Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Charities Providing Work and Health Programme Face Gag on Criticising Esther McVey.

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Image result for Esther mcVey cartoon

Esther McVey on a Good Day.

Proof that disreputable Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has a thin skin  comes today from The Disability News Service.

 

Disability charities that sign up to help deliver the government’s new Work and Health Programme must promise to “pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, official documents suggest.

The charities, and other organisations, must also promise never to do anything that harms the public’s confidence in McVey (pictured) or her Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Disability charities like RNIB, the Royal Association for Deaf People and Turning Point have agreed to act as key providers of services under the Work and Health Programme – which focuses on supporting disabled people and other disadvantaged groups into work – and so appear to be caught by the clause in the contract.

At least one of them – RNIB – has also signed contracts with one of the five main WHP contractors that contain a similar clause, which explicitly states that the charity must not “attract adverse publicity” to DWP and McVey.

The £398 million, seven-year Work and Health Programme is replacing the Work Programme and the specialist Work Choice disability employment scheme across England and Wales, with contractors paid mostly by results.

All the disability charities that have so far been contacted by Disability News Service (DNS) insist that the clause – which DWP says it has been using in such contracts since 2015 – will have no impact on their willingness to criticise DWP and work and pensions secretary Esther McVey or campaign on disability employment or benefits issues.

But the existence of the clause, and the first details to emerge of some of the charities that have agreed to work for DWP – which has been repeatedly attacked by disabled activists and academics for harassing and persecuting disabled people, and relying on a discriminatory benefit sanctions regime to try to force them into work – will raise questions about their ability and willingness to do so.

How does this work?

The contracts signed by the five organisations – the disability charity Shaw Trust, the disability employment company Remploy (now mostly owned by the discredited US company Maximus), Pluss, Reed in Partnership and Ingeus UK – all include a clause on “publicity, media and official enquiries”.

Part of that clause states that the contractor “shall pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of DWP and ensure it does nothing to bring it “into disrepute, damages the reputation of the Contracting Body or harms the confidence of the public in the Contracting Body”.

The contract defines the “Contracting Body” as the work and pensions secretary, a position currently occupied by the much-criticised Esther McVey (see separate story).

And it warns that these promises apply whether or not the damaging actions relate to the Work and Health Programme, and it says they also apply to any of the contractor’s “Affiliates”.

This suggests that none of the organisations involved in providing services under the programme – and particularly those carrying out key elements of the contracts – will ever be allowed to criticise, or damage the reputation of, DWP or McVey during the course of the contract in connection with any area of the department’s work.

There is still considerable confusion over exactly how many disability charities will be paid to work for the five main contractors.

More details follow in the article including this:

The contractual documents include the names of scores of organisations, including charities, local authorities, education providers and companies.

But some of the disability charities named – including Mencap and the National Autistic Society – made it clear this week that they have not agreed to carry out services under the Work and Health Programme, despite being named as “stakeholders” in the documents.

Other disability charities, though, have confirmed that they will be providing services under the WHP.

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Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2018 at 10:24 am

McVey calls ‘rape clause’ an ‘opportunity’ for victims.

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Image result for sack esther mcvey

 

It is the opinion of many people, including this Blog, that Esther McVey is unsuited for the post of Work and Pensions Secretary.

That is putting things mildly.

Nicola Sturgeon blasts ‘out of touch’ Esther McVey over Tory rape clause claims.

Speaking after her speech at the STUC annual congress, Nicola Sturgeon said: “To me that just illustrates how out of touch Esther McVey and the Tory government are on these really sensitive issues of social security policy.

“I think most people think the rape clause is just abhorrent – the very notion of asking a woman or expecting a woman to prove she has been raped in order to access benefits for her children, no woman should even have to contemplate that, so to try to justify that by saying that it offers some benefits, I think, adds insult to injury.”

Labour said McVey’s presentation of the rape clause was “skin crawling”, the Lib Dems said it was “deluded” and the Greens said she tried to “defend the indefensible”.

As the latest scandal at her behaviour broke out she has made no public apology, no doubt finding more time for such pressing issues as this:

This is the scandal:

McVey calls ‘rape clause’ an ‘opportunity’ for victims.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has been criticised for describing the so-called “rape clause” as an opportunity for victims to get help.

The minister was giving evidence to the social security committee at Holyrood.

She told MSPs that sexual assault victims having to give DWP staff details of their ordeal was offering “potentially double support”.

