Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

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

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As a follow up to our recent post.

From Politics Home.

Nine times more people sanctioned under Universal Credit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mind itself posts this:

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

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

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

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

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Written by Andrew Coates

August 17, 2018 at 12:01 pm

Sanctions and Homelessness: Universal Credit in Action.

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The Threat Looming Over Universal Credit Claimants.

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

This is one:

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

By Luke O’Donnell in today’s ‘I’.

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

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

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

O’Donnel continues:

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

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

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

Background: 

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

Serina Sandhu Wednesday August the 8th.

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

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

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

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

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

But sanctions can have even more devastating effects.

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

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

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

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

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

The Guardian  publishes this commentary:

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

August 14, 2018 at 11:28 am

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

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Benefit Sanctions Rise Under Universal Credit.

People may have thought that benefit sanctions had gone away.

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

Benefit sanctions may do more harm than good

The ultra-liberal Economist this week says,

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

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

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

….

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

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

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

This is the source:

BRIEFING 

David Webster (Glasgow University)

Benefit Sanctions Statistics 24 July 2018

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

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

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

This is the crucial section of the research:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Observer May 2018.

Study concludes that punishing claimants triggers profoundly negative outcomes

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

August 10, 2018 at 10:31 am

Universal Credit Leaves Families in Debt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Universal credit flaws leaving families in debt, campaign group says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full report is:

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

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

Universal credit assessment system is leaving claimants out of pocket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

§ 6 assessment periods with one payday

§ 3 assessment periods with two paydays

§ 3 assessment periods with no paydays.

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

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

There is a lot more.

They conclude:

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

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

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

Just to remind people where this ends:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 8, 2018 at 12:17 pm

Basic Income: An Alternative to Universal Credit?

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

Could a basic income replace Universal Credit? 

The BBC reports today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The article gives some discouraging  examples .

Some countries have tested paying a basic income to citizens.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They conclude:

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

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

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

Not to mention the details of the above Canadian trial:

Canada’s Ontario government cuts basic income project short

The Independent adds,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No doubt others in this small circle are as well.

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

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

And as for the principles of Basic Income….

Extreme Caution is recommended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should look at the background as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are other reasons to reject the idea:

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

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

These are their conclusions.

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

Costs.

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

No Improvement on Low Benefit levels.

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

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

Poorest households featuring as losers

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

August 3, 2018 at 4:44 pm

Universal Credit lets “abusers control family finances.”

with 46 comments

Image result for universal credit abusers

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

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

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

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

Universal Credit hands power to abusers, MPs say.

BBC.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Huffington Post highlights this:

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

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

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

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

The Huffington Post quotes this response,

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

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

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

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

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

Key findings

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

In May this year the FT published this:

Universal credit increasing risk of domestic abuse, critics claim

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

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

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

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

This what the present report’s summary says:

Universal Credit and domestic abuse 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommendations of the Committee:

Ensure the benefit system does not facilitate abuse

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

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

Ensure payments are received fairly

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

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

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

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

Improved safeguards and services

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

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

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

Appoint a domestic abuse specialist

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

August 1, 2018 at 3:27 pm

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

with 37 comments

It’s a hard life being Esther McVey.

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

Esther McVey apologises for misleading parliament – video

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

But she takes what comfort she can get.

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

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

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

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

Happy Hols Esther!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 29, 2018 at 9:36 am

Universal Credit is Creating Debt – Citizens’ Advice.

with 23 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

….

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

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

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

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

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

This their Press Release:

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

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

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

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

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

  • 35% found it difficult to provide evidence for childcare

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to:

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

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

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

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

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

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

Citizens’ Advice relies on this research:

Making a Universal Credit Claim

23 July 2018

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

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

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

In 2017 they stated:

Fixing Universal Credit.

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

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

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

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 25, 2018 at 10:46 am

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

with 67 comments

Image result for esther mcVey singing

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

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

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

The far-right Express gloats,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This a good bit,

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

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

(Indeed …)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gone is the job for life.

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

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

Audience dozes off..

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

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

Sound of loud snoring.

But hark!

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

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

Nimble is Esther’s Middle name.

The speech drones on…

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

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

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

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

Off to the bar….

And now there is this:

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

Mirror. 20th of June.

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

July 22, 2018 at 10:00 am

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

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The issue of Benefit Sanctions has not gone away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background:

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

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

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

Earlier this year these stories showed the problems sanctions cause:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is a reaction from the legal profession:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Misery of Universal Credit.

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

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

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

These are just some of the latest stories:

Birmingham Live.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Esther gave her normal Trump style reply:

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

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

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 15, 2018 at 10:34 am

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

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US Food Bank Queue.

Trump is in the news today.

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

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

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

Vox. 10th of April 2018.

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

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

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

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

Background:

United States Welfare Programs: Myths Versus Facts.

The Balance.June 26th 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest on site.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 13, 2018 at 10:23 am

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

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Esther McVey Tries to Weather Cabinet and DWP Storm.

Fun and games at Chequers,

It seems that Esther McVey did not need the taxi.

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

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

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

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

Kent on-Line. 8th of July.

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

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

So let us pause and have a look at her.

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

Will Hutton.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We await Esther’s Resignation: Now!

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

McVey’s lie is a deliberate one – intended to distract from the actual content of the National Audit Office’s report of Jun 15 which highlighted the hardship Universal Credit caused to claimants. 1 in 5 are not being payed in full on time, 40% are experiencing financial difficulties and 25% said they couldn’t make an online claim.

The report also stated that the Universal Credit system was “not value for money now, and that its future value for money is unproven”. This proves what Disabled People Against Cuts have always said – that Universal Credit is an expensive white elephant which undermines provision for disabled people, those without work and the low-paid. McVey has lied to throw dust in the eyes of Parliament and the public because our calls for this damaging policy to be stopped and scrapped are being proved to be well founded.

That McVey has given this false information knowingly is without doubt; in his letter to McVey on 27 June Sir Amyas Morse wrote: “Our report was fully agreed with senior officials in your Department. It is based on the most accurate and up-to-date information from your Department. Your Department confirmed this to me in writing on Wednesday June 6 and we then reached final agreement on the report on Friday June 8.”

The Cabinet office’s own standards state: “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister”. Other ministers who have misled Parliament such as Priti Patel have been expected to resign – there should be no exception made in the case of McVey.

It is clear that in her fanatical pursuit of creating a hostile environment for disabled people and other claimants Esther McVey has breached this code, knowingly misleading Parliament over the position of the National Audit Office regarding Universal Credit.

We call on Esther McVey to resign now – if she refuses to do the right thing and go we call on The Prime Minister, Theresa May to sack her.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 9, 2018 at 10:35 am

Esther McVey on the Way Out?

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Steve Bell 5.7.18

Esther Tries to Ride out the Storm.

Our Newshawks spotted this one:

Esther McVey has to go. Her downright lies are dangerous

In a world of fake news and downright mendacity, lying to parliament may seem like just another day in politics. But the work and pensions secretary Esther McVey’s non-apology in the Commons on Wednesday, deliberately repeating fabrications about the universal credit (UC) disaster, takes indifference to facts to a new level of insolence.

The comptroller and auditor general, Sir Amyas Morse, who is in charge of the rigorously independent National Audit Office, has a reputation for strict propriety and extreme circumspection in his public comments. It takes unprecedented misrepresentation of an NAO report to force him to take the extraordinary step of publishing his letter of reprimand to the minister in charge of the Department for Work and Pensions. What else can he do when this minister has the effrontery to refuse to meet him? She plainly takes a Trumpist approach to inconvenient realities, so why bother meeting this annoying nitpicker?

McVeyism is everywhere. Duncan Smith, the architect of UC and many other calamities in one of the most disaster-causing political careers of our time, had the gall to tell parliament that Morse’s report is “a shoddy piece of work”. As he appears on our screens day after day propounding preposterous Brexit unrealities, broadcasters should ask if there comes a point when a politician found responsible for an act of such monumental failure is stripped of all public credibility? As for McVey, her deliberate misleading of parliament is considerably worse than the actions that led to Amber Rudd’s resignation as home secretary earlier this year after she inadvertently misled the home affairs select committee. But there is no sign of any such honourable resignation from McVey.

Our friends in the Mirror report,

Esther McVey faces calls to quit after apologising for misleading MPs about benefits shake-up

Labour demanded a probe into whether the Work and Pensions Secretary broke the Ministerial Code after her humiliating climbdown over Universal Credit.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett demanded Mrs May investigate whether Ms McVey broke the Ministerial Code – which governs Whitehall ethics.

He wrote to the Prime Minister: “I urge you to conduct a full investigation into [Ms McVey’s] conduct to determine whether she knowingly misled Parliament.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Margaret Greenwood said: “The NAO report is damning about the roll out of Universal Credit, the Government’s flagship welfare programme.

“If she didn’t read it properly, that’s incompetence. If she did read it properly and knowingly misled Parliament, then she should resign.”

Lib Dem welfare spokesman Stephen Lloyd said: “ Esther McVey ’s contempt for inconvenient facts and independent, reputable bodies such as the NAO shows she is unfit for office. Theresa May should replace her.”

Commons Work and Pensions Committee chairman Frank Field added: “I’ve never seen a letter from the National Audit Office like this before in the 40 years I’ve been in Parliament.

“It’s clearly a call to end this Trumpism in British politics when you think you can stand up and say anything about what any other people have actually said.”

PCS union general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The apology from the minister will do nothing to convince those using Universal Credit, or our members who administer it, that the scheme works.

“The fact that the Auditor General has felt the need to make a public statement that the minister’s claims that Universal Credit is working are not ‘proven’ is a damning indictment.”

But who would have guessed that the far-right Mail would say this?

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey is facing calls to quit after issuing a grovelling apology for misrepresenting the findings of a Whitehall watchdog.

Ms McVey has said sorry for ‘inadvertently misleading’ MPs by wrongly claiming the National Audit Office (NAO) had concluded benefit reforms were working.

The admission in the House yesterday came after the NAO went public with a spat over a report it published last month savaging the government’s flagship benefits shake-up.

 

 

 

This is her last known Tweet:

 

If she won’t resign boot her out!

Written by Andrew Coates

July 5, 2018 at 10:08 am

Health Checks at Jobcentres as Auditor General diagnoses Esther McVey’s Advanced Porky Malady.

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Auditor General Says McVey Suffering from Advanced Porky Malady.

