Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

David Gauke Keeps on Boosting Universal Credit as Misery extended to Northern Ireland.

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Image result for david gauke

Gauke, a rare picture of him in Ipswich, Boost, Boost, Boost!

David Gauke, the man at present responsible for the train wreck that is Universal Credit, is a happy kind of chap.

He does not let even the carping of the Eastbourne MP (a place our spies tell us is not the Red Heartland one might assume, although it appears the man in the video below is a member of something called the Liberal Democrats), saying this,

Eastbourne’s MP has called Universal Credit a ‘train wreck’ and has said Christmas will be ‘bitterly hard’ for the town’s families unless it is paused. Stephen Lloyd, the Work and Pensions spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, criticised the policy in a speech at the party’s conference yesterday.

A defiant Gaucky spends his days  boosting the success of the Tories’ madcap plans 24/7.   “The work and pensions secretary has signalled that the government will press ahead with controversial welfare changes, insisting the system of universal credit is “making work pay and transforming lives”.

Yet, in the rare moments he finds time to relax, he, or his minions tweet, addressing the masses on important occasions like this one.

Or sticking to his job at this event,

 

But there is a method in the Gauke.

We learnt today that Northern Ireland is his latest target.

Universal Credit will be introduced on a phased basis in Northern Ireland from next week. Replacing six existing benefits with one, Universal Credit is for people aged 18 to State Pension age. It aims to remove many of the barriers to work which exist in the current welfare system. It will be introduced gradually across Northern Ireland, starting on Wednesday, September 27 until September 2018. New claimants from the Limavady area will be the first to receive Universal Credit. People already claiming the existing benefits will not be affected until 2019, unless their entitlement changes.

Now I am just guessing on this one, but the potential for people getting into rent arrears in Northern Ireland, and the risk of rows about this turning nasty, very nasty, looks pretty big from the outside. Not to mention those wandering around without money for the infamous 6 week waiting period.

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

September 21, 2017 at 3:28 pm

Pressure Grows on Universal Credit Rollout.

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Image result for universal credit cartoon

You Don’t have to be Mad to Work in this Team, but it Helps. 

Today,Birmingham Mail.

Universal Credit seemed like a good idea but will the Government admit it’s not working out?

A new benefits system has left people behind with their rent or dependent on food banks – and taxpayers are footing the bill.

West Midland MPs have urged the Government to delay plans to introduce Universal Credit to parts of Birmingham in November and December, saying it’s not what people need at Christmas.

A letter to the Department for Work and Pensions was signed by Jack Dromey (Lab Birmingham Erdington), Jess Phillips (Lab Birmingham Yardley), Khalid Mahmood (Lab Birmingham Perry Barr), Richard Burden (Lab Birmingham Northfield) and Roger Godsiff (Lab Birmingham Selly Oak).

A delay wouldn’t mean the new benefit was scrapped. It would mean taking things slowly until the problems are ironed out.

But will Ministers listen?

Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman to call for next month’s rollout to be cancelled until overhaul takes place

Sunday:  The Observer view on the rollout of universal credit

‘We will govern in the interests of ordinary working families”, pledged the latest Conservative manifesto, a line that will ring increasingly hollow in the next few years. By 2022, millions of families will find themselves thousands of pounds a year worse off: not as a result of sluggish wage growth or the rising cost of essentials, rather, as a direct result of this government’s decisions to cut financial support for low-income working parents while it delivers expensive tax cuts for more affluent families.

…universal credit has morphed from an ambitious attempt to improve the benefits system into a cruel instrument that loads the burden of austerity on families who can least afford it. As a result of Osborne’s cuts, universal credit is significantly meaner than the system it is replacing.

Combined with other welfare cuts, it will leave low-income families with children up to £3,400 a year worse off by 2020. The Resolution Foundation has warned that the unprecedented scale of these welfare cuts means they are on course to forge the biggest increase in inequality in a generation. At the same time, Conservative chancellors will have instigated more than £80bn of tax cuts a year by 2021, including £22bn of income tax cuts, four-fifths of which benefit the richest half of families, and more than £13bn in corporation tax cuts.

The cuts to universal credit make a mockery of the policy’s original objective to improve work incentives. More people will face worse, rather than better, incentives to increase their earnings. For example, a second earner in a couple who earns £5,000 a year will only see their family’s income go up by less than £2,000 – before allowing for childcare costs.

Beyond the cuts, flaws in the design of universal credit are imposing serious hardship on families, pushing them into debt spirals. Unlike the current system, new claimants have to wait at least six weeks to receive their first payment after losing a job. Many have no way of filling this gap in income. A Citizens Advice survey found that three in five have to borrow money while waiting for this first payment. The government’s own figures show two in five renters on universal credit are in rent arrears eight weeks after their initial claim.

….

Universal credit also does nothing to address the key weaknesses in the labour market. Thanks in large part to the success of the welfare-to-work initiatives of the last two decades, worklessness is no longer the problem it used to be – Britain now enjoys record employment rates. But low pay is a huge problem: more than one in five workers in the UK is low paid, one of the worst rates in the OECD.

Low pay underpins the record levels of in-work poverty we are seeing: getting a job is far from a guaranteed route out of poverty. However, rather than provide support to people to progress in the workplace, universal credit introduces a system of sanctions for those deemed not to be taking enough action to increase their hours, putting significant discretion in the hands of jobcentre advisers as to how and when such sanctions are applied.

Given the problems already rife in the sanctions system – people having benefits docked for missing appointments for reasons completely out of their control, such as public transport delays – it is not difficult to envisage this manifesting itself in a terrible catch-22, where people not only can’t get more work from their employer but face a double whammy of having their benefits docked as a result.

The rollout of universal credit must be put on hold while these fundamental flaws are addressed. According to the Resolution Foundation, it would cost just £6bn a year to reverse the cuts to the universal credit system, a fraction of what the government has spent on unnecessary tax cuts for the more affluent.

If not, universal credit will come to be a symbol of the callous, cruel Conservatism that, far from being limited to the party’s fringes, has defined the way it has run Britain since 2010. It is a political creed that thinks nothing of driving more parents towards debt, pushing child poverty up to record levels and forcing more people to live on the street. Make no mistake: this Tory party is as nasty as ever.

But, as people here have pointed out…

DWP Secretary considering whether to ‘push the button’ on accelerating Universal Credit regime, says Tory MP

The Independent understands that while David Gauke is hopeful to push ahead he is listening to concerns raised over the new system.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 18, 2017 at 10:34 am

When will Universal Credit Fall off a Cliff?

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Image result for falling off a cliff

Warning: Universal Credit Ahead!

Sometimes you wonder when or where  it will all end.

Or Collapse, as the image above suggests.

Ken already notes on the comments that people are racking up debts because of Universal Credit,

Newcastle tenants on Universal Credit rack up £1.1 million in rent arrears

Housing managers say a new benefits system is leading people into debt and forcing some to use food banks.

Ken adds this to boot,

An automated system is leeching cash away from essentials like clothes and food to cover costs elsewhere

StepChange Debt Charity said the use of direct deductions from people’s benefits, by utility companies, housing providers, councils and others, to cover arrears payments is making it harder for families to pay for essentials forcing many to use credit to keep on top of bills.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/third-party-deductions-dwp-policy-11164892

That’s just a a sample of our contributors’ news from the media, their own experience and comments.

Is the Government worried?

Do they take account of the stream of criticism that’s levelled at the madcap scheme that’s causing widespread misery?

They and the DWP are in denial.

The Ghost of Iain Duncan Smith, in a rage at the fate of his love child,  speaks through one of his minions,

THIS BLOG IS A DISGRACE!! IT EXISTS ONLY TO DISCOVER LOOPHOLES IN DWP RULES AND REGULATIONS, AND TO FIND WAYS AND MEANS FOR SHYSTERS TO AVOID DWP JUSTICE. ITS OWNER – ANDREW COATES – WHO LIKES TO PRETEND HE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING ON HIS OWN BLOG AND ALL THE OTHERS WHO SOUGHT TO BRING ABOUT THIS PERVERSE DECISION WHICH ALLOWED A GUILTY MAN TO EVADE DWP JUSTICE SHOULD BE PROSECUTED FOR CONSPIRACY TO PERVERT THE COURSE OF JUSTICE AND CONSPIRACY TO DEFEAT THE ENDS OF JUSTICE. FUMING!

This is the news today, from the Independent,

Universal Credit delays leave claimants to ‘drop off a cliff’ in rent arrears, hear MPs

It comes after Citizens Advice warned the accelerated roll-out of the new regime was a ‘disaster waiting to happen’.

Claimants “drop off a cliff” and “remain in freefall” in rent arrears due to delays in receiving payments under the new Universal Credit regime, MPs have heard.

It comes as the Government plans to accelerate the delayed roll-out of Universal Credit – devised by the former welfare chief Iain Duncan Smith – to 50 new areas in the autumn despite warnings that it is a “disaster waiting to happen”.

Speaking to MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee in Westminster, council leaders, food banks and charities from across the country raised concerns about the system which intends to merge six existing benefits into one single monthly payment from claimants.

One councillor from the London council of Southwark – where Universal Credit is already up and running – said an additional £1.3m of rent arrears was attributable to the new regime since its introduction by the council two years ago.

Southwark Councillor Fiona Colley told the committee, chaired by the former Labour minister Frank Field, that the roll-out had a range of impacts on the council and its residents due to typical 12-13 weeks to administer the first payment.

“The most significant for us that I want to tell you about is how it has impacted rent arrears and on payment of rent,” she said. “That has very much dominated our experience.

“What we are particularly concerned about is the speed at which rent arrears are increasing after people claim Universal Credit. We see them drop off a cliff once the claim goes in and remain in free-fall for about three months thereafter until people start getting into payment.”

Pressed on whether the system had got any better in the two years the council had been administering Universal Credit, she replied: “I don’t think so.”

“We’re looking to make this work – we can’t afford for it not to.”

Not to mention this:

Universal Credit roll-out a ‘ticking timebomb’, say private landlords

Welfare Weekly.

The Government’s flagship Universal Credit (UC) system is pushing a growing number of private sector tenants into rent arrears, with the number falling behind on payments rising by 10% over the last year.

A survey of almost 3,000 landlords by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), who represent landlords in the private sector across England and Wales, found that 38% of tenants in receipt of UC experienced rent arrears in the last year – up from 27% in February 2016.

The average amount of rent arrears owed by private tenants to their landlords is now £1,150, with the RLA blaming the long wait before UC claimants receive their first payment.

Then there was this:  Homelessness rise ‘likely to have been driven by welfare reforms’

The number of homeless families in the UK has risen by more than 60% and is “likely to have been driven” by the government’s welfare reforms, the public spending watchdog has said.

Homelessness of all kinds has increased “significantly” over the last six years, said the National Audit Office.

It accused the government of having a “light touch approach” to tackling the problem.

The government said it was investing £550m by 2020 to address the issue.

There has been a 60% rise in households living in temporary accommodation – which includes 120,540 children – since 2010/11, the NAO said.

A snapshot overnight count last autumn found there were 4,134 rough sleepers – an increase of 134% since the Conservatives came into government, it added.

A report by the watchdog found rents in England have risen at the same time as households have seen a cut to some benefits.

Homelessness cost more than £1bn a year to deal with, it said.

Reforms to the local housing allowance are “likely to have contributed” to making it more expensive for claimants to rent privately and “are an element of the increase in homelessness,” the report added.

Homelessness rise

England, 2010-2017

134% rise in rough sleepers

60% rise in households living in temporary accommodation

  • 77,000 families in temporary accommodation, March 2017, including…
  • 120,000 children
  • £1.15bn council spending on homelessness 2015-16

Welfare reforms announced by the government in 2015 included a four-year freeze to housing benefit – which was implemented in April 2016.

Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse said the Department for Work and Pensions had failed to evaluate the impact of the benefit changes on homelessness.

“It is difficult to understand why the department persisted with its light touch approach in the face of such a visibly growing problem.

“Its recent performance in reducing homelessness therefore cannot be considered value for money.”

The ending of private sector tenancies – rather than a change in personal circumstances – has become the main cause of homelessness in England, with numbers tripling since 2010/11, said the NAO.

Its analysis found private sector rents in England have gone up by three times as much as wages since 2010 – apart from in the north and East Midlands.

While in London, costs have risen by 24% – eight times the average wage increase.

I saw people sleeping in doorways in Ipswich last night.

Not at all unusual.

Anywhere.

Update: still somebody’s happy:

Written by Andrew Coates

September 14, 2017 at 11:14 am

Millions Face Income Cut with Welfare Reform.

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Tories Welfare ‘Reform’. 

I thought a lot about this yesterday.

First of all, let’s not forget that the Benefits Freeze means we are no longer able to keep up with every rising prices in the shops, utility charges and higher Community Charge.

Next, the report highlights the fact that many people on Local Housing Benefit,  are no longer getting their rents fully paid.

FInally you can guess the DWP’s response without even reading the article.

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “This report assumes that people won’t make any attempt to change and to improve their lives. But our welfare reforms incentivise work and, for the first time, universal credit helps working people progress and earn more, so they can eventually stop claiming benefits altogether.

“Under universal credit people are finding a job faster and staying in it longer than under the old system, and since the benefit cap was introduced, 34,000 households have moved off the cap and into work.”

In other words, ‘improve your lives” by getting out of the claws of the DWP and its so-called Universal Credit.

As Gauke would say, “I have made myself perfectly clear.”

Two million UK families face £50-a-week cut in income

Guardian.

Households with children make up more than 80% of those set to lose out as pressure grows for end to austerity

In a bleak assessment of the plight of the poorest families in Britain, the study commissioned by the Local Government Association found that more than 84% of those set to lose £50 a week or more are households with children, either lone parents or couples. Almost two-thirds of them are working households, despite claims from ministers that they wish to create a welfare system that encourages work.

The analysis, by the Policy in Practice consultancy, also undermines claims from ministers that moves to cut taxes and increase the wages of the poorest are compensating them for years of austerity and the rising cost of living.

While some of the seven million low-income households in Britain will be better off by 2020, the group as a whole faces an average loss of £40.62 a week by 2020 compared with the end of last year, once benefit and tax changes, wages, housing costs and inflation are all taken into account.

….

The study finds that the introduction of the government’s flagship policy of universal credit, which combines a series of benefits into a single payment, will lead to an average income loss of £11.18 per week. It coincides with new warnings from Citizens Advice that the rollout of the system should be halted, amid claims that some of those already receiving it have found themselves in serious debt.

With charities and councils warning of rising homelessness, increasing housing costs are identified as a main cause of falling income. More than 2 million low-paid private renters face an average real-terms loss of £38.49 a week by 2020.

For low-income private renters with three or more children, the average income loss that they face by 2020 in real terms is £67.21 a week. This compares with £30.67 for private renters without children.

The authors also say rents are rising faster in some areas than others, with housing benefit not rising to match it. The study found rents are set to rise by 20.7% in the south-west by 2020, but by just 3.5% in the north-east. The report warns that there is now a looming “affordability crisis” because cuts to housing benefit, known as local housing allowance (LHA) for private renters, mean it is no longer linked to real rents, pushing people into poverty or even homelessness.

This is the Report:

The Cumulative Impact of Welfare Reform: A National Picture

Extracts,

The combined effects of the major reforms implemented before 2017, namely the underoccupation charge (NOTE by Ipswich Unemployment Action, the Bedroom Tax) , the localisation of CTRS, the LHA shortfall and both benefit caps, result in an average nominal income loss of just over £23 per week for each working-age household.

The transition to Universal Credit will lead to a further average income loss of £11.18 per week.

This is largely due to cuts in work allowances which will hit households, often with children and previously in receipt of tax credits, particularly hard. The introduction of the National Living Wage and increases to the personal tax allowance will generate almost £3.2 billion for working, low-income households, reducing the average nominal income loss by 2020 to £7.62 per week.

However, these mitigating measures will only benefit 2.5 million of the 7.1 million affected working-age households, half of whom are not affected by welfare reform to begin with. Critically, the continued impact of reforms implemented before 2017 will increase the cumulative loss from welfare reform to an average of £40.62 per week by 2020. This is a consequence of expected inflation and private rent growth, combined with the freezing of benefits rates for working-age people through to 2020 and means that many households see
falls in real income. Private renters will be particularly hit because the link between the Local Housing Allowance rate and market prices has been broken.

The growing disconnect between rents and LHA rates means that the gap between housing support and housing costs will increase disproportionately for private sector renters. Nominally, private renters will be £2.75 per week better off by 2020, as they are more likely to be in work and so benefit from the increase in the National Living Wage and Personal Tax Allowance. However, once expected inflation and private rent growth is factored in, private renters will face average real terms losses of £38.49 per week, with higher losses for larger families.

Squeeze on living standards is down to welfare cuts, not the fall in the pound

Guardian

..for millions of low- and middle-income Britons, living standards looked under threat even when Brexit was nothing more than a twinkle in Boris Johnson’s eye. The key moment came when, fresh from the Conservatives’ 2015 general election victory, the chancellor George Osborne delivered a budget that promised to “reward work and back aspiration”.

True to his word, he presented some very good news by introducing the national living wage – a sizeable and welcome supplement to the minimum wage for employees aged 25 and over. But the good news was eclipsed by the bad. The estimated £4bn boost from the national living wage was dwarfed by savings of £14bn from cuts to working-age welfare. What’s more, the welfare cuts are concentrated among poorer households. In the coming years, Britain faces the prospect of the first significant rise in inequality in three decades.

There is plenty to add: as people have already noted they’ve found the cash for the Police and the Prison Officers.

End the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 11, 2017 at 10:36 am

​Inquiry into Universal Credit – or Yet Another Inquiry…

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Related image

Even Owls Can be Flummoxed…

Earlier this year we had this:

Universal Credit rollout: inquiry re-launched

21 February 2017

Following compelling evidence of the problems in the rollout of Universal Credit in its recent follow ups the Committee has re-launched its inquiry and is now accepting written submissions.

Followed by,

Due to the general election on 8 June 2017 the Committee has now closed this inquiry. Following the dissolution of Parliament on 3 May 2017, all Select Committees cease to exist until after the general election. If an inquiry on this subject is held in the future, the Committee may refer to the evidence already gathered as part of this inquiry.

Then, post General Election,  this:

The National Audit Office is engaged in ‘work in progress’ in producing yet more reports on Universal Credit.

The Department is due to increase the pace of roll-out from October 2017, so that full service will be available to new claimants in all jobcentres by September 2018. The Department then plans to transfer existing claimants to Universal Credit by March 2022.

In this study we will examine whether the Department is on course to deliver Universal Credit in accordance with its plans. We will also assess whether there are early signs that Universal Credit is delivering its objectives, and what impact it is having both on claimants and on local stakeholder

In this study we will examine whether the Department is on course to deliver Universal Credit in accordance with its plans. We will also assess whether there are early signs that Universal Credit is delivering its objectives, and what impact it is having both on claimants and on local stakeholders.

After a mountain of complaints about Universal Credit,, which take up a big part of this Blog and others, we had Gaucke’s response a few weeks ago,

The work and pensions secretary has signalled that the government will press ahead with controversial welfare changes, insisting the system of universal credit is “making work pay and transforming lives”.

Responding to a letter signed by 30 Labour MPs and the Green co-leader Caroline Lucas, expressing concerns about UC and calling for its implementation to be paused, David Gauke underlined his commitment to the policy.

“Getting UC right is a priority for me,” he said. “UC is revolutionising the welfare system by making work pay and transforming lives. Those on UC are moving into work significantly faster and working longer than under the old system. Only through this balanced approach can we as a country provide effective and holistic support for families and individuals to enter the world of work while ensuring fairness for the taxpayer.”

He added this touching note,

he does acknowledge the concerns of claimants struggling to navigate the new system, saying: “I know change of any kind can be difficult, especially for families struggling to get by.”

Since then, silence from the chap who shows such concern for families “struggling to get by”.

But lo!

Now we learn of this:

Inquiry into Universal Credit follows landlords’ criticism

Simple Landlords.The National Audit Office is launching an inquiry into the effectiveness of Universal Credit after a leading landlord body criticised the system.The probe will assess whether the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is on course to deliver Universal Credit, in accordance with its plans.

It will also determine whether there are early signs that Universal Credit is delivering its objectives, and what impact it is having both on claimants and on local stakeholders.

The Residential Landlords Association (RLA)  has criticised the controversial system, which ‘bundles’ individual benefits into a single monthly payment, as it makes it tougher for landlords to rent to people who are on low incomes, because they lack the confidence that they will receive the rent.

Richard Jones, the Residential Landlords Association’s (RLA) policy director, said: “We strongly believe that the Government’s whole approach is flawed and although the objective of helping tenants manage their financial affairs is in isolation a laudable one, the Government has wholly failed to appreciate the consequences of this.”

When Universal Credit was initially unveiled, the Residential Landlords Association (RLA) predicted the changes would be “a much higher level of arrears, an unwillingness of landlords to house benefit claimants, increased unwillingness by banks to lend for this kind of property, much higher levels of evictions and much greater homelessness.”

Sue Sims, a Birmingham based landlord, is one of those who thinks she’ll have to stop renting to tenants on benefits – because the numbers simply don’t add up anymore. At a Simple Landlords Insurance event, landlords discussed the challenges ahead. Sue explained: “It’s already been proved that the arrears rates in the areas which have universal credit have gone up hugely. You need the security that you’re going to get your rent paid on time, otherwise you can’t pay your mortgage. As a result, I won’t even consider housing benefit tenants in my properties any longer.”

Indeed, recent research published by Residential Landlords Association (RLA) research lab PEARL shows that out of 2,974 landlords, 38 per cent reported that they have experienced Universal Credit tenants going into rent arrears in the past twelve months and were owed an average £1,600 in rent arrears. And Sue is not alone in her reluctance to rent to Universal Credit – another survey of more than 1,000 landlords in found that 91.6 per cent of landlords said the introduction of universal credit would make them less likely to rent to those on benefits.

Our Newshounds will have to track this one down but I find no evidence anywhere else –  though who could doubt the seriousness of the Landlords and their associations? –  of this inquiry.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 7, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Workfare Returns and Benefits Sanctions Shoot Up.

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Poundland has been criticised for employing jobseekers, without pay, for up to two months under a deal with the government.

Several of those who have worked on the scheme told the Guardian they had worked up to 30 hours a week for at least three weeks stacking shelves in Poundland. They were told that the work experience was voluntary but one said: “I had no say in it really.”

It’s not clear how many jobseekers have been used by Poundland under the scheme as the government said it did not collect information centrally and the work experience was managed locally by jobcentres across the country. However, one store in Bolton has taken on 21 placements since last August, according to information provided in response to a freedom of information request by the Boycott Workfare pressure group.

 

Origin of the story,

Is Poundland using unpaid workers again? Graduate says he’s stacking shelves for free on ‘demoralising’ Government work scheme

JOB CENTRE TOLD HIM AND NINE OTHERS TO COMPLETE SIX WEEK PLACEMENT IN BOLTON SHOP

* GRADUATE FOG EXCLUSIVE *

Poundland has denied using unpaid workers to stack shelves in its stores, directly contradicting a source who has told Graduate Fog that he and nine others are currently working for free in the chain’s Bolton store, in placements set up by his local job centre.

This website has spoken to Billy (not his real name), a recent graduate from the University of Central Lancashire, who says he has been told by his local job centre that he must work for free at the discount retailer for 30 hours a week for six weeks. Billy and nine others are required to wear black, unbranded polo shirts, black trousers and black shoes when working in Poundland’s stores, all provided by the job centre. 

familiar snip

Of 10 unpaid workers at that store, Billy says eight are under 25 years old. One of the older pair has 27 years’ experience as a teacher. All are on the DWP’s ‘Work Experience Programme’. Billy told us:

“I was so excited to graduate from university but, one month on, I’ve never felt so low. Having struggled to find paid work, three weeks ago I signed on to Universal Credit, and I’ve been told to do unpaid work experience stacking shelves at Poundland. There are 10 of us in our branch working 30 hours a week, and none of us is being paid a penny by Poundland. I hate it and have no idea what this is supposed to be teaching me. I’m not learning anything and I can’t work out why taxpayers are subsidising my unpaid work for a hugely profitable company.