The session was disrupted twice by heckling from members of the public.

Ms McVey was invited to the hearing to discuss the universal credit policy and the controversial “rape clause” changes to child tax credits.

Reforms of the welfare system, which came into force last April, mean child tax credits are now capped at two children.

A clause in the new rules means mothers who have a third child as a result of rape can be exempted – but would have to provide evidence to do so.

There has been a political row over the policy, which Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called “disgusting”.

Tory welfare chief Esther McVey heckled in furious scenes after claiming rape clause ‘supports’ women

One audience member shouted “you can’t get into work if you’re dead” as the Work and Pensions Secretary was grilled in the Scottish Parliament

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2018 at 10:11 am

New Benefits Sanctions Inquiry.

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With Universal Credit the Sanctions Regime will apply to people in work getting the benefits which they used to have as of right as Tax Credits

Universal Credit Sanctions

The rules about sanctions under Universal Credit mean that there will be more people who will be sanctioned than the previous benefits system. In fact evidence is suggesting that the rate of sanctions under Universal Credit is three times that of JSA. It is possible to be sanctioned even if you are in paid work.

It should also be noted that Hardship Payments are paid as loans and will have to be repaid at the end of the sanction.

The rules for the level of Universal Credit sanctions are based on the rules for JSA and ESA sanctions. Anyone who receives Universal Credit can be sanctioned and the level of the sanction depends upon the conditionality group that you are placed in. More information about the conditionality groups can be found in the article Your Responsibilities if you get Universal Credit

The Work and Pensions Committee launches an inquiry into benefit sanctions: how they operate, recent developments, and what the evidence is that they work – either to deter non-compliant behaviour or to help achieve the policy objectives of getting people off benefits and into work.

Absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions

Sanctions, which take the form of docking a portion of benefit payments for a set period of time, can be imposed for breaching benefit conditions like attending a work placement, or for being minutes late for a Job Centre appointment.

This has not received the attention it deserves.

If I were the Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions I would be shouting about the fact that people in work are now going to be affected.

Benefit sanctions inquiry launched

Media reports of the Committee’s last inquiry into benefit sanctions in 2015 Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review, described “copious evidence of claimants being docked hundreds of pounds and pitched into financial crisis for often absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions, or for administrative errors beyond their control.”

There have also been serial reports in the media of extreme instances of the use and effects of sanctions – people hospitalised for life threatening conditions or premature labour being sanctioned for weeks or months for consequently missing a benefits appointment, or being unable to afford the transport to a distant job placement and being sanctioned for failing to attend it – and speculation over the degree of discretion Job Centre Plus staff have in these instances.

Recent policy developments

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

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

In 2016 the NAO released a report on the subject; and in February 2017 the Public Accounts Committee published its report “Benefit sanctions“. The Government accepted the recommendations of that PAC report and described progress on implementation in the January 2018 Treasury Minutes Progress Report:

  • The Government initially agreed to undertake a trial of warnings for a first sanctionable offence. This recommendation has not been implemented.
  • The Government agreed to monitor variation in sanction referrals and to assess the reasons for such variation. The Department’s research on variation is due to be completed in March.
  • The Government agreed to monitor the use and take-up of protections for vulnerable groups. The Department is “still considering the best way to qualitatively assess the use and effectiveness of protections for vulnerable claimants”.
  • The Government agreed to improve data systems, including on linking information e.g. earnings and sanctions
  • The Government initially agreed to work with the rest of Government to estimate the impacts of sanctions on claimants and their wider costs to government. This recommendation has not been implemented.

Send us your views

The Committee invites evidence on any or all of the following questions, from benefit recipients with experience of the system, or experts in the field:

  1. To what extent is the current sanctions regime achieving its policy objectives?
  2. Is the current evidence base adequate and if not, what further information, data and research are required?
  3. What improvements to sanctions policy could be made to achieve its objectives better?
  4. Could a challenge period and/or a system of warnings for a first sanctionable offence be beneficial? If so, how should they be implemented?
  5. Are levels of discretion afforded to jobcentre staff appropriate?
  6. Are adequate protections in place for vulnerable claimants?
  7. What effects does sanctions policy have on other aspects of the benefits system and public services more widely? Are consequential policy changes required?
  8. To what extent have the recommendations of the Oakley review of Jobseekers’ Allowance sanctions improved the sanctions regime? Are there recommendations that have not been implemented that should be?

The deadline for written submissions is 25 May 2018.

