Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

One in Six Young People not in Employment, Education or Training (Neets) for more than 6 Months.

with 59 comments

Long-term analysis says official statistics underplay larger proportion of young people shut out of work, education and training.

One in six young people in the UK are spending six months out of work, education or training, according to new research that suggests government figures are underplaying youth unemployment.

Official figures have shown a drop in the proportion of Neets – young people not in education, employment or training – as the economy has recovered from recession since mid-2011.

But the new analysis tracks young people for longer than the official snapshot figures and suggests a large proportion are still shut out of the jobs market and education for extended periods.

The researchers, who released their report ahead of the latest official Neet figures on Thursday, warned that such long spells out of education or work can scar young people’s prospects for the rest of their lives.

The analysis, published by the youth employment and education charity Impetus-PEF, found an average of 1.3 million 16- to 24-year-olds, or 17% of the age group, spend six months Neet. That contrasts with official figures showing that in the final three months of 2015, 11.8% of young people were Neets.

This is the study the Guardian report is based on:

Quantifying the uncounted  

Can you solve a problem if you can’t quantify it? That was the question we were pondering when we first came up with the idea for the Youth Jobs Index, published today. As an organisation that works to ensure disadvantaged young people succeed in education and employment, we know that there are many young people failing to get on the career ladder. Many of the young people that our partner charities work with have never worked, or have been out of work or education for a long time.

And yet they don’t show up in the quarterly NEET statistics released by the government. We can all celebrate the fact that this number has fallen from its mid-recession peak of over 1 million to around 850,000 today. But what our research – using the same Labour Force Survey data as the government’s quarterly statistics – shows is that those who have been left behind are much more likely to be low qualified and that they are not just taking a few months off, or swapping between jobs; 1.3 million young people are spending six months or more NEET, and 700,000 are out of work or education for over a year.

These young people are not benefiting from the return to economic growth in the same way that graduates are. And maybe that’s not surprising – all through the ‘booming’ 2000s NEET numbers fluctuated between 650,000 and 850,000. This isn’t just an economic issue – and so it can’t be solved just by the economy. Those who are spending six months or more NEET need targeting with sustained, and expert, support to get the into job or education outcomes which last and lead to long-term progression.

From next year the Youth Obligation promises intensive support to all 18-21 year olds from day one of a benefit claim. It’s essential that the purpose of this support is not simply to get young people off the benefit roll, but to get them into a job or education outcome that they can keep, and move on from. Our Youth Jobs Index also shows that for those young people NEET who do get into work or education, sustainment rates are reasonably good – but the majority (70%) are not getting into these opportunities in the first place.

The Independent publishes this comment,

The chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Alan Milburn, said the new figures draw attention to young people at risk of being forgotten.

“This research places much-needed focus on a significant population of young people who are often overlooked and under-supported,” he said.

“Social mobility is not just about getting graduates into the professions but making sure that every child in the UK is given the chance to follow a path into education or employment for the long term.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 25, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Welfare ‘Reform’ Hits Young People.

with 89 comments

 

 

I suspect that many of the people who read, and comment on Ipswich Unemployed Action, not to mention those of us who are active in campaigns on these issues are not “young”.

But it’s hard not to be aware of the difficulties new generations face, not only the debts that students face for their entire lives, but the enormous cost of housing, the relentless pressures to conform to employers’ expectations, low paid and casual work, and, not least, the way that the Nosey Parkers of the DWP and the various, the endless, ‘providers’ of training can make life very difficult for anybody who doesn’t fit into their boxes.

Young people are not shy about talking of these issues.

Their position has got worse since the Tories came to power.

Last year we signaled the 2015 Budget’s raft of ‘welfare reforms’.

The following items stuck out – aimed at young people.

There would be:

A “youth obligation” for those aged 18-21 that says they must either earn or learn, rather than going straight onto benefits after finishing school.

These young people will participate in an “intensive regime of support from day one” of their benefit claim”, and after six months will be expected to apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship, gain work-based skills, or go on a mandatory work placement, otherwise they will lose their benefits.

Scrapping the automatic entitlement to housing benefit for 18-21 year olds (with exceptions for the vulnerable and “other hard cases”).

It hasn’t been outlines what these vulnerable and hard cases are, but the clear danger of this policy is forcing young people to live with abusive parents/households they would prefer to escape for reasons of safety and wellbeing. Crisis, the homeless charity, predicts that this suspension of housing benefit will result in an increase in homelessness. Its chief executive Jon Sparkes comments: “Under-25s already make up a third of homeless people and there is a real danger these changes could make things even worse. For many young people, living with their parents simply isn’t an option.”

This followed, (September 2015)

The Youth Obligation and automatic entitlement

We’ve had confirmation from the Department for Work and Pensions that the introduction of the Youth Obligation, with its tougher conditionality, and the removal of “automatic entitlement” to housing support for 18-21 year olds will happen in April 2017. Both will only apply to young people making new Universal Credit claims.

The Youth Obligation will only cover the types of claimants who would currently be claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, so it will not include people who are sick or disabled. The feedback from Government has been that the intention of the new tougher conditionality is to provide greater levels of support to those who need it to help them find work.

Homeless Link

The effects if these changes are beginning to filter through – and we would be interested to hear of how this “Youth Obligation” operates in  practice as well as the direct effects on youth homeless rates.

This important post, flagged by Doug, outlines the impact of these, and wider, changes, which have led increasing numbers of young people to live with their parents, whether they want to or not.

Guest blog for Shelter Scotland, by Janice Blenkinsopp.

Changes in the benefits system means for low income members of the older age group of 25-34 years and how this may impact their housing options. Attention has tended to focus on their middle class counterparts who are unable to find well paid and permanent positions following a university degree or unable to afford to purchase a home without the help of parents, grandparents or government subsidy which may have consequences for their later welfare. The focus therefore of this research is on those who are low income, older young adults who are missing from these accounts – focussing specifically on younger adults, aged 25-34 years and their parents, using Edinburgh as a case study.

Of particular concern is the increasing of the age before which young people are treated as being fully adult within the social security legislation since this affects their housing options. Housing Benefit reforms in particular, restrict where low income young adults may live and increase (continued) dependence on parents, and their willingness to support their older children even though they receive no assistance from social security for this purpose. With this in mind, three particular areas of reform are being analysed to gain a deeper understanding of the interconnections between reforms relating to both housing and welfare policy on younger people aged between 25 and 34 years old. The main areas of reform identified for particular analysis are:

  • the increases in the non-dependant deduction (NDD) rates from April 2011-14;
  • the under occupancy reduction in benefits in the social rented sector from April 2013 (although becoming less relevant in Scotland);
  • and the increase in age of those affected by the shared accommodation rate (SAR) applicable in the private rented sector from January 2012 and also being applied to social rented tenancies signed after 1 April 2016, with the entitlement changing from 1 April 2018.

It remains unclear why (other than to reduce the budget deficit) the SAR was extended to 25-34 year olds in 2012. In particular, does it imply that people who are unable to afford their full housing costs should share accommodation or continue living with their parents until they are aged 35? If so, how does wider society actually see people from the age of 25 to 34 years old? I would argue many would concur with David Cameron’s view which recognises that: “a generation of hardworking men and women in their 20s and 30s are waking up each morning in their childhood bedrooms – that should be a wakeup call for us.”

At this stage of their life most people are maturing and able to, or would wish to, support a mortgage and perhaps be settling down with partner. It is possible that too much is being read into these changes and the only reason that governments have actioned these policies could relate to nothing other than cost saving by restricting benefit entitlement.

Meanwhile it is clear that these people are not happy with their stay-at-home  condition, or the threat to the toe-hold that they have in their own accommodation by their changes in housing benefit.

Many fear that they will never escape it, and that the only people laughing are the kind of criminals who cheered on Iain Duncan Smith and now, his successor, Stephen Crabb.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 21, 2016 at 11:24 am

Suicides, Sanctions, the True Cost of Welfare ‘Reform’.

with 109 comments

 

The admirable Black Triangle campaigners signaled this, beginning in 2015,

The increasing death toll due to the loss of benefits

Thank to Maggie Zolobajluk @22magoo for her support in this extremely sad task.

14 Sep 2015 — The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) published guidance to Jobcentre officials who decide whether claimants should have their payments stopped.

The guidance says: “It would be usual for a normal healthy adult to suffer some deterioration in their health if they were without:
1. essential items such as food, clothing, heating and accommodation, or
2. sufficient money to buy essential items for a period of two weeks.”

“The Decision Maker must decided if the health of the person with the medical condition would decline more than a normal healthy adult.”

I have compiled a list of the deceased and those who have been adversely affected using the information from these sites  http://twishort.com/0x9gchttp://blacktrianglecampaign.org/…/uk-welfare-reform…/https://welfaretales.wordpress.com/…/death-after-fit…/https://welfaretales.wordpress.com/…/list-of-welfare…/.

The group added more sad deaths up to March 2016.

They have just published this from the Guardian:

Suicides of benefit claimants reveal DWP flaws, says inquiry.

By Patrick Butler and John Pring

‘Peer reviews’ challenge claims by ministers that there is no connection between welfare reform policies and deaths of vulnerable claimants

A series of secret internal inquiries into the deaths of people claiming social security reveal that ministers were repeatedly warned of shortcomings in the treatment of vulnerable claimants facing potentially traumatic cuts to their benefits entitlements.

The conclusions are contained in 49 Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) inquiry reports finally released to campaigners on Friday after a two-year Freedom of Information (FOI) battle. Some 40 of the reports followed a suicide. In 10 cases, the claimant had had their benefits sanctioned.

Although the heavily redacted reports do not draw a direct link between the death of a claimant and problems caused by their dealings with the benefits system, they highlight widespread flaws in the handling by DWP officials of claims by people with mental illness or learning difficulty.

The reports, called “peer reviews,” appear to challenge blanket claims by ministers that there is no connection between government welfare reform policies and the deaths of vulnerable claimants.

Many of them centre on the much-criticised Work Capability Assessment (WCA), the test used to assess whether claimants are fit for work. Campaigners argue the tests are flawed and linked to health relapses, depression, self-harm, and suicides.

Activists have linked the WCA to a string of tragic deaths – including poet Paul Reekie, former sheep farmer Nick Barker and ex-security guard Brian McArdle – all of whom died after being found “fit for work” and told by DWP that they would lose their out-of-work disability benefits.

Peer reviews are triggered when a claimant death is “associated with a DWP activity”. The reports released on Friday were drawn up between February 2012 and August 2014, when an FOI request was originally submitted.

One report warns that vulnerable claimants risked being overlooked by DWP officials, with potentially harmful consequences, because staff resources were stretched by a ministerial decision to push ahead with the speedy re-assessment of hundreds of thousands of incapacity benefit claimants.

It says: “The risk associated with disregarding the possibility that some of these claimants need more support or a different form of engagement is that we fail to recognise more cases like [name redacted] with consequent potential impact on the claimant.”

The rest of the article can be read on the Guardian site with other relevant links,

The Guardian has also reported this:

Research says the extension of benefit sanctions is leading to increased debt and eviction threats and causing ill health.

Benefit sanctions are leaving people almost destitute, with some individuals being pushed toward “survival crime” in order to eat and children missing school because parents can’t pay the bus fare. These are the preliminary findings of a major study into increased restrictions on receiving benefits in the UK welfare system, published in full on Thursday.

The research, led by the University of York, also shows the controversial extension of benefit sanctions to working people on universal credit (UC) can produce disincentives to work.

More via link above.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 14, 2016 at 10:51 am

Universal Jobmatch: as Contract Draws to an End Will Notorious Site Linger on…?

with 80 comments

Off to the Knacker’s Yard? 

 

Thanks to Gazza for this important news.

Did a quick google and a Guardian newspaper article had been updated to say that UJM does indeed come to an end in 2016. Apparently, it`s run by US owners MONSTER but the DWP told Monster what they wanted from the site and that`s when the site got sabotaged by spam and fake jobs etc….Monster demanded nearly £1 million to weed out all the fraudulent ad`s! So cost is an issue. DWP as usual take no responsibility for the uselessness of the site and waffle on about how job seekers benefit from the site blah, blah….

Another Commentator:

Universal Jobmatch Contract nearly OVER 08 May 2016 10:50 #20018
I think we’ll see UJM stay, just in a different form, with the removal of the job match part which has been universally panned and more put into the logged activities side of it, given how much it would cost for a new system and the fact some advisors have taken all this time to learn just how to get into it, this is closer to what I would personally expect.

Unemployed Movement.

In 2015 this was said (Unemployed Movement)

The Universal Jobmatch contract was awarded to the Monster Corporation on 25th January 2012. The contracted length was for 48 months. The value of the contract to that corporation was put at £15,110,107. The contract expires on or about 25 January 2016, about 7 to 8 months’ time.

 

The Guardian reported in 2014,

Reports that the Government’s flagship jobs website will be scrapped have been branded as “speculation” by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

A leaked reported in the Guardian claimed that there were plans to ditch Universal Jobmatch, which the DWP requires unemployed people to sign up to, when the contract for the service ends in 2016.

The site’s reputation has been marred after a number of fake job adverts appeared on it, such as one for a “target elimination specialist” for MI6.

However, a spokesperson for DWP refuted the claims.

“How people find work has become increasingly digital, so it’s right, and responsible, that DWP should continually look to ensure we are making the best offer to jobseekers,” the spokesperson said.

“The current Universal Jobmatch contract comes to an end in 2016 so any speculation on what will happen after that is premature.”

Firstly here are some of the ‘concerns’ that sparked that controversy (Wikipedia).

On 12 February 2014, it was revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request [12] that Monster didn’t win the Universal Jobmatch Tender falling into last place on value and second to last place on evaluation scoring;[13] until the service was put back out to tender.[14]

The Government paid Methods Consulting Limited and Jobsite UK (Worldwide) Limited £950,000 compensation,[15] who should have won both tenders, when the new contract was awarded. To date, the Government hasn’t specified its reason for placing the contract back out to tender but the fact it paid compensation seems to suggest it wasn’t the private company at fault.

Concerns are raised how Monsters “satisfactory” evaluation score and high bid in the first tender, resulted in a near-perfect evaluation score in the second tender and a bid of under half the original which in turn made them competitive. Allegations of insider dealing and corruption has been made because of this.[13]

This was also said in 2014 (Computer World)

In an open letter, Sal Iannuzzi, CEO of Monster and Neil Couling, head of Jobcentre Plus, wrote: “The current contract between DWP and Monster runs until 2016, but the DWP – as with any large government procurement – will plan and consider all options for how it delivers the service in the future. But whatever that future is, Universal Jobmatch is here to stay, which will be of relief to the 500,000 employers and millions of people looking for a new job who rely on it every day.”

Those using the site, obliged to or not, can add plenty of faults with Universal Jobmatch beyond the fake ads scandal.

It is stiff, all of the jobs advertised come from elsewhere, from sites which we are already registered with (and which are much more user-friendly, though Monster itself as ‘problems’), and there seems problems about logging in are widespread.

This year Universal Jobmatch would not accept my password and I had to change it – which took a fair amount of time.

It’s hard to imagine that is an isolated case.

Remember:

If you are required to sign up to Universal Jobmatch you still do not have to tick the box giving the DWP access to your account and can untick the box giving them permission to send you emails. 

Now the contract is drawing to a close we await further news from the ever-so-transparent DWP and Monster….

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 10, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Council Tax: as Claimants Have to Pay Arrears Rise, Rise and Rise.

with 6 comments

Eric Pickles: Inflicted Council Tax Debt on Poor while Stuffing Himself with Pies.

Having just paid my monthly Council Tax bill – at the last possible moment – this issue flagged by Ken is something hard not to notice.

It is hardly a coincidence that the rate of arrears has grown massively since people on the Dole – that is a the minimum you are supposed to need to live in – had their money cut by having to fork out this extra monthly bill.

Nor is a surprise that many people put electricity, gas and water, not to mention food, above Council Tax as a priority.

I would lay a hefty bet that the rise is in large part due to this obligation for claimants to ‘contribute’.

On food alone mind you it’s not only the out-of-work who struggle: “More than 8 million in UK struggle to put food on table, survey says. Food Foundation reveals scale of food insecurity, with 4.7 million thought to be regularly going a day without eating.”

The man responsible for this burden on the poorest, Eric Pickles – not somebody who looks he;s ever been short of a good nosh – desigend the system partly to punish those on benefits, and partly to make life more difficult for Labour councils where they will eb forced to reply oin this expensive to collect and oppressive scheme.

Piggy Pickles is up there with Iain Duncan Smith as an enemy of us lot.

Debt Charities Warn Of Record Levels Of Council Tax Arrears. Welfare Weekly.

Two debt charities have called on local authorities to end the practice of passing vulnerable residents Council Tax debts to bailiffs.

Two leading debt advice charities have called on local authorities to end the practice of passing vulnerable residents Council Tax debts to bailiffs, as figures show the level of arrears has hit a record high.

Analysis by the StepChange debt charity found that average Council Tax arrears have increased from £717 in 2011 to £961 in 2015, an increase of 25 per cent. Just 14 per cent of the charity’s clients we’re struggling with Council Tax arrears in 2011, but this has now increased to a shocking 30 per cent.

 Figures from National Debtline, an expert advisory service run by the Money Advice Trust, closely mirror those from StepChange. Nearly one in four calls (24%) to the specialist service were from people with Council Tax arrears in 2015, compared to just 14 per cent in 2007.

Both charities have expressed concerns with the increasing use of enforcement agents by local authorities. The Money Advice Trust’s ‘Stop The Knock’ campaign has revealed how 1.27 million debts directly related to Council Tax arrears were referred to bailiffs in 2014/15.

An independent review, led by former MP Eric Ollerenshaw, has also expressed concerns over the increasing use of enforcement agents by local authorities in recovering debts.

More here.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 9, 2016 at 3:35 pm

Benefit sanctions: ‘Britain’s secret penal system’.

with 37 comments

war-on-the-poor

Britain’s Secret Penal System.

This is absolutely excellent – thanks Jim.

The Sanctions system is something hanging over all us.

A worry to us, a temptation for abuse for those in a position of power.

And mainly: a massive source of destitution and misery.

We already live on the absolute minimum.

People who count what a container of milk costs, who hang around for the cheap bread at the end of the day, who have to show evidence of our ‘job search’ at every turn, who have to put up with being lectured and patronised, who read the crap in the press about us loafers. Who  worry, and worry, about being penalised and losing benefits.

Who see the sisters and brothers living in the streets, sanctioned without resources, begging – every single bloody day!

Who are unable even to leave the country to go ‘abroad’  – like under some kind of Stalinist regime – without losing benefits.

Who  have to trudge to Liddle to buy our lumpfish caviar,  fresh lobster and Prosecco.

Okay….. I made the last bit up.

Anyway this bloke nails the whole thing.

From Bella Caledonia.

Stuart Rodger interviews Dr David Webster, the Glasgow-based academic who charts the full horror of Tory benefit sanctions – which fine more people for being poor than are fined in Magistrates courts

While the Tories like to prevaricate and evade on the causes for the dramatic rise in foodbank use in Britain over the past six years, the statistical evidence is unequivocal. 

The Trussell Trust – the leading provider of foodbanks in Britain – claim that the highest proportion of users, at 28%, cite benefit delays as their reasons for referral. Corresponding with the rise of physical hunger has been the level of psychological distress – with DWP staff now being given ‘suicide guidance’ when dealing with despairing claimants. 

The benefit-related problems in question are, in many cases, sanctions. These have long been part of the system, but the passing of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 brought in a much stricter regime, with some claimants being sanctioned for as long as three years. 

They soon became a common topic of discussion after the news of the death of David Clapson – a diabetic former soldier left with an empty stomach and a cut-off refrigerator where he left his insulin. With sanctions causing such widespread misery, no wonder the DWP issued fabricated personal stories promoting sanctions, in a Ministry-of-Truth like twist. 

One academic who has been taking sanctions to task, however, is Dr David Webster, of Glasgow University. He has memorably described benefit sanctions as ‘Britain’s secret penal’ system. 

His remarkable observation is that, once you crunch the numbers, the number of benefit sanctions being inflicted on claimants – at over 1 million – is now higher than the number of fines imposed by Magistrates and Sheriff courts throughout Britain, at around 850,000, and the amount of money is measurably greater. 

Meeting with Webster in his elegant, semi-detached Victorian house in Glasgow’s southside, he tells me that he regards this system as a ‘third-rate form of justice’. What stands out for him, he has written, is that the decisions are made in secret, without any open system of transparency or accountability: 

‘Decisions on guilt are made in secret by officials who have no independent responsibility to act lawfully – since the Social Security Act 1998 they have been mere agents of the Secretary of State. These officials are currently subject to constant management pressure to maximise penalties. And as in any secret system, there is a lot of error, misconduct, dishonesty and abuse. The claimant is not present when the decision on guilt is made and is not legally represented.’

Webster sees it as a basic violation of the principles of a liberal democracy: ‘The civil liberties alarm bells haven’t been triggered – because it’s been done step by step by step. But of course that’s what happens when liberties are taken away, they don’t all go at once.’ 

Talking about the historical development of welfare reform, he says ‘the biggest increase in penalties was the 2012 Act… That’s what created this anomaly where these secret administrators can impose penalties higher than the Magistrates courts.’ 

Read More here.

‘The trouble with the sanctions system is that it’s so vicious that it undermines people… It makes them ill, destroys their resilience in all sorts of ways, lose their self-confidence. It’s immensely damaging. So I feel very angry about it.’

Written by Andrew Coates

May 5, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Universal Credit: The Saga of Failure Continues.

with 24 comments

Old Norse Legends: Shorter, More Efficient, and Less Fraught than the Saga of Universal Credit. 

At the Jobcentre we are told that Universal credit will make everything better, working part-time, re-claims, many difficulties will vanish when it gets set up.

People have been given entire lectures on the subject.

Yet.

Yet, this continues, as many of us saw on the telly this morning, or heard about from people we know.

The latest from a long, a very long saga – and not one many of us would care to listen to on a long frozen night.

Universal Credit veering off track, Resolution Foundation says

The BBC continues:

The government’s flagship benefit reform has “serious design flaws” and has “veered off track” because of cost-cutting, a think tank has warned.

The Resolution Foundation said Universal Credit could leave 2.5 million families worse off, some by more than £3,000 a year.

It comes as the government announces a further expansion of the scheme.

Welfare Secretary Stephen Crabb said the payment was “transforming welfare” and getting people into work faster.

Universal Credit, championed by Mr Crabb’s predecessor Iain Duncan Smith, aims to provide incentives for people to move off benefits and into work.

Universal Credit replaces six current benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance with a single payment.

After delays hit the original timetable, it is being gradually rolled out across the country and is now available to new single jobseekers in every job centre across the UK.

The latest target for a full roll-out is 2021.

The Resolution Foundation, chaired by former Conservative minister David Willetts, said it had long supported Universal Credit, which it said would simplify welfare and boost work incentives.

However, it said recent changes, “which have been driven by the government’s desire to secure further savings in the welfare budget… have taken it too far from its original purpose”.

Unless design flaws are eradicated, it said, Universal Credit “risks being reduced to little more than a very complicated vehicle for cutting the benefits bill”.