“I don’t have a set schedule. They just literally tell me to come in. Monday 26th June was my first day, I worked from 2:30-8:30pm. There were five of us in total. Once we completed the day we were told to come in again on Wednesday from 2:30-8:30pm. It’s not set hours and days but we have to do 30 hours a week for 6 weeks. We have been given black polo shirts to wear during our shifts. They’re the exactly same as the uniform the regular Poundland staff wear, but without the Poundland logo.

“I am keen to get on and apply for a jobs in my chosen industry, but working for nothing is so demoralising that it’s hard to stay motivated. I can’t understand how the politicians think unpaid work is a solution to youth unemployment. The quality of these placements is poor and they lead nowhere. Those of us who do them end up exhausted and miserable, and I suspect we’ve probably replaced a few paid workers too, who will be missing out on the shifts we now cover. Meanwhile, Poundland must be laughing all the way to the bank. The scheme needs shutting down. The only people benefiting from it are Poundland.”

Since graduating this summer with a 2:1 in Film and Media Studies, Billy has been living at home with his dad, who has bipolar disorder, his mum, who is a carer, and his brother who is also looking for work. The whole family is struggling financially and Billy says: “We all feel trapped”.

Meanwhile….

Benefit Tales posts,

The number of benefit sanctions imposed on job seekers has shot up by 50% in the space of six months, Politics.co.uk can reveal.

The number of sanctions imposed on people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit rose from 18,994 last July to 33,860 in December, before falling back to the 30,000 mark by March this year.

In the six months to March, the most recent month for which data is available, the number of sanctions had risen by 50%.

“It is a matter of real concern that the number of people on Universal Credit being sanctioned is increasing,” shadow employment minister Margaret Greenwood said.

“This data shows further evidence of the Tory government letting vulnerable groups down, fuelling poverty and even destitution in the UK.

“A recent Public Accounts Committee report suggested that sanctions are being ‘applied inconsistently’ and used as a ‘blunt instrument’.”

Politics.co.uk has combined both published and unpublished data from the Department for Work and Pensions. While figures for the old Jobseeker’s Allowance benefit are routinely published, recent data for the newer Universal Credit system is much harder to come by.

The true sanctions figures are actually likely to be higher, as the Universal Credit data excludes claimants in numerous parts of the country. (also, these figures don’t include sanctions on people with disability  benefits)

Originally on the Politics Co site: Benefit sanctions shoot up 50% in six months

Written by Andrew Coates

September 4, 2017 at 1:39 pm

UN – Ministers have failed those with disabilities through their welfare policies.

with 63 comments

Disability rights campaigners protest in Westminster

Protest for Disabled Rights – Ipswich activist on the right.

The rights of the disabled affect us all.

Not only is there is a principle involved, an injury to one is an injury to all, but many people on unemployment benefit, and disability benefits, cross from one category to the other.

The cruel regime applied to the disabled is a sign of how the DWP can treat all claimants.

There is no need to repeat the individual cases – many many of us are very familiar with them – of people mistreated by the likes of ATOS and Capita.

With the UN Report –  UN denounces British government for failing to protect disabled peoples’ rights, Damning report finds ministers have failed those with disabilities through catalogue of welfare policies in recent years – the issues involved have come to national attention,

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) has been covering this story for some time.

November 2016.  The UN Report into UK Government maltreatment of disabled people has been published.

Yesterday DPAC posted,

A ‘human catastrophe’ – New UN condemnation for UK human rights record

The UK Government’s claim to be a ‘world leader in disability issues’ has today been crushed by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Committee has released damning Concluding Observations on the UK, following its first Review of the government’s compliance with the Convention.

The highlights of the press conference held by the UN Committee on the Rights of Disabled People at this afternoon are:

  • The Committee has made the highest ever number of recommendations to the UK.
  • The UK’s retrogression in ensuring Independent Living is a major concern. There is not adequate funding, resulting in too much institutionalisation.
  • There is a significant problem with Deaf and disabled people’s standard of living. Disabled people continue to be disadvantaged in employment, and are not adequately compensated for disability by the state.

The Observations conclude last week’s public examination of the UK Government’s record on delivering disabled people’s rights. The examination was declared by the UK rapporteur Mr Stig Langvad, to be “the most challenging exercise in the history of the Committee”. Mr Langvad raised deep concerns on the UK Government’s failure to implement the rights of disabled people. He also noted the government’s “lack of recognition of the findings and recommendations of the (2016) Inquiry” which found ‘grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s human rights’.

Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations (DDPOs) were hailed as the genuine “world leaders” for their efforts in bringing to light the injustices and human rights violations inflicted on disabled people in the UK.

The UK Delegation of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations has issued the following joint statement:

“Today the UN(CRPD) Committee has, once again, condemned the UK Government’s record on Deaf and Disabled People’s human rights. They have validated the desperation, frustration and outrage experienced by Deaf and Disabled people since austerity and welfare cuts began. It is not acceptable for the UK Government to ignore the strong and united message of the disability community.

UK Government representatives committed during the review to rethinking the way they support Deaf and Disabled People to monitor our rights. We welcome this commitment.  However, we are clear that our involvement must be genuine and inclusive and that we cannot accept anything less than progress on delivering the human rights enshrined in the Convention, and denied us for too long.

DDPOs have established themselves as a force to be reckoned with following a long campaign of challenging the Government’s blatant disregard for the lives of Deaf and disabled people in the UK. The unity and solidarity demonstrated by the Committee and the UK Independent Mechanism in supporting our calls for justice continue to strengthen us.”

Charities say report is grim reality check and Labour says it highlights how disabled people are bearing brunt of austerity.

The UK government is failing to uphold disabled people’s rights across a range of areas from education, work and housing to health, transport and social security, a UN inquiry has found.

The UN committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities examined the government’s progress in fulfilling its commitments to the UN convention on disabled people’s rights, to which the UK has been a signatory since 2007.

Its report concludes that the UK has not done enough to ensure the convention – which enshrines the rights of disabled people to live independently, to work and to enjoy social protection without discrimination – is reflected in UK law and policy.

Areas of concern highlighted by the report, which contains more than 60 recommendations for the UK government, include:

  • The rising numbers of disabled children educated in segregated “special schools” in the UK. The report calls for legislation to ensure mainstream schools provide “real inclusion” for disabled children.
  • High levels of poverty for disabled people and their families and reduced standards of living as result of multiple welfare reforms and benefit cuts. It calls for a review of benefit sanctions, which it says have a detrimental effect on recipients.
  • The failure of the UK government to recognise the rights of disabled people to live independently in the community. It calls on ministers to provide sufficient resources to support disabled people to live at home.

In November the same UN committee issued a scathing report on austerity policies pursued by the UK government in welfare and social care, which it described as “systematic violations” of the rights of people with disabilities. The government dismissed that report as patronising and offensive

Channel Four News did a long report yesterday on this.

A United Nations inquiry has accused the government of failing to uphold the rights of disabled people in a whole range of areas, from health and housing to work and education.

Channel Four site.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 1, 2017 at 11:15 am

On Food Banks: Don’t Institutionalise Food Poverty.

with 87 comments

Image result for food banks

Institutionalised Food Poverty.

The will to feed people who are hungry is one of the most basic reasons to have some hope in human beings.

The ‘Better Angels of our Nature’, showing sympathy for others, still comes out, for all that we are pushed to hate and selfish ideas.

But…

Making concern for other people, or – let’s be honest –  a dose of pity,  a substitute for the right to social security is not a good idea.

We don’t have to be the philosopher Kant to see that if eating is made conditional on the generosity of others, we are making people dependent on the Good Will of Others. Whether it’s done out of true moral obligation or from a wish to seem good, we are still dependent on others.

A right is something we claim against an institution, and stands the same for all, not provided by a market of charitable initiatives.

Our contributors and the papers are full of stories about the rise in Food Bank demand.

The idea of the Welfare State as a “safe home” for people in difficulty is replaced by concerns about the voluntary  provision of something to eat is weakened.

At the foundation of the Welfare State, Beveridge talked of ending Want,

Poverty was seen as the key social problem which affected all others. In 1946 the National Insurance Act was passed which extended the Liberal Act of 1911 to include all adults. This provided comprehensive insurance against most eventualities.

It provided sickness and unemployment benefit, retirement pension and widow and maternity benefit. It was said that social provision was made for citizens from the ‘cradle to the grave’, catering for their needs from their time of birth to their death.

Beverdige did not talk of bringing back 1930s Soup Kitchens.

But in the US, as this article pointed  out a couple of years ago, they never got away from the 30s level of ‘welfare’.

In the U.S., we take it for granted that government help is not enough to live on, that private charities and philanthropic donations fill the holes in income, housing and health care that our welfare system leaves gaping. Disaster relief, meals on wheels, homeless shelters — for us they’re just part of the economic landscape, the extra stitches in our safety net.

But in Britain, the idea of a significant portion of the population being fed, clothed and housed by private charities is genuinely new, at least in the post-war era, and the British haven’t decided how they feel about it. Are privately run social services a scandal of government neglect, or simply a country taking responsibility for its runaway spending?

 

This piece, in 2012,  makes some of the points we need to think about again.

Guardian 2012.

David Cameron recently said he “welcomed” the work done by food banks and, for many in his party, their growing presence is a happy embodiment of the concept of the “big society”. In a debate on food poverty earlier this year, Caroline Spelman, secretary of state for environment and food, described them as an “excellent example” of this in action.

For others, the growth is a reflection of a new approach to providing assistance to people in real need. Whereas previously this was a service that the state would have provided, now feeding large numbers of people who are not able to feed themselves is being subcontracted out to charities. Those who have scrutinised the progress of the Welfare Reform Act, say this move from state to charity reflects the general direction of travel.

Once these services move beyond the realms of state provision, there are potential problems – they lose neutrality, some uncertainty comes with initiatives that are volunteer-run, the food on offer is (despite the best efforts of the Trussell Trust) idiosyncratic, the religious environment in which food is provided raises questions for some recipients. It becomes charity rather than basic state support, and for many this brings a degree of unease.

Stephen Timms, shadow work and pensions secretary, says it is a “pretty worrying reflection of what’s going on in the country, when people are dependent on these charitable handouts. My worry is that we are really just at the start of cutting back the benefits system and already a large number of people are not able to to buy food for their families. This shouldn’t be happening on the scale that it is now happening.”

Manchester Labour MP, and former head of the Child Poverty Action Group, Kate Green describes the growth of food banks as a disgrace. “I feel a real burning anger about them,” she says. “People are very distressed at having to ask for food; it’s humiliating and distressing.”

In fact what’s happened is that we have institutionalised food poverty. (Food banks don’t solve food poverty. The UK must not institutionalise them 2014).

Update:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 29, 2017 at 11:25 am

Posted in Cuts, DWP, Food Banks, Sanctions

Tagged with , ,

Minister silent as desperate DWP launches helpline for landlords and Allegations about “massaged” Benefit Sanction Figures made.

with 92 comments

Image result for David Gauke DWP

Gauke, Taking it Easy as DWP Descends into Omnishambles.

Parliament briefly heard of Work and Pensions secretary David Gauke  when he announced in Parliament in July that the state pension age will rise to 68 .

Since that time this is his last known statement of the Man,  as key policies of his government, which his Department is in charge of, such as Universal Credit, are in a condition worse than omnishambles.

6th August 2017

After a busy year so far, the summer recess comes as a welcome slow-down for most MPs.  There has been no shortage of drama in politics for the past couple of years and recent months have been no exception.  General elections tend to be somewhat exhausting and, on this occasion, it resulted in a less than conclusive result.

The General Election was then followed by a reshuffle and, on a personal note, I moved on from the Treasury to the Department for Work & Pensions.

The summer recess is a good opportunity for ministers in new departments to get their heads round new issues and attempt to get on top of their brief.  In my case, I am spending some of the period when Parliament isn’t sitting visiting DWP offices around the country, meeting staff and understanding the breadth of work undertaken by the department.  I am also spending plenty of time reading into the various subjects covered by the department – employment, disability benefits, pensions and so on.

This should, I hope, be helpful for the autumn when Parliament returns and we have the party conferences.

Much of the work is quite technical in nature but my previous ministerial experience is helpful, whether it is experience of a big operational part of government (I previously worked closely with HMRC), pensions policy (I worked on pensions tax policy when at the Treasury) or just an understanding of large parts of public spending (which was key when I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury).

Meanwhile, the constituency work continues with the correspondence and regular constituency surgeries.

Parliamentary recess is not a long holiday (a point MPs often make, somewhat defensively!) but it should enable us to recharge our batteries for a busy few months.

We imagine he in some quiet holiday retreat away from the world, ready to re-assume his pressing duties here, “David is a Patron of the Hospice of St Francis, the Watford Peace Hospice and the Three Rivers Museum.  He writes regularly for the Croxley, Rickmansworth and Chorleywood editions of My Local News magazines and The Berkhamsted & Tring Gazette.”

Meanwhile while Gauke relaxes, the Residential Landlords Association announces,

 

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has introduced a new helpline for landlords whose Universal Credit tenants will not communicate with them.

The new number 0345 600 4272 can be used by landlords who are unable to obtain the tenant’s co-operation to get DWP to supply information when it comes to enquiries about major payments –  such as a direct payment to the landlord.

This is a significant change as, before now, landlords were totally dependent on the goodwill of the tenant when it came to accessing information.

The new number can only be used by landlords in areas where Universal Credit has been fully rolled out.

The official Universal Credit guidance says the landlord should:

  • In the first instance engage with their tenant about the issue.  The tenant has access to their own information via their online account and can share it with their landlord
  • If more assistance is required the claimant can ask to share their personal information with their landlord or other representative via their online journal, face to face or by calling the service centre and giving explicit consent
  • When contacting Universal Credit the claimant’s representative will be asked to confirm their identity so the case manager can speak to the landlord direct.

Earlier this summer DWP said it will address problems faced by landlords who house Universal Credit tenants following a meeting with the RLA.

RLA directors David Smith and Chris Town met with Caroline Dinenage MP, the new Minister responsible for housing cost support, to discuss issues including rent arrears and direct payments.

This came about after the RLA’s most recent quarterly survey showed 38% of landlords with tenants in receipt of UC had seen them fall into rent arrears in the past 12 months. With tenants owing an average of £1,600.

The RLA runs a course on Universal Credit, with dates currently available in Manchester and Leeds.

The other story the Gentleman of Leisure is avoiding is this:

The London Economic (TLE)

A freedom of Information request shows that new welfare reforms are allowing the government to distort the true figures of those sanctioned on welfare, disability and in receipt of pensions

The very latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) obtained by The London Economic in response to a freedom of information request I submitted show that new welfare reforms such as Universal Credit are allowing the true figures regarding people sanctioned to go grossly unreported.

Today 20 million people in the UK are claimants, 13.8 million are on a pension, and a further 6.8 million people are of working age.

The DWP has started, from August 2017, to publish a Quarterly Statistical Summary of information on the length of time over which a reduction in benefit due to a sanction lasts.

In this report, they say for the first time, the duration of sanctions to be implemented for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC), Jobseekers  Allowance (JSA) and Income Support (IS).

Furthermore, they say they are working on the methodology used to calculate sanction durations.

Yet, when you look at the Government’s own headline figures, a staggering 4.4 million people have been sanctioned up to 31 March 2017 and these figures probably underestimate the true number by a further 2 million under-reported sanctions, as Government figures do not include people sanctioned more than once; people who are presently challenging their sanctions or the huge number of people who have been successful in winning their appeals.

Moreover, Universal Credit is also helping the Government to massage the sanction figures downwards.

Rest of Story here.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 24, 2017 at 4:12 pm

“Far from a welfare state which protects the weaker underbelly in society, it is attacking them.” Frank Field.

with 84 comments

 

Image result for food banks a conservative triumph

I had just bought my copy of the ‘I’ this morning and was glancing at the story below (it’s the basis of the Front Page) when I saw a group of Street People squatting on the Corner of Upper Brook Street and Tacket Street in Ipswich.

They did not look over supplied with wealth….

 

I immediately thought of this article, written by somebody with the ideas not too far from  Patrick Minford, the man who says, “Our economy will gain billions after Brexit”.

Minford was a pioneer in the “rational expectations revolution’. Not being an economist I have little idea of the details, but his premise was the unfettered free market. “Work by Minford’s team at Liverpool was also influential on unemployment policy, especially labour market liberalisation, where the Liverpool Model was the first model to develop a ‘supply side’ designed to explain the underlying trend or ‘natural’ unemployment rate.”

More recently, apart from his his promise of a rosy future under Brexit, he has said this, “New living wage will penalise the poor with unemployment, economist warns” “Cardiff University economics professor Patrick Minford says the new rate of £7.20 an hour prices people out of jobs” (March 2016)

Why food banks are a conservative triumph

By   (‘Senior fellow’ at the Adam Smith Institute)

We’re told, endlessly that this food network exists because of austerity – that the need is something new. But this doesn’t pass the laugh test for anyone rich in maturity. The British state has always been lousy at paying benefits on time and in full – even before Mrs Thatcher, I recall people waiting weeks and weeks for unemployment benefits, which is why we would chip in to keep them fed.

So, in one sense, we should be celebrating the rise of the food bank network. Here we’ve a long running and pernicious problem to which a solution has been found. Government’s not very good at the £10-here-and-£20-there problems, and the very bureaucracy of government seems to be the cause of many of them. We’re solving one of these problems.

But this leads us to question why this is a conservative (but not Conservative) movement and system of organisation. The clue to that being Edmund Burke’s “little platoons”. There has been no governmental nor societal mobilisation of the populace to achieve this, Simply a realisation that a problem, previously seemingly intractable, can now be solved.

….

So, it is being solved entirely through the voluntary action of individuals and groups and purely from the goodness of their hearts. And, again, note, in reaction to the incompetence of government and the state.

The alleviation of poverty is a good idea, the alleviation of hunger a great one. That it’s being done through entirely voluntary interaction of a free people is indeed a conservative moment and victory.

For a different point of view we turn back to the ‘I’.

Here is more about this Tory Triumph:

Vulnerable people ‘being forced to use foodbanks because of benefits system problems’

Vulnerable people are being driven into destitution and reliance on foodbanks because of major flaws in the benefits system, a former welfare minister has claimed. Frank Field has called for a review of the operation of benefits, including the new universal credit (UC), to prevent claimants being unintentionally forced into poverty. His intervention follows warnings that foodbank use continues to climb, with large numbers of families with young children asking for emergency help.

The Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest foodbank network, handed out a record number of emergency food parcels in 2016-17. It said foodbank referrals in areas where UC had been fully rolled out were running at twice the national average. Mr Field, the chairman of the work and pensions select committee, said: “Far from a welfare state which protects the weaker underbelly in society, it is attacking them.”

In a letter to the new Work and Pensions Secretary, David Gauke, he listed a series of complaints about the benefits system. Advance loans Mr Field said UC claimants only receive their first payments after six weeks, relying on advance loans to tide them over. Others faced problems because they cannot produce adequate paperwork – such as proof of tenancy – to back up claims for the housing costs element of universal credit, he added.

The Labour MP warned of disabled people being forced to use foodbanks as their benefits have been “wrongly withdrawn or drastically reduced” when they moved on to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) system. He backed an urgent review of the assessment system for evaluating PIP claims amid frequent complaints that it was too rigid to assess accurately claimants’ ability to work.

Mr Field said he had been told homeless people faced penury because they were unable to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance without a fixed address. Travel costs He added that he also had evidence from around the country that people who found jobs were relying on foodbanks in the gap between the final benefit payments and first pay cheque. He suggested they could be given special help with expenses such as travel costs over this period to make ends meet and stop them going hungry.

Mr Field told i: “For the first time ever, we have now got a welfare state which is causing destitution and nobody, but nobody, set out for the welfare state to do that. “A number of benefit changes have stopped people getting help they need. “Those benefits are meant to knit together and give us a safety net. What we now have is far from a safety net – the welfare state is by accident being reshaped into an agent that causes destitution.” Mr Field was particularly critical of the six week gap before the first universal credit payments are received – and said the cash often did not arrive that quickly. “If you are down on your luck and you aren’t going to get benefit for six weeks, and they make it three months – and you have got kids, it’s the summer, then there’s the school uniform and electricity bills to pay and you have got to get the rent – then the whole thing is intolerable.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 21, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Rent Arrears Swell with Universal Credit.

with 65 comments

Image result for universal credit rent arrears

Universal Credit: More and More Demands…

One of the ideas behind government welfare ‘reforms’ is to make people more “responsible”.

We now have to pay a percentage of our Council Tax, because that makes us “responsible”, or to put it more simply, it is thought to make us consider how Councils allocate money. In this case a right-wing idea, that poor people voting over public spending is a bad idea because we will use our power to tax our betters, is behind this. As ‘taxpayers’ ourselves we will think twice about forking out for the elderly, and public services more widely and, they hope, vote Tory to keep Council Budgets in order. Bad councils, that is Labour ones, will suffer electoral reverses if they do not follow the penny pinching and contracting out ways of the Conservative crooks who still run many councils.

The fact that this scheme costs money to collect, that poor people fall into arrears, and that not a single penny has gone to compensate benefit claimants for what is in reality a hefty cut in our income, is ignored.

Universal Credit operates with another kind of enforced “responsibility”.

People pay their rent themselves, rather than having it deducted and sent to the properties’ owners.

Common sense would have told the designers of this system that far from ‘teaching people how to budget’ it would be the occasion for many to fall into arrears.

And so it has come to pass…..

Almost 90 per cent of tenants in receipt of Universal Credit are in rent arrears Daily Record.

South Lanarkshire Council confirmed this week that 633, 87 per cent, of UC tenants owe £525,000.

Almost 90 per cent of council tenants in receipt of the controversial Universal Credit (UC) benefit are in rent arrears totalling £525,000.

South Lanarkshire Council confirmed this week that 633, 87 per cent, of UC tenants are struggling to pay for housing.

The local authority said it was doing everything possible to assist people to repay the debt and avoid losing their home, as Gerard Killen MP called on the government to halt the full roll out of the benefit.

Currently offered to a limited number of people, UC replaces six of the main means tested benefits including housing benefit and sees claimants receive all of their benefits in one single payment monthly in arrears.

It means tenants are, for the first time, responsible for paying their rent as opposed to their housing benefit being paid direct to their landlord.

The Residential Landlords Association quickly got a whiff of this and has set the following up,

In July Councils were already flagging up their concern.

Councils losing £6.7m in Universal Credit arrears

The saga of Universal credit looks far from over.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 18, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Food Banks Use Soars.

with 100 comments

 

Image result for food banks uk 2017

It’s hard not to notice a flurry of stories about Food Banks in recent days.

Appeal for baked beans as benefit changes sees demand for food banks soar.

THE Government has been criticised after a Somerset food bank made an urgent appeal for baked beans.

Ann Gibbs, coordinator of West Somerset Food Cupboard, says it has seen a huge rise in demand over the last year which has hit their stocks so hard they are running out of tinned beans and other non-perishable food.   She said: “These are families who can just about manage during term time, but are struggling to make ends meet while children are not at school.

“For the first time ever, we recently ran out of baked beans.”

Chard and Ilminster News.14th of August

 

Nottingham food bank sees ‘surge’ in donations after almost running out of stock

The centre says they saw “an upsurge in offers of help” after last week’s appeal.

One of the largest food banks in the city almost ran out of food last week – but it has now thanked the community after a surge of donations.

Mount Zion food bank, in Radford, was the busiest it had ever been due to the summer holidays increasing the number of families turning to them for help – a pattern seen across the city.

But now the centre says they saw “an upsurge in offers of help” after last week’s appeal.

Mount Zion Church is under particular strain because of its central location making it very popular, while it also lacks major local sponsors.

Nottingham Post 14th of August.

 

The rise of the working poor and food banks in our wealthy nation. How a Huddersfield food bank has seen a 17-fold increase in demand – and why.

