that has just ended, but has not yet been assessed officially, which critics say has forced unemployed workers into bad jobs while undermining unions, wage equality, and the welfare state.

And it says concerns have been raised about the proposed pilot schemes in Scotland, including the cost and potential negative impacts on disabled people, including likely cuts to other social protection schemes.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 3, 2019 at 10:02 am

Universal Credit Claimants punished for not having Mobile Phones.

with 94 comments

Unite day of action against Universal Credit, Thursday 1st August

(Details of Actions, including in Ipswich, on the Saturday, to follow).

In the meantime somebody is happy:

While Amber Rudd basks in her success, and we await copies of the Boris Johnson Guide, Protect and Survive a No-Deal Brexit,  the mess that is Universal Credit continues to pile up.

Our newshounds have often posted about the “all digital” “on-line” problem-creating side of the madcap scheme to make everybody poorer.

Even the Boris Backing Currant Bun has admitted that,

PORTAL PROBLEMS 

Universal Credit’s online system ‘requires huge amounts of mobile data and doesn’t alert claimants’

A proper journalist for Third Force News reported only this year,

The shocking digital divide that punishes Universal Credit claimants

As many as one in three people seeking help with Universal Credit (UC) in Scotland don’t have access to the internet to make their claim.

Research carries out by the country’s network of citizen’s advice bureaux (CABs) point to a shocking digital divide impacting the most vulnerable.

The introduction of UC has caused myriad problems for claimants, plunging many into misery – not least because it is an online only system.

One side of this has just come up, from today’s Daily Record.

People without mobile phones facing delays on lifeline Universal Credit payments

Dedicated staff at Renfrewshire CAB say they are finding some of the most vulnerable people who do not have a phone are at risk of facing delays in their applications.

Having a mobile phone is something most of us take for granted.

But, for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, being without a mobile phone could mean lifeline cash that keeps a roof over their head and food in their fridge, simply slips out of their hands.

Staff at Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau, in Paisley, have laid bare the issues faced by Universal Credit applicants who don’t have access to a mobile phone.

The most pressing concern is that claimants can’t find out how their application is progressing and what steps they need to take next.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) uses a call back system, which means that, without a mobile phone, some people who are in dire need can face their application being delayed as there are no means of contacting them.

Bureau manager Kay Taylor, who has worked at the Renfrewshire branch for eight years, insists the system makes the application process much more difficult for many.

She said: “Some of the clients who come here have complex issues and are dealing with chaotic lifestyles.

“And although, quite rightly, the DWP has this call-back in place, it can be problematic for people with complex issues as they may have no means for the DWP of getting in touch with them and it can stall their claims.

“If they don’t have a mobile phone, they can’t get the notifications about their applications telling them what next steps they need to take.

“They can come here to have the DWP call them back on a landline at a specific time, but sometimes that can be difficult or is not possible.”

Amber is still wafting away in the happy clouds of forgetfulness.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 30, 2019 at 10:36 am

Forever Amber, Rudd: She’s Back and No More Mrs Nice Lady!

with 99 comments

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Forever Amber: “If you had better sense you’d have learned by now that nothing thrives so well as wickedness”

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“It was a position of no mean prestige, and of considerable activity.”
― Kathleen Winsor, Forever Amber.

Not only that, but she’s spread her wings!

 

A Happy Amber today:

Tipped for Greater things!

Amber Plans to build on her past successes!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 25, 2019 at 10:00 am

Amber Rudd Pleads for a Job as New Report Slams Universal Credit – Again.

with 37 comments

Job Hungry Amber Pulls the Other One, Bells and All!

The Currant Bun reported.

Boris was asked about who he wanted to win ITV’s Love Island.

He joked that the Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd should go home with £50k after audience members clamoured for ‘Amber’ to win.

When asked if he had been watching the show, he said: “I have been watching it very dimly.

“Seems to involve these people with very few clothes on.”

He then asked the audience who they think should win – with dozens of onlookers shouting ‘Amber’ in reply.

He replied: “Amber? Amber is in Love Island!”

But leadership rival Jeremy Hunt said: “I don’t know, I don’t watch it.”

For the moment Amber is Pleading, Gizza Job! I can do that!

Back to Universal Credit:

Universal Credit ‘lobster pot’ leaving claimants out of pocket without warning, MPs warn

Politics Home.

In a new report, the cross-party Work and Pensions Committee found confusion among DWP advisers over when claimants should move over to the new benefit, with some recipients facing a steep drop in income if they make the switchover.

Universal Credit aims to roll six existing working-age benefits into one payment, a move the Government says will simplify the welfare system and cut costs.

..

The DWP has pursued a policy of “managed migration” for those making the switch to the new system, with the policy aiming to ensure that claimants moving off of the older benefits get transitional payments so that they do not take an immediate financial hit.

But the MPs warned that there are no similar protections in place for those whose circumstances have changed and so are deemed to have undergone “natural migration” by the department.

And they said: “Understanding when existing benefit claimants will need to naturally migrate to UC is so complex, it baffles even experienced benefit advisers.”

The committee warned that claimants could end up out of pocket because of changes that do “not seem significant”, including moving house to a different local authority area or even suffering a bereavement.

“Losing a partner is classed as a change in circumstance — which means that claimants who have just lost their partner must immediately claim UC at a time of considerable grief and distress,” they said.

“We urge the Department instead to allow people who have lost their partner to remain on legacy benefits for a grace period of one year.”

The situation could also have “drastic consequences” for disabled claimants, the committee warned, with disabled adults and children among the groups “most likely to see their income fall when they move to UC via natural migration”.

They accused the DWP of failing to give “clear or comprehensive information” to its own staff on when exactly somebody might need to move to Universal Credit and how it would affect their income.

That meant claimants were left “at risk of moving to UC either inadvertently, not realising that they will lose out, or because they are given the wrong advice by DWP staff or other organisations”, they committee said.

From the Report Universal Credit: natural migration

27th Report from the Committee…. 

The Government has said repeatedly that once the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) is complete, it will be more generous than the system it replaces. But it is not more generous for everyone. While some people are entitled to more money under UC than they would have received in the previous benefits system, many will be entitled to less.

Some of the Department’s plans for moving people to UC recognise that some claimants will be worse off. For instance, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP/the Department) plans to take a cautious approach to what it calls “managed migration”—the process of moving claimants on existing benefits to UC. It plans to provide claimants who move to UC in this way with transitional protection—payments to ensure they do not lose income overnight—and other support to minimise any stress or adverse effects of the move. This is, of course, welcome.

But the majority of claimants on existing benefits will move, or have already moved, to UC through a process known as “natural migration”, which usually happens when their circumstances change. For these claimants, there is no transitional protection. People naturally migrate to UC when they have a change in their lives which would require a new claim for a legacy benefit. There are a vast number of changes which can lead to natural migration. By contrast, there are very few which can end transitional protection under managed migration. This is because the Department deliberately selected the few circumstances in which to end transitional protection, whereas the natural migration process, by its own admission, was based on its own administrative needs. The Department has moved staff away from legacy benefits to Universal Credit and other roles, and says that the only way it can administer a change of circumstances is through the claimant making a new claim to Universal Credit.

The Department argues that it is fair that claimants who experience a “significant” change in their circumstances should not receive transitional protection, on the grounds that it has always been the case that new claims for legacy benefits would be assessed on a claimant’s new circumstances. It is difficult to reconcile this explanation, however, with the fact that the design of UC—which, unlike the legacy system, now represents all, or the majority, of a claimant’s income—means that any change in a claimant’s circumstances exposes them to all aspects of UC, which may be less generous than the legacy system and which may not be related to their specific change. For example, a disabled claimant who moves home could lose their disability premiums, even though their disability remains the same. What is more, the disparity between the changes that can lead to natural migration and those that can end transitional protection mean that some claimants will lose out simply because of when their circumstances change. Therefore, when managed migration begins, households with the same circumstances will be receiving different amounts of Universal Credit—not because their needs are different, but because of the route by which they moved to Universal Credit. This cannot be fair.

For claimants, some of the changes that can trigger this move will not seem significant. For example, moving house within the same local authority area does not trigger migration to Universal Credit—but moving to a different local authority does. That means in practice that someone who moves to a different local authority area loses their entitlement to transitional protection. The DWP justifies this purely by reference to its own administrative processes, with no mention of a claimant’s needs. The Government should commit to providing ongoing payments to meet the shortfall in income for all claimants who move or have moved to UC simply because they moved home outside of their local authority.

https://twitter.com/AmberRuddHR/status/1153368833744363520?s=20

Make Universal Credit Great! The Last Days of Amber Rudd……(?)

with 95 comments

Image result for amber rudd universal credit cartoon

No More Right Honourable Nasty Type.

Do politicians do swan songs?

One could be forgiven for thinking that Rudd in unlikely to stay in her job..

Amber Rudd warns Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt their Brexit plans will ‘collide with reality’

The Work and Pensions Secretary, who is backing Jeremy Hunt over Boris Johnson in the race to be the next Conservative leader, said both men would have to make concessions to win over a “difficult” Parliament.

And she admitted to being “surprised” that the two contenders had taken a hardline stance on leaving the EU in a head-to-head debate earlier this week.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster. Politics Home.

Now Rudd is making all kinds of final performance sounding statements about reforming Universal Credit.

Amber Rudd has change of heart over Universal Credit five-week wait and says it could be cut.

Birmingham Live.

Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt revealed that Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has spoken to him to suggest reducing the time frame.

Jeremy Hunt said the Tory welfare chief “persuaded” him the five-week wait should be axed.

….on Tuesday, July 16, Ms Rudd confirmed her apparent change of heart when she told POLITICO’s London Playbook Live: “I’m talking to Jeremy Hunt to see what we can do and how we will address that. A shorter wait would be good.

“I would like to see if we can get more money into Universal Credit.

“I want to make sure that people who need benefits, particularly people who are coming onto UC from other benefits – so they are already dependent on a monthly pay – can have access to the money as soon as possible.

“We have done that up to a point, because they can now get advances straight away, usually on day one and repay it over a twelve-month period.

Rudd to the Rescue!

More happy ideas:

Said once, said twice!

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 18, 2019 at 11:14 am

Council Tax Benefit (Support/Reduction) Messed up by Universal Credit.

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Image result for eric pickles

Eric Pickles has a Laugh at Claimants.

Pre-dating the mess of Universal Credit was the decision by Blubber Guts Eric Pickles to make all benefit claimants pay a proportion of Council Tax.

In 2013 we had, this “the benefit is being replaced by a new system, council tax support, that will be run by English local authorities but with 10% less funding.

It began like this,

 

Council tax benefit cuts: the expense of getting people with no money to pay up

2013.

Unlike the “bedroom tax“, which only affects tenants of councils and housing associations, changes to council tax benefits from April will also affect owner-occupiers and private tenants. It is currently claimed by 5.9 million recipients and is the most widely claimed means-tested benefit. Local authorities have been asked by the government to replace council tax benefit with new local schemes that reduce the amount of council tax relief councils can pay out.

 

Some have opted to protect the 100% council tax benefit that poorer residents who live in property in a low council tax band currently receive. Instead they are reducing the amount of benefit for people living in higher council tax band properties. Other councils have chosen to spread the cuts equally, opting for a maximum 90% rebate for everyone. In this case, people on the minimum income possible to survive will from April have to use their meagre income to pay 10% of their total council tax.

This was the result,

Eric Pickles and David Cameron handed local authorities the power to administer council tax benefit, then cut the budget by 10%, resulting in the number of households in council tax arrears to increase by 45%.

It soon developed: – and it is rare to find anywhere which has a 100% reduction today as the name “Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called Council Tax Support)”  indicates.

Though there is this example (July 2019):

Some low income residents in South Ribble might not have to make a minimum contribution towards their council tax bills from next year.

South Ribble Borough Council is set to launch a public consultation on a proposal to scrap the so-called council tax support scheme, which means all working-age households pay a flat rate of £3.50 per week – even if their income level entitles them to help to cover the rest of the bill.

Now we have this, proving that if there’s one thing Universal Credit is good for, it’s making things worse.