“I’m a GP in Kent, with an interest in public health. I’ve really enjoyed the discussion, and this has been really useful to us. We do NHS Health Checks here in my practice. In terms of targeting the people who would most benefit, and I’m aware that there’s an issue with who would do this, but I think we should use places like job centres, food banks and the housing team to publicise this – because, that is where a lot of the people who would benefit most might be found. “

Health Matters – Using NHS Health Checks to optimise CVD care – Your questions answered.

Lo and Behold, in Ipswich…

Our Health Check team are conducting health checks at Ipswich Jobcentre EVERY Wednesday 10:00am-4pm. Please speak with your Work Coach, call 01473 298772 or respond to this email  to make an appointment.
 
https://onelifesuffolk.co.uk/
NHS Health Checks are a bit like a midlife MOT
Not had a health check in the past 5 years?
If you are aged 40-74 OneLife Suffolk can offer you a FREE NHS health check to assess your general health and your risk of cardiovascular disease.
http://onelifesuffolk.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Health-Checks-June-2017.pdf
Access Criteria:

 

  • 40-74 years old
  • Not had an NHS Health Check in the last 5 years
  • Resident in Suffolk, Essex, or Norfolk

 

  • No current diagnosis for hear  (sic) disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, kidney disease or vascular dementia.

Perhaps Esther McVey – apparently suffering from Advanced Porky Malady – should give this one a whirl.

(Just out from the Independent)

Esther McVey made incorrect statements to MPs over universal credit roll out, says government spending watchdog

Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse said Ms McVey’s claim the NAO was concerned that universal credit was rolling out too slowly was ‘not correct’.

Whitehall’s spending watchdog has written to cabinet minister Esther McVey to complain over a series of incorrect claims to parliament about its critical report of the roll-out of universal credit.

The National Audit Office (NAO) took the highly unusual step to rebuke the work and pensions secretary, after she dismissed the catalogue of failing outlined by auditors last month in their major report into the government’s flagship welfare programme.

In an open letter to Ms McVey, which is likely to raise questions about her future as a cabinet minister, Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse said that elements of her statement to Parliament on the report were incorrect and unproven.

He said it was “odd” that Ms McVey told MPs that the NAO did not take into account recent changes in the administration of universal credit, when the report had in fact been “fully agreed” with senior officials at the Department for Work and Pensions only days earlier.#

Sir Amyas added that Ms McVey’s claim that the NAO was concerned that Universal Credit was rolling out too slowly was “not correct”.

Her assurance, in response to the report, that Universal Credit was working was also “not proven”, said Sir Amyas.

In its report on June 15, the NAO highlighted the hardship caused to claimants by delays in receiving payments under universal credit.

It concluded that the new system – being gradually introduced to replace a number of benefits – was “not value for money now, and that its future value for money is unproven”.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 4, 2018 at 10:36 am

Iain Duncan Smith Rumoured to Seek Cognitive Therapy as his Universal Credit System Worsens.

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Creator of Universal Credit Rumoured to be up for Cognitive Therapy.

Every day I walk past Major’s Corner in Ipswich.

Often there are people in a dire state.

Every day I walk round Ipswich town centre and get asked for money from people in a dire state.

I hear all the time from people with problems with finding work, pay, bills, and with benefits.

This is not remarkable: it’s the case for just about every town and city in the country.

What is is clear is that the more that the government’s welfare ‘reforms’ it’s getting worse.

From , Two-child policy’ cuts benefits of more than 70,000 families

Campaigners warn poverty will rise as low-income families lose financial support.

To this, which is typical of the hundreds of reports now filling local and regional papers,

Ex-serviceman facing eviction after receiving just £84 Universal Credit for one month

Grimsby live. 28th of June.

Brian Lister has fallen into rental arrears after receiving only £84 Universal Credit in one month.

An ex-serviceman is facing eviction from his home after receiving just £84 of Universal Credit to live on in one month.

Brian Lister, 61, of Hildyard Street, served for 15 years in the RAF as a telecommunication operator, where he toured in Northern Ireland during the height of the troubles, and is now being told that he faces eviction from his Lincolnshire Housing Partnership home after falling behind on his rent because of Universal Credit.

He owes his landlord £260, and has been threatened with court costs of £325, if he is not able to clear his debts.

He says that the problems all started because his Universal Credit payment was heavily deducted due to him having been working for an agency, and Universal Credit deducted 63p for every pound that he is meant to have earned.

It has come to a sorry pass when even Money Week, not a journal of the radical left, publishes this,

Universal credit and the Tories’ stumbling welfare reforms

What happened?

Two big problems. First, as part of his spending cuts, George Osborne (as chancellor in 2010-2016) cut the level that claimants could earn before their benefits were withdrawn, thus saving money but reducing the reform’s effectiveness in creating an incentive to work. The overall result is that the universal-credit system is expected to be about 3% less generous overall than the previous system, shaving £2bn off the total spend. That means that many claimants – in particular self-employed people – will be worse off than under the previous system. Meanwhile, the Office for Budget Responsibility argues that the reform may in practice not save as much as ministers hope, and that the uncertainty poses a “significant risk” to the public finances in coming years as the numbers grow. Only 660,000 people (around 10% of all claimants) were in receipt of universal credit by last November, but the rollout of the benefit is expected to gather pace this year, with two million people projected to be covered by March 2019 and about seven million by 2022-2023.

And the second big problem?

The rollout, costing £2bn to date, has been shambolic – due to multiple management and IT failures and to radical flaws in the overall design. For example, a key benefit of universal credit is supposed to be simplicity and a smoother claim system. But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) greatly overestimated the number of claimants who would be able to confirm their identity online using the government’s online interface Verify. The officials reckoned on 90%, but the reality is just 38% (according to the National Audit Office, or NAO), meaning the supposed savings are much lower amid administrative chaos. Additionally, under the new system claimants receive one monthly payment, but have to wait five weeks – and in many cases much longer – for their claim to be assessed.

Why is that such a problem?

Many low earners are paid weekly, not monthly, and reams of research show that people on low incomes struggle to budget over long periods. And the five-week wait for money, in cases where people have no other savings or resources, has proved disastrous – leading to real hardship: a surge in the use of food banks in the areas where universal credit has been brought in; a spike in rent arrears and evictions; and widespread reports of private landlords now refusing to let to benefit claimants. The NAO report is harsh in its criticism of the DWP for failing to react to the mounting evidence of real hardship – from claimants and other stakeholders including landlords and welfare advisers – and instead being “defensive, insensitive,
and dismissive”.

Will it get more people into work?

No one knows, but there are reasons to be sceptical. The NAO says that the DWP will “never be able to measure” whether universal credit actually leads to 200,000 more people in work, because it cannot isolate the effect of the reform from other factors that raise employment. The way the DWP has rolled out the reform means it “lacks appropriate control groups” of legacy (old system) claimants, says the NAO, and “the larger claims for universal credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in the future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”

Wilson concludes,

 Despite evidence that it should pause the scheme, change course, or “risk doing real damage”, the government seems determined to plough ahead with this “giant, increasingly unpopular project”.

No wonder the creator of Universal Credit, Iain Duncan Smith is rumoured to be shortly bundled off for treatment by “nerve specialist” Sir Roderick Glossop with cognitive therapy in a special rest home.

Here is his cry for help:

Tory Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith links CBI to Nazi appeasement.

“Before World War II, as the historian Andrew Roberts has pointed out, the Federation of British Industries – the forerunner of the CBI – supported both the Gold Standard (which, in its constraints on a government’s ability to manage the economy is an instrument of jobs destruction), and the appeasement of Nazi Germany.

“Between 1937 and 1939, while the Nazis were opening their concentration camps, the FBI oversaw the creation of no fewer than 33 separate agreements between British and German business groups.”

Also citing CBI support for nationalisation, the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and the euro, as well as hostility to Margaret Thatcher’s policies, Mr Duncan Smith said the organisation has historically been “wrong” with “amazing consistency”.

“Yet the worry is, despite the CBI’s appalling track record, when it comes to Brexit, aggressive corporate campaigning could have a pivotal impact on government policy by forcing Britain to remain, in effect, under EU rules,” he added.

“There are already signs that this is happening, with key figures in the cabinet now acting as cheerleaders for the argument – made by BMW and Airbus – that Britain must remain as closely aligned to the single market and customs union as possible.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 1, 2018 at 11:51 am

Plans to Extend Universal Credit Misery to all Claimants.

with 42 comments

Image result for esther mcVey miserable

Esther McVey: Universal Credit Misery Loves Company.

The government is “considering” “to move existing claimants in receipt of a working age income-related benefit to Universal Credit. that is, they intend everybody on benefits to submit to the new system.

Why?

Eight years after implementation of Universal Credit began still only 10 per cent of the expected eventual number of claimants are on the system and significant numbers of those are not paid on time. Some 20 per cent of those paid late, usually the more needy and complicated cases, have waited a staggering five months or more to be paid. These aren’t early teething problems as now, eight years after the first introduction of the benefit one-fifth of new claimants in March 2018 did not receive their full entitlement on time.

Indeed homelessness and depression is likely to arrive more quickly than payment of the benefit. Without reliance on families and friends, foodbanks and other charities, Universal Credit claimants would be likely to lose their health and their housing. This is the very essence of the Dickensian Britain the Tory government presides over.

It looks like a lot more Dickens is about to hit Britain as plans are afloat to move all claimants onto Universal Credit.

Universal Credit next steps: have your say

The end of my time as Chair of SSAC is now rapidly approaching – I stand down at the end of July. But this week’s meeting (June 20) of the Committee saw us considering perhaps the most important set of legislative proposals – in the form of draft regulations – coming to us from the Government for scrutiny in the last few years. The rollout of Universal Credit (UC) is reaching a critical point as DWP plan for the launch next year of moving all recipients of the old “legacy” benefits – mainly employment support allowance, housing benefit and tax credits – to the new integrated UC system. This so-called “managed migration” will affect around three million people.

The implementation plan for UC has changed very considerably from when the Committee scrutinised the initial regulations for the new benefit back in 2012. Rollout is now, very sensibly, much more gradual and the Committee welcomes the stated intention to “test and learn”, as well as some of the detailed changes in the policy already announced. The challenges encountered so far, and the resulting mix of successes and setbacks, have been widely publicised. But the move to full national rollout unquestionably raises those challenges to an even higher, more demanding, level.

The Committee therefore quickly concluded that we should undertake a full public consultation exercise before completing our scrutiny process – at which point we will put our advice to Ministers which they are then obliged to publish before the draft regulations are debated in Parliament. We are launching that consultation process today.