Alan Clarke, head of European fixed income strategy at Scotiabank, is forecasting CPI to hit 2.8 per cent, driven in part by rising price tags on food.

He said: “Food price falls came to a fairly abrupt end in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, particularly on the back of the sharp fall in the GBP exchange rate.

“Indeed, food prices have risen for seven of the last eight months – with last month being the exception, showing a 0.2 per cent month-on-month fall.

“Overall, we view last month’s downward adjustment in inflation as temporary and the peak in inflation is yet to be reached.”

End the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2017 at 10:29 am

Homeless Levels to Double.

with 49 comments

The camp set up on Ipswich Waterfront by a group of rough sleepers. Pictures taken by Gregg Brown in January 2017.

Rough Sleeper Camp in Ipswich (January 2017). 

Enigma is the latest of our contributors to point out that this is a growing issue.

The Mirror.

Twice as many people are sleeping rough in Tory Britain as we thought, alarming new study reveals

Analysis by Heriot-Watt University found 9,100 people are currently sleeping on the streets across Britain – the previous estimate was 4,100

 

In January this was published,  Rough sleeping rockets across Suffolk: “It’s a sign that a lot of people are struggling”

 

Welfare Weekly reports,

The number of people forced into homelessness is expected to more than double to half a million by 2041 unless the government takes immediate action, a homelessness charity has warned.

Analysis by Heriot-Watt University for Crisis has found that the number of homeless people in Britain will reach 575,000, up from 236,000 in 2016. The number of people sleeping rough will more than quadruple from 9,100 in 2016 to 40,100 over the same period, the research found.

The forecast, released to mark the 50th anniversary of Crisis, comes as the number of homeless households has jumped by a third in the past five years. The majority of those affected are “sofa surfers”, with 68,300 people sleeping on other people’s couches.

The biggest rise will be for those placed by a council in unsuitable accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts, with the total expected to rise from 19,300 to 117,500.

Crisis has urged the government to build more affordable housing and launch a concerted effort to tackle rough sleeping.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “With the right support at the right time, it doesn’t need to be inevitable … Together we can find the answers and make sure those in power listen to them.”

Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, said that homelessness had become the bulk of her workload. “The government needs to wake up … The system is broken. Without more social housing, a flood of good temporary accommodation and investment in homelessness support the problem will get worse.”

This will help increase the numbers of homeless as well:

The Tory government has quietly axed a free benefit claimed by 124,000 people – here’s how it could hit you.   Mirror. 

The government will be transferring existing claimants onto the new loan system from 5 April 2018.

There will be a transition period where some people can continue claiming SMI as a free benefit for a while.

But this is simply to stop people falling through the cracks if there are “delays” to moving them onto the new scheme.

Outsourcing giant Serco is taking responsibility for telling people about the new system in the coming months through letters and a phone call.

….

A spokesman for welfare rights charity Turn2us added: “Support for Mortgage Interest has been an important source of help for those with a mortgage who have had an income shock.

“It has helped many stay in their homes.

“The increase in the waiting period to 39 weeks has already affected that.

“Now, turning Support for Mortgage Interest from a benefit into a loan adds to the pressure on homeowners who are already struggling.”

Can I take the time to flag up this article by one of the best activists in Britain, 

The first sentence is relevant to the above, “Outsourcing giant Serco”

Outsourcing is killing local democracy in Britain. Here’s how we can stop that

Residents at Grenfell Tower describe how, as the local council outsourced contracts to private companies to work on their estate, essential elements of local democracy became unavailable to them. Their voices weren’t heard, information they requested wasn’t granted, outcomes they were promised did not transpire, complaints they made were not answered. The outcome at Grenfell was unique in its scale but the background is a common enough story. Wherever regeneration of social housing has been outsourced to private developers, responsiveness, transparency, oversight and scrutiny – key elements of healthy democracy – are lessened for those most directly affected.

Outsourcing of public services began in the 1980s, a central feature of the drive to roll back what neoliberalism casts as a bureaucratic, inefficient state. Its proponents claimed the involvement of private providers would increase cost-savings and efficiency, and improve responsiveness to the “consumers” of public services. Thirty years later, the value of these contracts is enormous – more than £120bn worth of government business was awarded to private companies between 2011 and 2016, and their number is increasing rapidly. At least 30% of all public outsourcing contracts are with local authorities.

 

In Ipswich the Labour Borough Council does not outsource. – sadly this is not the case for many Labour authorities.

 

Cuts mean it’s hard to deal with problems like homelessness.

But the gang of Tories from the backwoods and chocolate box villages who run Suffolk County Council have hived off everything they possibly can and helped make things that but worse.

Result?

Read Pilgrim’s article.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 11, 2017 at 12:21 pm

More Calls to Shelve Universal Credit.

with 99 comments

Image result for universal credit

Mass Meeting of Happy UC Claimants at Christmas.

You wonder when the number of criticisms and calls for shelve Universal Credit will sink into the very thick head of Rt Hon David Gauke MP.

This is the kind of thing that he’s interested in,

“I live in Chorleywood, am an avid cricket and football supporter and enjoy the countryside around south west Hertfordshire…”

These are his good works by which ye shall know him,

David is a Patron of the Hospice of St Francis, the Watford Peace Hospice and the Three Rivers Museum.  He writes regularly for the Croxley, Rickmansworth and Chorleywood editions of My Local News magazines and The Berkhamsted & Tring Gazette.

These are some of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Latest Tweets.

Apparently Tosspot, as his close mates call him, is now taking a keen interest in Venezuela, a subject on which he considers himself an expert.

His most recent stuff if re-tweets from other experts, like Frank Field, but this is the man’s own considered judgement.

People find the humourless git so unfunny that even his Official Parody site gave up the ghost in March.

Meanwhile while he fiddles Universal Credit burns.

Universal credit shake-up will send poor families to food banks for Christmas, warn Labour MPs

‘In many cases, recipients have had to wait seven weeks for payment of the benefits’

The expansion of the universal credit benefits shake-up will send families to food banks for Christmas, Labour MPs are warning.

A group of 30 Opposition MPs is urging the Government to shelve the introduction of the new benefit in about 50 new areas until next year, to avoid festive hardship.

Universal credit is meant to streamline the social security system but has been plagued by problems in trial areas where it is already up and running.

Citizens Advice has warned that claimants are being plunged into debt, with four in 10 people having to wait more than six weeks to receive their first payment.

Now the Labour MPs, from areas where the shake-up is due to be introduced this autumn, have written to David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, calling for delay.

“There is a real worry that the introduction of universal credit, at this time, will cause extreme hardship for many people in vulnerable situations, exacerbated by the financial burdens of the festive period,” they state.

Also on the excellent Welfare Weekly site: MPs urge government to delay universal credit rollout

MPs’ letter calls for extension of universal credit to be postponed until next year to avoid people suffering Christmas hardship.

Here is the letter:

We are concerned about the Department for Work and Pensions’ proposed rollout of universal credit (UC) in our constituencies during November and December. There is a real worry that the introduction of UC at this time will cause extreme hardship for many people in vulnerable situations, exacerbated by the financial burdens of the festive period. We understand that the proposed changes were designed to make the social security system simpler, more reactive to individuals’ issues and more efficient. However, evidence from other parts of the country where UC has been introduced already, shows that it is far from the efficient system trailed. In many cases, recipients have had to wait seven weeks for payment of the benefits. This puts an incredible strain on individuals and we have seen in other areas an increased use of food parcels during this period. There are also issues around the removal of the severe disability premium, which leaves many disabled people in a precarious position. In addition, although there is a provision for crisis loans, the mandatory paying back of £150 in three lump sums of £50 adds a further strain on individuals who are already in a difficult financial situation. Overall, the rigid nature of this approach can exacerbate the debt of those in receipt of UC.

The current timetable will cause our residents severe hardship over the months which are most financially difficult. We urge David Gauke, secretary of state for work and pensions, to instruct his department not to roll this system out in November and December, but look to a date later in 2018.
Laura Pidcock
Alison McGovern
Bambos Charalambos
Caroline Lucas
Carolyn Harris
Chris Law
Eleanor Smith
Fiona Onasanya
Geraint Davies
Helen Goodman
Helen Hayes
Ian Mearns
Jack Dromey
Jess Phillips
Jon Cruddas
John Cryer
John Mann
Justin Madders
Kate Osamor
Kevan Jones
Khalid Mahmood
Margaret Greenwood
Mike Amesbury
Preet Gill
Richard Burden
Roger Godsiff
Stella Creasy
Steve Pound
Tonia Antonazzi
Tracy Brabin
Virendra Sharma

We await Gaucke’s reply.

When he has the time…

Written by Andrew Coates

August 7, 2017 at 4:05 pm

NEET numbers increase , Mass Youth Unemployment Stays.

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IPT02 Matrix Facebook and LinkedIn v41

Apparently, well who would have guessed, all is not well for young people.

I particularly would not like to be an out of work young person.

The Financial Times reported this a couple of days ago,

More young Britons out of work and education

Neets who remain adrift of the system become increasingly unemployable.

The number of young people in Britain who spend long periods neither working nor studying has increased in the past year, according to a think-tank report. The total share of 16- to 24-year-olds who spent some time not in employment, education or training (Neets) declined last year, according to an analysis of Office for National Statistics data by the Learning and Work Institute think-tank, published on Wednesday. But the analysis showed that the percentage of young people who were Neet for a year or more rose from 9.8 per cent to 11.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year, compared with the first quarter of last year.

Educated myself through FE’s – both ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels (part-time) I found the report published on the 3rd of August in this journal, Further Education News, particularly relevant.

For a start the article underlines this, “Nearly 2 million young people between 16-24 spent some time NEET last year. “

Without being too rude about those providing the courses for young people I hope they are not of the order we older unemployed lot have had to undergo, thanks to SEETEC and the other chancers in the ‘Unemployed business” and do some serious stuff at FE colleges. 

NEET numbers increase as progress on youth unemployment stalls

FE News.

Progress in tackling youth unemployment has ground to a halt with more young people spending over 12 months out of education, employment or training (NEET) raising concerns over the government’s approach.

Reductions in the headline figure of NEETs are cited by the government as evidence of its success in tackling youth unemployment with the latest quarterly figures claiming NEET levels at 800,000 (11.2%) – a 68,000 reduction on the same quarter last year.

But the latest Youth Jobs Index from Impetus-PEF reveals that the number of young people who are NEET for over a year has increased sharply since they reported the figure last year.

Commenting on the findings of the second Youth Jobs Index, Andy Ratcliffe, CEO of Impetus-PEF – a charity that finds, funds and builds the most promising charities working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to help them become stronger organisations, said:

“We’ve just come away from an election where the youth vote counted, but our findings show there are still crippling numbers of young people not in education, employment or training who aren’t being counted at all. The headline drop in the number of young people who are neither earning or learning next to the increase in the numbers who are enduring this for over a year, confirms that we have structural problem in Britain that has not gone away.”

Using data produced by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) for the Labour Force Survey, (LFS) the Youth Jobs Index provides a detailed picture of young people’s experiences of being NEET. Unlike the LFS though, it tracks the progress of young people over time rather than giving a quarterly “snapshot”. This means that the index is better placed to track the duration that young people stay NEET.

And,

Nearly 2 million young people between 16-24 spent some time NEET last year. One in 10 young people (811,000) spent a year or more not in education or work, an increase from the 714,000 who spent more than 12 months NEET in the previous year.

The negative consequences of being long-term NEET are well known, with those affected experiencing poor mental and physical health and a reduction of £225,000 to their future earning potential.

The risk of being NEET varies depending on qualifications. Young people who fail to secure a Level 2 qualification are twice as likely to be long-term NEET. In contrast, for higher level qualifications there is only a 10 per cent risk of being NEET for six months and a 3 per cent risk of spending 12 months NEET.

Learning and Work Institute

Read more here.

These include  comments from the government which few will be arsed to read….

I have yet to find a Labour Party comment on this report.

Perhaps somebody can enlighten us about Labour policy.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 4, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Scottish Labour Says Universal credit roll-out should be halted.

with 90 comments

Image result for universal credit

 

Universal credit roll-out should be halted, say Labour  (STV2 days ago)

Only one of our top Newshounds, Ken, noticed.

Yup, it’s Scottish Labour.

Scottish Labour has called for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be halted amid concerns that families are being pushed into poverty and debt.

The move follows a similar call from the Scottish Government earlier this year, with ministers warning of problems with the implementation of the new benefit.

The full service of Universal Credit, where people use an online account to manage their claim or apply for a benefit, is already operational in certain parts of the country and is due to be introduced in full by the end of next year.

It is aimed at bringing a number of welfare payments together into one social security payment, making the system easier to use.

However, Scottish ministers said people who are moved on to full service have to wait six weeks before receiving their first payment.

Labour said the delay is leaving people without vital support.

The party highlighted evidence from Citizens Advice Scotland indicating a rise in rent arrears, crisis grant issues and food bank use in some of the areas where Universal Credit has already been introduced.

The party’s deputy leader, Alex Rowley, has written to Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to challenge them to halt the roll-out.

He has also contacted every MP in the UK to seek support for a delay.

Here is Scottish Labour’s ain statement,

TORIES MUST HALT UNIVERSAL CREDIT ROLL-OUT

Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley has today demanded that Tory plans to roll-out Universal Credit are halted. Alex has written to Conservative Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke, amid growing concerns that families are being pushed into poverty and debt. He has also challenged Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to get behind our campaign.

Universal Credit, which will replace six existing benefits, is supposed to make access to social security payments less complicated. It has been rolled out in parts of Scotland and is due to be introduced in full across the country by the end of 2018 – starting this October. But there are particular concerns about the six-week waiting period for payments at the start of the process.

Since Universal Credit was introduced, Citizens Advice Scotland evidence in initial roll-out areas shows:
• A 15 per cent rise in rent arrears issues compared to a national decrease of 2 per cent.
• An 87 per cent increase in Crisis Grant issues compared to a national increase of 9 per cent.
• Two of five bureaux in impacted areas have seen a 40 per cent and a 70 per cent increase in advice about access to food banks advice, compared to a national increase of 3 per cent.

A Labour government would act immediately to end the worst excesses of the Tory government’s changes, and would rebuild and transform our social security system.
Scottish Labour’s summer campaign, For The Many, will this week focus on tackling inequality. You can read more about the campaign here

Read Alex’s letter to David Gauke MP in full:

Dear Secretary of State,

I am writing to you regarding the accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit.

I have been in contact with organisations in my area, and have met with many constituents at local job clubs and heard first-hand some of the issues around the roll-out of Universal Credit. There is a very real concern that the system as it is operating is leaving many in poverty and debt.

The intention behind Universal Credit is supposedly to make access to social security less complex, and to further support people into work. This cannot be the case if it is leaving people without the vital support they need and drives some to have to rely on foodbanks simply to survive.

Of particular concern is the six week waiting period for payments at the start of the process. This is resulting in people ending up with rent arrears, increased reliance on crisis grants and relying on foodbanks for the very basic necessity of feeding themselves. The evidence to show all of this is now available from the pilot roll out areas as highlighted by Citizens Advice Scotland in a recent publication.

People have also reported that they are finding the process particularly complicated, which is resulting in more time spent ensuring that the bureaucratic process has been followed to avoid sanctioning, and less time actually available to look for work, or to develop the skills needed for work. There are also serious problems with individuals struggling to manage their claims online due to lacking digital skills or access to a computer.

It is for these reasons that I am asking that the accelerated roll-out of Universal Credit be halted until these problems can be resolved. If the system as it is operating puts more people in poverty or debt, or even increases the risk of these, then it should not continue in that form. Universal Credit must operate in a manner that helps individuals who need that support. Surely it cannot be right or acceptable that it hurts the very people it is designed to help.

Any changes to social security must be designed and implemented to support those individuals who rely on it. It can’t simply be a rigid administrative process, it must look beyond the process itself and see what impact it is having for the lives of those that use it. With this roll-out of Universal Credit we are seeing the impact it is having on people’s lives, and it is raising serious concerns.

I look forward to your response on how the DWP intend to resolve these worrying problems and I do hope in the meantime you will delay the roll out until assurances are in place that these concerns which are driving people into poverty are resolved.

Yours sincerely,
Alex Rowley MSP

People have – rightly – been concerned with issues such as mental health services and the DWP’s relation to this, not to mention the energy price rise from the bunch of thieves who run the privatised Gas and Electricity companies.

British Gas owner Centrica has announced it will be putting up its electricity prices within weeks.

We take a look at how it will affect customers:

:: How much more am I likely to pay?

The cost of electricity will rise by 12.5% from the 15 September this year.

Gas prices will stay the same – but the hefty hike in the cost of power means the average household on a dual fuel tariff will see their bills go up 7.3%, or around £76.

That will bring the average annual bill for a British Gas dual fuel customer to £1,120.

 

No rise in benefits to meet the rise.

End the Benefits Freeze or People will Freeze this Winter!

Written by Andrew Coates

August 1, 2017 at 10:46 am

News From the Welfare Front, from Boycott Workfare to Universal Credit.

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Image result for boycott workfare

Boycott Workfare, the admirable campaign group against government schemes for unpaid work for the out-of-work, has resurfaced with a chapter in a book published by Pluto Press.

A new book chapter using testimonies compiled by Boycott Workfare exposes the violent impact of forced labour.

When we talk about what’s wrong with workfare, we often mention the horrifying material impact on people’s lives of the benefit sanctions that underwrite it. The political impact of unwaged work is also important – the way it attacks workplace rights and destroys our freedom. And workfare is psychologically violent and humiliating: it is coerced labour that’s supposed to build skills and motivation but obviously does nothing apart from offer free work to businesses and charities.

Now, in a freely available chapter of The Violence of Austerity, just published by Pluto Press, the accounts of 97 people who were on workfare schemes between 2011 and 2015 show how workfare is not only ruthlessly exploitative, but can also mean being forced into dangerous work in which health and safety laws are violated as a matter of routine. As the authors write:

If being employed in workfare schemes can be read as a forced and therefore violent process in itself, it should also be read as a process that contains the potential for a different type of violence: the violence that confronts workers when they are told to stand in the cold, to lift heavy loads that they physically cannot lift, or to endure other forms of physical and psychological degradation.

‘The violence of workfare’ documents 64 concrete allegations of breaches of health and safety legislation, at 43 workfare exploiters across the UK – in charities, social enterprises, maintenance companies and discount stores, as well as in environmental, agricultural and recycling projects. The first-hand accounts that the chapter is based on were all submitted to Boycott Workfare via the name and shame section of this website. These ‘employers’ benefited from 1,139 weeks of forced labour from the 97 people whose testimonies are included. That’s almost 22 years of coerced, unpaid labour.

These testimonies make clear how people have been forced to carry out hard labour or heavy lifting, despite existing medical conditions which make this work agony. The testimonies reveal how people have been denied access to protective equipment, and how people have been exposed to dust, chemicals and other hazards. In some cases, these accounts document how organisations have refused workfare conscripts access to food or water, and denied them even short breaks.

At the same time, the testimonies collected together in this chapter provide evidence of workfare exploiters threatening to ‘sack’ people who don’t work fast enough, or try to complain or try to gather evidence of the conditions they are being forced to operate in. People on workfare face being sanctioned if they are unwilling to work in unsafe conditions or if they take any kind of action to draw attention to these conditions.

And some workfare exploiters, it is made clear, are more than willing to exploit the fear that the sanctions regime generates to try and force people to accept dangerous working conditions. That same fear is used to ensure as much management control over workfare conscripts as possible. ‘The fear of sanction can intensify and generate yet more unreasonable demands from employers,’ the authors write. ‘Workfare, as a form of forced labour, effectively permits employers to breach health and safety laws with impunity’. Dangerous working conditions are an effect of unfree labour, compelled by the threat of sanctions.

But we can fight.

We are all entitled to the same basic health and safety protections in workplaces, and in the next few weeks, Boycott Workfare is aiming to bring out a ‘know your health and safety rights leaflet’ that can be used to provide information on these rights, and how to challenge dangerous conditions. And we must continue to name and shame exploiters, and expose the conditions in which they force people to work. Public pressure works, and now that workfare exploiters can no longer hide behind anonymity, we can consign workfare to history.

‘The violence of workfare’, by Jon Burnett and David Whyte, is available for free here. You can read more about the chapter, and the rest of the book, in this article from Disability News Service.

Background:

Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive social security.

We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact.

We expose the companies and organisations profiting from workfare and we take action against them. We encourage organisations to pledge to boycott workfare. We inform people of their rights at the jobcentre and we provide information to support claimants challenging workfare and sanctions.

Boycott Workfare is not a front for any political party, or affiliated with any political party. Anyone who shares our aims is welcome to get involved. Email us: info@boycottworkfare.org, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Unfortunately, Boycott Workfare do not currently have the capacity to take on casework. We recommend that claimants contact local organisations for one-to-one advice and support.

Meanwhile on the Universal Credit front….

Public Finance.

Council housing managers have urged the government to halt the rolling introduction of Universal Credit, which they said is causing “considerable hardship” to tenants.

The National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) also called on ministers to scrap the seven-day waiting period for new claims.

They said that almost four years on from the initial introduction of Universal Credit “our research shows that delays in the assessment process, poor communications between DWP and landlords, and the seven-day wait period continue to cause significant problems to both landlords and their tenants”.

Rent arrears among Universal Credit claimants remained “stubbornly high” at 73% – equivalent to £6.68m – and 40% of households had accumulated arrears as a consequence of claiming.

Meanwhile, households faced mounting debts, as the average arrears for Universal Credit claimants had increased from £611.73 in March 2016 to £772.21 a year later.

NFA managing director Eamon McGoldrick said: “We are strongly urging government/DWP to halt the roll out of UC and ‘pause for thought’ until the system works properly for both claimants and landlords.”

The NFA and ARCH said their members generally supported the principles of Universal Credit and had launched initiatives to support tenants into work.

But they warned: “It is clear that support provided to tenants by landlords alone is not sufficient to resolve the problems being experienced and is not scalable as the roll out accelerates across the country and many more families and children become a part of the Universal Credit system.”

ARCH chief executive John Bibby said: “If the level of intensive support needed to vulnerable tenants is to be sustained during the planned rollout additional resources are essential.”

He also called for provision of a transition fund to enable landlords to support vulnerable tenants.

The DWP defines Universal Credit as support for people on low incomes or out of work, intended to ensure they are better off in work than on benefits.

It replaces: income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance; income-related employment and support allowance; income support; working tax credit; child tax credit; housing benefit.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 27, 2017 at 3:02 pm

As BBC Women’s Pay Gap Dominates News, Benefits Freeze leads to Evictions.

with 107 comments

Evictions reach a record high - new report for JRF published

More Important than Pay Gap for Women at BBC? 

No doubt this is important, so important that you can barely turn the radio or the telly on without hearing about it.

45 BBC women urge action now from Tony Hall on salaries as Claire Balding reveals Women’s Hour pays 40 per cent less than other shows.

But I can’t help feeling, call me a workerist, a miserabilist, and all the rest, that this is a lot more important.

100 tenants a day lose homes as rising rents and benefit freeze hit

(Thanks Enigma and others…)

Charities demand action to tackle toll of soaring housing costs, welfare cuts and ‘no fault’ evictions.

A record number of renters are being evicted from their homes, with more than 100 tenants a day losing the roof over their head, according to a shocking analysis of the nation’s housing crisis. The spiralling costs of renting a property and a long-running freeze to housing benefit are being blamed for the rising number of evictions among Britain’s growing army of tenants.

More than 40,000 tenants in England were evicted in 2015, according to a study by the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). It is an increase of a third since 2003 and the highest level recorded. The research appears to confirm fears that a mixture of rising costs and falling state support would lead to a rise in people being forced out of their homes. It will raise concerns that even those in work are struggling to pay their rent.

High numbers of “no-fault” evictions by private landlords is driving the increase. More than 80% of the extra evictions had occurred under a Section 21 notice, which gives a tenant two months to leave. The landlord does not have to give a reason and there does not need to be any wrongdoing on the part of the tenant.