DWP: Why Universal Credit is causing ‘one big headache’ over changes to council tax

Teesside Live.

Residents are being hit with different levels of bills due to complications caused by Universal Credit

Universal Credit is increasing the burden on struggling staff at a Teesside authority and leaving residents confused, due to its effect on council tax, a meeting heard.

Stockton Council has launched a six-month review into its council tax support scheme.

It does not take much to see that this must be happening across the country.

About 11,000 people receive council tax support in the borough and everyone of working age gets at least 20% of their bills.

But Julie Auffret, the council’s revenues and benefit services manager, has revealed how Universal Credit had hit both customers and council staff in how they dealt with council tax.

She told a meeting of the council’s place select committee that the introduction of Universal Credit was leasing to confusion and stress.

She said: “What it creates for us is complications which perhaps didn’t exist when we were dealing with housing benefit and council tax benefit ourselves.

“It meant we could calculate benefits at the same time – now that has been split, it has complicated it and makes it a slightly lengthier calculation than it used to be.”

Universal Credit rolled six benefits into one and was introduced in Stockton a year ago.

But the benefits manager explained month-on-month adjustments to Universal Credit had meant the council had to keep recalculating its own council tax support.

Ms Auffret said: “For us that’s becoming quite a significant administrative burden – and for customers it’s becoming difficult for them to understand why their council tax support is being recalculated repeatedly and why they’re getting lots of bills.

“We’d really like to explore a different way of doing things to make it simpler.”

Changes were made to the council tax system in 2013 when the Government abolished council tax benefit and told local authorities to form their own support schemes.

Stockton runs a “work incentive” programme designed to offer those on low incomes a boost from their wages.

But a review is being considered given the impacts of Universal Credit.

This was all so obvious…

Plus, the fact that we have had to pay this tax, without any corresponding increase in benefits, was another part of the great reduction in our basic living standard this lot of thieves introduced.

Johnson, and his mates, have no plans to change this unjust council tax regime.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 12, 2019 at 5:07 pm

DWP Cuts Staff as Universal Credit Mess Gets Worse and Worse.

with 80 comments

Image result for universal credit protests

UNITE Community Protests, but where is Labour?

This got our attention today:

 

DWP blasted for ‘reckless’ staff cuts at same time as launching Universal Credit

The number of staff working in the welfare department has plummeted by a fifth since the benefit began life in 2013

Written by Andrew Coates

July 8, 2019 at 3:30 pm

Boris Johnson Plans to Tackle Food Poverty.

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Image result for Boris johnson sin tax

Benefit Poverty to be Solved by Cheap Sugary Drinks.

Benefits have not risen – and have stayed at a declining pittance – for so long that barely a living soul can recall when you could buy a pints of Wallop, a twist of shag, and a mid-day plateful of liver and onions with your dole with enough over for a fish supper.

But while not talking about Universal Credit, or benefits, or unemployment, during his leadership contest Boris Johnson has our feeding and drinking interests at heart.

Tory leadership: Boris Johnson promises review of ‘unhealthy food taxes’

Boris Johnson has said he wants to examine whether levies on foods high in salt, fat and sugar are effective, and has vowed not to introduce any new ones until the review is complete.

The “sugar tax” on drinks came into force in April 2018, and a wider levy on all unhealthy foods is being considered to help tackle obesity.

Mr Johnson says he is concerned they unfairly target the less well-off.

Many a cynic will suggest that his plans include a special Brexit US chlorinated chicken, dunkin’ donuts, and cactus cooler diet as the base for DWP calculation on the food claimants’ need to eat (in the old days they produced a calculation on such things as part of ‘what you need to live on’).

Back in the world of tears we hear today.

Since Universal Credit came in the food bank has been packed: My Wigan Pier Story

Mirror.

As part of our Road to Wigan Pier project, eight decades after the publication of George Orwell’s essay, Coventry Food Bank project manager Hugh McNeill, explains how visitor numbers have soared since the introduction of Universal Credit.

And, also today:

And

 

Not to mention this:

 

Amber is active as well!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 3, 2019 at 4:21 pm

DWP Sending Universal Credit into Meltdown.

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Image result for universal credit DWP campaign binned

DWP has Money for this….

Didn’t she do well?

Anybody with a sighting of any surviving Tory leadership figure talking about Universal Credit, from Johnson to Hunt, or one of their minions, please write in comments.

So far not a dicky bird….

Yet it continues to make it into the media.

This is a good article.

The DWP’s muddled maths is sending universal credit deeper into meltdown

The Independent.

By the estimable May Bulman Social Affairs Correspondent

It may come as a surprise, then, that nine years on, the government’s spending watchdog has revealed that fraud and error in the welfare bill are at their highest levels since 2006 – with much of the rise down to the introduction of universal credit.

To go into the numbers, the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed on Thursday that benefit claimants and pensioners lost out on £2bn that they were entitled last year to because officials short-changed them. Another £1.1bn was wrongly handed out to claimants because they failed to give the right details about their income – through the complex online portal system – on time.

What appears on the surface like a fairly bland report, filled with numbers and percentages, sheds light on the scale of devastation being inflicted on people across the country. Families are being denied the support they rely on to live on because of careless errors. People are finding their monthly allowance fluctuating from a liveable amount to near to nothing, with no prior notice, as the government tries to claw previous overpayments back.

And the real stories are out there. Last month, a seriously ill father-of-two told me he was living “hand to mouth” because the DWP was withdrawing more than £90 from his allowance each month – half of which was deducted for previous debts and historic overpayments.

A  key feature of the sweeping reform was that payments would taper off as the recipient moved into work, not suddenly stop, thus avoiding a “cliff edge” that was said to “trap” people in unemployment. If jumping from £312 one month to £5.32 the next isn’t a cliff edge, I don’t know what is.

Also at play here is the DWP’s often arbitrarily punitive sanctions regime, which penalises benefit claimants who miss job centre appointments – with often little consideration of the many variables in people’s lives. Charities have told of cases where parents have had hundreds docked after having to miss meetings with job coaches due to childcare issues.

If universal credit was designed to help people manage their own finances and make the benefits system simpler, why are we are seeing vulnerable individuals and families being swung from pillar to post, more at the mercy of the state than ever?

More on the finances:

Record fraud and errors in DWP payments

Dominic Brady Public Finances.

28th of June.

Fraud and errors related to payments made by the Department for Work and Pensions have reached record highs and are set to grow due to universal credit.

Meanwhile….

Written by Andrew Coates

June 28, 2019 at 3:34 pm

DWP Still in Denial about ‘Misleading’ Advertising Campaign.

with 100 comments

 

Boris the Bounder is back all over the news but this continues to rumble:

A few days ago this was in the paper many of us on the dole actually read, the ‘I’

Universal Credit: Controversial DWP newspaper adverts were ‘deliberately misleading’, advertising watchdog told

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) – an umbrella group of 80 organisations including Age UK, the MS Society and the Royal British Legion – has written to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the DWPcampaign, which it claims breached several advertising rules and could be “knowingly dangerous to the health and security of disabled people”.

Universal Credit adverts that were published in Metro from 22 May claimed to “bust myths” about the controversial benefit. But the DBC, which also counts Macmillan Cancer Support, Scope and foodbank charity The Trussell Trust as members, has branded them “a disgrace” and urged the ASA to take action.

The original statement from this estimable organisation is this:
DBC letter to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) is a national coalition of over 80 different charities and other organisations committed to working towards a fair benefits system.

As a coalition we are writing to issue an official complaint regarding the recent advertisement campaign from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) concerning universal credit, which ran for the first time in the Metro newspaper on Wednesday 22ns May 2019.

The DWP are advertising what they call ‘Universal Credit uncovered’, a series of adverts ‘busting myths’ on Universal Credit.  According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), you ‘work to make sure all advertising wherever it appears is legal, decent, honest and truthful’, we consider that the aforementioned DWP adverts are deliberately misleading. We believe the adverts breach the Non Broadcast Codes – in particular those regarding misleading advertising

3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.

The adverts claim it’s a “myth” that “Universal Credit doesn’t work”, adding: “fact: it does.” These statements omit the thousands of claimants universal credit does not ‘work for’ but instead has driven them into debt, rent arrears, foodbanks, and homelessness.

A joint DWP and HMRC study, which examined how tax credit claimants coped with the move to universal credit, found 60% of those who said they struggled to pay bills said their difficulties began when they moved on to the new benefit[1]. About half of those surveyed did not have sufficient savings to tide them over until they received their first payment. A few claimants endured “considerable stress” after payment delays meant they had to wait up to three months to get their money1.

The Work and Pension Select Committee report ‘Universal Credit: support for disabled people’ found that one in eight universal credit claimants do not receive their benefit on time and in full[2]. One in ten receive nothing at all on time and disabled people fare even worse as only a third of new claimants whose award includes an additional amount for disability receive payment on time and in full.

The DBC recently surveyed around 500 disabled people about their experience of Universal Credit. The survey highlights some serious concerns and deeply worrying findings. The majority of respondents who moved from employment support allowance onto universal credit said they now get less or a lot less money than they did previously. People told us that the impact of having less money includes struggling to pay for food (70%), driving a significant number of people to food banks (35%) and a worsening of people’s health, in particular their mental health (85%) and most worryingly driving people to consider suicide.

The government claim that universal credit supports you if you are on a low income or out of work. Given disabled people are struggling to get by on universal credit, to claim it works is simple misleading.

3.2 Obvious exaggerations (“puffery”) and claims that the average consumer who sees the marketing communication is unlikely to take literally are allowed provided they do not materially mislead.

A second advert says “myth: Universal Credit makes it harder to pay your rent on time.” Followed by “fact”; your Jobcentre can give you an advance payment and pay rent directly to landlords”.

In reality, the DWP will never pay an advance payment to a landlord, only directly to the client.  The wording implies an advanced payment can be paid directly to the landlord. The use of two different colours to separate the claim is inaccessible to some disabled people and will leave people wrongly believing that an advance payment can be paid directly to a landlord.

This claim also clearly implies that anyone can have their rent paid directly to the landlord.  In reality, you have to apply to the job centre for this to happen, and you have to meet certain criteria.  So, for a person on the old legacy benefits, who would have had housing benefit paid directly to the landlord, it is true that it will be harder to pay their rent on time, because they now must take responsibility for doing it themselves, which takes more planning.

The claim clearly does not distinguish between advanced payments which cannot be paid to landlords and regular payments. It also makes no distinction of whom would be eligible for direct payment and implies this option is guaranteed for everyone. This is again misleading and incorrect.

3.3 Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.

One advert says it’s a “myth” that “you have to wait 5 weeks to get any money on Universal Credit”, followed by “fact: Jobcentres can “urgently pay you an advance.” It is not clear that an advance must be paid back, the advert omits that these advances are taken out of future payments and have to be paid back over several months. This means claimants receive less money in the following months, and less money than they will have actually budgeted for. It could be misconstrued to mean it is a payment in advance instead of a payment in arrears; it is essentially a loan.

This claim also misleads the reality disabled people face when taking out the loan before receiving their payment. Given that disabled people are a key audience for universal credit this advert is clearly targeting vulnerable groups without providing the necessary clarity. One disabled person who took out the loan said:

“The full monthly payment is nowhere near adequate anyway, and now I’ve taken an advance I get even less. I’ve never been in such a financial mess and I’ve now been forced to get help from a foodbank. It felt like a walk of shame.”

Latest statistics show 840,000 people have had reduced payments as a result of taking out this loan. Of this 840,000 claims with a deduction[3]:

  • 50% (420,000 claims) had deductions up to 20% of the Standard Allowance
  • 20% (170,000 claims) had deductions between 21% and 30% of the Standard Allowance
  • 28% (238,000 claims) had deductions between 31% and 40% of their Standard Allowance
  • 1% (13,000 claims) had deductions above 40% of their Standard Allowance

The fact that people who take out this loan can then look to have 40% reductions in future benefits should have been set out clearly in the advertisement. It is not clear in the language that this payment is a loan and that taking it out can leave disabled people in a worse financial position.

