Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Benefits Shake up proposed: DWP considers ‘new single benefit’ for Ill and Disabled People.

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DWP looking at single new benefit to take place of Universal Credit, PIP  and ESA - Birmingham Live

New Shake Up.

Yesterday the story about a new single benefit for sick and disabled people came up.

Trev commented,

The proposed merger between UC and PIP seems to be all about preventing people from getting PIP, I reckon that’s what it’s all about.

The story has now developed.

DWP considers ‘new single benefit’ for sick and disabled people. Welfare Weekly, today).

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is exploring the idea of a single benefit for sick and disabled people, it has been reported.

Some 1.4million claim Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or its replacement Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – paid to help people with the costs of being disabled. Others claim ESA (Employment and Support Allowance), which UC is replacing.

The DWP says keeping all these different benefits and having just one assessment wouldn’t work. A brand new scheme would be a way to make the whole system simpler, it says.

The proposal is included in the DWP’s recent report ‘Shaping Future Support: The Health and Disability Green Paper.’

NOTE; The Green Paper was published on the 20th of July and the consultation ended on the 11th of October.

As the Mirror points out today, “A little-reported Green Paper over the summer said a ‘new single benefit’ could combine payments – with Tory welfare chief Therese Coffey saying ‘everything is on the table'”

The Welfare Weekly article continues,

“Responding to the proposal of creating a new benefit or merging ESA, DLA & PIP with Universal CreditDisability Rights UK (DRUK) said: “We are very suspicious of the Green Paper suggestion that Ministers could create a “new single benefit” so as to simplify the application and assessment process..

“Given the stress, worry, fear and distrust work capability assessments and PIP assessments cause Disabled people, the prospect of only having one assessment and not two is only superficially attractive at best.

“Given the repeated stress the Green Paper gives to “affordability” we believe the DWP is being disingenuous and the actual reason for the single benefit suggestion is likely to be reducing expenditure.”

Gail Ward, from the Hand2Mouth Project, said: “Those on Legacy Benefits will be Migrated to UC in 2023/24 and the merging of ESA,DLA/PIP will be a disaster for claimants and potentially means that PIP will become means tested.

“The form descriptors while having different criteria are already closely aligned and the DWP were calling PIP ‘a functional benefit’ in an evidence session before the Work and Pensions Committee recently.

……

The warning is very clearly when Therese Coffey suggested that severe disability group could be nudged into some type of work or training programme is a loud and clear message to all claimants that they want to cut overall costs and cut claimant numbers.”

Or as the Mirror notes of the DWP Minister,

Ms Coffey also suggested she was concerned by the number of people claiming PIP for mental health difficulties, saying she wanted to “target that even more so to people who really need that support”.

She added: “PIP has certainly grown in a way that was not anticipated when it was introduced.

“To give you an example, three out of four young people who claim PIP have their primary reason being mental ill health.

“That in itself is 189,000 young people who currently receive benefit focused on that. There may be other benefits they receive as well.

This seems, as our contributors have commented, part of a wider strategy to merge all benefits. The problem is, as Universal Credit has already shown, this can create bureaucratic and information technology nightmares. As well as, as he above comment about ‘affordability’ indicates, being an excuse for cutting benefit levels.

This is the Minister in Charge of the Green Paper:

Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2021 at 11:08 am

Universal Credit: 70% Rise in Severe Rent Arrears.

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Rent arrears for Tenants - How to avoid them - Slater & Brandley

Steep Rise in Arrears Amongst Universal Credit Claimants.

Rough sleeping remains a problem.

A day out with Derby’s rough sleepers and homeless people Derbyshire Live. October the 13th 2021.

Derby’s rough sleepers have complex problems

There are many initiatives to help with this ( How Ipswich is breaking the cycle of homelessness) , though doubtless not enough given the deep rooted causes of homelessness and the years of government neglect and a benefit system not fit to deal with people’s needs.

It looks as if more of those on benefits, are threatened with homelessness (which does not mean we will see all of them on the streets).

The cause is not their “complex problems”.

A few days ago Welfare Weekly carried this story,

Universal Credit: Homelessness fears as figures show a 70% surge in severe rent arrears.

New Government figures published today (Wednesday) reveal a 70% increase over six months in the number of renters on Universal Credit who are struggling with severe rent arrears.

The figures reveal that 190,000 low-income renters on Universal Credit in England are at least two or more months behind on their rent, with a leading homeless charity warning that a growing number of families teetering on the “brink of homelessness”.

This is striking,

Housing Benefit rates (and the housing costs component of Universal Credit) have been frozen since April this year. This means the rents are no longer linked to market rents, at a time when families and individuals up and down the country are struggling to cope with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Story got coverage:

The Stop Mass Homelessness campaign, led by Big Issue founder Lord Bird, launched in July this year in response to spiralling debts and soaring poverty which threatens to push thousands into homelessness this autumn.

“We are literally adding fuel to the fire,” he said in response to soaring energy bills and rising poverty. “We need to keep people in their homes, or face the costly reality of a mass homelessness crisis as people are forced to choose between paying the rent or the bills.”

And, in full circle, we come back to rough sleeping:

Written by Andrew Coates

October 16, 2021 at 9:28 am

Food Banks and Benefits.

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Up till the new millenium it was rare – I had never even heard of them – to see Foodbanks in the UK. There were a few night-time soup kitchens in London, famously one run by the Salvation Army near the Embankment Tube station. They were for the homeless, a small number of people, often called “tramps” and “down and outs”.

These were times when you could still get a bath (left over from the time that not everybody had proper washing facilities at home) in a municipal facility (there was one in Ipswich round the corner, still here not that long ago). When the heating on our flat in Kentish Town broke down and working not far away, I used one, near to a hostel for the homeless in Holborn. In the same place, development on what is the Oasis Swimming Pool there, 1983 “Skeletons were found in the workhouse earth basements of the former workhouse inmates, which stopped work for a while”.

There is still a soup kitchen in the area by the Thames, Soup Runs.” St James’s Spanish Place: Operates Tuesday and Friday evenings at Lincoln Inn Fields and Embankment, Central London.”

So how have we got used to Food Banks?

Food banks developed in America where there is no real social security system, and those at the end of their tether are forced to rely on he good will and grace of others – Charity. Instead of rights you get dependence on the minimum needed to survive.

It is not accident that it was during the Regan years, when those who claim to believe that “god helps those who help themselves” grew, “According to a comprehensive government survey completed in 2002, over 90% of food banks were established in the US after 1981.” After initial criticism, “in the decades that followed, food banks have become an accepted part of America’s response to hunger.”

Something similar has happened here with those who would do away with social security and replace it with private insurance if they good in charge of the government since the 1980s, and New Labour unwilling to put benefit payments at a decent level, or to reform the punitive sanction system.

Foodbanks were rarely seen in the UK in the second half of the twentieth century, their use has started to grow, especially in the 2000s, and have since dramatically expanded. The increase in the dependency on food banks has been blamed  on the 2008 recession and the Conservative government’s austerity policies. These policies included cuts to the welfare state and caps on the total amount of welfare support that a family can claim. The OECD found that people answering yes to the question ‘Have there been times in the past 12 months when you did not have enough money to buy food that you or your family needed?’ decreased from 9.8% in 2007 to 8.1% in 2012, leading some to say that the rise was due to both more awareness of food banks, and Jobcentres referring people to food banks when they were hungry.

Now, with Boris Johnson is charge, a man generously described as a “fabricator and a cheat” whose office as Prime Minister is a “triumph of political lying” (The Assault on Truth. Peter Osborne. 2021), Foodbanks are treated as essential institutuons.

Which they are. As the Trussell Trust has pointed out,

“The rapid growth in the number of charitable food banks had particularly captured public attention, as had the quantity of emergency food parcels they were distributing. Food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network distributed 61,000 emergency food parcels in2010/11, rising to 2.5 million in 2020/21.”

“Rather than acting as a service to ensure people do not face destitution, the evidence suggests that for people on the very lowest incomes … the poor functioning of universal credit can actually push people into a tide of bills, debts and, ultimately, lead them to a food bank. People are falling through the cracks in a system not made to hold them. What little support available is primarily offered by the third sector, whose work is laudable, but cannot be a substitute for a real, nationwide safety net.”

“According to an all-party parliamentary report released in December 2014, key reasons for the increased demand for UK foodbanks are delays in paying benefits, welfare sanctions, and the recent reversal of the post-WWII trend for poor people’s incomes to rise above or in line with increased costs for housing, utility bills and food.”

A strategy for zero hunger in England ,Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom

Just to underline the point and bring it up to date.,

The Trust also says,

It’s time for change – and that will only be possible as we raise our voices together to call for an end to the need for food banks.

We need your help. We’re calling on government at all levels to commit to ending the need for food banks and developing a plan to do so, and we need you to get involved.

Here is what is happening.

A couple of days ago the BBC ran this story.

Food banks struggle for donations as demand rises

A food bank said it is running low on donations as demand is rising due to the pandemic and people’s financial worries.

Worcester food bank said it gave food parcels to 987 people in September, a rise of 46% on the same month in 2020.

Goff O’Dowd, from the charity, said they were running short on 40 items including pasta and tinned fruit.

He said some people were desperate for help with not enough money to pay their energy bills.

The charity estimates they need 50 tonnes of food to get through until Christmas and are currently receiving about eight tonnes a month.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 12, 2021 at 11:11 am

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries,”Nobody” to be Pushed into Poverty by Slashing Universal Credit.

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Universal Credit cut will not drag a single person into poverty.”

With the rise in the cost of gas and the expected increase in food prices most people on low incomes and benefits are worried. Slashing Universal Credit will not help, to say the least.

Hearing about this from people I wondered if this will help everybody, “Support with essential costs. You can contact your local council to see if they can give you any extra help from a hardship fund, including food or essential things like clothes. Check your local council on GOV.UK.”

Just guessing, but apart from those in dire straits and, above all, families, it is hard to see that applying to our contributors.

I imagine this may well offer something, judging from the queue of homeless people outside the nearby 7th Day Adventist Church on a Sunday waiting for food distribution:

Food bank vouchers. If you can’t afford the food you can ask for a referral from Citizens Advice or an organisation that’s already supporting you – for example, a charity, school or children’s centre – for a food bank voucher.

The Government itself says that everybody will be helped by getting work, with some push up from various schemes, like the “life-time skills guarantee.”

One Minister who could do with skills training in how to communicate with ordinary people has had her say on the Universal Credit cut.

Tory Nadine Dorries claims Universal Credit cut won’t push ANYONE into poverty.

Mirror.

 Tory minister has been accused of not living in the real world after she claimed the Universal Credit cut will not drag a single person into poverty.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries boasted “nobody” will be driven below the poverty line when a £20-a-week Covid uplift in place since March 2020 is withdrawn from this week.

That is despite think tanks putting the worst-case estimate at around 500,000 to 800,000 people.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has said the cut risks moving 500,000 people including 200,000 children below the poverty line.

While the Legatum Institute think tank, led by Tory UC architect Baroness Stroud, says the change will hit 840,000 Brits who are currently just above the poverty line – including 290,000 children.

But ministers have no official figure for how many people will be thrown into poverty because they’ve refused to do a formal impact assessment.

And questioned by left-wing journalist Owen Jones at the Tory conference, Ms Dorries said: “Nobody. Nobody is.

Because what we’re doing, what we’re doing is giving people a step out.

“By lifetime skills guarantee, by all the money being invested in the…” – she then walked away with an aide.

****

Some people think that Nadine Dorries is one of Boris Johnson’s famously unfunny jokes and probably only exists as a hologram borrowed from GB News…

But the scheme is a very real.

Bootcamps for Skills:

“An estimated 11 million adults now have the opportunity to gain a new qualification for free, designed to help them to gain in-demand skills and secure great jobs.

Almost 400 qualifications are available to take from today (1 April) – backed by £95 million in government funding in 2021/22 – as part of the government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee.

The qualifications on offer range from engineering to social care to conservation and are available to any adult who has not already achieved a qualification at Level 3 (equivalent to A-levels).

The roll out marks a major milestone in the delivery of the landmark Lifetime Skills Guarantee – announced by the Prime Minister in September 2020. The Guarantee aims to transform the skills system so everyone, no matter where they live or their background, can gain the skills they need to progress in work at any stage of their lives. It will also ensure employers have access to the skilled workforce they need, and more people are trained for the skills gaps that exist now, and in the future.

Adults who take up the free courses have the potential to boost career prospects, wages and help fill skills gaps, while supporting the economy and building back better.

For example, with a Diploma in Engineering Technology adults can progress to roles in Maintenance or Manufacturing Engineering. A Level 3 Diploma in Electrical Installation or a qualification in Adult Care can also provide a gateway to sectors offering rewarding careers and where there are multiple job opportunities.

So more unemployed people can take full advantage of these courses, the government will pilot an extension to the length of time they can receive Universal Credit while undertaking work-focused study.

They will now be able to train full time for up to 12 weeks, or up to 16 weeks on a full time skills bootcamp in England, while receiving Universal Credit to support their living costs This will allow access to more training options and provide a better chance of finding work, while continuing to receive the support they need.”

Let us know if you have experience of this “bootcamp”.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 9, 2021 at 9:35 am

Thérèse ‘Karaoke’ Coffey Hits the Headlines.

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Thérèse Coffey Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions Celebrating a Few Hours After Universal Credit Cut.

In an unusual move the East Anglian Daily Times (a fine local paper but one which will rarely criticise Suffolk MPs) carries this story about the MP for Suffolk Coastal. This Blog could add that while Coffey is known for a love of a good lunch, fine eating and dining, as well as cigars, her dancing and singing act has yet to be seen – correct me if I am wrong – in Suffolk pubs and restaurants.

Therese Coffey criticised for karaoke video after benefits cut

A Suffolk MP has been criticised for singing a karaoke version of (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life as a controversial cut to Universal Credit came into place.

Therese Coffey, the Suffolk Coastal MP and work and pensions secretary, performed a rendition of the power ballad with fellow Tory minister and Colchester MP Will Quince at the Conservative party conference in Manchester.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has been criticised for singing (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life as she cuts universal credit payments. Ms Coffey belted out a rendition of the power ballad with fellow Tory minister Will Quince at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester in the early hours of Wednesday. Labour called the timing of her karaoke performance of (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life, as she removes the £20 uplift to universal credit for millions of people, “an insult and a disgrace

Today the paper has this story, one that our contributors know all too well.

I’m being made to feel like I shouldn’t have had a child’: Suffolk residents share impact of Universal Credit cut.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 7, 2021 at 9:33 am

It’s Universal Credit Cut Day!

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To Celebrate the Conservative Party Conference today is Universal Credit Cut Day!

The Tories can barely conceal their glee.

Here is what is happening:

This is what this kind of money means to Tories:

Doug mentions that Johnson is due to announce a rise in the Minimum Wage.

Some might say that this increase is a cheap stunt to distract people’s attention from the fact that millions will be worse off from this Wednesday.

As if making employers pay a bit more to some people is going to help those the government is taking payments from.

Here is Thérèse Coffey retweeting:

Written by Andrew Coates

October 6, 2021 at 7:10 am

Rishi Sunak: New (and Old) Schemes and Measures for the Unemployed.

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Agenda for the Out-of-Work.

The news this Morning.

“In a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester on Monday, Mr Sunak will promise new funding to help people leaving the scheme and support for over-50s looking for work, while his ‘kickstart’ scheme will also be extended.”

Metro: Rishi Sunak to announce £500,000,000 extension to ‘plan for jobs’

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak has not ruled out unemployment rising now the furlough scheme has ended, but told Sky News the government is “throwing the kitchen sink” at helping people find new roles and learn new skills. “

“In a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today, Mr Sunak will outline fresh funding for schemes designed to increase the chances of employment for those looking for work.

Sky gives some sketchy details ahead of of today’s speech.

Within the chancellor’s new £500m package of support is an extension of the Kickstart scheme – which provides funding to create new jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds at risk of long-term unemployment – until the end of March.

Mr Sunak is also extending a Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) scheme – for those who have been unemployed for more than three months – by another year; and he is extending a Youth Offer of guaranteed support for all young people on Universal Credit until the end of 2025.