The draft regulations now include some important further developments in the detailed design of the policy – notably the requirement for all existing benefit and tax credit recipients to make a claim for UC and ensure they do so within precise timescales, plus the detail and extent of the “transitional protection” arrangements for those claimants who might otherwise see a fall in their benefit entitlement. But there are also important proposals on the delivery logistics for the rollout, and the Committee is keen for the consultation to generate input on all aspects of this package.

We recognise that the timetable for this consultation – in the run up to the main holiday season – is a challenge in itself. But we hope that providing two months for responses will allow the opportunity for interested parties in all parts of the UK to participate in the exercise.

By the time this consultation finishes I will have taken my leave from SSAC. It’s been both a privilege and a pleasure to chair the Committee since late 2011, and I am most grateful to everyone who has engaged with SSAC and enriched our work during that time. I am delighted to be handing over the role to Ian Diamond, who I’m sure will find it as rewarding and enjoyable as I have. Do please ensure that the evidence and insights Ian and the rest of the Committee have at their disposal following this consultation is as full and rich as it can be, so that they can prepare a compelling, independent, evidence based and constructive report for Ministers and Parliament on the proposals for this important next stage in the evolution of the UK social security system for people of working age.

Amongst the comments (Leave a comment here) these stand out,

Universal Credit is based far too much on coercion through sanctions.

Making people on legacy benefits make a fresh claim is putting more pressure on disabled people. Many of whom have mental health problems.

Stop this inhumane and disastrous Universal Credit it has caused more harm than good and the people who instigated it should be deeply ashamed about it .It is savage and cruel and ill conceived and the sooner it is stopped the less casualties there will be.

The whole ethos of “Universal Credit” is to inflict hardship and destitution to the most vulnerable people in society.

Transferring the sick and disabled onto UC from legacy benefits is the worst idea possible. It means an immediate wait of up to 8 weeks before funds are received – for people that are already living on the breadline and have no savings to live on during the waiting period – people who rely on these funds for things like food, power, medicine and rent who will risk losing their homes, starvation and inability to pay carers or take their medication, in effect – condemning them to misery and fear – deliberately.

Government proposal to move claimants on ‘legacy’ benefits to Universal Credit: consultation announced.

.

Seeing as this document is not handed out in Job centres we give it in full.

The SSAC is consulting on proposals to move existing claimants in receipt of a working age income-related benefit to Universal Credit.

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has today launched a public consultation on proposals for moving all existing claimants of a working age income-related benefit to Universal Credit.

From next year DWP will begin the process of moving claimants in receipt of one or more of the following benefits to Universal Credit:

  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit

The wide-ranging draft legislation, which was presented to the committee for scrutiny at its meeting on 20 June 2018, sets out the government’s proposals on:

  1. requirements for claimants on existing benefits to make a claim for Universal Credit (including the deadlines for doing so) and arrangements for ending their existing benefit
  2. the calculation, award and ongoing treatment of transitional protection

The task of safely moving around 3 million claimants (in around 2 million households) from legacy benefits to Universal Credit raises important questions about the delivery challenge facing the department and the potential impact on claimants.

SSAC has therefore decided to examine this draft legislation, and the impacts that flow from it, in more detail. To help inform this work, the committee would welcome evidence from a broad range of organisations and individuals who have good insight into and/or experience of the following aspects of these proposals:

  • the overall migration timetable
  • arrangements for contacting claimants and inviting claims from them
  • issues associated with making a claim, and ending legacy benefit claims
  • the calculation of transitional protection (including the treatment of earnings and capital)
  • the impact of proposed transitional protection (including how easily it will be delivered and the degree to which it will be understood by claimants)
  • the impact on workers, including the self-employed
  • equality impact (whether there will be particular effects for different groups and how these can best be addressed), for example are there any groups that will not be covered by transitional protection?
  • monitoring and evaluation

The committee would welcome responses to ensure that its advice to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is informed by a range of perspectives. The committee would welcome real or hypothetical case studies or specific examples as part of that evidence.

Paul Gray, the committee’s Chair, said:

The planned rollout of Universal Credit is now reaching its most critical and challenging stage. The government’s draft proposals involve major issues on both detailed entitlement rules and delivery logistics, and are due to be debated in Parliament later this year. SSAC is keen to ensure that the scrutiny report it submits to ministers and Parliament is as well informed as possible, and we therefore strongly encourage all organisations and individuals with relevant evidence to take part in this consultation process.

Please note that we are not consulting on the government’s overarching Universal Credit policy, which is enshrined in primary legislation following Parliamentary scrutiny during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. Comments on this will not be considered.

Responses should be submitted to the Committee Secretary by no later than 10am on Monday 20 August:

The Committee Secretary
Social Security Advisory Committee
5th Floor
Caxton House
Tothill Street
London
SW1H 9NA

Written by Andrew Coates

June 27, 2018 at 4:20 pm

Universal Credit Registering Online (Gov.Uk Verify) Causes Chaos.

with 74 comments

Image result for Gov uk verify

Certifiable Company Causes Benefit Misery.

GOV.UK Verify overview

GOV.UK Verify is a secure way to prove who you are online.

It makes it safe, quick and easy to access government services like filing your tax or checking the information on your driving licence.

When you use GOV.UK Verify, you don’t need to prove your identity in person or wait for something to arrive in the post.

Despite the easy-peasy, quick and safe assertion, this happened earlier this year,

“Hundreds of thousands of benefits claimants could be unable to register for the new Universal Credit (UC) digital service because of problems using the government’s online identity system Gov.uk Verify, according to new figures that show barely a third of UC users successfully use Verify.”

Computer Weekly.

And,

MPs point to Verify as one of universal credit problems

UKA.

Committee report says slow take-up of identity assurance mechanisms is hold back the digitisation element of the DWP’s flagship programme

The GOV.UK Verify service is not being used as widely as expected in claims for universal credit and is contributing to delays in the digitisation of the process, according to a new report by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

It has pointed to the problem in its latest project assessment review for universal credit, the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) flagship programme for the consolidation of state benefits.

Verify, the online identity assurance platform developed by the Government Digital Service (GDS), was identified as a possible mechanism for claimants to prove their identities in 2015 trials of the digital service. But the report says that by March of last year only 30% of claimants were able to complete the process for Verify, compared with an original projection of 80%.

DWP responded by developing an in-house system named Prove your Identity, and in July of last year said that this and Verify combined could achieve a verification success rate of 50%. A third option working to a lower assurance standard, Verify LOA 1, has also been developed with GDS, but there is still a perception that digitisation is moving too slowly.

Subsequently, the reliance on face-to-face processes to authenticate claimants’ identities is likely to continue, which in turn undermines the chances of DWP achieving its promised efficiency gains.

Additional issues

This has been one of handful of problems affecting the roll out of the digital service supporting universal credit: an assurance and action plan in March of last year also pointed to issues around automation, IT performance and management information, and said that operational targets were not being met. Subsequently, the digital service is now operating with more staff and fewer claimants than DWP had expected.

Overall, the report says there have been chronic delays and revisions in the implementation of universal credit since it was conceived in 2010, and that the digital service is being rolled out much more slowly than forecast: now at 10 Jobcentres per month rather than an earlier plan’s rate of 60.

Bryan Glick (Computer Weekly) wrote in March,

The government’s major project experts warned as early as 2015 that performance problems with the Gov.uk Verify identity assurance system would have a “material effect” on the business plan for Universal Credit.

This is on Friday: (BBC. 22nd of June)

Jenny Lewis has never owned a passport or a driving licence – and it meant she had to wait months to receive her benefit money.

The documents are needed to apply for Universal Credit online but Jenny said cars and holidays are luxuries she cannot afford.

Delays in her application left her “degraded” and looking for food.

The UK government said “arrangements are in place” to support people who cannot apply online.

“The system is terrible, it’s stupid – if you can’t afford to go abroad you’re not going to get a passport, if you can’t afford a car you’re not going to get a driving licence,” said Jenny, from Newport.

Staff at the Pobl Group, which provides care, support and housing in the Newport area, said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is wrong to believe most people will have a passport, driving licence or even access to the internet.

They believe only around a third of people are registering for Universal Credit online and it is causing a backlog for face-to-face appointments.

The article continues all too believably,

Kath Hopkins, Moneysaver Project Officer with the Pobl Group, said the “vast majority” cannot apply online.

“Most people on low incomes don’t have photographic identification,” she said.

“Why would you have a passport or driving licence – you can’t go on holiday, you can’t afford to buy a car.

“Without that you can’t go through the online process and we’re finding that as an advice organisation we haven’t been able to help one single person verify their identification online”.

She added: “Some people have been going to high cost lenders, and some people have been going to loan sharks because of this delay”.

There is concern that this delay is in addition to other delays in the Universal Credit system. It can take more than a month to receive your first payment after submitting an application.

The issue was raised recently in the House of Commons by Newport East MP Jessica Morden, who called on ministers to review and speed up the process for initial Universal Credit claims.

This is her question: Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)

Constituents who cannot afford a driving licence or a passport cannot do an initial online verification of their universal credit claim, meaning that they have to wait up to two weeks in order to be seen for a personal appointment. That is driving people to see loan sharks in some cases, so will the Minister look at it?

This is the feeble reply,

Alok Sharma

I will look at it, but if the hon. Lady would come forward with specific cases, that would make it easier.

The DWP Alternative Facts Department (Artificial Intelligence Bureau)  gets space to issue a stout defence of their system.

A DWP official said it was working to ensure its Verify identity scheme is “an effective and secure means to confirm someone’s identity when they make a claim to full Universal Credit”.

They said it is expected that most people will use the Verify scheme it when they first make their online claim.

“In a minority of cases where it’s not possible for claimants to have their identity confirmed through Verify arrangements are in place to support those people,” said the DWP spokesperson.

The UK government department said a complimentary service called “Prove Your Identity” has been trialled in a number of sites, with a view to rolling out the service later in the year following a review.

The official added: “We are rolling Universal Credit out successfully across the country and we’ve made a number of improvements.

“We’ve introduced 100% advances to support people before their first payment, removed the seven waiting days and implemented two weeks’ extra housing support for claimants moving onto Universal Credit.”

Written by Andrew Coates

June 24, 2018 at 10:38 am

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

with 28 comments

Image result for esther mcvey cartoon universal credit

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

Independent.

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

Universal Credit and Welfare Changes

It includes this:

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

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

….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This gem should not go unnoticed,

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

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

Esther smiles, smirks and simpers,

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

Wise advice!

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

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

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

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

“The hon. Lady should stop scaremongering. “

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

June 21, 2018 at 3:34 pm

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

with 39 comments

Image result for synths channel four

Your New Job Coach?

Thanks to Newshound Superted.