Sanctions need to be proportional and fair

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

“Sanctions are an important part of any benefits system but they need to be applied proportionately and fairly and to account for individual circumstances.

I’ve seen deeply troubling cases in my constituency that suggest these objectives are not always being achieved. We will be reviewing the evidence to see if sanctions policy is working properly and if not, we will recommend improvements.”

 

Scope of the inquiry

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

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

Terms of reference: Benefit sanctions

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Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2018 at 9:29 am

Universal Credit Misery Comes to Suffolk.

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Universal Credit Full Service is expected to be introduced at Ipswich Jobcentre on the 25th of April 2018.

Already people are talking about what this will mean for them.

One group seriously affected are the self-employed and others reliant on tax credits.

Friends who work for a number of jobs over the year are particularly worried as they reckon they will lose up to a couple of thousand pounds annually.

They have been good girls and boys, getting into the “gig economy” (that is, the only employment on offer for many),  doing jobs like taxi driving,  a host of other things which are now down by the ‘self-employed’ , short-term posts for particularly events.

Now they face losing cash in a big way.

Not to mention the way it will bear down on them in other ways as pictured above.

There are plenty of reports on how this will attack them in the pocket.

The TUC goes into some detail.

The complexity and hardship with which Universal Credit (UC) threatens to engulf self-employed workers is one of the underreported stories of the design of UC.

In UC, they will face in-work benefit cuts if they do not meet the ‘Minimum Income Floor’ (MIF), which requires them to earn the equivalent of 35 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage. There is no such requirement for employees.  In addition, the monthly income assessments in UC are expected to be problematic for the self-employed, as they are more likely to have unpredictable and fluctuating earnings.

The new self-employed

Self-employment has grown significantly since the recession. There are now almost an extra million self-employed workers, increasing the self–employed workforce to just under five million and 15 per cent of the total workforce.  Part time self-employment has seen the biggest expansion, rising by 55 per cent to reach around 1.5 million people.

Earnings data for the self-employed indicate that they are more likely to be on lower earnings compared to employees. The Family Resources Survey shows that median earnings for the self-employed are around 60 per cent of those of employees. The Social Market Foundation (SMF) estimates that in 2016 there were 1.7 million self-employed workers paid below the National Living Wage. This group accounts for 45 per cent of the self-employed in the UK.

The SMF also estimates that around a fifth (19 per cent) of families with an individual whose main job is self-employment are claiming in-work benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit that will be replaced by Universal Credit.

This makes the results clear.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT WILL BE A DISASTER FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED. WHO IS LISTENING?

As the table below shows, two people can earn the same amount over the course of the year yet end up with very different UC payments because one has lumpier income patterns than the other. The MIF may also be triggered when claimants have a large expense in one month, such as an investment in tools or a hefty energy bill.

And there is this:

40,000 Universal Credit claimants will see 40% of their benefits clawed back. Mirror. 8th of April.

As the Department of Work and Pensions says it has a ‘duty’ to recover outstanding overpayments, Labour claims the move will force some into debt

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants are having 40% of their benefits deducted to claw back outstanding cash owed.

Labour MP Ruth George said the move “will see more people with no option but to go into debt”.

The Department for Work and Pensions can directly collect debts from Universal Credit including for previous benefit and tax credits overpayments.

Remember!

Help is at hand from Ipswich Citizens Advice as Universal Credit roll out continues

Ipswich Citizens Advice is encouraging people to turn to them for help if they have questions about Universal Credit and how it affects them, as new government figures reveal 50 people across Ipswich are now on the benefit and with all single, non-home owning people claiming an out of work benefit being moved on to this benefit, the numbers will grow exponentially.

Since its introduction in Ipswich in November 2015, Ipswich Citizens Advice has helped people with 17 issues relating to Universal Credit. This represents almost a third of claimants.

Most enquiries to Ipswich Citizens Advice are about who is eligible for the benefit and requests for help with the application process. ‘We are keen to help people through this new benefits roadmap and particularly to help them understand the major changes that claiming this benefit will mean for them in terms of payment periods and the necessary budgeting and money management that will be needed to avoid debts building up or threatening tenancies,’ says Nelleke van Helfteren, Deputy Manager at Ipswich Citizens Advice.

Data released by the Department for Work and Pensions on 17 February shows that nearly 200,000 people are now on Universal Credit.