The advert itself is visually misleading and inaccessible. Given the target audience is those who are out of work, many of whom will be sick or disabled, the lack of clarity that it is a DWP advertisement is disingenuous. An internal memo, reported by the Mirror, claims the lack of clarity (no logo or DWP branding) regarding this being a DWP advertisement was deliberate[4].

These are some of the most vulnerable people in society. It is a disgrace that they are being treated with such disregard. At best these adverts are accidentally misleading at worst they are knowingly dangerous to the health and financial security of disabled people.

We believe there is clear evidence that these adverts are misleading and urge the ASA to take this complaint seriously and act as quickly as possible.

We look forward to your response,

The Disability Benefits Consortium

[1] Gov UK, Transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: qualitative and quantitative research with claimants. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transition-from-tax-credits-to-universal-credit-qualitative-and-quantitative-research-with-claimants

[2] Work and Pensions Committee, Universal Credit: support for disabled people. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/1770/1770.pdf

[3] Universal Credit:Written question – 257147 – https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-05-21/257147/

[4] Mirror, ‘Fury as DWP launches taxpayer-funded ‘spin’ campaign to defend Universal Credit‘. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/fury-dwp-launches-taxpayer-funded-16183343?utm_source=sharebar&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sharebar

DWP disputes survey claiming Universal Credit adverts were ‘deliberately misleading’

Teeside Live.

A coalition of disability charities say that Government adverts paid for in local newspapers are ‘deliberately misleading’

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) highlighted a recent advertising campaign by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which was described as a “myth buster” on the flagship benefit.

The complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) coincides with new research from the DBC, which claims Universal Credit benefit was having a “devastating impact” on disabled people.

The complaint relates to a recent newspaper advertising campaign by the DWP, which the charities say featured adverts designed to look like news articles.

 

Meanwhile even this Blog can report exclusively on this:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 22, 2019 at 1:28 pm

Universal Credit Five-Week Wait Pushed Women into Sex Work, Government admits.

with 156 comments

Image result for universal credit sex work

Government Admits Truth of Story.

Contributors to this Blog have talked about 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.

So says the DWP, but people have lots of criticisms…

It would be important to continue this in more detail, any information and opinions welcome.

In the meantime, the Universal Credit Sage continues.

First, the attention grabbing.

Back in April there was this from the Work and Pensions Committee.

Universal Credit and Survival Sex: sex in exchange for meeting survival needs inquiry

Then in May Committee hears first evidence on Universal Credit and “survival sex”

 This week there was this: DWP Minister questioned on Universal Credit and survival sex

The Committee stated.

Two key points immediately stand out:

“Dismissive” attitude of DWP

The first, which was strongly echoed in the public evidence that followed but was first articulated by Witness M in private, was the “dismissive” attitude of the Department for Work and Pensions toward the inquiry. As M put it, describing the DWP’s first written evidence submission (“memorandum”):

“M: I really felt that the memorandum was an attempt to kind of cover the DWP’s back and be like, “Oh well, you can’t prove that it is us or you can’t prove that it is Universal Credit that is the issue”, like it tried to blame sex workers for being here and it kind of like proved the point that it is poverty and it is this horrible system that is making us be in the sex industry…

It is the five-week waits. The other thing is [the single household payment of Universal Credit] in domestic violence relationships, apparently I have heard the man will get the money and then can control like that. I think that is one…”

The Committee had a similar impression of DWP’s first response and wrote back  “inviting” it to reconsider its stance : the Department’s s revised submission, received last Thursday, will be considered at the evidence hearing with the Minister tomorrow.

Too daunting to apply

A second clear point reinforced the impression of the first: despite the four women’s very different stories, most had found it too daunting or prohibitive to even attempt to apply for Universal Credit, even though some had experience of successfully claiming “legacy” benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance.

The story reached the media again yesterday

Woman Tells MPs Selling Sex Is ‘Easiest Way To Survive’ After Struggling With Universal Credit

Nicola Slawson Huffington Post.

A  woman has told MPs how selling her body for sex became the “easiest thing to do” to make ends meet, after Universal Credit left her with just £52 a month to live on.

The 21-year-old, who was not identified, told a parliamentary hearing how she would have to see “five or six” clients just to get the money for a day’s rent.

The hearing is part of an inquiry into the possible link between the controversial new benefit and claimants resorting to exchanging sex for money, food or shelter, known as “survival sex”.

The testimony was part of evidence by four women dubbed T, K, B and M to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

T told the committee she had previously worked 12-hour shifts as a care worker while struggling under the old benefit system resulting in her losing her housing benefit.

She applied for Universal Credit and had to visit foodbanks three times while waiting for her first payment – and ended up homeless as she tried to scrape together enough money for food and tampons.

This was the result:

 

Universal credit delays a factor in sex work, government accepts

Patrick Butler. Guardian.

The government has dropped its hardline refusal to accept that destitution caused by five-week waits for universal credit payments has been a major factor in forcing some women to turn to sex work.

Giving evidence to the work and pensions select committee, the minister for family support, Will Quince, apologised for a memo his department sent to the committee last month and said it “did not very well reflect my views on this issue”.

The memo dismissed evidence that universal credit was a cause of increased numbers of women turning to sex work as anecdotal. It said the phenomenon was influenced by a range of factors, from drug addiction and the rise of AirBnB to EU immigration

Quince told the committee he had changed his views after hearing accounts from four women who gave evidence of how impoverishment related to universal credit issues had led them to take up escort and brothel work.

“Those very brave testimonies of the young women who have gone through the most horrific of experiences gave me a better understanding through their lived experiences. What it showed me more than anything is we need to better understand this area,” he said.

A transcript of the private committee hearing in May included a testimony from M, a brothel worker. She said the fact that drug and alcohol drove people into survival sex work did not mean that universal credit had not caused “a really big influx”

This is another committee at work whose findings and recommendations, out today, something tells, me won’t get the same publicity:

Scottish parliamentary committee calls for universal credit overhaul

Kerry Lorimer

The introduction of universal credit, and in particular the five-week delay before receipt of the first payment, has led to an “unacceptable” rise in rent arrears north of the border.

In a new report, members of the Scottish Parliament’s social security committee called for an overhaul of the benefit, which would see a review of the initial delay as well as the direct payment of the housing element to landlords in order to reduce arrears.

The MSPs also called for abolition of the “frankly discriminatory” shared accommodation rate, which limited the amount of housing benefit or universal credit that can be claimed by tenants under the age of 35, who rent a room in a shared house from a private landlord.

According to evidence heard by the committee, the shared accommodation rate created “significant financial difficulty, debt and hardship” among younger people, with separated parents particularly badly affected.

The report also draws attention to the widening gap between local housing allowances and the cost of renting in the private sector, especially in Edinburgh and other urban areas.

Originally uprated in line with market rent, local housing allowances have been frozen since 2016, meaning that in many parts of Scotland they do not serve their intended purpose and should be reviewed, the MSPs said.

The committee was also “extremely concerned” by the high cost of temporary accommodation and “troubled” by the poor quality of the accommodation some tenants had been offered. Although temporary accommodation is intended to be a short-term measure, people find themselves trapped there due to the shortage of affordable alternatives, they heard.

Bob Doris, convener of the social security committee, said the rapid increase in rent arrears since the introduction of universal credit was “unacceptable”, and that steps must be taken to address this issue, which was increasing the budgetary strain on both local authorities and social landlords.

“We want to see the housing element of universal credit paid directly to landlords and the Department for Work and Pensions must review the minimum five-week wait for new…claimants, both of which contribute to rising arrears,” he said.

“Our inquiry highlighted a number of issues, including the frankly discriminatory shared accommodation rate which should be abolished immediately.

“It is also clear that local housing allowance rates are not fit for purpose and are failing to help claimants meet the rising cost of the private rented sector.”

A UK government spokeswoman said that while rent arrears could not be linked to any one cause, many people joined universal credit with pre-existing arrears, and research showed that number fell by a third after four months.

“In Scotland we already pay rent directly to landlords where requested and can pay universal credit more frequently to help with budgeting,” she said.

“Meanwhile, Scotland has significant welfare powers, including flexibilities within universal credit and the power to top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits altogether.”

Written by Andrew Coates

June 13, 2019 at 3:13 pm

Protests Begin Again Against Universal Credit.

with 116 comments

Saturday Protest: Norfolk Against Universal Credit

No photo description available.

Protests have begun again against Universal Credit.

People are protesting outside a Leicester Jobcentre because of Universal Credit

Leicestershire  Live. 

A number of people braved the rain to make their point.

(Note to Editor, not the most inspiring lead….)

A group of campaigners staged their latest protest against the introduction of Universal Credit in Leicester this week.

Members of the Labour Party and the Unite trade union staged the event as part of their ongoing campaign against the benefit, which they say is causing financial hardship in households across the country.

Today’s event was also aimed at a member of staff at the Job Centre who told LeicestershireLive last month that he believed Universal Credit had ‘changed things for the better’ for those receiving it.

Steve Bruce, 38, a work coach team leader at Leicester’s Wellington Street Job Centre Plus, said: “There are always going to be people who have a negative experience, but we see the amount of good Universal Credit has done and that’s our encouragement to carry on, the proof that it works.

The protestors, who were joined by recently elected city councillors  Jacky Nangreave and Gary O’Donnell, said they were not calling for action to be taken against the member of staff but wanted to highlight their disagreement with the points he made in the article.

This is a good story too:

Yet the DWP keeps churning it out:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 9, 2019 at 11:21 am

Trussell Trust Takes on DWP Universal Credit Propaganda and Calls for Grants to Replace ‘Loans’.

with 83 comments

Trussell Trust.

 

This Wednesday, MPs will debate Universal Credit and debt – we want to make sure as many MPs as possible turn up and speak out.

Everyone who applies for Universal Credit has to wait at least five weeks for a full payment – some are left waiting longer. This is leaving many people without enough money to cover the basics, forcing them to food banks.

While you wait, you can apply for an ‘advance payment’ – a loan from the Government to see you through that five week period. But once your Universal Credit payments start, you pay that loan back automatically through deductions from your monthly payments.

This puts people between a rock and a hard place: hardship now or hardship later?

Ending the five week wait should be the Government’s first priority to help create a future without food banks.

Background:

Universal Credit advance payments should be ‘scrapped and replaced by grants’

Mirror.

New figures show these so-called ‘bridging loans’ – which come with fixed repayment plans – are only causing more debt. It’s time to scrap them

Government loans designed to tide people over until their first Universal Credit payments reach them are causing more harm than good, a new report has suggested.

Charities StepChange and the Trussell Trust said advance payments to help ‘people get by’ are only fuelling more hardship because of the repayment thresholds.

A new report detailing the front-line impact of the five-week wait said advance payments are not a solution for many households already at risk.

In many cases it said these payments should simply be written off as grants instead.

The Trussell Trust – which manages a network of 420 foodbanks across the UK – said the biggest reason for referrals last year was benefit payments failing to cover the cost of living.

It said going five weeks or more with no income can lead to debt and rent arrears, with those faced with “additional inescapable costs”, such as disabled people and families with children, the most likely to fall into the poverty bracket.

“Repayments don’t take into account people’s ability to afford them,” the report said.

“It’s vital that this is done in an affordable way.”

In the private sector, all loans must come with an affordability – and repayment – assessment.

However, Universal Credit advance payments are different. Deduction levels are fixed by the DWP and these can be hard to challenge, even if you fall into financial hardship while repaying.

“In some cases, you can have your repayment levels renegotiated, but this is rare,” the report added. “By that point, you’re likely already to be in financial difficulty, and may be in arrears on other bills.”

The DWP can deduct up to 40% of your Universal Credit allowance to repay debts. This will fall to 30% in October this year.

And the impact is worrying. StepChange said after three months, 44% of Universal Credit claimants are still struggling to pay their bills.

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile as our Newshawks have already noticed:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 5, 2019 at 12:08 pm

Universal Credit: Cuts, Debts, and “Secret Penalties.”

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Image result for universal credit press show

Ipswich Unemployed Review of the Papers’ UC News.