The hard men of the Public Finance journal are equally forthright,

Richard Johnstone writes,

The government’s Universal Credit benefit reform scheme must be “reclaimed” from the Treasury in order to achieve its aim of making work pay, the Resolution Foundation has warned today.

The think-tank called on the new work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb to make changes ahead of the full rollout of the benefit reform to ensure it incentivised both entry into the job market and progression in work.

Full implementation of UC, which combines six existing benefits into a single payment,has been delayed after a series of IT problems.

From today, all single jobseekers can now claim the benefit, with over 450,000 people having made a claim for the payment so far.

However, the government made a series of changes to the structure of UC in the last parliament, including reducing the amount of benefits that people can retain as their earnings rise.

Today’s Resolution Foundation report highlighted it had long supported the reform, but changes in the last parliament, driven by a desire from the Treasury to secure further savings in the welfare budget, meant the plan had “veered off track”.

The Independent Web Site highlights what concerns us most:

Their report found that while the new system does fulfil its goal of increasing incentives to work for around two million families, another 2.5 million working households could be worse of by an average of £41 a week. Recent cuts to work allowances – the amount of money benefit claimants are allowed to earn before their welfare payments are withdrawn – have deepened the problem, the Resolution Foundation said.

Disincentives to work under the new system are particularly strong for single parents, and the second earner in a household.

This is what the Resolution Foundation itself says:  Universal Challenge – making a success of Universal Credit.

Even when considered alongside policies designed to boost incomes, including the introduction of the National Living Wage and income tax cuts, relative to the current system without those measures in place, the latest version of UC implies:

  • 3 million working families entitled to support in the tax credit system will no longer be entitled to any in-work support, leaving them £42 a week worse off on average;
  • A further 1.2 million are set to receive UC, but be an average of £41 a week worse off;
  • 1.7 million still in receipt of UC will be better off by an average of £38 a week, in part due to the more generous treatment of housing costs; and
  • Only around 200,000 families – a mix of those without children and couple parents – who are no are longer entitled to UC at all will be overall better off following cuts to in-work support and boosts to income from the National Living Wage and income tax cuts.

This is a key point:

As currently designed, UC piles extra burdens on recipients, these could be eased. Making people’s lives more difficult may make them resistant to the change UC brings. Requiring recipients to provide complex information so the system can calculate entitlements risks creating errors and mistakes that could cause implementation to stumble.

Following his predecessor’s policy of stout denial – of everything, facts to start with – the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb, has responded.

Mr Crabb said universal credit was working well and that the Government’s focus was on expanding it to all benefit claimants.

“Universal Credit is transforming welfare and is central to our vision for our society where people of all backgrounds can earn a decent wage and provide for their families, with claimants moving into work faster and earning more than under the old system,” he said.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 3, 2016 at 3:15 pm

‘Unpaid Work Experience” – Workfare – “contradicted the European Convention on Human Rights” say Judges..

with 51 comments

Tips to Jim and I was a JSA Claimant.

Brits punished for refusing ‘slave labour’ due compensation after landmark court case.

Reports the Mirror this evening.

Brits who had their benefits stopped after refusing to do unpaid work experience are closer to compensation after the Government lost a crucial legal battle.

Three Court of Appeal judges in London have dismissed its challenge against an earlier High Court ruling.

The Government had appealed in a bid to prevent thousands of individuals who had jobseeker payments stopped from clawing back millions of pounds in lost benefits .

The scheme – dubbed workfare – was introduced in the wake of the financial crash, when jobs were scarce.

But critics said it was pointless and the work experience offered was of little value. Dr Simon Duffy of the Centre for Welfare Reform dubbed it “modernised slavery” .

In one case, university graduate Cait Reilly was forced to give up her voluntary position at a museum to work for free in Poundland instead.

But while thousands were affected by the scheme, only a fraction are likely to receive a pay out.

Dr Lynne Friedli, who campaigned against the scheme, described the ruling as “a partial victory”.

She added: “The money was unlawfully taken and must be returned.”

But Professor Paul Spicker from Robert Gordon University warned: “It is not at all certain that this judgment will help claimants directly.

“The Act that has been challenged is still the law. There is also an ‘anti-test-case’ rule which means that other people who suffer injustice cannot get redress. The Supreme Court needs to revisit the rules that make this possible.”

Social media activist I Was a JSA Claimant said: “For people like me who have been campaigning against benefit sanctions and workfare this judgement reinforces what we have been saying for a long time.

“Sanctions are an unfair punitive punishment which does nothing to help people back into work.

“The individuals and families affected will hopefully get the money that was stopped back, but that will not properly compensate for the hardship they had to endure during their sanction.”

The judges reached their conclusion on the basis that workfare contradicted the European Convention on Human Rights.

The article explains the background:

Friday’s decision is the latest in litigation over back-to-work schemes following a Supreme Court ruling in October 2013.

Five justices at the highest court in the land ruled, in what became known as the Poundland case, that the Government’s flagship back-to-work schemes were flawed .

They said that sufficient information had not been given to claimants to enable them to make representations before benefits were stopped.

The Government brought in emergency retrospective legislation, the Jobseekers (Back to Work Schemes) Act 2013, to “protect the public purse” and stop the payouts.

It was argued the sanctions had been justified and the claimants would be receiving “undeserved windfall payments”.

But a High Court judge, Mrs Justice Lang, declared the 2013 Act “incompatible” with Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to fair hearings.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decided not to make any payouts pending the Court of Appeal bid to overturn Mrs Justice Lang’s decision.

Appeal judges ruled on Friday that when Parliament enacted the 2013 Act in order to retrospectively “validate those sanctions” it was “successful in doing so as a matter of English law”.

But Lord Justice Underhill, announcing the ruling of the court, said: “But we have also held – upholding the decision of the High Court – that in the cases of those claimants who had already appealed against their sanctions the Act was incompatible with their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.”

He added: “Under the Human Rights Act that ‘declaration of incompatibility’ does not mean that the 2013 Act ceases to be effective as regards those claimants; it is up to the Government, subject to any further appeal, to decide what action to take in response.”

More in the Independent: Benefit sanctions handed out to thousands of people ‘unlawful’. The Court of Appeal dismissed a legal challenge by the Government. The Guardian: Appeal court rejects challenge in Poundland case. Three judges uphold high court ruling that emergency measures introduced in 2013 were incompatible with human rights law

Hats off to all those who stood up against the thieving Workfare Exploiters and the DWP!

The fight continues…..

Written by Andrew Coates

April 29, 2016 at 4:38 pm

New Report: Over a Million People in Destitution: Debt, Delays, and Sanctions Make People, “Humiliated” “Degraded” and “Demeaned.”

with 81 comments

File photo of a homeless woman huddling on a bench

Homeless Total on the Rise. 

The government never tires of saying that they prefer work to welfare.

Iain Duncan Smith built his career on the assertion.

He also claimed to believe in social justice and compassion – something he failed to show in his many years of office until his self-serving resignation came about.

There are have been a number of assessments of the Minister’s term in office.

Phillip Collins, in the latest Prospect  magazine shreds his reputation to pieces (Iain Duncan Smith: the quest of a quiet man.)

This, amongst many other indictments,  stands out.

Duncan Smith regularly claims that Britain’s fine record of job creation since 2010 is attributable to his welfare reforms but no impartial observer takes his claim especially seriously. It is hard to do so when there has been almost no welfare reform to assess. The Work Programme was designed to help older people and the long-term unemployed into work. Last year, the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee pointed out that 70 per cent of those people enrolled have failed to find long-term employment. The principal effect of replacing Incapacity Benefit with Employment Support Allowance (ESA) was that tens of thousands of claimants were reassessed as fit for work despite serious doubts that they were able to do so. The waiting list for the capability assessment stretches into the hundreds of thousands. Of those decisions that go to appeal, 40 per cent are overturned. The number of disabled people returning to work has been falling.

But this stands out even more:

More than a million people in UK living in destitution, study shows

Research by Joseph Rowntree Foundation finds 668,000 households unable to afford essentials such as food, heating and clothes.

Reports the Guardian.

More than a million people in the UK are so poor they cannot afford to eat properly, keep clean or stay warm and dry, according to a groundbreaking attempt to measure the scale of destitution in Britain.

A study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that 184,500 households experienced a level of poverty in a typical week last year that left them reliant on charities for essentials such as food, clothes, shelter and toiletries.

More than three-quarters of destitute people reported going without meals, while more than half were unable to heat their home. Destitution affected their mental health, left them socially isolated and prone to acute feelings of shame and humiliation.

Although the study could not demonstrate that destitution had increased in recent years, it said this would be a plausible conclusion because of related evidence showing austerity-era rises in severe poverty, food bank use,homelessness and benefit sanction rates.

The most common causes of destitution were unsustainable debt repayments to public authorities such as council tax arrears, together with high rents and benefit delays and sanctions. These triggered financial shocks that pushed already poor households into periods of severe poverty often lasting months.

Nearly four-fifths of people who fell into destitution in 2015 were born in the UK, with younger single men most at risk. Migrants, who face restricted access to jobs and benefits, were disproportionately likely to become destitute.

High destitution rates were found in former industrial areas in the north-west and north-east of England, Scotland, south Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as inner London. These areas typically had high unemployment and above average levels of long-term sickness and disability.

Detailed interviews with 80 destitute people found that 30% had benefits sanctioned. More than half of this group directly linked the “abrupt impact” of having their benefits stopped with being unable to afford basic living essentials.

Here is the original:

Destitution in the UK

Suzanne Fitzpatrick, Glen Bramley, Filip Sosenko, Janice Blenkinsopp, Sarah Johnsen, Mandy Littlewood, Gina Netto and Beth Watts
Posted on27th Apr 2016

This report defines destitution in the UK, looking at how many people are affected, who they are, and the main pathways in and out of destitution. It looks at the impact and experience of those people directly affected.

DESTITUTION IN THE UK Despite rising concern, there is a lack of robust evidence on the causes, scale, trends and experience of destitution in the UK. This study sought to find out how many people are destitute, and how this experience has affected them.

Key points: • The general public considers people to be destitute when they cannot afford to buy the essentials to eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean.

• About 1,252,000 people, including 312,000 children, were in this situation in the UK at some point during 2015.

• While some migrant groups face disproportionate risks of destitution, the great majority (79 per cent) of those destitute were born in the UK. • Destitution is not usually a one-off, transient episode, but occurs in a context of severe poverty and hardship over a considerable period of time.

• The key triggers pushing people in poverty into destitution include debt repayments (usually to public authorities); benefit delays and sanctions; high living costs; and, for some migrants, extremely low levels of benefits and lack of access to the UK labour market.

• People affected by destitution feel ‘demeaned’, ‘degraded’ and ‘humiliated’ by having to seek help with basic material needs like food, clothes and toiletries from charitable organisations, friends or family.

This is particularly affecting:

Experiences and impacts:

Going without food was very commonly experienced, reported by 76 per cent of destitute service users, followed by lacking clothes and/or shoes suitable for the weather (71 per cent) and access to toiletries (63 per cent).

56 per cent of destitute service users reported that they had been unable to heat their home, and 30 per cent that they had been unable to light their home. A large proportion of both the migrant (37 per cent) and UK-complex needs groups (41 per cent) had recently slept rough.

Destitute parents emphasised that they put their children’s needs ahead of their own (although we were not able to interview children themselves), however they also frequently discussed the negative effects of destitution on parent–child relationships.

Other key themes included the additional necessities ill-health created for many destitute households, the importance of being able to cover transport costs in circumstances where walking is not always a viable option, and the critical role played by mobile phones as a lifeline to stay in touch with family and official processes.

The sustained or cyclical nature of destitution frequently took a toll on people’s mental health, and also sometimes their physical health. Social isolation was very often reported, associated with the shame engendered by destitution, as well as by an inability to pay for normal social activities.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 27, 2016 at 11:34 am

Sanctions Appeal System: Time for a Change.

with 116 comments

Many of our contributors have been concerned with this story:

Callous DWP Officials Considered Charging Disabled People To Appeal Benefits Decisions Welfare Weekly.

DWP officials considered plans to begin charging sick and disabled to challenge benefit decisions, a secret internal document reveals.

Callous Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) officials considered plans to begin charging sick and disabled to challenge benefit decisions, a secret internal document reveals.

The document seen by Mirror Online reveals how officials believed the introduction of social security tribunal fees, mirroring those for employment tribunals, “could contribute a portion of the cost of running the tribunals system” – requiring claimants to pay to challenge potentially inaccurate benefit decisions.

 Only due to sheer incompetence has the document come to the attention of the media. Because bungling officials failed to redact it correctly, which would have protected the secrecy surrounding the proposals.

Officials also considered reducing appeal times from 12 to 6 months and draconian measures to cut the number of successful appeals, at a time when more than 50% of decisions are being over-turned in favour of the claimant at appeal.

They even planned to ‘remove payment of ESA (Employment Support Allowance) pending appeal’.

The Mirror where the story broke a few days ago said this,

The document appears to have been a response to the huge number of adverse benefit decisions which are overturned on appeal.

The DWP tried to stop the report being made public – but bungling officials failed to properly redact its contents.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith said: “This secret document shows the inner workings of a department that seems determined to make life harder for disabled people and low-wage working families.

The report concludes:

A DWP spokeswoman insisted the proposals were not taken forward by the Government as actual policies.

“These ideas were drafted by staff before the last election. They do not represent Government policy and have never been sent to Ministers,” she said.

The idea was not simply to make it harder for people to appeal – an obvious wish – but to reduce the very large number of cases going through the system.

Background  DWP appeals (August 2015):

Half of all sanctions taken against benefit claimants are wrongly imposed, new figures have shown.

Government statistics show 50% of sanctions imposed against those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are overturned on appeal since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012.

Some 575,901 sanctions were challenged with an astonishing 285,327 being overturned.

Questions over new benefit sanctions warning system. December 2015.

An SNP MP has raised questions over a new benefit sanctions warning system to be trialled in Scotland next year.

The UK government has proposed telling benefit claimants two weeks in advance that payments are to be cut off, giving them more time to appeal.

SNP social justice spokeswoman Eilidh Whiteford said “tinkering around the edges” of the system would not resolve “the deep flaws at its core”.

The UK government said the new method would “strike the right balance”.

Under the current system, benefits are cut off immediately when a claimant fails to comply with rules set by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The system came under criticism when it emerged that 58% of people who lodged appeals in 2014 were successful in having sanctions overturned.

The new proposals, to be trialled in Scotland in 2016, would see claimants given a “yellow card” or warning when a sanction was triggered, giving them 14 days to appeal and provide evidence.

In October Iain Duncan Smith, the UK government’s work and pensions secretary, said: “During this time, claimants will have another opportunity to provide further evidence to explain their non-compliance.

“We will then review this information before deciding whether a sanction remains appropriate. We expect that this will strike the right balance between enforcing the claimant commitment and fairness.”

This is therefore a widespread problem – caused by the fact that sanctions have increased – beyond the problems faced by disabled people.

Sanctions overturned following challenge

An estimated 80,600 JSA sanctions and 10,000 ESA sanctions were overturned in the 12 months to March 2015 via reviews, reconsiderations or appeals. This is a total of 90,600 cases where the claimant’s payments will have been stopped for weeks or months only to be refunded later. This figure peaked at 153,500 in the year to March 2014.

People involved in the process say that it is not simple to follow or easy to carry through appeals.

It is often incredibly, incredibly, slow.

80,600 JSA claimants have gone through a lot of misery for unjust reasons.

This story – about making things worse for one group of claimants – should be a call for a change to the whole system.

JSA sanctions If you don’t follow the rules when you’re on job seekers allowance, you risk being sanctioned. Here’s how to avoid having your JSA stopped.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 23, 2016 at 10:57 am

Universal Credit to Create Homelessness.

with 90 comments

In my distant youth the DWP was called the DHSS, and the JobCentre was still known, though not officially, from an even earlier time, as the Labour Exchange.

Wood Green Dole office – also the place you went to get your National Insurance Number and your first job – had a special section where the homeless, often alcoholic, used to go every day to get their pittance.

They are talking about making – and in some cases are actually making – some of the out of work also sign on daily.

The 1970s lot were referred to as “down and outs”, probably a kinder expression than what the present government thinks of us.

There were not many openly homeless people in the 1970s.  I suppose the only places you could see the homeless in the streets in the 1970s was underneath the arches at Charing Cross where the Sally Army did a night kitchen. * There were hostels in the centre of London, including a well-known one by what is now the Saint Mungo’s Hostel in Endell Street. Hostels, B and Bs, it was not a pleasant life, but was it as bad as sleeping in skips or on the pavements?

That began with the arrival of Thatcher to power in 1979.

If it was bad then, now every time you visit London you see people in the streets begging, with all their belongings and sleeping bags on them,  and guarding their little encampments.

There is a new group in Ipswich, in Dog’s Head Street.

Report after report points out that tightening the claiming rules, making everybody prove their 35 Hour a week Job Search, increased the numbers.

As with sanctions swelling the ranks of people quietly queuing up in Food Banks, so the growth in homelessness continues.

* “Underneath the Arches” is a 1932 song words and music by Bud Flanagan, and additional lyrics by Reg Connelly.According to a television programme broadcast in 1957, Bud Flanagan said that he wrote the song in Derby in 1927, and first performed it a week later at the Pier Pavilion,Southport.] It refers to the arches of Derbys Friargate Railway Bridge and to the homeless men who slept there during the Great Depression. It was however taken by Londoners to refer to the Arches in Charing Cross, as can be seen from poster of the  adjacent Embankment above.

This is set to become even more of a problem.

‘Shambolic’ Universal Credit Scheme Will Lead To Rising Homelessness, Say Landlords

Universal Credit rent delays mean a growing number of private landlords are refusing to rent to low-income families.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2016 at 4:02 pm

Iain Duncan Smith’s Ipswich Visit Ruined.

with 38 comments

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B_G-_vnWsAEB_wG.jpg

Ipswich Protest Last Year.

Somebody (okay, Martin from Disabled People Against Cuts, DPAC)  spoilt Iain Duncan Smith’s Big Day Out (Friday) at Kesgrave, by Ipswich – a venue you can only get easily with your own transport.

Former minister launches Vote Leave campaign in East Anglia

Former minister and Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith was the keynote speaker at the event at Kesgrave Hall – and was joined by business leaders and politicians from other parties.

Among those at the rally was UKIP MEP Patrick O’Flynn, a key backer of the Vote Leave campaign.

East Anglian Daily Times.

A protester in a wheelchair was removed from the meeting after heckling Mr Duncan Smith over his policies when he was Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

On BBC Look East that evening their were pictures of the stewards roughly bundling Martin out of the Great Man’s meeting, shouting his opposition to the hate-ridden polices which Iain Duncan Smith has inflicted on millions.

Duncan Smith was not the only horror there.

UKIP is keeping quiet about it at the moment but in 2013 these were their policies about the unemployed:

UKIP don’t just loathe migrant workers.

They hate the unemployed here as well.

We are, UKIP says, “a parasitic underclass of scroungers”. (The Void)

They want this policy,

Require those on benefits – starting with Housing and Council Tax Benefit recipients in private rented homes – to take part in council-run local community projects called ‘Workfare’ schemes. The schemes will be in addition to council jobs.

The Void comments that it is now hard to find the policy document that says this.

But more evidence keeps coming in of their views,

We have this,

“Some long-term benefit claimants would be banned from using their benefit cash to buy cigarettes, alcohol or satellite TV subscriptions under proposals due to be presented at the UK Independence party’s spring conference on Saturday.

The proposed ban on paying for satellite TV comes only a fortnight after it was disclosed that Rupert Murdoch, the chairman and biggest shareholder of News Corp, had met the Ukip leader, Nigel Farage, for the first time, prompting speculation that the Sun may support the party.”

Which reminds us of this on Welfare Weekly’s site:

https://d24t51rxx3h9xp.cloudfront.net/image/upload/c_fit,f_auto,q_70,w_600/v1460778539/polls/cutirogqxcaxnmjqy7so.jpg

Would leaving the EU worsen or improve the lives of poor and disabled people?

Results so far: Worsen 59% Improve 21% Don’t know 20%

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 18, 2016 at 10:08 am

Stephen Crabb Remains Wedded to Universal Credit Plan, Come What May.

with 80 comments

https://i2.wp.com/i1.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article3867805.ece/ALTERNATES/s615b/Stephen-Crabb.jpg

Stephen Crabb Scuttles into DWP Rocks.

Staff at the DWP have been telling people, often, really often,  that Universal Credit will help us.

That we can make a rapid re-claim, for example, if we are in part-time work and our hours change.

This may well be the case, in theory. It would be a good thing, as anybody who’s had to make a Rapid Reclaim (information here, and:Reclaim JSA (‘rapid reclaim’) You can make a quicker claim for JSA online if you’ve had JSA in the last 26 weeks), knows.

The new system will allow the bundle of claims (Housing Benefit etc) to go together.

Some of us remain sceptical, particularly about Council Tax Benefit.

Our scepticism is increased with this story in the Indy today:

Delays in processing benefit payments left tens of thousands of people exposed to hardship in the past year, with some waiting weeks on end without state support, newly released official figures show.

Between March 2015 and February 2016, 154,309 people waited more than 10 days for a Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claim to be processed, according to stats released by the Government in response to questions from the Labour MP Frank Field.

Officials also admitted they did not know how many new claimants of Universal Credit, which replaces six existing benefit payments with a single monthly payment, were having to wait longer than the normal processing time of one month.

Among the thousands left waiting for JSA in the past year, 44,104 waited more than 16 days, according to answers to Parliamentary questions submitted by Mr Field.

Delays in accessing benefits are one of the most common reasons given for using a food bank, according to the Trussell Trust, which runs more than 400 food banks throughout the UK.

Maybe all this will be magicked away when Universal Credit gets running.

Well, that’s the story of Stephen Crabb, and he’s sticking to it (or should that be clawing to it?).

The newly-appointed Work and Pensions Secretary has signalled that he will not cancel the Government’s flagship Universal Credit welfare reform plan.

In his first speech in the role Stephen Crabb said he as “committed” to the plan, which was the pet project of his predecessor Iain Duncan Smith.

Mr Duncan Smith stepped down in March after the most recent Budget, warning that the Government was balancing its books on the back of society’s most vulnerable with cuts to welfare.

Universal Credit, which seeks to integrate most welfare benefits into a single payment and reduce disincentives for people to move into work, has been the target of steep cuts by the Chancellor George Osborne.

Among elements slashed before it has been rolled out include work allowances and in-work benefits set to replace tax credits.

The programme has also been beset by delays, with the Government’s Major Projects Authority watchdog treating it as an all-new project in 2014 after a “reset”.

Independent.

On the Politics site who’s becoming a must-read commentator on these issues, says today,

Crabb’s welfare speech shows little has really changed at the DWP.

When Stephen Crabb replaced Iain Duncan Smith as the work and pensions secretary last month, there was hope among many disability campaigners that he would take the department in a new direction.

Crabb has first hand experience of life on welfare. Brought up in a council house by a single mother who at times relied on benefits, his appointment made a refreshing change to a Cabinet made up largely of millionaires.