Universal Credit rolls six working-age benefits into one single monthly payment, supporting people who are on a low income or out of work. It is being introduced in stages across the country, in the first instance to single people who are making new  claims. It will eventually be rolled out to couples, families and people who are sick or disabled.

As new Universal Credit figures are released, Ipswich Citizens Advice is sharing its five key things you need to know about Universal Credit:

  1. Universal Credit is a new benefit for people in and out of work, which will eventually merge six benefits into one: Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. Currently you can still apply for ESA separately from Universal Credit.
  2. Universal Credit does not include Council Tax Support – you will still need to apply for this locally.
  3. You apply for Universal Credit via a single application; you’re usually expected to do this online, but you can apply over the phone or in person if you need to.
  4. Universal Credit payments are made on a monthly basis, rather than weekly or fortnightly like previous benefit.
  5. You can ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit to help you get by while you’re waiting for your first payment. This is called a ‘short term advance’.

Just to help the thieving Tories who run Suffolk County Council have cut CAB funding.

Citizens Advice charities are facing a £20,000 funding cut from Suffolk County Council for 2018-19 – an average of just over £2,000 for each of the nine charities in Suffolk.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 11, 2018 at 10:20 am

Margaret Greenwood, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions: Speaking out on Universal Credit.

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Margaret Greenwood Defeats Esther McVey (General Election. 2015)

In  March 2018 Greenwood began acting as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after Debbie Abrahams temporarily stepped aside.

In a very nice touch, “Greenwood will be shadowing Esther McVey, the previous MP for Wirral West

Last year as Shadow for Employment Greenwood showed she grasped the depths of the problems Universal Credit was causing,

Margaret Greenwood MP, Shadow Employment and Inequalities Minister, has given a cautious welcome to changes to Universal Credit announced in the Budget today, but warned that they go nothing like far enough to help families on low income struggling to pay bills, with inflation overall at nearly 3% and food prices rising at the highest rate for 4 years.

Margaret Greenwood MP said:

“Just a few weeks ago, the government was defeated in the House of Commons over their plans for Universal Credit.

“After strong pressure by Labour and a long list of voluntary organisations, it’s welcome that the government is at last listening to the widespread concern about the problems with Universal Credit.

“However, the changes announced today don’t go anything like far enough to fix it and they will not even start until the New Year, leaving tens of thousands of families with children facing a bleak Christmas.

“Food prices are rising at their highest rate for 4 years and the Trussell Trust recently reported that foodbanks in areas where the full service of UC has been rolled out have seen a 30% increase in requests for help in the first six months compared to last year.

“7 million households are expected to be claiming Universal Credit by 2022.

“The Chancellor failed again to reverse cuts to work incentives in Universal Credit which were meant to ensure that work always pays as people enter employment.

“The full service of Universal Credit is being introduced in Wirral this month and I will be keeping up the pressure on the government to try to ensure that people are not pushed into poverty by a benefit supposed to prevent it.”

23 Nov 2017

At the end of December she said,

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow minister for employment, said: “Universal credit is causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces. This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll out of universal credit so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Fri 29 Dec 2017  Councils forced to fund emergency help for universal credit claimants

And (Morning Star)

COUNCILS are having to use their own cash to fix the damage caused by the introduction of universal credit (UC), Labour’s shadow employment minister Margaret Greenwood charged yesterday.

She said that local authorities are diverting funds to plug gaps in the government’s flagship benefit reform scheme.

Measures taken by councils include providing funds for tenants in rent arrears, hiring extra staff, as well as working with foodbanks and Citizens Advice to “offset the impact” of UC, according to responses to Freedom of Information requests submitted by the party.

Ms Greenwood says in a statement published today: “UC has been causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces.

“It’s clear councils are committing their own valuable resources from already stretched budgets to offset the impact of UC and to prepare for the damage its roll-out could cause.

“This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll-out of UC so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Some authorities are having to spend sums over and above the usual discretionary housing payments provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), according to Ms Greenwood.

The London borough of Tower Hamlets has set aside £5 million over three years to help those affected by UC.

Gateshead Housing Company, which manages Gateshead Council’s housing stock, is planning to spend an estimated £90,000 in 2017/18 and £270,000 in 2018/19 on extra staff to support UC claimants and help prevent rent arrears, Labour said.

And Newcastle City Council is spending nearly £400,000 of its own cash to support UC claimants, with non-collection of rent as a result of the new scheme, in which all benefit payments are rolled into one lump sum, is more than £1.2 million from among its 27,000 tenants.