The study found that changes in welfare benefits have combined to make rents unaffordable to claimants in many areas. Housing benefit was no longer covering the cost of renting in some cases, with average shortfalls ranging from £22 to £70 a month outside of London, and between £124 and £1,036 in inner LondonHousing benefit has not risen in line with private rents since 2010, and a current freeze means the rates paid will not increase until 2020.

The number of tenants evicted from their properties reached a record high, according to a new report highlighting the misery and insecurity faced by renters struggling on low incomes.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 

The report shows:

  • the rented sector has grown in the past 12 years by nearly a half, and the number of tenants being evicted from their homes has grown by a third: 10,000 more tenants lost their homes in 2015 than in 2003
  • the number of tenants evicted by private landlords exceeded the number evicted by social landlords for the first time in 2014
  • the increase in repossessions in recent years has been almost entirely due to the increasing use of ‘no fault’ evictions, using Section 21 (S21) of the Housing Act 1988
  • the use of S21 is highly concentrated geographically – four out of every five repossessions using S21 are in London, the East and the South East, and nearly two-thirds are in London alone.

JRF is calling for the Government to end the freeze on support for housing costs, and uprate Housing Benefit in line with local rents.

According to recent research carried out by CCHPR for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the growing gap between rents and support for housing costs is a key factor behind the rise in private rented sector evictions.

The research included in depth interviews with tenants on low incomes and identified the high levels of stress and disruption caused by insecure housing.

‘With the £50 a month [housing benefit shortfall] coming out of the JSA – that’s almost a week’s money in itself – and then you’ve got the other bills…I just couldn’t make it work. I had to choose… do I pay the rent… electricity… buy some food?’

Changes in welfare benefits have not kept up with rising rents, causing misery for tenants as they cope with inevitable financial pressures. Furthermore, the rising number of ‘no fault’ (Section 21) evictions gives rise to insecurity as tenants on low incomes face a complete lack of options when they lose their home.

The full report ‘Poverty, evictions and forced moves’ can be downloaded here.

We call for Labour to Announce Plans to End the Benefit Freeze.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 24, 2017 at 11:12 am

Ipswich Unemployed Action: Debate and Real News, not Alternative Facts.

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Facts, Opinion, and Debate, Not ‘Alternative Facts’. 

Ipswich Unemployed Action’s policy on news is simple.

We are first and foremost the creation of our contributors, those who post in the Comments, and who provide us with the leads to follow up on the things that matter to the unemployed, and those on benefits.

So, for example, there is an important discussion on the use of personal data for Universal Credit, and the potential for Job Coaches (does anybody seriously use this term any more, it’s beginning to sound like a Butlin’s Redcoat…) to put pressure on claimants, to  misuse their power, and, at worst, bully people.

There is also debate about the “My Values” questionnaire, and other issues of private information.

When we come to hard facts we rely on our contributors to get to what we can be sure of. Our stories often begin with people writing things, and always end with people free to express what they think on them.

Behind this we use reliable sources, such as Welfare Weekly, The Mirror, the Independent, to cite only three, as well as a variety of campaigning groups, like the Trussell Trust, the CAB, and others, and, last but far from least  Parliamentary committees, like the PAC, and the Work and Pensions Committee for serious stories about the hard facts of what benefit rules are.

Oh, and sometimes the DWP – if more rarely Ministers – are forced to make clear statements as well.

What we do not do is repeat rumours, ‘alternative facts’ and the kind of self-serving stuff that has made SKWAWKBOX a hissing and a by-word for growing numbers on the radical left, and amongst campaigners more broadly.

Things are bad enough already; they do not need exaggerating.

This is the kind of  story that interests us:

People in Blackpool are “struggling” with Universal Credit a charity has warned, even though the full roll-out of the benefit has not hit the resort.

The Citizens’ Advice Bureau is asking the Government to look again at the benefit, designed to top up low paid workers’ income and help the unemployed after finding people waiting 10 to 12 weeks before their first payment.

It wants the roll-out paused until the problems can be ironed out.

By 2022, seven million families in the UK will get Universal Credit, which is replacing six existing means-tested benefits, and in October 50 new areas are set to be using the system.

Tracy Hopkins, chief executive of the Blackpool CAB said for many people the benefit works, but many others are in serious trouble.

he said: “We have not had the full roll-out here in Blackpool, just for young Aunemployed people, but we are seeing many people struggling and are very concerned indeed. “People are having to wait 10 weeks without money. It is too complex. “They have to claim on line, and many of the people claiming in Blackpool do not have access to computers at home.

“People are telling us they are having to make 10 calls to the helpline. We hear about people waiting 30 minutes for help on the phone. “Also there is a seven day waiting period before they can start a claim. We want the Government to remove this to stop these unfair delays. “We are talking about vulnerable people too, with health problems and working people on low wages who need extra help with such things as child care.” She said the delays were counterproductive since people were in danger of being forced out of their jobs by not being able to afford to carry on or by risking the sack by taking time off to get Universal Credit sorted out.

More here.

IMPORTANT UPDATE FROM THE SISTERS AND BROTHERS OF DPAC.

The 2 year job rule for disabled people on Universal Credit is not true!

Thank you to Gail Ward who put this together. You can read her blog here

In the last few days it has been widely reported by various bloggers that those disabled claimants claiming Universal Credit are subjected to finding a job within two years or face a 1 year sanction. This is utter fabrication and feeding many claimants fears which could potentially cause harm. So today I called Welfare Rights ,who called DWP while I remained on the phone, they denied that this information was correct and was downright alarmist and dangerous. That doesn’t mean I trust DWP and have submitted a FOI too given 7 years of shenanigans. So you see folks, you can take the fear project and destroy it with Facts!

Written by Andrew Coates

July 20, 2017 at 4:37 pm

Sanctions and Benefit Freeze Blamed for Rise in Food Banks Use and Growth in Mental Health Problems.

with 104 comments

From Ken,

Benefit sanctions are increasing hunger and depression not driving down unemployment

The UK is a fairly hostile environment to be unemployed, but some might say the approach is starting to pay off. After all, unemployment is currently at its lowest rate in 42 years, with 109,000 more people entering employment in the three months to April this year.

With numbers like that, some people might be wondering if aggressive tactics such as benefit sanctions are helping drive willfully unemployed people into gainful work.

Yet that is not what the public spending watchdog believes. Last year the National Audit Office – the independent body that monitors spending for Parliament – declared that benefit sanctions are inconsistently applied across the country and that withholding payments pushes claimants into hardship, increasing their chances of experiencing hunger and depression.

 Now, the latest report by Oxford University and the Trussell Trust food bank network has revealed that almost 80 per cent of food bank users had experienced food insecurity in the previous 12 months, meaning they could not buy enough food and/or had experienced entire days with nothing to eat.

The issue of price rises and insecure incomes are major factors in ‘food insecurity’.

The former justifies our call for an end to the benefits freeze.

The latter raises the issue of Universal Credit delays and Sanctions.

This is from the Report: Financial insecurity, food  insecurity, and disability: The profile of people receiving emergency food assistance from The Trussell Trust Foodbank Network in Britain  2017

  • Financial and food insecurity: Almost half of households reported their incomes were unsteady from week-to-week and month-to-month. 78% are severely food insecure (meaning they had skipped meals and gone without eating – sometimes for days at a time – in the past 12 months), while over half could not afford heating or toiletries
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  • Price rises: 3 in 5 households had recently experienced rising or unexpected expenses, with 25% of these saying higher food expenses were to blame, confirming the impact of food inflation on squeezed budgets
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  • Housing: 28% of those who had experienced rising expenses said this was due to housing costs, such as rent or energy, going up. Tenants in private housing were more likely to find it difficult to keep up with rents than socially rented properties
  • Disability and mental health: Over 50% of households included a disabled person, consistent with the definition used in national surveys. 75% experienced ill health in their household. Mental health conditions affected people in 1/3 of households
  • Debt: 1 in 3 households were finding it difficult to make minimum monthly repayments on outstanding loans, and nearly 1 in 5 in debt owed money to payday lenders
  • The report found people were experiencing multiple forms of destitution. 50% had gone without heating for more than four days in the past 12 months, 50% couldn’t afford toiletries, and 1 in 5 had slept rough in the last 12 months. Over 78% of households were severely, and often chronically, food insecure.
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Almost all households had experienced a drop in income in the past three months, unsteady incomes, or an unexpected expense or rise in expenses in the past three months.

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  • Benefit delays: Nearly 2 in 5 people were awaiting a benefit payment, with most of these waiting up to 6 weeks, though a fifth were waiting 7 weeks or more. A third of delays were for Employment Support Allowance payments, with people assessed as capable of taking steps to move into work in the future particularly at risk of needing a foodbank
  • Income shocks: 2 in 3 people had been hit by a recent ‘income shock’, with most experiencing sharp rises in housing costs or food expenses
  • Low income: The average income of households in the month before being referred to a foodbank was reported at around £320, with 20% of households still needing to pay housing costs. This falls well below low income thresholds, before and after housing costs, and is a fraction of the national average. 16% had no income at all in the last month
 Enigma adds this:

Government welfare cuts blamed for 50% surge in mental health issues among unemployed

Exclusive: Benefit freezes and sanctions ‘are having a toxic impact on mental health’

Rates of severe anxiety and depression among unemployed people have soared by more than 50 per cent in the last four years as the impact of “harsh” austerity policies take their toll, The Independent can reveal.

The UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) said the Government’s reforms of welfare payments were to blame for the rise, as benefit cuts and sanctions “are having a toxic impact on mental health”.

New analysis of data from NHS surveys of GP patients shows that in March 2017, 15.2 per cent of unemployed people said they suffered from severe or extreme anxiety or depression.

This figure has increased steadily from 10.1 per cent in June 2013, and marks a sharper jump than rates of the conditions among the general population, which rose 20 per cent over the same period, from 3.4 per cent of people to 4.1 per cent.

“The devastating impact of the benefits cap for families with children, the freezing of benefits at a time of inflation, and the cutting of benefits for the disabled are putting claimants under terrible mental and financial strain,” said Janet Weisz, the UKCP’s chief executive.

“The constant threat of benefit sanctions only adds to the pressure.”

The austerity measure, widely recognised as a key driver behind forecasts of rising poverty to come, is expected to reduce support by £13bn by 2020, above the Government’s forecast of £9bn, according to research from the House of Commons Library.

People claiming benefits can have their payments cut or stopped entirely if they miss one job centre appointment. The minimum sanction period was increased from one week to four in October 2012.

About a quarter of people on Jobseeker’s Allowance received at least one sanction between 2010 and 2015, according to the National Audit Office, which warned last year that the Department for Work and Pensions is not doing enough to find out how sanctions affect people on benefits.

These reports, signaled originally from the Independent, just about clinch the argument us lot have made here.

End the Benefits Freeze and the Sanctions Regime! 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 17, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Labour needs to develop an alternative to Universal Credit and the Benefit Freeze.

with 46 comments

Image result for universal Credit

The Labyrinth:  Claiming Universal Credit.

Labour has finally spoken about Universal Credit.

But, as quoted,  Debbie Abrahams, shadow Work and Pensions secretary, leaves many things unsaid.

Labour warning amid growing number of working people claiming universal credit

Labour has warned that low pay and insecure work “are endemic in our economy” after new figures showed 210,000 people claiming universal credit are in work.

Some 540,000 are now claiming universal credit, a flagship policy in the Government’s welfare reform programme which is being gradually rolled out across the country.

Around 39% of those are in employment but on low incomes, with the benefit paid to those in employment as well as those out of work.

Ministers say universal credit makes work pay by supplementing incomes and simplifies the benefit system.

Debbie Abrahams, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “The Tories’ principle that work will always pay under universal credit has failed.

“The increasing numbers of working people in receipt of universal credit show just how many workers are forced to rely on the social security system to make ends meet.

“Low pay and insecure work are endemic in our economy.”

Comment.

  • What about the Benefits’ Freeze which affects those on Universal Credit?
  • What about the chaos caused by the waiting time to get Universal Credit?
  • What about the misery caused by Housing Benefit delays on Universal Credit?
  • What about the Sanctions Regime for those on Universal Credit, which touches not just the unemployed but also those working?

Finally, amongt other injustices we have the ludicrous obligation of all claimants to pay a percentage of Council Tax.

This scheme was introduced in 2013, “people on the minimum income possible to survive will from April have to use their meager income to pay 10% of their total council tax.”

The immediate result?

“Thousands in court for council tax arrears as benefit cuts hit home” (2014).

“Record numbers of people in council tax arrears, say charities” (2016)

And now, “English Council Tax arrears now top £2.8 billion ”

And…

Benefits were not raised at the time so effectively claimants suffered a cut in their income.

The freeze on welfare payments means they lose out more and more.

What has Labour said on these issues?

Nobody has yet to talk seriously of of getting rid of this scheme, designed to grind the faces of the poor.

In Labour’s Manifesto we had a commitment to “ a redesign and reform of Universal Credit (UC)” .  This apparently applied mostly to the technology involved, as the source (Government Computing) indicates.

What are the details?

And, of far greater importance, what of the issues listed above which have led to poverty level incomes for people on benefits, sanctions, and all the rest….

All we have so far in the public domain (and I am informed there is not much elsewhere, unless there are some hidden Labour Policy Commission types  busy burrowing away on the Work, Pensions and Equality Commission whose work has yet to see the light of day..)  are broad brush ideas on “Tackling poverty and inequality” and “making work pay” .

There is this, (Labour List)

“The benefit cap is something that Labour would look to ending, Debbie Abrahams has said.

The idea, which has not yet been costed, would stop the household cap of £20,000 per household outside of London. The cap in London is £23,000. Parents must work for at least 16 hours a week to avoid the cap.

Getting rid of the benefit cap was not in Labour’s general election manifesto.

The shadow work and pensions secretary brought up the impact on child poverty that the cap has. Last week a judicial review brought by four families said that the cap brought “real misery” for families with young children, in comments reported by the BBC.

The Abrahams statement today adds little to the one she made in 2016.

Universal Credit as it now stands has fatally undermined incentives to work – Debbie Abrahams

Debbie Abrahams, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, commenting on the ministerial statement on the roll-out of Universal Credit, said:

“Yet again the Tory Government has been forced to extend the Universal Credit rollout. This is the seventh time that the timetable has been altered since March 2013 and the implementation of Universal Credit is beset by problems. For example, UNISON has made me aware of a worker who has fallen foul of the strict DWP monthly assessment period, meaning she’s losing nearly £700 a year in Universal Credit on a £11,600 salary, purely because her monthly pay date varies.  This simply isn’t acceptable.

“The Government claims to want to support working people but. The new Secretary of State should get a grip of roll-out, look at the myriad problems in implementation and immediately u-turn on the Tories’ cuts to the work allowance.“

Between 2016 and 2017 it’s become clearer that  we need a root-and-branch approach to replace Universal Credit in its present form.

As the story we began with continues:

Universal credit combines benefits such as jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance, as well as housing benefit and tax credits, into a single monthly payment.

A report by charity Citizens Advice last week called for the universal credit rollout to be paused, citing “significant problems” with the system.

 Research by the charity suggested many claimants fell into debt waiting for their first payment, which takes six weeks to process, while Citizens Advice also raised concerns over universal credit’s administration.

The charity believes that by 2022 more than seven million households will receive universal credit, 54% of which will have someone in work.

We look forward to seeing some detail relevant  to these points in this, though not being a wealthy toff who reads far-right papers like the Times I do not have access to the article.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 13, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Campaign to Get Rid of Ex-DWP Minister Iain Duncan Smith.

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It was my privilege over the weekend to meet some Labour Party members from the constituency of our old friend, Iain Duncan Smith.

They told me of this (in reality rather more vividly),

THE CONSERVATIVES are calling for “help” as over 500 Labour supporters prepare to launch their campaign to ‘Unseat Iain Duncan Smith’.

According to a letter, believed to be from the local Tory association, the Conservative MP is preparing himself for a fight from the “hordes of Momentum”.

While the Chingford and Woodford Green MP increased his vote share by 1.2 per cent at last month’s general election, his 2015 majority fell from 8,386 to 2,438.

For 47 years the area has remained Tory, but Labour now has its sights set on turning the whole of Waltham Forest red.

The campaign will see left-wing columnist Owen Jones and Labour’s losing candidate Bilal Mahmood head to Hatch Lane, in Chingford, this Sunday – and 500 people are set to join them.

Another 2,400 people said they are ‘interested’ in attending the event called ‘Unseat Iain Duncan Smith – Campaign for Labour’.

I informed them of how we lot feel about our former Boss.

His crimes are too numerous to list, though his legacy, for the disabled, and for anybody caught up in Universal Credit, ensures they are far from forgotten.

Our Ace Reporters have covered Duncy’s attempts to wriggle out of his past,and call to “revisit the whole idea of work and sickness benefit”.

Though this has been in the news not too long ago, still banging on about ‘low value people’.

This time it’s European migrant workers,

 

Meanwhile Doug points out that “50 new areas are marked for UC to begin in October.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 10, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Citizens Advice: Rollout of Universal Credit Should be Stalled.

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Image result for universal credit

As Threat Looms for More and More People Calls Grow for Halt to Madcap Misery Scheme. 

 

Briefly on the BBC News this morning this is a Bombshell from those with first-hand experience of helping people in difficulties with Universal Credit.

Our Newshounds on this site will no doubt find out the Government Response.

So far, silence, silence, silence.

I begin with the trustworthy and always acute source, Computer Weekly,

Citizens Advice calls for roll-out of Universal Credit to be paused

A report by the advisory charity highlights issued around making and managing claims online, lack of digital skills and problems with identity verification through Gov.uk Verify

 Citizens Advice has called for the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) as people struggle to make claims successfully.
…….

One of the big changes under Universal Credit was the switch to a ‘digital’ benefit. For the first time with the full digital service, claimants both apply for and manage their UC claim online. The intention behind this change is to encourage UC claimants to develop their digital skills,” the report said.

Citizens Advice believes that being online could make it easier for people to find and secure work, and access information.

“A digitally-delivered benefit system also has the potential to become more efficient, allowing claimants to better manage their payments and any changes of circumstances,” it said, but added that rolling out a fully digital Universal Credit requires “significant support”.

One in five adults in the UK lack basic digital skills and one in seven don’t have access to the internet at home.  

“These people are disproportionately likely to be disabled or have a long-term health condition, and to be unemployed or on low incomes. These are also the groups most likely to be making a claim for UC,” the report said.

“A survey of our UC clients in full service areas found nearly half (45%) had difficulty accessing or using the internet – or both.”

This makes it difficult for citizens applying for benefits to do so online. In fact, 52% of the people surveyed by Citizens Advice said they found the online application difficult and felt that the support they needed was not available. Most people have also not been informed that there are other options than applying online.

“Without accessible facilities and support, there is a risk that the significant minority of claimants who lack digital literacy or internet access will experience additional delays and errors in their initial claim,” the report said.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said that while the charity supports the principles of Universal Credit, the system is failing “too many people, pushing them into debt and leaving them without the means to make ends meet”.

“The current flaws with the system also undermine the very reasons Universal Credit was introduced: to simplify the benefits system and make sure every hour of work pays. As things stand, too many people are finding Universal Credit very complicated, and problems such as long wait for payments or difficulties getting help with an application mean they are less able to focus on getting into work or increasing their hours,” Guy said.

“The government needs to pause plans to accelerate the roll out of full service Universal Credit this Autumn and devote the time and resource needed to tackle the key problems which mean the system is not working.”

The Mirror is good too:

‘Universal Credit is failing people’ – Charity calls for benefit roll-out to be stalled over six week waiting lists, headlines the paper.

A Citizens Advice report has warned that households are being forced into debt as a result of prolonged waiting times and is now calling on the government to suspend the roll-out while issues are resolved.

The roll-out of Universal Credit should be paused until significant problems with it are fixed, Citizens Advice has claimed.

In a new report titled ‘Delivering on Universal Credit’, the charity has highlighted the issues households are allegedly facing as a result of the new benefits roll-out, which it says is forcing thousands into debt.

It said that families are having to wait six weeks on average for initial payments, while a third of claimants are waiting more than two months – pushing three in five into the red cover their costs.

This is due to a ‘wide range of administrative challenges’ the study said, including problems with the online system and long waiting times, which it says the government needs to tackle before it can proceed.

It’s also argued a new ‘advance payment’ should be introduced to cover families while they wait for payments to be processed.

This is the Bureau’s statement,

The rollout of Universal Credit should be paused until significant problems with it are fixed, says Citizens Advice.

In a major new report – Delivering on Universal Credit – the charity reveals that the requirement to wait for six weeks to receive any payment means people face serious financial insecurity, with many being forced into debt.

The research also identifies a wide range of administrative challenges, including problems with the online system and long waits to get help over the phone, which can make the initial six week wait even longer.

Universal Credit merges six existing benefits into one – including tax credits, housing benefit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

By 2022 over 7 million households will receive Universal Credit and new Citizens Advice analysis reveals over half (54%) of these will be working households.

Universal Credit will be claimed by more than half (52%) of all families with children in the UK and 6 in 10 (58%) households where an adult is disabled or has a long term health condition.

As part of the new study, Citizens Advice surveyed 800 people who sought help with Universal Credit in areas where there is full service – meaning anyone who would have previously have claimed one of the old benefits has to apply for Universal Credit.

It finds:

  • Over a third (39%) of people are waiting more than the 6 weeks it should take to receive their first payment.

  • Just over 1 in 10 (11%) are waiting over 10 weeks without the benefit.

  • 3 in 5 (57%) are having to borrow money while waiting for their first payment.

In the last year Citizens Advice supported more than 30,000 people with Universal Credit issues, with a quarter (25%) also needing help with debt issues.

The report also reveals that people are having problems with the application process. These range from difficulties using a computer or with the online system, to issues getting hold of the right evidence to support their claim.

And when things go wrong the research shows people are not able to get the help they need: nearly a third (30%) of people said they had to make more than 10 calls to the Universal Credit helpline during their application process, often having to wait over 30 minutes to get through.

Full service Universal Credit has been rolling out gradually across England and Wales for over 2 years, to around 5 new areas each month. But in October this process is set to speed up significantly, to over 50 new areas every month.

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to pause this acceleration and use the time to fix key problems with Universal Credit, before thousands more people are brought into the system.

The national charity also highlights that, unless addressed, these challenges will undermine the goals of Universal Credit, to simplify the benefits system and offer people the security and support they need to move into and progress in work.

As it stands many people are facing uncertainty about how much money they will receive and when it will arrive. This insecurity filters through to other areas of their lives, for instance making it harder to focus on finding work while they worry about how to keep on top of bills or put food on the table.

One woman turned to Citizens Advice for help when her Universal Credit application was delayed because her childminder didn’t provide receipts on a type of letter headed paper which was required as evidence for her claim. Because of this delay she lost her childcare places and had to take time off work to care for her children. Further delays to her Universal Credit claim then meant she could still not afford childcare, and she has since lost her job for taking so much time off.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

“Universal Credit is already failing too many people, pushing them into debt and leaving them without the means to make ends meet.

“Citizens Advice supports the principles of Universal Credit, but pushing ahead with roll out while the system remains beset with problems will put thousands more families at financial risk.

“The current flaws with the system also undermine the very reasons Universal Credit was introduced: to simplify the benefits system and make sure every hour of work pays. As things stand, too many people are finding Universal Credit very complicated, and problems such as long wait for payments or difficulties getting help with an application mean they are less able to focus on getting into work or increasing their hours.

“The government needs to pause plans to accelerate the roll out of full service Universal Credit this Autumn and devote the time and resource needed to tackle the key problems which mean the system is not working.”

In its new report Citizens Advice makes a range of recommendations to fix Universal Credit before it is rolled out more widely:

Reduce how long people have to wait for their first payment

  • Remove the 7 waiting days at the start of a claim, to reduce the amount of time people have to wait for their first payment.

  • Make sure everyone moving to Universal Credit is told they can get an Advance Payment to help them while they wait for their first payment.

Improve the support available to people so they can make ends meet

  • Introduce an online system so people can book their initial Jobcentre appointments online rather than having to call the Universal Credit helpline.