The early signs were encouraging. The Sunday Times reported that he planned to cut ties with problematic welfare assessment contractors and had ordered DWP staff to come clean with the public about problems with Universal Credit. As we reported this week, documents relating to the flagship project, which IDS fought for years to keep hidden, have now been released. He also told his local paper, the Western Telegraph, that he only accepted the position at the DWP on the condition that cuts to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) would be dropped.

But listening to his maiden speech on welfare reform yesterday, it was clear that while the person delivering the message has changed, the message itself has not. Just compare some of the key points he made to extracts of a speech by IDS in 2014.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 13, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Equality Commission Inquiry Follows UN inquiry into DWP’s rights violations

with 66 comments

What the Government Really Cares About.

Last year this was reported.

David Cameron dismisses UN inquiry into DWP’s treatment of disabled people

We have not heard the results of this initiative.

This has now been announced: Equality watchdog to mirror UN inquiry into DWP’s rights violations

But not before this happened – for anybody still taken in by Iain Duncan Smith’s snivelling on the BBC.

Five months ago, Iain Duncan Smith, who resigned last month as work and pensions secretary, dismissed an EHRC offer to help MPs and peers understand the true impact on disabled people and other groups of his welfare reform and work bill, which has since been passed by parliament.

Letters between EHRC and Duncan Smith were published on the commission’s website, following a freedom of information request, and showed that he snubbed an offer from the watchdog to “work more closely” on the equality impact assessments the Department for Work and Pensions published alongside the bill.

In a briefing on its website published last year, EHRC said it was concerned that parts of the bill “could exacerbate, rather than reduce, existing inequalities”.

And it suggested then that measures such as reducing the benefit cap, freezing many benefit rates, and the cut of nearly £30-a-week from April 2017 for new claimants placed in the work-related activity group of employment and support allowance could breach the government’s international human rights obligations, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The equality watchdog is to commission a major piece of research into whether the government’s welfare reforms have harmed the human rights of disabled people and other minority groups.

Welfare Weekly reports,

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) says it wants to examine the impact of changes to the welfare system on independent living and poverty.

Its decision appears to mirror the decision of the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities to carry out an unprecedented inquiry into “systematic and grave violations” of disabled people’s human rights by the UK government, which is examining the impact of a series of welfare reforms and social care cuts carried out since 2010.

The EHRC announcement was included in the watchdog’s new business plan for 2016-17, which was published on Monday (4 April) without any publicity.

The business plan says: “Everyone has a right to an adequate standard of living, including a minimum entitlement to food, clothing and housing.”

It adds: “It is not clear whether the government’s reforms to tax, welfare and public spending have taken into account the cumulative impact of these changes on the standard of living of disabled people and other groups who may have been disproportionately affected.”

EHRC says it will focus its work in this area in 2016-17 on commissioning an assessment to “determine how changes to the welfare system have affected equality of opportunity and the human rights of people who share certain protected characteristics”.

It adds: “This will enable us to identify whether the system effectively supports all groups into work and where improvements are needed to address unintended consequences.”

Five months ago, Iain Duncan Smith, who resigned last month as work and pensions secretary, dismissed an EHRC offer to help MPs and peers understand the true impact on disabled people and other groups of his welfare reform and work bill, which has since been passed by parliament.

Letters between EHRC and Duncan Smith were published on the commission’s website, following a freedom of information request, and showed that he snubbed an offer from the watchdog to “work more closely” on the equality impact assessments the Department for Work and Pensions published alongside the bill.

In a briefing on its website published last year, EHRC said it was concerned that parts of the bill “could exacerbate, rather than reduce, existing inequalities”.

And it suggested then that measures such as reducing the benefit cap, freezing many benefit rates, and the cut of nearly £30-a-week from April 2017 for new claimants placed in the work-related activity group of employment and support allowance could breach the government’s international human rights obligations, including the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Other areas EHRC plans to focus on this year for the first time include the launch of a new inquiry examining the provision and choice of housing for disabled people and its impact on independent living.

It also plans to review progress made by public bodies on implementing the recommendations of its 2011 disability hate crime inquiry, Hidden In Plain Sight, which concluded that they were guilty of a “systematic, institutional failure” to recognise disability-related harassment.

Other work will include a major new project that aims to address the discrimination faced by some groups – including disabled people – in accessing health and social care, and it will develop a strategy for tackling gender, disability and race pay gaps.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 10, 2016 at 11:23 am

Workers and Shirkers: Jesus, okay, Iain Duncan Smith Wept.

with 50 comments

Bringing the discussion into the here and now … Workers Or Shirkers? Ian Hislop’s Victorian Benefits.

Ipswich Unemployed Action is in two minds about watching this documentary tonight: Workers and Shirkers.

Thursday 7 April. 8.00pm-9.00pm. BBC TWO

Ian Hislop’s entertaining and provocative look at Victorian attitudes to the poor sheds a sharp light on today: controversial benefits cuts, anxieties about scroungers, sensational newspaper reports, arguments about who does and doesn’t deserve welfare – it’s all there!

Ian explores the views of five colourful individuals whose Victorian attitudes remain incredibly resonant. Pioneer of the workhouse Edwin Chadwick feared that hand-outs would lead to scrounging and sought to make sure that workers were always better-off than the unemployed. That sounds fair – but was his solution simply too unkind?

James Greenwood, Britain’s first undercover reporter, made poverty a cause célèbre – but is that kind of journalism voyeuristic?

Helen Bosanquet, an early social worker, believed that poverty was caused by ‘bad character’ – that some people simply more deserving than others. Bosanquet came to blows with Beatrice Webb, who took a more economic view of the causes of poverty, leading her to argue for the first foundations of the welfare state.

Finally, even if we want to be generous, are there limits on how much we can afford to help? That dilemma faced Margaret Bondfield, Britain’s first female cabinet minister who, despite her impeccable Labour credentials, advocated controversial welfare cuts in the 1930s, a time of national austerity.

Wrestling with these questions with his customary mix of light touch and big ideas, Ian also has revealing conversations with Iain Duncan Smith (former Secretary of State of Work and Pensions), Deirdre Kelly (also known as ‘White Dee’, famous for featuring in Benefits Street), Owen Jones and Tristram Hunt MP.

The one mind says, Hislop is bound to say something interesting, as are most of his interviewees, and it would be pleasant to see Iain Duncan SMith put on a snivel.

The other points out that the war of the United Federation of Planets against the Dominion and those bastard Cardassians is at a crucial point. Sisko is about to undertake a dangerous mission to  take back Deep Space Nine and keep the minefield in the wormhole (CBS Action).

Hard choices have to be made.

At the moment it looks as if the cause of the Deep Space Nine Resistance looks like winning.

In which case we will rely on the Newshounds who comment on the Blog to report back from the Workers and Shirkers front.

Ian Hislop says former work and pensions secretary broke down during filming of new Workers or Shirkers documentary.

Iain Duncan Smith broke down and wept about the plight of a single mother during a television interview months before he quit as work and pensions minister.

The Private Eye editor Ian Hislop said Duncan Smith started to cry during an interview last December for a documentary on Victorian attitudes to poverty. “It was a curious thing,” he told the Radio Times. “IDS actually broke down. He wept in front of me. It was a very extraordinary moment.”

Written by Andrew Coates

April 7, 2016 at 3:10 pm

Strive ‘Training’ Scheme that Fines 10 for a ‘Tut’ Under Investigation but Workfare Abuse Continues.

with 70 comments

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This story broke last week (signaled here Hat-Tip Enigma):

A NORTH Ayrshire Council scheme designed to help out people who are searching for work has been lambasted for fining people who attend it for as little as tutting or having their hands in their pockets.

And the Department of Work and Pensions has now suspended referrals to the STRIVE programme pending investigation into the workings of the fines system.

North Ayrshire Council have hit back at the claims and have backed their programme but one person who attended the course, who wishes to remain anonymous, has hit out at the fines system and explained what it is like.

Herald.

Scheme that fines jobless 10p for tuts is investigated

JOB seekers in Ayrshire are worried they might be sanctioned for tutting.

It comes as details emerge of a controversial “job readiness” programme that fines those taking part for as little as chewing gum and having their hands in their pockets.

The Department for Work and Pensions yesterday suspended referrals to the STRIVE programme in North Ayrshire while it investigated the claims.

The Lennox Partnership, which operates the programme, also runs similar courses with similar fines for West Dunbartonshire and Renfrew councils. It has also been asked to deliver the course four times nationally for service provider Ingeus, although no fines are involved in those courses.

Fines start off as little as 10p for tutting, or having hands in pockets, but can rise up to £1 for swearing or £5 for using phones.

One job seeker told our sister paper, the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, that the fines had even left one of his fellow course mates in debt. “Now most of these fines are really cheap for things like hands in pockets etc … but checking your phone or having it go off outside of break time is an instant £5 fine and if you don’t pay it on the spot you get kicked off the course … and since the Job Centre sent me there, getting kicked off the course is an instant sanction.

“One person got fined when their phone went off but only had £3 and had to borrow the rest from other people on the course.”

The Lennox Partnership insisted that non-payment of a fine would not lead to sanctions, and said no one on the programme has been sanctioned.

A spokeswoman for the partnership said: “The fine system replicates behaviours that would not be acceptable in most workplaces and is utilised as a preventative measure to change those behaviours, which could subsequently impact on clients both securing and sustaining work.

“We have been delivering STRIVE in North Ayrshire since 2011 and the fine system has been an integral part of all delivery. Our success rates have seen 80 per cent of graduates securing employment and 84 per cent retention rates with employers across a range of industry sectors. This demonstrates the success of STRIVE and what we are trying to achieve.”

Unemployed people taking part in STRIVE must wear “business dress”, and, according to the Lennox Partnership’s website, obey: “the same rules / disciplines that would be expected during a probationary period in a new job”.

The aim of the course is to “empower participants and develop the soft skills, the attitudes and behaviours that employers in the job market are seeking”.

Kim McLauchlan, a 19-year-old from Kilwinning, who went through the programme recently and now works as a chef, told The National she had found the experience rewarding: “I was such a quiet person. I’d be the last person to speak in a group. They helped me get the confidence to do the job I’m doing today.”

STRIVE fines were all part of the “learning process”, she said.

A spokesman for North Ayrshire Council, defending the scheme, said: “The STRIVE programme has an extremely successful track record with 90 per cent of candidates on our most recent programme going on to secure employment. Most participants find the course highly beneficial and carry forward the skills learned into their working life.”

“The ‘fine’ system is used as a preventative measure to change behaviours and instil a professional attitude that employers will be impressed with.

“Any monies collected go towards a fund to provide provision for interview clothing, haircuts and interview travel expenses.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We have suspended the referral of claimants to North Ayrshire Council’s STRIVE programme while we investigate these claims.”

The Void has looked at the scandal.

Even the DWP are appalled, with the Daily Record reporting they have suspended referrals to the STRIVE  programme run by the Lennox Partnership.  Those behind the schme are unrepentent, with North Ayrshire Council claiming that they are just trying to “change behaviours and instil a professional attitude”.  Participants who refuse to pay the fines are required to leave the course raising fears they may face benefit sanctions for refusing to take part in ‘work related activity’

You can tell the Lennox Partnership what you think of this vile practice on twitter @TheLennoxP.

This however is yet to face a serious investigation:

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) insists it is a voluntary scheme known as a “sector-based work academy”, which offers benefit recipients a chance to gain work experience with the possibility of a job at the end.

However McGregor, who has eight years’ experience working in the care sector, said he felt he was being “railroaded” into taking part in the scheme, which is taking place at Kyle Court and Hillside View Care Homes in Paisley.

A letter sent to him states in certain circumstances benefits may be stopped if the claimant, without good reason, does not “take the opportunity of a place on an employment programme or training scheme”.

McGregor said he refused to participate in the scheme as a matter of principle and that he was only promised a “one-to-one” interview at the end of the scheme.

He said: “I went on a people handling course for one day, then I was meant to start and do a 36-hour week for six weeks without any pay, apart from my unemployment money.

“I used to earn £110 a night for a 12-hour shift, but they are expecting me to do 36 hours for £73.10, it is absolutely shocking.

“You are looking after people who are vulnerable – such as taking them to the toilet.

“I have no qualms about the job, I did that job for years, but I want to be paid for it.

“They are saying it is six weeks probationary, but they could pay me – and at the end of that time if they don’t think I am fit to work there they can tell me to go somewhere else.”

He added: “They didn’t ask what days would suit you, it was basically you were to work to their rota.

“I don’t know how they can turn round and say it is completely voluntary.”

Sarah Glynn, of the Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network, said they were against the principle of anyone being made to work for their benefits.

“A lot of things are branded as work experience and they are not, they are free labour,” she said. “Do you need work experience stacking shelves? That is not work experience, that is exploitation.

“It is affecting the whole labour market as these are jobs that people should be paid for.

“Even if people have no qualifications and they have come straight from school, they shouldn’t be asked to work for nothing – if they are working they should be paid for it, it should just be a basic principle.”

Glynn said she had made a complaint to the Care Inspectorate over the scheme, which confirmed the issue had been raised and information was being carefully assessed.

The DWP said all participating claimants had to meet eligibility criteria including identification and disclosure checks, references and a successful application form and interview to ensure they were suitable for working with elderly and vulnerable people.

It confirmed that once participants agreed to take place in a DWP “sector-based work academy” they could risk being sanctioned if they failed to meet conditions. These can include a failure to meet “basic standards of good behaviour”, according to the letter sent to McGregor.

The Herald.

Is it just because my dad was Scottish but is it true that because the Scots are pretty stroppy and likely to complain that these scandals come out so quickly?

I would bet there’s plenty going on in the rest of the country.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 4, 2016 at 9:59 am

Benefit Sanctions Saga: MPs Call for Independent Review.

with 70 comments

 

With so many controversies about welfare cuts, Iain Duncan Smith throwing a wobbly, and the new religious bigot in charge of the DWP, this has tended to pass beneath the radar.

Our own opinion is that there is no need for any ‘review’ of this system: it should be got rid of immediately.

Along with the ‘Help to Work’ programme, notably the ‘Bullies’ Charter’ that can oblige claimants to attend the ‘Jobcentre’ every day, send them out of ‘community service’ (workfare), and have intensive ‘Jobcentre’support’ from the amateur psychiatrists and other odd-balls they have to undertake this task.

Or as the DWP mischievously  puts it, “Jobcentre advisers will tailor back-to-work plans for individuals according to the particular barriers to work they may have. The new measures include intensive coaching, a requirement to meet with the Jobcentre Plus adviser every day, or taking part in a community work placement for up to 6 months so claimants build the skills needed to secure a full-time job. “

We note, “Those who fail to participate in the scheme will face potential sanctions that could see them lose their benefits for a period of time.”

Abolish Sanctions now!

MPs call for full independent review of benefit sanctions.

Parliament.

24th of March

A full independent review should be established in the new Parliament, to investigate whether benefit sanctions are being applied appropriately, fairly and proportionately, across the Jobcentre Plus (JCP) network, says the Work and Pensions Committee in a Report published Tuesday 24 March 2015.

The Committee reiterates this recommendation, originally made in January 2014 but rejected by the Government, in the light of new evidence which raises concerns about the approach being adopted in a number of individual Jobcentres, and more broadly, including concerns about whether targets for sanctions exist.

The report calls for the independent review also to examine the legislative framework for benefit sanctions policy, to ensure that the basis for sanctioning is well-defined, and that safeguards to protect the vulnerable are clearly set out.

Dame Anne Begg MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:

“Benefit sanctions are controversial because they withhold subsistence-level benefits from people who may have little or no other income. We agree that benefit conditionality is necessary but it is essential that policy is based on clear evidence of what works in terms of encouraging people to take up the support which is available to help them get back into work. The policy must then be applied fairly and proportionately. The system must also be capable of identifying and protecting vulnerable people, including those with mental health problems and learning disabilities. And it should avoid causing severe financial hardship. The system as currently applied does not always achieve this.”

Hardship payments

A system of discretionary hardship payments exists to mitigate the risk of sanctions causing severe financial hardship. However, the Report concludes that changes are required to the system, to ensure that it is more effective in achieving this.  In particular, the report emphasises widespread concern that standard JSA (Jobseeker’s Allowance) hardship payments are not available until the 15th day of a sanction period.

Dame Anne Begg commented:

“Recent research suggests that benefit sanctions are contributing to food poverty.

No claimant should have their benefit payment reduced to zero where they are at risk of severe financial hardship, to the extent of not being able to feed themselves or their families, or pay their rent.

DWP’s (Department for Work and Pensions) discretionary hardship payment system is intended to prevent this happening, but it does not always do so. This is often because JSA hardship payments are not available until the 15th day of a sanction period.  It is not reasonable to expect people to live without any source of income for 2 weeks. DWP should make all hardship payments available from day one of a sanction period.

Problems also arise because the claimant is not aware of the application process for a hardship payment or because they are put off applying because of the difficulty in understanding and navigating the system. This needs to change. DWP should not wait for the claimant to apply for a hardship payment. It should initiate the process itself, and then coordinate the decision on hardship payments with decision-making on the sanction itself, particularly where the claimant has dependent children or is vulnerable.”

Investigating the deaths of vulnerable benefit claimants

The report notes that DWP currently investigates all deaths of benefit claimants “where suicide is associated with DWP activity”, and in other cases where the death of a vulnerable benefit claimant is brought to its attention, through a system of internal “peer reviews”. Since February 2012, DWP has carried out 49 peer reviews following the death of a benefit claimant.

DWP has stated that 33 of the 49 cases have resulted in recommendations for change at either local or national level. However, it was unable to confirm in how many cases the claimant was subject to a benefit sanction, or provide any details about how its policies or procedures had been altered in response to the death of a claimant.

Dame Anne Begg said:

“We have asked DWP to confirm the number of internal peer reviews in which the claimant was subject to a benefit sanction at the time of death, and the result of these reviews in terms of changes to DWP policy.

It is important that all agencies involved in the provision of public services are scrutinised, to ensure that lessons are learned after members of the public are let down by the system, particularly where the failures of a public body may have contributed to a death.

We believe that a new independent body should be established to fulfil this role.”

Increasing the evidence base on financial sanctions

The Committee finds that more “active” regimes, in which unemployed claimants are required to do more to find work, have been shown to be relatively effective; however, evidence on the specific part by played by financial sanctions within successful active regimes is limited and far from clear-cut. The report calls for a series of evaluations to increase the evidence base, particularly around the efficacy and impacts of the new sanctions regime introduced by the Welfare Reform Act 2012.

Dame Anne Begg said:

“The Government introduced longer minimum sanction periods without first testing their likely impacts on claimants. The minimum sanction period is now four weeks, rather than one week. It is important that the impacts of the new sanctions regime are properly evaluated.

There is currently no evidence on whether the application, or deterrent threat, of a four-week sanction makes it more, or less, likely that a claimant will engage with employment support or gain work.

This is an area of policy which must be based on robust evidence. The Department needs to demonstrate that the application of the new sanctions regime is not intended to be purely punitive.”

Full implementation of the Oakley review

The Oakley Review of Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) sanctions in relation to Back to Work Schemes, published in July 2014, made a number of recommendations aimed at improving some aspects of the sanctions system. This has already led to welcome changes, including improvements to DWP’s information to claimants about the sanctioning process, and the clarity of its claimant letters.

However, a number of the Oakley recommendations are yet to be fully implemented, in part due to the requirement for legislative change and/or contractual negotiations with Work Programme providers. The Committee believes that DWP should take more urgent steps to fully implement the outstanding recommendations.

Dame Anne Begg commented:

“DWP must take a more common-sense approach to mandatory Work Programme activity and sanction referrals. For example, it makes no sense, and is a considerable waste of administrative resources, for Work Programme providers to have to refer a claimant back to DWP for a sanction decision, even where they know that the claimant had a perfectly good reason for not meeting a particular requirement.

In the negotiations to re-let the Work Programme contracts in 2017, DWP should prioritise the development of a more flexible approach to the setting of mandatory conditions.

There is also widespread support for pre-sanction written warnings and non-financial sanctions. The Department should get on with piloting this approach. If it requires legislation, the Department should bring it forward as soon as possible in the new Parliament.”

Committee recommendations

The report makes a number of further recommendations, including that DWP should:

  • Not proceed with in-work sanctions beyond the existing pilot areas until robust evidence is available from the pilots to demonstrate that in-work conditionality can be effectively applied. [paragraph 56]
  • Establish a small-scale pilot to test the efficacy of a more targeted approach to sanctions based on segmentation of claimants by their attitudes and motivations. [paragraph 93]
  • Develop new and more effective systems to monitor the destinations of claimants leaving benefit in general and, in particular, those leaving benefit following a sanction. [paragraph 66]
  • Expedite the evaluation of the Claimant Commitment, including a review of the appropriate use of Jobseeker Directions. [paragraphs 74 and 84]
  • Develop guidance which is specifically intended to assist JCP staff to identify vulnerable claimants and tailor conditionality according to the claimant’s individual circumstances. [paragraph 80]
  • Improve JCP staff training on the statutory single parent flexibilities designed to protect single parent JSA claimants from inappropriate benefit conditionality; and produce a simple, plain English guide to the flexibilities for all single parent claimants. [paragraph 88]
  • Review Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) sanctioning within the Work Programme, and continue to develop alternative approaches to employment support for this group, including voluntary models, such as Individual Placement with Support, for some groups. [paragraphs 134–35]

Written by Andrew Coates

April 1, 2016 at 9:00 am

Government Plans Poverty for Millions.

with 42 comments

Some days you think: can it get any worse.

yes it can…

Tory cuts leave poverty-stricken children too hungry to learn

Welfare Weekly.  

Teachers have blasted the Tory Government’s “callous fiscal and social policies”, after a damning survey revealed that an increasing number of poverty-stricken children are arriving at school hungry and unable to concentrate in lessons.

A survey of 3,250 teachers by the NASUWT, the largest teacher’s union in the UK, shows that a growing numbers of teachers and schools are being left to “pick up the pieces” of draconian austerity measures.

Teachers and schools reported having to step in and provide food, equipment and clothing for pupils. While others found themselves having to offer financial advice to parents struggling to cope with Tory cuts.

Almost three-quarters of teachers reported seeing children coming to school hungry, with over a quarter generously giving food to starving pupils. More than half had seen their school do the same.

According to the survey, 41 percent of teachers have given financial advice to parents or have referred them to external advice services.

More than a half said they had seen children whose parents were unable to afford school uniform. 15 percent had even resorted to giving clothing to children, and 59 percent reported seeing their school do the same.

Then there’s this:

The disability benefit cuts you haven’t heard about

PIP cuts have been scrapped but 500,000 will lose nearly a third of their employment and support allowance next year.

George Osborne repeatedly insisted at a Treasury select committee hearing on Thursday that he had no plans for future welfare cuts, but this will have been little consolation for around half a million people who will be affected by major reductions already approved by parliament. Dozens of disability protestersoccupied parliament’s central lobby on Wednesday calling on the government to reverse its other disability cuts – reductions, which they said were making claimants feel suicidal.

“Forcing people to work when they can’t work is not going to cure their illness,” Bell says. “You can’t just pull out a spare set of lungs from your back pocket. I will struggle to pay my bills. I really don’t know how I will cope.”