You’d have thought that the visit of his Most High, Mighty, and Illustrious Donald John Trump would have driven Universal Credit off the newspaper pages.

Apparently not.

This is our ‘Review of the Papers’, better than the Sky News Press Preview, and even more without Sky’s stalwart, Claire Fox, since the leading cadre of the Revolutionary Communist Party, then Spiked, is now a Brexit Party MEP with Trump’s best mate, Nigel Farage.

This caught our panelists’ eyes:

Secrets of Universal Credit system revealed in ‘debt guide’

Bristol Live.

There’s a secret DWP priority list.

Sanctions imposed as a punishment for breaking conditions of a claim are clawed back first, then advances that have been paid to tide over claimants in the five-week wait for the first payment.

Here is the list in full:

1. Fraud Sanctions

2. Conditionality Sanctions

3. UC Advance of benefit (New claim or Change of Circumstances)

4. UC Advance of benefit (Benefit Transfer)

5. Budgeting Advance

6. Owner-occupier service charges arrears

7. Rent, including service charges, arrears (minimum deduction rate 10%)

8. Fuel arrears (Gas and/or Electricity)

9. Council Tax or Community Charge arrears

10. Fines or Compensation Orders (minimum deduction rate 5%)

11. Water charges arrears

12. Old Scheme Child Maintenance

13. Flat Rate Maintenance

14. Social Fund loans

15. Recoverable Hardship Payments

16. Housing Benefit and DWP Administrative Penalties

17. Housing Benefit, Tax Credit and DWP Fraud overpayments

18. Housing Benefit and DWP Civil Penalties

19. Housing Benefit, Tax Credit and DWP normal overpayments

20. Integration loan arrears

21. Eligible loan arrears

22. Rent, including service charges arrears (maximum deduction rate of up to a maximum 20 per cent, inclusive of the minimum 10% applied above)

23. Fines or Compensation Orders (maximum deduction rate of up to £108.35, inclusive of the 5 per cent applied above)

How many claimants are hit?

More than half of Universal Credit claimants have had their payments cut, figures have shown.

It was revealed earlier that 532,000  Universal Credit  claimants had some of their payments deducted in October 2018.

A total of 6,000 claimants had reductions of 40 per cent of their allowance or more, while 129,000 claimants had deductions of between 31 and 40 per cent.

Our panelists though this one was also a bleeding liberty:

 

And this.

And this, which only goes to show what diamond geezers the DWP are really, looking out for us and all.

 

The Currant Bun has not arrived to our Press Show, busy spaffing about Trump and Boris Johnson we hear,  but this other far-right daily raised a chuckle.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 1, 2019 at 3:32 pm

Universal Credit Staff in Two Day Strike.

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Image result for universal credit strike PCS

PCS Strike in Universal Credit Service Centres.

At a meeting held by the Trades Council some months ago we heard a speaker from the PCS tell us about the many faults of Unviersal cerdit.

He also underlined that many people employed by the DWP were unhappy at their working conditions and pay.

The number of phone calls they had to take was a particular gripe.

There had been walk outs.

Now there is an official strike.

Today:

Universal credit staff to launch two-day strike over workload and low recruitment

The Independent reports:

Union boss says members cannot stand by while ministers make their job ‘impossible’

Staff at two sites dealing with the universal credit benefits system will launch a two-day strike on Tuesday in a dispute over workloads and staff recruitment.

It will be the second stoppage by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union at Wolverhampton and Walsall.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members who work to support some of the most vulnerable members of society will not put up with DWP management ignoring their real concerns over staffing and underinvestment

“This strike will be part of sustained campaign of action which could spread to other parts of universal credit, if the government doesn’t meet union negotiators to discuss workers’ concerns.

“Our members care passionately about the work they do and the people they support.”

He added: “However, they cannot stand idly by while ministers make the job of supporting claimants impossible.”

PCS members are demanding the recruitment of 5,000 more staff, permanent contracts for fixed-term employees and a limit to the number of phone calls required per case manager.

Here is the Union statement:

PCS members in the UC Service Centres in Walsall and Wolverhampton will take two more days strike action on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 May, in their campaign for more staff and improved working conditions

Despite two well supported days of action in March, which had a knock-on effect across the whole UC network, the DWP has refused to meet the demands of members.

A recent announcement that Wolverhampton will become a national telephony site has further inflamed the situation. DWP management have also refused PCS’s request to make staff on fixed term appointments permanent, review the decision on Wolverhampton and properly engage with PCS about improving the staffing situation in Universal Credit.

The 5 key demands from PCS members working in UC are:

  • 5,000 new staff, permanency for fixed term staff
  • Limit the number of phone calls per case manager
  • Limit the size of the national telephony hub
  • Improve consultation
  • A quality-focused approach – no more management by statistics.

Action may spread

PCS has held members’ meetings in other UC Service Centres, and members in affected jobcentres are also being consulted.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members who work to support some of the most vulnerable members of society will not put up with DWP management ignoring their real concerns over staffing and under investment.

“This strike will be part of sustained campaign of action which could spread to other parts of Universal Credit, if the government doesn’t meet union negotiators to discuss workers’ concerns.

“Our members care passionately about the work they do and the people they support. However, they cannot stand idly by while ministers make the job of supporting claimants impossible.”

PCS full-time official Ian Bartholomew said: “Unless DWP takes action to increase staffing in UC, and reduce the pressure that our members are working under, it is likely that we will see more sites calling for strike action.”

Please send messages of support to leeds@pcs.org.uk

Written by Andrew Coates

May 28, 2019 at 12:01 pm

UN Report on Poverty in Britain: Welfare to Workhouses.

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Image result for alston report poverty Jaywick

Special UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty Philip Alston in Jaywick, Essex.

A couple of days ago I heard a group of lads talking about Universal Credit.

They’d all got caught up in its clutches and they had many a merry tale to tell.

It does not take imagination to see that poverty, they mentioned the waits for money, the on-line gibberish, and Coachy.

The DWP, our Newshawks say, always responds with stout denial to any criticism.

This must have stung sharper than a serpent’s tooth..

The report begins,

The social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities’ budgets, which have eliminated many social services, reduced policing services, closed libraries in record numbers, shrunk community and youth centres and sold off public spaces and buildings. The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos. A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.

The Guardian covered the story as following:

UN report compares Tory welfare policies to creation of workhouses

A leading United Nations poverty expert has compared Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses and warned that unless austerity is ended, the UK’s poorest people face lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

Ministers in denial about impact of austerity since 2010, says poverty expert

The far-right Mail publishes the bleats and denials of the DWP and Amber Rudd.

Amber Rudd is to lodge a formal complaint over UN’s ‘barely believable’ poverty report accusing Britain of violating human rights obligations by creating ‘Dickensian’ conditions for the poor

  • UN report claims Britain is returning to ‘Dickensian’ conditions, where citizens lives are, quoting Hobbes, ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’
  • But government points out that UN research published just two months ago ranked Britain as the 15th happiest country to live in
  • DWP says Rapporteur paints ‘completely inaccurate picture’ after his whistle-stop two-week human rights fact-finding visit last November

Poverty in the UK is ‘systematic’ and ‘tragic’, says UN special rapporteur

The UK’s social safety net has been “deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos”, a report commissioned by the UN has said.

Special rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston said “ideological” cuts to public services since 2010 have led to “tragic consequences”.

The report comes after Prof Alston visited UK towns and cities and made preliminary findings last November.

The government said his final report was “barely believable”.

The £95bn spent on welfare and the maintenance of the state pension showed the government took tackling poverty “extremely seriously”, a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.

Prof Alston is an independent expert in human rights law and was appointed to the unpaid role by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014. He spent nearly two weeks travelling in Britain and Northern Ireland and received more than 300 written submissions for his report.

He went on to observe

Some observers might conclude that the DWP had been tasked with “designing a digital and sanitised version of the 19th Century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens”, he said.

The report cites independent experts saying that 14 million people in the UK – a fifth of the population – live in poverty, according to a new measure that takes into account costs such as housing and childcare.

In 2017, 1.5 million people experienced destitution, meaning they had less than £10 a day after housing costs, or they had to go without at least two essentials such as shelter, food, heat, light, clothing or toiletries during a one-month period.

Despite official denials, Prof Alston said he had heard accounts of people choosing between heating their homes or eating, children turning up to school with empty stomachs, increased homelessness and food bank use, and “story after story” of people who had considered or attempted suicide.

Now I’ve got a bit of respect for Human Rights. One of the greatest British radicals, Tom Paine, wrote the Rights of Man (1791), which was a founding book for our labour movement and left. My dad said they were still reading it in Glasgow in the 1930s.

Comrade Paine wrote this,

In the closing chapters of Rights of Man, Paine addresses the condition of the poor and outlines a detailed social welfare proposal predicated upon the redirection of government expenditure. From the onset, Paine asserts all citizens have an inherent claim to welfare. Paine declares welfare is not charity, but an irrevocable right.

One of the great founders of modern socialism, the Frenchman Jean Jaurès, (1859 – 1914)., did not just stand up for welfare, he defended social and human rights. Jaurès campaigned for the innocence of Dreyfus against the anti-Semites of his day. He mixed together workers’ and welfare right with socialism. He was murdered in 1914 by one of national populists of the Farrage ilk for opposing the start of the First World War.

When I read people disrespecting Professor Alston I think they are insulting our glorious forebears.

Apart from that, the present social security system, Universal Credit and all, stinks to high heaven.

This is the Report’s conclusion:

The philosophy underpinning the British welfare system has changed radically since 2010. The initial rationales for reform were to reduce overall expenditures and to promote employment as the principal “cure” for poverty.

But when large-scale poverty persisted despite a booming economy and very high levels of employment, the Government chose not to adjust course. Instead, it doubled down on a parallel agenda to reduce benefits by every means available, including constant reductions in benefit levels, ever-more-demanding conditions, harsher penalties, depersonalization, stigmatization, and virtually eliminating the option of using the legal system to vindicate rights.

The basic message, delivered in the language of managerial efficiency and automation, is that almost any alternative will be more tolerable than seeking to obtain government benefits.

This is a very far cry from any notion of a social contract, Beveridge model or otherwise, let alone of social human rights. As Thomas Hobbes observed long ago, such an approach condemns the least well off to lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. As the British social contract slowly evaporates, Hobbes’ prediction risks becoming the new reality.

 

Job Centres to Open in the Evening and on Saturday.

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Image result for jobcentre

Job Centre Opening Hours to Expand in line with “banks and GP surgeries”. 

This has been of concern for many people who do not live near a job centre.

What It’s Like To Lose Your Local Job Centre

Between 2016 and 2018, more than 100 job centres – about 15% of the network – were closed for good.

Huffington Post (2019)

Why are Britain’s jobcentres disappearing? The Conversation.

Britain’s national network of jobcentres is currently undergoing radical change as the government implements multiple welfare reforms and cuts as part of its continued austerity drive. Between 2016 and 2018, over 100 jobcentres – about 15 per cent of the network – will have closed.

Support for the long-term unemployed and disabled jobseekers has also been cut. A new Work and Health Programme will assist less than a quarter of the participants of the programmes it replaced. Across the country, hundreds of specialist organisations working with jobseekers have lost contracts, and thousands of experienced employment advisers have lost their jobs.

Anybody who lives in places like Suffolk, outside the towns like Ipswich, knows the struggle it is to use public transport to get anywhere, let alone to attend a meeting with Coachy in the Job Centre at the constantly changing times of appointments to sign on.

Yet things are taken a new turn.

A few days ago the far-right Daily Mail published this story, which their friend Amber Rudd publicised,

Job centres to stay open later into the evenings and at the weekend to help older workers change careers

  • Amber Rudd wants to help employees search for new job or get retraining tips
  • Work and Pensions Secretary said change would bring centres into line with banks and GP surgeries
  • Miss Rudd said new opening hours would help people better themselves in work

Job centres will stay open in the evenings and at weekends to help older workers change career. Amber Rudd said she wanted to make it easier for employees to search for a new job or get advice on how to retrain

‘However it’s not just important to get people into work, it’s vital we help people get even better work earning even more money,’ she said.