  • Make the Universal Credit helpline free of charge, at least until the roll out is complete.

  • Allow people to adjust to Universal Credit by offering everyone options in how they would like the benefit to be paid.

  • Put in place a comprehensive support package before Universal Credit roll-out accelerates, to make sure people get advice to manage their money and deal with any complications in the application process.

Notes to editors

  1. Survey of Citizens Advice clients asking for help with Universal Credit in full service areas running since August 2016 in 18 areas and as of May 2017 had a total sample of 792.
  2. Projection of number of families claiming UC in each constituency when full service rollout has completed uses national patterns of benefit claims from Family Resources Survey 2014-15 and constituency level administrative data from the DWP and HMRC from August 2015
  3. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  4. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  5. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  6. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  7. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  8. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 7, 2017 at 3:35 pm

Universal Credit: Iain Duncan Smith’s Love Child.

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Image result for universal credit l cartoon

This is important to bear in mind:

If you make a new claim for Universal Credit you will not be paid for the first seven days. These days are known as waiting days. Don’t let this stop you making your claim and apply as soon as you are entitled to do so as it can take up to six weeks after you claim for your first payment to reach your account.

During those 6 weeks (increasingly the norm), people can take out loans.

The loans are taken from the first payment.

You could be left – a real case – with around £70 a month to live on…

The latest on Iain Duncan Smith’s Love Child:

House of Commons Debate on Universal Credit

 On Tuesday 27th June 2017 there was a debate in the House of Commons on Universal Credit, Damian Hinds Minister for Employment informed the audience that DWP recognised the concerns raised and are working to resolve them.

To date over a million people have made a Universal Credit Claim with £530,000 currently on the new benefit, more people are now on Universal Credit than on JSA.

Under the full service 99% of claims are made online DWP have conducted a survey on those on the scheme, apparently 82% of claimants have said they are satisfied with the new system.

Landlords were a key topic in the debate and it appears that DWP are aware of the issues faced with Housing, because of this they have introduced a Housing Confidence Scheme whereby work coaches now speak with claimants about Housing and look at their budgeting and any difficulties that they may face making it easier to facilitate direct payments to Landlords.

The UC 47 has been redesigned with improvements making it easier for the landlord to complete and apply for direct payments and receive payments faster.

Currently, DWP are working on ways to make it easier for Landlords to find out the status of APA’s and will announce the details in the near future.

You can watch the debate by following the below link:

http://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/432847ea-d55c-426f-98c5-c81aed753d08?in=19:13:28

Alternatively you can follow the below link to read the transcript:

http://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-06-27/debates/2B95A18D-0F11-4B11-91C8-9A93C6FBC17E/UniversalCreditLowestoft

After watching the debate are you confident in the proposed changes and would you house someone on Universal Credit?

Today in the Mirror,

Families could be left penniless over Christmas as the online roll-out of Universal Credit causes a “Scrooge effect”, a former minister has claimed.

Labour MP Frank Field has written to Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke to express fears that expanding online applications for operation to 27 more local authority areas at that time of year could add to hardship already caused by delays in payments.

He wrote: “Such a revolutionary transition to the full service shortly before Christmas risks leaving large numbers of families without money, and facing misery, over the festive period.

“There is, of course, the six-week wait which new claimants must endure even if their claim for Universal Credit is processed on time.

“It is not inconceivable that a family with children making a new claim in mid-November could be left without money on Christmas Day, even if the system processes their claim as planned.

Given, though, that the current system struggles in some cases to cope with its existing caseload, the new system being rolled out just before Christmas could trigger all sorts of chaos.”

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 4, 2017 at 10:09 am

Iain Duncan Smith: “I was a Cruel and Heartless Bastard as Work and Pensions Minister.”

with 125 comments

Iain Duncan Smith 

Iain Duncan Smith: Covering Himself Against Regime Collapse.

This caught my eye, and doubtless plenty of others, this morning when I bought my copy of the claimants’ favourite daily, The ‘I’.

After a recent  flop as a Radio 2 Presenter Iain Duncan Smith is flaying around looking for a new role and purpose in life.

Iain Duncan Smith says work capability assessments don’t work and are ‘too harsh’

Former minister for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith has admitted that work capability assessments given to sick people are “too harsh” and offer a “cliff edge” choice between work and no work.

He added that this “cliff edge” view of work and illness adds stress to the process and encourages people to misrepresent their conditions to assessors.

Speaking at an event held by the Spectator magazine and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on The Conservative Route to Fighting Poverty, Duncan Smith said that these issues prompted the DWP to review the Work Capability Assessments (WCA) system of assessments a total of five times.

It was quite obvious to us that the system was far too narrow, was acting in a far too harsh manner and was making judgements about people,” he said. He added that despite these reviews, which helped “soften” these effects slightly, the system remains flawed: “The whole process of having a benefit that says you are either too sick to work or you can work, actually works against the nature of how people think of themselves,” he said.

Mr Duncan Smith, like Secret Police Chief  Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, after the death of Stalin, now claims that he was secretly planning to change the whole system all along:

Towards the end of his time as minister, before his departure from the department in May 2016, Duncan Smith had started to formulate plans to totally reshape the way these assessments were done.

“I came to the conclusion that it was time to review the whole way we do this and remove the cliff edge,” he said. “The cliff edge tempts people to make wrong declarations. And it means that whatever assessment you’re making becomes very critical, which adds extra stress.” He argued a system where someone could be deemed fit for some work, or a certain number of hours a week, would remove much of this strain. The current system, he added, works “directly against” getting people into work: “If you’re in work you’re likely to be healthier. Given all of that, the benefit we have works directly against that. It forces people out of the work environment rather than keeping them in.”

On a roll ‘Beria’ Duncan Smith is now going all out for radical reform in a last-ditch bid to save the ‘system’.

Speaking to a newspaper close to the crumbling ruling regime, The Sun, he said yesterday:

BAN THE BLOCKS

Iain Duncan Smith calls for an end to tower blocks in Britain and demands higher taxes on empty luxury homes

The ex-minister said that tower blocks should be replaced by ‘low-rise buildings’ in the wake of Grenfell Tower disaster

Written by Andrew Coates

June 30, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Universal Credit Faces New Criticisms as Northern Ireland to Suffer Roll-Out.

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Image result for universal credit

Flagship Benefit Reform Limps from Crisis to Crisis.

This was reported a week ago: Universal credit rollout in North Kensington halted after tower fire.

The Guardian.

New benefit system will not be introduced in full in July so jobcentre staff can focus on claimants affected by Grenfell blaze.

Officials have halted the planned rollout of universal credit into North Kensington, west London, next month, saying they want jobcentre staff to focus on supporting claimants affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.

Universal credit, which pulls together six separate benefits into one monthly payment, has been dogged by criticism that design flaws and payment delays were causing low-income claimants to run up rent arrears and rely on food banks.

 

We have still to find out the details of how those affected by mass evacuations of Tower Blocks will be treated by Universal Credit.

The prospect is not looking good.

This appears now:

Universal Credit’s planed roll out in Northern Ireland:

Universal Credit (UC), which has caused social havoc in people’s lives in other parts of the UK, is on its way to Northern Ireland.

MPs recently launched an official inquiry into Universal Credit amid growing concerns that design flaws in the new benefits system are leaving thousands of low-income claimants facing eviction and reliant on food banks.

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee said it was compelled to launch a full investigation after mounting evidence that built-in payment delays and administrative blockages were creating severe problems for claimants and landlords.

It has been stated by a number of Conservative Party ministers that one of the key aims of universal credit is to simplify the benefits system but also to reduce the overall cost of the welfare benefits system.

We  are also repeatedly told that spending on “welfare” for disabled people is out of control, yet the Department for Work and Pensions has gone nearly £200m over budget, paying two private firms to run the personal independence payments (PIP) assessment system.

The Conservatives have now spent £700m in taxpayers’ money on these contracts alone, despite the fact the process is so flawed that one charity reported that four out of five rejections that they appealed against were overturned.

Journalist Frances Ryan in a recent newspaper article (http://bit.ly/2sQ8NZz) said: “The government’s flagship benefit reform, universal credit (UC): is five years behind schedule, with delays announced seven times and a price tag rising to a staggering £16bn. And yet, with all that public money, it’s still plagued by administrative chaos and design flaws – to the extent that it’s not only failing in its purpose of improving the benefits system but is actively creating more social and economic problems.

“The Trussell Trust found that universal credit’s much-criticised six-week waiting period has led to mass emergency food parcels. In areas where the full universal credit rollout has taken place, food bank referral rates are now more than double the national average. This is on top of the debt, rent arrears and evictions it is also causing.

There are many bodies in Northern Ireland who have voiced their concerns over the planned introduction of universal credit, including Advice NI (http://bit.ly/2t5VhDj) and PPR (http://bit.ly/2sFBslk), but it is obvious that a more co-ordinated approach of opposition is needed, including the involvement of the community and voluntary sector and the trade union movement, if this ‘welfare tsunami’ is to be halted.

Then there is this:

Landlords could see the number of their tenants claiming Universal Credit multiply by up to nine times when their area moves to full digital roll-out, according to a Chartered Institute of Housing expert..

This wider view of ‘welfare reform’, of which Universal Credit is a pillar, is worth looking at:

Four reasons why welfare reform is a delusion Richard Machin

Welfare reform is regressive

There is clear evidence that welfare reform has a disproportionately negative impact on some groups in society and some areas of the UK. The Sheffield Hallam research found that those particularly hit by welfare reform are working-age tenants in the social rented sector, families with dependent children (particularly lone-parent families and families with large numbers of children) and areas with a high percentage of minority ethnic households. Geographically, the impact of welfare reform is stark with the greatest financial losses being imposed on the most deprived local authorities. As a general rule, older industrial areas and some London Boroughs are hardest hit, with southern local authorities the least affected.

The mainstream media often fails to report the true impact of welfare reform that this research highlights. A more accurate account of the human costs can be found in ‘For whose benefit? The everyday realities of welfare reform’ in which Ruth Patrick documents her research on the impact of sustained benefit reductions. Dominant themes include the stigma felt by benefit claimants, the negative impacts of a punitive sanctions regime, and living with persistent poverty.

Welfare reform does not produce the behaviour changes sought by the government

Although welfare reform is a values-laden policy underpinned by a strong, but flawed, ideology (only those who fail ‘to do the right thing’ are affected) there is little evidence that the retrenchment of the welfare state has been accompanied by the change in claimant behaviour that politicians desire. The ‘bedroom tax’ was supposed to ‘provide an economic incentive’ to move to smaller accommodation. The evaluation indicates that more than 7 in 10 claimants affected had never considered moving, with an estimate that no more than 8% of those affected having downsized within the social sector.

The Benefit Cap places a limit on the total amount of certain working age benefits available to claimants. One of the government’s main intentions was for this to improve work incentives. There is no common consensus on the extent to which this aim has been achieved: the Institute for Fiscal Studies have suggested that the majority of those affected will not respond by moving into work, however, government ministers rarely waste an opportunity to tell us that low levels of unemployment are partly due to the benefit changes introduced.

The research of David Webster into sanctions argues that ‘Sanctions are not an evidence-based system designed to promote the employment, wellbeing and development of the labour force’ and that this regressive system results in lower productivity, pointless job applications, and poverty-related problems.

In the last days of the previous administration we saw the introduction of the  2-child limit for child tax credit and universal credit. Child Poverty Action Group emphasise the contradiction in a policy which supposedly provides parity between those in work and those out of work, when 70% of those claiming tax credits are already working.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 28, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Grenfell Tower Victims, Tower Block Evacuees, and Benefits.

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Image result for tower blocks evacuated

As More People Evacuated from Tower Blocks, what will happen to their Benefits? 

Reports on the way the Grenfell Tower victims have, and will be, affected by the benefits system are beginning to appear.

Last Thursday there was this, in the Guardian,

Grenfell residents feared benefit sanctions – they are too used to being ignored

If you’ve followed the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire on social media, one disturbing revelation has stood out: the fear that victims could have their benefits sanctioned because they were not able to get to the jobcentre to sign on.

Incredibly, representatives of local residents who approached local Jobcentre Plus officials and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff in North Kensington report being told that it could “not be guaranteed” that people caught up in the fire and its aftermath would not be penalised if they were unable to sign on.

Last night, when the Guardian approached them for comment, the DWP confirmed that normal jobcentre rules – including financial sanctions routinely issued to claimants who miss appointments – had been suspended indefinitely for former Grenfell Tower tenants and other local residents who claim unemployment benefits.

A local resident who said he was acting on behalf of the community claimed that the DWP only later moved to clarify the position because of pressure on social media. “Once it became clear that there was media attention focused on them, they have finally done the right thing,” he said. “Why should it take shame for them to act? Where is their humanity?”

As anyone who has been put through the Tories’ benefit system knows, “humanity” and the DWP are two things that do not tend to go together. Rather, it’s a department that in recent years has become synonymous with cruelty.

Followed by this,

Former residents of Grenfell Tower will not be exempt from the bedroom tax and the benefit cap, the government has confirmed – although ministers have ordered that any tenants affected are prioritised for special payments to offset any losses.

Guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says councils should ensure Grenfell tenants hit by welfare reforms should be given so-called discretionary housing payments (DHPs) to protect them from potential housing benefit shortfalls of hundreds of pounds a month.

The government has promised that all Grenfell residents will be rehoused permanently as close as possible to their former home. This week it secured 68 social rented apartments in a new block in Kensington to provide permanent accommodation for those made homeless by the fire.

The guidance is the latest example of ministers moving to soften normal benefit rules for Grenfell residents. Earlier this week it said jobless tenants would not be sanctioned for failing to look for a job, and that a planned roll-out of universal credit in North Kensington next month would be put on hold.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We have already relaxed benefit rules for anyone affected by the Grenfell Tower fire and our staff are handling people’s claims with sensitivity, understanding and flexibility.

“As part of this, our recent guidance to local authorities is that they should treat these residents as a priority for extra payments to help with their rent if they are rehoused in a larger property.”

But,

….experts said that providing DHP support was not always a permanent solution for tenants affected by welfare reform, especially if Grenfell tenants were allocated permanent homes that were too big and unaffordable under housing benefit rules.

Under the bedroom tax, residents in permanent social housing who are deemed to have more bedrooms than they require are docked housing benefit. In London, bedroom-taxed households typically have shortfalls of around £23 a week.

The benefit cap limits the total amount of benefits paid to out-of-work households to £442 a week in London. In Kensington and Chelsea,  latest figures show that in February 421 residents were capped. The majority suffered a benefit shortfall of £100 a week, though in some cases it was as much as £400 a week.

Discretionary housing payments, as the name implies, are normally given out at the discretion of the council and there is no guarantee that tenants – usually those at risk of homelessness as a result of rent arrears caused by welfare reform – will receive a DHP payment. The DWP guidance suggests councils should relax the usual rules for Grenfell tenants.

Each local authority sets its own criteria to assess DHP claims, with claimants normally having to produce extensive details of bank accounts, savings and loans to justify why they should qualify for financial help to stay in their home. Kensington and Chelsea’s standard five-page form asks claimants to justify why they “need to live at this address in this particular area” and “Are there any reasons preventing you from moving to other accommodation or another area?”.

Although the guidance states that there is no limit to the length of time a DHP award may be made, permanent awards are rare, and are often restricted to a few months.

This week a judge criticised DHPs in a ruling that declared it was unlawful for single parents with children under two to be subject to the benefit cap. Mr Justice Collins said that DHPs were a temporary solution that gave “no peace of mind” to capped tenants and provided an “unsatisfactory safeguard” against homelessness.

He added: “For those such as the claimants who are living on the edge of, if not within, poverty the [DHP] system is simply not working with any degree of fairness.”

Grenfell Tower victims could be hit by the Bedroom Tax in their new homes

The Mirror says: The DWP is scrambling to cover the cost of the hated levy for any victims who move into a bigger flat.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 26, 2017 at 10:33 am

Universal Credit: What Fine Mess the Government is Ignoring.

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Universal Credit Still Surviving.

If you are of working age and in receipt of the following benefits, you will be moving to Universal Credit very soon.

  • JSA
  • ESA
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support

When you claim Universal Credit, you could be waiting several weeks before you receive any money.

Use this Survival Guide to make sure you are ready to survive the first few months on Universal Credit.

Universal Credit Survival-kit

We understand that the government would prefer to ignore the mess it’s created with Universal Credit.

But the problems it’s caused, adding to their pile of woes, will not go away.

This is the latest.

We note that after the Grenfell Tragedy housing is top of the news:

Director General Neil Couling answers questions on Universal Credit APA Scheme 

Published on 20/06/2017

Many landlords are experiencing issues with Universal Credit. The communication is poor, landlords are putting in APAs, but unable to communicate with DWP to find out the process of the APA.

As a result many landlords have tenants with high rent arrears – the system needs changing as landlords seem to be punished for providing a much needed service to the social sector.

Bill Irvine has penned a very accurate letter to Neil Couling DWP, please read the interesting letter and feel free to tweet and forward to your peers.

Open letter to:

Mr Neil Couling
Director General
Universal Credit Implementation

Dear Mr Couling

Landlords, throughout Great Britain, are experiencing unsustainable rental loss as a direct result of Universal Credit, particularly, in relation to the way in which the “housing element” is being administered. Despite phoning, e-mailing and complaining to Jobcentre Plus and regional Complaints & Resolution teams, our collective efforts have proved fruitless, frustrating and disheartening. The situation is getting worse, especially in areas, like e.g. London, Great Yarmouth, Inverness and East Lothian, where “Full Service” Universal Credit is now operating and arrears are running at 90%. Landlords understandably fear that as Full Service expands throughout GB so will these worrying problems.

Nearly every single tenant owes rent, either through the delay in first payment, which can take 6-12 weeks to process. In some cases, tenants are simply misspending the housing element, rather than using the funds to reduce or extinguish their rental liabilities. When that occurs, landlords make application for redirection of the funds. Many of those applications are mislaid, take months to process or are simply ignored. In the most alarming cases, DWP has simply ignored the red flags and pleas, raised by landlords and continued to make payments to delinquent tenants in the full knowledge £000’s of public funds was being used inappropriately.

Not surprisingly, the RLA and NLA are both reporting an increasing number of private sector landlords and letting agents refusing to accommodate Universal Credit reliant tenants. Lenders are also stipulating, that funds will not be provided where tenancies are intended for benefit tenants.

Was the Alternative Payment Arrangement scheme (APAs) not designed to safeguard landlords from these very problems; avoid the problem of vulnerable tenants mismanaging their finances; and prevent delinquent tenants from misusing public funds, putting at jeopardy their tenancy and exposing them to the vagaries of homelessness?

As Director General, you must be acutely aware and surely worried by what’s happening?

Evidence of repeated misuse of public funds is building as “Full Service” roll out starts to bite. Landlords like Caridon Property Solutions have been copying you into exchanges with your staff, over many months, and, in the past week, have drawn your attention to two cases involving nearly £12, 000 in rent arrears, caused by your staff failing to respond appropriately to multiple APA requests by landlords and their agents.

DWP’s excuses to date have Included: “We can’t speak to Landlords or agents without the consent of the tenant.” ……………A “Special Payment” (as compensation for rental loss) is not merited in such cases as the tenant is the primary cause of the problem”…………..“This is essentially a civil dispute between tenant & landlord”

Frankly, none of these statements reflect the true cause of the problem. It’s unquestionably, DWP maladministration of its own scheme, accompanied by complete ambivalence to the predicament of landlords’ reliance on these funds for their livelihood and ability to pay lenders. Had your staff acted in accordance with the scheme you created, most of these substantial losses could have been avoided.

The APA scheme was designed specifically for landlords. It requires our members to apply using a Non-secure UC 47 form which can either be sent by e-mail or FREEPOST. This version of the form was designed to “start a dialogue with landlords and agents”. It’s supposed to prompt a call from your staff, during which, the landlords’ bank details and the merits of the application can be discussed. You also provide a telephone number for landlords to call when they’re seeking an update on the progress of their application. Given the above, its’ absurd to suggest you can’t speak to landlords, without the tenant’s consent.

Landlords, having complied with the scheme’s requirements, in all respects, are surely entitled to be able to ask for progress updates; reasons for refusal; reasons for later redirection back to tenants, without discussion. Your colleague Mike Baker, Operations Director, in August 2015 acknowledged the landlords’ rights in this respect and confirmed to me, in writing, that on receipt of an APA request the “housing element” would be immediately suspended, pending a decision on the question of to whom the payment should be made. His commitment has not been honoured.

Members have repeatedly raised with your staff, concerns over the lack of independence, impartiality and objectivity during the internal stages of your “Complaints Process”. In your responses to members, you claim that cases are considered on their individual merits. However, if you examine the common thread of each response, it’s really nothing other than a standard reply, crafted by someone in your Policy Unit. It was your Policy Unit who prescribed “Special Payments” were NOT to be used in landlord APA applications for compensation. Interference of this type completely undermines the notion of cases being considered on their individual merits and suggests more of a sham complaints process.

The third stage of the Complaints Process (Independent Case Examiner) is truly the first time the complaint is looked at independently. Past reports from ICE suggest 50% of complaints are fully supported with a further 25% partially supported. At first, this looked a promising way to prosecute a complaint but we’ve since found it takes 15 months, on average, from referral to conclusion stage. A classic case of justice delayed, justice denied!

As an ex COSLA advisor to the Housing Benefit Standing Committee, Westminster I’ve spent 20 years dealing with DWP hierarchy, including the Policy Unit team in the Adelphi, London. My colleagues and I had a very fruitful relationship with this team who demonstrated a high level of knowledge and commitment to tackling and resolving problems. I’ve yet to see anything like that from you and your support team with maybe 1 or 2 exceptions.

Five years ago, I wrote an article “Hitting the DWP brick wall” which was published by the SFHA and private sector magazines, predicting the biggest problem with Universal Credit would be your department’s remote and ambivalent administration of the scheme. If anything, I underestimated just how problematic it would be.

In my opinion, something drastic is needed to overhaul the current APA and associated Complaints Processes as both are currently unfit for purpose. Apart from traveling the country, speaking to staff in the new Full Service areas, what are you doing to address the legitimate concerns of landlords?

Bill Irvine.

Note this:

After weeks  of waiting for a response Neil Couling has finally responded to Bills comments.

Please Click Here to download letter of response from Neil Couling

In Neil’s response it appears that he fails to address many  of the points raised by Bill and acknowledge the issues raised. Interestingly, the House of Commons library produced a report this week, “Housing Costs in Universal Credit” – http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN06547#fullreport  referring the rent arrears increasing under Universal Credit.

The topic on communication was addressed briefly and advised that landlords should visit the DWP Frequently asked questions under Universal Credit.

In my opinion there still needs to be more done to on the whole process on APA and current reports and findings should be taken into account.

So, what is Gaukey doing about this?

Written by Andrew Coates

June 20, 2017 at 10:37 am

David Gauke, Work and Pensions Secretary: another Tory who Hates the Poor.

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David Gauke: Avoid Bumping into him in Dark Alleyways. 

The Grenfell Tragedy has brought to everybody’s attention the way the Tories treat the working class and poor.

If you thought Theresa May was bad enough there was this today (Mirror),

Shameless Tory council leader blames Grenfell Tower block residents for lack of sprinklers claiming they didn’t want ‘disruption’

A shameless Tory has blamed Grenfell Tower block residents for the lack of sprinklers in the building.

Nick Paget-Brown, the Conservative leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, claimed tenants didn’t want the ‘disruption’ of them being fitted.

So it’s no surprise that Theresa May has appointed this creature to run the DWP and ‘deal’ with those on those benefits.

David Gauke MP appointed Work and Pensions Secretary – see his voting record

Mr Gauke has been the Conservative member of parliament for South West Hertfordshire since 2005.

His voting record is unlikely to comfort people affected by years of social security cuts.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 16, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Damian Green to Bring Successful Management of Universal Credit to New Job as First Secretary of State.

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Damian Green

Damian: Knows How to Hold a Racket. 

Our old friend Damian Green is on the up.