In addition, the chancellor is extending the £3,000 incentive for firms to take on apprentices until the end of January; he will expand support from work coaches for those on Universal Credit; and he will prioritise those who have left furlough and are looking for work on Universal Credit through the Job Finding Support service u

Within the chancellor’s new £500m package of support is an extension of the Kickstart scheme – which provides funding to create new jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds at risk of long-term unemployment – until the end of March.

Mr Sunak is also extending a Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) scheme – for those who have been unemployed for more than three months – by another year; and he is extending a Youth Offer of guaranteed support for all young people on Universal Credit until the end of 2025.

In addition, the chancellor is extending the £3,000 incentive for firms to take on apprentices until the end of January; he will expand support from work coaches for those on Universal Credit; and he will prioritise those who have left furlough and are looking for work on Universal Credit through the Job Finding Support service until the end of December.

(Job Finding Support

Job Finding Support (JFS) is part of the government’s Plan for Jobs initiative. Job Finding Support offers tailored one-to-one support to help you back into work. It’s aimed at people who have been unemployed for up to 13 weeks, and it will help you develop the skills and confidence to find and secure new employment. Your work coach will be able to advise whether JFS is right for you and if you are eligible.

If you take part you will be offered at least 4 hours of one-to-one online support focused on what will help you find work, and at least one online group session. You will receive advice and practical support to help with your job search. This could include, but is not limited to:

  • help to identify your transferable skills
  • advice about growth industries and jobs
  • job matching to suitable vacancies and advice/links to suitable employers
  • a mock interview with feedback and guidance )

And….

The package will also include a new offer for those aged over 50, with better access to information and guidance on planning for later life for those in work, and more intensive, tailored support for those who have lost their jobs.

Thérèse Coffey has got the message.

She has plans for those on disability benefits.

…she wants to focus on “what people can do, rather than the benefit system being driven currently by what you cannot do”.

Ms Coffey’s comments appear to mark a new push towards pushing people who claim disability or sickness payments towards work.

She said far more people than she expected are in the ‘support group’ – where work is not necessary – of Employment and Support Allowance, which for many is part of Universal Credit.

She also warned more young people than she expected were claiming Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – which is paid regardless of whether people work – due to mental health issues.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 4, 2021 at 7:57 am

After Universal Credit Cut Rising Energy and Food Prices To Hit Claimants.

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Cover of UC:Us guide to universal credit

New Guide Out Today.

Yesterday I got notice of my coming Gas and Electricity Direct Debit. It is due at the start of October. I would say it’s already gone up by over £20 a month, and no doubt further rises are to come. People who use prepayment meters are said to spend more.

Those on benefits do not pay Council Tax, people on Council Tax Support/Reduction got an amnesty when the pandemic began. This will no doubt end in May next year. In Ipswich we are do not pay a huge amount but in some areas even those on Legacy Benefits, Universal Credit and Pension Credit, pay amounts that are enough to eat into their small amount of money.

The Independent reports today,

Families across the country will see their income drop over the next six month as rising prices and falling support combine to shave precious pounds off their available cash.

From this week, the energy price cap – the limit set on household energy costs – will increase, followed by a further projected 19 per cent increase next April, according to warnings from think tank the Resolution Foundation over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the consumer prices index (CPI) measure of inflation is widely anticipated to hit 4 per cent, its highest rate in more than a decade over the winter.

……

Karl Handscomb, senior economist at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Britain is about to enter a tight cost of living squeeze over the next six months as high inflation and rising energy bills collide with the Government’s decision to cut benefits and raise taxes.

“Low-and-middle-income families will face the tightest squeeze. Many drivers of high inflation should be short-lived, but that will be of little comfort to families struggling over the coming weeks and months.”

He states,

“The combined impact of all this could mean that from 1 October, millions of families are likely to be more than £100 worse off every month, data from Royal London suggests.

That includes around 15 million households that will be hit by the impact of energy costs, rising to a typical £1,277 for households on a default dual fuel tariff or £1,309 for the country’s 4 million prepayment customers.”

Universal Credit: ‘No snazzy meals and no posh shops for me’.

BBC.

It’s like giving somebody hope that they can manage… and then snatching the rug from underneath them.”

Tracey Rheged-Armer says she does not go to “the posh shops” or eat “snazzy meals”. Hers is instead a life of yellow-stickered, reduced price food, charity shop clothing and constantly worrying about money.

The 57-year-old care worker is one of more than 5.8 million people claiming Universal Credit who will see her temporary £20 weekly benefit boost – put in place at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic – removed from 6 October.

Tracey, from Carnforth in Lancashire, lives with her retired postman husband and a growing amount of debt.

In August, her fuel bills rocketed after her supplier put up its prices, and she now has to deal with a debt management company.

Tracey says that since she has always worked, she never expected to be in this situation.

Losing the extra £20 a week, which “goes on petrol”, will have a devastating effect on her life, she says.

“I’ll have to figure a way of putting petrol in my car, because I need [it],” she tells BBC North West Tonight.

“I can’t get to work without it, because I work awkward shifts and there’s no bus services back when I finish, so that £20 keeps me in work.”

Those of us who have lived in JSA could say that the very idea of going to expensive shops, eating out, or buying ‘snazzy meals’ would not have crossed out minds..

Today the BBC has carried out a story about this, which looks interesting:

Universal credit claimants create guide to benefit.

Universal Credit – A Claimants guide

Researchers and a group of universal credit claimants in Northern Ireland have teamed up to create a guide to the benefit.

Ulster University, which worked with the University of York, said it was the UK’s first claimant-led guide to universal credit.

The experiences of the claimants are detailed in the online document.

One of the claimants said she hoped the “go-to” would stop people getting as stressed as she did.

The guide has been officially launched just as furlough – which protected millions of jobs during the pandemic – and a £20 boost to universal credit are about to end.

It also comes amid a backdrop of rising energy and food prices.



Written by Andrew Coates

September 29, 2021 at 8:14 am

‘Partial’ Climbdown on Universal Credit Cut?

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Ministers mull partial climbdown on Universal Credit cut after criticism of  soaring | User Walls

Ministers mull partial climbdown on universal credit cut after warnings of soaring poverty

Independent.

A partial climbdown on the looming cut to universal credit is being considered by ministers, to head off fierce criticism that huge numbers of people will be plunged into poverty.

The £20-a-week reduction would stay – but working people who receive the benefit would be allowed to keep more of their earnings, under the proposal.

The so-called “taper rate” – the amount a claimant loses for every extra pound they earn – would be reduced from 63p to 60p, if the Treasury agrees the move.

Guardian:

The Currant Bun says,

Millions of Brits face a cost of living crisis this winter — with food and gas prices rising as benefits are slashed and furlough ends.

Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions, fearing a backlash, have reportedly handed Chancellor Rishi Sunak a package of options.

This could reduce the impact of the impending cut with extra spending in other areas.

The options include giving extra cash to councils for emergency assistance funds.

Also being discussed is reducing the taper rate for Universal Credit from 63 to 60p.

That would mean workers keep more of what they earn.

It looks like few, if any, of our contributors will he helped.

This is a surprise….

Written by Andrew Coates

September 24, 2021 at 9:03 am

Iain Duncan Smith, the man who created universal credit, trying “Commons coup on Monday by forcing a vote on the cut.” 

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Iain Duncan Smith's Universal Credit Making 'Very Little Progress', Say MPs  | HuffPost UK

Ian Duncan Smith the new friend of the Claimant.

Today sees more articles and tweets on the Universal Credit cut.

The Observer carries this:

Boris Johnson is warned today that more than 800,000 people risk being plunged into poverty as a result of an imminent cut to universal credit, amid a plot by senior Tories to force the government into a last-minute U-turn.

With Conservatives from across the party pressing for a compromise deal this weekend as ministers face a potential Commons revolt, the Observer has seen new analysis that suggests the impact of the £20-a-week cut could be severe with energy costs and food prices rising.

It finds that the extra support protected some 840,000 people from poverty in the second quarter of this year. The research from the Legatum Institute thinktank includes 290,000 children – a figure that is causing particular concerns among Tories, who fear a significant increase in child poverty after the cut. The figure includes extra universal credit help given to the self-employed.

This is the bit I found interesting, as an old scallywag and foe of this Blog has turned himself into a White Hatter and friend of the claimant.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, the architect of universal credit, is attempting to spearhead a Commons coup on Monday by forcing a vote on the cut. The vote could embarrass the government should it go ahead, with another former welfare minister, Damian Green, also backing a cross-party amendment.

Duncan Smith said that the Treasury risked repeating the mistakes of austerity by trying to bring down pandemic spending too quickly. “Universal credit levels-up because it gets people back into work, back into the sense of work,” he said. “We’ve got ourselves caught, with the Treasury now demanding that we start getting the money back from Covid. We should treat this like war debt. We can’t go back into a massive cutting exercise. Ultimately, that will affect the worst-off in society.”

Senior Tories make last-gasp bid to block £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit with Commons vote

Independent.

Iain Duncan Smith and Damian Green table amendment to Monday vote on annual pensions uprating.

Senior Tories are making a last-gasp bid to block the £20-a-week cut to universal credit, by staging a Commons showdown on Monday.

They have tabled an amendment to the annual uprating of pensions, which would block the increase unless funds are diverted to stop the benefit reduction.

A defeat would not bind the government to abandon the cut – but Iain Duncan Smith and Damian Green, who are behind the move, hope it would nevertheless force ministers to act.

In the meantime this case, flagged up by our contributors, rumbles on:

High Court challenge the denial of benefit increases for nearly 2m people with disabilities

The High Court is to decide whether it was lawful of the Government not to give nearly 2million people on disability benefits the same £1040 a-year increase that it has given Universal Credit recipients.

In a decision dated 27 April the High Court granted claimants of Employment Support Allowance permission to challenge the DWP’s decision not to increase their benefit in line with Universal Credit.

At the beginning of the pandemic the Chancellor announced a £20 per week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit, but this vital increase to support was not extended to those on so called ‘legacy benefits’, the majority of whom are disabled, sick or carers.

The final hearing will be held 28-29 September 2021. Further updates will be posted on the website .
High Court challenge the denial of benefit increases for nearly 2m people with disabilities

“In summary the legal challenge is based on the proposition that it is clear that because of the pandemic those dependent upon basic allowances are facing higher basic living costs, and yet despite their very similar circumstances, only some of them receive a Covid-specific uplift to help meet those costs. This unfairness calls for a properly evidenced justification, particularly as very many disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision and the pandemic generally. Thus far the Government has failed to provide any objectively verifiable reason for the difference in treatment of people in essentially identical circumstances. ”

Written by Andrew Coates

September 19, 2021 at 10:43 am

Parliament Debates Universal Credit Cut: Tories Abstain and Vow to Ignore Defeat.

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The Universal Credit cut has been raised in Parliament today

The debate was not well attended, and only a handful of Tories (seen on BBC Parliament, yup I watched it..) sat in the Chamber.

One who was there.

In the afternoon debate Beth Winter (Labour, Cynon Valley) called not just to cancel the cut but to extend the £20 uplift to those on Legacy Benefits.

Mired in a the scandal over her recent statements, – “removing the £20 uplift would only mean “two hours’ extra work every week” for claimants – Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey, did not have the courage to address the House of Commons.

Minion Will Quince Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions and MP for Colchester (not that far from Coffey’s Felixstowe homeland), said this was not a ‘cut’. It has been a “time-limited measure’ (what time limit?). To maintain the uplift would cosy (plucks figure from air) 6 Billion, if not more. The ‘safety net’ of benefits should not “trap people on welfare”. Now the government was concentrating its efforts on getting people into work.

The Labour motion was carried, 253 to Zero. All the Tories abstained. The resolution has no binding effect at all.

The motion will simply be ignored., Angela Eagle (Labour) called the Conservatives behaviour “despicable”, We ae now waiting for the (Procedurally necessary) government to respond within 12 weeks.

As the Mirror put it earlier today,

A Commons vote on axing the Universal Credit cut for six million Brits looks set to PASS today as Tory MPs are told to sit it out.

Yet Boris Johnson intends to completely ignore the result – because the vote has no legal force.

Downing Street said he will push ahead with the £20-a-week slashing next month anyway – despite today’s vote “calling on the Government to cancel its planned cut to Universal Credit andWorking Tax Credit.”

Today’s decision prompted furious recriminations from Labour, who tabled the desperate plea to stop the cut in a Commons debate and said its wishes should be carried out.

A Labour spokeswoman said: “This is a major cut that will affect millions of families across the country.

“We have given Tory MPs the chance to do the right thing. We would expect them to vote on a motion that will have a major impact on people’s lives.

Some updates from Twitter:

Written by Andrew Coates

September 15, 2021 at 4:08 pm

Food Banks Braced for Universal Credit Cut.

with 82 comments

Trussell Trust records 'busiest' period across its food banks nationwide |  Salisbury Journal

Food Banks Gear Up for Universal Credit Cut.

The news reports keep rolling out.

On Sunday, as this Blog has already mentioned, every Sunday there is this, just around the corner,

Several churches in the South England Conference are operating as ADRA community hubs during the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis. They are providing food, provisions and assistance in their area under ADRA’s, I AM Urban initiative.

Food for the homeless (packed lunch).

Available for collection every Sunday 12pm – 1pm.

(Seventh Day Adventist Church).

There is always a small crowd.

Now there is this news.

Ipswich food banks reopen and struggle to get supplies before benefit cut and furlough end.

Ipswich Star.

Ipswich food banks have reopened a shop and are struggling to get supplies ahead of the cut to Universal Credit and the end of furlough in October. 

In addition to these “big” changes, Gareth Brenland from foodbank and homelessness charity the Bus Shelter Ipswich says at the end of next month families will have children at home without free school meals. 

Mr Brenland said: “I’m concerned. 

“That cut to Universal Credit affects me and is £80 a month. It will have a big impact on me. 

“Last month we did 49 food parcels but I’m expecting 100s. 

Graham Denny, founder and administrator of the BASIC Life Charity, who runs Ipswich and Felixstowe charity stores where you can get all your shopping for £2, is preparing for the big change. 

“We’ve taken lots of provisions from Suffolk County Council,” Mr Denny said. “We’re quite aware of the challenges that are coming and how difficult that is going to be and I think we’re ready for that.”

Our Hard Right Tory MP, who spends most of his time railing against ‘Woke’ and ‘Cultural Marxism’ said this (the first time he has expressed on opinion on these fringe issues).

Mr Hunt said he did tell Mr Sunak he thinks the uplift should be permanent but pointed out the chancellor will have to make “difficult” decisions in light of the over £400 billion borrowed during the pandemic. 

Around 5,790 people in Ipswich were on out-of-work benefits as of mid-July, down 145 from 5,935 in mid-June.

He added he sympathises with his constituents who are facing these challenges but said he knows from talking to Ipswich business they need staff and have lots of vacancies.  

Here is the MP for the Constituency next to Ipswich,

Written by Andrew Coates

September 12, 2021 at 7:28 am

Government Pulls Opposition Day debate on Universal Credit Cut. Instead MPs will vote on National Insurance hike.

with 75 comments

Government pulls plans for imminent vote on controversial universal credit  cut | The Independent

Government pulls plans for imminent vote on universal credit cut.

Universal Credit vote blocked as government scraps opposition day

Elliot Chappell. Labour List.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has told parliament that an opposition day debate, in which Labour had been planning to force a vote on a cut to Universal Credit, will not take place so that MPs can vote on the plan to raise National Insurance instead.

The leader of the House of Commons informed MPs of the change to the schedule following a statement by Boris Johnson this afternoon, in which the Prime Minister confirmed plans to break a 2019 Tory manifesto pledge with a 1.25% levy.

Johnson announced the policy as part of the funding arrangement for his long-awaited social care plan. He presented the proposal to the cabinet this morning before coming to parliament to outline his “sustainable” plan for the care sector.

Reacting to the change in scheduling, Labour’s Thangam Debbonaire said: “This morning, cabinet was bounced into the Prime Minister’s so-called social care plan and now the leader is trying to bounce parliament into accepting it in a vote tomorrow. This is no way to run a government. It’s no way to run a country.

“This Tory tax rise won’t come in until next spring, so why the rush? Does he know that he will never get it past his backbenchers, through parliament, otherwise? Is he making sure that his own MPs have as little time as possible to consult their constituents or hear from stakeholders and experts?”

Labour had been hoping to force a vote on the government’s £20-per-week cut to Universal Credit, which will take effect from October 6th. Ministers face opposition on the move from the opposition and campaigners as well as backbench Tories.