DWP to increase role of AI. Mel Poluck

Monday 18 June 2018

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

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

Pause for breath:

Image result for synths channel four

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenges outlined

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

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

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

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

Listen to the full podcast.

Image result for synths channel four

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

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

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

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

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

Earlier experiments in the use of AI by the DWP were not a success.
Herman.Munster.jpg

Written by Andrew Coates

June 19, 2018 at 10:40 am

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

with 52 comments

Image result for work and health programme cartoon

Yuk!

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

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

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

NHS England. 12 of June.

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

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

This move is part of a broader picture.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

….

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

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

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

Pause.

Remember this? (BBC June 2015).

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

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

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

Here is the report:

 

 

Back to Kitty:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As the Royal College of Psychiatrists says,

Work is a key clinical outcome

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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Image result for universal credit unite community universal credit

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

Key findings in the National Audit Office included:

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

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

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

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

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

But the report is devastating enough.

Summary – Rolling out Universal Credit.

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

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

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

Other elements:

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

This is a good newspaper report.

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

  Guardian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is another BBC report.

35 Hours a Week Job Search. The Nightmare Continues.

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Image result for ian duncan smith

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

 

35 hours a week jobsearch tool-2

35 Hours a Week Job Search.

A few years ago we published the above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some people have posted comments saying the same.

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

Your activity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The response includes this:

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

Yours sincerely,
DWP Central FoI Team

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

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

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

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

Another  request asked,

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

This was the response.

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

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

The Daily Job Seeker.

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

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

1. What I did:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. What I did:

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

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

What was the result? Found two possible jobs at

1) Sports Direct – closing date 29 March

2) New Look – closing date 5 April

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

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

Total time taken: 22 hours

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

3. What I did:

I registered on Universal Jobmatch on 11 March.

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

What was the result? I applied for two jobs at

1) Subway – closing date 14 March

2) Greggs – closing date 18 March

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

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

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

Total time taken: 10 hours

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

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

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

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

This is funnier.

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

Though this is wise advice.

Image result for viz top tips

Destitution in the UK Set to Rise with Universal Credit.

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Image result for destitution in the uk

During the week this story hit the headlines:

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

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

..

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

Here is the full report: Destitution in the UK 2018

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

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

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

It was in this seaside resort that he found this,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One that is bound to get worse with Universal Credit.

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

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

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

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

Here are the report’s recommendations.

Solutions to destitution

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

This can be summarised that immediately:

The UK Government needs to:

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

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 10, 2018 at 9:35 am

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

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Body outlines from murder crime scenes appear outside JobCentres in Birmingham

DWP Suggests This Might be a Protest!

No automatic alt text available.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Inspector clouseau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Meanwhile, in today’s Guardian.

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

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

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

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

The Independent today.

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2018 at 10:20 am

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

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Image result for end of free school meals

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

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

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

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

Our campaign to fix Universal Credit

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

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

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

Frankly, this is not much.

We need a full alternative worked-out policy.

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

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

Independent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nursery World backs this claim up.

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

June 3, 2018 at 10:33 am

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

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Image result for universal credit cartoon

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

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

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

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

Hard to make head or tail of some of it.

Not to mention Find a Job….

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is seriously not funny.

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

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

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

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

In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything

Written by Andrew Coates

May 30, 2018 at 11:57 am

Ipswich Joins  Stop Universal Credit Day of Action.

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Image may contain: 10 people, people smiling

Us lot in Ipswich.

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

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

 

.Image may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people standing, motorcycle and outdoor

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

Written by Andrew Coates

May 25, 2018 at 11:49 am

Find a Job to Create Bureaucratic Nightmare.

with 168 comments

 

 

 

Image result for replacing universal JObmatch

 

Bureaucratic Nightmare. 

 

Find a Job service to replace Universal Jobmatch

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

 

I really do not like this bit:

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

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

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

You will also need to download the following documents:

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

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

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

Doug comments,

Important points of findajob to take note on

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

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

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

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

Doug.

Still somebody seems to be happy.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 16, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Channel Four Dispatches Lifts the Lid on Universal Credit.

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Image result for UNiversal credit

 

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

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

A mess is polite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waits, muddles, mistakes, and…..

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

 

Civil servants’ concerns over Universal Credit roll out

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shock poll suggests misgivings among benefits officials.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Serwotka discussing Universal Credit on C4 Dispatches

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 8, 2018 at 9:04 am

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

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Disabled people protesting against benefit cuts

Judicial Review of Universal Credit,

4 February 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DPAC:

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

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

Vigil called by Disabled People Against Cuts and Winvisible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They continue,

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

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

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

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

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

 

This is a striking detail:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

May 5, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Universal Credit Behavioural Change Scandal to Follow Windrush.

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Claimants forced into Experiment in Behavioural Change.

A commentator writes,

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

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

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

As people here show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…..

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

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

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

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

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

It is part of this:

Digital challenge of Universal Credit. (Local Government)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2018 at 10:04 am

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

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Image result for adzuna chief ninja

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Minister for Employment, Alok Sharma, said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why should Find-a-Job be any different?

Percy S.

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

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

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

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

JJ.Joop.

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

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

Percy S.

Seasoned commentator Superted says,

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

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

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

Expert advice from Ken,

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

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

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

What kind of jobs will they circulate?

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

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

And,

The Deadliest Jobs in The UK – 2018.

And, today’s job:

Eyebrow Expert – Liverpool

BENEFIT COSMETICS UK – LIVERPOOL , MERSEYSIDE

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

What is the company behind the pretentious name?

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

April 28, 2018 at 10:11 am

Food Bank Need Rockets as Universal Credit Hits Benefit Claimants.

with 54 comments

Food bank chart

Thanks to Who Knew.

Food bank charity gives record level of supplies.

BBC.

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

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

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

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

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

At this point the Mirror helpfully points this out.

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

And the Trussell Trust itself says,

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

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

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

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

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

The Trust continues,

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

April 24, 2018 at 10:38 am

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

with 67 comments

Image result for Esther mcVey cartoon

Esther McVey on a Good Day.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

More details follow in the article including this:

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2018 at 10:24 am

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

with 73 comments

Image result for sack esther mcvey

 

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

That is putting things mildly.

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

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

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

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

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

This is the scandal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2018 at 10:11 am

New Benefits Sanctions Inquiry.

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Related image

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

Universal Credit Sanctions

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

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

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

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

Absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions

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

This has not received the attention it deserves.

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

Benefit sanctions inquiry launched

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

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

Recent policy developments

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

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

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

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

Send us your views

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

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

The deadline for written submissions is 25 May 2018.

Sanctions need to be proportional and fair

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“Sanctions are an important part of any benefits system but they need to be applied proportionately and fairly and to account for individual circumstances.

I’ve seen deeply troubling cases in my constituency that suggest these objectives are not always being achieved. We will be reviewing the evidence to see if sanctions policy is working properly and if not, we will recommend improvements.”

 

Scope of the inquiry

The  inquiry will look at recent sanctions policy developments, like the “yellow card” system which gives claimants 14 days to challenge a decision to impose a sanction before it is put into effect. The system was announced in late 2015 although there is still no date for introducing it.

The inquiry will also consider the evidence base for the impact of sanctions, both that emerging from newly published statistics, and the robustness of the evidence base for the current use of sanctions as a means of achieving policy objectives.  Previously published in the Department’s quarterly statistical summaries, the Benefit Sanctions Statistics will now be a separate quarterly publication.

Terms of reference: Benefit sanctions

Related image

Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2018 at 9:29 am

Universal Credit Misery Comes to Suffolk.

with 52 comments

Universal Credit Full Service is expected to be introduced at Ipswich Jobcentre on the 25th of April 2018.

Already people are talking about what this will mean for them.

One group seriously affected are the self-employed and others reliant on tax credits.

Friends who work for a number of jobs over the year are particularly worried as they reckon they will lose up to a couple of thousand pounds annually.

They have been good girls and boys, getting into the “gig economy” (that is, the only employment on offer for many),  doing jobs like taxi driving,  a host of other things which are now down by the ‘self-employed’ , short-term posts for particularly events.

Now they face losing cash in a big way.

Not to mention the way it will bear down on them in other ways as pictured above.

There are plenty of reports on how this will attack them in the pocket.

The TUC goes into some detail.

The complexity and hardship with which Universal Credit (UC) threatens to engulf self-employed workers is one of the underreported stories of the design of UC.

In UC, they will face in-work benefit cuts if they do not meet the ‘Minimum Income Floor’ (MIF), which requires them to earn the equivalent of 35 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage. There is no such requirement for employees.  In addition, the monthly income assessments in UC are expected to be problematic for the self-employed, as they are more likely to have unpredictable and fluctuating earnings.

The new self-employed

Self-employment has grown significantly since the recession. There are now almost an extra million self-employed workers, increasing the self–employed workforce to just under five million and 15 per cent of the total workforce.  Part time self-employment has seen the biggest expansion, rising by 55 per cent to reach around 1.5 million people.

Earnings data for the self-employed indicate that they are more likely to be on lower earnings compared to employees. The Family Resources Survey shows that median earnings for the self-employed are around 60 per cent of those of employees. The Social Market Foundation (SMF) estimates that in 2016 there were 1.7 million self-employed workers paid below the National Living Wage. This group accounts for 45 per cent of the self-employed in the UK.

The SMF also estimates that around a fifth (19 per cent) of families with an individual whose main job is self-employment are claiming in-work benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit that will be replaced by Universal Credit.

This makes the results clear.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT WILL BE A DISASTER FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED. WHO IS LISTENING?

As the table below shows, two people can earn the same amount over the course of the year yet end up with very different UC payments because one has lumpier income patterns than the other. The MIF may also be triggered when claimants have a large expense in one month, such as an investment in tools or a hefty energy bill.

And there is this:

40,000 Universal Credit claimants will see 40% of their benefits clawed back. Mirror. 8th of April.

As the Department of Work and Pensions says it has a ‘duty’ to recover outstanding overpayments, Labour claims the move will force some into debt

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants are having 40% of their benefits deducted to claw back outstanding cash owed.

Labour MP Ruth George said the move “will see more people with no option but to go into debt”.

The Department for Work and Pensions can directly collect debts from Universal Credit including for previous benefit and tax credits overpayments.

Remember!

Help is at hand from Ipswich Citizens Advice as Universal Credit roll out continues

Ipswich Citizens Advice is encouraging people to turn to them for help if they have questions about Universal Credit and how it affects them, as new government figures reveal 50 people across Ipswich are now on the benefit and with all single, non-home owning people claiming an out of work benefit being moved on to this benefit, the numbers will grow exponentially.