As Work and Pensions secretary Damian (as mates, like ourselves call him) was distinguished by his ability to iron out the problems of Universal Credit and his dedication to raising the role of Charities in the welfare sector.

His outstanding legacy is not just celebrated in Food Banks and the Wye Tennis Club.

He is now destined for higher things.

The Financial Times reports,

Mr Green’s appointment as first secretary of state puts a trusted colleague at the heart of Mrs May’s new administration. He will work in the Cabinet Office, helping to fill a void left by the departure of the prime minister’s controversial co-chiefs of staff, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy.

The former work and pensions secretary is a popular figure in the Conservative party and was a senior figure in last year’s Remain campaign. He is expected to be a powerful advocate for a “softer” Brexit, with a focus on securing a good deal for business and jobs.

The promotion of Mr Green, a contemporary of Mrs May at Oxford and a long-term ally at the Home Office, was the most eye-catching move in a limited post-election reshuffle that was constrained by Mrs May’s evaporating political authority.

This charmer is his replacement as Work and Pensions Secretary:

David Gauke, who has been appointed Works and Pensions Secretary, leaves 10 Downing Street in London. Picture: DAVID MIRZOEFF/PA Wire

Ipswich-born Conservative minister David Gauke appointed as work and pensions secretary

Reports the EADT,

 David Gauke, who was chief secretary to the treasury, has been appointed the new work and pensions secretary by Theresa May this afternoon.

Mr Gauke, who is widely regarded as one of the Government’s most effective performers, was called in to 10 Downing Street along with many other Tory MPs.

Following the news of his promotion, Mr Gauke smiled and thanked reporters as he left Number 10.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 12, 2017 at 10:10 am

Vote Labour, Vote Sandy Martin for Ipswich.

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This is not just a general appeal for vote Labour but a specific call to back Sandy Martin in Ipswich.

Sandy worked in the Ipswich Community Resource Centre, affiliated to the TUC Centres for the Unemployed, when it was in Old Foundry Road.

He has been a tireless campaigner for the rights of the unemployed, and for all those on benefits.

Sandy has joined the national days of action against Benefit Sanctions and participated in TUC events for welfare rights.

This is a picture of him in Ipswich, outside the JobCentre in Silent Street.

 

Image result for Protest against ATOSIpswich

Sandy Martin Joins Protest Against ATOS and Benefit Sanctions.

The Labour candidate for Ipswich has backed many other causes, from the campaign against Tory austerity, to the defence of the NHS, which have wide support.

 

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Demo for the NHS 2017.

This is after his candidacy was announced:

For many people their 60th birthday is time to look forward to new challenges – but for Sandy Martin the challenge is more daunting than most.

Because on the day he celebrated his landmark birthday he was formally chosen as his party’s candidate in the marginal Ipswich seat at the 2017 General Election.

He will be trying to overturn Conservative Ben Gummer’s 3,733 majority from 2015.

Mr Martin is leader of the Labour group on Suffolk County Council – and was also celebrating 20 years as a member of that authority on the same day. May 2 is clearly a significant date for him!

He has lived in Suffolk most of his life and moved to Ipswich from Halesworth in 1993 – and said he felt it was important that someone who really knew the town could represent it in Westminster.

He said: “Ipswich people want to be represented by someone who lives in Ipswich and is able to give all their attention to the issues that affect Ipswich. Partly because of my age I would not go to parliament with an ambition for ministerial office.”

Mr Martin is a regular campaigner with his Labour Party colleagues – and is seen as coming from the party’s mainstream tradition.

From his discussions on the doorsteps he said people in the town were most concerned about the everyday issues that directly affected them – especially health, education and housing.

He said: “The major concerns that people want to talk about have not changed much from last time.”

Mr Martin said the role of an MP was not just to support their party in Westminster – it was also to act as an ambassador for their constituency.

And he felt that Ipswich was in a very strong position: “When you look at the port and the Waterfront and the proximity of the town to London, we are in a very fortunate position.

“And compared with many other places Ipswich is still relatively affordable. It is a great place to live but it needs to be even better.”

He is unconvinced by the arguments for a new large bridge linking the east and west banks of the River Orwell – but backs proposals for new bridges to allow the development of the island site at the Waterfront.

And he feels the best way of easing traffic in the town centre would be to build the long-awaited northern by-pass.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2017 at 9:04 am

As Tories Campaign Against the Welfare State Tory MP Flounces Out of Hustings after saying Foodbank Users smoke and own 58 inch tellies.

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Vox Political carries this story:

Life imitates ‘fake’ as more Tory candidates go into meltdown and accuse the poor.

Well, now we have more evidence that Conservatives – and especially Conservative Parliamentary candidates – really do feel that way because Mark Pritchard, Tory candidate for the Wrekin in Shropshire, walked out of a hustings after causing outrage with comments about food bank users owning 58-inch TVs.

Locals said the Wrekin MP had made inflammatory comments about people using food banks having ’58 inch TVs’ and ‘smoking £10 packs of cigarettes’, which sparked fury from the room.

Mr Pritchard was filmed berating his constituents, telling them “some of you have let yourselves down tonight”, which prompted the audience to slow clap him until he left.

According to several people who attended the debate, hosted by Telford Trades Union Congress, Mr Pritchard was answering a question on Tory cuts to disability benefits from a member of the audience when he made the comments.

 

Tory MP walks out of hustings after sparking furious row about foodbank users smoking and owning ’58 inch TVs’.

Reports the Mirror.

Mark Pritchard, who is defending his seat in The Wrekin, is alleged to have complained people who use foodbanks also have 58 inch TVs and smoke cigarettes

Labour candidate Dylan Harrison told the Mirror: “Mark decided to turn it into a quite outrageous attack on people who use foodbanks.”And he started going on about a programme he’d watched on television and how this woman had been complaining about the fact that the baked beans she’d got from a foodbank weren’t Heinz, and she had a 58 inch television and was smoking cigarettes.”And he said she was “weight challenged”, as if she didn’t need the food.”

He added: “It was a nasty thing to say and it didn’t answer the question. It was deeply unpleasant and irrelevant.”Mr Pritchard berated the audience for their furious response, saying “I think some of you have let yourselves down tonight. It’s really sad.”Some of the audience then began to slow-clap him, as he said “if you want to resort to personal abuse, it weakens you all.”He went on: “I predicted what you would do. It was predictable. Enjoy your evening, God bless you all. I still believe in Unions, I just wish some of you would be a bit more courteous.”

Some in the audience began to complain as Mr Pritchard was leaving, but one voter shouted “If he wants to p*** off, let him p*** off.”As he was saying he would be happy to stay if the crowd calmed down, there was a further furious outburst from the floor, and Mr Pritchard started to leave the room, waving as he walked to the door.

The Mirror continues,

Lucy Allan, the other Tory MP for the region, was invited to the debate, but did not attend.The Mirror contacted Mr Pritchard by phone, text and email, but he had not responded at the time of publication.

In a later statement to the Shropshire Star, he said: “I raised the issue following constituents raising the issue with me. Food banks meet a real need and offer a valuable community service.

Meanwhile on the excellent Welfare Weekly. 

Killed by the state: how Tory policies have cost countless lives

There is a reason why the government refuse to publish the updated benefit-related death totals of Employment and Support Allowance claimants, writes Mo Stewart.

(This caught my attention immediately…)

Written by Andrew Coates

June 3, 2017 at 3:01 pm

American corporate ‘racketeers’ influencing UK welfare ‘reforms’.

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US Racketeers and Tories Plan to Smash Our Welfare State.

There are a number of sources for serious news about Social Security and Welfare.

Amongst those posting here, there’s Enigma, Doug, Ken, Marie,  and too many others to list.

There’s the Guardian, the Independent, and the Daily Mirror, not to mention specialist journals.

Welfare News has some of the best original articles and collects news from all over.

This really struck me yesterday.

It confirms what many people here have said, and just how serious the attempt to hand over welfare to organised thieving  is.

BBC News reports exposing how a US firm were influencing UK welfare reforms were inexplicably removed from their archives.

In November 2007, BBC News exposed the influence of Unum Insurance with the welfare reforms, and now the UK is perilously close to adopting private healthcare insurance to fund welfare as the Welfare State is demolished.

Almost ten years after the BBC News report chronically ill and disabled people, whose financial survival is dependent upon State funded finance, have paid a very high price for the influence of this American corporate giant with successive UK governments since 1992.

The report continues,

“A multinational insurance company accused of racketeering and cheating thousands of Americans out of welfare benefits, is giving advice to the British government on welfare reform. A BBC investigation has found that executives from Unum have held meetings with senior Whitehall officials to discuss changes to the benefit system”…

The above quote was the introduction by BBC News anchor Hew Edwards for an exclusive BBC News report, transmitted on 6th November, 2007.

Fortunately, some very wise researchers and activists downloaded the transcript of the report as, within a few short days, both the transcript and the BBC News video were inexplicably removed from the BBC News archives.

And,

Quite whose authority was used to rapidly remove this BBC News investigation remains a mystery. Presumably, the New Labour government didn’t want reference to Unum Insurance and their many court cases to be permanently available, or the $multi-million fines they paid out in America for refusing to honour their Income Protection Insurance policies.

In reality, Unum (Provident) Insurance worked with the British government from 1992, and were appointed as official government advisers for “welfare claims management” from 1994, to guide the then Conservative John Major government to eventually replace the Welfare State with healthcare insurance policies.

They link to this earlier story, (March the 5th)

Demolition of UK welfare state planned with corporate America

The ultimate ‘Thatcher Legacy’ covertly used to remove the welfare state.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 31, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Damian Green Tipped for Chancellor as Universal credit ‘must be halted’ – Scottish social security minister after Inverness meeting

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Damian Green - immigration minister.jpg

A few days ago..  Damian Green denies he will replace Philip Hammond as Chancellor

‘He is doing a great job…and I’m sure will continue to do so after the election’

Davidson caught out over ‘shameful’ child poverty claim

Scottish Conservatives leader accused of falsely claiming child poverty has fallen under the Tories.

Inverness Courier. 

HOW many people have to suffer before the UK Government freezes the roll out of problematic new benefit changes, a Scottish minister has asked.

The social security minister, Jeane Freeman, made her comments during a visit to Inverness where she heard of people going hungry and being plunged into debt as a result of universal credit.

The city, along with Nairn, Badenoch, Strathspey, Wester Ross and Ullapool, was one of the first places to feel the force of the new single benefit when a trial began last year. It replaces Jobseeker’s Allowance, employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit, and will be rolled out gradually across the UK over the coming years.

Claimants say they have been plagued with problems since the trial launched – from the complicated online application to a six-week benefits freeze any time a change of circumstances is reported.

On Monday Ms Freeman attended a working group of Highland Council, Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) and housing associations and was shocked by the hardship people have been left in.

“I heard a lot of detail about the practical difficulties of the roll out and the impact it has, not only on individuals but the local authorities and housing associations,” she said. “The Scottish Government has already asked the UK Government to halt the roll out until they get these problems fixed.

“Online is just one part which is causing problems because not everyone is confident working online. The information being asked for isn’t always clear and in many places in the Highlands you can easily lose signal. Even what can be done on the phone costs money and if benefits have been frozen money is something people don’t have.”

Highland Council is now owed more than £700,000 in rent arrears from people on the new benefits system, an increase of 82 per cent since September last year.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 27, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Labour Will Scrap Sanctions Regime amongst Raft of Good Policies on Social Security.

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 Image result for labour's manifesto f0or the many not the few

Many people have commented, and will comment, and, who on earth  knows? will comment defavourably  on Labour’s policies .

This sticks out to me on this very sound Manifesto (full text here).

Both because these are policies that help  our people and because they are just, not to mention that us lot have campaigned on them for years.

Poverty in Britain is rising due to the Conservatives’ attempts to balance the books on the backs of the poorest. They have slashed social security over the last seven years, leaving more people in poverty, subject to a punitive sanctions regime, and reliant on food banks.

Labour will act immediately to end the worst excesses of the Conservative government’s changes. We will:

  • Scrap the punitive sanctions regime
  • Scrap the Bedroom Tax
  • Reinstate Housing Benefit for under-21s
  • Scrap cuts to Bereavement Support Payment.
  • The cuts to work allowances in Universal Credit (UC), and the decision to limit tax credit and UC payments to the first two children in a family, are an attack on low-income families and will increase child poverty. Labour will reform and redesign UC, ending six-week delays in payment and the ‘rape clause’.

With nearly four million children currently living in poverty, the majority in working families, we will commit to tackle child poverty with a new Child Poverty Strategy.

The Tories have completely failed on their promise of making work pay and on tackling the barriers to work faced by people with disabilities.

Labour supports a social model of disability. People may have a condition or an impairment but they are disabled by society. We need to remove the barriers in society that restrict opportunities.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 16, 2017 at 12:34 pm

Welfare: The Big Silence of the General Election.

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This is what I got when I asked Mr Google about Labour’s policies on welfare.

Labour plans to reduce the number of people sleeping rough by doubling the number of homes available for use by homeless people. Four thousand new flats and homes would be ring-fenced for rough sleepers in cities such as Bristol, Liverpool and Birmingham. The carer’s allowance would be increased by an extra £10 a week – a 17% increase. The two-child limit on child benefit would be scrapped. The Winter Fuel Allowance and free bus passes for pensioners would be retained.

The Lib Dems want to end rough sleeping in Britain by placing long-term homeless people straight into independent homes rather than emergency shelters, and increasing grants to local authorities to fund homelessness prevention services more effectively. The party would also reverse cuts to universal credit, and abolish the work capability assessment. The party would also introduce civil partnerships for heterosexual couples.

Enigma writes,

“On welfare, Labour says it would scrap benefit sanctions and the so-called “bedroom tax” and restore housing benefit for people aged under 21.

Now this is good but I would like more detail, specifically about getting rid of the disaster that is Universal Credit.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 11, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Welfare Reform, “not only cruel but chaotic.”

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Social Injustice Warrior. 

Despite the fact that none of the main political debate has been about the future of work, unemployment, the dole, and the central issue of Universal Credit, which affects millions, stories keep cropping up

These are a number of articles that have caught people’s attention  in the last few days.

Ken highlights this one:  Universal credit doesn’t reward hard work. It makes the most vulnerable pay.  

Universal credit is, for example, already proving transformative for the claimants forced into new and desperate levels of poverty as a result of its six-week in-built delay before the administration of a first payment. Last week anti-poverty charity the Trussell Trust reported a 6.4% annual increase in administration of emergency food bundles at their food banks, with areas where universal credit has been fully rolled out showing referral rates at double the national average. In response, the trust has called explicitly for a reduction in waiting times.

This payment delay is only one feature built into the design and administration of universal credit that is already having a dangerous impact on claimants, particularly those already marginalised in myriad other ways. Take, for example, the stipulation that the benefit must be paid to a single head of household rather than to individual claimants. While this may reduce administration efforts and complications for the DWP, whose IT systems have already been dogged by universal credit-related glitches, it is also effective in disempowering women.

Enigma has brought up the issue of ‘self-employment’, which a Radio Four documentary, amongst other sources, has looked into (The Self-Employment Paradox).

Self-employment and the gig economy.

Conclusions and recommendations

The welfare safety net

2.Companies relying on self-employed workforces frequently promote the idea that flexible employment is contingent on self-employed status. But this is a fiction. Self-employment is genuinely flexible and rewarding for many, but people on employment contracts can and do work flexibly; flexibility is not the preserve of poorly paid, unstable contractors. Profit, not flexibility, is the motive for using self-employed labour in these cases. Businesses should of course be expected to seek out opportunities and exploit them. It is incumbent on government to close loopholes that incentivise exploitative behaviour by a minority of companies, not least because bogus self-employment passes the burden of safety net support to the welfare state at the same time as reducing tax revenue. (Paragraph 19)

https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmworpen/847/84708.htm#_idTextAnchor015

Today the Guardian publishes this: which indicates that Theresa May could not give a toss about welfare.

Welfare reform is not only cruel but chaotic. Theresa May must address this

The most charitable interpretation of Theresa May’s evasive responses to questioning on the impact of the government’s social security policy during TV appearances at the weekend is that on this topic she is clueless. She appears to have no idea what is happening in the chaotic new world of universal credit and the lower benefit cap. One might advise a little more prime ministerial curiosity: as the gruesome details emerge it is clear that the George Osborne-Iain Duncan Smith-era welfare reform, largely left untouched by May so far, is shaping up to be one of the great Conservative policy catastrophes.

It is a shame the imminent general election has forced the Commons work and pensions select committee to curtail its inquiries into the impact of these two policies before reaching a formal conclusion. But May could still read the evidence submitted to the committee from claimants, welfare advisers, housing associations and councils, which is brutally clear: the benefit cap is not just strikingly cruel but, predictably, an abject failure on its own terms of getting people into work; and that universal credit continues to be as expensively dysfunctional, poorly designed and complicated as many feared it would be.

Unsuprisingly, the committee heard that benefit-capped claimants were experiencing “drastic and abrupt” cuts to their income as a result of the new lower benefit cap limit of £20,000 a year (£23,000 in London). No surprise there. Instant impoverishment is supposed to be a cunning “incentive” to force people to move into work (freeing them from the cap) or into cheaper housing. Yet in the real world, too often claimants can’t work even if they want to – they have small children and no accessible childcare; they are ill (and in many cases have been found unfit to work); or there is nowhere cheaper to move to.

For these people, like the capped mentally ill woman in Dorset cited by Shelter in its evidence, the only practical options are debt and starvation. “In order to make rent repayments,” Shelter writes, “[our client] stopped eating and had lost so much weight that she was down to six stone.”

It will not surprise anyone familiar with universal credit that the 150-plus evidence submissions to the committee about the government’s flagship benefit reform programme raised a “near unanimous set of concerns” about its day-to-day operation. Briefly, these are: design flaws that make universal credit a turbo-generator of claimant debt and rent arrears; and profound problems of access caused by its digital-only nature, both for claimants trying to sign on or report changes, and for advisers and landlords trying to rectify its numerous faults and glitches. Cuts have stripped universal credit of the financial incentives that were originally meant to get people into work or work more hours, while design hubris has created an unresponsive system that, far from simplifying the benefits system, appears to have added fresh layers of complexity and delay.

Surveying the mess, committee chair Frank Field MP noted acidly: “Changes that actually did save money and help the strivers get into proper, gainful employment would be very welcome, but that is not what we are seeing.” Ministers might also note that the inquiry evidence suggests these policies actively undermine their aspirations to reduce homelessness.

To be credible as a social justice warrior, May needs to offer more than weary cliches about work being “the best route out of poverty”. The reality is much more complex, and as a start requires a measure of acceptance that, in its current manifestation, welfare reform – costly and largely ineffectual – isn’t working very well.

There is a simple answer to that one: she is a social injustice warrior!

The regional press has some proof on that one: Rugby & Lutterworth Observer.

Demand for emergency food in Rugby rises again (today)

ANOTHER huge rise in demand for emergency food supplies in Rugby has been blamed on government benefit reforms by volunteers at the town’s Foodbank.

The Foodbank says demand has rocketed by more than 60 per cent this year – and cites the rollout of Universal Credit as a major factor.

More than 4,000 emergency food parcels were distributed in 2016 – 30 per cent more than the previous year – with a third going to children.

But a further increase was recorded in the last six months, meaning foodbank use has increased by 61 per cent over the last 12 months.

Issues with benefits were the primary reason for getting help in 42 per cent of all cases in the last year, up from 36 per cent.

Foodbank manager Diana Mansell said: “It is deeply concerning we are still seeing an increase in the number of three-day emergency food supplies provided to local people in crisis in Rugby over the last year. The trend over the last six months has been particularly concerning – a 61 per cent increase compared to that of the previous financial year is very worrying.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Computer Experts Cast Doubt on Universal Credit Targets as DWP Hides Behind “Agile Development”.

with 62 comments

Image result for universal credit cartoon

Mark Steel writes today in the favourite daily of the unemployed, the ‘I’ – that is apart from the Mirror .

The Government’s record of strength and stability

Mark talks of this, which we all know all too well,

I expect they’ll also refer every day to their universal credit scheme, which is five years behind schedule and cost £16bn. You have to be strong to lose that amount and not care. Weak people would get to £3-4bn and think “Oh dear, maybe we should stop”, but not if you’re strong and stable.

How we laughed….

Not only is Universal Credit a failure, a cause of misery, and a huge waste of money, but it looks unlikely to get going on time.

But there is this:

Can DWP meet its revised 2022 target for completion of Universal Credit?

In the run-up to the last UK general election in 2015, the Labour Party’s then shadow employment minister Stephen Timms pointed out that the target completion date for the Universal Credit welfare reform programme had “slipped four years in four years”.

They continue,

In July last year, the secretary of state for work and pensions, Damian Green, moved the completion date back to 2022five years later than the original 2017 target set at project launch in 2011. That makes about seven timescale slippages in all.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is still cautious when talking about future deadlines for the controversial benefits scheme – as shown by a recent freedom of information (FOI) request.

Independent IT programme manager and FOI campaigner John Slater has been a dogged thorn in the side of DWP for over five years, pushing the department through the courts to reveal unpublished documents in an effort to bring greater transparency to one of the highest-profile IT failures of the Coalition government.

Yet all seems to be going swimmingly – apart from those who’ve drowned in its snarl-ups that is,

 

Currently, Universal Credit seems to be going well – at least, compared to its troubled early stages. The “full service” version – formerly referred to as the “digital service” – is at last being rolled out country-wide. The previous version – the remnants of the system that was “reset” in 2013 at a cost of £130m – handled only the simplest of claims, whereas the full service covers the entire complexity of the scheme to replace six different in-work welfare benefits with a single payment.

Full-service roll-out is due to be completed by September 2018 – meaning that all new benefit claims will be handled through Universal Credit. A bigger challenge lies ahead – migrating about seven million claimants for the existing benefit schemes onto Universal Credit. The UK government – perhaps no government anywhere – has ever attempted such a large-scale data migration.

Yup.

 

But…

The DWP, however, claims that it no longer works with deadlines or targets, citing its use of agile development as the justification.

“The Universal Credit Programme deploys ‘agile’ techniques to ensure the system develops incrementally and this is how it is managed through its governance route. We work in short phases and, as explained before, ‘target dates’ are not features of agile programme management and are not how we run Universal Credit. We articulate the scale and structure of our delivery plans for Universal Credit in terms of phases of roll-out, to specific jobcentres and local authority areas,” said the DWP response to Slater’s FOI request.

Slater points out that this is perhaps stretching the definition of “agile” somewhat.

“The DWP is hiding behind this argument that agile means you don’t have a plan and this isn’t true,” he told Computer Weekly.

“At the programme level there should be some kind of high-level plan that sets expectations of when things need to be completed. Where agile has been applied to programmes rather than projects there is still a map/programme portfolio/goals/plan or whatever people want to call it that covers each of the projects or work-streams (depending on how the programme is structured) and when it needs to be completed.”

Given that the secretary of state has already told Parliament that Universal Credit has a 2022 target completion date, you can have some sympathy with Slater when he adds: “The response seems to confirm to me that the DWP is making it up as it goes along and doesn’t have any kind of credible plan showing how long it will take.”

Surely planning is socialist tyranny?

Prepare for some real obfuscation (word of the day) from the DWP:

DWP acknowledged to Slater that the 2021 target has been mentioned in documents supplied to the Universal Credit Programme Board, but stated the date has “yet to be confirmed”. It said:

“In line with agile methodology, the sooner the activity, the more detail there is.

These activity streams are called:

Governance and project management, which gives details of reviews and assessments that take place to review progress. This activity stream refers to a 2021 closure date, which is yet to be confirmed.

Transformation and planning, which looks at the interfaces and frameworks that need to be in place for Universal Credit to roll out. This looks at migration and refers to ESA/tax Credit claimant migration completed by 2021.

“UC product development, which describes the digital features Universal Credit will make use of. There is a reference to decommissioning legacy IT in 2021, which is yet to be confirmed.

We have not yet started to plan any activity around project closure or legacy decommissioning; nor have we started any significant planning for the ESA/tax credit stage of migration, which, as you may know, is now planned to complete in 2022.”