From April 2017, there will be a £30 cut for claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA), if they are placed in the work-related activity group (Wrag) – equivalent to around a third of their weekly income.

At the moment people who are deemed to be too unwell to work by the government’s work capability assessment, are put into two groups – those judged permanently unable to work are moved into the “support group” and paid £109; those judged to be too ill or disabled to work immediately (but theoretically capable of work at some point in the future) are put in the work-related activity group, and currently receive about £102 a week.

Stephen Crabb, the work and pensions secretary, has been urged to conduct a “root and branch” review of universal credit by Labour amid claims the flagship welfare reform has been “salami sliced” to the point that it now represents a financial hit for millions of low-paid workers.

The shadow work and pensions secretary, Owen Smith, has written to his opposite number warning that the policy – the brainchild of Iain Duncan Smith, who dramatically resigned from cabinet earlier this month – bears “scant resemblance to its original form”.

Smith said its original aim to incentivise people into work had been fatally undermined by George Osborne, who he accused of using the welfare budget as a “cash cow”.

He said: “Single mothers working full time and at the national minimum wage see their work allowances fall from £8,800 to £4,400 for example, diminishing their net earnings by as much as £3,000, and destroying the worthy intention to make work pay for low earners.”

Labour pointed to figures from the independent Office of Budget Responsibility, which reveal how the chancellor’s U-turn over controversial cuts to tax creditswere not a complete reversal of the policy but a delay, as they were maintained under universal credit.

There is no point in arguing with the government.

They have to be fought.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 29, 2016 at 2:19 pm

Help to Work a Failure.

with 168 comments

As many of us are on schemes for the unemployed, not to say long-term unemployed, and know the insides and outsides of these programmes all too well, this comes as no surprise.

Before reading it bear in mind that the prospect of adding cognitive behavioural therapy to the list of tortures – which include having to listen to people  unable to provide any actual offers of work – they make us undergo is becoming more and more probable.

The picture above, of somebody forced to attend the Jobcentre every single day, and workfare, illustrates why people hate the system as well.

Figures prove Help to Work doesn’t help and doesn’t work

Reports Sentinel News.

  • Compulsory government welfare-to-work scheme has no effect for most people
  • Huge levels of failure to meet targets by companies delivering the programme
  • Help to Work was launched despite a pilot scheme failing

By Chaminda Jayanetti

Newly released government figures show that Help to Work, its flagship welfare-to-work programme for the long-term unemployed, has only seen one in five of the people referred to it progress into even remotely secure jobs.

Help to Work, which includes three intensive schemes, was launched in April 2014 as a compulsory programme for those who had been unemployed for more than two years.

At the time, David Cameron said: “This scheme will provide more help than ever before, getting people into work and on the road to a more secure future.”

But figures published yesterday by the Department for Work and Pensions reveal that of the people referred to Help to Work between April and December 2014, less than half – just 44 percent – went on to spend any time in work at all during the year following their referral.

Thirty percent went on to complete at least 13 weeks in work, and barely 20 percent made it to 26 weeks of work – half a year – in the year after their referral.

In other words, four in every five people referred onto the scheme did not progress to even medium-term work.

It is the first time the DWP has published data on the amount of time spent in work by those on the Help to Work programme. The statistics exclude those who became self-employed, but the figures are nevertheless dire.

Three schemes, all failing

Help to Work comprises three separate schemes, with each long-term Jobseekers Allowance claimant forced on to one of them. If they refuse, their benefits can be docked. The schemes are:

  • Community Work Placements – six-month compulsory unpaid work experience placements of up 30 hours a week, plus up to ten hours of “supported job search activity” every week
  • Mandatory Intervention Regime – claimants receive “intensive support” from Jobcentre staff, who can refer them to other local services and training
  • Daily Work Search Review – claimants have to attend the Jobcentre every single day for up to three months to discuss the job applications they have made

The three schemes saw tens of thousands of people forced onto them between April 2014 and December 2015 – 80,000 on Community Work Placements, 47,000 on Daily Work Searches, and nearly 100,000 on the Mandatory Intervention Regime (which can include people who completed one of the two other schemes).

But nearly two years on from their launch, all three schemes are failing to have a meaningful impact. Under both the Mandatory Intervention Regime and the Daily Work Search Review, around 45 percent of the referred claimants found any paid work (excluding self-employment) in the year after their referral. About 30 percent found 13 weeks of work, and one in five found six months of work.

CWP at the DWP

The worst performance, however, was in the Community Work Programme. Given that this includes six-month placements, it is perhaps unsurprising that only 18 percent of claimants had time to fit in an additional six months of paid work in the year following their referral.

But barely a quarter completed 13 weeks in paid work, and less than two in five of all claimants undertook any paid work at all, excluding self-employment.

The Community Work Programme is the only one of the Help to Work schemes that is delivered by private companies – and their performance has been terrible. Just one of the 18 regional contracts met its target for “short completions” in 2015 – that is where a claimant completes between 12 and 21 weeks of employment after being on the programme.

Just three of 18 contracts met the target for “long completions” – between 22 and 26 weeks of employment – with ten contracts falling well short of expectations. Six of the 18 contracts met the target for job outcomes, where claimants found more than 26 weeks of work.

Seven companies hold the 18 contracts between them – led by G4S with six and Seetec with five. Ten of the contracts – more than half – missed every single target.

A bad idea from birth

The DWP conducted a fully-fledged pilot scheme in 2013, which was widely seen as a failure – almost as many people who undertook the pilot help to work schemes were still on benefit two years later as those who’d had no support at all. Despite this, the government decided to bring forward implementation of the full Help to Work scheme.

Interestingly, the programme was expected to cost £300m a year, but has in fact come in at £190m in 2014/15 and £230m in 2015/16. This may be because the private companies on the Community Work Programme were paid by results – an initial payment for claimants starting a community work placement, but further payments only if employment outcomes were met. The failure of so many providers to meet their targets may have reduced the scheme’s cost – although the annual burden on the taxpayer remains in the hundreds of millions.

The government announced last year that the Community Work Programme would be abolished from 2017 along with the controversial Mandatory Work Activity programme, which is outside the Help to Work scheme. These will be replaced by a new scheme, the Work and Health Programme, targeted at both disabled people and the long-term unemployed. The conflation of health and work is likely to be the source of ongoing controversy.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 23, 2016 at 11:28 am

Ian Duncan Smith Resigns: Parting is such Sweet Sorrow….

with 91 comments

Iain Duncan Smith: Parting is such Sweet Sorrow.

David Cameron says he is “puzzled and disappointed” after Iain Duncan Smith quit as work and pensions secretary.

Mr Duncan Smith said the latest planned cuts to disability benefits were “not defensible” in a Budget that benefited higher-earning taxpayers.

In response, Mr Cameron said they had “collectively agreed” on the proposals, before deciding on Friday to have a rethink to “get these policies right”.

Stephen Crabb has been named as Mr Duncan Smith’s replacement.

BBC

Iain Duncan Smith has lost his latest attempt to keep potentially damning Universal Credit documents secret.

There is a good chance the reports will reveal his department were misleading the public about the progress of the programme.

Reported Vox Political yesterday.

The background is given by on Politics co uk.

So just what does IDS have to hide? We can only guess but there is a good chance the reports will reveal his department were misleading the public about the progress of the programme. To find out a bit more it’s worth looking back to what was happening around the time the FOI requests were being dealt with.

In November 2011 the DWP issued a press release announcing that over one million people would be claiming universal credit by April 2014, with 12 million claimants moving onto the new benefit by 2017.

The following year, the DWP’s Annual Report and Accounts showed that the programme had progressed well. Then in September of that year, the BBC carried a story on concerns raised by the Local Government Association about the implementation of Universal Credit and in particular about the IT system. A spokesperson for the DWP responded at the time by saying: “Universal Credit is on track and on budget. To suggest anything else is incorrect.”

….

Speaking to Politics.co.uk after the ruling, Collins said he believed disclosure of the papers would have undermined the information coming out of the DWP at the time: “It’s frightening that government departments can spend hundreds of millions of pounds on IT projects such as Universal Credit with the true facts staying hidden for years, because these internal assessment reports are always kept confidential”

Slater says he first requested the documents because the timescales given by the DWP on Universal Credit were laughable. Although he is happy with the tribunal’s latest ruling he believes there is every chance IDS will appeal the decision once again.

The DWP say they are carefully considering the Tribunal’s decision. A spokesperson said:

“Universal Credit is rolling out successfully and is available in 95% of jobcentres with over 32,000 people making a claim to it last month.”

Whether they decide to appeal again remains to be seen. One thing is for certain though, the more IDS fights publication, the more it looks as if he has something to hide.

Stephen Bush in the New Statesman comments,

No, Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation isn’t part of a cunning plan.

As exciting as it would be for people like me, Iain Duncan Smith simply isn’t clever enough to have thought this many moves ahead. This is the man who is the chief architect of the universal credit, which was supposed to have been rolled out in October 2013, and in March 2016 has been rolled out to the grand total of 141,100 people – and by “people”, I mean “single men without dependents”, the only group whose claims are simple enough to be processed on the universal credit.

This is the Secretary of State who has wasted so much money on failed policies that the government is able to claim – entirely truthfully – that the money being spent on disabled people has gone up, even though not a single penny has gone to disabled people while countless billions have been lavished on IT systems that don’t work and a benefit reform that will never be implemented.

This is the man who as leader of the Conservative party mistook a spoof poster – “It rains less under a Conservative government” – for the real thing, happily posing underneath it. This is the man who Osborne described as “not clever enough” after watching him present on his welfare reforms in the last government. This is the man who, despite having been the longest-serving Secretary of State at the Department for Welfare and Pensions, leaves it having implemented nothing and done nothing.

It is certainly true that this is a man who has been waiting for an excuse to walk out of the government since the Autumn Statement in November 2015, when Osborne moved the tax credit cuts into the universal credit rollout – a sign that, as far as the Treasury was concerned, the universal credit will never happen. As civil servants in the DWP have observed, Duncan Smith has been a broken figure since that setback, one that would have been obvious if he had had any grip on his department.

Resigning as part of a plan? As exciting as that would be, Iain Duncan Smith simply isn’t good enough for that.

Stephen Crabb

Crabb was trustee of Pembrokeshire foodbank charity, Pembrokeshire Action To Combat Hardship, based in his parliamentary constituency.In early 2014 This connection to PATCH caused some controversy and raised questions over Crabb’s sincerity towards foodbank users when on 18 December 2013, at a parliamentary debate he voted against the publication of a 2013 investigation into foodbanks use and UK hunger and in the same motion voted against the call for the government to implement measures to reduce UK foodbank dependency.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 19, 2016 at 10:33 am

How the Budget will affect the Unemployed.

with 32 comments

Osborne Celebrates at Pushing People into Deeper Poverty.

 

Effects of the Budget on the out-of-work.

SINGLE

Single, no children. Unemployed

2015-16 He receives jobseeker’s allowance of £73.10 a week (£57.90 if aged 16-24). Housing benefit eligibility will depend on his property size and, if he rents, where he lives.

2016-17 Jobseeker’s allowance is frozen for the next four years, so remains at £3,801 a year. Any housing benefit he may receive is also frozen for that period.

Single, one child. Unemployed

2015­-16 Income support is £73.10 a week, child tax credit is £63.98, and child benefit is £20.70. This gives an annual household income of £8,205 disregarding any housing benefit.

2016-­17 Last summer the chancellor announced he was freezing all three of her benefits for the next four years. It leaves her income unchanged, disregarding housing benefit.

Guardian.

Put simply as the cost of living rises – note that this particularly affects rent – the amount of JSA and Income support will not go up.

This will mean that people already in poverty will be pushed further down.

Disabled:

Around 640,000 claimants could lose out as a result of changes to the assessment criteria for PIP, which is designed to help people with extra costs associated with disabilities and long-term illnesses.

Disabled people will be badly affected with an expected 200,000 individuals set to lose almost £3,000 a year according to Labour Party analysis.

Metro.

Summary of 2016 Benefit changes:

The following benefit changes are set to take place in 2016, some may be subject to change or approval.

Benefit and Tax Credit rates frozen

The main rates of working age benefits and tax credits will be frozen in cash terms for 4 years from April 2016. Pensioner benefits are excluded from the benefit freeze and will be protected by the ‘triple lock’.

Disability benefits, the disability-related elements of tax credits and statutory payments including Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance (Support Group only), Maternity Allowance, Statutory Maternity/Paternity Pay and Statutory Sick Pay, will be uprated in line with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI). The CPI was announced to have fallen in the year to September 2015 so this means that the benefits mentioned above will not be increased from April 2016.

Benefit cap reduced

There is currently a benefit cap in place in England, Scotland and Wales restricting the amount in certain benefits that a working age household can receive. Any household receiving more than the cap has their Housing Benefit reduced to bring them back within the limit. The benefit cap is to be introduced in Northern Ireland from 31 May.

The cap which is currently £26,000 per year is to be reduced to £23,000 for households living in London and to £20,000 for those outside London from Autumn 2016, when exactly you will be affected will depend on where you live. For further details see our Benefit cap reduction Autumn 2016 help page.

Housing Benefit changes

Unlike other reforms the Chancellor announced directly affecting child related payments, withdrawal of the family premium in Housing Benefit (£17.45 when a claimant has one or more dependant children) will take effect from 1 May 2016, a year earlier than the reductions for children within Child Tax Credit. Removal of the family premium will affect both new claims and new births from 1 May 2016. For further details see our Family premium abolished May 2016 help page.

Housing Benefit backdating will be reduced so that new claims from working age claimants will be backdated for a maximum of one month. Currently, if you are working age, your Housing Benefit claim can be backdated for up to six months if you can show good cause for making a late claim and you would have qualified for the benefit sooner.

Tax credit allowance and taper cut

On 25th November 2015 during the Chancellor’s combined Autumn Statement and Spending Review, he announced that the widely unpopular planned tax credit changes (reduced income threshold and increased taper rate), which would have meant that any working household receiving tax credits with an annual income of more than £3,850 a year would be worse off, would in fact not be going ahead.

Tax credit income disregard cut

At the moment, if your household income increases by up to £5,000 during the tax year this increase is ignored when calculating your entitlement for that year. From April 2016 this will be reduced so that any increase in income of more than £2,500 will be taken into account. According to the Treasury, it is estimated that 800,000 people will see their entitlement to tax credits reduced by an average of £200-£300 per year due to this cut which brings the ‘income rise disregard’ back to the same level it was when tax credits were first introduced.

New State Pension

For those reaching pension age from 6 April 2016 a new State Pension is being introduced to replace the basic State Pension and State Second Pension. This affects all women born on or after 6 April 1953 and all men born on or after 6 April 1951. The new pension is designed to be much simpler than the current system and will consist of a single amount to be awarded in full if you have 35 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions. If you don’t have the contributions required for the full pension, as long as you have a minimum number of qualifying years (between 7 and 10) you will receive a pro rata amount. If you don’t have the minimum number of qualifying years you will not qualify for the single tier pension. Any contributions made under the current pension system can be used toward the new State Pension.

If you qualify for the full amount you will receive £155.65 a week. For those who do gain in state pension income, for some this will be offset by reductions in means-tested benefit entitlements and if you fall under the new single tier pension system you will not be able to claim the Pension Credit savings credit. To find out more see Age UK’s ‘what the new pension reforms mean for you’

Universal Credit changes

The work allowance in Universal Credit, the amount you can earn without your benefit being affected, will be reduced from April 2016. For disabled people and people with children it will be reduced to £192 per month if you have housing costs and £397 per month if you don’t have housing costs. The work allowance will be abolished altogether from April 2016 for non-disabled, childless claimants meaning your benefit is reduced as soon as you start earning.

The Childcare Costs element of Universal Credit currently pays for 70% of your registered childcare costs up to a monthly limit of £532 for one child or £912 for two or more children. From 11 April 2016, this will increase so that you will be able to claim back up to 85% of your paid out childcare costs up to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1108 for two or more children.

Other changes

National Minimum Wage increased

The National Minimum Wage will be ‘rebranded’ as the National Living Wage and will be increased to £7.20 per hour for those 25 or over from April 2016. It will reach £9.00 per hour by 2020.

Personal tax allowance increased

The Personal Tax Allowance, the amount you can earn before paying income tax, will be increased from £10,600 to £11,000 from April 2016. It will be further increased to £12,500 by 2020 and thereafter it will automatically be set at the same level as 30 times the National Living Wage (National Minimum Wage).

Rent changes for social tenants

From April 2016 social housing rents will be reduced by 1%, or in some exceptions frozen, for four years.

The Void also asks:Does The End of Social Security Lie Behind Osborne’s Savings Hand Out?

The use of personal savings accounts as a replacement fot the social security system has long been an ambition of free-market extremists desperate to eradicate any form of social spending.  As the Think Tank Review website reminded us last year, the Adam Smith Institute proposed Fortune Accounts way back in 1995.  The suggestion was that individuals should pay into a pot of money to fund any future periods of sickness or unemployment.  More recently the right-wing Policy Exhange called for the establishment of MyFund accounts in an astonishing report that did not just call for these savings pots to replace unemployment benefits but also suggested that the money could pay for “access to private sector employment support services”.  They want us to pay for our own workfare.

Government ministers are already thinking along the lines of some sort of savings or insurance based social security system.  A public sector consultant recently blogged about a meeting – sponsored by health insurers BUPA just by the way – with comedy toff Lord Fraud held at the Reform think tank.   According to the report the Minister for Welfare Reform raised the question of “why do employers insure against sickness absence and why don’t individuals?” .

More on the Void.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Disability Cuts to Fund Tax Reductions for the Middle Classes.

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Cutting Personal Independent Payments to reduce Disabled Burden on Wealthy.

George Osborne defends using disability cuts to fund middle-class tax break

From Enigma.

Budget 2016: George Osborne’s £1bn Disabled Cut To Fund ‘Middle Class Tax Giveaway’ Riles Campaigners

George Osborne‘s reported plan to use a billion pound benefit cut for disabled people to fund tax giveaways for the middle-class has sparked outrage from campaigners.

The Chancellor is allegedly preparing to use the £130 slashed from 600,000 disabled people’s PIP – Personal Independence Payment – support to raise the threshold at which people start paying 40p tax.

Claims about the policy, which could be revealed at the Spring Budget next Wednesday, were attributed to Westminster “insiders” in today’s Telegraph.

But fears are already mounting, with one senior Labour frontbencher saying the move would be “obscene”.

Owen Smith, shadow work and pensions secretary, posted on Twitter: “Already wicked to take another £1.2 billion from disabled, but truly obscene if switched for tax cuts at the Budget.”

Huffington Post.

One can only assume that in line with policies to stop the feckless poor from breeding – cuts in family allowances – this is  part of a plan to stop people who are disabled taking up  PIPs and no doubt to reduce the numbers of the disabled.

The Observer analyses the figures,

Research conducted by the foundation for the Observer has established that the cuts – including moves to increase the threshold at which the 40p rate of tax becomes payable from £42,385 to £50,000 by 2020 – will cost £2bn over the next two years, with 85% of the windfall going to the richest half of households.

Torsten Bell, director of Resolution Foundation, said: “Keeping on track with those commitments would mean finding £2bn over the next two years and would overwhelmingly benefit richer households.

“The priority should be supporting low- and middle-income families, instead of going down this route of expensive and poorly targeted tax cuts.”

Osborne also plans to increase the personal tax-free allowance, which is due to rise to £10,800 from April and £11,000 in 2017, reaching £12,500 by 2020. But 4.6 million low-paid workers will gain nothing from these cuts, because they do not earn enough to pay tax. Resolution Foundation says low-income families on universal credit will have two-thirds of any tax cut clawed back through reduced benefits.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Adam Perkins: “Breeding out Welfare dependency” and “Employment Resistant Personalities.”

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Perkins: Plans to Breed Out ‘Welfare Dependency’. 

The Guardian’s Dawn Foster reports on this:

Adam Perkins: ‘Welfare dependency can be bred out’

Adam Perkins’s book, The Welfare Trait, was published in December to little fanfare and barely reviewed. But last month, after a talk the lecturer in the neurobiology of personality was due to give at the London School of Economics was cancelled, Perkins’s arguments have provoked a small-scale media storm.

Several disability groups planned a peaceful protest before the talk, after which they planned to listen to Perkins’s speech and engage in debate with him. Perkins claimed he had been “no-platformed”, while the Daily Mail and the Spectator said he had been silenced for “daring to tell the truth” about the welfare state.

In his office at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London, Perkins downplays the controversy. “Everything went smoothly until the last day, then there were some threats about smashing up the lecture theatre or something, though I didn’t get any threats. But it’s not my lecture theatre; it wasn’t for me to decide.”

Just a point on this.

The reaction of the disability groups was the following:

Black Triangle among groups backing free speech, claiming college over-reacted to retorts about Adam Perkins benefits theory.

Campaigners have accused the London School of Economics of overreacting by postponing an academic’s lecture about welfare because of proposed demonstrations.

Adam Perkins was due to speak at the LSE about his new book, The Welfare Trait, which examines the relationship between personality and the welfare state, when organisers suspended the event following a backlash on social media.

Subsequent reports suggested the postponement was the latest in a series of “no-platforming” incidents, in which students have attempted to stop speakers they disagree with appearing at events.

But John McArdle, 48, co-founder of the disability rights group Black Triangle, which called for a protest on the day of Perkins’ talk, said: “Dr Perkins is absolutely within his rights to speak at LSE. We believe in freedom of speech and discussion. We weren’t trying to stop Dr Perkins from speaking – we were going to go there and disagree. We have a right to protest against what we regard as scapegoating and the marginalisation of people who have to rely on social security.”

Black Triangle runs protests against the reform of the welfare system regarding incapacity benefits. Though McArdle had not read Perkins’ book at the time of speaking he said it was enough to read the premise of the work to know that it stigmatised the long-term unemployed.

He said: “Perkins says ‘individuals with aggressive, rule-breaking and antisocial personality characteristics are over-represented among welfare claimants’. You could easily replace the term welfare claimants with the term merchant bankers, Libor traders or indeed the conduct of Iain Duncan Smith and Tory MPs, who are hammering sick and disabled people and the poor.

“But the current argument seems to be that unacceptable views cannot be opposed by people on the so-called left without saying that we’re violating someone’s fundamental right to freedom of speech. That’s complete nonsense.”

This is the reasoning in Perkin’s publication:

The argument he sets out in his book, he tells me, is essentially that the welfare state “becomes a production line for damaged kids” and encourages unemployed households to have more children than families in work.

These households, in turn, breed what he describes as an “employment-resistant personality” that is characterised by low conscientiousness and agreeableness. “If you’re not conscientious in work situations, you’re not going to be conscientious in others, like managing your income to benefit your kids,” he says. “If we happen to have a welfare state that increases the number of children born into welfare households, they are more likely to suffer neglect. If you’re born into [one of these] households there’s a risk of personality damage.

“There are some problematic links between the welfare state and personality, and the welfare state can proliferate employment resistance,” he adds. “We found that women could have a kid, and increase their income by leaving the workforce.”