“The government have pulled Labour’s vote on the cut to Universal Credit that would have been tomorrow to vote on the NI increase instead. I will do all I can to ensure a vote still takes place. The biggest cut in the history of the welfare state must be debated in parliament,” Jonathan Reynolds said.

***

On the issue actually debated today the TUC has issued this statement.

TUC – PM’s social care announcement is “deeply disappointing” to workforce 

Commenting on today’s (Tuesday) social care announcement by the Prime Minister, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: 

“We need a social care system that delivers high-quality care and high-quality employment. 

“New funding for social care is long overdue. But today’s announcement will have been deeply disappointing both to those who use care, and to those who provide it. 

“The Prime Minister promised us a real plan for social care services, but what we got was vague promises of money tomorrow. 

“Care workers need to see more pay in their pockets now. Nothing today delivered that. Instead, the only difference it will make to low-paid care staff is to push up their taxes. 

“This is so disappointing after the dedication care workers have shown during this pandemic keeping services running and looking after our loved ones. 

“Proposals to tax dividends should have been just once piece in a plan to tax wealth, not an afterthought to a plan to tax the low-paid workers who’ve got us through the pandemic. 

“We know social care needs extra funding. But the prime minister is raiding the pockets of low-paid workers, while leaving the wealthy barely touched. 

“We need a genuine plan that will urgently tackle the endemic low pay and job insecurity that blights the social care sector – and is causing huge staff shortages and undermining the quality of care people receive.” 

The TUC published proposals on Sunday to fund social care and a pay rise for the workforce by increasing Capital Gains Tax. 

The union body says increasing tax on dividends is a welcome first step to reforming the way we tax wealth, but that it won’t generate the revenue needed to deliver a social care system this country deserves. 

Instead, by taxing wealth and assets at the same level as income tax, the government could raise up to £17bn a year to invest in services and give all care staff a minimum wage of £10 an hour. 

TUC analysis shows that seven in 10 social care workers earn less than £10 an hour and one in four are on zero-hours contracts. 

Polling published on Sunday by the TUC showed that eight in 10 working adults – including seven in 10 Conservative voters – support a £10 minimum wage for care workers. 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 8, 2021 at 11:54 am

Posted in Cuts, DWP, Tories, Universal Credit

Tagged with , ,

Cut in Universal Credit Dominates Benefits News.

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Our contributors raise issues about benefits sanctions, work ‘coaches’, the Work and Health Programme and Training Services, which got money from the European Social Fund, Restart, the risks of opening Job Centres, Internet Access, and the State Pension and Pension Credit (well worth applying for if you have little money and, obviously, no private pension).

When this Blog was first set up we exchanged a lot of experience on back-to-work ‘schemes’, including placements in variety of companies and public services. Many had serious difficulties with them, probably most with the ‘courses’ given by enterprises like SEETEC. They now seem to be have got set up again.

But the news on Benefits remains overshadowed by the coming cut in Universal Credit.

‘We keep on struggling’: Families on Universal Credit prepare for life without the £20 uplift

Some people, on Legacy Benefits, never got that “uplift”.

Sky.

It’s just under a month to go until the £20 Universal Credit uplift, put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, comes to an end.

It’s being called the biggest overnight social security cut since World War Two.

This autumn, as the government seeks to claw back some of the unprecedented emergency spending undertaken since COVID-19 hit the UK, familiar security blankets like the £20 uplift to Universal Credit are set to be removed.

It won’t be without its consequences.

Doctors, charities and even some Conservative MPs are calling on the government to rethink its decision to end the uplift.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) says that most parts of England, Scotland and Wales will see more than one in three families and their children affected as a result of the £1,040-a-year .

The Trussell Trust estimates that nearly a quarter of a million parents on Universal Credit fear not being able to sufficiently put dinner on the table for their children when the £20 cut comes into force from October.

Benefits Boss Coffey has been on a jolly in Japan.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 5, 2021 at 5:41 pm

Local Impact of £20 a Week Universal Credit Cut: Ipswich Onwards…

with 152 comments

No Cuts To Universal Credit | Megaphone UK

Yesterday East Anglia Bylines carried this story:

Universal Credit cuts threaten Tory MPs in the East

Stephen McNair

Extracts.

The government’s planned cuts to Universal Credit will hit one family in five in East Anglia. Will the region’s Conservative MPs dare to back the Chancellor’s plan?

What about East Anglia?

In East Anglia 320,000 families receive Universal Credit, more than half of them with children. Forty percent of these claimants are in work, but not earning enough to meet the minimum needs for basic living. In every constituency more than 10% of families are on Universal Credit, and that percentage rises to over 25% in five of them (see table below). So the blow is going to be felt right across the region.

Will our region’s Conservative MP’s back the cut?

Thirty nine of the region’s 41 MPs are Conservatives, and the Party has traditionally been opposed to generous welfare benefits of any kind. However twelve of the region’s Conservative MPs have majorities smaller than the number of Credit claimants.  At the extreme, in Peterborough Paul Bristow MP has a majority of only 2,580, but 18,360 voters on Universal Credit.

So the Universal Credit cut is a real threat to at least ten of the region’s MPs, especially in Peterborough, Ipswich and Norwich North, where the Conservatives hold the seat with narrow majorities.  

Note, one would hope so, but people in working class Peterborough have already voted for those opposed to their own interests.

In Waveney, Peter Aldous has already written to the Prime Minister calling for the cut to be cancelled.  It will be interesting to see how large a rebellion there will be on the government benches when the issue comes to Parliament. Will our MPs be prepared to inflict cuts on such a large proportion of their own constituents, or will they swallow their traditional principles, and vote to block this cut?

Note, it is to be very much doubted that (many?) others will follow, though some might. The hard right Ipswich Tory MP Tom Hunt is more obsessed with fighting ‘cultural Marxism’ than standing up for constituents on Universal Credit.

One can hardly avoid mentioning that the MP for Suffolk Coastal, which adjoins Ipswich is this figure is the DWP Minister carrying out the brutal cuts…

Where will the cuts bite hardest?

The constituencies most affected are listed here. All are held by Conservatives (we highlight one..)

ConstituencyCountyMP2019 MajorityFamilies on universal credit or working tax creditsPercentage of families on universal credit or working tax credits
IpswichSuffolkTom Hunt5,47912,20024.3%

Yesterday the Ipswich Star published this:

‘Massive impact’ as 58,000 people to lose £20 a week in benefits

Citizens Advice has found itself helping many more younger people during the pandemic, with Mrs Harrison saying the “jobs they were in are no longer there”.

She has argued that a “delay would be ideal – especially to try to get over the winter period”.

Waveney (Note, this includes Lowestoft which has a large working class and some very poor areas) MP Peter Aldous is one of those calling for the £20 a week uplift to be made permanent.

Today, local press is doing its job.

‘Forced to live off £8.30 a day’ – man’s fear at impending benefit cut.

The princely sum of £8.30 might buy you a cinema ticket, a meal for one at a restaurant or a couple of ready meals from the supermarket.

But one Universal Credit claimant from Suffolk is facing up to the harsh reality of a life where that will be his daily budget – as he braces himself for a £20 a week cut to his benefits.

The claimant, a young autistic adult with chronic fatigue syndrome, was an electrician before the pandemic and lost his job in a kitchen as the Covid crisis started.

Since then, the man – who has asked us not to use his name – said he has been “struggling on the benefit system”.

This is a familiar story to our readers,

He says this is “barely enough as it is” – but with the government set to remove the uplift on October 6, the claimant is now asking: “How do they expect everyone to survive?”

“It will cause devastation to so many families across the UK,” said the man, who is one of 58,069 people in the county claiming Universal Credit.

“I can barely afford the things I need with the £20 uplift.

The details makes it worse.

When it gets reduced, people will be forced to live off of £8.30 a day, roughly. This is disgusting and cannot be allowed to happen.”

The claimant also argues the the DWP’s removal of the uplift contradicts letters he has had from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), which warn of the continuing dangers of Covid-19.

“How on one side can the DWP cut off financial support to the most vulnerable people in our society, with the excuse of ‘this was only a temporary increase because of the coronavirus pandemic’, and then on the same day the DHSC can send me a letter saying that Covid-19 remains a threat?.

“So the DWP is saying we don’t need to provide you extra financial support, but the DHSC is saying that the virus remains a threat? It is so ignorantly stupid and a contradiction.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is very much still happening. Those who are vulnerable and disabled in our society still do not feel safe to return to normal.

“The DWP cannot be allowed to get away with this.”

Hats off to the Ipswich Star and the East Anglian Daily Times for the report.

This story can be reproduced across the country, and it is not hard to imagine our contributors having worse experiences of living on existing benefits. Not hard because many have written about it.

There are of course those on Legacy Benefits who never got the uplift.

UK Government urged to scrap plans to axe £20 Universal Credit increase.

ITV.

Ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have called on the UK Government to scrap plans to axe the £20 increase to Universal Credit and instead make the higher rate of payment permanent.

In a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, they branded the change, which is due to come into effect in September, as the “biggest overnight reduction to a basic rate of social security since the modern welfare state began, more than 70 years ago.”

Ministers from Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont raised concerns about the impact the reduction would have on poverty.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 30, 2021 at 5:29 pm

Johnson – Universal Credit Claimants Should Rely On Their Own ‘Efforts’ Not Welfare.

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There’s been a flurry of stories about the Universal Credit cut today:

But this stands out.

Boris Johnson Says Universal Credit Claimants Should Rely On Their Own ‘Efforts’ Not Welfare.

“Boris Johnson has defended planned cuts to Universal Credit by suggesting claimants should rely on their own “efforts” rather than accept “welfare”.

The prime minister shrugged off a growing Tory rebellion over the removal of the £1,000-a-year top-up to the benefit, which was introduced to cushion the impact of the Covid pandemic on low-income families.

Everyone on Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit will see the uplift axed on October 6 and a new report warned that households in more than 50 Tory marginals won in 2019 would be among those hardest hit.”

The man who looks like adopting the Bertie Wooster strategy before the Beak of ‘sout denial’ continues

But Johnson made a robust defence of the benefit cut plans, declaring that it was better for people to get more money by working harder than by relying on income that came from other taxpayers.

“My strong preference is for people to see their wages rise through their efforts rather than through taxation of other people put into their pay packets, rather than welfare,” he said.

He added: “The key focus for this government is on making sure that we come out of Covid strongly, with a jobs-led recovery, and I’m very pleased to see the way the unemployment numbers, the unemployment rate has been falling, employment has been rising, but also wages have been rising.”

However, critics point out that many of Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit are actually in work, but are on low wages.

Meanwhile our all-heart Minister is here:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 26, 2021 at 5:09 pm

Universal Credit claimants get text message about the £20 uplift ending in September.

with 110 comments

Universal Credit claimants have received a text message to tell them that their payments will be slashed from next month.

Berkshire Live.

A £20-a-week uplift was introduced in April 2020 to help alleviate the financial burden of the pandemic, but 17 months later the money is set to be cut.

Charities, opposition parties and Conservative MPs are calling for the UK Government to rethink the decision to end the payments in September, the Daily Record reports.

“You couldn’t make this stuff up. I phoned the DWP and they confirmed similar messages had been sent to millions of people.

“We have backbench Tory MPs campaigning for the £20 a week uplift to stay, yet the UK Government is ploughing on regardless and telling us via text message.

“This will create a perfect storm of poverty and social distress across Scotland and the rest of the UK.”

Veteran anti-poverty campaigner Sean Clerkin told the Daily Record that the cuts will create ‘the perfect storm of poverty’, saying: “The message told me I had been receiving an extra £86.67p since April 2020, which was a temporary increase because of the coronavirus pandemic.”

“It added the increase will end soon and my payment on September 17 would be the last time I received this amount.

Not everyone has a mobile, or is on-line at home, and given the only recently ended Lockdown will not have had access to the Internet. Until last year I did not, I used the public library. The basic reason: money. I have a land-line and people I have known for years use that. And as it happens, it proved essential to get a BT Internet service. An extra bill for a smart phone, no thanks.

There are many others reasons for what is called ‘digital exclusion.”

What causes digital exclusion?

Although the number of UK adults getting online is increasing, there are still plenty who don’t access the internet.

It’s estimated there are 9 million people in the UK who are unable to use the internet and associated devices by themselves, accounting for 16% of adults in the UK.

Digital exclusion is a major problem for older people and the disabled, as well as those on low incomes who lack the financial power to get online.

Promoting digital inclusion could have numerous benefits for internet non-users, but there are a significant number of people who just aren’t interested

Growing problem of ‘digital exclusion’

  • A significant proportion of the population is digitally excluded because they lack internet access and/or have low levels of digital literacy.
  • The main determinant of digital exclusion is age but other significant factors – often combined with low income – include disability, learning difficulties, ethnic origin, location, culture and language.
  • As the government moves services to self-serve channels, significant numbers of people who are unable to move online, or who are not computer-literate, might miss out on government services.
  • People who are digitally excluded are likely to be disproportionately heavy users of government services. Nearly half of those seeking help on tax and tax credit issues do not have access to a computer.
  • The depth of digital exclusion for people with disabilities is generally much greater than for the wider population.
  • Motivation seems to be the biggest barrier to digital inclusion to overcome, especially for low-income groups.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 20, 2021 at 4:30 pm

Dole Cut Still Going Ahead.

with 122 comments

“Universal Credit helped me support myself while I worked part-time and started a yoga business.” - Samantha, Wiltshire

Under the Tories the DWP are all Heart….

Ending the £20 Universal Credit uplift will be like ‘taking one leg off’ people, campaigner says

ITV News.

The £20 Universal Credit uplift has proven to be a vital lifeline for families across Wales and should not be scrapped, a campaigner has said.

Sheila Powell, a retiree from Flintshire who herself claims Universal Credit and works with local charities to support people who are struggling financially, said removing the uplift would be like “taking one leg off” those struggling.

The Universal Credit uplift was introduced as an economic support measure to help families on lower incomes at the beginning of the pandemic, with the UK Chancellor announcing it in his March 2020 Budget.

Working Tax Credits were also topped up by £20 as part of the UK Government’s uplift.

The Universal Credit uplift was subsequently extended in March 2021 for another six months and is due to expire at the end of September.

Those claiming Working Tax Credits were given a one-off £500 payment earlier this year around the time the UC uplift extension was announced.

Comment:

The more you look at it the more the £20, which those on ‘legacy benefits’ never got, was and is important.

Look at these details:

Universal Credit cut: Everything you need to know Desde.com.

As it stands, the government is set to slash benefits by £20 a week – equivalent to £1,040 a year – from 6 October. The exact date  people will see the cut kick in will depend on the day they get their Universal Credit payment. For many, this means September will be the last month they see their benefits paid at existing levels.

How many people will be affected?

If plans go ahead, the cut will hit nearly six million people on Universal Credit. More than a third (38%) of those who’ll see their income hit are already in employment, while one in six (16%) are under 25.

Latest figures show roughly 1.9 million families with children will see their benefits cut.

Regions that will see the biggest proportion of residents hit by the cut are London and the North East.

How much could I lose?

While every Universal Credit claim will drop by around £85 a month, the proportion of income claimants will lose will vary depending on their circumstances.

Single people under 25 are set to be hit by the biggest drop.

Monthly standard allowances will drop:

  • By a quarter for single claimants under 25, from £344 to £257.33
  • By a fifth for single claimants over 25, from £411.51 to £324.84
  • By 17% for joint claimants under 25, from £490.60 to £403.93
  • By 14% for joint claimants over 25, from £596.58 to £509.91

Previous analysis by Citizens Advice shows £20 a week is equivalent to six days of energy costs or three days of food costs for a low-income family.

What support is available if I’m worried about my income?