Claimants who fall under the new scheme now receive housing benefit in their bank accounts rather than the amount being paid directly to landlords as previously.

A DWP spokesman said: “Councils have been providing welfare advice and housing payment top-ups as standard since long before the introduction of universal credit.

“Universal credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes.

“It provides additional tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.

“The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money, but advances are available for anyone who needs extra help and arrangements can be made to pay rent direct to landlords if needed.”

So far we have this.

But we hope that Greenwood keeps up her work and goes for the jugular on Universal Credit.

Discretionary Welfare Payments being “Hacked Away” by Tory Attack on the Most Vulnerable.

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Image result for esther mcvey

Why Not Forget Benefit  Troubles During This Enticing Evening? 

The history of the discretionary social fund is one of those unglamourous topics few tackle unless they have to.

But essentially it replaced a system in which people in dire need – on benefits – could get money for emergencies, and essentials like bedding or clothing when they had no resources.

It is the ultimate safety net against absolute destitution.

In 2012 the system that was set up abolished the  “discretionary social fund”, already tilting towards ‘loans’ rather than grants.

This is the skinflint replacement.

The Welfare Reform Act 2012 provides for the abolition of the discretionary social fund – ie, crisis loans, community care grants and budgeting loans.1 Crisis loans and community care grants are abolished from 1 April 2013. No applications can be made after that date but applications made before 1 April must be determined and can result in a payment after 1 April.2 Budgeting loans can still be applied for by claimants in receipt of income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance and income-related employment and support allowance until they are transferred onto universal credit (UC). Budgeting loans will also remain available to pension credit claimants for the time being.3 Claimants in receipt of UC will be eligible to apply for a ‘budgeting advance’ (see below).

In essence, there will be two main sources of provision in place of the social fund:

  • The first is ‘payments on account of benefit’ from the DWP. These are ‘short-term advances’ (loans) to benefit claimants in financial need waiting for an initial payment or an increase in their entitlement. Payments on account in the form of ‘budgeting advances’ will also be available to claimants in receipt of universal credit as a replacement for SF budgeting loans.
  • The second is local welfare provision provided by LAs and the devolved administrations.

Child Poverty Action Group.

This already tight-fisted system – one can imagine what “local provision” is like under professional haters of the poor, Tory local government – is now under threat.

It is no coincidence that Frank Field, a man, who for all his faults, has kept in touch with own past in the Child Poverty Action Group (Before his election in 1979 he ran the Child Poverty Action Group, and was director of the UK’s Low Pay Unit) takes a keen interest.

DISCRETIONARY WELFARE BEING ‘HACKED AWAY’ AS £300 MILLION AXED FROM MAJOR BENEFIT FUNDS.

Care Appointments.

Discretionary welfare payments are being “hacked away”, a senior MP has claimed, after new figures showed more than £300 million has been axed from two major benefits funds.

Fresh analysis shows the scale of cutbacks to the discretionary social fund and flexible support fund, which can be awarded to poor claimants for a wide range of issues.

Ministers have confirmed that £419.5 million will be made available through the discretionary social fund next year, compared to £679.7 million given out in 2010/11.

Money awarded through the flexible support fund, meanwhile, has fallen from £115 million in 2012/13 to £51 million in 2016/17.

The Department for Work and Pensions says it spends around £90 billion on working age welfare and the changes were part of wider welfare reform “which is restoring fairness to the system”.

Labour MP Frank Field, a former welfare minister and now chairman of the Work and Pensions select committee, said: “Once, we had a universal safety net protecting everybody from destitution.

“Then we moved to discretionary payments which might prevent destitution. Now, that even more crucial safety net is being hacked away.”

The discretionary social fund is made up of interest-free loans.

Budgeting loans are available to claimants of certain benefits to help them cope with the purchase of major items or services, such as paying to get fuel reconnected or replacing a broken freezer.

In real terms, the amount awarded for budgeting loans fell from £495 million in 2010/11 to £411.5 million in 2016/17, according to figures released to Parliament.

Crisis loans, to cover payments associated with serious risks, were also part of the discretionary fund but were abolished in 2013.

The discretionary social fund has now been devolved to local authorities, which DWP says has allowed greater choice over how money is used to meet the needs of local people.

The flexible support fund is a separate pot of money designed to give Jobcentre advisers greater flexibility to award money to help claimants back into work.