This is how the hard right Adam Smith Institute’s   | received the book:

Perkins’s core argument is that the welfare state, the foundational institution of modern Britain (the Church of England having sadly declined), contains the seeds of its own eventual destruction. A large body of evidence, which Perkins reviews, supports the intuitive idea that habitual welfare claimants tend to be less conscientious and agreeable than the average person. Such habitual claimants also appear to reproduce at higher rates than the general population, a pattern found across nations and time periods. They also seem to adjust their fertility in response to changes in the generosity of welfare provision, having fewer children in times of austerity and more when governments turn on the spigot marked “spending”.

Over time, therefore, the average work motivation of the general population is lowered. This occurs through both genetic and environmental channels. Personality traits are substantially heritable (meaning that a decent percentage of the variation in these traits is due to naturally occurring genetic variation). Given this fact, habitual welfare claimants with ’employment-resistant personalities’ are likely to have offspring with similar personalities. Furthermore, Perkins argues that children raised in a household with disagreeable and unconscientious parents are likely to become more employment-resistant than they would if raised in more fortunate circumstances. It could be argued that the null shared environmental effects on personality usually found in twin studies mitigate against the family environment as a vessel for the transmission of work-resistant personality, and Perkins, surprisingly, does not really defend himself against this charge. Such a defence could be mustered however: problem families from the very lowest percentiles of socioeconomic status are rarely retained in twin studies, even if they are initially recruited.

Perkins gets off the fence and recommends concrete policy solutions for the problems that he identifies, arguing that governments should try to adjust the generosity of welfare payments to the point where habitual claimants do not have greater fertility than those customarily employed. The book no doubt went to press before the Chancellor announced plans to limit child tax credits to a household’s first two children, but such a measure is very much in the spirit of this bullet-biting book. The explicit targeting of fertility as a goal of welfare policy, however, goes beyond current government policy. Perkins perhaps should also have argued for measures to boost the fertility of those with pro-social personalities, such as deregulation of the childcare and housing markets to cut the costs of sustainable family formation.

He also argues for greater provision of early life intensive childcare, albeit highly limited in scale – essentially offered only to the offspring of the worst households. As evidence from Quebec shows, universal kindergarten provision is just warehousing, likely to do more harm than good. When such programs are implemented en masse, it is difficult to employ sufficiently high-quality staff, given the low pay and status of the work. For these and other reasons I think this is a more questionable policy proposal – it is necessary to stop such programs being taken over more affluent parents who do not really need them, but it is presumably quite difficult to get highly employment-resistant parents to sign up for Perry Preschool-style projects in the first place. Careful trials are needed – the Quebec experience, and the failure of Sure Start in the UK, illustrate the pitfalls. It is a slight weakness of the book that Perkins is overly reliant on Perry Preschool for his estimates of the economic benefits of intensive early-life educational interventions – but given the state of the extant literature there is probably little else he could have done.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 9, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Impact of Benefit Cuts Leaves Mothers £13bn worse off.

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Osborne Smirks at Thought of more Welfare Cuts. 

As the Budget on the 16th of March gets nearer here are some things to think about.

In February we saw this:

Government freeze on tax credits and jobseekers’ allowance could cost families 12% of their benefits, says report.

A report by the Children’s Society, published on Tuesday, says families could lose up to 12% from the real value of their benefits over the next four years as a result of government plans to freeze child tax credits, working tax credits and jobseekers’ allowance from April.

Guardian. 23rd of February.

Note: this was introduced last year:

A freeze in working age benefits for four years (including tax credits and Local Housing Allowance, and excluding maternity pay and disability benefits – PIP, DLA and ESA Support Group).

These are some of the changes that will hit people here from April 2016 (more details here).

  • The level of earnings at which a household’s Universal Credit award starts to be withdrawn for every extra pound earned (Income threshold reduction) will be reduced from £6,420 to £3,850. SeeSummer Budget 2015 page
  • Universal Credit work allowances will be reduced to £4,764 for those without housing costs, £2,304 for those with housing costs, and removed altogether for non-disabled claimants without children. See SI 2015/1649 and Summer Budget 2015 page.
  • The amount by which a tax credit claimant’s income can increase in-year compared to their previous year’s income before their award is adjusted (the income rise disregard) will be reduced to £2,500. See Spending Review 2015 page

From April 2017.

  • New ESA claimants who are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group will receive the same rate of benefit as those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, alongside additional support to help them take steps back to work. See Summer Budget 2015 page
  • Those aged 18 to 21 who are on Universal Credit (UC) will have to apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship, gain work-based skills, or go on a work placement 6 months after the start of their claim. Apart from certain exceptions (those considered vulnerable) they will not be allowed to claim Housing Benefit/UC housing costs element. See Summer Budget 2015 page

Now the results are being analysed:

Benefit cuts ‘will leave mothers £13bn worse off over course of current Parliament’. Independent March the 6th 2016.

Mothers will be £13bn worse off under the current Government as a result of policies announced over the past year, according to a new analysis.

Labour described the figures – produced by the House of Commons Library – as a “disgrace”, saying mothers played a key role in society but had been hit with a “stonking great bill”.

The research looked at the effects on women with dependent children of a number of changes announced by Chancellor George Osborne, since last year’s general election.

It found that cuts to universal credit, the four-year freeze on child benefit and other welfare payments, reductions in housing benefit and other policies outweighed increases to the personal income tax allowance and extra money for childcare.

The overall impact meant mothers will be £13bn worse off over the course of the current parliament, from last year until 2020. The Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who commissioned the research, said: “These figures are a disgrace. On Mother’s Day, the whole country celebrates just how much mums do to hold families together, communities together and even hold our economy together too.

“Yet what thanks do mums get from George Osborne and David Cameron? Only a stonking great £13bn bill.”

Last month the Children’s Society urged the Government to reconsider the benefits freeze if ministers were “genuinely concerned about child poverty”.

The charity calculated that a 23-year-old single mother, who works as a primary school teacher and rents her home, would be more than £2,800 a year worse off as a result of the changes. And a nurse and her partner, living in a rented house in London with three children, would be £5,100 a year worse off.

In a report, the society found that seven million children in low-income families would be affected by the four-year benefits freeze, while others would be pushed into poverty as a result.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury did not respond to a request for comment.

Responding to the Children’s Society report last month, the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We are bringing welfare spending under control, while – crucially – helping people into work, and through universal credit helping them to earn more.”

Still it’s not all bad news: Pensions: George Osborne drops plans to cut tax relief

And the big winners of this non-announcement will be wealthy people. At the moment not only do they earn more, they also get a proportionately bigger tax top-up from the government when they save for their retirement.

If the chancellor had scrapped the tax relief entirely on pensions savings and created instead a new pensions Isa, that would have cost the better off (40p and 45p taxpayers) billions of pounds collectively.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 6, 2016 at 11:30 am

Joblessness Branded A ‘Mental Illness’: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Sanctions?

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

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

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

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

But the Department for Work and Pensions said there was no evidence to back up the “highly misleading” claims.

The paper, published in the Medical Humanities journal, says benefit claimants are being forced to take part in positive thinking courses in an effort to change their personalities.

They are bombarded with motivational text messages – such as “success is the only option”, “we’re getting there” and “smile at life” – and have to take part in “pointless” team-building exercises such as building towers out of paper clips, it adds.

New benefit claimants are interviewed to find out whether they have a “psychological resistance” to work, with those deemed “less mentally fit” given more intensive coaching.

And unpaid work placements are increasingly judged on psychological results, such as improved motivation and confidence, rather than whether they have led to a job.

The report’s co-author, social scientist Lynne Friedli, described such programmes as “Orwellian”.

“Claimants’ ‘attitude to work’ is becoming a basis for deciding who is entitled to social security – it is no longer what you must do to get a job, but how you have to think and feel.

Then there was this:  Mental health workers protest at move to integrate clinic with jobcentre. July 2015.

Critics say plans for London clinic come dangerously close to government proposal to give psychological treatments to the unemployed.

Mental health workers and their clients marched on a jobcentre in south-west London in protest at a scheme they say frames unemployment as a psychological disorder.

The Department for Work and Pensions announced in March that Streatham’s jobcentre would be the first to have therapists giving mental health support to help unemployed people back into work.

The DWP has now said that announcement was a mistake. But by coincidence, next week Lambeth council will open a £1.9m mental health clinic in the same building.

There has been much discussion on this Blog and our fellow Bloggers’ sites on these ideas.

They include the reasons why unemployment is being rebranded as an ‘illness’ or a mental problem and how this “reprogramming” is going to take place.

Putting JobCentre advisers into GP surgeries is part of the same push.

This year they took a step forward in their plans,

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

Six surgeries in Islington, north London, are taking part in the year-long pilot scheme run and funded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Islington council.

Under the Working Better scheme, job coaches employed by Remploy – which is now mostly owned by the US company Maximus – are placed in GP surgeries for one day a week.

Patients who are unemployed and have long-term health conditions can ask their GP to refer them to “intensive and personalised employment coaching” within the surgery.

The job coaches “work with patients to establish their previous work experience, knowledge and skills, to build confidence, set goals and identify job or educational opportunities”.

But activists from the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) say the pilot scheme will destroy trust between doctors and their patients, particularly those with mental health conditions.

They are particularly alarmed at the involvement of Maximus, which already runs DWP’s work capability assessment system and has quietly secured a string of other lucrative DWP contracts.

MHRN, DPAC and other activists are planning a protest march on 4 March that will target City Road surgery, one of the six GP practices taking part in the pilot project.

Today the Morning Star is to be congratulated for publishing this important article.

Forcing the unemployed to undergo therapies they don’t want or blaming their attitude for their plight is totally unethical, write RUTH HUNT and LINDA GASK

ON MONDAY February 15 the Mental Health Task Force, in its latest report, recommended various measures to improve mental health services.

They were broadly welcomed, but one passage within the report caused much consternation: “Of people with mental and behavioural disorders supported by the work programme, only 9.5 per cent have been supported into employment … Employment is vital to health and should be recognised as a health outcome. The NHS should play a greater role in supporting people to find or keep a job.”

“Gaining employment” as a major indicator for people with mental health problems is a matter of great concern.

This is not the case for any other form of health problem. Furthermore, recent research published in BMJ Medical Humanities — Critical Medical Humanities suggests that unemployment is now being regarded as a psychological disorder within workfare schemes, with participants encouraged — or coerced — to think positively or to change their attitude.

Employment does have positive health outcomes, but if someone with a mental health diagnosis returns to work too early it can cause further problems. For example, there is always a risk that they will have problems managing in the work environment — which can lead at the very least to loss of confidence which will affect future ability to get back to work, and then to more serious consequences, including relapse. And there is always the risk that they and their employers will doubt they will ever be able to cope at the level of work they did previously, which will be very damaging to their future prospects.

We know that Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith wants to target those with mental illnesses, who are receiving Employment Support Allowance (ESA) with plans to force then to undergo treatment if they declare themselves unfit for work. The implication is that it is the attitude and motivation of these people that is at fault.

However, in cases of severe mental illness, it is extremely difficult to see how someone who is struggling with everyday life could be considered at fault if they did not have the “right attitude” or motivation to work. They may want to return to work, but the priority should be to help them to get to the optimal level of functioning, and then support them back to work. This has been shown to be effective and helpful.

Placing all responsibility on those suffering simply adds to the burden experienced and can contribute to relapse rather than recovery. This is what we have repeatedly seen when people are summoned to assessments and told that they are fit for work, when it is perfectly clear that they are not.

It is also clear that more effort needs to be invested in early help for people with mental health problems to ensure that they stay in work. This is promised in the Mental Health Task Force report. However pushing people into unsuitable jobs has been shown to be as potentially detrimental to mental health as the impact of unemployment.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) both person-to-person and online seems to be the main thrust of the treatment proposed. Presumably if the individual refuses they will be sanctioned. But for therapy to be effective a person has to be a willing participant.

There is no therapy that can “motivate” a person to find work unless they are able to consent to participate in it and well enough to actively engage. Online CBT has been shown to be ineffective for depression when offered without the support required to help and engage the participant. Therapy itself is not without side effects.

Furthermore, it’s difficult to see how requiring unemployed people to participate in such online “therapy” is going to have very much effect, completely aside from whether it’s ethical.

Improving access to psychological therapies (IAPT) services are already faced with “back to work” targets but have managed to achieve them without therapy being too closely linked to assistance in getting a job. That’s great — but unemployment benefit savings were originally linked to funding IAPT because we were told this was the only way more psychological therapy could be funded. Now getting into work has become the key outcome in itself. We should be seeking to help people to recover from their mental health problems first.

There is always a danger when funding of anything is linked to targets that a person will be a) directed to therapy by benefits staff who have to meet targets — and, even worse, b) pushed towards work by healthcare workers whose funding is also dependent on this.

The rest of the article here.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 2, 2016 at 4:32 pm

Sanctions against Jobseekers and the ill in Sharp Rise.

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Benefits and Work published this note on the 17th of February.

The number of employment and support allowance (ESA) sanctions increased by almost a third in the last two months for which figures are available, statistics published by the DWP today show.

The ESA and JSA sanctions statistical release shows that ESA sanctions in 2015 increased as follows:

July 1,096

Aug 1,272

Sept 1,831

The last time sanctions were as high was in April 2015.

ESA sanctions reached their highest point in March 2014, when 3,695 sanctions were handed out.

Meanwhile JSA sanctions have fallen dramatically from a high in October 2013 of 90,974 to 21,973 in September 2015.

No explanations for the changes in either ESA or JSA sanctions rates have been offered by the DWP.

You can download the full statistics from this page.

 

Vox Political publishes today:

The proportion of sanctions against people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) leapt up by around 19 per cent between July and September 2015, researchers from Glasgow University have found.

Perhaps more damningly, sick claimants on ESA are more likely to be sanctioned repeatedly than JSA claimants.

These rises should be set in the context of a continuing decline in monthly sanction rates, due to a fall in the number of claimants. JSA and Universal Credit claims fell by 12,980, while the number of ESA claimants exposed to sanctions – those in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG) – has fallen as an increasing proportion of claimants are being put into the Support Group rather than the WRAG.

“The present government has pushed up the proportion of referrals which result in an actual sanction by about 19 percentage points,” wrote Dr David Webster, Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow.

“Further investigation has revealed that this is due to an astonishing rise in the proportion of referrals for ‘not actively seeking employment’ (ASE) [“which actually means not seeking work in the way instructed by Job Centre Plus”] which result in a sanction, to 96 per cent, compared to about 50 per cent for all other sanctions.

It appears that the DWP’s decision makers are now doing little more than rubber-stamping ASE sanction referrals. [bolding mine]

“The impact on claimants is compounded by the fact that the proportion of ASE sanctions overturned is currently a tiny six per cent, compared to about 17 per cent for all other sanctions.

“This appears to be part of the same campaign to put pressure on unemployed people as the ‘claimant commitment’, which is compared by Frank Field in a new publication (reported in the Briefing) to a ‘prison manual’.”

Dr Webster’s briefing, The DWP’s JSA/ESA Sanctions Statistics Release, 17 February 2016, states that “there has been a sustained fall since November 2013 in the monthly rate of JSA sanctions before and after challenges as a percentage of claimants, to 4.28 per cent and 3.67 per cent respectively in the year to September 2015.

The rest of the story here.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2016 at 4:21 pm

Over 85% of Tip-offs for Benefit Fraud are False as Public Encouraged to Inform on Neighbours and ‘Suspicious’ people.

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Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘Big Society’. 

More than 85% of public tips on benefit ‘frauds’ are false, reports the Observer today (Thanks: Enigma).

Figures obtained by the Observer show that in the 1m alleged cases of benefit fraud put forward by the public, about 890,000 showed no fraud had taken place.

More than 85% of fraud allegations made by the public over the last five years were false, according to figures obtained by the Observer.

A freedom of information request to the Department for Work and Pensions discloses that between 2010 and 2015 the government closed 1,041,219 alleged cases of benefit fraud put forward by the public. Insufficient or no evidence of fraud was discovered in 887,468 of these. In 2015 alone, of the 153,038 cases closed by the DWP’s Fraud and Error Service, 132,772 led to no action.

People can use an online form on the DWP website to anonymously report suspects, listing their eye colour, piercings, scars, tattoos and other details they deem relevant. Suspicions can also be logged through the DWP benefit fraud hotline.

Information received by the Observer states that more than 1.6 million cases of benefit fraud were opened between 2010 and 2015 after reports logged by the public. Responding to the figures, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “The alarming number of incorrect reports shows the system has failed, it should be the DWP which investigates benefit fraud, not your closest neighbours. This McCarthy-style reporting of benefit fraud is another example of the government’s desire to turn people against the welfare state and to treat sick and disabled people as second-class citizens.”

Owen Smith, shadow work and pensions secretary, spoke of “the poisonous way the Tories have continually talked down our social security system”. He said: “Where there are abuses of the system they should be dealt with swiftly. However, the government’s constant attempts to paint honest people – like low-paid workers relying on tax credits and universal credit – as ‘skivers’ is creating a hostile and accusatory environment. The Tories should view these results with shame and pledge to turn the page on their divisive rhetoric.”

The history of informing bears mentioning.

Rome: the Delator (Informer).

In Roman history, properly one who gave notice (deferre) to the treasury officials of monies that had become due to the imperial fisc. This special meaning was extended to those who lodged information as to punishable offences, and further, to those who brought a public accusation (whether true or not) against any person (especially with the object of getting money). Although the word delator itself, for “common informer,” is confined to imperial times, the right of public accusation had long existed. When exercised from patriotic and disinterested motives, its effects were beneficial; but the moment the principle of reward was introduced, this was no longer the case. Sometimes the accuser was rewarded with the rights of citizenship, a place in the senate, or a share of the property of the accused. At the end of the republican period, Cicero (De Officiis, ii. 14) expresses his opinion that such accusations should be undertaken only in the interests of the state or for other urgent reasons.

Under the Roman Empire the system became openly corrupt, which reached its height during the reign of Tiberius, although the delators continued to exercise their activity till the reign of Theodosius I. They were drawn from all classes of society—patricians, knights, freedmen, slaves, philosophers, literary men, and, above all, lawyers. The objects of their attacks were the wealthy, all possible rivals of the emperor, and those whose conduct implied a reproach against the imperial mode of life. Special opportunities were afforded by the law of majestas, which originally directed against attacks on the ruler by word or deed came to include all kinds of accusations with which it really had nothing to do; indeed, according to Tacitus, a charge of treason was regularly added to all criminal charges. The chief motive for these accusations was no doubt the desire of amassing wealth,[1] since by the law of majestas one-fourth of the goods of the accused, even if he committed suicide in order to avoid confiscation (which was always carried out in the case of those condemned to capital punishment), was assured to the accuser (who was hence called quadruplator).

Pliny the Elder and Martial mention instances of enormous fortunes amassed by professional delators. But it was not without its dangers. If the delator lost his case or refused to carry it through, he was liable to the same penalties as the accused; he was exposed to the risk of vengeance at the hands of the proscribed in the event of their return, or of their relatives; while emperors like Tiberius would have no scruples about banishing or putting out of the way those whom he had no further use for and who might have proved dangerous to himself.

In the twentieth century every totalitarian tyranny as relied in anonymous informers.

Vichy France was a notorious case, portrayed in the film Le Corbeau (the Raven), in which a village is plagued by unsigned poison-pen letters,

During the Vichy era, French residents sent between three and five million denunciation letters.[3] Civilians sent denunciations to everyone from local officials and law enforcement bureaus to national agencies and individuals such as the General Commissariat for Jewish Questions or even Marshal Pétain himself. Natives of the Limousin denounced newly arrived refugees, while some refugees denounced Limousins or other refugees; long-time neighbors denounced each other; and non-Jewish French men and women denounced “undesirable” Jews. Motivated by material gain, ideological commitment, self-preservation, or petty differences, residents of the region picked up their pens and regularly informed the government of their neighbors’ and acquaintances’ immorality and misdeeds. Individual willingness to resort to denunciations created an atmosphere in which officials noted that “Few people dare to talk. One has a tendency to see in his neighbor a possible denouncer.”[4] While denunciations could provide information on food or “racial” infractions that were admittedly difficult to police, they also created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion that opposed the ideals of the National Revolution. Rather than building a stronger community through the purge of harmful elements such as black marketeers, hoarders, and cultural outsiders, denunciations encouraged lying, dissimulation, and self-interested actions.

More:  Denunciations, Community Outsiders, and Material Shortages in Vichy France

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 28, 2016 at 11:39 am

Homeless: Number of Rough Sleepers Soars.

with 14 comments

It is, as many have stated, including this Blog, impossible to ignore that more and more people are homeless.

Homeless people with backpacks, small groups on the streets at night, being asked for money in the centre of town, it is hardly a secret that the number of those without a stable roof or income has been growing over the last years.

Today these reports have appeared.

Homelessness: Number of rough sleepers in England rises at ‘unprecedented’ rate.

The Independent reports today,

The number of people sleeping rough on England’s streets increased at an “unprecedented” rate last year, official figures show, as charities warned that the impact of welfare cuts and a chronic housing shortage are now taking their toll on the country’s most vulnerable.

Official counts and estimates from councils across England placed the number of rough sleepers on any given night in autumn 2015 at 3,569, according to a Government report.

The figure represents a 30 per cent increase since the same count last year, the biggest annual rise since the current reporting methods were introduced six years ago.

The Mirror says on the same story,

A separate study by the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (CHAIN) claimed there were actually 7,581 rough sleepers in London alone.

CHAIN counted everyone seen sleeping rough on the capital’s streets at least once during April 2014 to March 2015.

They said that while 3,212 of the rough sleepers they saw were British, 1,388 were Romanian and 639 were from Poland.

CHAIN said 14% of rough sleepers were women and nine per cent were aged over 55.

Some 41% – nearly half – had problems with alcohol.

Now these are people out in the streets.

The numbers of people ‘sofa hopping’, living in temporary accommodation, or, in other words, without a real home, is much much larger.

In the restrictive terms of the Government’s own  homeless duty (that is when they have to do something about providing shelter for families)  these are the most recent figures:

Households accepted as owed a main homelessness duty.
 In England between 1 July and 30 September 2015, local authorities accepted 14,670 households, up 4 per cent compared to the same quarter last year and up 6 per cent from the figure of 13,840 in the previous quarter.
In London, the number of households accepted was 4,700. This is an increase of 5 per cent from 4,460 during the same quarter a year earlier and accounts for 32 per cent of the England total. The number of acceptances in the rest of England in creased 4 per cent from 9,580 in July to September 2014 to 9,970 in July to September 2015.

This is a key point:

How have welfare reforms had an impact on homelessness?

Cuts to most benefit payments have hit incomes, but the main factor here is the decision to hold down the rate at which housing benefits increase at just one per cent a year since 2013. During this time, rents have continued to rise at a much higher rate. Housing benefits are now set to be frozen for four years. The Crisis charity says that the loss of a private tenancy is now the biggest cause of homelessness and has just completed a survey of 800 landlords which found that more than half are no longer willing to let to people on housing benefit.

The Guardian makes these points:

The report notes that many specialist homelessness mental health teams have shrunk or been closed as a result of funding cuts. Major cuts to subsequent homelessness prevention projects began in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 and on average, local authority funding for services for helping vulnerable people avoid homelessness was cut by 45% between 2009-10 and 2014-15, according to the St Mungo’s report, Stop the Scandal.