You’re not alone and there is support available. Everyone’s situation is different so it’s important to seek independent help from somewhere like Citizens Advice. Depending on your circumstances, this could include:

  • A benefits check. This will help you verify you’re getting all the support you’re entitled to. You can use an online calculator or contact your local Citizens Advice.
  • Support with essential costs. You can contact your local council to see if they can give you any extra help from a hardship fund, including food or essential things like clothes. Check your local council on GOV.UK.
  • Help with debt. Some bills can cause you more problems than others if you don’t pay them. Rent or mortgage arrears, energy bills and council tax are your priority debts as there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay them. Citizens Advice can provide guidance if you’re struggling with bills.
  • Free school meals. If you have children and you get certain benefits, you might be able to get free school meals for your children.
  • Food bank vouchers. If you can’t afford the food you can ask for a referral from Citizens Advice or an organisation that’s already supporting you – for example, a charity, school or children’s centre – for a food bank voucher.
May be a Twitter screenshot of 1 person and text that says "RD Hale @RD Hale Why the hell are we still paying for 2nd homes for MPs on £80K a year, when Universal Credit doesn't cover the cost of running one home for an ordinary family? 05 Aug 21 Twitter Web App 22:29"

This below might affect some people here, or those we know:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 10, 2021 at 5:35 pm

Universal Credit Cut to Coincide with Big Energy Bill Rise.

with 81 comments

6million households on Universal Credit face £1k a year benefit cut if  Rishi Sunak axes pandemic boost

The Currant Bun had this click-bait yesterday:

Find out how much your Universal Credit payment is being cut – and you might get an alert TODAY

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has started telling claimants how much of their current payment is due to the temporary uplift.

It will send out further notifications throughout August and September until the boost is scrapped at the end of next month.

But the DWP is not sending out letters to inform people on Universal Credit that the uplift is coming to an end.

Will Quince MP, the minister for welfare delivery, confirmed in a letter to Work and Pensions Committee chair Stephen Timms that claimants will not be alerted by post.

Instead the DWP will update claimants’ statements and journal messages “making it clear that [the uplift] will no longer be included in their standard allowance”.

When a claimant’s online journal or statement is updated, it sends a text or email letting them know.

The ‘I’ and this affects all of us (in fact I got something from Octopus saying this a week ago)

Energy price cap: £139 bill rise and Universal Credit cut will create ‘perfect storm’ for millions of families

The spiraling costs will result in a ‘miserable and anxious winter’ for millions of older people, while plunging millions of families into debt, consumer experts say

Soaring energy bills combined with the Government’s planned Universal Credit cut will create a “perfect storm” for millions of families this winter.

Energy prices could rise by up to £153 for 15 million households across England, Wales and Scotland in the autumn, just as the £20-per-week uplift to Universal Credit introduced by the Chancellor last April to help struggling families during the pandemic begins to be phased out.

Ofgem, the energy regulator, has announced that from 1 October the energy price cap will rocket by £139 from £1,138 to £1,277 (12 per cent) for 11 million consumers on default tariffs paying by direct debit. For the country’s four million prepayment customers, the cap will shoot up £153 from £1,156 to £1,309 (13 per cent).

….

Written by Andrew Coates

August 6, 2021 at 4:24 pm

Citizens Advice Speaks out on Cut to Universal Credit.

with 92 comments

Please join day of action vs £20 cut to Universal Credit - 6 Feb 2021 - DPAC

Dame Clare Moriarty chief executive of Citizens Advice.

Cutting Universal Credit will undermine the government’s levelling up agenda.

Pushing benefit levels lower will hurt working families and take money out of local economies, not accelerate our recovery.

As MPs return to their constituencies for the summer, millions of families are set to hear that their Universal Credit will drop by over £1,000 a year from October. Families disproportionately located in areas the government has said it wants to “level up”.

An extra £20 a week doesn’t just stop people having to choose between putting food on the table or keeping the lights on. It gives a critical cash boost to the very regions identified as most at risk of being ‘left behind’. For this reason, a cut to Universal Credit is at odds with the government’s own agenda of narrowing the inequality gap.

Levelling up is a slippery term. It can cover any number of things – regenerating town centres, faster broadband, better jobs and tackling the skills deficit. But these sit under one umbrella: improving living standards for the people and places most in need.

Comment: who on earth takes ‘levelling up’ seriously?

A group of Conservative MPs has formed a levelling-up taskforce, and is calling for the government to set out geographical analysis of how tax and spending changes affect different areas. Boris Johnson has also appointed Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough in Leicestershire, as his levelling-up adviser.

The government says it will set out its plans later this year.

Clearly it has been busy with the pandemic (which has itself highlighted problems of inequality in the UK) since the election.

The report continues.

Of course, levelling up is about more than just geography. It’s about tackling inequalities. More than a third of people who’ll be hit by the cut are already in jobs but still rely on Universal Credit to make ends meet. Some can’t work because of a disability or caring responsibility. Others have weathered furlough or shielding and are picking up the pieces from this crisis.

The Chancellor’s counter-argument to keeping the £20 increase is that the focus must be jobs. Supporting people into the labour market is vital and job creation schemes are welcome. But frontline staff at Citizens Advice know a job doesn’t mean income security, particularly when it’s low paid or zero hours. Pushing benefit levels lower will hurt working families and take money out of local economies, not accelerate our recovery.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 30, 2021 at 3:53 pm

Posted in DWP, Universal Credit

Tagged with , ,

Universal Credit Cut: Channel Four News Report.

with 211 comments

Campaign Against the Government's £20 Cut to Universal Credit - Nick Brown  MP

This was a really hard-hitting and to-the-point report last night:

23 Jul 2021

Universal Credit: what it’s like to lose £20 a week

By Jane Dodge

The UK is heading towards the “biggest overnight social security cut” since the modern welfare state was founded, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

They’ve been investigating the impact of the decision to cut Universal Credit payments by £20 a week from October, and they say it could plunge half a million more people into poverty, as well as putting millions of low income families under further financial strain.

UK ‘heading for biggest overnight social security cut since Second World War’

Written by Andrew Coates

July 24, 2021 at 10:03 am

Homelessness Expected to Rise as Universal Credit Boost Ends.

with 82 comments

Rough Sleeping and Homelessness in Exeter - Exeter City Council News

Avalanche’ of homelessness expected as furlough and Universal Credit boost end

More people are at risk of homelessness now than at any time in living memory,” Bird said. By Charlene Rodrigues

homelessness will rise this autumn as furlough and Universal Credit schemes are set to end in September, The Big Issue has warned.

The Big Issue writes:

There are 564,000 people in rent arrears, 190,000 owner-occupied homes in financial difficulty, 4.3 million people are behind on household bills.

Our research also found a shocking statistic. In the first quarter of 2021, there were 632 mortgage repossessions and rental evictions. This means that a household was made homeless on average every three-and-a-half hours.

Since the first lockdown last year, we have supported steps to protect and prevent people losing their income. As the furlough scheme ends and the eviction ban lifts, we are approaching a cliff edge that could see unprecedented numbers of people being made homeless through no fault of their own.

For three decades we have fought for people who have lost their homes and now we really need to step it up.

This week we launch our Stop Mass Homelessness campaign with the aim to prevent the immediate threat of mass homelessness and invest for the future.

We are making simple demands of government:

  • Pay off £360m in rent arrears
  • Suspend no-fault evictions until a Renters’ Reform Act is passed
  • Make permanent the £20 Universal Credit uplift
  • Improve access to Discretionary Housing Payment and unfreeze Local Housing Allowance

To address long-term challenges we also call for:

  • A Future Generations Act to end short-term thinking of government policy
  • Expand social housing and encourage innovative ways to increase housing stock
  • Improve support for financial  literacy education
  • Increase support for ethical property and letting firms
  • Invest to create new green jobs

UK parliaments back continued universal credit boost

The £20 a week increase in Universal Credit should be permanent, according to senior politicians from across the UK.

In a letter, the chairs of four welfare committees from around the UK say removing the temporary top-up would affect families on the lowest incomes.

And sources have also told the BBC that Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey supported keeping the uplift.

The government insists the extra £20 is a short-term measure ending in October.

The letter calling for the top-up to be made permanent was signed by the chairs of committees at Westminster, the Scottish Parliament, Senedd in Wales and Northern Ireland Assembly.

The joint letter from the four committee chairs of the UK’s four parliaments is thought to be a first.

It is signed by Labour’s Stephen Timms at Westminster, the SNP’s Neil Gray for Holyrood, Paula Bradley of the DUP for Stormont and Welsh Labour’s Jenny Rathbone at the Senedd in Cardiff.

They say: “Ending the uplift would mean that the six million people claiming Universal Credit will lose £1,040 in annual income overnight.

“The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has estimated that removing the uplift would force 500,000 people, including 200,000 children, into poverty.

“Families on the lowest incomes, those with children and particularly single parents, BAME families, and families where someone is disabled are disproportionately affected.”

They also call for the extra £20 a week to be extended to people on legacy benefits – which were created before universal credit.

They warn the chancellor and Ms Coffey: “You also risk removing this support from families at the very time unemployment is expected to peak, as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme comes to an end.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 21, 2021 at 11:25 am

Dole Cut – Universal Credit Reduction Opposed.

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Image

Bit of history,

“to cut costs, the government introduced the Means Test in 1931. Officials visited families to assess whether they were entitled to help. This involved finding out how much the families earned or possessed.

In order to qualify for dole, a worker had to pass the Means Test, and the sum paid to each family would be based on this test.

The test created many problems for families. Tensions were caused because, if an older child had some work, or a mother had a part-time job, or a grandparent was living in the house without paying rent, the Means Test could result in dole being refused. Heirlooms and items such as pianos had to be sold, and savings spent before the dole was received.

To make matters even worse, the dole was cut by 10 per cent in 1931.

Now…

Johnson under mounting pressure on universal credit as northern Tory MPs’ group warn against cut

Northern Research Group say £20 uplift has been ‘life-saver’ for families, as Labour say they will ‘use every parliamentary mechanism available’ to force vote on issue

Boris Johnson is facing mounting resistance over plans to cut the £20-per-week universal credit uplift, as a group of northern Conservative MPs warned the government it would “hamper” the economic recovery.

Describing the emergency payments as a “life-saver” for people during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Northern Research Group (NRG), representing around 50 MPs, again called on ministers to keep the increase in place.

It comes amid growing Tory unease over the reluctance in No 10 and the Treasury to extend the measure – first introduced at the onset of the pandemic – beyond September, despite the impact of the crisis continuing to reverberate.

….

The NRG spokesperson added: “The effects of coronavirus restrictions have been disproportionately felt by the North. We have been in lockdown longer than any other area of the country. That is why we have seen such a rapid growth rate in new universal credit claims.

“This uplift goes hand-in-hand with the government’s jobs-led recovery by supporting people in the right way. To end it now would only hamper the economic recovery ahead”.

The call from the group representing northern Tory MPs comes after six former Conservative work and pensions secretaries, including Iain Duncan Smith, wrote to the government urging the uplift, introduced by ministers as a temporary measure, to be put on a “permanent footing”.

Speaking to The Independent, Stephen Crabb, one of the former ministers who signed the letter to the chancellor, said the “evidence is pretty clear and overwhelming is that this is a measure that will hurt many, many families”.

At least the Northern Research Group, whose aim is to shore up Tory support in the North and get voters to say, Bless the Squire and his Relations and Keep us in our Proper Station, are consistent. January:

Written by Andrew Coates

July 13, 2021 at 11:52 am

Universal Credit Cut of £20 to go ahead in the autumn.

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We are questioning Dr Thérèse Coffey MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Watch live on Wednesday 7 July at 9.30am

“Ahead of October we will start communicating with current claimants who receive £20 to make them aware that will be being phased out and they will start to see an adjustment in their payments”.

The result of the meeting?

Covid: Universal credit £20 top up to be phased out

BBC

The £20-a-week increase to universal credit will be “phased out” in the autumn, the government has confirmed.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey told MPs the boost – introduced in April last year to help deal with the economic effects of Covid – would face an “adjustment”.

Six former work and pensions secretaries have urged ministers not to end the uplift.

Ms Coffey said the change had been a “collective decision” by ministers.

Universal credit is claimed by more than 5.5 million households in the UK.

The top up was extended by six months in March and Labour has called for it to continue beyond the autumn.

……

Campaigners say the extra money – which is worth around £1,000 a year – has made the difference for some families between getting by and falling further into poverty.

Ms Coffey told the Commons Work and Pensions Committee that it would change this autumn alongside other measures put in place to help those affected by the pandemic.

“Ahead of October we will start communicating with the current claimants… to make them aware that will be being phased out and they will start to see an adjustment in their payments,” she said.

“We will be recognising that this was brought in with the temporary measures to support [people] during the pandemic.”

The ‘I’ carries the same story:

Universal Credit: Emergency £20 payment will be withdrawn in September, Therese Coffey confirms

Speaking at the Work and Payments Committee, she said: “Ahead of October we will start communicating with current claimants who receive £20 to make them aware that will be being phased out and they will start to see an adjustment in their payments.

“I think it will largely start to kick in during October but it will be September for some people.

“The current proposal is that we will be recognising this was brought in in line with temporary measures to support people during the pandemic. It’s being phased out in line with all the other temporary measures.”

Tory MP for Amber Valley, Nigel Mills, pressed the Secretary of State on whether she had lobbied Chancellor Rishi Sunak for the top up to be kept but she said the decision to end it had been collective.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic the Government announced it would be increasing Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits by £20 a week to support households.

Universal Credit is currently claimed by more than 5 million households in the country and the uplift if estimated to be worth around £1000 a year.

Campaigners have argued that the extra money has been the difference between falling into poverty for some families.

And there are concerns that coinciding the end of the payment at the same time as the furlough scheme comes to an end would hit households in need hard.

But the Secretary of State argued that there would be no need for the £20 uplift because more people will be able to enter the workforce after lockdown is lifted.

Ms Coffey said her focus was on jobs and “all the things we can do to help people work more hours”, she added.

Mr Mills argued that the Department did not yet have data to prove that families would no longer need the top-up payment, accusing the Government of basing the decision on “dates not data”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 7, 2021 at 12:03 pm

Cut to Universal Credit Payments Still on the Cards.

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Let’s Not Forget that not everybody. those on Legacy Benefits for example, Got the £20.

DWP could cut Universal Credit when lockdown ends in less than a month

Lockdown restrictions were due to end on June 21 but were delayed by four weeks to July 19

Universal Credit and Tax Credit claimants say £20 cut to ‘vital lifeline’ leaving them struggling to sleep

Daily Record’

Almost half (46%) of adults in households on Universal Credit or Tax Credits are worried that the upcoming £20 cut will affect their ability to afford food.

This is according to national poverty charity Turn2us who added that some families were suffering from anxiety, stress, depression and loss of sleep.

Almost half (46%) of adults in households on Universal Credit or Tax Credits are worried that the upcoming £20 cut will affect their ability to afford food, according to national poverty charity Turn2us.

The release of the research marks the start of a three month countdown to the cut, when Universal Credit claimants will lose £20 a week from their benefits. The September removal of this vital lifeline could see half a million people, including 200,000 children, pulled into poverty overnight.

For the five million households on Universal Credit, and one million on working tax credits, the concerns are widespread; nearly one in two (44%) will struggle to pay bills, one in three (29%) don’t know if they will be able to continue pay their rent or mortgage, and one in five (20%) will not be able to stay out of debt.

The financial consequences of the cut are leading to a worsening mental health crisis for people relying on social security to survive:

  • 47% are experiencing anxiety about the cut
  • 32% are experiencing depression about the cut
  • 30% are experiencing loss of sleep about the cut
  • 46% are experiencing stress about the cut

Thomas Lawson, Chief Executive at Turn2us, said:

“A decade of caps, cuts and freezes to the UK’s social security payments has left it one of the least generous in Europe. Many of us already struggle to pay for the bare essentials. If the government forges ahead with its cut to Universal Credit, it could plunge many more into hunger and debt. It’s just not right that families are left unable to afford to put food on their tables and are having to turn to food banks so they and their children don’t go hungry.

“We urge the government to not just keep the £20 benefit increase, but to make it permanent and extend it to legacy benefits. Failure to do will have a detrimental impact on people’s lives and livelihoods – and their ability to contribute to our recovery.”

The charity is working in partnership with a coalition of other organisations and lived experts as part of the #KeepTheLifeline campaign. Previous findings from the campaign show that the vast majority of the British public (59%) want the uplift to be made permanent.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 1, 2021 at 5:19 pm

As One Britain One Nation Day Approaches Nearly Half Universal Credit Claimants Have Benefits Reduced.

with 184 comments

Strong Britain, Great Nation

One Britain One Nation Day is due to be celebrated in schools on Friday through the singing of a patriotic song.

Almost half of Universal Credit claimants are having their monthly benefits reduced

Mirror.

Almost half of Brits on Universal Credit are not getting the full benefit payment every month because they are paying back debts to the DWP.