Since its introduction in Ipswich in November 2015, Ipswich Citizens Advice has helped people with 17 issues relating to Universal Credit. This represents almost a third of claimants.

Most enquiries to Ipswich Citizens Advice are about who is eligible for the benefit and requests for help with the application process. ‘We are keen to help people through this new benefits roadmap and particularly to help them understand the major changes that claiming this benefit will mean for them in terms of payment periods and the necessary budgeting and money management that will be needed to avoid debts building up or threatening tenancies,’ says Nelleke van Helfteren, Deputy Manager at Ipswich Citizens Advice.

Data released by the Department for Work and Pensions on 17 February shows that nearly 200,000 people are now on Universal Credit.

Universal Credit rolls six working-age benefits into one single monthly payment, supporting people who are on a low income or out of work. It is being introduced in stages across the country, in the first instance to single people who are making new  claims. It will eventually be rolled out to couples, families and people who are sick or disabled.

As new Universal Credit figures are released, Ipswich Citizens Advice is sharing its five key things you need to know about Universal Credit:

  1. Universal Credit is a new benefit for people in and out of work, which will eventually merge six benefits into one: Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. Currently you can still apply for ESA separately from Universal Credit.
  2. Universal Credit does not include Council Tax Support – you will still need to apply for this locally.
  3. You apply for Universal Credit via a single application; you’re usually expected to do this online, but you can apply over the phone or in person if you need to.
  4. Universal Credit payments are made on a monthly basis, rather than weekly or fortnightly like previous benefit.
  5. You can ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit to help you get by while you’re waiting for your first payment. This is called a ‘short term advance’.

Just to help the thieving Tories who run Suffolk County Council have cut CAB funding.

Citizens Advice charities are facing a £20,000 funding cut from Suffolk County Council for 2018-19 – an average of just over £2,000 for each of the nine charities in Suffolk.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 11, 2018 at 10:20 am

Margaret Greenwood, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions: Speaking out on Universal Credit.

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Image result for Margaret Greenwood defeated esther mcvey

Margaret Greenwood Defeats Esther McVey (General Election. 2015)

In  March 2018 Greenwood began acting as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after Debbie Abrahams temporarily stepped aside.

In a very nice touch, “Greenwood will be shadowing Esther McVey, the previous MP for Wirral West

Last year as Shadow for Employment Greenwood showed she grasped the depths of the problems Universal Credit was causing,

Margaret Greenwood MP, Shadow Employment and Inequalities Minister, has given a cautious welcome to changes to Universal Credit announced in the Budget today, but warned that they go nothing like far enough to help families on low income struggling to pay bills, with inflation overall at nearly 3% and food prices rising at the highest rate for 4 years.

Margaret Greenwood MP said:

“Just a few weeks ago, the government was defeated in the House of Commons over their plans for Universal Credit.

“After strong pressure by Labour and a long list of voluntary organisations, it’s welcome that the government is at last listening to the widespread concern about the problems with Universal Credit.

“However, the changes announced today don’t go anything like far enough to fix it and they will not even start until the New Year, leaving tens of thousands of families with children facing a bleak Christmas.

“Food prices are rising at their highest rate for 4 years and the Trussell Trust recently reported that foodbanks in areas where the full service of UC has been rolled out have seen a 30% increase in requests for help in the first six months compared to last year.

“7 million households are expected to be claiming Universal Credit by 2022.

“The Chancellor failed again to reverse cuts to work incentives in Universal Credit which were meant to ensure that work always pays as people enter employment.

“The full service of Universal Credit is being introduced in Wirral this month and I will be keeping up the pressure on the government to try to ensure that people are not pushed into poverty by a benefit supposed to prevent it.”

23 Nov 2017

At the end of December she said,

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow minister for employment, said: “Universal credit is causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces. This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll out of universal credit so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Fri 29 Dec 2017  Councils forced to fund emergency help for universal credit claimants

And (Morning Star)

COUNCILS are having to use their own cash to fix the damage caused by the introduction of universal credit (UC), Labour’s shadow employment minister Margaret Greenwood charged yesterday.

She said that local authorities are diverting funds to plug gaps in the government’s flagship benefit reform scheme.

Measures taken by councils include providing funds for tenants in rent arrears, hiring extra staff, as well as working with foodbanks and Citizens Advice to “offset the impact” of UC, according to responses to Freedom of Information requests submitted by the party.

Ms Greenwood says in a statement published today: “UC has been causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces.

“It’s clear councils are committing their own valuable resources from already stretched budgets to offset the impact of UC and to prepare for the damage its roll-out could cause.

“This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll-out of UC so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Some authorities are having to spend sums over and above the usual discretionary housing payments provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), according to Ms Greenwood.

The London borough of Tower Hamlets has set aside £5 million over three years to help those affected by UC.

Gateshead Housing Company, which manages Gateshead Council’s housing stock, is planning to spend an estimated £90,000 in 2017/18 and £270,000 in 2018/19 on extra staff to support UC claimants and help prevent rent arrears, Labour said.

And Newcastle City Council is spending nearly £400,000 of its own cash to support UC claimants, with non-collection of rent as a result of the new scheme, in which all benefit payments are rolled into one lump sum, is more than £1.2 million from among its 27,000 tenants.

Claimants who fall under the new scheme now receive housing benefit in their bank accounts rather than the amount being paid directly to landlords as previously.

A DWP spokesman said: “Councils have been providing welfare advice and housing payment top-ups as standard since long before the introduction of universal credit.

“Universal credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes.

“It provides additional tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.

“The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money, but advances are available for anyone who needs extra help and arrangements can be made to pay rent direct to landlords if needed.”

So far we have this.

But we hope that Greenwood keeps up her work and goes for the jugular on Universal Credit.

Discretionary Welfare Payments being “Hacked Away” by Tory Attack on the Most Vulnerable.

with 16 comments

 

Image result for esther mcvey

Why Not Forget Benefit  Troubles During This Enticing Evening? 

The history of the discretionary social fund is one of those unglamourous topics few tackle unless they have to.

But essentially it replaced a system in which people in dire need – on benefits – could get money for emergencies, and essentials like bedding or clothing when they had no resources.

It is the ultimate safety net against absolute destitution.

In 2012 the system that was set up abolished the  “discretionary social fund”, already tilting towards ‘loans’ rather than grants.

This is the skinflint replacement.

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 provides for the abolition of the discretionary social fund – ie, crisis loans, community care grants and budgeting loans.1 Crisis loans and community care grants are abolished from 1 April 2013. No applications can be made after that date but applications made before 1 April must be determined and can result in a payment after 1 April.2 Budgeting loans can still be applied for by claimants in receipt of income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance and income-related employment and support allowance until they are transferred onto universal credit (UC). Budgeting loans will also remain available to pension credit claimants for the time being.3 Claimants in receipt of UC will be eligible to apply for a ‘budgeting advance’ (see below).

In essence, there will be two main sources of provision in place of the social fund:

  • The first is ‘payments on account of benefit’ from the DWP. These are ‘short-term advances’ (loans) to benefit claimants in financial need waiting for an initial payment or an increase in their entitlement. Payments on account in the form of ‘budgeting advances’ will also be available to claimants in receipt of universal credit as a replacement for SF budgeting loans.
  • The second is local welfare provision provided by LAs and the devolved administrations.

Child Poverty Action Group.

This already tight-fisted system – one can imagine what “local provision” is like under professional haters of the poor, Tory local government – is now under threat.

It is no coincidence that Frank Field, a man, who for all his faults, has kept in touch with own past in the Child Poverty Action Group (Before his election in 1979 he ran the Child Poverty Action Group, and was director of the UK’s Low Pay Unit) takes a keen interest.

DISCRETIONARY WELFARE BEING ‘HACKED AWAY’ AS £300 MILLION AXED FROM MAJOR BENEFIT FUNDS.

Care Appointments.

Discretionary welfare payments are being “hacked away”, a senior MP has claimed, after new figures showed more than £300 million has been axed from two major benefits funds.

Fresh analysis shows the scale of cutbacks to the discretionary social fund and flexible support fund, which can be awarded to poor claimants for a wide range of issues.

Ministers have confirmed that £419.5 million will be made available through the discretionary social fund next year, compared to £679.7 million given out in 2010/11.

Money awarded through the flexible support fund, meanwhile, has fallen from £115 million in 2012/13 to £51 million in 2016/17.

The Department for Work and Pensions says it spends around £90 billion on working age welfare and the changes were part of wider welfare reform “which is restoring fairness to the system”.

Labour MP Frank Field, a former welfare minister and now chairman of the Work and Pensions select committee, said: “Once, we had a universal safety net protecting everybody from destitution.

“Then we moved to discretionary payments which might prevent destitution. Now, that even more crucial safety net is being hacked away.”

The discretionary social fund is made up of interest-free loans.

Budgeting loans are available to claimants of certain benefits to help them cope with the purchase of major items or services, such as paying to get fuel reconnected or replacing a broken freezer.

In real terms, the amount awarded for budgeting loans fell from £495 million in 2010/11 to £411.5 million in 2016/17, according to figures released to Parliament.

Crisis loans, to cover payments associated with serious risks, were also part of the discretionary fund but were abolished in 2013.

The discretionary social fund has now been devolved to local authorities, which DWP says has allowed greater choice over how money is used to meet the needs of local people.

The flexible support fund is a separate pot of money designed to give Jobcentre advisers greater flexibility to award money to help claimants back into work.

Examples include travel expenses, training courses and clothing for interviews.

Figures uncovered by Labour former shadow cabinet minister Lucy Powell show spending on the fund has fallen every year since 2012/13.

The scheme was given a huge boost in its budget in 2014/15 in order to meet travel and childcare costs to facilitate additional support for claimants.

However, DWP says there was a lack of demand and that year the scheme underspent by £87.3 million against its budget.

“Funding from the flexible support fund can be a lifeline to some people, making the difference between a job and remaining out of work,” said Ms Powell.

“With many people still unemployed, entrenched worklessness in some areas, and higher costs for some groups to get back into the labour market, the fund is an important tool to break the cycle of joblessness and provide extra support to help people get a job and keep it.

“It’s worrying then that the total budget for the fund has more than halved in recent years.

“If ministers really want to shift the dial on unemployment, they’ll ensure that there is adequate support for all those who need it.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We’re committed to providing support for people who need it and spend around £90 billion a year on working-age welfare, an amount that will continue to rise.