Examples include travel expenses, training courses and clothing for interviews.

Figures uncovered by Labour former shadow cabinet minister Lucy Powell show spending on the fund has fallen every year since 2012/13.

The scheme was given a huge boost in its budget in 2014/15 in order to meet travel and childcare costs to facilitate additional support for claimants.

However, DWP says there was a lack of demand and that year the scheme underspent by £87.3 million against its budget.

“Funding from the flexible support fund can be a lifeline to some people, making the difference between a job and remaining out of work,” said Ms Powell.

“With many people still unemployed, entrenched worklessness in some areas, and higher costs for some groups to get back into the labour market, the fund is an important tool to break the cycle of joblessness and provide extra support to help people get a job and keep it.

“It’s worrying then that the total budget for the fund has more than halved in recent years.

“If ministers really want to shift the dial on unemployment, they’ll ensure that there is adequate support for all those who need it.”

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We’re committed to providing support for people who need it and spend around £90 billion a year on working-age welfare, an amount that will continue to rise.

“Changes to discretionary benefits are part of our wider welfare reform which is restoring fairness to the system, supporting those who can into work and helping those who can’t.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 4, 2018 at 3:07 pm

As McVey Tells Young People to “take Saturday Jobs” as “Bureaucratic and Cumbersome” Benefits System is Condemned Again

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Image result for mcvey esther

Esther McVey and some Saturday Shoes.

Teenagers should take Saturday jobs to prepare for future employment, says work and pensions secretary Esther McVey

‘It’s about people understanding what a boss wants and what you want out of a job.

Ms McVey told The Daily Telegraph: “Let’s not put ourselves down, we’ve got a very hard working nation, we’ve now got record numbers of people in employment and nine out of 10 are UK nationals doing those jobs, that has increased significantly.

“But what we’ve got to make sure we do for business leaders is to say we’ve got to support you, we’ve got to make sure we’ve got the right people you want to employ going into your business.

“What you’ve seen from the 1980s, particularly in this country, is far fewer people doing Saturday jobs and doing jobs after school.

“It’s about people understanding what a boss wants and what you want out of a job and I think we’ve come a long way in supporting people in that and that’s why you’ve seen more people getting employed and more British people getting employment.”

Ms McVey indicated the means-testing of universal pensioner benefits is still on agenda, according to the newspaper.

Ms McVey said she worked in her family’s business and a bistro when she was still in education.

“From 2000 to 2006, McVey was a director of her family’s Liverpool-based construction business J. G. McVey & Co. (run by her father)[6] which specialised in demolition and site clearance,[7] land reclamation and regeneration. In 2003, the firm received two immediate prohibition safety notices with which the company complied.”

Meanwhile….(as anybody knows, this,

comes up every time you use the computers here –  Ipswich Library could tell a few tales…)

Britain’s ‘bureaucratic and cumbersome benefits system helps nobody’

Welfare Weekly.

MS nurses say they are under increasing pressure to help their patients navigate the benefits system.

MS nurses have hit out at Britain’s “bureaucratic and cumbersome benefits system”, as they increasingly find themselves having to support MS sufferers in their benefits claims.

A survey of more than 100 Multiple Sclerosis nurses reveals they are under extreme pressure to help their patients navigate the social security system, with 90% saying they have provided supporting evidence for benefits applications.

The findings also show that 58% worked outside of working hours to provide this evidence, 75% said providing evidence increased their workload either a moderate amount or a lot, and 83% said their patients asked for help with filling in benefits applications.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 31, 2018 at 11:03 am

DWP Lies about Universal Credit (Part 591) : Official.

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Image result for universal credit lies

Spot the lies!

Google “DWP and Lies” and the list you get is a long one.

Type in Universal Credit…

In 2017 there is:

Civil Service World.

The Department for Work and Pensions has been accused of inaccurately using research from the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies to justify the projected employment boost from the flagship Universal Credit benefit reform.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee today released emails from IFS director Paul Johnson stating that the think-tank could not support the DWP’s assessment that Universal Credit, which will merge six benefit payments into one, would result in 250,000 more people in employment.

However, the DWP said the committee’s statements were misleading and  that the committee had not taken up an offer to receive a list of published academic literature which supports the department’s estimates.

Dear Kitty Blogs on the story in the context of long-standing DWP porkies, fake testimonies from fake characters, malarky and skullduggery,  including, “only this month that the UK statistics watchdog censured the DWP for “understating the scale” of its sanctions regime”.