Some 45% of all claims in February – 2.2million – had a deduction, meaning the claimant did not get their full entitlement that month.

Many were people who took out an advance from their own future benefits – to bridge the five-week wait for their first UC payment.

Some 49% of all deductions, worth £86million in February alone, were to pay back an advance.

The DWP claim there is nothing wrong with this, because advances mean people are being paid the same amount of benefits over a longer time.

But campaigners say the five-week wait must be scrapped, because many skint Brits have no choice but to borrow against their own future benefits.

Update, now Trending:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 23, 2021 at 1:36 pm

Reports Slams Rising Financial Difficulties for Universal Credit Claimants.

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Peterborough social housing tenants buried in debt by Universal Credit,  investigation reveals | Peterborough Telegraph

This story has appeared in a number of news outlets.

Almost half of Universal Credit claimants ‘behind on bills’ before pandemic struck

Cambridgeshire Live.

Around 46 per cent of people receiving the six-in-one benefit were not up to date with bills by last November, according to analysis by a think tank.

According to a new report by think tank Bright Blue released this week, 46 per cent of Universal Credit claimants were struggling to pay household bills and were still not to up-to-date by November.

As the name suggests this is a Tory think tank, “ the independent think tank for liberal conservatism “a party run by chancers and people who with a less trusted reputation than Trotter Enterprises,

Bright Blue: Almost half of long-term Universal Credit claimants had fallen behind on household bills during the Covid-19 pandemic

The main findings from this analysis are:

  • A significant minority of both existing UC and new UC households reported not being up to date with household bill payments throughout the pandemic. Among existing UC claimants, this rose from 25% in 2018-19 to up to 38% in March 2021, peaking at 46% in November 2020. Similarly, 32% of new UC claimants reported not being up to date with at least some household bills near the start of the pandemic in May 2020, before declining to a low of 17% in March 2021, indicating that new UC claimants were less likely to face this specific financial challenge as the pandemic continued. These compare to just 5% of non-UC respondents in 2018-19, 6% in May 2020 and 4% in March 2021.The difference between existing UC claimants and non-UC respondents reporting not being up to date with at least some household bill payment rose by 14 percentage points between before the pandemic (2018-19) and March 2021.
  • A significant minority of both existing UC and new UC households also reported not being up to date on housing payments, such as rent or mortgage payments, during the pandemic. For existing UC claimants, between 26% reported facing this financial challenge in November 2020, before falling to 18% in March 2021. Similarly, 16% of new UC claimants in May 2020 and 23% in July 2020 report not being up to date with housing payments, falling to 11% in March 2021. In contrast, only 7% of non-UC respondents in 2018-19 reported falling behind on housing payments, with no increase beyond that during the pandemic. 
  • Existing UC claimants were more likely to face a worsening than an improving level of personal debt in the initial part of the pandemic. 30% of existing UC claimants reported increasing the size of their debts compared to 13% decreasing it in July 2020. However, this fell to 12% by March 2021, by which time 21% reported decreasing their debt. Both non-UC respondents and new UC claimants were more likely to be decreasing the size of their debt than increasing it at different points of the pandemic. Aside from this, among all population groups and during all time periods, the majority of people’s debt levels have stayed the same.
  • A significant minority of UC claimants reported finding it ‘quite’ or ‘very’ difficult to manage financially during the pandemic. 34% of existing UC claimants reported this in 2018-19 which declined to 22% in July 2020, before rising back to 34% in November 2020, and falling down to 19% in March 2021. Similarly, 35% of new UC claimants reported this in May 2020, but this largely fell to 18% in July 2020, 19% in November 2020 and 15% in March 2021. Overall, the difference between existing UC claimants and non-UC respondents actually declined by 11 percentage points between 2018-19 and March 2021.
  • Both existing and new UC claimants are much more likely than the rest of the population to think there is a major chance they will have difficulty paying for bills and expenses in the next three months, despite a decline in such fears since the start of the pandemic. There was a decline from 54% to 32% among existing UC claimants worried about their financial future between May 2020 and March 2021 and a decline from 51% to 22% among new UC claimants in the same time period. The difference between the number of existing UC claimants and non-UC respondents reporting this financial anxiety actually declined by 14 percentage points between May 2020 and March 2021 and the difference between new UC claimants and non-UC respondents declined by 21 percentage points in the same period. 
  • Reported life satisfaction of non-UC respondents has remained significantly above that of existing UC claimants throughout the pandemic. The reported gap was biggest between non-UC and new UC claimants at the start of the pandemic in May 2020, with a 30 percentage point difference. The reported gap was biggest between non-UC and existing UC claimants in November 2020, with a 35 percentage point difference. While new UC claimants reported lower life satisfaction than existing UC claimants in May 2020, this reversed by November 2020, before the two largely aligned by March 2021. By the later stage of the pandemic in March 2021, 46% of existing and 48% of new UC claimants reported being satisfied with their life, compared to 67% of the rest of the population.

Anvar Sarygulov, Senior Research Fellow at Bright Blue and analysis author, commented:

“Even with the Government increasing financial support provided through Universal Credit in March 2020, many claimants have continued to face significant financial difficulties as the pandemic progressed. However, the financial situation for existing and new UC claimants has shifted throughout the pandemic, with some evidence for improvement as the pandemic progressed, especially by March 2021.

Fully withdrawing the Universal Credit uplift in September 2021 will put an even greater number of claimants at risk of financial problems at a point when the economic recovery is only gathering pace.” 

Even the hard right Spectator agrees:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 17, 2021 at 3:00 pm

Benefit Sanction Changes.

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Benefit sanctions are largely ineffective and can push people into poverty  and crime finds study - About Manchester

It is hard to tell what this means, and given the far-right paper that publishes it many will be sceptical.

DWP halts benefit sanction plans due to Covid – Universal Credit claimants to be affected

UNIVERSAL credit and other benefit claimants are required to follow certain rules when getting their support and if these rules aren’t followed, sanctions can be issued. These sanctions could reduce or even hold benefit payment amounts and today, the DWP addressed how the sanction system may change going forward.

This could also impact other state benefits and recently, the Government was pushed on potential changes to the sanction system.

Chris Stephens, the Scottish National Party MP for Glasgow South West, recently asked the following question in Parliament: “To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, what progress her Department has made on plans to roll out yellow card warnings in place of immediate benefit sanctions.”

Today, this question was answered by Mims Davies, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the DWP.

She said: “The Department committed to look at processes to give claimants a written warning, instead of a sanction, for a first sanctionable failure to attend a Work-Search Review.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 12, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Government Dismisses Work and Pensions Committee Report on Problems with Universal Credit.

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"It has taken the Government nearly two years to produce this wholly unconstructive response. That approach is symptomatic of the Government's dismissive attitude to well-evidenced concerns about flaws in UC."

Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair
Work and Pensions Committee

MPs have condemned the ‘dismissive’ response of ministers to concerns over Universal Credit, after the government took two years to respond to a damning report.

The Work and Pensions Committee has just published the government’s response to its 2019 report on the switch to the Universal Credit system for paying benefits. In it, the government rejects every substantive recommendation of the committee on how to improve the UC system to protect claimants.

Ministers once again refused to fix the five week wait for the first UC payment, and failed to provide details on the time it takes to make changes to the UC system.

The Government thanks the committee for its twenty-seventh Report of Session 2017–19, Universal Credit: Natural Migration.

The Universal Credit (UC) roll out was completed in December 2018. Parliament voted to make UC the social security system in the UK, and it is clear that legacy benefits will be stopped.

Natural migration to Universal Credit is required when a person needs to make a new claim for support because of a change of circumstances. It has always been the case that changes of circumstance can require claimants to make claims to a different benefit or have their current entitlement revised.

Claimants on legacy benefits can also choose to make a claim for Universal Credit. Claimants on legacy benefits considering making a claim for UC should check carefully their eligibility and entitlements under UC before applying, as legacy benefits will end when claimants submit their claim and they will not be able to return to them in the future. For this reason, prospective claimants are signposted to independent benefits calculators on GOV.UK. They can also get help through the government funded Help to Claim scheme via Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland. In Northern Ireland, the benefit system is entirely devolved and the Department for Communities is the responsible department in the Northern Ireland Executive.

UC covers in and out of work support and is fundamentally different from legacy benefits. Where there has been a change in circumstance, it is right that the claimant’s entitlement is calculated under the rules of UC, as is the case with all other new claims to it where the claimant had not previously been receiving any legacy benefit. The change in circumstance would affect the calculation of benefit and, therefore, a like-for-like comparison cannot be made between UC and legacy awards. Claimants who naturally migrate to UC may have the same level of entitlement as their previous legacy benefit entitlement, they may see a reduction in their entitlement, or, as the report acknowledges, they may see an increase in their entitlement.

In addition, UC provides more comprehensive support than the legacy benefits it replaces. Examples of this include more generous support for childcare, tailored support that helps claimants find work and a tapering system that incentivises work, as opposed to legacy benefits where some welfare payments ended almost immediately.

The Government has noted all of the Committee’s recommendations and responded to them in turn below.

Recommendation 1:

We recommend that the Department makes an ongoing payment to meet any shortfall in income for:

  • All households that lose out compared to the legacy system as a result of moving home outside of their local authority; and
  • These should include back-payments where claimants in these circumstances have already moved to UC and lost out as a result. (Paragraph 23)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

All of the changes of circumstance that prompt a natural migration to UC, including moving to a new home in a different Local Authority area, are changes that would have resulted in a new claim for a legacy benefit. We think it is right that a claimant’s entitlement is reassessed when a significant change has happened. Although the report states that ‘witnesses raised concerns that some of the many changes which can lead to a natural migration might not seem significant to many people’,1 the reason that the change is deemed to be significant is that the change has a material effect on a claimant’s benefit entitlement.

Recommendation 2:

We recommend that the Government withdraws the draft Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 and replaces them with:

  • An instrument subject to negative resolution, to make provision for people previously entitled to a severe disability premium; and
  • An instrument subject to affirmative resolution, with the provisions for the pilot of managed migration. (Paragraph 31)

Recommendation 3:

The Department should ensure that the provisions for people previously entitled to the SDP should take into account the High Court’s recent ruling and it should lay the regulations as soon as possible. (Paragraph 32)

The Government notes these recommendations, and took appropriate legislative action in July 2019.

The Government responded to the High Court’s ruling and laid regulations, allowing the Department to begin making the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) transitional payments, on 22 July 2019.2 Provisions in the regulations, which came into force on 24 July 2019, allowed the Department to start making the SDP transitional payments for former SDP recipients who had already moved to UC immediately. The first of these payments was made the day that the regulations came into force.

By September 2020, the Department had paid the SDP transitional payment to more than 16,000 claimants. The Department worked at pace to consider eligible claimants and make these vital payments as quickly as possible.

The removal of a provision relating to appeal rights for the issuing, extension and cancellation of a migration notice meant that the new regulations were no longer subject to affirmative resolution. The Government’s view is that this was not necessary for this clarifying provision during the pilot phase.

We did not separate the regulations as Recommendation 2 suggests because the SDP transitional payments are fundamentally part of the wider transitional protection framework, and are therefore an essential part of the regulations that introduced transitional protection for managed migration.

These SDP transitional payments were not calculated in the same way as those who receive transitional protection as part of the managed migration process. Former SDP recipients who are eligible for SDP transitional payments received a flat rate payment that broadly reflected their previous SDP entitlement. It would be untenable to introduce SDP transitional payments that cannot erode or cease, and so from 8th October 2020 these payments have been converted to a transitional SDP element and paid as part of an individual’s UC award. As a consequence, this element is now subject to the associated erosion and cessation rules.

The Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 which were laid on 22 July 2019 set out the removal of the SDP gateway on 27 January 2021. From this date, those entitled to SDP as part of a qualifying legacy benefit are able to make a new claim to UC and can be awarded a transitional SDP element.

The rationale of transitional protection is that it is a temporary measure that allows claimants who are moved by the Department from one benefit to another to adjust to the new benefit rules, but it is not intended to carry on ad infinitum. It should erode and cease in order that claimants who move to UC with transitional protection eventually gain parity with new claimants, who are subject to the benefit rules and rates from the beginning.

Recommendation 4:

We recommend that the Department makes an ongoing payment to meet any shortfall in income for all households with any level of disability, including children with disabilities, who lose out when they move to UC. This should include making back-payments to claimants in these circumstances who have already moved to UC and lost out as a result. (Paragraph 39)

The Government recognises the issues the committee raises but does not accept this recommendation.

The Government is committed to supporting those with disabilities through UC and has focused support for those with the greatest need.

From 24 July 2019, claimants who were entitled to the SDP have been considered for backdated payments covering the period since they moved to UC, as well as an ongoing transitional payment.

The Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP) is a different premium with different qualifying conditions. Although it is not replicated in UC, EDP-only recipients are likely to gain when they migrate to UC as the ‘Limited Capability for Work Related Activity’ rate (LCWRA) is more generous than the ESA Support Group rate.

There are currently two different rates of disabled child addition (DCA) available in UC, payable depending on the level of Disability Living Allowance to which the child is entitled. This has been the design from the outset, which the Department believes strikes the right balance to help meet the varying financial needs placed upon families with disabled children. Also, whilst simplifying the provisions in the system, the Government took the opportunity to refocus vital resources on the most severely disabled children and adults as well as extending the eligibility for the higher rate of DCA to children who are certified blind.

Recommendation 5:

We recommend that the Department should allow people on legacy benefits to remain on legacy benefits for a grace period of one year after the death of their partner, so that they do not need to immediately apply for UC. (Paragraph 44) When claimants move to UC because of the death of their partner, the Department should provide them with transitional protection for their housing element for twelve months, as was the case in the legacy system(Paragraph 46)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

The Government understands how difficult the death of a partner can be. As the Committee has highlighted, a claimant may have to make a new UC claim when their partner dies in order to secure their entitlement as a single person.

It is important to note that that the death of a partner does not always mean a claimant will have to make a new claim to UC and, if UC did not exist, a claimant with the same circumstances may still have had to make a new claim to one or more of the legacy benefits that UC replaces as well. The fact that a single claim to UC can now be made simplifies the process of claiming support, thus reducing the burden on the claimant during this difficult period.

The report mentions the protection available for housing costs under UC in the event of a bereavement is ‘only available for 3 months’, rather than the 12 months under Housing Benefit.3 It is important to understand that the 3-month protection is not limited to the housing element only, but covers every other additional payment that the couple received; the entire amount runs on for 3 months. This includes any elements to which only the deceased partner was solely entitled. Depending on a claimant’s circumstances, this support is potentially far more generous than 12 months of Housing Benefit alone. In all cases, it focuses support to the 3 months immediately following a bereavement, which are likely to be the most difficult for the claimant.

In addition, the bereavement run-on in UC not only covers the death of a partner, but also where a child or a cared for person dies. In these situations, it is more generous than legacy benefits—it lasts for longer than the 8 weeks available in some legacy benefits, covers every benefit payment being received and eligibility has also been extended to cover the death of non-dependants.

As regards claimants with housing costs, since 2011 the government has provided over £1 billion in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) to local authorities in England and Wales to help support vulnerable people affected by welfare reforms. DHPs can be paid to those entitled to Housing Benefit or the housing element of UC who face a shortfall in meeting their housing costs.

There is no limit to the length of time over which a DHP award may be made. It may be awarded for a short period to give a claimant time to deal with their financial circumstances or for an indefinite period until their circumstances change. The start and end dates are decided by local authorities on a case-by-case basis.

Recommendation 6:

We recommend that the Department should look at practical options to eliminate the five-week wait. This could, for example, involve the Department making advance payments to claimants non-repayable. It could adjust for any differences in the estimate on which a claimant’s advance is calculated and the calculation of their final award through additions or deductions to the claimant’s future UC payments. (Paragraph 55)

Recommendation 7:

In the meantime, while the five-week wait remains, we recommend that the Department bring the run-on of all legacy benefits forward to Autumn 2019, so that people moving now through natural migration and those moving later have the same amount of help while they wait for their first UC payment. If the Department cannot automate this process in time, it could for example:

  • calculate these amounts manually; or
  • achieve a similar result by reducing the proportion of an advance that claimants who naturally migrate have to pay back to the Department. (Paragraph 56)

The Government does not accept these recommendations.