“Changes to discretionary benefits are part of our wider welfare reform which is restoring fairness to the system, supporting those who can into work and helping those who can’t.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 4, 2018 at 3:07 pm

As McVey Tells Young People to “take Saturday Jobs” as “Bureaucratic and Cumbersome” Benefits System is Condemned Again

with 45 comments

 

Image result for mcvey esther

Esther McVey and some Saturday Shoes.

Teenagers should take Saturday jobs to prepare for future employment, says work and pensions secretary Esther McVey

‘It’s about people understanding what a boss wants and what you want out of a job.

Ms McVey told The Daily Telegraph: “Let’s not put ourselves down, we’ve got a very hard working nation, we’ve now got record numbers of people in employment and nine out of 10 are UK nationals doing those jobs, that has increased significantly.

“But what we’ve got to make sure we do for business leaders is to say we’ve got to support you, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right people you want to employ going into your business.

“What you’ve seen from the 1980s, particularly in this country, is far fewer people doing Saturday jobs and doing jobs after school.

“It’s about people understanding what a boss wants and what you want out of a job and I think we’ve come a long way in supporting people in that and that’s why you’ve seen more people getting employed and more British people getting employment.”

Ms McVey indicated the means-testing of universal pensioner benefits is still on agenda, according to the newspaper.

Ms McVey said she worked in her family’s business and a bistro when she was still in education.

“From 2000 to 2006, McVey was a director of her family’s Liverpool-based construction business J. G. McVey & Co. (run by her father)[6] which specialised in demolition and site clearance,[7] land reclamation and regeneration. In 2003, the firm received two immediate prohibition safety notices with which the company complied.”

Meanwhile….(as anybody knows, this,

comes up every time you use the computers here –  Ipswich Library could tell a few tales…)

Britain’s ‘bureaucratic and cumbersome benefits system helps nobody’

Welfare Weekly.

MS nurses say they are under increasing pressure to help their patients navigate the benefits system.

MS nurses have hit out at Britain’s “bureaucratic and cumbersome benefits system”, as they increasingly find themselves having to support MS sufferers in their benefits claims.

A survey of more than 100 Multiple Sclerosis nurses reveals they are under extreme pressure to help their patients navigate the social security system, with 90% saying they have provided supporting evidence for benefits applications.

The findings also show that 58% worked outside of working hours to provide this evidence, 75% said providing evidence increased their workload either a moderate amount or a lot, and 83% said their patients asked for help with filling in benefits applications.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 31, 2018 at 11:03 am

DWP Lies about Universal Credit (Part 591) : Official.

with 58 comments

Image result for universal credit lies

Spot the lies!

Google “DWP and Lies” and the list you get is a long one.

Type in Universal Credit…

In 2017 there is:

Civil Service World.

The Department for Work and Pensions has been accused of inaccurately using research from the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies to justify the projected employment boost from the flagship Universal Credit benefit reform.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee today released emails from IFS director Paul Johnson stating that the think-tank could not support the DWP’s assessment that Universal Credit, which will merge six benefit payments into one, would result in 250,000 more people in employment.

However, the DWP said the committee’s statements were misleading and  that the committee had not taken up an offer to receive a list of published academic literature which supports the department’s estimates.

Dear Kitty Blogs on the story in the context of long-standing DWP porkies, fake testimonies from fake characters, malarky and skullduggery,  including, “only this month that the UK statistics watchdog censured the DWP for “understating the scale” of its sanctions regime”.

The DWP are being Conservative with the truth, yet again

This is the merry tale of the moment.

DWP’s ‘clumsy and ill-judged attempt to piggyback’ on IFS.

26 March 2018

A central part of the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) case for the benefit of Universal Credit (UC) is their assertion of its effect on employment. In to a request for an estimate of the magnitude of that effect, DWP stated it has “determined” that UC will result in 250,000 more people in employment once it is fully implemented

How the Department arrived at these figures

In a follow up letter to Employment Minister Alok Sharma (PDF PDF 1.38 MB)Opens in a new window the Chair asked a set of specific questions about how the Department had arrived at each of the stated constituent parts of that figure:

  • 150,000 more due to “increased financial incentives to work”
  • 50,000 more due to “increased conditionality”
  • 60,000 due to “simplification of the benefit system”

The Department’s response (PDF PDF 800 KB)Opens in a new window did not answer any of the Chair’s specific questions, although it did supply an account of academic research papers that have informed the Department’s work on UC, and restated the principles underlying those three ostensible benefits of the reform.

DWP concluded by stating: “The approach to our analysis underpinning these estimates was reviewed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.”

Accordingly, the Committee wrote to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) (PDF PDF 141 KB)Opens in a new window asking if, in that review, it had found those three estimates reasonable, and what the margin of statistical error might be on the numbers.

The IFS’ reply (PDF PDF 197 KB)Opens in a new window starts out “clarifying the role we had in reviewing DWP’s approach” in coming up with the numbers:

“Note that at no stage did we review their approach to estimating the impact of increased conditionality or simplification, to which they attribute 50,000 and 60,000 respectively of the overall 250,000 forecast effect on employment”.

The employment impact of Universal Credit is highly uncertain

The IFS goes on: “Neil Couling’s letter to Baroness Hollis on 16 November states that the 250,000 figure is based on the same methodology we reviewed in 2012. For the reasons given above, that can only be true of the element (150,000) which is a result of changes to financial incentives. And we are not in a position to confirm whether and to what extent DWP took on board our comments and implemented our recommended improvements before applying the methodology….”

“The employment impact of UC is highly uncertain. The move to UC involves a number of changes for which it is hard to find comparable precedents (especially UK precedents)” — casting doubt on DWP’s use of academic evidence to substantiate its estimates — “It is not even possible to produce statistical margins of error for estimates of the employment impact, as the nature of the uncertainty is not conducive to standard statistical analysis…”

“Sadly, it will be difficult even after the event to produce convincing estimates of the overall employment impact of UC. The early impact estimates that DWP have published – cited in the Minister’s letter of 12 March – apply only to a small group of claimants who are not affected by UC in the same way as most other claimants […]” and;

“We emphasise that the overall employment impact of UC will conceal very different effects for different groups in the population, with employment rates likely to rise for some and fall for others.”

The last point contradicts what DWP have previously told the Committee when asked about the impact on other groups:

“We remain committed to producing robust comparative analysis of the employment impacts of Universal Credit. As we informed the Committee we are planning to expand the analysis for single cases in the Live Service to couples and families in both services.

This analysis will estimate a labout market impact for these broader claimant groups. In this instance it is misleading to draw a distinction between two services. The underlying policy for both is the same so any comparative analysis will hold true for both systems”.

Lack of evidence

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The ongoing lack of evidence to back up the much-vaunted employment impact of Universal Credit was already extremely disappointing. But to have our specific queries about basis of this claim answered with airy, irrelevant and, it appears, plainly inaccurate assertions adds insult to injury.

The IFS’ letter shows that Old Mother Hubbard hasn’t got much in the cupboard, despite the bragging of the Department. This clumsy and ill-judged attempt to piggyback on one of the most trusted, unimpugnable authorities on public policy and finance would be farcical if it was not so deeply worrying.”

In the interests of fairness this is the DWP’s reply,

 DWP spokeswoman told Civil Service World the committee’s claims were “false and misleading”, and highlighted that the IFS review of the 150,000 estimate for the number of people that would move into work found it to be reasonable, adding that the IFS had not questioned the DWP’s claim that simplifying the system and bringing more people into conditionality would have an even greater impact, which the department said represented “mainstream labour market theory”.

She added: “Research already shows that through Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system. And we have said we can supply further information that supports our estimate that 250,000 more people will be in employment once UC is fully rolled out.”

Written by Andrew Coates

March 27, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Work and Health Programme Looms with more ‘Schemes’.

with 44 comments

First Thing to Learn: Never Trust a Dummy’s  Guide to a Work Programme.

Material about this latest scheme has begun appearing in local Job Centres.

The Work and Health Programme helps you find and keep a job if you’re out of work.

It’s voluntary – unless you’ve been out of work and claiming unemployment benefits for 24 months.

There follows this little list of eligibility – which does not mean, of course that you are not going to be “eligibalised” regardless if you’ve been on the dole for more than 24 months.

The Shaw Trust, the people offering this scheme in this region, are in partnership with the ominous looking lot   Realise Futures
Realise Futures, CPA 5, Suffolk.

The various bodies put this little list on their pages.

“The Work and health programme is different from other employment programmes because it recognises that everyone:

  • Is different
  • Has their own set of challenges
  • Has their own individual reasons for being out of work
  • Will have a different path to finding a job

It is not a “one-size” fits all approach.

That is why it works.”

So, the Shaw Trust has a “partner” (that is they cream off DWP money and get others to do the delivery):

8th of March 2018. Realise Futures wins contract to deliver Work and Health Programme in Suffolk”

Who are Realise Futures?  you may well ask.

“Realise Futures, which was spun out of Suffolk County Council as a community interest company a year ago, provides advice, training, skills development and paid employment for people who are disabled or disadvantaged.” (EADT. 2013).

In other words it’s a profit making body for ‘social’ ends, that replaced a public service owned and run by an elected council.

Anybody able to find out how much the Directors make at Realise Futures?

There is this, less than glowing report about conditions for those working there:

I  loved the teaching role, and the development of the learners and watching the achieve their goals was a great experience.

However, as the role was zero hours contract, and paid for only the teaching hours, the weekly teaching was approximately 14 hours, and the paperwork approximately 25 hours, with 14 weeks no teaching, this was not a feasible way to earn a living.

No doubt some people may get something out this programme.

But not everybody want to have to do yet another “scheme”.

By running a wide range of subjects and courses as well as working together with local and voluntary groups, we aim to achieve:

 Healthy lives

 Progression to further learning

 Employability

 Positive social and individual relationships

 Active engagement in the community – including volunteering

 Capacity building in the community

Written by Andrew Coates

March 23, 2018 at 5:23 pm

Food Bank Use Set To Soar with Universal Credit.

with 49 comments

Image result for Food banks supermarkets

Charity Replacing Rights.

Like many people I have mixed feelings about Food Banks.

If I had no money and I really needed to eat I would use them.

But I do not like the idea of charity help replacing welfare rights.

The involvement of supermarkets, like Asda, and the toffs’ shop Waitrose, as the hungry claimants’ new best friends.

Asda, The Trussell Trust and Fareshare launch £20 million partnership to help a million people out of food poverty.

Tesco, Food Collection

The Food Collection is part of our ongoing effort to encourage customers to donate long-life food to charity. The December 2016 collection contributed 3.4 million meals to people in need. Since we ran our first collection in 2012, we have collected over 46 million meals.