‘So opening up job centres in the evening and on Saturday will help people who are busy working, by making our services more available at convenient times.

‘Because the job centre is not just a place for benefits.’

Job centres in seven areas – Chester, Dudley, Oldham, Poplar, Todmorden, Wick and York – will open in the evening and on Saturdays as part of a trial before ministers decide on whether to extend the system to all 600 across the country.

‘Work coaches’ will also offer advice to clients outside regular working hours.

Miss Rudd said the new opening hours would help people better themselves in work, access higher pay and protect themselves from technological changes, such as automation.

‘I want everyone, no matter their background, to progress in the workplace and outperform their and society’s, expectations,’ she said.

‘From stay-at-home parents, particularly women, to older workers wanting a new career, offering more job centre availability could make a massive difference, and I’ll be watching this trial closely.’

‘As the Prime Minister said in Parliament this week, this is a Government which raises people up.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said the shake-up would bring job centres into line with the banks and GP surgeries that have extended their hours of operation.

 And from here:

It sounds to many people like an extension of surveillance.

Imagine if you live in one of those areas, without trains or the tube, where the old Job Centre is closed and you have to rely on public transport to get you somewhere in the evening on Saturday when there are even fewer buses.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 21, 2019 at 10:45 am

DWP Propaganda Campaign for Universal Credit gets off to a Rocky Start.

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Image result for universal credit dwp

DWP Propaganda Genius at Work.

This week this story came out:

Coming soon: the great universal credit deception

A leaked memo shows that the Department for Work and Pensions is about to embark on a PR campaign to defend its worst ever policy

How to sell the unsellable? How to pretend utter chaos is a plan coming together? How to persuade the public, who just refuse to buy it, to at least keep on paying for it? I believe I have found the answer.

It comes in the form of an internal memo from the Department for Work and Pensions that somehow floated past my desk. Published on the staff intranet just a few days ago, on 2 May, it is signed by three of the department’s most senior officials, including the DWP’s director of communications and Neil Couling, its head of universal credit. And it is that toxically controversial benefit which is its subject.

What follows is an elaborate media strategy to manufacture a Whitehall fantasy, one in which the benefits system is running like a dream while a Conservative government generously helps people on the escalator to prosperity. It begins at the end of this month with a giant advert wrapped around the cover of the Metro newspaper; inside will be a further four-page advertorial feature. This will “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”. What’s more, “the features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC – you won’t see our branding … We want to grab the readers’ attention and make them wonder who has done this ‘UC uncovered’ investigation.”

..

Then comes the letter’s grand reveal: BBC2 has commissioned a documentary series, which is “looking to intelligently explore UC” by filming inside three jobcentres. “This is a fantastic opportunity for us – we’ve been involved in the process from the outset, and we continue working closely with the BBC to ensure a balanced and insightful piece of television.” Wading through such adjectives, one remembers how the most important of the letter’s signatories, Neil Couling, told Holyrood parliamentarians that the rise of food banks was down to “poor people maximising their economic opportunities” and that “many benefit recipients welcome the jolt that … sanctions can give them”.

What follows is an elaborate media strategy to manufacture a Whitehall fantasy, one in which the benefits system is running like a dream while a Conservative government generously helps people on the escalator to prosperity. It begins at the end of this month with a giant advert wrapped around the cover of the Metro newspaper; inside will be a further four-page advertorial feature. This will “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”. What’s more, “the features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC – you won’t see our branding … We want to grab the readers’ attention and make them wonder who has done this ‘UC uncovered’ investigation.”

No such danger with this three-part series, which is driven by access rather than led by a reporter. When the civil servants’ trade union, the PCS, found out about the filming, it asked if staff could talk frankly to the crew, only to be told no: they would still be subject to the civil service code, which demands complete impartiality. Perhaps this explains an internal PCS note on the BBC series I have seen, which remarks that staff are unhappy about being identified on screen. At one of the nominated jobcentres, in Toxteth in Liverpool, “It is our understanding that there have been no volunteers to take part in the filming.” The risk is that any staff who do participate toe the management line, making the film an advert for universal credit.

The PCS briefing also reports a senior universal credit manager telling union reps that “the DWP would have access to the film before transmission”. The BBC confirms that is the case, although it says it has “editorial control”. When I contacted the DWP it refused to answer even the most basic of questions, advising me to submit them via a freedom of information request.

Here is the DWP’s wheedling away already:

This is Amber Rudd’s own retweet of the myth machine:

The Mirror followed up the story,

Universal Credit union blasts DWP ‘propaganda’ as staff announce two-day strike

A union chief accused the DWP of trying to “cover up” the very failures staff want addressed after a leaked memo revealed plans for a massive PR campaign.

Universal Credit staff have announced a two-day strike with a blast at DWP “propaganda” about the benefit.

Call handlers in Wolverhampton and Walsall will strike on May 28-29 in protest at workloads and staff shortages.

It is the second walkout in three months from the workers – who want 5,000 new staff, permanent contracts and limits on the number of phone calls per manager.

Yet hours before it was announced, a leaked DWP memo revealed chiefs plan to “bust myths” about the benefit with an advertising campaign – at a major cost to taxpayers.

The PCS union, which represents the workers, accused the DWP of trying to “cover up” the very failures its strike is focused on.

General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Instead of trying to solve this ongoing dispute over workloads and recruitment, Ministers are spending thousands on a propaganda campaign to promote a failed Universal Credit system.

Critics were quick off the mark.

Followed by this news today.

Liverpool Job Centre staff ‘refuse’ to take part in Universal Credit publicity BBC programme

Liverpool Echo.

DWP planning documentary series and advertising campaign to ‘tackle misconceptions and improve the reputation of UC’Liverpool job centre staff have reportedly refused to take part in a TV show promoting the reputation of Universal Credit.

Details of the leaked memo first emerged in a Guardian column and were verified by Mirror Online.

The memo explains the DWP is working with BBC2 on a new documentary series, which will be filmed inside three jobcentres.

But according to The Guardian, the programme has already run into problems.

At one of the nominated job centres, in Toxteth , the PCS note explains that: “It is our understanding that there have been no volunteers to take part in the filming.”

The newspaper reports that an internal note from the Public and Commercial Services Union explains that staff are unhappy about being identified on screen.

A DWP spokesman refused to comment directly on the memo, but said: “It’s important people know about the benefits available to them, and we regularly advertise Universal Credit.

 

 

 

Pressure Grows and Grows for Changes to Universal Credit.

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Image result for universal credit sanctions cartoon

Iain Duncan Smith: the Father of the Universal Credit Mess.

The labyrinth, or should that be maze?, of Universal Credit is leading to all kinds of difficulties, that is, for people who have to reply on it.

The Guardian carries this story,

Half of low-income families will lose thousands of pounds a year, warns new study
It continues,

Flagship welfare reforms will trigger a big increase in families unable to make ends meet, new analysis reveals.

The number of children living in families that have a monthly deficit will double in some areas, because of the combined impact of universal credit, a two-child limit on some welfare payments and the benefits cap.

The research, produced for the children’s commissioner, found that a quarter of children in its sample would be hit by the measures. Almost half of low-income households examined were affected, losing on average £3,441 a year.

Charities and researchers are already warning of rising child poverty. Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, has been attempting to soften the government’s reforms, putting more money into universal credit, limiting the two-child policy and sanctioning fewer claimants.

Now this is a step forward, but the Sanctions regime is still there.

Suffering without money for a year is still there.

The ‘I’ also covers the Policy in Practice report,

There will be a huge increase in the number of families living in poverty because of reforms to the welfare system, it has been claimed.

The benefits cap, the impact of universal credit and the two-child limit on some welfare payments will see the number of children in poverty double, new analysis has found.

The research, carried out on behalf of the children’s commissioner, has found that half of low-income families will lose, on average, £3,441 a year.

Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has been making efforts to put more money into universal credit as well as ditch plans to extend benefits caps for families with more than two children.

Ms Rudd also announced in January this year that she would relax the two-child limit for families who had a third child before the policy came into effect on 6 April 2017.

But the Policy in Practice consultancy found that a quarter of children in its study were still in families who would be unable to make ends meet because of the effects of the welfare reforms.

This is relevant to everybody,

Transparency issues with Universal Credit are leaving claimants confused about how much money they should be receiving and one of the big problems with the system is the lengthy wait for the first payment for those claiming benefits.

Those finding themselves in that situation can apply for an advance payment – but they are forced to pay it back, starting from out of their first payment and they must pay it back within 12 months – a practice that, the study found, would plunge 1 in 10 low-income households into deficit.

It also found that while universal credit made 56 per cent of households better off by £172 a month, 40 per cent are worse off and lose £181 on average. But if the two-child limit was abolished, a fifth of low-pay households would be £366 a month better off on average.

This is from their report THE IMPACT OF WELFARE REFORM ON CHILD VULNERABILITY which can be read here.

Our analysis finds that:
● Universal Credit broadly benefits families with children, with 56% of households better off by £172 per month, though 40% are worse off and lose £181 per month on average
● The five week wait for the first UC payment would push 70% of families currently facing a cash surplus into cash shortfall, 73% of families with savings would see them completely exhausted at some point during those first five weeks
● The Universal Credit advance payment provides a short-term boost to cashflow but also increases the percentage of households who would face a cash shortfall from 11.6% under Universal Credit, to 18.9% once the advance payment is deducted from UC awards
● Under the two child limit (applied to all families) 32.1% of children living in a cash shortfall would find their families in surplus were the policy removed. The policy is placing 15.6% of children who are already facing a cash shortfall further at risk
● The Benefit Cap affects 2.9% of households, who lose £2,832 per annum on average

● The cumulative impact of welfare reforms are considerably greater than the impact of each reform in isolation, affecting 48% of households losing £3,441 per annum on average
● When the effects of Universal Credit, the two child limit and the Benefit Cap are combined, 25% of children in low income families would be unable to make ends meet, doubling the number from 13% if these reforms were not in place

Meanwhile Amber Rudd gives this advice:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 13, 2019 at 10:56 am

Universal Credit, More Disasters as Commons Select Committee Probes “in-work progression”.

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Image result for in work progression

Every day there’s more stories in the media about the disaster known as Universal Credit.

You could start the morning by listing the latest:

Universal Credit bosses branded ‘morally corrupt’ after forcing family to repay £6.5k DWP payments blunder

Birmingham Live.

“The real duty they have is to prevent overpayments in the first place rather than forcing taxpayers to clear up after their mess”

Errors made by the Department for Work and Pensions mean that Billy Pierce and his partner have been paid too much for the past 14 months

Mr Pierce said he and his partner had no idea they were being overpaid because they had never received the new benefit before and had given the DWP all the correct information to calculate Universal Credit payments.

DWP have ordered the money to be repaid at a rate of £100 a month – which means it will take over five years to clear the debt.

DWP officials took months to correct payment mistakes, says Tower Hamlets council.

Even the Currant Bun tries to get in on the act:

Five-week Universal Credit delay forced me into B&B where my baby got covered in cocaine – now I’m stuck in a caravan’

Mum-of-two Kylie Goodyear, from Ipswich, blasts Government for trapping her family in poverty.

I stop for now because it’s all too familiar to our contributors.

Who have recently signaled another area of burning concern:  so-called “In-work Progression”.

Jim commented,

When the DWP piloted “in-work conditionality” the average increase in pay after twelve months with “work coach assistance” was, get this, an absolutely piffling £5.25 per week! Which blows the “work is the best way out of poverty” crap out of the water.

Here’s a link to the DWP report that spills the beans: Universal Credit: In-Work Progression Randomised Controlled Trial 

The Work and Pensions Committee are now conducting an inquiry, holding a session this very day, on the issue.

In-work Progression: latest Universal Credit inquiry launched

In 2016, the Committee launched an inquiry on “in-work progression” for people claiming Universal Credit. This is the name for the Government’s policy plan to encourage and support people who are in already in work and claiming Universal Credit to increase their pay, through more hours, or getting a better paying job. The Committee has previously described the plans as “potentially the most significant welfare reform since 1948”.

The Committee identified particular concerns, however, about the conditions that could be attached to any new “support” to assist people trying to increase their income from work.