Nobody has to wait for a payment in UC. Advance payments are available to claimants in need of urgent financial help to support them through to their first Universal Credit payment. Previously, claimants who required an advance had their UC award spread across thirteen payments in a year rather than twelve. As announced in the Spring Budget, we have now given claimants additional flexibility by providing the option to spread twenty-five payments over twenty-four months for New Claim or Benefit Transfer Advances issued from 12 April 2021. For claimants who find themselves in unexpected hardship, the impact of taking an advance on the spreading of UC payments can be deferred for up to 3 months.

In addition, in July 2020, the Department successfully introduced a non-repayable two-week run-on for Jobseeker’s Allowance (Income Based), Employment and Support Allowance (Income Related) and Income Support where a UC claim stops the award. This is in addition to the Transition to UC Housing Payment, a non-repayable two-week extension of Housing Benefit where a UC claim stops the award.

Recommendation 8:

We also recommend that the Department provide the Committee with a list of the policy changes in the Department’s development schedule. This should also include:

  • a timeframe for the completion of each change;
  • the number of hours work each change is expected to take; and
  • a time-frame and the number of hours’ work involved in implementing the system changes required for the benefit run-ons. (Paragraph 57)

The Government in part accepts this recommendation.

The policy changes in the programme’s development schedule are ones that have been announced via fiscal events, spending reviews or other separate announcements. The Department will update the Committee when policy changes have been incorporated into the UC service and are fully live.

It is not possible to provide the Committee with a breakdown of timeframe and man hours for specific changes, as no change to the UC service is implemented in isolation. As noted in the then Secretary of State’s letter to the Committee dated 31 January 2019, the Department utilises an iterative agile development process to develop the UC service. This ongoing process is not time-limited and means the service—and each policy change within it—is being continuously developed. Once a change is introduced, it then requires constant refresh and update when subsequent changes are made.

Recommendation 9:

We recommend that the Department should tell claimants about natural migration as part of its ongoing communications about UC. This should include stating explicitly that some people may lose out financially as a result of a move to UC. This information should be added to the UC claim homepage along with a link to the benefit calculation websites such as entitled to and the Citizens Advice website. The Department should signpost claimants to organisations able to give accurate independent advice. It could for example, include this in the Citizens Advice “Help to Claim” offer, which provides help to claimants with aspects of making a claim through to first payment. However, it must ensure this is adequately funded. (Paragraph 75)

Recommendation 10:

We recommend that the Department work with stakeholders to develop clearer and comprehensive guidance on when claimants need to move to UC and how this can affect different claimant groups. It should make this guidance publicly available. In addition, the Department should publish a comprehensive list of the changes in a claimant’s circumstances which could lead to them needing to claim UC. (Paragraph 77)

The Government does not accept these recommendations.

Neither this Department nor HMRC can advise individual claimants whether they would be better off moving to UC or remaining on legacy benefits. While Natural migration to UC is required when a person needs to claim new support because of a change of circumstances, claimants on legacy benefits can voluntarily make a claim for UC if they believe that they will be better off even if there is no change in circumstances. Parliament has voted to bring an end to legacy benefits in Great Britain and move to UC as its benefits system, so it is not appropriate for claimants to pick and choose between UC and parts of the legacy benefits system.

The Department encourages claimants thinking of claiming UC to read the information about it available on GOV.UK and to use the links to independent benefit calculators to check carefully their eligibility.

Once a claimant has made a claim to UC, the Department will inform them at the earliest opportunity the level of financial support they are expected to receive. We will continue to review and update our guidance to ensure this is the case and also that we outline all additional discretionary support that may be available.

The Department regularly updates gov.uk pages, including the publication of the “understandinguniversalcredit4 microsite. This information was also supported by already published signposts to independent benefit calculators so that prospective claimants could find out about potential entitlement, and information about the government-funded Help to Claim service provided by Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland on the “How to claim UC: step by step” page on gov.uk.

Particularly during the course of the pandemic, the Department has also used the DWP Twitter and Facebook channels to share messages with citizens, and also used paid media to ensure we reached millions of people.

The Department has also added a ‘check-through’ box that must be navigated through before beginning an online UC claim. This is intended to ensure that the claimant understands that legacy benefit payments will end and that they will not be able to return to them in the future, even if the claimant is not entitled to UC.

Recommendation 11:

We recommend that the Government review these triggers for natural migration and consider whether it is appropriate that these changes of circumstance should require a new claim for Universal Credit. If it believes that they are appropriate, it should clearly explain why. (Paragraph 79)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

The triggers for natural migration are the same as those circumstances that would have required a new claim to be made for a legacy benefit. Parliament has voted to make UC the social security system in the UK replacing the legacy benefits. Claiming UC instead is therefore in line with the decisions Parliament has made.

Recommendation 12:

We recommend that the Department provides full compensation to all claimants who have lost out financially because they have moved to UC prematurely, despite their circumstances remaining the same. This could be done separately from the Department’s maladministration process. Payments should compensate for the additional amount they were previously receiving in the legacy system and should apply regardless of whether the move is a result of the claimant’s own misunderstanding or mis-advice from DWP staff or other organisations. (Paragraph 84)

The Government does not accept this recommendation. The existing maladministration process is sufficient.

Where a claimant suffers a loss of statutory benefit entitlement solely due to the Department’s maladministration or service failure, and it is not possible to restore the lost benefit entitlement, the Department can already make special payments of the equivalent amount to restore the claimant to the position they would have been in without our maladministration.

Providing special payments in circumstances where the Department is not at fault would not be a responsible use of taxpayer funds.

Recommendation 13:

We recommend that the Department allows claimants who have an ongoing legacy benefit appeal to remain on legacy benefits until their application has been processed, where the legacy benefit allows them to receive money they would be entitled to under JSA. For instance, claimants awaiting an ESA appeal decision should be able to remain on the assessment phase of ESA. Where this is not possible, the Department should pay claimants who win their appeal transitional payments, which should equate to the difference between their entitlement under UC and the amount they would have received in legacy benefits had the Department not made the wrong decision. (Paragraph 90)

The Department does not accept that claimants who have an ongoing legacy benefit appeal should be able to remain on legacy benefits until their application [to appeal] has been processed.

When a claimant has their entitlement to a legacy benefit that UC replaces terminated, it is important that they apply for UC to continue receiving support from the benefit system. Allowing claimants to remain on legacy benefits would require legislative change and potentially leave claimants with repayable overpayments should a mandatory reconsideration and any subsequent appeal prove unsuccessful.

The Committee will be aware that the Universal Credit (Managed Migration Pilot and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 already provide transitional payments where a challenge to a legacy decision results in backdated entitlement to a Severe Disability Premium.

The Department is considering its response to the judgment, R (on the application of TD and others) (AP) (Respondents) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Appellant) UKSC 2020/0119. The Department will communicate further details in due course.

Recommendation 14:

The Department should review whether all changes in circumstances should trigger EEA nationals to re-take a right to reside test. Where claimants have failed a right to reside test, it should provide clear reasons why this is the case. (Paragraph 97)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

All claimants, regardless of nationality, must demonstrate that they are both legally and habitually resident in the UK in order to access income-related benefits such as UC. The Department assesses this through the Habitual Residence Test (HRT), which has two elements: a legal right to reside test and an objective assessment of factual evidence of habitual residence.

UK and Irish citizens and non-UK nationals who are granted indefinite leave to remain can access UC regardless of whether they are in work or out of work. Under UK immigration law, EEA nationals are not able to access UC until they are exercising an EU Treaty right, e.g., worker or self-employed status, or have been resident in the UK for 5 years and granted settled status (indefinite leave to remain) by the Home Office.

EEA nationals are advised to regularise their immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Those who have lived in the UK for at least 5 years will usually be granted settled status by the Home Office. EEA nationals with settled status will satisfy the HRT and are eligible to access UC once they have demonstrated habitual residence in the UK, on the same basis as comparable UK nationals.

The existing rules will apply for EEA nationals with less than 5 years’ residence. EEA nationals with pre-settled status have the same access to benefits as they did prior to the introduction of the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS). They will satisfy the right to reside element of the HRT and can access benefits if they are exercising a qualifying right to reside, such as a worker or self-employed person, and are habitually resident in the UK.

Recommendation 15:

We also recommend that the Department should conduct a review of its data retention policies. This should look specifically at the impact its policies have on EEA nationals who it has previously assessed as having the right to reside in the UK. It should cease destroying records, where doing so could negatively impact claimants. (Paragraph 98)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

All claimants, regardless of nationality, must demonstrate that they

a)have a qualifying legal right to reside, and

b)are habitually resident in Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Certain categories of claimant, including refugees and EEA “workers” and their family members, are automatically treated as satisfying the HRT.

Whether a claimant meets the necessary conditions to satisfy the HRT is not fixed forever and may change after a claim has been initially determined. Therefore, to protect taxpayer funds, the Government believes it is right that the Department reviews entitlement when a change of circumstances occurs and the onus is on claimants to demonstrate that they meet the HRT and report all changes in their immigration status. In return, eligible claimants receive the same level of support afforded to UK citizens for as long as their circumstances remain the same.

Should an EEA national fail the HRT, they may choose to start exercising an EU Treaty Right, e.g., worker or self-employed status in order to access UC. Alternatively, and for claimants of any other nationality, they can request a written explanation giving the reasons for the decision, and a Mandatory Reconsideration (MR) if they do not agree with the decision. If claimants do not agree with the subsequent MR decision, they can appeal to an independent tribunal.

The Department regularly reviews data retention policies and its current policies are set with the requirements of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) firmly in mind. In practice, this means that the Department does not retain personal information for any longer than there is a business need to do so. As a claimant’s right to reside can be fluid, it is the Government’s view that keeping such information indefinitely is unnecessary and may not be compliant with GDPR.

In March 2019, the Government introduced a settlement scheme for all EEA nationals. EEA nationals who are not exercising a qualifying right to reside are advised to regularise their immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Those who have lived in the UK for at least 5 years will usually be granted settled status by the Home Office and, therefore, have full access to UC. This will remove any ongoing queries about a claimant’s immigration status and make it much easier for claimants to demonstrate their right to reside should they be asked to do so.

Recommendation 16:

We recommend that the Department explore ways to make the carry-over of WCA decisions from legacy benefits to UC a more automated process, to reduce the risk of human error. If this is not possible, the Department should provide the Committee with quarterly reports on the number of cases where this is not happening on time so that we can continue to monitor the issue. (Paragraph 107)

The Government does not accept this recommendation.

Whilst we have not automated a solution, we have invested in and made significant improvements to the clerical processes. These improvements mean that, on average, we apply the ESA WCA to UC award in the vast majority of cases within the first Assessment Period.

1 House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, ‘Universal Credit: natural migration, Twenty-seventh Report of Session 2017–19’, (HC 1884), published 17 July 2019, p. 13: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/1884/1884.pdf

2 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2019/1152/made

3 House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee, ‘UC: natural migration, Twenty-seventh Report of Session 2017–19’, (HC 1884), published 17 July 2019, p. 20: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/1884/1884.pdf

4 https://www.understandinguniversalcredit.gov.uk/

Written by Andrew Coates

June 3, 2021 at 5:22 pm

As Covid Protection Eviction Ban Ends Private Renters Face Uncertain Future.

with 77 comments

Image

Private renters in England on ‘cliff edge’ as eviction ban ends

Almost two million private renters fear they will be unable to find another property if they lose their home after the eviction ban is lifted, ministers are being warned.

With the ban coming to an end this week, the government is facing demands for emergency legislation to increase the permanent protection for those struggling to pay their rent as a result of the Covid pandemic. Councils are also warning of a “cliff edge” of homelessness in the months ahead unless action is taken, with a potential £2.2bn bill for the state.

Private renters are those most at risk at the end of the ban, which has been repeatedly extended amid concerns about the build-up of rent arrears during the crisis. Among private renters in England who are worried about losing their home and who are already cutting back on heating and food to pay rent, 72% are worried they will be unable to find another home in the future. The finding, from a study by homelessness charity Shelter, equates to about 1.9 million privately renting adults.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 30, 2021 at 12:08 pm

Posted in DWP, Housing Benefit, Welfare State

Tagged with ,

Benefits Crackdown.

with 145 comments

Universal credit journal update - YouTube

You’ll be contacted via your online journal or a call from your Jobcentre.

This appeared a couple of days ago in the Mirror,

One million Universal Credit claimants told to act now as DWP starts benefit crackdown

Citizens Advice is warning claimants to check their online journals weekly and answer Jobcentre calls to ensure their payments are not terminated.

The Department for Work and Pensions is cracking down on benefit fraud in a move that will see over a million new claims over the past year investigated.

The government body said it has lost £8.4billion in the past 12 months – a figure it estimates is largely down to fraudulent claims and errors in a year when more than six million people joined Universal Credit.

Over that period, identity checks were processed online, for instance, rather than face-to-face and some information was taken on trust, such as the cost of rent.

The overall level of fraud and error across the benefits system increased by almost two-thirds, from 2.4% last year to 3.9%, the highest ever reported rate.

The fraud rate on the main benefit, Universal Credit, was up by more than 50%, it said.

We’ve teamed up with charity Citizens Advice to explain everything you need to know on the DWP’s Trust and Protect scheme, and the steps you should take to ensure you don’t lose out on benefits you’re entitled to.

What is the Trust and Protect scheme?

In the early stages of the pandemic last year, the DWP introduced new measures to make sure people could apply for benefits quickly, without the need to visit a Jobcentre.

This meant that some of the requirements relating to proof of identity, housing costs and household circumstances were eased.

Citizen’s Advice:

Citizens Advice – DWP’s ‘Trust and Protect’ scheme: Your need-to-knows

People who applied for Universal Credit as Covid hit could be subject to a benefits check by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The DWP is now looking at all claims made in the early stages of the pandemic  and asking people for this evidence to support their application. People who claimed New Style JSA and New Style ESA last spring may also be contacted.

How will the DWP contact me?

You’ll be contacted via your online journal or a call from your Jobcentre. This may show up as a withheld number. Make sure your contact details are up to date and try to check your online journal at least once a week for new notifications.

If you’re struggling to manage your online claim for any reason – including lack of access to a computer – you should be able to change to a non-digital claim. Citizens Advice can support you with this.

What happens if I can’t provide the right evidence?

If you can’t provide the right evidence, or you cannot be contacted by officials seeking to verify your claim, your payments could be stopped or changed. 

Universal Credit

This campaign relates to policy or practice in England and Wales.

We’ve helped over 300,000 people with Universal Credit issues since the beginning of the pandemic. Our clients’ evidence helps us play a key role in influencing the Government to ensure the welfare system works for all those needing support.

#KeepTheLifeline Campaign

We welcomed the Government’s decision at the start of pandemic to increase Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits by £20 a week. This uplift has provided a lifeline for millions of families across the UK, during extraordinarily tough times.

The uplift is in place until September 2021. We’re calling for it to be made permanent to provide financial security for millions of people and help support the country’s longer term economic recovery.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 24, 2021 at 5:28 pm

Government Slash Emergency Fund for UC Claimants and Refuse to stop Benefit Cut because it will “cost Billions”.

with 149 comments

Image

Thérèse Coffey Enjoys a Celebratory Feed on the 17th of May.

The Mirror,

Tories refuse to stop Universal Credit cut because it would cost ‘billions on benefits

Tory ministers have refused to stop a £20-a-week Universal Credit cut this Autumn – because it would cost “billions more on benefits”.

DWP minister Will Quince today attacked Labour for asking for the lifeline for six million people to be extended beyond September 30.

He claimed “I certainly don’t recognise” that 4million children in poverty are “going to bed at night with no food in their tummy”.

And despite 37% of people on Universal Credit having a job, Mr Quince said the DWP would instead “shift its focus to supporting people back into work”.

Universal Credit is due to be slashed back by £20 a week from October after it was raised for 18 months due to the pandemic.

Emergency fund for hard-up Brits on Universal Credit slashed by £3million in a year

A POT of emergency cash for struggling Brits on Universal Credit has been slashed by £3million in a year.

A freedom of information request by The Sun found that the Flexible Support Fund (FSF) shrunk from £40.7million in the 2018/19 tax year to £37.8million the following year.

In four years, the lifeline for millions of families in poverty has been cut by £13.9million.

The FSF is used to pay grants to help those on Universal Credit with the cost of getting back into work.