Howard Sinclair, chief executive of St Mungo’s, said he was concerned by “both the shocking, unprecedented rise in people who are sleeping rough, and evidence that more of this group are struggling with poor mental health”. “Few would disagree that it’s nothing short of a scandal that people with mental health problems are sleeping rough. Not only that, but this incredibly vulnerable group are more likely to remain in dangerous and unhealthy situations for longer,” he said.

The figures come as little surprise to many working in the sector, who have noted a visible rise in the number of tents in parks and people in sleeping bags outside theatres and shops in central London and other big cities. But they mark a dramatic reversal of much of the progress made in the first decade of the century towards eliminating rough sleeping entirely.

We would add that DWP demands on the out-of-work, the way getting JSA is dependent on fulfilling a 35 hour week ‘Job search’, not to mention all the bogus ‘schemes’ for the unemployed may make ‘providers’ wealthy, but they are the last thing needed for anybody, let alone those in the kind of crisis being homeless puts people in.

Sanctions least of all.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 26, 2016 at 4:38 pm

As Freeze on Benefits Looms is Iain Duncan Smith in Need of Behavioural Cognitive Therapy?

with 35 comments

A Plea for Help?

Iain Duncan Smith is showing signs of being the worse for wear.

Most of his time these days has been taken up defending Blighty from the foreign threat.

Iain Duncan Smith: UK risks Paris-style attacks by staying in the EU.

Staying in EU ‘exposes UK to terror risk’, says Iain Duncan Smith

Iain Duncan Smith’s claims about the EU make no sense, Ken Clarke says.

The Work and Pensions Secretary had argued that EU made terrorist attacks more likely.
Unkind people may suggest that these wild claims demonstrate signs of inner psychic turmoil.
The sort that should be treated with by a course of the DWP’s favourite NLP and CBT [Neuro-Linguistic Programming – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy].

Meanwhile in his part-time job at the DWP we learn that the Brexit campaigner has hatched this: Plans To Freeze Benefits For Four Years ‘Will Hit 7 Million Children’

Government freeze on tax credits and jobseekers’ allowance could cost families 12% of their benefits, says report.

More than 7 million children living in low-income families will be affected by a four-year freeze to their benefits that risks pushing many more into poverty, according to new research.

A report by the Children’s Society, published on Tuesday, says families could lose up to 12% from the real value of their benefits over the next four years as a result of government plans to freeze child tax credits, working tax credits and jobseekers’ allowance from April.

The charity is calling on ministers to reconsider the planned freeze and agree to a moratorium on any further cuts in support for low-income families. It says almost two thirds of those who will be adversely affected live in working households who receive benefits to top up low pay.

The research paper, called The Future of Family Incomes, was published ahead of a debate in parliament on Tuesday about the government’s welfare reform and work bill, which returns to the Commons to consider amendments from the Lords. Charities are also looking anxiously ahead to next month’s budget.

Matthew Reed, Children’s Society chief executive, said: “Families on low incomes are facing a barrage of cuts. If ministers are genuinely concerned about child poverty they must reconsider plans to freeze benefits over the next four years.

Welfare Reform and Work Bill could cause four-year benefits freeze for 130,000 families across Suffolk and North Essex.

EADT.

Almost 130,000 families in Suffolk and North Essex could face a four-year benefits freeze, new figures reveal.

Research by the Children’s Society warns that from April, a child and working tax credit freeze – which forms part of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill up for debate in the Commons today – will hit 127,000 low-income families across the two areas.

Young parents and families with disabled children claiming Universal Credit for the first time are particularly likely to lose out, the charity’s report finds.

“Families on low incomes across the East of England are facing a barrage of cuts. If ministers are genuinely concerned about child poverty they must reconsider plans to freeze benefits over the next four years,” said the charity’s chief executive Matthew Reed.

This Freeze affects us all.

It means that those on JSA and in low-paid work – that is, our likely employment – will suffer.

This is the kind of British ‘freedom’ Iain Duncan Smith wants to extend: the freedom to make the less well off suffer.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2016 at 11:52 am

DWP Helpline Cost Rise Rakes it off Claimants’ Backs.

with 40 comments

DWP Spokesperson Denies Call Cost is too High.

News hound Tobanem picked this story up on the 17th of February, and now it seems the nationals are running it:

Universal credit helpline fee ‘could force people to choose between benefits and food’

Leading food bank provider issues warning over DWP decision to charge up to 45p per minute to call phone line.

Struggling people could be forced to choose between making a benefit claim and buying food because of a Government decision to charge for the Universal Credit helpline, the leading food bank provider has warned.

The phone line, for people trying to make a benefits claim or requiring advice, charges 45p per minute for mobiles and 12p per minute for landlines.

Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had previously pledged to phase out premium rate numbers.

David McAuley, CEO of the Trussell Trust charity, which runs a network of more than 400 food banks, told The Independent that the charge would be “a further barrier” to people seeking support from the DWP.

Independent.

The DWP has reacted with what is technically known as the Bertie Wooster strategy of stout denial (Bertie’s strategy when up before the Beak after Boat Race Night: deny everything):

A DWP spokesperson said it was possible to avoid charges by requesting a call back from an advisor.

“People who are unable to claim online and need to use the telephone service can request a call back to avoid call charges,” the spokesperson said. “Most vacancies are now advertised over the internet and claimants are encouraged to apply online to help them prepare for the world of work.”

The department also pointed out that many mobile phone contracts did not charge for the type of 0345 number used by the helpline, that the vast majority would be able to claim online, and that without access to the internet could get online at Jobcentres.

No answer about the cost to landline users – 12 pence a minute, which tots up to a hefty 360 pence for a thirty minute call (average time of beginning to sort anything complex out).

One can so easily imagine a “call back” from the ever friendly adviser, or Coachy, just as much as we can living in Bertie Wooster land where Jeeves always comes to the rescue.

An on-line claim may be hard enough for many – not mentioning those who cannot access the Net, or do not know how to use it. But the idea of making queries  – where is my dosh? – that way would test even that Gentleman’s Gentleman’s resolve. As for help at the Jobcentre – which got rid of free phone lines back in the halcyon last decade….well

Written by Andrew Coates

February 19, 2016 at 4:19 pm

Channel Five and the Empire of Poverty Porn.

with 48 comments

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Channel Five: Bless!

Channel 5 on Monday has the X-Files, and Gotham: two programmes worth watching, even if the supply of White Cider and Special Brew is running low.

Tuesday: The Great British Benefits Handout

I don’t watch this show, and have no intention of watching it.

But we have our grasses who tell us what happened last week.

So someone gives you a ­briefcase stuffed with loadsamoney… what do you do? (Mirror)

I know what you’re thinking. You’d go straight out and buy a raccoon for a mere 460 quid. Who wouldn’t?

Incredibly, that’s exactly what 31-year-old Scott did after Channel 5’s hilarious The Great British Benefits Handout made him instantly richer to the tune of £26,000. Happy days.

Sadly, Scouser Scott’s idea of using his unexpected financial windfall wisely was to turn his back garden into a zoo.

While his long-suffering wife Leanne looked on with an increasing sense of horror, Scott went animal crackers and embarked on a bizarre spending spree.

“I could do with some giant millipedes,” he began.

“Maybe some giant snails and some giant Madagascan cockroaches. Some 12-foot snakes, six-foot lizards and a nice iguana.”

As you do.

Now if somebody handed me that load of dosh I’d fuck off abroad, to a remote fortress,  surrounded by rocky defences, possibly, say a Cathar Castle (Pictured)  where Channel Five crews could be flung down the abyss, and would spend my time drinking Château Margaux while writing my masterpiece.

My Benefit Handout Home.

It’s all great fun, innit?

The Mirror really sums this telly channel up:

Channel 5 is still baiting the unemployed with yet another show about benefits

Opening line on Channel 5’s ­latest hatchet job on the ­unemployed : “Benefits. Britain is obsessed.”

An inopportune moment, then, to have taken a slurp of coffee, which went a-spluttering.

This from the channel that brought us The Big Benefits Row Live , The Great Big Benefits Wedding Live, My Big Benefits Family, Celebs on Benefits: Fame to Claim, Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole, Benefits: The Millionaire Shoplifter and Benefits: Can’t Work, Won’t Work.

To name but a few. Yes, C5. Clearly WE’RE the ones obsessed.

In other words, the channel has not just one show, but a whole bleeding Empire of Poverty Porn.

 Some people, can’t tell why, take umbrage.

As they say: it’s not hard to tell the difference between a ray of sunshine and Scots folk with a grievance.

Daily Record. 5th February.

Channel 5 bosses have ditched plans to turn Stevenston into the next ‘poverty porn’ TV town.

In December we told how TV bosses were keen to shine a light on the town and highlight the lives of those living on benefits.

It was confirmed at the time that a team were researching the area, with flyers posted in the town asking locals about life on benefits.

Labour councillors Joe Cullinane and Jim Montgomerie were quick to react to the plans and sent an unequivocal letter to Channel 5 to say that producers would not be welcomed to the town.

In the letter, they were keen to champion the community spirit that exists in Stevenston and said they would refuse to stand by and allow the town to be exploited.

They also warned Channel 5 bosses that unless assurances were made that they wouldn’t come to Stevenston, they would be launching a campaign to prevent filming in the area.

But just hours after the councillors launched their campaign, producers confirmed that they would not be pursuing plans to use Stevenston for filming.

Speaking this week, Councillor Cullinane voiced his frustration at the initial lack of communication from Channel 5 and insisted he and Councillor Montgomerie were ready to ensure Stevenston avoided the same stigma that befell Birmingham’s James Turner Street in the TV show Benefits Street.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 16, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Iain Duncan Smith Throws a Wobbly and Writes the Footnote of Shame.

with 20 comments

“And Another Thing……”

Iain Duncan Smith Blasts Media Who Accuse The Tories Of ‘Outrageous Actions’.

Welfare Weekly

Iain Duncan Smith warns MPs against listening to those “in the media and on social media” who “accuse the Government of outrageous actions”.

Iain Duncan Smith has written to the Work and Pensions Committee, responding to questions about the possible correlation between benefit assessments and the suicide of claimants.

The letter, addressed to the Committee chair Frank Field MP, features a barely legible hand-written footnote, warning against listening to those “in the media and on social media” who “accuse the Government of outrageous actions.”

The Footnote of Shame. (From Here). 

ids-letter

 

 

There are some out there in the media and social media who have used ons [?] figures to accuse the govt of outrageous actions.

I would hope that the committee would not seek to follow suit. I see that having introduced ESA and the WLA, the Labour Party now seeks to attack it as though they had nothing to do with it.

Surely the committee should seek to recognise the good intent of those engaged in this difficult area.

 

Welfare Weekly comments:

The correlation between the work capability assessment and suicide was established by academic researchers, not by journalists or social media commentators.

Iain Duncan Smith will probably be accusing the United Nations (UN) of failing to see the government’s “good intent”, when its inquiry into “grave and systematic violations” of the rights of disabled people in the UK concludes.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 13, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Universal Credit Gets Nearer….Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid.

with 51 comments

Job Centre ‘Coach’ Let’s Mask Slip. 

But……the Good News is Coming!

Harlow Star  (9th Febrary) brings the Tidings of Comfort and Joy:

A new single monthly payment to replace six existing types of benefit has been introduced in Harlow.

Universal Credit replaces Jobseekers Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Child Tax Credit, Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit with a single payment.

“For us it’s all quite new,” said Mike King, 52, manager of Harlow Jobcentre Plus in Crown Gate.

“The 14 Jobcentre Plus branches in Essex are among the last to adopt Universal Credit which began being rolled out nationwide in March 2015.

“Some of our staff went away for three weeks training and we’re all quite excited to come back and start.

(Nationally) it’s working really well.”

Universal Credit is being introduced in stages and currently will only apply to new claimants. Those already claiming benefits should carry on doing so until being instructed differently or if their circumstances change.

The system is designed to simplify the process of claiming state payments which the Government hope will reduce red tape while cutting down on benefit fraud and overpayments.

But critics argue that millions of working families will be worse off as a result of cuts to how much people can earn before claiming. In addition a new claimant will have to wait around six weeks to receive their first payment.

Mr King said: “As the weeks go on I think we will be taking more and more claims and the number of cases logged will build up over time. People will be pushed towards Universal Credit.”

Latest Government figures state that in total 320,000 people have claimed under the new system while for every 100 people finding a job under Job Seekers Allowance 113 have under Universal Credit.

Mr King credits increased support and the changed role of a work coach in helping claimants find jobs more easily.

The big change is that it’s supportive all the way through once someone makes a claim and they go into work it still supports them,” he said.

Their work coach will still support them if they have any issues.

“If they are made unemployed again their claim will remain open. There are a number of ways of getting support.

“Not all people can claim Universal Credit, but there are people who are eligible who do not get Job Seekers Allowance.

“It can be that people are receiving Universal Credit and still receiving some benefits.”

The Mirror begs to disagree.

Waiting for Universal Credit is unbelievably terrifying – here’s why

BY JULIA RAMPEN.

Universal Credit is replacing housing benefit, tax credits and other common payments. But moving onto the new benefits system can be traumatic

Georgina claimed Universal Credit after losing her job

If you get help from the Government to pay your rent, you’re claiming benefits while looking for work or you get tax credits, you’ll soon be claiming Universal Credit .

This is a new system designed to streamline benefits, and it’s being rolled out across the nation .

But unlike existing benefits, Universal Credit is paid monthly and the first payment only arrives 6 weeks after you’ve filed your application.

That means claimants who do not successfully apply for an advance loan may be forced to survive on nothing for more than a month.

After many years of paying taxes, scientist and teacher Georgina Toye lost her job and was forced to claim benefits while she hunted for a new position.

She told Mirror Money her story. If you’ve been through a similar experience, share it with us below.

Moving onto Universal Credit was terrifying. I didn’t get anything for six weeks. No one believed me. Even my close friends and family thought I was making some kind of error.

They said: “They must be giving you something. You haven’t filled in the form right.”

You tell your kids: “There is a delay with money. We’ll get it soon.” But they know you’re worried.

My rent was due twice in that period. I was lucky I had a credit card. I basically had to draw money from my credit card to pay it and feed the family. The bill was massive. I still have a lot of debt.

I found it very difficult to get through to any Universal Credit staff on the phone. When I went to complain to the Jobcentre they always said: “It’s nothing to do with us.”

I am used to being paid monthly, but six weeks without anything isn’t like being in a job. It is just crazy. It’s not preparing you for anything.

It would be better simply be to give claimants a month’s payment at the start and keep paying it monthly. Landlords want the rent monthly, after all.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 10, 2016 at 4:52 pm

Unemployment Business Prospering as Seetec Boss Rakes it in and Expands Empire

with 68 comments

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SEETEC has offices in Ipswich, running the Work programme, and (until George Osborne pulled the plug on that nice little earner) and the Help to Work Workfare programme.  Many of our readers are all too familiar with this company which lives off public money.

It now runs one of the newly privatised probation services in Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Private Eye this week (No 1411)  reports that this arm of Seetec  is already in  “trouble”. An audit completed before Christmas found “problems” with Seetc and South Yorkshire CRC, run – no you could not make this up – by French catering and cleaning firm, Sodexo.

Private Eye notes that this bunch of chancers had a turnover of £1.4 million; today this stands at more than £80 million, largely by profiteering from state money.

The report states that Seetec was part the national Help to Work – that is Workfare schemes, work for no pay –  only got 4.7% of participants into work.

Seetec, the articles notes, had a “mixed” performance. People round here know just how “mixed up” this scheme was.

Private Eye says that Seetec’s owner-boss Peter Cooper got £1.6 million in dividends alone last year.

Here is their latest scheme to expand their empire and rake in more income from the public purse:

Seetec launches new Skills Academies

Over 40 guests attended the launch of the Seetec Skills Academies at Essex County Cricket Club on Wednesday 25th November with guest of honour Graham Gooch OBE.

Seetec, an Essex based skills and employment specialist which has been supporting people back to work and improving their skills for over 30 years, was delighted Graham Gooch could attend the launch of its exciting new skills provision and celebrate the new partnership with Essex County Cricket Club.

This is their own puff:

Seetec has over 29 years experience as one of the UK’s leading employment and skills training providers, supporting over 100,000 customers per annum to move into sustained employment.   Seetec delivers large scale national contracts such as the Department for Work and Pensions’ Work Programme across 3 regions as well as various ESF programmes through the Skills Funding Agency and Apprenticeships.

Seetec also delivers a range of contracts designed for specific customer groups such as our Work Choice contract for disabled customers and local programmes for lone parents, young people and NEETs, ex-offenders and graduates.

Seetec.

Last we forget another gang running the Unemployment Business here is a report from earlier this month.

Scandal-hit welfare-to-work agency A4E sees its profits quadruple

A4E, the welfare-to-work agency rocked by fraud allegations which led to the resignation of its founder and chairwoman Emma Harrison in 2012, saw turnover fall but profits quadruple last year.

The firm, which is a key partner to government schemes, said the number of UK jobseekers referred to it was falling due to the economic recovery, but that it was seeing an increase in its Australian operation.

In the last set of accounts before it was bought by rival Staffline Group, A4E recorded turnover of £166million in the year to March 2015, down from £189million, and profits of £9.2million, up from £2.3million, due mainly to a fall in operating expenses.

Harrison, who has appeared in TV’s Secret Millionaire, set up A4E in 1991 but resigned after six staff were jailed and four received suspended sentences for falsifying the number of people helped back into work.

Harrison, who stepped down as David Cameron’s families tsar, was also criticised for taking an £8.6million dividend from A4E on top of her £365,000-a-year salary.

Staffline has said that after a full audit by the Department for Work and Pensions, systems were now in place to prevent any recurrence at the Sheffield-based company.

Sure…..

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2016 at 11:51 am

DWP Under Fire for new Universal Credit Delay and Sanctions Regime.

with 55 comments

DWP still not Ready. 

DWP being evasive over universal credit delays, MPs claim.

Reports the Guardian today.

Iain Duncan Smith’s department accused of blocking efforts to find out cause of delays to flagship welfare scheme.

MPs have accused the Department for Work and Pensions of using “evasive” measures to prevent parliament from finding out why there have been yet more delays to the universal credit scheme.

The government’s flagship welfare programme will not be implemented before the autumn of 2021, four years after its completion date, a report by the committee has disclosed.

But Iain Duncan Smith’s department has been accused of blocking MPs as they tried to discover the cause of the delays, how many people they will affect, and how long they will persist.

Meg Hillier, chair of the public accounts committee (PAC), condemned the department for evading MPs’ queries. “The lack of transparency surrounding a programme with such wide-reaching implications for so many people is completely unacceptable,” he said.

The new welfare system, which rolls six existing benefits into one, is being introduced gradually, with about 500,000 people on the new scheme by April. But the full rollout date has been pushed back several times as ministers grapple with a complex IT system.

The estimated completion date for the rollout of the digital service is six months later compared to when the PAC examined the programme last year, the report found. It will be fully operational in March 2021 but the Office for Budget Responsibility has forecast a further six-month delay, according to MPs.

The PAC is concerned such delays will “postpone” the programme and create “uncertainty for claimants, advisers, and local authorities, and makes it difficult for parliament and taxpayers to hold the department to account”.

Delays there are then.

Computing states,

DWP’s Universal Credit programme delayed by six more months

By Sooraj Shah
The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) much-criticised roll-out of its Universal Credit programme is to be delayed yet again, meaning that it now expects the end date for moving all benefits claimants onto the system to be March 2021.
The revelation comes as MPs on the Public Accounts Committee examine the progress of Universal Credit one year after labelling the project a £700m flop that had managed only “very little progress”.
Shah concludes,

The scheme, designed to merge six different types of benefit into a single monthly payment, has had problems since its inception, with various delays and at least £130m in taxpayer money being written off.

It’s hardly the first time the Department for Work and Pensions project has been criticised, with a former DWP employee slamming the scheme in an exclusive interview with Computing in November 2013.

Meanwhile Boycott Workfare informs us ,

Sanctions centre plus: open all hours?

February 3rd, 2016

Roll up! Roll up! The first oral evidence session for the Works and Pensions Committee inquiry on ‘in-work progression in Universal Credit’ began on 3 February. This is all about ‘in-work conditionality’, where low-earning workers receiving top-up benefits such as Working Tax Credit and Housing Benefit will be subject to the tender attentions currently enjoyed by unemployed claimants. We previously covered this in Workfare: Don’t Think a Job Means You’re Safe and Suggestions, They Want? Now, with Universal Credit due to be ‘rolled out’ in more areas, we can enjoy another round of parliamentary mumbling.

Despite the limited terms of reference, Boycott Workfare made a written submission to this inquiry. Given that we campaign against sanctions imposed on unemployed people, we naturally oppose sanctions against working claimants. Extending conditionality – which will include sanctions – to working claimants extends these harms to a wider population and will only punish people on the receiving end of the UK’s low-pay no-pay precarious labour market. Small rises in the national minimum wage will not make these concerns go away: with the imposition of conditionality for workers, a higher minimum wage will simply mean a higher conditionality threshold and the use of the minimum wage as a stick to hit workers who are not earning ‘enough’.

More via link above.

From Written Submission:

Written evidence from Boycott Workfare (IWP0020) Boycott Workfare campaigns against forced unpaid labour and against sanctions. Our website can be found here: http://www.boycottworkfare.org From Frank Field’s comments it appears that this hearing is a mere rubber-stamping exercise, approving policy that is still highly questionable. The government is attempting to normalise a concept that had been rightly regarded as ridiculous at best, if not furthering the destruction already wrought by sanctions and compulsion that targets the unemployed.

Full text here.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 3, 2016 at 2:05 pm

Provider Forms: “Not a mandatory requirement for claimants to fill in or sign any provider forms or documents when participating in a provider led mandatory activity or programme.” Freedom of Information response from the DWP.

with 51 comments

This is important: Hat-Tip:  jj.joop.

We signal that we are only publishing the response, and this cannot be taken as in itself guidance for any form of action by claimants whatsoever.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
Central Freedom of Information Team

[DWP request email]

Our reference: VTR FOI 152

Date:
 28 January 2015

HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request ‘Signing Provider Documentation‘ (see Here)

Dear Mr Allen 
 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request received on 14 January 2016. You asked

Please provide me with any recorded data held by the DWP stating it is a  mandatory requirement for claimants to fill in or sign any provider forms or documents when participating in a provider led mandatory activity or programme.

Also please provide me with any recorded data held by the DWP detailing exactly what action the DWP or a provider can take against a claimant who has agreed to participate in a provider led mandatory activity or programme but who has also declined to fill or sign any provider forms or documents. By forms and documents, I mean: Health and safety checklist, claimant code
of practice, action plans, timesheets, induction checklist sheets, data protection waivers, and so on.

It is not a mandatory requirement for claimants to fill in or sign any provider  forms or    documents when participating in a provider led mandatory activity or programme.

Because it is not mandatory, there is no recorded data held detailing any action DWP or a provider can take against those who have declined to sign
said forms or documents.

Participants are required to do all they reasonably can to give themselves the best chance of finding work.