Conditions or “conditionality” are already of course attached to job-seeking benefits: the requirements on every claimant who can work, or at least look for work to do so, as a condition of getting the benefit.

The other side of that is the sanction, a cut to part of your benefit if you fail to meet a condition of the benefit, like meeting with your Work Coach or going on a course, or to a job interview.

The Committee reported on the deep problems of Benefit sanctions late last year, and called on the Government not to introduce sanctions for people in work until there was robust evidence to show that they helped people to progress.

In the context of in-work progression,  conditions might include being obliged to seek extra hours of work, or continue to look for higher paid work while in your existing job.

How this would work in practice, and whether or how sanctions would apply if you couldn’t, for example, take on extra hours you were offered because of caring responsibilities, are among the questions the Committee will be looking at.

Among the concerns the Committee identified in its 2016 inquiry into In-work progression in Universal Credit were:

  • There is not yet comprehensive evidence on how to deliver an effective in-work service
  • JCP work coaches would have to develop new skills and become a new form of public servant
  • The case for in-work conditionality backed up by financial sanctions is untested so far

They state:

The Committee is now holding a follow-up inquiry, to look at the progress the Government is making, the readiness of Jobcentre Plus work coaches, and what more the Government could do to support people to progress in work.

This is happening today:

08 May 2019 9:30 am

Oral Evidence Session

Universal Credit: In-work progression

View details

Witness(es)

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute
Tony Wilson, Director, Institute for Employment Studies
Julia Waltham, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Working Families
Laura Dewar, Policy Officer, Gingerbread
Amanda Faull, Partnerships and Development Manager, Timewise Foundation
Sharlene McGee, Policy and Research Manager, Leonard Cheshire Disability

Location

Room 16, Palace of Westminster

Written by Andrew Coates

May 8, 2019 at 9:23 am

Universal Credit, “Something Orwellian” about a system which can “generate and aggravate human misery” says CPAG Report.

with 61 comments

Image result for universal credit

System Slammed as Orwellian.

This report documents the systemic failure of universal credit to meet these basic standards. People in need are left to guess at and grope for things which should be clear and tangible. The consequences are not limited to over or under-payment. They feed into the stress and worry that so many people managing on low incomes experience, which in turn can affect family life for children growing up in these environments. There is something Orwellian about a system which is intended to alleviate hardship yet is administered in ways which generate and
aggravate human misery.

The Rt Hon Sir Stephen Sedley, former Lord Justice of Appeal

Computer says ‘no!’ – stage one: information provision

Universal credit is ‘Orwellian’, says former high court judge

Guardian.

Sir Stephen Sedley says digital benefits system is also failing to meet legal obligations.

A former high court judge has described universal credit as “Orwellian” because of its tendency to create and exacerbate misery for claimants even while it professes to be rescuing them from hardship.

Sir Stephen Sedley’s comments about the troubled digital benefits system accompanied a report that revealed hundreds of claimants risked falling into debt because the system had miscalculated their monthly benefit payments.

Claimants who were underpaid, or overpaid, sums amounting in some cases to hundreds of pounds a month were routinely unable to work out the correct payment, or how they could challenge the decision, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) report said.

The charity criticised the “opaque” way in which individuals’ monthly benefits payments were calculated, and said the lack of information provided to claimants who wished to challenge the calculation was in some cases unlawful.

This is what the  CPAG says, (

Computer says ‘no!’ – how good is information provision in universal credit?

It’s a fundamental principle in a democracy that governmental bodies must have reasons for their decisions… that they should be able to explain what those reasons are… [and any] decision should be open to review or appeal.” So begins our latest report, Computer says ‘No!’ These words are from former Court of Appeal Judge Sir Stephen Sedley, who offers the benefit of his many years of legal experience to something that often gets overlooked as too technical, but which can affect the day-to-day lives of many people: what information claimants are given about decisions relating to their universal credit support, and what information they have about challenging any of those decisions.

Our new report exposes how people claiming universal credit are kept in the dark about what they are getting – the online statements do not explain in full how universal credit amounts are calculated. This means that people cannot easily check if they are getting what they should be getting, and find it harder to predict how their payment will change if their circumstances do. This matters not just because we know the government does get things wrong when calculating benefits, but also because there is a vital principle at stake. In our social security system, decisions are made all the time about what support people are entitled to (for example when they are awarded help with rent, deemed fit for work, or given a sanction). If people cannot clearly see what those decisions are, they cannot challenge them when errors are made.

To take just one example, let’s look at the case of a working mother who we’ll call Sarah.  Sarah, who works two part-time jobs to support herself and her daughter, claimed universal credit when she couldn’t make ends meet. She was surprised to get much less support than she was expecting. She could see on her universal credit online account that she was getting the standard allowance and support for housing costs, as well as details of her earnings and how these affected her universal credit. Sarah couldn’t see anything wrong, but a welfare rights adviser spotted that there was no child element included for her daughter and the work allowance – which she was entitled to as a working parent – had also been missed. As a result Sarah and her daughter were about £400 worse off each month than they should have been.

This is perhaps the most significant section for our contributors.

The online system makes it difficult for claimants to identify decisions as they are often hidden within a range of processes and communications. It’s only when a claimant can see how and when a decision has been made that they’re able to tell whether this decision was correct. And it’s only when a claimant knows how they can challenge an incorrect decision that they can go about getting it fixed. If the decision-making is murky you can’t begin to challenge it. If you don’t know how to challenge it then the chances of getting it fixed are slim to none. Our report sets out practical ways in which the DWP could improve the information it provides to people receiving universal credit, to make sure all decisions and appeal rights are clearly explained. As more and more people move on to universal credit and as we see the effect wrong decisions can have on people’s lives, we urge the DWP to act to fix these problems urgently.

Sedley ends his introduction with this,

Whether this is happening by accident or by design is an argument for another time and place. Child Poverty Action Group, with its long and honourable record of standing up for the poorest members of our society, has made a powerful and well-documented case for demystifying the process by which government is computing the benefit support on which hundreds of thousands of our poorest citizens now have to depend, and for ensuring that errors can be identified and corrected. If the rule of law is to mean anything, it must at least mean this.

From CPAG thread:

Full report available here.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2019 at 11:42 am

Food Banks and Universal Credit. Go together like an ‘orse and carriage.

with 57 comments

In the last five years, food bank use in our network has increased by 73% (Trussell Trust).

To go to a Food Bank is not easy.

Last night on Channel Four the news carried a report on the food poverty that is driving people there.

Charity handed out 1.6m foodbank parcels in one year – rise of 20 per cent

A leading food bank charity says the number of three-day supplies it’s given out in the last five years has “soared” by 73 per cent.

According to figures released by the Trussell Trust, in the last year 1.6 million emergency food bank parcels were handed out – that’s a 19% increase on the year before. Of those, more than half a million went to children.

Our Social Affairs Editor Jackie Long has been to meet some of the young people who understand food poverty first hand, and are now determined to do something to tackle it.

The Guardian reported on the same day.

‘I’m at rock bottom’: food bank offers respite from universal credit

The food bank in St Simon’s church hall, in a quiet residential street off Shepherd’s Bush Green in west London is buzzing with activity. It’s open for three hours, offering a brief window of help and respite for scores of local people who have fallen on hard times.

Livia, 44, is a self-employed fitness trainer making her first visit to a food bank, accompanied by her daughter. Work is supposed to be the path out of poverty, but universal credit is stressing her out, an “absolute nightmare”, and causing her to run up rent arrears. “I put on a brave face but I’m at rock bottom.”

As with many self-employed claimants, the vagaries of universal credit have proved demoralising for Livia. Although her business is new – and she had to have time off after a family bereavement – she is required to meet demanding monthly income targets and, if she does not make them, universal credit will not make up the difference.

And this:

The Trussell Trust site can be accessed here:

 

Meanwhile Amber Rudd is still happy:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 26, 2019 at 10:10 am

Scottish Unions call for end to Universal Credit and for a “radical welfare system to replace it.”

with 72 comments

Does Universal Credit Offer a Greater Joy!

Scottish TUC Conference (Morning Star) – thanks Ken.

Unions should campaign for a radical welfare system to replace universal credit, delegates hear

Note

There are a number of motions about replacing Universal Credit making their way through the Labour Party policy making structure and the TUC (Ipswich Labour Party and Ipswich Trades Council have submitted one).

UNIONS should campaign not just for the scrapping of universal credit (UC) but draw up a radical welfare system to replace it, Scottish TUC delegates heard today.

A motion proposed by Edinburgh Trades Union Council called for the STUC to campaign for the replacement of UC as soon as possible with a system free from sanctions, outsourcing and benefits caps.

Speaking in favour of the motion, Public & Commercial Services (PCS) union delegate Steve West described UC as “a conscious strategy to demonise benefits claimants.”

He condemned the increased foodbank use, “cruel” assessments and outsourcing to the private sector that results from the system.

But Mr West emphasised that a replacement should not simply constitute a return to old benefits, which he said had resulted in many of the same problems before they were combined to form UC.

“The people of Scotland deserve a far better social security system than we already have, and the trade union movement can play an important role in making sure that happens,” he said.

PCS acting president Fran Heathcote told congress that 40 per cent of those responsible for administering UC are also in receipt of the benefit.

She accused the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) of adopting a bunker mentality and refusing to address any of the problems raised by claimants and unions.

Ms Heathcote called for “a system that our members can take pride in delivering.”

Congress also heard from Unison delegate Helen Duddy, who gave a personal account of her granddaughter’s difficult experience with UC bureaucracy when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2017.

“We’re a very strong, close family with strong ties to Unison, who helped us,” said Ms Duddy. “I would not like any other family to go through this scenario.”

National Union of Journalists delegate Lorraine Mallinder described how UC has been “an unmitigated disaster,” describing it as “tantamount to a super-sanction on freelancers.”

Supporting the motion, Unite delegate Tam Kirby told congress that the support of “every single trade unionist in Scotland” was required to end the UC benefits system.

UC is “the latest weapon they’re using against us in the class war they’re waging against us,” Mr Kirby said.

Meanwhile in the DWP:

We ran this story a few days ago but it continues to develop.

Independent Wednesday.

Ministers have been accused of keeping “alarming” findings about their flagship universal credit scheme under wraps for a year and a half.

MPs say it was “deeply irresponsible” to delay the release of the report, which suggests nearly half of claimants were not aware their tax credits would stop when they claimed universal credit, and 56 per cent felt they received too little information from HMRC.

The document was produced in November 2017 but only released this month to MPs who, in the meantime, have had to make “pivotal” decisions based on “partial” information, according to the chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field.

In a letter to senior ministers, Mr Field said the “excessively long delay” had taken place during ongoing decisions about the flagship welfare benefit, which have affected the “lives and incomes of millions of people”.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has repeatedly argued that universal credit is more generous than the old benefit system and provides a “safety net” for those who need it.

Our old friend Amber Rudd is still at it!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2019 at 10:07 am

Work and Pensions Committee treated “like dirt” for criticising Universal Credit.

with 53 comments

The Work and Pensions Committee site,

The Committee has today taken the exceptional step of publishing a follow up report to the Government’s response to its report on support for childcare as a barrier to work under Universal Credit.

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

“We on the Committee are frankly sick of these disrespectful Government responses that treat us like dirt and fail to engage with our robust, evidence-based conclusions. It’s not clear they’ve even read this one. Worse, in responding this way, Government dismisses the experience and evidence of the individuals and organisations that have taken the time, and made the effort, and are working with us to try to fix the unholy mess that is Universal Credit.

“This response in particular is simply not acceptable, and that is why we are taking the unusual step of issuing this report, demanding that they go back, look at what we and our witnesses have said, and come up with a second, decent response. This will not do.”

Powerful witness evidence

Among those who gave evidence so powerfully to the original inquiry was Thuto Mali, a single mum who was forced to turn down a well-paid job offer because she could not at that moment find the obligatory upfront cost of childcare so that she could start work.  The multiple problems of Universal Credit also forced her to turn, with her young son, to a foodbank at the Christmas before last. Save the Children recently informed the Committee that Thuto just won The Sun’s ‘Supermum of the Year’.