 You can’t thinking that the glow of satisfaction donors would be better directed at ending the system which makes people queue up and beg for some grub.
Be that as it may this looks like happening.

Food bank use ‘could rise after universal credit roll-out.

BBC Today.

The full roll out of universal credit could see a significant rise in people needing emergency food supplies in Wales, the Trussell Trust has warned.

Director Tony Graham said food banks in Wales were already preparing for more people needing help as the new benefits system is rolled out.

The new system replaces six benefits including housing benefit, unemployment benefits and tax credits.

The DWP said it will help to improve people’s lives.

But some claimants who are on universal credit claim long delays in receiving benefits or changes to the money they receive has left them in poverty.

Mr Graham said: “We have seen a 30% increase in food bank usage in areas of universal credit roll-out in England, so we would expect similar sorts of averages to happen here in Wales when universal credit is fully rolled out.”

The new system has been fully rolled out in Torfaen and Flintshire, and the rollout has begun in some other Welsh counties including Cardiff.

Wales’ first Trussell Trust food bank was set up at Festival Church in Ebbw Vale 10 years ago this week.

In its first year, it gave out 76 three-day emergency food supplies but the network has since grown to include 37 food banks and 110 distribution centres across Wales.

Last year, 95,190 three-day supplies were given out to families in crisis across Wales.

They summarise:

  • The Trussell Trust says the majority of people need emergency food because of changes or delays to benefit payments, but low wages and rising living costs means many working people also cannot manage
  • All food is donated by churches, supermarkets and local people
  • Increasingly, food banks are receiving donations of other items, including toiletries, washing powder and pet food
  • People in crisis are referred to a food bank by services including charities, social services and GPs
  • Supplies can be tailored to individual circumstances, including giving kettle bags – with items such as Pot Noodles – to people who do not have access to cooking facilities other than a kettle.

Background.

Trussell Trust. 

Putting food on the table: the human right to eat in the fifth richest country in the world

On World Social Justice Day, Elliot Marcus, law graduate and human rights advocate, explains why the Government must uphold the right to food

Call for urgent cut to six-week Universal Credit wait as foodbank demand soars across the UK.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 20, 2018 at 10:24 am

Ian Duncan Smith – Yes, Ian Duncan Smith – Calls for Reversing Universal Credit Cuts.

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Image result for ian duncan smith cartoon we're getting people off benefits

IDS: A Sinner Repents.

There is no doubt rejoicing in heaven at Ian Duncan Smith’s call.

But for those with a less than angelic disposition will remember this before reading today’s reports:

I, Daniel Blake: Iain Duncan Smith slams Ken Loach’s benefits sanctions film.

Mr Duncan Smith presided over £15bn of cuts to the benefits system in the five years after 2010.

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Duncan Smith said: “I did think that whilst on the one level this was a human story full of pathos and difficulty, and I’m not saying  for one moment there aren’t serious difficulties and issues when you’re under pressure, when things like this happen … the film has taken the very worst of anything that can ever happen to anybody and lumped it all together and then said this is life absolutely as it is lived by people, and I don’t believe that.”

There were £15bn of cuts to the welfare budget over the five years between 2010 and 2015, during which time Mr Duncan Smith was Work and Pensions Secretary. He eventually quit over further cuts to the Universal Credit system he helped design.

Reverse universal credit cuts, Iain Duncan Smith tells chancellor

Guardian.

The former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has warned the chancellor that he risks undermining the whole purpose of welfare reform if he fails to reverse cuts to universal credit (UC) in his spring statement.

Philip Hammond is under mounting pressure from across the party to use better than expected tax revenues to reverse cuts made after the 2015 election. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that 340,000 people could be taken out of poverty by reversing the cuts to work allowances.

I think he’s under a lot of pressure. There are a lot of colleagues around who would like to see the money restored to UC as a step in the right direction,” said Duncan Smith. “Hammond has got more money to spend. But will he? He says no … The answer to that is, we’ll see.”

UC, which rolls six major working-age benefits – including job seeker’s allowance, tax credit and housing benefit – into one monthly payment, has been beset with problems. It is years behind schedule and there have been four different secretaries of state since Duncan Smith resigned in 2016, protesting about cuts to disability benefits – saying they were a “compromise too far” that made the cuts look political rather than economic.

These four Universal Credit changes spell bad news for families

Birmingham Live.

The four key benefit cuts coming in to force on April 9 are:

– Year three of the four-year cash freeze in working age benefits, affecting almost 11 million families.

– The 3% real terms cut in working age benefits this year is set to be by far the biggest of the four-year benefit freeze.

– A two child limit for benefit claims , costing up to £2,780 for a family having a third child. This will affect 150,000 families.

– Withdrawal of the family element of support for new tax credit and universal credit claims from families with children , costing up to £545 and affecting 400,000 families.

The rollout of Universal Credit , saving £200m this year due to lower entitlements than the existing benefit system for long term sick and working families in particular.

Before we feel warm and shed a little tear of sympathy for Ian Duncan Smith…

Not fit for work: All the times Iain Duncan Smith has got it badly wrong.

This week two heavily critical reports were published on Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit programme, joining a long list of damning critiques of his time as work and pension secretary. As a result, now seems as good a time as any to take a closer at his record and all the times he has got it badly wrong.

Claim: In 2012 IDS boasted that the roll out of Universal Credit would improve the lives of millions of claimants by “incentivising work and making work pay.”

Reality: A report published yesterday by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says that although the policy would encourage some people into work this was’t the case for everyone. In fact some groups, like single parents, will have even less of an incentive to work under Universal Credit than under the old system. Crucially it also suggested the changes would leave working families worse off on average, with their research suggesting 2.1 million families will face an average loss of £1,600 a year.

Claim: The Bedroom Tax would help tackle the housing shortage

One of Duncan Smith’s key defences of the Bedroom Tax was that it would help free up social housing for those who most need it. The idea being that rather than take a cut in housing benefit for having a spare room, people would move out of their properties and into smaller accommodation, thereby freeing it up for larger families.

Reality: A shortage of smaller properties meant that the overwhelming majority of people affected by the bedroom tax stayed put. A recent government study into the impact of the changes found that 76% of those affected have been forced to cut back on food, with thousands more claimants being driven into taking on payday loans. Only a small fraction of those affected moved into alternative accommodation.

Claim: Face-to-face assessments of disability benefit claimants would mean payments would only go to those who most need them

Reality: Many people with serious disabilities and even life-threatening conditions have been judged as fit-for-work under the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) scheme. In 2013 Linda Wootton died in hospital just nine days after the government stopped her benefits and ordered her to go back to work. Amid growing criticism of the assessments, in March 2014, it was confirmed that ATOS, the private company contracted to carry out the assessments, were to end their contract with the government a year early.

Claim: Personal Independence Payments would “better reflect today’s understanding of disability” than the Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Reality: The switchover from DLA to PIP was a disaster with thousands of people waiting months for their applications to be assessed. This was made even worse by the introduction of a new step in the appeals process. The Mandatory Reconsideration stage resulted in many of those who had already waited long periods for a decision to be made being left waiting even longer to have the opportunity to challenge .

And so it goes….

Role in Universal Credit as  Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

He also announced a far more radical series of reforms intended to simplify the benefits and tax credits scheme into a single payment to be known as Universal Credit. A major aim of welfare reform was to ensure that low earners would always be better off in employment. “After years of piecemeal reform the current welfare system is complex and unfair,” said Duncan Smith, citing examples of people under the existing system that would see very little incremental income from increasing their working hours due to withdrawal of other benefits.[30] Outlining the scheme in more detail in November 2010, Duncan Smith promised “targeted work activity for those who need to get used to the habits of work” and sanctions, including the possible removal of benefits for up to three years for those who refused to work. He said welfare reform would benefit all those who “play by the rules” and ensure “work always pays more” by easing the rate at which benefits are withdrawn as income rises.[31]

The next phase of welfare reform announced by Duncan Smith in late 2011 required benefits claimants with part-time incomes below a certain threshold to search for additional work or risk losing access to their benefits. “We are already requiring people on out of work benefits to do more to prepare for and look for work,” he said. “Now we are looking to change the rules for those who are in-work and claiming benefits, so that once they have overcome their barriers and got into work, in time they can reduce their dependency or come off benefits altogether.”[32] He said that benefits were not a route out of child poverty but hundreds of thousands of children could be lifted out of child poverty if one of their parents were to work at least a 35-hour week at the national minimum wage.[33]

He also argued that a proposed £26,000-a-year benefits cap, would not lead to a rise in homelessness or child poverty “The reality is that with £26,000 a year, it’s very difficult to believe that families will be plunged into poverty – children or adults,” he told BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme. “Capping at average earnings of £35,000 before tax and £26,000 after, actually means that we are going to work with families make sure that they will find a way out.”[34] but added there would need to be “discretionary measures”.[34] Duncan Smith led the governments legislation in the House of Commons in January 2013 to cap most benefit increases at 1%, a real terms cut.[35]

On 1 April 2013, Duncan Smith said he could live on £53 per week as Work and Pensions Secretary, after a benefits claimant told the BBC he had £53 per week after housing costs.[36]

In September 2013, Duncan Smith’s department cancelled a week of “celebrations” to mark the impact of enhanced benefit sanctions. Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) commented: “It is distasteful in the extreme and grossly offensive that the DWP would even consider talking about celebrating cutting people’s benefits.”[37] In the same month, Duncan Smith’s department was subject to an “excoriating” National Audit Office report. The department he runs was accused of having “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance; a fortress mentality, a “good news” reporting culture, a lack of transparency, inadequate financial control, and ineffective oversight” as well as wasting 34 million pounds on inadequate computer systems.[38]

The Department for Work and Pensions had said that 1 million people would be placed on the new Universal Credit benefits system by April 2014, yet by October 2014 only 15,000 were assigned to UC. Duncan Smith said that a final delivery date would not be set for this, declaring “Arbitrary dates and deadlines are the enemy of secure delivery.”[39] In 2014, it was revealed that his department was employing debt collectors to retrieve overpaid benefits, the overpayment purely down to calculation mistakes by HMRC.[

Written by Andrew Coates

March 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

Key Benefit Cuts this Year. End the Benefit Freeze!

with 19 comments

Image result for benefit freeze

 

The Labour Party has been criticised for not campaigning for an end to the Benefit Freeze.

This is the last time it came up, on the 25th of August 2017, “Jeremy Corbyn will today call on the Government to end the benefits freeze – despite failing to contain a similar pledge in Labour’s election manifesto.” (Politics Home).

The Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Debbie Abrahams, has said nothing recently on this burning issue – at least that can be tracked down.