The grants are issued on top of other benefits and can be used to cover the costs of things like childcare, uniforms or work tools as long as they help you get a job.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decides how much is set aside for the fund each year.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 19, 2021 at 10:57 am

£20 Universal Credit uplift set to end before the winter.

with 171 comments

Image

Its a Big Thumbs Up for a cut the Dole.

£20 Universal Credit uplift set to end before the winter, Cabinet minister signals

Evening Standard.

Exclusive: Pensions Secretary tells the Standard: ‘We need to try to get people into work.’

The £20 uplift to Universal Credit is set to end before the winter, a Cabinet minister signalled today.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has already extended the £20-per-week benefit boost to the end of September.

But asked if the government would consider doing it again during a winter surge, Work and Pension Secretary Therese Coffey told the Standard: “We need to try to get people into work.”

Ms Coffey said she was not anticipating the Government would have to take measures “out of the ordinary” this winter.

It comes after Boris Johnson warned there could still be another surge of Covid-19 during the winter period.

Here’s Coffey at ‘work’.

Update: more on this story:

Written by Andrew Coates

May 15, 2021 at 12:09 pm

PCS Balloting on Strike Action in Job Centres.

with 195 comments

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Consultative ballot over safety in jobcentres

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) is balloting members on potential strike action

.

The Department for Work and Pensions says it is “disappointing to hear” that Jobcentre Plus staff are considering industrial action after the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) launched a ballot for members as to whether to strike.

The union launched the ballot this week amid an ongoing dispute over staff being asked to return to working in-person at jobcentres around the country, rather than continuing to work from home during the pandemic.

In response, the DWP told Plymouth Live it was disappointed that the union had “chosen this course of action, as the country re-opens and our jobcentres return to full opening hours”.

The department said it remains “absolutely committed to maintaining all our services to customers, and [to] ensuring our sites remain Covid-secure for colleagues and customers in line with the latest public health and Government guidance”.

Use your vote in the PCS DWP safety ballot

07 May 2021

PCS is asking DWP members to share their views in a consultation ballot about the safety risks caused by the extension of services in jobcentres and rushed plans for video calling

Are you worried about being forced back into a jobcentre when your work can be done from home? Then you need to vote yes in our safety ballot.

This ballot, which ends on 21 May, is not just about work coaches and face-to-face work. It is equally about the safety of all staff in jobcentres.

  1. Are you concerned about your safety?
  2. Are you an AO band B being forced back into a jobcentre when you don’t really do face-to-face work and your job could just as easily still be done more safely from home?
  3. Are you an HEO being forced back into a jobcentre when your job could just as easily still be done more safely from home.
  4. Are you concerned about the safety risks from management’s rushed plans for video calling?

PCS is opposed to AOs and HEOs being forced into offices and put at risk. We say the DWP is rushing too many people back too soon. They are putting you, security guards, cleaners and the public at risk.

Video calling is another ill conceived, rushed idea that endangers staff. There is no guaranteed protection against your identity being shared publicly, or your video call being recorded and shared. And DWP isn’t prepared to pay the money it will take to safeguard you against these risks.

If you vote yes in the PCS safety ballot it will mean your union has more strength in negotiations to stop AOs and HEOs being forced into jobcentres and to stop video calling being forced on our members.

If you are angry and concerned about these thing vote yes.

This is an electronic online ballot for members who have registered a personal email with PCS and postal for those that haven’t. 

Non-members who join by noon on 12 May can vote.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 9, 2021 at 3:57 pm

Benefits Sanctions Return.

with 158 comments

A survival guide to benefit sanctions | Advicenow

This story appeared recently.

the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), who count a number of Jobcentre workers among their members, fears that this could also lead to a rise in the number of benefit claimants who are subjected to sanctions.

Requirements placed on benefit claimaints prior to the pandemic meant that vulnerable people could see their benefit payments for failing to adhere to strict and often unreasonable criteria.

This includes people who saw their benefits stopped or reduced for being a few minutes late for an appointment, due to travel issues, or missing a meeting due to being in hospital.

These sometimes draconian rules were temporary suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic, but are now being slowly reintroduced as the country gradually recovers from the pandemic.

Today we learn:

Thousands of people’s benefits cut by DWP sanctions in Birmingham and Black Country

Birmingham Live.

The financial penalties are imposed on those claiming Universal Credit, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment & Support Allowance and Income Support.

Thousands of people across the West Midlands have seen their benefits cut by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Sanctions have been imposed on claimants in the Black Country boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Sandwell, and Walsall as well as in neighbouring Birmingham and Solihull.

These are penalties when the DWP says someone has failed to stick to the rules of a benefit claim such as by missing a work coach appointment, training course or job interview. Others are for reasons such as being late to sign on for Jobseeker’s Allowance.


But there have been cases where claimants said it was not their fault. A former Birmingham bus driver was sanctioned after he missed the DWP’s online notifications of appointments because he could no longer afford his home internet service when he lost his job.

Between April 2019 and October 2020, statistics show that 4,899 UC recipients were sanctioned in Sandwell, 4,172 in Wolverhampton, 4,039 in Dudley and 3,796 in Walsall.

By far the most Universal Credit sanctions were in Birmingham where 22,632 claimants had money docked as a punishment.


A further 2,241 UC recipients were penalised in Solihull borough.

See: A survival guide to benefit sanctions

This guide will help you to plan ahead to avoid a benefit sanction where possible, and if not, will help you to work out what to do about it. This guide is for you if you want to avoid getting sanctioned, work out what to do about a benefits sanction, or understand more about how the benefit sanctions system works.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 4, 2021 at 3:18 pm

High court bid to end discrimination against Legacy Benefit claimants.

with 116 comments

Image

This has been an issue our contributors have long been concerned with:

Universal Credit increase: High Court challenge piles pressure on DWP to extend £20 uplift to all benefits.

The ‘I’.

The Government has come under renewed pressure to raise the value of all benefits in line with the increase ministers introduced for universal credit claimants at the start of the pandemic.

It comes as the High Court gave two people on employment and support allowance (ESA), one of the benefits being replaced by Universal Credit, permission to challenge the Department of Work and Pensions’ (DWP) policy on the uplift, which they claim is discriminatory.

In March 2020, the Government announced that people on universal credit and working tax credit will temporarily receive an extra £20 a week to cope with the disruption caused by coronavirus, but stopped short of extending the increase to people still on the old benefits system, many of whom are carers and those with disabilities. Nearly two million people on ESA have missed out on the uplift, worth £1,040 a year.

…..

The High Court’s decision to grant permission for the claim to be heard shows leaving out certain benefit claimants from the £20-a-week increase is arguably “unlawful”, he said.

“People dependent on the basic allowances provided by benefit payments are facing higher living costs during the pandemic. However, there is a difference in treatment between those on universal credit and those on legacy benefits, despite the fact that claimants in each group may have very similar circumstances.

“It is therefore welcome that this difference in treatment will be scrutinised by the High Court, particularly given the fact that almost two million disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision.”

Written by Andrew Coates

April 30, 2021 at 5:49 pm

Face-to-face Jobcentre meetings to restart.

with 306 comments

Big Universal Credit change as face-to-face Jobcentre meetings restart

The Mirror which has campaigned for the rights of claimants reports.

Universal Credit change as face-to-face meetings re-starting this month

All face-to-face Jobcentre services had been paused since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic

Brits who claim Universal Credit and other benefits could be called into face-to-face meetings at their local Jobcentres from this month.

This will follow in-person work capability assessments in May for those who claim certain health and disability benefits.

All face-to-face Jobcentre services have been paused since March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have used video calls to assess some benefit claims.

Face-to-face appointments returned in England and Wales from April 12, with Scotland to follow from April 26.

The Currant Bun, which is no friend of the out-of-work, reports,

Then there is this, an opportunity for the usual chancers to make money out of claimants:

There is of course this in the news..

The i weekend

Written by Andrew Coates

April 24, 2021 at 11:59 am

Jobcentre staff may go on strike

with 277 comments

This story came up a few days ago, which our contributors noted:

Covid: Strike ‘possible’ over longer job centre opening

The return to normal opening hours for job centres is putting users and staff “in harm’s way”, a union has warned.

The PCS said it would not rule out strike action, arguing the extension should instead put back until Covid vaccines were “fully rolled out”.

Job centres went back to their pre-lockdown hours on Monday, having previously been cut to 10am to 2pm.

Today we hear:

Universal Credit fears as Jobcentre staff could go on strike

Wales on Line reports.

A union says staff do not feel safe during the pandemic

Most Jobcentre workers do not feel safe going into offices after they fully reopened last week, a union has said as it warned of industrial action over the issue.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said a survey of more than 1,000 of its members found around three in five feel unsafe, while another one in five are unsure about their safety because of continuing fears about the virus.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “These results reflect the anger and frustration our members feel every day. Thousands of Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff have been providing support to claimants safely from home throughout the pandemic.

“The only logical reason they would insist on fully reopening is because management’s obsession with sanctioning vulnerable claimants.

“These stats show how staff feel and should send a strong signal to ministers that they need to urgently meet with the union to avoid potential industrial action.”

Then there is this story:

Written by Andrew Coates

April 19, 2021 at 5:31 pm

Half a million Universal Credit claimants hit by tax debt deduction.

with 139 comments

Universal credit: how to claim, and how much you will receive | Consumer  affairs | The Guardian

Half a Million of Them Hit by New Deductions.

But all is far from going well in Universal Credit land, and here’s a further reminder that the system does not just replace JSA and other benefits, but also includes that who used to receive Tax Credits. That is, people in work.

Half a million Universal Credit claimants shocked by sudden tax debt deduction

Carers and frontline workers among those targeted with many people unaware they even owed the money

Birmingham Live reports:

Around half a million people claiming Universal Credit or other benefits have been hit by a sudden tax deduction this year.

They have been targeted as the Government claws back tax credit overpayments from as far back as 17 years ago.

In response to a freedom of information request, the DWP revealed they had been docking payments to Universal Credit claimants because of tax credit overpayments at a rate of 47,000 cases per week this year – effectively wiping out the £20 a week boost given to Universal Credit recipients.

Cuts started on January 18 for people who had newly started claiming Universal Credit for the first time during the pandemic.

Many of the debts being chased are for thousands of pounds. The total amount owed in overpayment of tax credits is estimated to be £6 billion.

….

For those still receiving tax credits, the money is taken out of that with 10 per cent to 50 per cent of a person’s payment cut to claw it back, depending on earnings.

For those only on the family element of Child Tax Credits, payments are slashed by 100 per cent, meaning income is stopped completely until the overpayments are cleared.

And for those no longer on tax credits but now on Universal Credit or other state benefits, the debt is taken from those payments. The Department for Work and Pensions can impose deductions on Universal Credit and other benefits to recover third-party debts to HMRC and other organisations.

Only 1 per cent of tax credit overpayments are a result of fraud or negligence by the recipient. In the majority of cases, it’s said to be due to system errors by the HMRC.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2021 at 3:43 pm

As Local Housing Allowance is Frozen DWP Minister Thérèse Coffey Gets £1,885 for her London Pied à Terre.

with 117 comments

Robert Goodwill's visit to Scotland and Minister Coffey's visit to  Salisbury pub re-opening - Defra in the media

Coffey Celebrates Nice Little Earner for Tory MPs.

Tory MPs claim almost £3m in housing rent on expenses

Welfare secretary Thérèse Coffey, whose department runs the LHA system, claimed £1,885 a month.

Revelation comes at same time as government freezes housing allowance, which could drive many tenants into debt.

A spokesperson for tenants’ union Acorn said: “To commit to this [LHA] freeze at the same time as huge swathes of the government’s own MPs are claiming extortionate amounts on expenses to pay rent on second homes is disgraceful and perfectly demonstrates the contempt with which they treat low-income people in this country – particularly given many of these MPs are claiming these expenses for second homes at the same time as raking in profit from homes they are renting out to tenants, while already taking home salaries far beyond what most people could ever imagine.”

The Tory MP claiming the highest rent expenses is Helen Whately, minister for social care. Despite earning £113,612 as an MP and minister, she claimed £3,250 in housing rent from the taxpayer each month between April and November 2020 – £26,000 in total during those eight months.

If Whately claims £3,250 a month for the whole of 2020/21, she will receive £39,000 towards her rent during the financial year. This is higher than the estimated average annual pay of her constituents, the average full-time earnings in the UK, the average nurse’s salary – and over double the average full-time care worker’s pay in 2019/20.

Suffolk Coastal, Coffey’s Constituency, is within commuting range of London.

This is the background:

Benefits system increasing homelessness in London, research finds.

A report from Homeless Link, titled Homelessness and welfare benefits in London, found that both the frozen Local Housing Allowance (LHA) and the benefit cap mean people claiming benefits cannot afford the housing that is available in the capital.

The report notes that the number of single people claiming Universal Credit in London increased by 88% between March, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the UK, and August last year.

Meanwhile, an analysis found that 24 of the 32 boroughs in London do not have enough shared private rented accommodation to house those claiming the housing element of Universal Credit or housing benefit.

Across those 24 boroughs, only 54% of shared private rented accommodation would be affordable to those claiming benefits for their housing, the analysis found.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, chancellor Rishi Sunak reversed a multiyear freeze on the LHA rate, which determines how much housing benefit private renters receive, to ensure benefits covered the lowest third of rents in a local area.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 11, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Monitoring of Claimants “suspected of Fraud” Extended to Social Media.

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Social Media Surveillance #infographic - Visualistan

This story has appeared. Some suggest it is scare tactics, even scare-mongering, but it is still threatening. What has social media got to do with making a benefit claim?

20 million benefits or Universal Credit claimants hit by warning over their social media accounts Birmingham Live.

Welfare claims including Universal Credit are managed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP)

The DWP can look at your bank account and social media if it suspects benefit fraud, claimants have been warned.

Welfare claims including Universal Credit are managed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

And it has emerged the body has the power to investigate potential crimes in several different ways.

More than 20million people are using welfare support in Britain – a figure that is expected to rise.

In case you had not got the messages Cambridgeshire Live headlines.

Universal Credit: Social media stalking and covert surveillance used to investigate suspect benefit claims

Manchester Evening News

Anyone who is on benefits or Universal Credit can have their social media and bank accounts monitored at any time, it has been reported.

And so it goes:

Meanwhile by coincidence….

DWP confirms when Universal Credit and PIP claimants will see face-to-face assessments restart

North Wales Live:

Face-to-face assessments of certain benefits are set to resume next month, it’s been revealed.

It comes after they were suspended last year by officials at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 7, 2021 at 3:23 pm

DWP Launches Train and Progress (TaP).

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With Special Tap Scheme for Universal Credit Claimants.

Universal Credit claimants TAP into employment

Millions of jobseekers will be able to access longer work-related training while in receipt of benefits to boost their chances of finding employment.

Later this month, DWP Train and Progress (TaP), a new DWP initiative aimed at increasing access to training opportunities for claimants, will see an extension to the length of time people can receive Universal Credit while undertaking work-focused study.

Initially available for 6 months, the amount of time Universal Credit claimants can take part in full-time training will extend to up to 12 weeks throughout Great Britain – up from the current 8 weeks.

The change will ensure those receiving UC and in the intensive work search group can take advantage of sector-specific training from digital skills to social care and engineering while receiving the financial support they need.

It includes access to the level 3 adult offer, with the Department for Work and Pensions today announcing it will go even further and increase this to 16 weeks for those enrolled on level 3 Skills Bootcamps.

It is not entirely clear what these courses are, and exactly what this entails. The only media reports simply reproduce the DWP Press Release.

Will Legacy Claimants be eligible?

This name is alone is not welcoming. It sounds like something delinquent Americans got sent to in the 1950s.

Skills bootcamps

As part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, the Prime Minister also announced the skills bootcamp programme.

Skills bootcamps offer free, flexible courses of just 12 to 16 weeks for adults aged 19 or over and who are either in work or recently unemployed (some skills bootcamps have additional eligibility criteria). They give people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with a local employer.

It is not clear that many new qualifications will help, given that employers and workers already say that a large number of differently named certificates confuses peeople;

The move comes as the UK government launches almost 400 additional free qualifications as part of the UK government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee, and follows the announcement earlier this week of a further 13,500 Work Coaches in Jobcentres across the country.

People will also wonder if this statement relates to claimants:

There does not appear to be a current version of ‘Community Work Placement’ and all the rest, or is there? Things like that are hardly going to happen during Lockdown.