Correspondence published today between the Chair of the Committee and the Secretary of State on Universal Credit:

Today’s report says Government should now:

1)  review its response and provide a response which matches the consideration the Committee employed in an attempt to help parents to move into work, as the Government claims it is encouraging them to do. If the Government considers that the solutions the Committee recommended are not practicable, it should explain why and set out alternative means of addressing those problems.

2)  explain how, in the absence of plans to introduce direct payments, it intends to address the serious difficulties that both parents and childcare providers are experiencing with the current system

3)  explain the details of the pilots it is running to trial a more flexible approach to the provision of receipts for childcare costs, including where these pilots are being run, what options for providing evidence of childcare costs are being trialled, when the pilots started, how long they will run for and how they will be monitored;

4)  explain why it is so difficult to publish information about the use of the Flexible Support Fund, what analysis it has done of the additional administrative work that would be created, and if it will be published in full;

5)  explain its view on the recommendation that it should divert funding from the schemes aimed at wealthier parents (Tax Free Childcare and the 30 hours free childcare) towards Universal Credit childcare to help more people into work.

6)  commit to providing an analysis of the Government’s spending on the 30 free hours free childcare by income decile, to show which households are benefiting from this policy – in addition to the analysis on the impact of UC childcare cost caps it has already promised

By convention, the Government has two months from publication of a Committee report to respond.

MPs slam ‘dismissive’ and ‘disrespectful’ DWP over Universal Credit report

Work and Pensions Committee blasts “disrespectful Government responses that treat us like dirt”.

Furious MPs have today (Thursday) blasted the UK Government over its “dismissive” and “disrespectful” response to a report on Universal Credit (UC) from the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee.

The Committee’s report concluded that, far from helping parents get into or back into work after having a child, the way the “support” is constructed under UC actually acts as a barrier to work.

In a hard-hitting second report sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) today, the Committee said the Government’s response to its original report was “simply dismissing the very serious problems that are plaguing parents who are trying to get into work”.

Benefit claimant left sarcastic suicide note ‘thanking’ the DWP before taking his own life

He was left unable to top up his electric meter due to problems with Universal Credit.

A man reportedly left a “sarcastic” note thanking the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for leaving him unable to afford electricity, shortly before taking his own life from a lethal overdose.

The Derby Telegraph reports that Brian Sycamore was experiencing difficulties with the new benefit, which merges six social security benefits into one single monthly payment.

The 62-year-old is said to have suffered with back pain for a number of years and was plunged into financial distress because of problems claiming Universal Credit.

The report concludes:

Coroner Pinder recorded the cause of death as “suicide”, but did not refer to the issues Mr Sycamore was having with Universal Credit in her report.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Suicide is a very complex issue, so it would be wrong to link it solely to someone’s benefit claim.

Amber Rudd meanwhile is bathing in flattery.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 13, 2019 at 10:17 am

Fourth Anniversary of the Benefit Freeze Plunges More and More People into Deep Poverty.

with 20 comments

Image result for benefits freeze

George Osborne Introduced Benefit Freeze (2015 Budget).

The 2015 Budget introduced a four-year freeze on most working-age benefits and tax credits. This meant that in 2016 and onwards their value remained as it had been in 2015 rather than rising with inflation.

Everybody knows the Benefits Freeze its biting.

On this issue the Government is not split between those who’d like to make Britain a US-style free-market economy, allied with Trump, and with a minimal post-Brexit Welfare state, and those who want to a decent standard of living for all, including those on benefits.

The free-market chancers in the Hard Brexit camp may be the worst in the long term, but each side at the moment is keep the disaster that is Universal Credit, and the linked Benefit Freeze going.

Just how mad and detached from reality they are can be seen from – potential leadership candidate, and present DWP Minister Amber Rudd’s recent tweet:

It’s good to know that the Currant Bun has gone back to the Tory fold, and has dropped its grating efforts to be the Universal Credit claimants best mate.

Perhaps they’ll run this “story”,

Cheery old Woolfy!

The cockles of your heart warmed you can turn to this:

Families likely to be ‘pulled into poverty’ by benefits freeze continuing for another year

The freeze – introduced in 2016 by the then chancellor George Osborne – entered into its fourth year on Monday.

Florence Snead continues in todays ‘I’

More families are likely to be “pulled into poverty” because of the benefits freeze continuing for another year, it has been claimed.

The decision to continue with the cap on working-age benefits and tax credits is “unjustifiable” and will leave families living in poverty on average £560 worse off over the next year, according to a charity.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said this was equivalent to three months of food shopping for an average low-income family.

In the midst of huge political and economic uncertainty, families who have already seen their support eroded know that the coming year will be hard to get through,” said the JRF chief executive, Campbell Robb.

“It’s not right that more parents will face impossible situations – trying to decide which essential bills to pay and what they can cut back on to make it through each week.

“Keeping benefits and tax credits frozen is unjustifiable: 4.1 million children are locked in poverty, nearly three-quarters of whom are in a working household.”

The organisation said ending the freeze would help working families to stay afloat.

“As the Government approaches its spending review, it needs to look at how best to protect people from harm who are otherwise left without an anchor in uncertain times,” Mr Robb added.

The JRF was among nine charities which wrote to the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, in February urging him to end the freeze this year.

It said continuing the freeze until April 2020 would result in 200,000 more people being locked into poverty.

Nigel Grey MP MP wrote on Monday on Politics Home:

Today marks the beginning of the fourth year of the benefit freeze. Like many of the UK government’s failures – the Windrush Scandal, the shambolic implementation and rollout of Universal Credit, the appalling neglect child refugees – if Brexit wasn’t happening, the disastrous impact of the benefit freeze would be plastered across the front-pages on an almost daily basis.

The benefit freeze was introduced by the Welfare Reform and Work Act in 2016, and freezes most working-age benefits at the same value as in 2015/16. In practice, what this means is that while Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 6.5% since the freeze was brought in, the benefits that many working-age people rely on have not increased at all.

This Tory government has implemented a massive real-terms cut to people’s income, and it’s having a catastrophic impact on people’s lives. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have said the benefit freeze will have affected more than 27 million people across the UK and will have pushed 400,000 people into poverty by 2020.

On top of this, with Brexit pushing up inflation, the benefit freeze will cut another £4.4 billion this year – nearly a billion more than intended out of the pockets of those least able to bear it.

Moral outrage

The freeze includes benefits for children, as well as support for disabled people looking for work. Targeting austerity at disadvantaged children and disabled people is nothing short of a moral outrage and this Tory government should hang their heads in shame.

Theresa May and her government have taken almost no action to boost support for people who rely on social security. In one year, the benefit freeze cut will more than wipe out the total investment in the Work Allowance boost up to 2022 that was announced in the 2018 Budget.

Advance payments of Universal Credit which are meant to help people during the five week wait are, in fact, just loans that have to be paid back to DWP. And the two-child cap on Child Tax Credit is taking thousands away from families with more than two children.

A tragedy and a farce

Moreover, the revolving office-door of the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is both a tragedy and a farce. The idea that the Department chiefly responsible for the wellbeing of poor, elderly and vulnerable people is being used as a platform from which Tory MPs can hop, skip or jump depending on which way the political wind blows is indicative of the contempt the UK government has for the disadvantaged and the marginalised.

The benefit freeze represents one of the biggest cuts to social security we have seen in recent times, yet Labour didn’t even bother to mention it in their last manifesto and the current DWP Secretary has shown nothing but apathy towards evidence of its terrible impact.

The cuts imposed by the UK government have and will further entrench poverty across the UK.

This is a political choice, not a necessity. One of the quickest ways this Government could put money back into people’s pockets would be to lift the freeze immediately and up-rate benefits with inflation.

 

Neil Gray is SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts and the SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2019 at 3:38 pm

Ministry Hid Report on Universal Credit Hardship.

with 82 comments

Image result for Universal credit transition from tax credits report

Damming 2017 Report only now Released. 

 

Universal Credit may not get the headlines it deserves these days, something else happening I hear on the wireless, but, while Parliament’s  leaking roof capture’s the world attention there is (finally) this very unleaky report.

Study for DWP reveals 78% of people moved to Universal Credit struggle with bills

Mirror.

The shocking report dated November 2017 was only slipped onto the government’s website today

Joint DWP and HMRC report was released on Thursday but dated November 2017

Ministers sat for nearly a year and a half on research that revealed that tax credit claimants experienced “real financial problems” after they signed on to universal credit, it has emerged.

The joint Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HMRC study, which examined how tax credit claimants coped with the move, found 60% of those who said they struggled to pay bills said their difficulties began when they moved on to the new benefit.

More than half of claimants reported that the routine six-week wait for a first payment took them by surprise, and nearly half of those who were expecting a delay underestimated by a third how long the wait would be.

Strike us feather me down.

The study was slipped out on the DWP and HMRC websites on Thursday morning – even though the report itself is dated November 2017, and the research was carried out between October 2016 and July 2017.

Forgetfulness, understandable perhaps…

More than half of claimants reported that the routine six-week wait for a first payment took them by surprise, and nearly half of those who were expecting a delay underestimated by a third how long the wait would be.

About half of those surveyed did not have sufficient savings to tide them over the six weeks, the study found, and this group struggled especially. A few claimants endured “considerable stress” after payment delays meant they had to wait up to three months to get their money.

Overall, 25% said they were having real financial problems and falling behind with many bills and commitments, 13% said they were falling behind with some commitments, and 13% said they were keeping up but it felt a constant struggle to do so,” the report found

Here is the report: The transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: qualitative and quantitative research with claimants.

More from this:

Making a claim online

The UC system is designed to be administrated predominantly online, including the application process. It is therefore important that individuals can complete the application online on their own: ideally, claimants would not need assistance from DWP. Most survey participants reported that they were able to make their UC claim online (77 per cent). Over half (57 per cent) of all claimants interviewed completed the claim themselves, whilst a one in five (20 per cent) required help from someone else such as their partner, friend or relative. A further 19 per cent reported applying with help from an adviser at the Jobcentre. If it is assumed that the adviser would have assisted with an online claim, then the proportion of those claiming online overall is 96%. Claimants’ main reasons for not completing their application online were a lack of familiarity using computers (21 per cent) and a lack of access to computers or the internet (11 per cent).

Payment Gap.

Universal Credit claimants typically experience a payment gap22 of about six weeks from making their UC claim until their first UC payment is made. Once the UC claim is made, tax credits stop. Less than half (42 per cent) of claimants were aware that there would be a gap in payments. Awareness was particularly low amongst female claimants and claimants with children (57 per cent of female claimants, compared to 43 per cent of male claimants, and 55 per cent of claimants who had children included on their claim compared to 41 per cent who did not, were not aware of the gap). Of those that were aware of the payment gap, just over half found out through Jobcentre Plus (54 per cent).

Service.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of Universal Credit (UC) claimants were satisfied with the service they received during transition to Universal Credit (15 per cent were very satisfied and 30 per cent were fairly satisfied). Similar proportions reported being dissatisfied: 42 per centoverall (13 per cent fairly dissatisfied and 29 per cent very dissatisfied).

Where claimants were dissatisfied with the process, the survey explored why this was. The three main reasons for dissatisfaction were lack of clear information about the process The transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: qualitative and quantitative research with claimants of stopping tax credits and claiming UC (34 per cent), length of the payment gap (29 per cent) and poor organisation (29 per cent) (e.g. a lack of departmental knowledge of the process and timescales or the ability to advise claimants accordingly).

Reactions:

Ironically, Frank Field, chair of the commons work and pensions committee, accused the DWP at the time of “withholding bad news”, claiming that Gauke only gave the go-ahead to universal credit because officials “had withheld the true scale of the problems”.

Margaret Greenwood MP, the shadow work and pensions secretary, asked why the government was only now publishing the findings. She said: “Universal credit should be helping people out of poverty; instead it is pushing many people into debt and towards food banks. The government must take notice of its own research and stop universal credit as a matter of urgency.”

Yet all is not darkness.