That’s answered him!

Still,

MPs have repeatedly criticised DWP for a “veil of secrecy” and lack of transparency over Universal Credit, and Slater’s experience suggests the department continues to take a highly cautious approach to what it reveals about project development and timescales.

Amazingly, given the programme has been going since 2011, the full business case for Universal Credit has still not been submitted or signed off by the Treasury – that’s due to take place in September this year.

At that time, perhaps DWP will finally reveal more detail about how it will avoid further delays during a three-year migration period that will present significant risks to Universal Credit roll-out.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 28, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Universal Credit Chaos Shown in Trussell Trust Report Should be Top of Election Agenda.

with 107 comments

One item which should be top of the election agenda is the failure of Universal Credit.

People contributing to  this Blog have noted this (thanks Enigma) – we hope many more electors will take it seriously…not to mention politicians.

Food banks report record demand amid universal credit chaos

The Guardian reports.

Charity calls for immediate reduction in six-week wait for first benefit payment after handing out 1,182,954 emergency parcels.

Food banks handed out a record number of meals last year after the chaotic introduction of universal credit, the government’s flagship welfare overhaul, left claimants unable to afford meals when their benefits were delayed.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank network, announced that it provided 1,182,954 three-day emergency food parcels to people in crisis in 2016-17, up 6.4% on the previous year’s total of 1,109,000.

The trust said the standard six-week-plus waiting time for a first benefit payment faced by new universal credit claimants was behind the rise in demand for charity food. As well as reliance on food banks, benefit delays had also led to common adverse effects such as debt, mental illness, rent arrears and eviction, the trust said.

The trust called for an immediate reduction in the minimum six-week wait for a first payment, saying debt and uncertainty caused by being without income was a source of stress and anxiety for many clients, and had led some to lose their homes.

The problems were exacerbated by the lack of official support for both clients and charities encountering universal credit for the first time, the trust said. The move to a full digital approach to benefits administration made it difficult for claimants without internet access to easily make, adjust or follow up claims.

This is the Report:

primary-referral-causes-2016-2017

25 Apr 17

UK foodbank use continues to rise

UK foodbank use continues to rise as new report highlights growing impact of Universal Credit rollout on foodbanks.

One food bank quoted in the report said: “People are lost. They have no support at the Jobcentre Plus, and don’t know where to turn for help. Particularly worrying is the number of larger families with young children who are also struggling with low income and mental ill-health.”
  • Over 1,182,000 three day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in past year – 436,000 to children
  • New report on Universal Credit reveals adverse side effects on people claiming and foodbanks providing help
  • The Trussell Trust welcomes Damian Green’s willingness to work with frontline charities and calls for more flexibility and support to help people moving to Universal Credit

UK foodbank use continues to rise according to new data from anti-poverty charity, The Trussell Trust. Between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017, The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank Network provided 1,182,954 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis compared to 1,109,309 in 2015-16. Of this number, 436,938went to children. This is a measure of volume rather than unique users, and on average, people needed two foodbank referrals in the last year.* [see notes to editor]

The charity’s new report, Early Warnings: Universal Credit and Foodbanks, highlights that although the rollout of the new Universal Credit system for administering benefits has been piecemeal so far, foodbanks in areas of partial or full rollout are reporting significant problems with its impact.

Key findings from the report reveal:

  • Foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit rollout to single people, couples and families, have seen a 16.85% average increase in referrals for emergency food, more than double the national average of 6.64%.
  • The effect of a 6+ week waiting period for a first Universal Credit payment can be serious, leading to foodbank referrals, debt, mental health issues, rent arrears and eviction. These effects can last even after people receive their Universal Credit payments, as bills and debts pile up.
  • People in insecure or seasonal work are particularly affected, suggesting the work incentives in Universal Credit are not yet helping everyone.
  • Navigating the online system can be difficult for people struggling with computers or unable to afford telephone helplines. In some cases, the system does not register people’s claims correctly, invalidating it.
  • Foodbanks are working hard to stop people going hungry in areas of rollout, by providing food and support for more than two visits to the foodbank and working closely with other charities to provide holistic support. However, foodbanks have concerns about the extra pressure this puts on food donation stocks and volunteers’ time and emotional welfare.

Trussell Trust data also reveals that benefit delays and changes remain the biggest cause of referral to a foodbank, accounting for 43 percent of all referrals (26 percent benefit delay; 17 percent benefit change), a slight rise on last year’s 42 percent.  Low income has also risen as a referral cause from 23 percent to 26 percent.

The Full Report can be accessed here: Early Warnings: Universal Credit and Foodbanks.

Note this:

Key recommendations from the report:

  • Recent positive engagement between The Department for Work and Pensions and The Trussell Trust at a national level is welcome. However, more information about the shape and form of Universal Support locally, particularly ahead of full UC rollout in an area, would bring clarity to foodbanks.
  • A reduction of the six week waiting period for Universal Credit would make a significant difference to people’s ability to cope with no income. The ‘waiting period’, the time before the assessment period begins, could be reduced first.
  • More flexibility in the administration of Universal Credit is needed to support people moving onto the new system. For example, more support for people applying online who are unfamiliar with digital technology, and support to improve people’s ability to move into work and stay in work.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 25, 2017 at 9:59 am

Tory Election News You Probably Will Not Hear.

with 32 comments

Image result for Tories and welfare Theresa May

Always Looking for New Targets to Reach.

Callous Tory government targeting the most vulnerable in society’.

Welfare Weekly. 20th of April

Conservatives accused of “targeting the most vulnerable in society” with “callous” cuts to Employment and Support Allowance.

Labour MP John Cruddas has accused the Tory government of “targeting the most vulnerable in society” with draconian welfare cuts, which he claims will have a big impact on his poorest Dagenham and Rainham constituents.

The “callous” Conservatives are cutting £30 a week in Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments for up to 500,000 sick and disabled people, reducing the amount they receive from £102.15 to just £73.10 – the same amount as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) – despite those affected having been declared “unfit for work” following an assessment.

Bereaved families attend widowed parents’ allowance protest

Westminster demonstration takes place after change in rules dramatically reduces amount paid out after a death.

Widowed parents have attended a protest outside parliament after ministers pressed ahead with cuts that will leave some bereaved families more than £50,000 worse off.

One of the attendees said the decision, which came into place earlier this month, was equivalent to “punishing those who are living out most families’ worst nightmares”.

Scotland: Scottish Housing News.

Women ‘hardest hit’ by UK welfare cuts, says minister

Women are being unfairly impacted by recent UK government cuts to benefits and welfare eligibility, according to equalities secretary Angela Constance.

An estimated 20% of women’s income comes from benefits and child tax credits, compared to 10% of men’s. Meanwhile, of all in-work families receiving child tax credits, 87% of recipients were women. For in-work single parents, 94% of recipients were female.

By 2020-21 it is estimated around 50,000 Scottish households will be affected by the changes to child tax credits, which will be capped at two children. This means anyone with two children or more will no longer receive tax credits at the birth of their next child or subsequent children, unless an exception applies. The policy also affects those making a new Universal Credit claim.

In addition, new families will lose £545 a year from the removal of the ‘family element’ – an additional payment that applies to the birth of a first child.

Ms Constance said: “The latest welfare cuts are having a hugely damaging and disproportionate impact on women. It is, frankly, an appalling assault on the incomes of ordinary people already struggling to make ends meet.

“It is all the more concerning because in many households women are the primary, or even sole, carers of children – a massive step backwards for equality in our society.

“As usual we are seeing an alarming lack of understanding from the UK government about the impact of their ideologically-driven policies. This is most evident in the extremely ill-thought through ‘rape clause’, where – shockingly – women have to provide evidence they’ve been raped to access benefits.

“The UK government’s callous policies make our own efforts to eradicate child poverty even harder. We are spending some £100 million a year on welfare mitigation to protect the vulnerable and those on low incomes, which we would rather be investing in anti-poverty measures. The reality is we are tackling deep seated issues of inequality with one hand tied behind our back.

“These welfare cuts were also introduced at the same time the UK government reduced taxes for the most well off south of the border. In contrast, our approach to social security will be based on dignity and respect and listening to people’s views – that’s why we are recruiting 2,000 people to shape the new system through our Experience Panels.”

And just to cheer everybody up: from the Belfast Telegraph about our old friend, Universal Credit.

No Stormont deal could see welfare reform with hard edge

Without a deal to bring back devolution, the Assembly will be unable to bring in mitigation schemes to cushion the impact of the upheaval for vulnerable families and individuals.

Universal Credit, which replaces a number of major benefits, is to be rolled out across the province in just over four months.

If the Assembly is not restored in that time, Secretary of State James Brokenshire will be required to take unilateral action, that could bring the Government in for criticism from other parts of the UK if the mitigation measures are included.

Just over 18 months ago the DUP and Sinn Fein handed back responsibility for welfare to Westminster, after more than three years of deadlock over benefit reforms.

The result was the Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Act, which means the power to trigger Universal Credit changes is in place.

Around 300,000 households will be impacted, with official estimates that 126,000 will be worse off by an average of almost £40 a week.

A further 114,000 are expected to be an average of £29 better off a week, with 72,000 remaining unchanged.

The changes are to be phased in gradually across Northern Ireland staring with Limavady in September – if the current timetable can be adhered to – followed by Ballymoney, Magherafelt and Coleraine.

The full roll-out of the programme will take a year, finishing off with Cookstown, Ballynahinch and Newcastle by September of next year.

Universal Credit replaces a series of existing benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.

The Department for Communities, which is working with the Department for Work and Pensions in London following the handover of responsibilities, confirmed yesterday the Assembly had been expected to deal with legislation to extend mitigation payments central to the reforms here.

“Mitigation schemes are already in place for legacy benefits for example JSA and ESA. Further legislation will be required to extend these mitigation payments to Universal Credit,” a statement said.

“This legislation will be dealt with by the NI Assembly. If there was no return to devolved government then such legislation would be considered in line with whatever arrangements were put in place to deal with this and all other pending NI legislation.”

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph this month, benefits expert Professor Eileen Evason said more can be achieved through parties working together.

“What we have, limited as it is, is far in advance of what has been secured by other devolved governments and demonstrates what can be achieved through devolution when people work together,” she said.

Prof Evason, who chaired a Stormont working group charged with mitigating the impact of the reforms within the financial framework, added: “I am also very aware of the high level of social need that continues to scar so many households and communities and is most evident in the growing reliance on food banks.

“I have no doubt those working with the most vulnerable in our society are anxious to move forward, but here, as is the case on so many issues, it is difficult to see how progress can be made without resolution of the current political impasse.”

Belfast Telegraph

Written by Andrew Coates

April 21, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Calls to End Benefit Freeze.

with 61 comments

Image result for benefit freeze damian green

Furtive Looking Damian Green Under Pressure.

Chancellor Philip Hammond facing calls from own party to review four-year benefit freeze

reports the Independent.

This excellently researched report (which readers of the ‘I’ will have noted yesterday) is very welcome:

Exclusive: It comes after The Independent revealed earlier this month the Government had underestimated the severity of its four-year freeze on working-age benefits, with the cap now set to hit claimants by almost 50 per cent more than official estimates.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is facing calls from within his own party to review the four-year freeze on working-age benefits to alleviate the pressures on those with the lowest incomes in Britain.

It comes after The Independent revealed earlier this month the Government had grossly underestimated the severity of its four-year freeze on working-age benefits, with the cap now set to hit claimants by almost 50 per cent more than official estimates.

An analysis by the House of Commons Library showed that, due to rising inflation, the measure introduced last year is now expected to reduce support for those on low incomes by £13bn over the next four years, compared with the Government’s own forecast of £9bn.

Heidi Allen, a Conservative MP on the Work and Pensions Select Committee, told The Independent the Chancellor needed to look again at the policy.

“I see it principally because of Brexit that economically things were going to get turbulent, and that’s why we pushed so hard to get some money pumped back into universal credit, which as you’ll know we got a modest improvement on the taper rate – a couple of per cent,” she said.

“I remember saying it at the time: ‘We’re not through this yet’. If inflation picks up, people are going to be in trouble and that’s where we are.”

Asked whether she thought Mr Hammond should review the policy, Ms Allen replied: “I do.”

Ms Allen said the Chancellor has to look seriously at injecting money back either into the work allowances or the taper rates in universal credit in line with where inflation is heading. One possible solution would be redirecting the finances put into the raising of the tax threshold, she added.

“Otherwise while the raising of the tax threshold was great, it’s a bit of a headline because it affects absolutely everybody,” she said.

“It’s a pretty crude and blunt instrument in terms of having a positive impact on incomes because it doesn’t focus in on those who really need it.

We observe that inflation in the prices of basics is pretty visible, visit the supermarket for a start…

This is worth noting,

Debbie Abrahams, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said the four-year freeze in social security payments, coupled with the increase in inflation, will “feel like a cut to families who are already struggling”.

“Millions of people who rely on tax credits, universal credit, employment and support allowance and other forms of social security will see their living standards fall even further. Many more children and disabled people will face poverty,” she added.

Ms Abrahams also said Jeremy Corbyn’s party would reverse the cuts to in-work support that “will see 2.5 million families worse off by an average of £2,100 a year”.

A Government spokesperson said: “By cutting taxes for millions of people, giving the lowest earners a pay rise with the National Living Wage, doubling free childcare for nearly 400,000 parents and freezing fuel duty, we are helping people who need it most.”

Written by Andrew Coates

April 18, 2017 at 10:00 am

As Damian Green Idles his Time Away Flawed Thinking Behind Universal Credit IT System Comes Out.

with 98 comments

Image result for universal credit it

A Genius was paid good money to design this picture….

As Damian Green whiles away his time in office, without deigning to tell users of Universal Jobmatch what’s happening with the site, some disturbing facts are coming out about the fundamental flaws in the IT management of Universal Credit.

Since these have already created massive problems for claimants, on top of the cuts and miserly scheme, not to mention a range of crackpot ideas that go with Universal Credit, this is highly significant.

Social Policy carries this story:

John Slater explains the thinking behind the project management of Universal Credit

Paul Spiker.

John Slater has been responsible for a series of Freedom of Information requests about the Universal Credit fiasco.  Yesterday he sent me a copy of the project management plan  introduced by Howard Shiplee, who was responsible for the development of Universal Credit from May 2013 until his departure, following illness, in September 2014.  Shiplee had previously been responsible for building construction for the 2012 Olympic Games.

I was puzzled by the plan, and wrote back to John:

I’m baffled – I can see no relationship between the steps to be taken and the design of a social security system. It looks more like a plan for building a McDonalds outlet, where all the groundwork’s laid and you know exactly what you want to do, so it’s all about delegating tasks. … I think you’re a project manager, John – – can you explain it to me?

I found John’s response so marvellously clear and helpful that I asked him if I could share it on the blog.  Here it is.

“Hi Paul,

You are right my background is programme and project management (my first degree was IT so I understand that aspect as well). You aren’t far off with your McDonalds analogy.

The plan is a classic case of an organisation focusing on the IT side of a major change programme. UC is one of the biggest change programme ever undertaken and nothing I’ve ever seen produced by the DWP reflects this.

The 100 day plan is a classic example of people that have been on a training course (e.g. Prince2 or Management Successful Programmes) but have never done the job for real. If you look down the left hand side of the ‘plan’ you’ll see the following headings:

  1. Key dates & decisions
  2. BT – Business (I suspect BT means business transformation)
  3. BT – Service Design & Build (I suspect BT means business transformation)
  4. BT Interfaces (I suspect BT means business transformation)
  5. Pathfinder Day 2
  6. Programme Approach
  7. HR
  8. Finance
  9. Assurance
  10. Security
  11. Comms (Communications)
  12. Stakeholder
  13. Supplier

With the exception of point 1 these are typically referred to a work streams. The idea is that each of the workstreams goes along their merry way cooperating with each other to deliver the programme. The reality of this approach with any complex programme is that it always goes horribly wrong.

If you look at points 2 to 5 then it is utterly focused on the IT. The plan looks like something to produce a software product of some sort. There is no mention of culture change, process engineering (this should be done before any software is produced) and the biggest issue of all people! This covers the claimants, DWP employees, Council Employees, Welfare Advisors and so on. They are just expected to magically learn and make it work. The trouble is human beings don’t work that way.

Part of the issue is that the DWP employees working on UC at the time hadn’t ever done anything like this before so didn’t have a clue. The put people in roles (e.g. programme manager, programme office manager etc) but they hadn’t done it before and had just been sent on a training course.

I’ve been doing this stuff for 30 years and I would have struggled to get UC up and running (and I’m very good at this aspect of complex programmes). Bringing in someone like Howard Shiplee was always going to fail. I’ve run programmes involving a lot of construction and it’s a different world and a totally different mindset. I suspect if you looked at the approach used for construction during the London Olympic build it wouldn’t look dissimilar to this plan. With construction the focus is generally on design and then build (known as D&B). The key factor is the supply chain and can the main contractor get the materials and people on site on time and in the right order. If you look at the plan again I don’t think it’s unreasonable to see the left hand side of the dark vertical as ‘design’ and the right hand side as ‘build’. This is what Howard Shiplee understood and it was so deeply ingrained I doubt he could have done anything else.

In respect of the pathfinder system released at Wigan it was a cobbled together lobotomised version of the IT that would ultimately be required for the complete UC. At this stage of the programme IDS knew the IT was fundamentally flawed, hence the talk of large sums being written off at the time. He also knew that they had to start over again but couldn’t admit that as it would be politically disastrous. Therefore, they rolled out the lobotomised version that only covered a small subset of people claiming JSA and claimed success. While this version was being rolled out painfully slowly the DWP was working desperately to produce a brain new IT system that ultimately will be the UC IT System.

Personally I think the new IT system will also fail. The methodology (Agile) as it’s been used by the DWP means that too much has been done in isolation. The system is going to be extremely complex and as bugs appear I’m not convinced the DWP will be able to find out the cause and then develop a solution that doesn’t result and another problem.

Kind Regards

John”

Universal credit full service for all types of claimants continues to roll out to plan. It is now being delivered in 50 jobcentres and is the Department’s first fully digital service.

We have been exploring how this technology can, for the first time, offer a simple system of explicit consent (to protect the large amounts of claimant personal information held under universal credit) but which is easy to use and takes advantage of the opportunities a digital service can offer. Such a system can be used by third parties and stakeholders representing claimants’ interests, enhancing the service that they can provide for the most vulnerable.

However, it is clear MPs engaging on their constituents’ behalf need constant access to such a system through which they can help their constituents. Today, I have agreed that the implicit consent approach which operates well for all other DWP benefits can be extended to MPs representing the interests of their constituents who are engaging with or directly claiming universal credit. We can offer this because of our pre-existing relationships between MPs’ offices, district managers and their teams. This is something which cannot pertain for inquiries from other sources.

This means any correspondence—letter, email, or telephone inquiries—from MPs on behalf of a constituent relating to universal credit will be answered directly, without a requirement to seek explicit consent from their constituent. This will ensure consistency and clarity for MP offices, no matter what benefit the inquiry is about.

Extending this support for MPs and their constituents will continue to help enable the successful delivery of this key welfare reform programme.

[HCWS528]

Written by Andrew Coates

April 12, 2017 at 10:57 am

Universal Jobmatch Down Down Down….

with 25 comments

As people are already commenting Universal Jobmatch is not working, has not worked since yesterday, and is not matching the Job.

Feel free to comment further.

 

I can think of a few things to start with, hard to log in, hard to use, sanctions not to mention, weren’t there some kind of fraudulent jobs…

DWP draws up plans to ditch ridiculed jobs website

Universal Jobmatch likely to be jettisoned after it was found to be carrying a series of fake, repeat or fraudulent jobs ads.

The government has drawn up plans to scrap its official jobs website, Universal Jobmatch, after recognising it is too expensive and that its purpose is undermined by fake and repeat job entries, according to leaked internal communications from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).  Guardian March 2014.

A cache of documents seen by the Guardian details how the government’s main website for job hunters – which tens of thousands of unemployed people have been required by the DWP to sign up to – is likely to be jettisoned when the contract for the service comes up for renewal in two years.

A year and a half after its launch, Universal Jobmatch has been ridiculed for hosting numerous fake jobs, including one for an MI6 “target elimination specialist” and “international couriers” for CosaNostra Holdings, as well as listings for pornographic websites.

IMPORTANT UPDATE.

(NOT THAT THEY TOLD US LOT..).

Government is making changes to its Universal Jobmatch service to stop commercial job boards uploading vacancies in bulk.

In a statement sent to Recruiter, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed it will be limiting the bulk upload of job vacancies and will only allow employers to use Universal Jobmatch directly.

Commercial job boards will also be no longer able to daily refresh adverts to prioritise vacancies, while there will also be a drive to remove the duplication of job ads.

Recruiter understands the changes have been brought about due to frustration from jobseekers being redirected to other sites, as well as dealing with duplicate adverts. Three quarters of the 1.3m ads placed on the service come from commercial job boards, while SMEs and micro employers have found their adverts lost among the sheer volume of job board ads.

It is understood job boards have been given six weeks’ notice, with the changes set to come into effect on 22 May.

Commenting on the development, Minister for Employment, Damian Hinds said the changes have been brought about after user feedback, and will mean jobseekers can navigate the site more quickly and easily.

“With around 750,000 vacancies available across the UK at any one time, Universal Jobmatch remains a useful option for jobseekers and businesses alike,” he added.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 10, 2017 at 10:13 am

Posted in DWP, Fraud, Tories

Tagged with ,

From Benefit Cap to Universal Credit: Theresa May Spreads Misery.

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Image result for benefit cap campaign against

Last Night the BBC showed this programme:  BemThousands on 50p-a-week housing benefit, Panorama finds.

More than 7,500 households have lost their housing benefit and instead receive a nominal 50p a week because of the welfare cap, the BBC has found.

A Panorama survey of hundreds of councils shows at least 67,600 homes in England, Scotland and Wales have lost some money due to the policy.

The cap is £23,000 in London and £20,000 in the rest of the country.

The nominal amount is paid so that those households can claim access to an emergency fund if they need to.

They have to be in receipt of some housing benefit in order to be eligible to apply for discretionary housing payments, a special government fund set up for those particularly affected by the cap.

The cap is part of the government’s drive to get unemployed people back into employment by cutting out-of-work benefits.

The amount of money above the limit is taken from either housing benefit or Universal Credit.

The Mirror, a paper which has consistently stood up for us lot, reports on this,

Tories’ benefit cap leaves thousands of families left with just 50p a week for rent

People have been made homeless and separated from their children as a result of the new welfare rules, according to a BBC Panorama probe

And in a further story,

Unemployed mother-of-four receives just 50p A WEEK to cover rent after Tory housing benefit cap changes

Desperate Kim Carmichael was threatened with eviction at the start of the year and says her life has altered dramatically as a result of the government’s adjustments

They used to get £500 a week in benefits to look after their four children but their payments were cut by £120 in November under the changes.

They say their rent used to be covered by housing benefit but that has since been cut to the minimum amount.

Steve said: “Now it’s only 50p a week – so that’s £2 a month, which they may as well keep. It costs more to send a letter out.”

The family was threatened with eviction at the end of January because of their rent arrears.

They then got a payment from a special government fund set up to help those who have been affected by the cap.

But this payment also ran out at the end of March and they will now have to apply for more money. If they don’t get it, they could lose their home.

The government says the benefit cap tries to level up “the playing field between families who are in work and who are reliant on benefits.”

The misery the government is inflicting specifically through Universal Credit is spread wider.

Serious stories are appearing in the better regional papers.

This is from the Chronicle, Newcastle.

How much money do people claiming Universal Credit benefits actually get?

We look at how people live on the benefit, which has now been rolled out across Newcastle

Last week, we reported on Newcastle City Council’s fears over the impact of a new benefits system on some vulnerable people in the city.

The city is one of the first in the country where the Universal Credit system has been rolled out in full — but what does that actually mean for the people who rely on it?

The whole article is worth reading, but the concluding bit stands out,

According to DWP figures, in Newcastle there were just over 5,000 people claiming Universal Credit as of February 9.