Tiah Paige Burrell says job seeking during Covid has felt “impossible”, leaving her low and close to despair. BBC 2 Days Ago.

The creative professional from Great Yarmouth, 20, left a job just before the pandemic began and has only worked for a month at her local theatre since.

According to new research from the Prince’s Trust, people under 25 account for three in five of the jobs lost during the crisis so far.

And it warns youth unemployment could rise even higher.

The problem, it says, is that younger workers are over-represented in sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, such as hospitality and entertainment, and these will take longer to recover.

They are also under-represented in occupations likely to see the strongest job growth coming out of the crisis, such as health and social work.

Meanwhile;

Written by Andrew Coates

April 1, 2021 at 2:46 pm

Surveillance of Jobseekers.

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Working from home? How to stay in touch and stay secure | Cybercrime | The  Guardian

Surveillance Capitalism.

This is an old topic but it remains there, “If your Claimant Commitment includes looking for work, you will be expected to do everything you reasonably can to prepare for and find work. In most cases, you will need to complete up to 35 hours of work search activity per week in order to receive Universal Credit.” (it began before Universal Credit).

People have already discussed this and how we fulfil it by applying for jobs, to be the honest the only thing that counts

Just hoping this does not give the DWP ideas….

Missing from desk’: AI webcam raises remote surveillance concerns

The Guardian reports.

System developed by French firm Teleperformance monitors home workers for ‘breaches’

For anyone concerned that an era of home working could also become one of remote surveillance, the training video for Teleperformance’s in-house webcam security system, called TP Observer, is the stuff of bad dreams.

Explained by “Anna”, a desk-sitting avatar complete with an artificial voice, the video introduces TP Observer as “a risk-mitigation tool that monitors and tracks real time employee behaviour, and detects any violations to pre-set business rules”.

Anna explains that this means home workers will have an AI-enabled webcam added to their computers that recognises their face, tags their location and scans for “breaches” of rules at random points during a shift.

Now the libraries are going to open again, I recommend this book. It’s a bit long, wordy, wildly generalising and breathless, but full of facts and ideas.

Book Review: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff.

Unlike industrial capitalism, which profits from exploiting natural resources and labour, surveillance capitalism profits from the capture, rendering and analysis of behavioural data through ‘instrumentarian’ methods that are designed to cultivate ‘radical indifference […] a form of observation without witness’ (379). The surveillance capitalists found an untapped reservoir of information that their services were collecting for internal analytics and programming, and they saw an opportunity: they could sell that ‘data exhaust’ to advertisers. For them, the humans attached to that data are just accessories.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2021 at 9:25 am

Call to raise Benefits to cope with Mental Health Crisis.

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Proper Benefits a Key to a Fairier Future.

People often talk of their worries about money, and none of more than those on benefits. It is less common to speak about their mental health, and the issues about plain and simple anxiety. It is one of those that governments do not admit but systems like Universal Credit and designed to create anxious claimants desperate to get out of a system that is designed to make them complete piles of job application, spend their time in ‘job search’, and constantly aware that they do not receive enough money to live properly on. Not to mention that many consider that they are being treated as refuse.

 

Raise benefits to curb UK crisis in mental health, expert urges

The welfare system is damaging the health of the poor and needs to be overhauled in the wake of the Covid pandemic, Britain’s leading expert on health inequalities has warned.

Sir Michael Marmot said increasing out-of-work benefits and support for low-paid workers as the country emerged from the pandemic could have a big impact in curbing a mental health crisis and even save lives.

Marmot, who chaired a seminal government review on health inequality in 2010 and warned last year that life expectancy had stalled for the first time in more than 100 years in England, said in an interview with the Observer that ministers should not “fiddle around the edges”, and instead should drastically reform the “uncaring” system in place.

“During the pandemic, we have seen that poor people got poorer,” he said. “We know that food insecurity went up. The likelihood of being in a shut-down sector increased the lower the income. So you’re either in a sector that was shut down, if you were low income, or you had to go out to work in an unsafe sector, or frontline occupation. Where we were in February 2020 was undesirable – and what happened with a pandemic is it made those inequalities worse.

“I have seen evidence that for some people in receipt of universal credit, there are mental health consequences. It is a brutalising system. Everyone should have at least the minimum income necessary for a healthy life. That means, ideally, all people of working age should be in work. That’s the desirable state.

“And in work, they should be paid a living wage. If they can’t work, for whatever reason, then the welfare system should be sufficiently generous for their health not to be damaged by that experience. We know what needs to be done. Let’s do it.”

This of course hardly helps people’s anxiety:

 

EXCLUSIVE Southampton MP Royston Smith charge the taxpayer £1 for his car parking during a visit to a food bank in November last year.

Still someone’s happy today:

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2021 at 3:54 pm

Freeze on Local Housing Allowance to Hit Low-waged and Claimants.

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Housing Benefit or Local Housing Allowance (LHA) in UK | DNS Accountants

Tories Ready to Throw Us Out of our Gaffs.

This really struck me yesterday.

Coming originally from London, and having many friends there, people talk all the time about the sky-high rents from the thieves, sorry, landlords. Someone I know spends nearly half her salary on funding the lifestyle of these idlers. Hell knows how you can get by if you’re on Universal Credit or Legacy Benefits.

When I had a gaff down Kentish Town in the 1970s we paid about a quarter of our wages in rent.

 

Benefits freeze will leave tenants across Britain facing rent arrears of £1,000

Guardian.

Low-income tenants across much of Britain will be left hundreds of pounds worse off from next month due to the government quietly imposing a real-terms cut in housing benefit, the Observer can reveal.

From April, the government is freezing the amount of local housing allowance (LHA), meaning tenants will receive the same amount of money as last financial year, even where rents have gone up. LHA is paid to tenants in privately rented homes, including those on universal credit.

In some parts of the country, tenants are set to lose more than £1,000 a year as a result of a combination of rising rents and the new benefit freeze, Observer analysis of government data shows. Those tenants affected will have to find the money from elsewhere, or else face growing rent arrears.

There is already evidence of an arrears crisis, with Citizens Advice estimating that half a million private tenants are behind on rent. The ban on most evictions, imposed at the start of the pandemic, was extended last week to the end of May.

“The freeze to LHA rates is yet another example of the government abandoning tenants – this will force many out of the private sector and on to the streets, and will force many more to choose between feeding their families and paying their rent,” said Nick Ballard, head organiser of tenants’ union Acorn.

Now this is the Tories’ responsibility, and specifically fat boy Eric Pickles who when not eating babies, introduced the ‘local’ Housing Allowance,  but I can’t help remembering this:

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 15, 2021 at 11:10 am

Kickstart Employment Scheme fails to get off the ground.

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“Fewer than 5,000 young people have started job placements on a £2bn Covid scheme that launched six months ago.”

There do seem to be people on Universal Credit assigned to ‘schemes’ to get them back into employment, or at least somebody I know told me in town this morning that he’d  had been put on one. How they can take place at the moment is hard to see.

 

But as Superted says, this is also the case

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey is aiming to create 250,000 jobs through the scheme – but in six months, fewer than 5,000 people have started their placements.

Fewer than 5,000 young people have started job placements on a £2bn Covid scheme that launched six months ago.

Cabinet minister Therese Coffey updated MPs today after admitting there had been a “backlog” in the flagship Kickstart scheme – which she intends to create “250,000 jobs”.

The Work and Pensions Secretary boasted there were now “almost 150,000 roles approved”, of which 30,000 vacancies were “live right now”.

But she told MPs the number of actual roles started was “over 4,000” – up from 1,868 in mid-January. It’s understood the figure is between 4,000 and 5,000.

Ms Coffey hailed a 75% jump in firms’ applications to host a young person after a minimum number of places was axed.

Not that you would read this on her Twitter feed.

 

Or here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 9, 2021 at 5:20 pm

Budget, Cut to Benefit Postponed for Six Months.

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Response from Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The Government’s decision to cut Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit in six months – just as the furlough scheme ends and unemployment peaks – will pull 500,000 people including 200,000 children into poverty as we head into winter….”

 

 

The £20 weekly uplift to universal credit payments will continue for a further six months, the chancellor has announced.

Rishi Sunak said in his Budget speech that the benefit uplift introduced last April to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on household finances, which was due to end on 31 March, will remain in place until September.

He said working tax credit claimants would receive equivalent support over the next six months through a one-off payment of £500, due to the way that system works operationally.

The number of people claiming universal credit in the UK has doubled since the start of the pandemic, surging from 3 million in March 2020 to 6 million at the start of this year.

Around 446 people were still making new claims every hour in the first week of 2021, and a total of 4.5 million people have made a claim for the benefit since the start of the public health crisis.

Independent.

 

 

On Radio Four’s News at One today they gave a decent section on the effects that the eventual cut to Universal Credit will have on people.

Budget 2021: Sunak announces extension to universal credit £20 top up

The chancellor has announced that the £20 a week increase in universal credit payments will be extended for another six months.

Rishi Sunak said the measure, which is worth £1,000 a year, would help those hit hardest by coronavirus.

But campaigners said the top up, introduced at the start of the pandemic, should be permanent.

Labour said the move does nothing to address insecurity and inequality.

Universal credit is claimed by more than 5.5 million households across the UK.

The payment was increased by £20 a week in April 2020 as part of the Chancellor’s early economic response to the pandemic.

This issue remains:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 4, 2021 at 4:22 pm

Universal Credit “Has not Worked” – Labour.

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While we are waiting for the Budget this week…

 

No clear answer yet:

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds says Universal Credit system needs radical reform but for now the £20 uplift must be retained during the pandemic

Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds has declared that Universal Credit “simply has not worked” and should be scrapped.

The call from Labour’s finance chief comes as claimants wait to hear if a coronavirus top-up on the benefit – £1,040 a year, equivalent to £80 a month or £20 a week – will be extended into the next financial year

Ms Dodds said the temporary rise for six million Brits must be “maintained during the pandemic” but in the long term, the welfare scheme must be replaced.

She spoke about Universal Credit on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, where she said: “In the near term what we’ve got to do is be clear to families that in the middle of a pandemic, they should not be seeing £20 less a week coming in when they’re struggling.

“In the longer term, what we really need to see is radical reform, scrapping that Universal Credit system because it simply has not worked for families.”

 

Today:

 

 

 

h

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2021 at 10:28 am

Calls for new Beveridge Report: building a decent welfare system

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This was on Channel Four last night:

These serious calls have been made in the last few days.

What British politicians won’t admit – we need to transform the welfare state

A conversation about a fundamentally different welfare state ought to fall two ways: between immediate answers to the cruelties of our current systems, and longer-term ideas about how to completely reinvent it. The former might include an end to universal credit’s built-in five-week wait, the abolition of the cruel and arbitrary benefit cap, and no more sanctioning. It should extend to a recalibration of housing benefit so that people – including key workers – can afford to live in even high-cost areas, a watershed rise in our miserable rates of statutory sick pay, and the upgrading of the minimum wage and national living wage to the so-called real living wage (£9.50 across the UK and £10.85 in London), with an ongoing link to inflation.

 

Louise Casey: ‘Are we ever going to create a Britain for everyone?’

 

The former homelessness tsar thinks we need big, radical reform to tackle hunger, rough sleeping and poverty. And she has a plan

“We need to move into Royal Commission territory,” she says. “A new Beveridge Report [drafted by the economist William Beveridge in 1942, this was the document that led to the founding of the welfare state]. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.” Crikey. Is this a job she would like to take on herself? I look at her steadily, wondering if she’s going to indulge in a bout of it’s-not-for-me-to-say. But, no. She doesn’t much go in for let’s pretend. “Yes, I’d love to be part of that,” she says. “Government can, if it wants to, do something on a different scale now. The nation has been torn apart, and there’s no point being defensive about that. We’ve got to gift each other some proper space to think. We’ve got to work out how not to leave the badly wounded behind.”

….

We can get there quite quickly,” she says. “By March, there will be 6 million people on universal credit [in October, there were 5.7m]. Almost 4 million people are furloughed, and those still working are on less income [in a survey by the Resolution Foundation, 26% of adults reported suppressed wages during the first lockdown]. Unemployment has doubled [it stood at 1.72 million in November 2020], and will keep rising. Two million people are still on legacy benefits – which means they didn’t get the £20 uplift that came with universal credit. Then you add in the 5 million people who are in debt [42% of adults report using at least one form of borrowing to cover everyday living costs].

….

Pre-pandemic, there were 280,000 homeless in England and Wales. Earlier this month, the government announced that the ban on bailiff-enforced evictions, which protects private renters, would be extended to the end of March. But it will end eventually. “At which point, family homelessness will rise,” says Casey. “If 25% of your population is affected, then you can’t just tweak old policies, working out the least expensive, least challenging thing that can be done. You need big new policies.”

Most of us will have views on this!

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2021 at 10:03 am

Warning about the impact of cuts to Universal Credit.

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The National Government of 1931 cut benefits of insured workers by ten per cent.

I mention this because it was something that people, including my Glaswegian father,  remembered for years afterwards, Glasgow was of course on the places heavily affected by mass unemployment during the depression.

The Covid pandemic has had enormous economic effects as experts in the bleeding obvious say.

Specifically,

The number of people being made redundant in the UK is rising at the fastest pace on record as the second wave of Covid-19 and tougher lockdown measures put increasing pressure on businesses and workers.

Unemployment has hit the highest level for four years, while millions more workers have been placed on furlough. Although the jobs crisis has not been as bad as feared earlier in the pandemic, the government’s independent economics forecaster – the Office for Budget Responsibility – expects the jobless rate to more than double from pre-pandemic levels to 7.5% this summer after furlough ends, representing more than 2.6 million people out of work.

The UK’s Covid-19 unemployment crisis in six charts

This is from the East Anglian Daily Times, yesterday.

120% increase in Universal Credit claimants

The number of claimants for Universal Credit in Babergh and Mid Suffolk has increased by 120% amid the fallout from coronavirus – with a tsunami of extra demand expected.

Citizens Advice figures presented to Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils’ joint scrutiny committee on Monday revealed that Universal Credit claimants had gone up by 119% in Babergh and 122% in Mid Suffolk compared to December 2019.

Today the story about the looming cut to Universal Credit continues,

 

New Fabian Society research finds that over 700,000 people in working or disabled households are to be pulled into poverty by universal credit cuts. 

The report shows how the cut to universal credit will reduce the living standards of households in many different circumstances:

  • Households with a disabled adult will be hit by 57 per cent of the cuts (£3.7bn per year)
  • Families with children will be hit by half the cuts (£3.2bn per year)
  • Households where someone is a carer will be hit by 12 per cent (£700m per year).

Only 13% of the savings will come from non-working, non-disabled households.

 

New research has found that 95% of those who will be pushed into poverty by the cut to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit planned by Rishi Sunak this year are in working or disabled households.

Following the publication of the Fabian Society report Who Loses? today, supported by the Standard Life Foundation, the Labour affiliate has said the £20-per-week reduction to the benefit “raises fundamental questions of justice”.

Analysis found that 87% of the cut, £5.5bn, will fall on working and disabled households, while half, £3.2bn, will hit homes where someone is in work. Households with someone in employment will make up 65% of all those pulled into poverty.

Commenting on the findings of the report, Andrew Harrop warned that scrapping the £20-per-week uplift, introduced to help people cope with the pandemic last year, will “overwhelmingly punish working families and disabled people”.

The Fabian Society general secretary added: “The Chancellor’s planned cut will strip £1,000 per year from six million families and plunge three quarters of a million people into poverty.

“Some politicians like to pretend that social security is just for the work-shy. But the reality is that millions of working households need benefits and tax credits to make ends meet, as do disabled people who are out of work through no fault of their own.

“If ministers are considering a few months’ temporary extension to the Universal Credit uplift, that just isn’t good enough. The 2020 benefit increase must be placed on a permanent footing.”

The Chancellor introduced the increase last March. It is not available to those on legacy benefits: child tax credit; housing benefit; income-related employment and support allowance; income-based jobseeker’s allowance; income support.

It took the standard rate for a single claimant on Universal Credit for those over 25 from £317.82 to £409.89 a month. The extra support, worth over £1,000 annually to each household, is currently set to be withdrawn in April.

The paper published today shows that people who are not expected to be job hunting – those already in work or disabled – will be the main long-term victims of Sunak’s insistence on scrapping the uplift.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 17, 2021 at 10:59 am