The Currant Bun has this Good News!

Amber Rudd plans £2bn Universal Credit spending spree to help out struggling parents

The Work and Pensions Secretary wants to pump more cash into child benefits and housing allowances

AMBER RUDD is preparing a near £2billion spending spree on benefits for low-paid Brits to tackle a shock rise in child poverty.

The Sun can reveal the Work and Pensions Secretary is demanding a small fortune to top up child benefits and housing allowances.

With all this joy being spread it’s no wonder the DWP has the cash for this:

Written by Andrew Coates

April 5, 2019 at 11:58 am

New Help to Claim Service to “offer that little Bit of extra help” adds to the “best things” about Universal Credit, Amber Rudd (April the First).

with 29 comments

Image result for classical painting unicorns

Amber Rudd’s DWP Universal Credit Help Service.

New ‘Help to Claim’ service provides extra Universal Credit support

DWP invests £39 million into new ‘Help to Claim’ service provided by Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland for Universal Credit claimants.

Published 1 April 2019

Amber Rudd has been happy for days and days and days!

 

 

 

Sunday’s Mail, a byword for accuracy, reports that the Tories are up in arms against anybody saying otherwise!

Tories blast BBC’s ‘poverty bias’ as ministers say Panorama report which claimed Universal Credit causes hunger and suffering is ‘fake news’ and left out details on huge payouts for ‘victims’

Ministers are at war with the BBC over a ‘fake news’ campaign against the Government’s Universal Credit system.

Officials working for Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd have submitted a dossier to the Corporation of what they describe as ‘biased and inaccurate’ reporting about people’s ability to survive on the benefits, received by 1.3 million claimants.

It comes as a Mail on Sunday investigation has also uncovered a number of glaring inconsistencies in reports about the system by the BBC and other media outlets.

Officials began compiling the alleged catalogue of errors and half-truths following an edition of the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Panorama on the ‘Universal Credit Crisis’ in Flintshire, North Wales, in November.

Yet, strangely, all the advice and all the bleating by poor put-upon Tories in the world is not going to change this:

Universal Credit increasing debt for Solihull social housing tenants

DWP: Almost 3,000 ‘sanctions’ for Teesside’s 10,000 Universal Credit claimants

New figures reveal that payments had been stopped or reduced on Teesside almost 3,000 times, as of October

And so it goes….

Written by Andrew Coates

April 1, 2019 at 3:28 pm

Sanctions Threat Set to Grow in Understaffed Universal Credit.

with 71 comments

Related image

Benefit Sanctions Encourage Goodthink.

Lots of posters on this site are rightly concerned about benefit sanctions.

Benefit sanctions, that is people losing money, right up to getting nothing whatsoever,  can happen for many reasons and leave people in dire poverty.

These are the official reasons for sanctions.

You may get a lower level sanction (four or 13 weeks) if:

  • you lose an employment scheme place through misconduct or without good reason
  • you don’t go to meetings on time with your adviser or work coach, or take part in interviews
  • you don’t do what your adviser or work coach tells you to do to find work, such as attend a training course or update your CV
  • you don’t take part in employment schemes (for example, Steps 2 Success) when your adviser or work coach tells you to
  • you don’t meet your employment scheme adviser on time or take actions they tell you to
  • you give up a place on a scheme voluntarily

Intermediate level sanctions

  • if you aren’t available for or actively seeking work, your claim may be ended.
  • if you make a new claim you may get an intermediate level sanction up to either four or 13 weeks.

Higher level sanctions

You may get a higher level sanction (13, 26 or 78 weeks) if:

  • you were dismissed for misconduct from your last job or without good reason
  • you left your last job
  • you don’t apply for suitable jobs your adviser, work coach or employment scheme adviser tells you about
  • you don’t take a job you are offered that your adviser, work coach or employment scheme adviser had told you about.

By in large it’s the “actively seeking work” area that’s the most of a problem.

With the so-called “34 Hours a Week” job search, part of your ‘agreement’ with the Job Centre, there’s plenty of leeway for abuse.

In fact, as Ted points out, if you can prove you’ve taken  real steps to try to get work , you should, in principle be fine.

In October last year the justification for this punishment system was undermined:

No evidence that benefit sanctions work, finds secret DWP report

The report, published with no ministerial announcement on 12 September, shows docking benefits as a punishment for alleged failures to comply with Jobcentre Plus rules does not encourage claimants to apply for additional work, and in some cases “damages the relationship between the work coach and the claimant”.

A specific area of concern has led to this call:

BPS signs consensus statement calling for removal of benefit sanctions

22 March 2019

The British Psychological Society has joined eight other leading mental health organisations in calling for the removal of benefit sanctions for people with mental health difficulties.

Yet the fault-ridden system has stayed in place and now looks set to get worse.

The report below is based on a National Audit Office Report primarily about Supporting disabled people to work.

Full report here

Coverage of this, DWP rapped for ‘disappointing’ lack of insight on helping disabled people find jobs  Civil Service World.

But there are wider implications which The Independent’s May Bulman reports on:

More universal credit claimants could face sanctions as workload of DWP staff doubles, campaigners warn

The NAO report highlights concerns with the DWP’s approach to helping disabled people into work, saying ministers were yet to make a “significant dent” in the number of unemployed disabled people.

The watchdog said the rise in caseload for work coaches meant they may not be able to maintain the amount of time spent with disabled claimants, “let alone meet the department’s aim of increasing time with disabled people who are furthest away from working”.

More universal credit claimants could face cuts to their benefits when their caseworkers are handed bigger workloads to reduce costs, politicians and charities have warned.

Support for claimants could also worsen, said the National Audit Office (NAO). Their warning came after the government predicted work coaches – the frontline staff in job centres – would have to deal with more than twice the number of claimants as universal credit is rolled out.

Campaigners said the increased workload on “already struggling” staff would lead to more claimants being placed on sanctions – when benefits are docked because conditions are not met.

..

Figures published in a report by the NAO show the caseload for work coaches will rise from around 130 to more than 280 by 2024-25. Within this, the number of claimants per work coach in the “intensive work search group”, who require the most support, is expected to increase from 96 to 133 – an increase of 39 per cent.

Universal credit workers last month took two days of strike action in Walsall and Wolverhampton over workloads, demanding the recruitment of more staff, permanent contracts for fixed term staff and a decrease in workloads, and accusing ministers of “running the service into the ground”.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: “Universal credit workers are at breaking point and the latest rollout will only add to the chronic problems of this disastrous policy.

..

Amber Rudd, meanwhile, is tip top cheerful today:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2019 at 5:29 pm

The Bedroom Tax that Never Went Away.

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Image result for bedroom tax

It’s still there, and worse, under Universal Credit.

Amongst all the other things about Universal Credit, wait for payments, sanctions, benefit freeze, on-line forms and the hated ‘journal’, life under the rules of Coachy, and all the rest, most people, well this Blog for one, had forgotten about the Bedroom Tax.

Not, apparently the dogged Newshounds of the regional press.

Today: Birmingham Live.

Universal Credit claimants face bedroom tax of up to 25 per cent – here’s what you need do

These are the Universal Credit housing rules – as Government tries to make system fairer for tenants.

People receiving Universal Credit are being hit by cuts in their benefit because of the so-called bedroom tax.

Those in council or housing association properties are finding their Universal Credit reduced if they have more rooms than they need – even if there is a lodger living in one of them.

The amount paid to cover the rent could be slashed by as much as 25 per cent, says Shelter and Citizens Advice.

Bedroom tax – more formally known as under-occupancy penalty – was introduced in 2012 to reduce housing payments to those with spare bedrooms.

And it applies to Universal Credit, which has replaced six existing social security payments including the old housing benefit.

Liverpool Echo.

Claimants warned that Bedroom tax can reduce Universal Credit payments by 25%

Payments can be reduced – even if there’s a lodger living in the room.

If you want further cheer..

Birmingham Live.

The TRUTH about Universal Credit – from DWP Jobcentre staff

These are the stories of the staff who deal with Universal Credit on a daily basis.

Meanwhile Amber Rudd is still relentlessly full of high spirits.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 25, 2019 at 11:22 am

Universal Credit, 50% of Claimants Face Deductions from their Benefits.

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Image result for amber rudd dwp

Amber Rudd Faces 50% of UC Claimants Misery.

On the things that ‘Think Tanks’ like Bright Blue seem unable, er, to think about, is the way Universal Credit has led to many people having deductions taken from their benefits.

Plain as the wart on their noses – causes being, amongst others, the long wait for money, and the problems with paying rent, and utility bills, the scale of this practice, as well as the immediate causes, astonishes even this Site.

The story is all over the media today so even the Rotters Club and the ERG might deign to notice it.

Over half of Universal Credit claimants have money deducted from payments, new figures show

Independent.

Deductions made when claimants have outstanding debts with their utility companies or landlord

More than half of Universal Credit claimants have money deducted from benefit payments

Chronicle Live.

Deductions are automatically taken from benefits when a claimant has a debt to pay, but an MP argues they’re cruel and force a reliance on foodbanks.

More than 50% of Universal Credit claimants have their benefits deducted – which an MP says is the ‘main supply route to food banks’.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures released yesterday reveal 53% of Universal Credit claimants had some cash taken out of their payments in October 2018.

Deductions – which differ from sanctions – are made when claimants owe money to utility companies or landlords. The automatic deductions are used to pay the outstanding debts.

But MP Frank Field, the chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee who requested the figures, says the deductions leave families unable to afford essentials and are “a main supply route to foodbanks “. He has called on energy companies to write-off debts for customers who genuinely cannot afford to pay.

The figures show that 532,000 Universal Credit claimants had some of their payments deducted in October 2018.

Six thousand claimants had reductions of 40% of their allowance or more, while 129,000 claimants had deductions of between 31 and 40%.

October’s statistics show a sharp rise in deductions compared to figures obtained by FOI in August 2018 by The Guardian newspaper, which showed one-third of claimants at that time saw money deducted from their payments.

In May 2017, just one in 10 claimants had their payments deducted, the figures said.

Here is the actual reply: Department for Work and Pensions.

Asked by Frank Field (Birkenhead)
Asked on: 07 February 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Universal Credit
Answered by: Alok Sharma
Answered on: 20 March 2019
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many and what proportion of universal credit claims had a deduction applied in the most recent month for which data is available.

The Government recognises the importance of safeguarding the welfare of claimants who have incurred debt. Under Universal Credit there is a co-ordinated approach to deductions from benefit, which simplifies the current complex arrangements.

The aim of the deductions policy in Universal Credit is to protect vulnerable claimants from eviction and/or having their gas, electricity and water cut off, by providing a last resort repayment method for arrears of these essential services.

Work has been done to increase awareness of advances and access to them for claimants, and to support this, new guidance has been issued to staff.

This guidance makes it clear that claimants should be made aware of advances, made aware of their maximum entitlement and informed that their entitlement will be adjusted over the relevant recovery period to take this into account. This increased awareness has resulted in around 60% of eligible new claims to Universal Credit receiving an advance in October 2018, providing further financial support until their first payment.

Of all eligible claims* to Universal Credit Full Service due a payment in October 2018, 53% (532,000 claims) had a deduction to their standard allowance.

Of these 532,000 claims with a deduction:

a) 53% (284,000 claims) had deductions up to 20% of the Standard Allowance (28% of all eligible claims).

b) 21% (113,000 claims) had deductions between 21% and 30% of the Standard Allowance (11% of all eligible claims).

c) 24% (129,000 claims) had deductions between 31% and 40% of their Standard Allowance (13% of all eligible claims).

d) 1% (6,000 claims) had deductions above 40% of their Standard Allowance (0.6% of all eligible claims).

Notes:

*Eligible claimants are claimants that have satisfied all the requirements of claiming Universal Credit; they have provided the necessary evidence, signed their claimant commitment and are eligible and have recieved their first payment.

These figures do not include sanctions or fraud penalties which are reductions of benefit rather than deductions.

Claim numbers may not match official statistics caseloads due to small methodological differences.

Claim numbers are rounded to the nearest 1,000.

Amber has other things on her mind:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2019 at 11:32 am