Should a participant decline to sign the provider’s forms, this does not mean that they do not have to participate in the programme.

The referral letter given to a participant by Jobcentre Plus details the potential consequences for failing to participate as required.

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the reference number above.

Yours sincerely,

DWP Central FoI Team

How to make a freedom of information (FOI) request.

Charges for Freedom of Information requests are being considered b.y commission reviewing laws

Body tasked with proposing changes to FoI laws could propose people pay a fee for requests, it has emerged as call for evidence issued.

Telegraph. October 2015. 

stop-foia-restrictionsThe government has set up a Commission to examine the Freedom of Information Act and consider what further restrictions should be imposed on the right to know.

In a letter co-ordinated by the Campaign, over 140 media bodies, campaign groups and others wrote to the Prime Minister in September 2015, expressing concern about the Commission’s composition and terms of reference.

Belatedly, the Commission issued a consultation paper which suggested it is considering sweeping restrictions to the legislation, including:

  • imposing charges for requests
  • making it easier to refuse requests on cost grounds
  • making it more difficult to obtain public authorities’ internal discussions, or excluding some from access altogether
  • strengthening ministers’ powers to veto disclosures
  • changing the way the Act is enforced.

The Campaign together with ARTICLE 19 held a briefing meeting on October 21 2015 for organisations proposing to respond to the consultation. The meeting was attended by nearly 60 organisations. The slides from the meeting are available here.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 30, 2016 at 11:19 am

Low Wage, High Welfare, Ipswich, Low Wage, ‘Low’ Welfare.

with 40 comments

Almost half of the UK’s biggest cities have low-wage, high-welfare economies, according to a healthcheck on urban Britain that underscores the challenges for the government’s benefit-cutting agenda.

George Osborne used his first budget of the Conservative government last summer to advocate a “higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare country”. But a report published on Monday warns that his vision will take several parliaments to create, given current shortfalls in education, a housing crisis and inefficient jobs programmes.

The Centre for Cities study also highlights a stark north-south divide between conurbations and urges the chancellor to deliver on promises to rebalance Britain’s economy with projects like the “northern powerhouse”.

The independent thinktank’s annual Cities Outlook, covering the UK’s 63 largest cities, classifies 29 as having low-wage, high-welfare economies. Nine of the worst performing city economies on the wages and welfare measure are in the north of England and Midlands, including Hull, Blackburn and Telford.

Guardian. 25th of January.

You will

Weekly pay in Norwich and Ipswich was among the lowest of 62 cities and large towns studied by the think-tank Centre for Cities.

Its 2016 outlook came in the wake of a vow by chancellor George Osborne to build a higher wage, low-welfare economy last year.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre of Cities said that while both Norwich and Ipswich had seen strong jobs growth in recent years, and had also had lower than average welfare spending, average wages had decreased significantly since 2010, so the challenge for both cities is to strengthen their local economies.

Weekly pay in Norwich and Ipswich was among the lowest of 62 cities and large towns studied by the think-tank Centre for Cities.

Its 2016 outlook came in the wake of a vow by chancellor George Osborne to build a higher wage, low-welfare economy last year.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre of Cities said that while both Norwich and Ipswich had seen strong jobs growth in recent years, and had also had lower than average welfare spending, average wages had decreased significantly since 2010, so the challenge for both cities is to strengthen their local economies.

Eastern Daily Press. 26th of January.

notice that Ipswich is a Low Wage, Low Welfare area.

This means that poverty is rife, and despite the “low welfare” label one can guarantee that many of the people on low wages round here are receive benefits of one kind of another.

In June 2015 this appeared,

Public health report shows there are worrying levels of poverty and deprivation in Ipswich

That is the verdict of a new report which has revealed Ipswich is lagging behind the national average when it comes to child poverty, GCSE achievement, deprivation and violent crimes.

Public Health England yesterday released a health profile of all local authority areas in the country, providing a snapshot of the health of those areas.

Ipswich’s performance was labelled as “varied” when compared to the national average, with Suffolk as a whole being described as “generally better” than the average.

According to the data, 5,500 children are living in poverty in Ipswich and 250 Year 6 pupils have been classified as obese. Life expectancy at birth for both men and women is similar to the average, at 79.2 years and 83.3 years respectively.

In fact anybody walking round the streets here can see this every day.

For this reason this is important to us (Daily Mirror 25th January):

Tory plot to scrap child poverty targets dealt whopping defeat in the House of Lords

Iain Duncan Smith has been dealt a whopping defeat in the House of Lords over his plot to scrap child poverty targets.

Campaigners were celebrating tonight as peers voted 290 to 198 to force the Work and Pensions Secretary to keep the measures.

Mr Duncan Smith announced plans last summer to drop the official figures , which count the proportion of children in homes with less than 60% of median average income.

Instead the Tories wanted to define poverty by measuring the number of workless households and children’s performance at school.

But after Labour and a bishop teamed up for tonight’s vote, he will now be forced to file annual reports using the traditional measure to the Houses of Parliament.

It is another crushing defeat for the government in the Lords just weeks after peers’ opposition forced George Osborne to drop his plan to cut tax credits.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 26, 2016 at 10:41 am

Iain Duncan Smith Takes Time off from Grinding the Faces of the Poor to Campaign against Europe.

with 57 comments

There is a theory that Iain Duncan Smith owes his long office in the  post as Work and Pensions Secretary to his role as a licensed bully.

That people will loathe him so much that they will forget that when it comes down to it, he’s just a barking pooch for David Cameron.

Another view is that he’s a punching-bag: somebody out there to take the blows for kind ‘n’ caring Cameron.

The picture above (from Another Angry Voice) suggests that he is “compensatory narcissist”.

I’m not clear about his “behavioural traits” but I like the idea that he, like the rest of us, is judged in terms of a psychometric test.

Whatever.

IDS has been busy recently.

His favourite target over Christmas has been the sick and the disabled.

Anguish of mum and son betrayed by Tories and left to rot by Iain Duncan Smith. Daily Mirror. 21st January.

Iain Duncan Smith has already slashed support for the disabled. Now he wants to cut it further. Daily Mirror. 21st January.

‘Cruel And Incompetent’: Iain Duncan Smith Forced To Admit Christmas ‘Benefits Bonus’ Blunder. Welfare Weekly. 20th January.

Labour’s shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Owen Smith MP, has accused the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of being “cruel and incompetent”, after at least 327,379 sick and disabled people were left without a £10 “Christmas Bonus”.

Then there’s this,

Revealed: The true cost of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms. 18th of January. Politics Co.UK.

For the thousands of people who have been hit by Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms, the findings of a new report published today will come as little surprise.

The audit, which was carried out by the Labour MP and chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee Frank Field, who has been a supporter of some of Duncan Smith’s key welfare reforms, examines the extent to which each measure contributes to the government’s stated aim of mending ‘broken Britain’.

The findings are damning. While it recognises that more people are in work and congratulates the government on reducing the benefit bill, it suggests those successes have come at a high cost to some of society’s most vulnerable people. So let’s go through the record and see how the government have fared.

Yet the Great Man, not content with wrecking the lives of people on benefits – we could continue to his role in Sanctions, the Unemployment ‘Business’ and the way we all have to pay Council Tax (a way of cutting our benefits without appearing to do so) –  has found time for this:

Iain Duncan Smith is to campaign independently for Britain to leave the European Union, spurning the rival campaigns seeking to act as the main group pushing to quit in the EU referendum.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 22, 2016 at 4:45 pm

I Million Hits for Ipswich Unemployed Action.

with 48 comments

Tossed by the Waves We Will Not Sink: We Stand Together By Our Banner.

I Million Hits for Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Today we have reached a watershed: 1,000,097 hits (16.15 Tuesday).

Ipswich Unemployed Action was founded in 2009.

The Site was created by two people, myself, and a young chap from Ipswich.

The intention was to describe what it’s like being unemployed, and to criticise the various “schemes” put in place to to deal with us.

The aim was to let out of work people say what they think about the way officials and the ‘unemployment business’ treat us – not what we’re told to say.

A bit like the alternative community newspapers of the 1970s,

We have always considered the comments to be the most important part of the Ipswich Unemployed Action site.

We also link to numerous Blogs, notably the always essential reading, the Void.

And a range of people on Twitter, such as I’m a JSA claimant @imajsaclaimant

Welfare Weekly has become important as well.

Apart from the fact that many posts come from people writing here – as well as from people I know in Ipswich – it’s the kind of open and up front things people come out with, the information we exchange with each other, that have given this site its special flavour.

Ipswich Unemployed Action has featured in Private Eye, the Sunday Times, and on Radio Suffolk.

We  have been asked by countless other news organisations for information.

My mate from one of the Ipswich estates – produced some of the best posts ever.

But we think that it’s our readers and commentators who matter most.

We have participated in the protests organised by groups such as the  DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), and more recently UNITE Community.

I urge everybody to join UNITE Community – it’s there for the unemployed, for all of us.

This was an important one (2014): Iain Duncan Smith Greeted with Shouts of ‘Murderer’ as he visits Ipswich.

We support the great Boycott Workfare campaign.

Always with strong links to the Unemployed Workers’ Centres we have attended national meetings at the TUC – the most recent being in 2015, the TUC Welfare Conference: Action on Sanctions and Workfare!

We back this:

The Charter promotes:

  • A Political commitment to full employment achieved with decent jobs..
  • A wage you can live on for all and a social security system that works to end poverty.
  • No work conscription – keep volunteering voluntary.
  • Representation for unemployed workers.
  • Appoint an Ombudsman for claimants.
  • Equality in the labour market and workplace; equality in access to benefits.
  • And end to the sanctions regime and current Work Capability Assessment – full maintenance for the unemployment and underemployed.
  • State provision of high quality information, advice and guidance on employment, training and careers.

This what we said on our founding (May 2009)

Who is sticking up for the Unemployed? Not many. Who is the best placed to do so? Those out of work.  Ipswich Unemployed Action is a group of out-of-work local people determined to stand up for our rights.

What are we up against?

  • The abuses of the ‘New Deal’ scheme. Those who sign-on here know that the YMCA is getting paid to lock up over 150  people in a shed – ‘Dencora House’, doing ‘job search’ all day. They know the conditions they have to endure – treated like children, no proper facilities (computers, even enough toilets).  There are no placements. If they complain they are threatened with being ‘exited’ – losing all benefits.
  • The coming ‘Flexible New Deal’ will be even worse. We intended to expose the company who’s won the local contract A4e – its links with shady senior politicians (step forward David Blunkett), and its record of abusing New Deal participants.
  • Workfare will be a con – forced labour for our dole with private contractors coining it in.

What do we want?

  • We want the minimum wage for any ‘voluntary’ work they make us do.
  • There should be an independent appeal and monitoring system – open to all – for anyone on the ‘New Deal’. Not the present shambles,
  • We want real training, not the YMCA etc sham.
  • Above all we want to be treated as human beings – not things the DWP and Government Ministers can claim rights over. We should have rights, and we want them now!
  • And now, we want the Dencora House  detention centre closed down!

Any suggestions? Join us. All welcome.

This what happened in June 2009: Banned For Blog: YMCA Suppresses Dissent.

WARNING: THIS BLOG IS DANGEROUS!

This morning I went to Dencora House, Ipswich. For my ‘New Deal’ induction at YMCA Training. A little while in and I was summoned. YMCA manager and colleague. Copies of this Blog, and the Ipswich Unemployed Action’s, on the table. Nervous type. Points to print-out. Picture of medieval Bastille. Legend, “Storm Dencora House“. Liked he it not. Or calling it a “detention centre”. Oh dear. Next, famous (hundreds of viewings), New Deal: YMCA Training, A Major Scandal.

Finally, their account of  this,

“I have placed this website as the Home Page on all computers at Dencora House today. Hopefully some of my fellow detainees here will read it. There has also been print outs of your articles left around the centre. The staff have been going round ripping them off the walls. They then get put up again.

People who merely found this site as the home page have been undertaking these actions on their own. Hopefully more people will involve themselves in such sabotage. If we make it too much hassle for them to treat us like this then they will be forced to stop!”

The upshot is I face being suspended from all benefits for exercising my (see YMCA Induction Pack), “freedom of conscience”. Apparently human rights do not apply to the out-of-work on the New Deal. Still no doubt they’ll find some way of justifying themselves. YMCA Mission Statement, “Motivated by its Christian faith, YMCA Training’s mission is to inspire individuals to develop their talents and potential and so transform the communities in which they live and work.” Needs some creative re-writing.

Oh yes, one of our many invisible supporters  tells us that they’ve blocked their computers’ access to our Blog.

I was reinstated pretty quickly and the YMCA ended up treating me decently.

You wonder what would happen today with the rules they have brought in.

Indeed little did I realise that the YMCA turned out to be sweeties compared to what has happened since.

Particularly after the Liberal-Tory Coalition.

Iain Duncan Smith has stalked the land seeking out poor people to oppress, unelashing the DWP ‘sanction regime’.

The Cameron government has lost no opportunity to let their mates in the ‘unemployment business’  pick the pockets of the state and make the lives of the unemployed a misery.

These are some of more recent best viewed posts:

Is it Compulsory to Register with Universal Jobmatch? What Evidence of Jobsearch do we have to provide? 2015.

35 Hours JobSearch: We Publish the Mad DWP Guidelines. 2014.

Universal Jobmatch – List of fake ’employers’ (Part 1)  2014.

This video shows what we stand for:  we stand together, we never give up!

 

Benefit Sanctions have Failed: David Webster, LSE.

with 40 comments

Will this Continue to Blight Lives? 

This important study confirms the critics’ opposition to the Benefit Sanction Regime.

Benefit sanctions have failed: a Comprehensive Review is needed  January 5th, 2016

(Hat-Tip: JSA Claimant).

Since the election of the Coalition in 2010, there has been a massive campaign of sanctions – punitive stoppage of benefits – against unemployed people. Indeed, the rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) penalties doubled. Yet there is very little evidence to support the sanctions approach in the UK and, aside from whether they return to work or not, the economic literature is missing any consideration of the overall effects on the people who are penalised, both positive and negative. In light of this,David Webster argues that a Comprehensive Review of the whole approach is needed. 

Despite the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) often-repeated claims that sanctions ‘are only ever used as a last resort for a very small minority’, over the five years to March 2014 about one quarter of all JSA claimants had their benefits stopped for a range of alleged ‘failures’, usually trivial. An example, unusual only in being fully documented, is of a 53-year old man with four children, who lost his benefits for at least four weeks for being ten minutes late for a CV-writing course. He was hard of hearing and had misheard the date of the appointment.

Remember that: one Quarter...

The full article is here.

The conclusion is important.

A system which gives a state bureaucracy the power to subject poor people to severe penalties (in this case loss of their only means of subsistence for extended periods), without the safeguards which centuries of experience have shown are essential to the judicial system, is bound to be abused. Whether that abuse comes without authorisation, from junior officials, or (as appears to be the case in the current British sanctions campaign) as a matter of policy from the highest levels of government, makes no essential difference. There is no excuse for economists to sidestep the fundamental issues of jurisprudence which are involved in the whole concept of a compulsory ‘active labour market policy’.

There has been some falling-off of sanctions in the last year or so. This may have something to do with the many criticisms made by the Oakley Review. Since then, the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee has produced an even more strongly critical report, which points out the absence of evidence to justify many features of the system, and repeats its call for a comprehensive, independent review. To date, the government has refused to concede this, or to carry out any of the studies asked for by the committee which would test the assumptions of the system. A comprehensive review is clearly now what is needed.

These words ring in the ears, ” subject poor people to severe penalties.”

Yesterday I was talking to a woman who’d started her working life in the (as was) ‘Social Security’ offices of the DHSS  in Wood Green back in the 70s.

This resonated with me because it was also the very place (people still called one part of it the ‘Labour Exchange’) where I first got my National Insurance number from and was sent from to one of my first jobs, working in a plastic bag factory in North London.

Later my sister also got sent from there to work in a fruit gum factory in Tottenham (Maynards).

The person I was talking to in Ipswich said that one day she saw a poor woman making a scene that had deeply affected her.

She had no money, nothing, and was demanding some help.

She was chased out and round the car park by the local rozzers.

The person said that this made her decide to become a social worker to defend the rights of the poor against this kind of treatment.

That was in the 1970s.

Today we see this kind of abuse all the time.

This is Iain Duncan Smith’s legacy.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2016 at 11:36 am

Welfare Reforms, Council Tax set Precedent for More Postcode Lottery Benefits to come.

with 45 comments

https://i1.wp.com/ichef-1.bbci.co.uk/news/660/cpsprodpb/A58D/production/_87618324_shop_spl.jpg

‘Postcode lottery’ in emergency welfare claims (BBC)

I have just paid the last installment of my year’s Council Tax.

Now in Ipswich this is relatively low – though an unwelcome extra deduction from our JSA.

When they introduced this new system, which means even the poorest in the land have to pay Council Tax, the ‘benefit’ reduction was ‘localised’ so it depends on where you live as to how much you pay.

So somebody with the same amount of JSA in say, Tendering Essex, will pay about double, if not more than somebody in Ipswich.

The Void reported the results back in 2014.

Court Cases, Chaos and Soaring Debt As Council Tax Reform Unravels

The shambolic postcode lottery which has emerged after reforms to Council Tax Benefit is creating chaos for Local Authorities and driving some people into desperate poverty.

In August last year we saw this (Guardian),

Council use of bailiffs to chase debts jumps 16% in two years, charity reports

The most common reason to use bailiffs was council tax arrears, followed by parking fines. They were also used to get benefit overpayments reimbursed and to collect business rates and commercial rates.

And this (Independent, also August 2015)

Bailiffs visit 12,000 of London’s poorest households over council tax arrears

Over 122,000 people in the city have fallen into arrears on their council tax

Now we face the propsect of this kind of break up of help being extended a lot more.

Handing responsibility for emergency welfare support to local authorities risks turning the welfare system into a “postcode lottery”, an influential group of MPs have warned.

Reports the ever excellent Welfare News: full story here.

A new report published by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee raises concerns about the pressures on families caused by welfare reforms, and the “coverage and adequacy” of localised welfare safety nets to fill the gaps – particularly in England.

The Committee examined three locally-run discretionary schemes: Council Tax support, Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) and local welfare assistance schemes.

The cross-party group of MPs say the Government “must act” to protect vulnerable groups from national welfare reforms such as the Benefit Cap and Bedroom Tax, otherwise known as ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’.

The Committee has also urged central Government and local councils to do more to prevent vulnerable people from being plunged into severe hardship and destitution.

Key findings from the report include:

– Localisation risks blurring the lines of national and local responsibility, leading to confusion among vulnerable people about where to turn in a financial crisis:  closer joint-working and sharing of national and local data must be prioritised.

– Time-limited Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) are clearly inadequate protection for some groups of people the Government did not intend its welfare reforms to affect, but who cannot reasonably be expected to take steps to mitigate the effects. Such groups should be exempted.

– The DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) should strengthen and put onto a statutory footing its guidance in relation to Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) for disabled people.

– Central and local government should agree and implement an effective local government funding system which can cope with future economic downturns and protect services, including crisis welfare, in more deprived areas.

– The recently announced DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) review of local Council Tax support schemes should investigate, and if necessary recommend eradicating local authorities issuing court summonses, and instructing bailiffs, as a method of raising revenue.

Rest of story continues here.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 12, 2016 at 3:51 pm

DWP Bureaucracy: The Circumlocution Office.

with 22 comments

DWP Template: The Circumlocution Office (Dickens, Little Dorrit)

People who sign off often get into trap with their first job because the tax system means they get huge deductions.

In the old days you went down to the Tax Office to get the money…you have earned.

Now you have to go through a call centre, which takes for ever, and more.

Which means that you spent half your time trying to sort the tax out.

People who work under a certain number of hours still have to sign on to get Housing Benefit.

Which means you have to spend time showing the DWP – your ‘Work Coach’ – your Jobsearch.

Not to mention if anything complicated happens you will have to deal with another set of call centres to sort out your Housing Benefit

Then there is now this (November):

Cuts to housing benefit could make claimants £570 a year worse off

Institute for Public Policy research says alternative to tax credits cuts could save £2.4bn but would hit 4.8 million households

And so it goes.

I am talking about people I know in these traps.

Iain Duncan Smith will be remembered as the man who condemned millions to a life of struggling through a bureaucratic labyrinth, and as the pious Christian who put people out to live in the streets, and queue up to beg for tins of food.

And there is this:

The following Guardian article, signaled by Ken,  really struck home.

The DWP – a bureaucracy of outstanding brutality

The Department for Work and Pensions prides itself on embracing diversity and promoting equality of opportunity. And indeed, when it comes to pulling the plug on benefits there is no sign of discrimination – everybody is treated equally harshly.

It is not only those who are too sick to work but are informed they are well enough to do so; nor just those who have failed to adhere to some tiny sliver of bureaucracy. This also applies to people who don’t even realise they have sinned but are left suddenly and brutally penniless.

Hawa (not her real name) falls into that category. She was brought up as a slave by her adopted family in west Africa. As a young child she was forced to work for long hours, thrown scraps of leftover food like a stray dog and still has fine scars down one side of her face and right leg, a legacy of the times her “owners” threw heavy objects at her. She was denied education and, at the age of 15, was sold to a trafficker who brought her to the UK.

In London, Hawa was locked in a house and repeatedly raped by men who paid her trafficker to do so. She escaped when she was five months pregnant from one of the rapes; she claimed asylum and was granted refugee status. The Home Office accepted that her life would be in danger if she was forcibly returned home.

Life in England was a struggle. Unable to read, write, or speak much English, she found that the system presented many challenges. But throughout it all burned a fierce love for her baby.

“He is my mother, my father, my sister, my brother,” she said. “Before him I had no family but now I have everything.” She later gave birth to a daughter. Hawa longs to study English, get a job and walk away from life on benefits as soon as her daughter starts school.

At the age of 22 Hawa has endured more than most people do in a lifetime. She is a loving mother and her children’s stability and security is her priority. She struggles to buy essentials such as shoes for them, but was just about managing. Then the DWP informed her that it was axeing both her housing benefit and income support because she had failed to show them a document. Bewildered, she said she had never been asked to produce any document.

Two calls to DWP helplines followed, which took two and a half hours. During a wait of more than 30 minutes to speak to someone, a recorded message said there was a charge for the call. But when the human adviser finally came on the line, he was unable to say how much the calls cost – presumably more than a person left without benefits could afford.

Read the rest of the article here.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 11, 2016 at 1:45 pm

Tory Shame as Benefit cuts hit.

with 80 comments

The Tories relentless assault on welfare benefits could plunge millions of more people into poverty, according to a left-leaning think tank.

An analysis of Tory welfare cuts by the Resolution Foundation and Landman Economics found that an extra 3.6 million people could be pushed below the breadline by Christmas 2030, including 1.9 million children.

Reports Welfare Weekly.

I am also struck by this ad on the same page:

Now I am not going to be told by anybody, anytime, anywhere, what I should or should not eat.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 4, 2016 at 12:40 pm

Posted in DWP, Tories, Welfare State, Workfare

Tagged with ,

More Christmas Cheer for the Sanctioned.

with 105 comments

Jobcentre Work Coach. 