She has however retweeted the following article:

Anybody  worried about fuel bills after the hard winter, and the fact that everytime you go to the supermarket some price seems to go up, not to mention the next round of Council Tax demands (payable up to 20% of the total in some councils even for even those on benefits), would want an answer, beginning with calls to end the benefit freeze.

Today (as in the above Tweet) the Observer publishes a long article, Millions of families on brink face deepest benefit cuts in years by 

He highlights that this is far from a minority concern.

There are four key benefit cuts this year. Working-age benefits will be frozen for a third year, saving £1.9bn and affecting almost 11 million families. The 3% real-terms cut in working-age benefits this year will be by far the biggest of the freeze, set to last four years.

A measure limiting benefit claims to a family’s first two children, costing up to £2,780 for a family having a third child, saves £400m this year and affects 150,000 families.

The withdrawal of the family element of support for new tax credit and universal credit claims from families with children will cost families up to £545. It saves the public purse £200m this year and will affect 400,000 families.

Finally, the rollout of the controversial universal credit system, which combines several benefits into one payment, saves £200m because some claimants have lower entitlements compared with the existing system, especially the long-term sick and working families.

This is particularly striking,

New research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the decision to press ahead and freeze most working-age benefits and tax credits this year would see a couple with two children left £380 worse off compared with a scenario in which their universal credit claim had increased in line with prices.

Savage says this,

Labour is planning to embarrass the government and Tory MPs on Tuesday by forcing them to have a vote on controversial changes that are set to leave some poor families without free school meals for their children or free childcare.

What we need is an end to the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

March 11, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Esther McVey Forced to Reveal Secret – Damming – Universal Credit Reviews.

with 28 comments

Image result for Esther mcVey

McVey Forced to Reveal Secret Universal Credit Reports.

Thanks to Whoknew for flagging this up.

Like the Liverpool Echo angle…

Tory benefits minister Esther McVey forced into embarrassing U-turn over Universal Credit

The Merseyside-born MP wanted to keep secret policy reviews from the public

Universal credit: Government to publish internal reviews of controversial benefit in new U-turn.

Tory cabinet minister Esther McVey has been forced to make an embarrassing U-turn over Universal Credit and release secret reviews of the controversial benefits shake-up.

The Work and Pensions Secretary announced today she will yield in a two-year battle keep the Project Assessment Reviews’ from the public.

Mirror Online’s political reporter Dan Bloom reports the decision comes just weeks after Ms McVey refused to publish the documents and was due to face challenges at a tribunal.

The contentious reviews chart the progress of the Tories’ massive benefits shake-up between 2012 and 2015 – and they don’t bode well for Universal Credit.

Mirror Online reports that of 10 reviews completed, not a single one gave Universal Credit a “green” rating – meaning a clean bill of health.

Independent.

Assessments failed to produce evidence that more people would be helped into work, say MPs who viewed them.

Internal reviews of universal credit, which expose holes in the case for the controversial new benefit according to MPs, will be published in a government U-turn.

Ministers have abandoned attempts to keep the assessments under wraps after being forced to release them to a Commons committee and after criticism by the independent Information Commissioner.

Esther McVey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, conceded there was “no point in continuing to argue” for restricted access to the documents, after the committee issued a report on them.

….

Ms McVey said the committee had agreed “the historic issues” have now been addressed and “substantial achievements have been delivered since 2013”.

They commended the department for running the universal credit programme “more professionally and efficiently with a collective sense of purpose”, she said.

And she insisted the decision to release the assessments to the public was “exceptional”, with future reports still to be “treated as confidential”.

Last year, Conservative MPs forced extra help for universal credit claimants, after joining with opposition parties in pleading for an urgent rethink.

The Government agreed to slash the wait for a first payment from six weeks to five, although the revolt had demanded a cut to four weeks.

However, cuts to the “work allowance” – the amount of earnings kept before claimants lose benefits – has swiped more than £1,200 a year from many families.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 8, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Protests, “No More Death on our Streets” as “Open Season” on Street People Grows.

with 50 comments

 

Background:

Homeless charities slam ‘open season’ on street people

 Guardian.

Police and vigilantes are seeking to ‘other’ people on the street, says chief executive of Crisis.

Charities have expressed concern about an “open season” on homeless people following tough language by police and political figures and vigilante threats to “fake homeless”.

Those working on the frontline suggested that rough sleepers and others might be facing a cold climate in a broader sense even as a major operation swung into action to shelter homeless people amid heavy snow and falling temperatures.

At least one homeless man has died during the freezing weather: he was found dead on Tuesday in his tent in the snow in Retford, Nottinghamshire.

Police in Cambridgeshire claimed last week that every single “homeless” beggar in Ely was making “substantial amounts of money” and that the city had no genuine rough sleepers.

In Ipswich, by contrast, there a number of initiatives to help homeless people.

Anyone with concerns about someone sleeping rough can make a report to StreetLink, which will be sent to street outreach teams.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 4, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Cuts, DWP, Esther McVey, Food Banks

Tagged with , ,

Universal Credit, the Revolt Continues….

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Some Public Day of Action Activities May be Postponed Because of Bad Weather but  Protests will continue as….

How a terminally ill man is leading the fight against inhumane universal credit 

Next month, a terminally ill man is set to take on the government – and with it, the disastrous universal credit (UC) policy. Known only as TP, a 52-year-old ex-City worker – who has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the lymph node condition Castleman disease – is launching a landmark challenge at the high court after becoming financially worse off under the new benefit system.

This couldn’t come sooner. In October, I warned of the hidden cut within UC for disabled people: thanks to the abolition of both the severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP). As a result, according to the disability charity Scope, the move to UC will see claimants lose as much as £395 a month. The outcome of the legal challenge could have widespread ramifications for 230,000 disabled people who it is estimated will be hit by the removal of disability premiums under UC.

Launching a multibillion pound benefit system only to remove vital income from some of the poorest people in the country is a particularly warped use of public money – and a move that exemplifies just how low the Conservatives are willing to sink in their rush to gut Britain’s safety net. The campaign group, Disabled People against Cuts, is launching a national protest in response on 1 March. As UC is hailed as the biggest reform to the welfare state since Beveridge, there’s a very real risk that its greatest achievement will be making more disabled people hungry and housebound. Led by one terminally ill man, the time has come to fight it.

Benefit delays leave hundreds of thousands penniless and reliant on foodbanks

Welfare Weekly,  Steven Preece

DWP failed to meet its own target of processing new benefit claims within ten days on 214,000 occasions last year, new figures show.

Delays in processing new benefit claims are leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable adults and children without money for long periods of time and dependent on foodbanks to stave off hunger, damning figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal.

Minister of State for Employment Alok Sharma confirmed in a written Commons answer that the DWP failed to achieve its own target of processing new claims within ten days on 214,000 occasions last year.

This is equivalent to more than 1 in 10 claims, leaving some of the poorest in society struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table.

The same figures also reveal how more than 970,000 claims took longer than a week to be processed.

The article follows this report on the ‘I’ yesterday,

Foodbank use driven by benefit delays

“How else can those people put food on the table and keep their homes warm, let alone apply for jobs, if it takes weeks and weeks to register their claim and establish an income?”

According to Mr Sharma’s answer, 110,180 Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants and 103,650 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants waited more than two weeks for their applications to be assessed.

A total of 671,250 JSA claimants and 302,900 ESA claimants waited more than a week for news of their applications.

The DWP does not have information about the number of claimants receiving emergency advances to tide them over.

Around one-quarter of people who use foodbanks say they are visiting because of delays receiving their benefit payments, according to the Trussell Trust, which co-ordinates the national network of foodbanks.

‘Cash advances available’ Mr Field said he was contacted last week by a mother with a one-year-old child who had been left with “7p to my name” as a result of her benefit claim being delayed. A DWP spokeswoman said: “We strongly believe people should be able to access support when they need it and the vast majority of JSA and ESA claims are processed within 10 working days. “Anyone who needs financial support during that time can apply for an advance on their first payment, or should speak to their jobcentre ..

Day of Action. Update.

We are sorry to announce that due to the bad weather forecast for London this week, and the associated travel difficulties this will bring, we have taken the decision to CANCEL the planned action this Thursday 1st March at the Houses of Parliament.

All of the online actions planned for 1st March will continue as planned

We leave decisions about local actions to the local groups and urge organisers to update us with any decisions (to proceed or to cancel) as soon as possible so we can get the word out.

Check DPAC for more information.  Updates on local actions against UC

And more reasons to Revolt!

Written by Andrew Coates

February 27, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Compulsory Employment “Schemes” for Jobseeker’s Claiming Council Tax Support.

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Image result for workfare

Is Workfare For Council Tax Support part of the new Austerity Agenda?

Council Tax support is falling apart.

This affects people on Job Seeker’s Allowance, and now, Universal Credit,.

Hard.

You can expect a great deal of thieving from Tory Councils.

Barnet led the way:

Everyone of working age has to pay a minimum contribution of 20% from 01 April 2015 (the contribution for the period 01 April 2013 to 31 March 2015 will remain at 8.5% as agreed in January 2013) of their Council Tax liability unless they are in a protected group. (War pensioners, war widow(er)s and people who receive Armed Forces compensation scheme payments will not have to pay the minimum contribution).

This 20% rule is pretty widespread now.

A hefty sum, around £287.8 a year (National average, band D,  Band D property to £1,439).

In Labour run Ipswich, by contrast,

In Ipswich, all people of working age have to pay at least 8.5% of their Council Tax bill, regardless of their income. From 1st April 2018, this will reduce to 5%.

But now we learn Leeds Labour Council is running this compulsory scheme.

Personal work support programme

If you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and have been claiming Council Tax support for 26 weeks or more, you will be offered a place on the personal work support programme.

You will have to complete this programme to keep receiving Council Tax support unless you’re part of one of the exempt or protected groups (PDF 1.2MB)​​.

You will be required to complete five review appointments with one of our employment advisors who are able to support all aspects of looking for work which includes:

  • Help to update your CV
  • Advice and support for applying for vacancies online
  • Advice on how to find the type of work you are looking for
  • The latest job vacancy information
  • Free access to our computers
  • Help with any health, money, benefit or housing concerns that you may have

To book an appointment with an advisor, please call 0113 222 4404.

You can find further information on the package of support available in our Council Tax Support for Jobseekers leaflet (PDF 223KB)​​.

Ipswich Unemployed Action has been informed that there are other councils, some Tory, who have similar schemes.

Some, it is said, involve workfare.

In the opinion of a professional Welfare Adviser this is not legal

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2018 at 3:43 pm