Of these, the majority, around 2,717 were looking for work.

But 1,484 claimants were working.

On top of that, 488 people had no requirement to look for work, while a handful more were classed as “preparing for work” or “planning for work”.

But it’s not quite that simple

According to Donna, some people may be struggling to claim everything they’re entitled to.

One of the big problems is for those who’ve been used to claiming housing benefit, which goes directly to their landlords, and now have to pay themselves out of their monthly claim.

They may not have the right documents to show what they’re paying in rent – someone who signed a tenancy agreement ten years ago is unlikely to be paying the same amount now, for example.

Donna said: “Some people are putting themselves in financial hardship because they don’t know what they can claim. If you’re unsure, talk to your landlord.

On top of that, one of the major issues some claimants face is the up to six week wait before payments start – for people who’ve lost work and don’t have an alternative source of cash, this wait could prove a very difficult time, with people claiming food parcels or even racking up debts to tide them over.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 6, 2017 at 11:38 am

Tax Giveaway to Wealthy as Benefit changes ‘could push 200,000 children into poverty’.

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Image result for giveaway tax changes help rich osborne

Osborne’s Help the Rich Punish the Poor Policies Set to Get Worse.

Two stories, two worlds.

Sunday, the Observer.

Wealthy get 80% of rewards from tax and welfare changes introduced by George Osborne that begin to come into effect this week.

The richest will reap 80% of the rewards from the tax and benefit changes that start to come into effect this week, while the poorest will become worse off, according to detailed analysis by the Resolution Foundation.

The independent thinktank’s research shows that the effect of £2bn of income tax cuts and more than £1bn of welfare cuts will add up to a huge transfer of wealth from low- and middle-income households to richer ones.

The reforms, set in train by former chancellor George Osborne, run directly contrary to the political mantra of Theresa May, who has said she wants to govern in the interests of everyone and “not just the privileged few”.

The changes include raising the personal tax allowance from £11,000 to £11,500; lifting the threshold for higher-rate tax from £43,000 to £45,000; freezing all working-age benefits; removing the family element (£545) from tax credits and universal credit for new claims or births; and applying a two-child limit to new claims or births in the tax credit system.

David Finch, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The overall package amounts to a £1bn net giveaway from the public purse. But the skewed nature of this generosity means that better-off households will receive four-fifths of the gains, while the poorest third of households will be worse off overall.”

Finch said that reductions in the generosity of universal credit, which will have the effect of reducing work incentives, would affect relatively few families this year. But as millions more move on to the new system, the effects on the living standards of those on low incomes would become much clearer.

Today, from the BBC,

Benefit changes ‘could push 200,000 children into poverty’

Changes to benefit rules coming into force this week could push 200,000 more children into poverty, say campaigners.

From Thursday, payments for some benefits will be limited to the first two children in a family.

The Child Poverty Action Group and Institute for Public Policy Research say some families will be almost £3,000 a year worse off under the new rules.

Ministers say they are determined to tackle the root causes of disadvantage and make work pay.

The changes affect families who claim tax credits and Universal Credit – which is in the process of being rolled out and is due to replace tax credits completely by 2022.

The new rules mean that children born after Thursday 6 April into families where there are already two or more children will no longer be counted in benefit payments to their parents, under either tax credits or Universal Credit.

And from autumn 2018, families making new claims under Universal Credit will only receive payments for their first two children even if they were born before Thursday.

However, children already receiving Universal Credit or tax credit payments will not lose them for as long as their family’s existing claim continues.

And Child Benefit, which is separate, will be unaffected.

The latest official figures show that 872,000 families with more than two children were claiming tax credits in 2014-15.

And a similar number of families are likely to lose out under the changes, the researchers suggest.

In 2014-15, two thirds (65%) were working families and 68% had no more than three children, say the researchers.

Based on those figures, the researchers calculate that once the new policy is fully implemented an additional 100,000 adults and 200,000 children could face poverty.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 3, 2017 at 10:51 am

Day of Action Against Benefit Sanctions. Protests.

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Thursday: Outside Ipswich Jobcentre. 

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and outdoor

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, child and outdoor

Interviewed on Radio Suffolk.

Benefit sanctions must be fought against

These sanctions are cruel and handed out for ridiculous reasons such as:

  • Arriving minutes late to a meeting
  • Not applying for jobs when waiting to start a new job!
  • Missing an appointment on the day of the funeral of a close family member.

This has to stop.

Unite demonstration outside the Department of Work and Pensions in London watch the video here  – See more at: http://stagingui.unite.awsripple.com/growing-our-union/communitymembership/day-of-action-against-sanctions/default.aspx#sthash.QsxxyCRf.dpufTake other action
  • Share your story – we are looking for people who have been sanctioned to tell their story.
  • We want to show the reality and impact on people’s lives – show your support – share on Twitter and Facebook #No2Sanctions
JOIN US – Thursday 30 March

See More Here.

Welfare WeeklyThousands to protest against ‘cruel and ineffective’ benefit sanctions regime

Campaigners will target more than 80 jobcentres across the UK, as part of a ‘national day of action’ to stop benefit sanctions.

Activists from Britain’s biggest trade union Unite will tomorrow (Thursday) be protesting outside the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in London, calling on the UK Government to stop it’s “cruel and ineffective” benefit sanctions regime.

Campaigners will target more than 80 jobcentres across the UK, as part of a ‘national day of action‘ to stop benefit sanctions.

Since May 2010, over 3 million people have been referred for a sanction 8 million times. Over 318,000 people have had their benefits cut or stopped completely in the last year alone, often for punitive and unfair reasons – such as being late for appointments with the jobcentre, or being too sick to ‘actively seek work’.

According to the food bank charity Trussell Trust, more than 500,000 three day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the first half of 2016/17, including over 188,500 to children, with the most common reason for referral being problems and delays with benefit payments.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 30, 2017 at 11:28 am

Posted in Damian Green, DWP, Ipswich, Sanctions, Suffolk

Tagged with , ,

Job Centre Closures: Lobby Today.

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Image result for jobcentre closures

The PCS Union announces.

Ahead of PCS’ lobby of parliament on Tuesday (28 March) opposing DWP office closures, MPs, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and others have been highlighting the negative impact that these closures will have on staff, users and the local community. Find out how you can join the lobby.

PCS has arranged the speaker meeting and lobby as part of our campaign to oppose office closures to over 100 DWP offices, including 74 jobcentres, representing more than 10% of the total. This will lead to at least 750 job losses. DWP plans to replace staff they make redundant with new staff, at further cost to the taxpayer.

The lobby will start with a speaker meeting in parliament at 1pm followed by a lobby from 2-4 pm in committee room 10, Houses of Parliament (St Stephen’s Gate Entrance) Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA.

And: 

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has said of the plans: “Jobcentres provide a lifeline for unemployed people and forcing them to travel further is not only unfair, it undermines support to get them back to work.”

Staff will face job losses, and in some cases, unreasonable travel journeys to and from work. Those with caring responsibilities, childcare commitments and access requirements will be particularly disadvantaged. Staff losses are coming at a time when Universal Credit is being rolled out, hampered by delays, IT failures and backlogs. DWP could redeploy staff to Universal Credit where resources are needed.

In Glasgow 50% of DWP offices are targeted for closure in an area where unemployment is higher than the national average.

Staff in Bishop Auckland, one of the offices targeted for closure, also contribute more than £100,000 a year to local businesses.

In Llanelli, £500,000 could be lost annually to local traders if the closure of the benefits office goes ahead.

We share many of the concerns raised by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is “extremely concerned” by the plans and manner of consultation. The mayor has raised concerns with the minister for employment, Damian Hinds, including the impact of the closures, the lack of adequate time for consultation, the increased travel time and costs for users, the impact on disabled people, BAME communities and young people from low income families. The mayor states that “plans to close job centres…will hit the disadvantaged hardest”.

“Now, more than ever, the government should be focusing its efforts on creating new jobs and helping those most in need of support to access employment,” he said.

The government has not consulted claimants who use these job centres on the closure plans. Many are in areas of high unemployment and social deprivation. Disability claimants, staff/users with caring responsibilities and vulnerable users must be given due regard in terms of the equality impact assessment and the disadvantage that they will face if offices close or are relocated. Having to travel further as a result of these proposals also means some users are unfairly out of pocket and run the risk of being sanctioned for lateness. Equality impact assessments have not been carried out to assess the disadvantaged groups that will be hit by this campaign.

What you can do

Concerns have been raised by MPs in parliament and your local MP can also play a powerful role in this campaign; they need to hear from you to raise awareness and about the impact that this will have in the local community.  If you have never been to a lobby of parliament before, PCS will be on hand to support you on the day.

Make your voice heard – contact your MP now and arrange a meeting for 28 March.

Background Mirror:, 26th of January.

Reckless” plans to slash millions from the welfare department’s bill by shutting Jobcentres across the country have been revealed.

The Department for Work and Pensions today announced it wants to merge staff and facilities from 78 smaller Jobcentre Plus offices into larger ones.

It wants to move another 50 into council or other similar offices to create “one-stop shops”, and shut 27 back offices.

The DWP insisted the move – carried out to slash its bills by £180m a year – would employ “under-used” buildings more efficiently.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2017 at 11:52 am

Camden Council: “Claimants ‘stealing food’ to eat due to benefit delays.”

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Above: Mid-Suffolk and Babergh South Suffolk (Tory) Council Video……

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Damian Green sometimes spends time away from his taxing life in the bijou town of Ashford answering questions about ‘reforms’ to Personal Independence Payments.

Sample, 15th of March, Parliament, “I  am happy to confirm that to my hon. Friend. I think that he and I would agree that that was a significant step forward when it was introduced, and I am determined that we maintain progress in that direction so that people who have a disability—whether a physical or mental impairment—can lead as full a life as possible.”

We note that in reply to one question he said, “In his long and distinguished career, the hon. Gentleman has been shadow Leader of the House, so he knows perfectly well that such things are a matter for the usual channels. It is therefore somewhat above my pay grade.”

You wonder if the turmoil in his department’s botched scheme Universal Credit is ‘above’ both his ‘pay grade’ and ability to deal with…

These are some of the latest difficulties.

Universal Credit: Claimants ‘stealing food’ to eat due to benefit delays

Finance chief warns people are being forced into new debts

DESPERATE tenants faced with long delays in accessing new Universal Credit benefits are beginning to steal food to survive, the Town Hall has warned a parliamentary committee.

Camden Council told the Work and Pensions Select Committee that the new system – a single monthly, means-tested benefit – was backfiring due to delays in the system. This meant people were racking up debts and rent arrears before they had received any help. In some cases, people are waiting up to six weeks before claims are processed.

The Town Hall’s official submission to MPs said: “One tenant has confessed to a rent officer that they were stealing food to eat. It is common to hear that Universal Credit claimants are borrowing heavily from family and friends. The Department for Work and Pensions’ Universal Credit helpline set up to advise claimants on the progress of their claim is providing an unacceptable service. Telephone calls can cost up to 55p a minute from pay-as-you-go mobile phones, which are commonly used by people with lower incomes. Wait times to speak with an adviser can be very long – one claimant in Camden has reported that their phone bill for a month was over £140, used almost entirely on calls to the DWP.”

The council is one of a number of local authorities, volunteer groups and charities giving evidence to the committee investigating the effectiveness of the new benefit system, first devised by former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

The reforms were meant to make the process of claiming benefits simpler through a single account, but the monthly cycle has left many struggling as they wait for a first payment. The council, meanwhile, fears that landlords will stop letting to those affected, particularly as many do not have savings to fall back on.

Around 230 people currently claim Universal Credit in Camden, but this figure could jump to 10,000 when the system is rolled out across the country this year.

Camden’s submission to the committee added: “While we recognise there is much to support in a benefit system that encourages claimants to take responsibility for a personal budget and outgoings, we feel strongly that a system should not be set up in a way that potentially adds to the risk of vulnerable people losing their home.”

The ‘very long’ wait on the phone struck home.

This is more and more people’s experience of anything to do with the DWP, and all the rest, particularly the infamous ‘outsourced’ bits of the state, run by private racketeers. 

In sum the next story comes as no surprise:

Pressure mounts on UK government to halt universal credit. Third Force News.

Pressure is mounting on the UK government to ditch universal credit until its catalogue of problems are resolved.

Scotland’s social security secretary Angela Constance warned the Westminster-imposed system was no longer feasible in Scotland and is demanding UK ministers halt its introduction.

The minister’s demand comes after a Westminster committee launched an inquiry into universal credit amid concerns over delays in payments.

The new system – where people use an online account to manage their claim or apply for a benefit – is fully operational only in certain parts of the country.

Three Scottish councils, East Lothian, Highland and East Dunbartonshire, have it in place, with other areas piloting aspects of the full system.

Constance has written to Damian Green, UK work and pensions secretary, to ask for a “complete halt to full service roll-out of universal credit in Scotland with immediate effect”, stating it is “no longer feasible”.

She said people who are moved on to full service have to wait six weeks before receiving their first payment, resulting in tenants building up rent arrears.

As a result,

Delays in payments have seen landlords, including housing associations, reporting financial difficulties, with councils reporting record rent arrears,  Constance said.

“It is clear that the system simply isn’t working and the UK government is not prepared to make the necessary changes,” she said.

“The six-week delay in receiving a payment – with longer delays for some being experienced – is a completely unacceptable situation and one which has the potential to push low-income households into further hardship and homelessness.

“I was also shocked to hear reports that, in some areas, landlords are advertising properties as ‘No UC’ due to their experience with the system.

“Despite the UK government having these issues highlighted in the pilots for universal credit and by councils, charities, housing associations and parliamentarians, absolutely no meaningful reassurance has been received.

“I therefore cannot be confident that these issues are even close to being fully resolved and it is my view that it is simply not credible for the UK government to continue with the further roll-out of full service universal credit until these problems are fully resolved.”

Leading charities have backed the call.

As should we all.

Meanwhile the Rt Hon Damian finds time for this jaunty event on the 17th of March.

Damian Green MP

Ashford MP, Damian Green, has shown his support WWF’s tenth Earth Hour by making a special pledge to help protect the planet.  The world is changing fast, and it’s never been more important to show support for action on climate change.

Damian Green joined the WWF at the House of Commons this week to show they care about the future of our planet, ahead of the global lights out event, taking place on Saturday 25 March at 8:30pm.

Damian Green said: “I am delighted to support WWF’s Earth Hour this year to demonstrate how important it is that we take climate change seriously. I am proud to be a member of a parliament which has set ambitious targets to reduce our carbon emissions over the coming decades. The Government has outlined clear plans in order to live up to these ambitions.”

Each year, millions of people around the world come together to call to support Earth Hour. Last year a record 178 countries took part and iconic landmarks across the UK switched out their lights, from Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, to Brighton Pier, Edinburgh Castle and Caerphilly Castle. This year is set to be the biggest yet as it’s the 10 year anniversary of Earth Hour. With 2016 breaking temperature records for the third consecutive year, it’s never been more important to tackle climate change.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 24, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Day of Action Against Benefit Sanctions (30 March) as Scottish Challenges to Tory Social Security Regime Grow.

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New Component

Thursday 30 March 2017  National Day of Action Against Sanctions (UNITE the Union).

JOIN US
More and more people are facing benefit sanctions. Half a million people have had their benefits suddenly stopped by sanctions in the last 12 months.
That’s half a million people, many of whom have been plunged into poverty, unable to heat their homes or even eat. How is this meant to help prepare people for work?

Benefit sanctions must be fought against

Please join an event near you on Thursday 30 March to stop benefit sanctions in your community.

We will continue to add new actions on a regular basis, so please check back.

For further information please email your Unite community coordinator (see here).

 

You often wish that politicians, that is Westminster politicians, took these issues as seriously as they do in Scotland.

Morning Star (today)

SCOTTISH Labour unveiled plans yesterday to “kick the private sector out of our social security system,” branding the treatment of disabled and long term-ill benefit claimants under the Tory welfare regime “inhumane.”

The party will table amendments to the forthcoming Social Security Bill to use the Scottish Parliament’s new powers to rule out the involvement of the private sector and has urged the SNP to support its proposals.

Labour says that thousands of disabled people have experienced punitive assessments for the Tories’ personal independence payments (PIP), adding that the SNP’s decision to delay the devolution of welfare powers will mean that 140,000 Scots will still be assessed under the current system.

Last month, a Scottish government consultation on social security revealed a “strong consensus that services should not be delivered through the private sector or profit-making agencies, with the majority of respondents in agreement that social security should be delivered through existing public-sector or thirdsector organisations.”

Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin said his party will seek to “use the new social security powers of the Scottish Parliament to kick the private sector out of our social security system.”

He laid into “these cruel and inhumane [PIP] assessments that have piled misery on vulnerable Scots.”

“Nicola Sturgeon failed to mention poverty once in her speech to the SNP conference. That tells you everything you need to know about her priorities,” he said.

He urged the First Minister to “work with Labour to use the new powers of our parliament” and abandon her preoccupation with Scottish independence.

Welfare Weekly (March the 17th) reports,

SNP Conference: Calls to scrap ‘draconian’ benefit sanctions regime

“The SNP does not believe we should be attacking the most disadvantaged in our society and completely rejects this benefits sanctions regime.

“The Tories need to realise this is the devastating consequences that removing the only source of income available has on real people and their families.

“It is extremely concerning that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society, including those at risk of homelessness, those with caring responsibilities and those with mental ill health issues, are the most likely to be punished by the draconian regime.

“The UK government must urgently scrap this punitive sanctions regime. The shocking findings of the National Audit Office illustrate the sheer unfairness and ineffectiveness of sanctions.

“The SNP has consistently done everything it can to mitigate the worst impacts of Tory welfare cuts spending £100m on protecting people – money we would rather invest in pulling people out of poverty.

“Our Government in Scotland continue to fight against the regime, for instance the Scottish Government have already secured agreement from the UK Government that the Scottish employment programme will not facilitate their benefits sanctions system.

“Scottish Ministers have been crystal clear that our services in Scotland must be seen as an opportunity, not a threat.”

The full text of the resolution reads:

“Conference rejects the punitive Tory benefit sanction regime; commends the creators of I, Daniel Blake for bringing the public’s attention to the cruel and callous reality facing tens of thousands of disadvantaged people across the UK; further notes with the concern the shocking findings of the National Audit Office of the scale and ineffectiveness of the sanctions regime; is concerned that the most vulnerable including those at risk of homelessness, those with caring responsibilities and those with mental ill health are the most likely to be punished by the draconian regime, welcomes the decision of the Scottish Government to make sure that the new Employment Programme, effective from April 2017, does not facilitate the UK Government’s sanctions system, and calls for the UKG to move urgently to scrap the unfair sanctions regime.”


This in an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Universal Credit Brings Hardship – Work and Pensions Committee.

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Related image

Damian Green DWP Minister (who?): Still on Holiday.

I, like many of us, am in two minds about posting this: Frank Field is pretty dodgy, and Pretty Dodgy is Frank Field.

But here goes.

This story follows this:

MPs launch investigation into ‘punishing’ Universal Credit rollout

Follows inquiry last year which congratulated Government on ‘revolutionary innovation’ Independent 23rd February.

DWP in denial about Universal Credit hardship, says Work and Pensions Committee.

From Welfare Weekly 16th of March.

Work and Pensions Committee Chair, Frank Field MP, says the DWP have their “head in the sand” about hardship caused by Universal Credit.

The Work and Pensions Committee has accused the government of having their “head in the sand” about problems with the roll-out of Universal Credit, which is replacing a number of existing benefits with one single monthly payment.

The committee says it has heard “compelling evidence” about “serious knock-on effects” caused by the roll-out of Universal Credit around the country, including rising rent arrears and problems resulting from “a built-in six-week delay” between someone applying for the new benefit and receiving th

Recent research warned the government’s flagship Universal Credit scheme is causing significant anxiety and leaving many claimants reliant on the generosity of food banks to get by.

A study commissioned by Community Housing Cymru (CHC) found that rent arrears among Welsh Universal Credit claimants was more than three-times higher than the UK average – £450 compared to £131.

Commenting on the research, Frank Field MP, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee said: “Huge delays in people receiving payments from universal credit have resulted in claimants falling into debt and rent arrears, caused health problems and led to many having to rely on food banks.”

He added: “It is bad enough that UC has a built-in six-week wait between someone applying and receiving their first payment, but we have heard that many have to wait much longer than this.

“The adverse impact on claimants, local authorities, landlords and charities is entirely disproportionate to the small numbers currently claiming UC, yet Lord Freud has told us he thinks it will take decades to optimise the system.

“We have therefore felt compelled to investigate UC yet again. We will examine what its impact is on claimants and those local bodies which deal with them, and what government needs to do to ease the pressure on those worst affected.”

Former Welfare Minister Lord Freud told the Committee in an evidence session that Universal Credit might take “decades to optimise”.

But despite mounting evidence that UC is causing severe hardship for many people, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) continues to claim that rent arrears associated with UC will be short-lived and should not present an insurmountable obstacle to landlords.

Frank Field said: “Despite a growing body of evidence about the very real hardship the rollout of Universal Credit is creating for some, often the most vulnerable, claimants – and the struggles it is creating for local authorities trying to fulfil their responsibilities – it is flabbergasting that the Government continues to keep its head in the sand.

“There is no urgency in the Government’s attempts to solve, for example, the incompatibility between Universal Credit and a council’s duties to those in emergency temporary accommodation.

“This is affecting some of society’s most vulnerable people, at a point of crisis, yet the Government appears unwilling to take the action it could to solve this and simply remove these people from the Universal Credit system.”

The Report cited above:

Tenants given a platform to voice their opinions on the impact of Universal Credit

The first-ever Welsh research report into the impact of Universal Credit (UC) from the tenants’ perspective will be launched in Cardiff today (Thursday, 9th March).

Community Housing Cymru (CHC), the membership body for Welsh housing associations, commissioned Cardiff Metropolitan University to carry out the research with Welsh social housing tenants as part of its Welfare Defence Programme.

Cardiff Metropolitan University worked with tenants by enabling them to design the research question and undertake the research themselves, using focus groups made up of their peers.The independent research, funded by the Oak Foundation, explores tenants’ experiences of UC, barriers to engaging with their landlord and solutions to overcome these barriers.

The report found that:

  • There can be 4-8 week delays in payments, causing significant anxiety and forcing several people to access food banks to get by.
  • Tenants often rely on their peers for support and information. A huge barrier for some tenants engaging with their landlord and the DWP was due to confidence ,literacy issues and the personal cost of contacting these organisations.
  •  Generic rent arrears letters were not seen as effective.
  • Participants wanted more communication between their landlord and the DWP as they had no way of knowing if rent increase charges had been taken into account as part of their new UC payment.

The UK average for rent arrears is £131. However, this more than trebles in Wales to £450 under UC which emphasises the importance of this piece of research.

Stuart Ropke, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru, welcomed the report’s findings. He said: “This report is the first of its kind about the impact of Universal Credit (UC) from tenants’ perspectives, uniquely undertaken by tenants themselves. CHC’s members are actively working to mitigate the impact of UC and, while it’s heartening to read the praise for support staff from tenants, there is a lot we can learn from this research.”

Stuart added: “UC has created a vacuum between tenants and landlords. Under the current system, many landlords do not know if their tenants are on UC and are therefore having to pay their rent themselves. They are often only alerted to the fact that they are on UC when they fall into arrears.

Paul Langley, Head of Business Development for CHC’s Your Benefits are Changing project added:‘We currently do not have automatic access to information about which tenants are on UC and we are working with the DWP on a solution to improve this. The landlord portal, once rolled out, will improve data sharing to enable a personalised approach which is essential to ensure that we support tenants moving on to UC.”

Amanda Protheroe, one of the report’s authors said: “Our hope is that this report reflects the experiences of tenants who are dealing with the issues around Universal Credit. Tenants were clear about issues and barriers to their communicating with both the DWP and their landlords but were most keen to discuss solutions. The overarching message was around the quality of relationships tenants had with these organisations with kindness being mentioned as something the tenants really valued.”

You can read the report here.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2017 at 2:23 pm