Jobless and disabled people could have benefits stopped on Christmas Eve under ‘tough new sanctions regime’.

The Independent reports.

Jobless and disabled people could be stripped of their benefits this Christmas under a strict new sanctions regime for the festive period, it has been claimed.

In an apparent hardening of the Government’s attitude to welfare, those who miss a job centre appointment, interview or work capability assessment in the immediate run-up to the holidays could now be told the news on Christmas Eve itself.

The Independent had previously reported the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would be running a “business as usual” approach to Christmas this year, and was accused of taking a “Scrooge-like approach” to the season.

In new claims denied by the DWP, the SNP say this will be only the second year the approach has been taken, after a series of unwritten “special operations” were scrapped that previously protected claimants from having their Christmases ruined.

The party said concerns were raised by DWP staff themselves, who told the SNP they were made to call people up with bad news on Christmas Eve for the first time last year, and were unhappy they had to implement the alleged change in policy.

https://i1.wp.com/static.independent.co.uk/s3fs-public/styles/story_medium/public/thumbnails/image/2015/12/21/13/snp-dwp-letter.jpg

 

And there’s this from Wolverhampton Express and Star.

Homeless at Christmas: We’re a community on the streets – but it’s hard

‘Sometimes the police move me on saying I can’t beg but I’m not on benefits so how am I supposed to get money?

“They won’t give me benefits because I don’t have a home address so it’s a catch 22. If I had a roof over my head I would be alright.”

Scotty Parkin is one of the rising number of people who will find themselves living rough this Christmas.

An Express & Star investigation has discovered that there are almost 2,500 people recorded as being homeless in the Black Country and South Staffordshire – a rise of 13 per cent over the last five years.

Many are forced to sleep rough, including Scott who has been on the streets for a year.

The BBC is going to show a new programme on Boxing Day, mashing together around 3o of Dickens’ characters called Dickensian.

As somebody who’s read his London printer granddad’s complete set of Dickens I am not looking forward to what I will doubtless call a “period soap”.

In case to watch the world of Dickens I only have to walk around the streets of Ipswich and I bet I’ll see some of these sanctioned people.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 21, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Bedroom Tax: Bad News Government Tried to Bury on last Parliamentary Day of Year and…more bad news.

with 27 comments

https://i0.wp.com/politicalscrapbook.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/ids-bedroom-dining-room.jpg

God Rest You Merry Gentlemen!

Christmas Cheer: reports Enigma.

Government accused of ‘Scrooge-like’ attitude to Christmas as jobseekers could face benefit sanctions for missing appointments on Christmas Eve

The DWP will continue implementing George Osborne’s austerity measures with a ‘business-as-usual’ approach over Christmas, despite MP’s objections.
Wednesday. Independent.

Newshound Enigma found this as well,

Labour says universal credit will take 495 years to roll out as costs rise £3bn

Cost of Iain Duncan Smith’s troubled plan for benefits rises to £15.8bn as Major Projects Authority report reveals HS2 also among schemes at high risk of failing.

The overall cost of Iain Duncan Smith’s key welfare scheme appears to have risen by £3bn to £15.8bn in two years, according to an official report that shows several other significant government programmes are also in danger of collapsing.

Universal credit, the troubled programme that plans to roll six welfare benefits into one payment, has also suffered a further year’s delay and will not be fully implemented until 2020.

The figures are disclosed in a Major Projects Authority report. It also shows that more than half of all of the government’s leading projects, including HS2, are in danger of failing.

A majority of seven million benefit claimants were supposed to be on the new welfare scheme by 2019, according to a statement from Duncan Smith last year.

According to the report, the “total budgeted whole-life costs” of universal credit will be £15.84bn and will be completed in April 2020.

In 2012, the estimated cost for universal credit was £12.85bn. No figures were available in 2013 because Duncan Smith was forced to reset the entire scheme.

The scheme, championed by Duncan Smith with David Cameron’s support, received royal assent in 2012 with initial plans for a full roll-out by the 2015 general election.

A pilot scheme has been introduced in selected areas, but only 65,000 people in the UK are currently claiming universal credit, according to government data.

Stephen Timms, the acting shadow work and pensions secretary, called for the government’s spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, to review the management of the scheme.

“These new figures have shown how wrong Iain Duncan Smith is to claim universal credit is ‘on time and on budget’. It will take 495 years to fully roll out universal credit at the current rate,” he said.

Today we have this (first spotted in the unemployed’s favourite daily, the ‘I‘)

Bedroom tax

A report ordered by the Government on the effects of the so-called bedroom tax was quietly released on Thursday.

It found that the removal of the spare room subsidy – otherwise known as the bedroom tax – has increased hardship among those affected, with nearly half reporting that they had to cut back on food spending to cope, a Government-ordered study has revealed.

Three quarters of people affected by the changes regularly run out of money by the end of the week or the month, the study found.

It also reveals that only a third of people affected who applied for emergency support to pay the rent received any help.

The Guardian gives more details.

Three-quarters of people affected by the bedroom tax say they have had to cut back on food, an independent evaluation published by the Department for Work and Pensions has found.

The research found that 46% said they had cut back on heating, 33% on travel and 42% on leisure. Among a control group of tenants unaffected by the bedroom tax, far fewer – 56% – said they were cutting back on food because of benefit changes.

The findings by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research and Ipsos Mori were slipped out by the government on the last day of parliament before the winter break, along with a deluge of more than 380 other documents.

Its study found landlords were very concerned that some tenants were “in severe poverty and unable to pay the shortfall”. The report said 78% of claimants who were still affected by the bedroom tax after two years of the policy were regularly running out of money by the end of the week or month. They tended to pay the rent by using up savings, borrowing from family or friends or accruing debt.

It found that the effects of cutting back “had an impact on some claimants’ health and emotional wellbeing, with the most vulnerable reporting experiences of stress and worry”.

Claimants were able to use savings and borrowings in the first year of the bedroom tax but by the time of the second wave of qualitative research, in autumn 2014, claimants “who had been using their savings for the first year had depleted these and so were having to make greater cutbacks in their household budgets”.

The report found that only one in nine claimants escaped the bedroom tax by moving to a different property, and the vast majority of those affected were still affected nine months later.

Only 5% of those affected by the policy had been successful in finding extra work, of which half said they were then no longer affected by the bedroom tax.

A very merry Christmas looms….

Written by Andrew Coates

December 18, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Homeless Growth Boosted by Dole Sanctions.

with 42 comments

Jo the Street Urchin Has Returned to London.

One of the striking things about modern Britain is the growing number of people living on the streets.

You can see them every day in Ipswich.

According to friends parts of central London have seen an explosion in people with no permanent roof over their head.

A ‘friend’ mentions that on Saturday he saw people clearly in desperate need huddled in little groups on the pavements, from Charing Cross Road to Kings Cross. One very ill looking chap, clutching a huge blanket, was roving round Cambridge Circus in a very unhappy state.

He was only metres away from the St Gilles area, a great “rookery” of slum dwellings in Dicken’s times, where the poor and homeless gathered and where Jo the Street Sweeper found temporary sanctuary at TomAllAlone’s.

If anybody doubts Dicken’s genius and the depth of his outrage at homelessness they should read Bleak House and this letter from the same period,

THE EDITUR OF THE TIMES PAPER

Sur, — May we beg and beseech your proteckshion and power. We are Sur, as it may be, livin in a Wilderniss, so far as the rest of London knows anything of us, or as the rich and great people care about. We live in muck and filth. We aint got no priviz, no dust bins, no drains, no water-splies, and no drain or suer in the hole place. The Suer Company, in Greek St., Soho Square, all great, rich and powerfool men, take no notice watsomdever of our complaints. The Stenche of a Gully-hole is disgustin. We all of us suffer, and numbers are ill, and if the Colera comes Lord help us.

Something really bad is happening around those very streets, now.

In most places it’s the same story, it comes up simply when you mention it – though perhaps not in Iain Duncan Smith’s Chingford or in Cameron’s bijou Witney

Many more are in shelters and temporary accommodation.

In Ipswich many of them spend time in the public library.

So this report out today comes as no surprise.

The number of people on the brink of homelessness who have been helped by local councils has risen sharply over five years, says the charity Shelter.

Councils in England stepped in to help 205,100 households facing homelessness in the year to March, suggests Shelter’s analysis of government data.

In 2009-10, the figure was 140,900, indicating a rise of almost 46%, according to the charity.

The government said it had spent more than £1bn on homelessness since 2010.

But Shelter chief executive Campbell Robb called the research “truly devastating”.

The charity says its own helpline took 450,000 calls over the past year, and a quarter were from people threatened with losing their homes within a month.

The figure for the previous year was 408,927. So there were 47,773 more calls this year – a rise of 12%, says the charity.

Mr Robb said too many cases involved families with children “teetering on the brink of homelessness”.

He added the charity’s own figures suggested 100,000 children would be “waking up homeless and in unstable temporary accommodation on Christmas morning”.

“Sadly, the combination of our affordable housing shortage and cuts to welfare means that more and more parents are finding themselves struggling to keep a stable roof over their children’s heads,” said Mr Robb.

The charity says children in temporary accommodation can find it hard to cope at school.

One mother, Francesca, said her daughter became very tired because living in one room in a hostel meant she was disturbed by younger siblings at night.

“It was an incredibly difficult time for us,” she said.

“My daughter’s grades suffered because the baby would keep her up all night.

“It was also hard for her to keep her friendships going, because she couldn’t bring any of them over to play.”

BBC.

A few days ago Welfare Weekly published this,

Benefit Sanctions Leaving Vulnerable People Hungry And Homeless.

The government’s controversial benefit sanctions regime is leaving vulnerable people hungry and at risk of homelessness, a leading charity has warned.

Research conducted by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research at Sheffield Hallam University, on behalf of the homeless charity Crisis, warns that benefit sanctions are hitting vulnerable people hardest, with many pushed into poverty and destitution.

The resulting report draws on a survey of more than 1000 people from homeless hostels and day centres, as well as 42 in-depth interviews.

Researchers uncovered shocking stories of people being forced to sleep on the street and having to cope without food or heating.

Of those respondents to the survey who had been sanctioned over the last year:

  • 21% reported becoming homeless as a result;
  • 16% said they had been forced to sleep rough as a result;
  • 77% had gone hungry or skipped meals;
  • 75% said it negatively affected their mental health;
  • 64% had gone without heating;
  • 60% found it harder to look for work

Written by Andrew Coates

December 15, 2015 at 12:33 pm

In Work “Conditionality” – a Hurdle for the Poor to Jump Through.

with 39 comments

Doug and Dinsdale Piranha: ‘In-work’ Services for Universal Credit. 

Welfare Weekly signals new barriers for claimants, and a potential growth area for “sanctions”.

MPs are to examine Iain Duncan Smith’s plans for “in work conditionality” within the Universal Credit system, it has been announced today.

The Work and Pensions Committee has opened an inquiry into controversial government proposals, which would see Universal Credit claimants on low earnings required to increase their pay or hours to continue receiving benefits.

(Note: the word “required” – no the low paid will not be free to decide how much they work, but they will be “required” to undertake).

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) intends to begin “in-work progression” pilots in 2015/16, where benefit payments may be stopped if claimants fail to take action as required by the DWP.

(Note: has their ever been a “pilot” which the DWP has not deemed a “success?).

A range of pilot schemes will test different approaches to in-work conditionality within Universal Credit, but the Work and Pensions Committee says there is very little detail available about the schemes.

MPs will also look at which organisations are best-placed to deliver the in-work service, including JobCentre Plus and providers from the private, public or voluntary sectors.

(Note: our heart sank when we saw this: it means the Iain Duncan Smith has the intention of letting the bunch of private chancers already ready to leap at the opportunity to exploit the benefit system to their own advantage, in on this little wheeze).

The Committee’s inquiry will ask which claimants should be included in the pilot schemes and which should be exempt, as well as asking under what circumstances it be appropriate to sanction a Universal Credit claimant who is in work.

(Note: the word “sanction” – a fine threat for somebody working in a low paid job).

Most importantly, MPs will investigate whether any international evidence exists on effective ways of encouraging in-work progression, and whether employers can be encouraged to help workers increase their hours.

The Committee is calling for individuals and organisations to submit evidence addressing the following issues:

  • DWP’s plans for in-work progression pilots in 2015/16, and how they should be evaluated
  • Which organisations are best-placed to deliver the in-work service for DWP e.g. Jobcentre Plus/other providers from the private, public or voluntary sectors?
  • What should in-work progression support entail and how should it be delivered (e.g. regularity and nature of contact with claimants)?
  • Which groups of claimants should be included and which should be exempt?
  • How should employers be encouraged to facilitate progression?
  • In what circumstances would it be appropriate to sanction a Universal Credit claimant who is in work?
  • Is there any UK or international evidence on effective ways of encouraging in-work progression?

Frank Field MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “The welfare-to-work strategy of successive governments has begun to crack the dependency on out-of-work benefits that had appeared to be an almost intractable problem.

“Efforts now also need to be focused on a welfare-to-work strategy that not only moves claimants off out-of-work benefit, but more importantly helps them move up the pay ladder and out of poverty.

“Too many people on low benefit incomes have been encouraged into low-paid jobs whose rewards are only brought up to a more acceptable income level by tax credits and other in-work benefits.

“I hope our Committee therefore will examine the available evidence and carefully develop an approach to in-work support which is effective, and which people accept as fair.”

In other words Field considers that, “dependency” having been cracked – cruel but fair methods have to be found to ‘encourage’ people to fit into a “more acceptable” (acceptable to Field no doubt – there is little evidence that the people concerned are going to decide on the acceptability of the government’s plans).

Field and Iain Duncan Smith, the Piranha Brothers.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 13, 2015 at 10:38 am

Food Banks Gear up for Christmas.

with 53 comments

Food Banks are an emotional subject.

There is no doubt that people use them out of necessity.

There is little doubt that those running them have good intentions and work hard at what they do.

But having to ask for what is not a benefit of right, but what is ultimately a favour, is not an easy thing to do.

Nor is the prospect of having to live on the basics they offer appealing.

The ‘umble classes, and this Blog, like something “tasty” from time to time.

Whether that includes a bacon sarnie, wagon-wheels, Cornish ice-cream, a massive pizza, or wild boar cooked in truffles with a bottle of SaintÉmilion (our own choice) should be up to us, not to a Food Bank.

The government’s idea of ‘Food bank jobcentres‘ is even less attractive.

Some Food Banks (see below) also have a religious element.

This seems to be the current state of play:

Trussell Trust Warns Of Record Levels Of Food Bank Demand This Christmas

Reports Welfare Weekly.

The UK’s largest foodbank charity is warning of record levels of demand over Christmas, with struggling families facing stark choices between eating and heating.

Referrals to Trussell Trust foodbanks were 53% higher in December 2014 than the average across other months, with more than 130,000 food parcels given to families and individuals in desperate need.

The charity warns that this December could see even more people forced to turn to foodbanks, as figures show that demand has increased by 14,000.

Trussell Trust handed out 506,369 food parcels between April and September 2015, compared to 492,641 over the same period in the previous year.

Each food parcel contains the equivalent of three-days worth of food and can only be received following a referral from a frontline professional, such as housing associations and children’s centres.

Trussell Trust food bank charity lands Christmas Big Lottery Fund boost but warns of record demand levels’

East Anglian Daily Times. 8th December.

The Trussell Trust has received almost £750,000 in extra funding from the Big Lottery Fund to cope with the strain, but it is concerned that its service will still be under pressure from growing numbers of people on low incomes who will face deciding between eating and heating.

The money will contribute towards services provided by its More Than Food programme, including debt advice, money management, welfare and housing advice, courses in cooking on a budget and other training, as well as emergency food.

There are three Trussell Trust food banks in the county – East Suffolk Foodbank in Lowestoft, Haverhill Foodbank and Lakenheath Foodbank.

David McAuley, chief executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “Winter is the hardest time of year for people living on the breadline; many will face stark choices between eating and heating.

“Every year we meet families who are worried about having anything to eat on Christmas Day, who have been living and sleeping in one room to keep heating costs to the absolute minimum

“Food bank use is likely to rise significantly over the winter months and we’re anticipating that it could peak at the highest level yet this Christmas.

“Increasingly, Trussell Trust food banks are able to provide additional support services to help resolve some the underlying causes of food bank use, and this will be especially impactful over the winter months.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Big Lottery Fund for their generous support in enabling food banks to help families and individuals at the point of crisis to get back onto their feet more quickly. The funding couldn’t come at a better time.”

Nationally, between April and September this year, Trussell food banks gave out 506,369 emergency three-day food supplies, compared to 492,641 in the same period last year. December 2014 in particular saw an average increase of more than 50% in referrals to food banks compared with other months.

Food Banks  in East Suffolk. and  Ipswich (FIND is a Christian-based registered charity that was founded in 1990 to provide emergency assistance to families or individuals affected by poverty or dispossession.)

In our view too many people who should be supported by our social security system are being let down by it – with delays in benefit payments, debt, unfair benefits sanctions and the bedroom tax pushing people to the doors of food banks.

Charity is no substitute for benefits: depending on the good will of people to help is not the same as having a right to a basic minimum standard of living.

Above all, food. 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 9, 2015 at 5:14 pm

Funding Cut for Providers Of Work Programme – Despite Having “Done Fantastically”.

with 69 comments

Kirsty McHugh: Work Programme Providers have done “Fantastically”.

Last Week Boycott Workfare stated,

What might come next in relation to the Work and Health Programme?  Whatever form the scheme takes,it’s likely to ‘segment jobseekers by their characteristics, not by the benefits which they receive’. It can’t be coincidental that in a recent report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Matthew Oakley suggested: ‘a segmentation tool should be introduced to identify the relative difficulty a given individual might have in finding work because of the barriers they face’. DWP pilots involved telephoning claimants and combining that information with data already held by the department. And lengthy interviews with claimants to determine their attitudes to work. The DWP have tried this kind of thing before. It’s always invasive and it can lead to people with the ‘wrong’ attitude to work being penalised.

Signs of restructuring are coming in.

This was published yesterday.

Providers have been warned that government funding to help long-term unemployed people back into work was likely to be dramatically cut by 2020, FE Week can reveal.

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) director for contracted employment provision Matt Thurstan last month sent a letter, seen by FE Week, to providers advising on what will happen after current Work Programme contracts end in April 2017.

The scheme, launched in June 2011, involves private, public and voluntary organisations helping to find jobs for people who have normally been unemployed for at least 12 months, although shorter-term unemployed people can also be referred by local Job Centres.

Total funding to providers through the payment-by-results scheme was around £2,001m up to June — which worked out at just over £500m a-year.

But Mr Thurstan said in the letter that the department now recognised “the number of those requiring this support is reducing” — so “core funding” could be cut to just £130m-a-year by 2020/21 for a replacement scheme expected to be launched from May 2017.

“Our new provision will support long-term unemployed claimants reaching the 24-month point in their claim, as well as targeted referrals of claimants with health and disabilities issues,” he added.

Funding cut for back-to-work support The DWP currently has contracts with 15 providers for 18 regions across the country.

The only FE college group contractor is NCG, which currently covers Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country.

The DWP terminated NCG’s contract for the North East Yorkshire and the Humber last March, replacing it with Devon-based Maximus.

The DWP told FE Week at the time that this was because it was the “lowest performing [contract] assessed against a range of measures”.

No-one from NCG was available to comment, but Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) chief executive Kirsty McHugh (pictured above), which represents employment support providers, said: “The programme has done fantastically at moving the long term unemployed into work, but it’s no surprise that the new contracts from April 2017 will focus far more strongly on jobseekers with disabilities and health conditions.

“Our understanding is that the funding mentioned in the letter is the minimum available for the new work and health programme.”

A spokesperson for the Association of Employment and Learning Providers said: “The number of people who have been out of work for over a year has fallen by a quarter in the last 12 months, so providers had anticipated that a replacement programme would be on a smaller scale.”

Our hearts bleed over the fate of the poor “providers” who’ve “done fantastically”.

This choice of words that suggests an “informal” use of the word “fantastically”.

The 6 other, principal meanings are: 1 conceived or appearing as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination; odd and remarkable; bizarre; grotesque: 2. fanciful or capricious, as persons or their ideas or actions: 3.imaginary or groundless in not being based on reality; foolish or irrational: 4 extravagantly fanciful; marvellous.5. incredibly great or extreme; exorbitant: and 6.highly unrealistic or impractical; outlandish.

But what is being cooked up in the DWP and Iain Duncan Smith’s minds?

We have yet to know.

Meanwhile remember this, as Boycott Workfare points out,

….as @refuted has pointed out, the 35 hours per week of ‘work preparation activity’ that claimants have to do under Universal Credit can include workfare. It means, potentially, that workfare can continue without the need for a named scheme.

Council Tax: New Threat for the Unemployed Looms.

with 44 comments

Council Tax is a burden for anybody on benefits.

A system in which we got full relief has been replaced by an unjust scheme which means that we pay (with no rise on benefits) widely different rates according to which council area we live in.

This has been the result:

Half a million more people summoned to court over unpaid council tax, after benefits scrapped

Half a million more people were summoned to court last year over unpaid council tax, after benefits protecting low-income families from paying it were scrapped.

Almost three million people in England were taken to court by local authorities in 2013-14 because they had not paid council tax. This was an increase of more than 25 per cent on the previous tax year, according to the figures obtained via Freedom of Information by False Economy, which is brought to you by local campaigners about the cuts and their effects.

Everybody on the dole who has to pay this particular tax knows it’s low on their priorities.

So non-payment, and court cases, are rife.

Many who do pay deeply resent having what is effectively a cut in the meage income imposed in the name of ‘localism’.

Now we learn  that this chancer, Eric OBE Ollerenshaw is in charge of a “review”.

An “independent” review is to examine how local Council Tax Support (LCTS) schemes are helping low-income families across the country, it has been announced today.

Reports Welfare Weekly.

The review will be led by Eric Ollerenshaw OBE, a former council leader and Member of Parliament, who has been tasked to examine the effectiveness, fairness and transparency of newly created Council Tax Reduction schemes.

Mr Ollenshaw served as the Conservative MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood between 2010 to 2015, before losing his seat to Cat Smith of the Labour Party in the last General Election.

Before moving into politics, Mr Ollerenshaw was a full-time teacher of History and spent 30 years teaching in three comprehensive schools.

The Tory-led coalition government scrapped Council Tax Benefit in April 2013, handing local authorities the power to develop and administer their own schemes for local residents.

It’s abolition was supported by Mr Ollenshaw, which may lead to some people questioning just how “independent” the review of Council Tax Support schemes can be.

He has also consistently voted in favour of other welfare cuts and changes, including ‘Bedroom Tax’ and the controversial benefit cap.

Indeed.

His Parliamentary record shows his hard right politics:

  • Consistently voted against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices Show votes
  • Consistently voted for greater restrictions on campaigning by third parties, such as charities, during elections Show votes
  • Consistently voted for increasing the rate of VAT Show votes
  • Consistently voted for replacing Trident with a new nuclear weapons system Show votes
  • Consistently voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits

We can only speculate that cuts in this benefit, reducing us further into poverty, will be on the agenda.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 2, 2015 at 5:21 pm

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