The DWP are being Conservative with the truth, yet again

This is the merry tale of the moment.

DWP’s ‘clumsy and ill-judged attempt to piggyback’ on IFS.

26 March 2018

A central part of the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) case for the benefit of Universal Credit (UC) is their assertion of its effect on employment. In to a request for an estimate of the magnitude of that effect, DWP stated it has “determined” that UC will result in 250,000 more people in employment once it is fully implemented

How the Department arrived at these figures

In a follow up letter to Employment Minister Alok Sharma (PDF PDF 1.38 MB)Opens in a new window the Chair asked a set of specific questions about how the Department had arrived at each of the stated constituent parts of that figure:

  • 150,000 more due to “increased financial incentives to work”
  • 50,000 more due to “increased conditionality”
  • 60,000 due to “simplification of the benefit system”

The Department’s response (PDF PDF 800 KB)Opens in a new window did not answer any of the Chair’s specific questions, although it did supply an account of academic research papers that have informed the Department’s work on UC, and restated the principles underlying those three ostensible benefits of the reform.

DWP concluded by stating: “The approach to our analysis underpinning these estimates was reviewed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.”

Accordingly, the Committee wrote to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) (PDF PDF 141 KB)Opens in a new window asking if, in that review, it had found those three estimates reasonable, and what the margin of statistical error might be on the numbers.

The IFS’ reply (PDF PDF 197 KB)Opens in a new window starts out “clarifying the role we had in reviewing DWP’s approach” in coming up with the numbers:

“Note that at no stage did we review their approach to estimating the impact of increased conditionality or simplification, to which they attribute 50,000 and 60,000 respectively of the overall 250,000 forecast effect on employment”.

The employment impact of Universal Credit is highly uncertain

The IFS goes on: “Neil Couling’s letter to Baroness Hollis on 16 November states that the 250,000 figure is based on the same methodology we reviewed in 2012. For the reasons given above, that can only be true of the element (150,000) which is a result of changes to financial incentives. And we are not in a position to confirm whether and to what extent DWP took on board our comments and implemented our recommended improvements before applying the methodology….”

“The employment impact of UC is highly uncertain. The move to UC involves a number of changes for which it is hard to find comparable precedents (especially UK precedents)” — casting doubt on DWP’s use of academic evidence to substantiate its estimates — “It is not even possible to produce statistical margins of error for estimates of the employment impact, as the nature of the uncertainty is not conducive to standard statistical analysis…”

“Sadly, it will be difficult even after the event to produce convincing estimates of the overall employment impact of UC. The early impact estimates that DWP have published – cited in the Minister’s letter of 12 March – apply only to a small group of claimants who are not affected by UC in the same way as most other claimants […]” and;

“We emphasise that the overall employment impact of UC will conceal very different effects for different groups in the population, with employment rates likely to rise for some and fall for others.”

The last point contradicts what DWP have previously told the Committee when asked about the impact on other groups:

“We remain committed to producing robust comparative analysis of the employment impacts of Universal Credit. As we informed the Committee we are planning to expand the analysis for single cases in the Live Service to couples and families in both services.

This analysis will estimate a labout market impact for these broader claimant groups. In this instance it is misleading to draw a distinction between two services. The underlying policy for both is the same so any comparative analysis will hold true for both systems”.

Lack of evidence

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

“The ongoing lack of evidence to back up the much-vaunted employment impact of Universal Credit was already extremely disappointing. But to have our specific queries about basis of this claim answered with airy, irrelevant and, it appears, plainly inaccurate assertions adds insult to injury.

The IFS’ letter shows that Old Mother Hubbard hasn’t got much in the cupboard, despite the bragging of the Department. This clumsy and ill-judged attempt to piggyback on one of the most trusted, unimpugnable authorities on public policy and finance would be farcical if it was not so deeply worrying.”

In the interests of fairness this is the DWP’s reply,

 DWP spokeswoman told Civil Service World the committee’s claims were “false and misleading”, and highlighted that the IFS review of the 150,000 estimate for the number of people that would move into work found it to be reasonable, adding that the IFS had not questioned the DWP’s claim that simplifying the system and bringing more people into conditionality would have an even greater impact, which the department said represented “mainstream labour market theory”.

She added: “Research already shows that through Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system. And we have said we can supply further information that supports our estimate that 250,000 more people will be in employment once UC is fully rolled out.”

Written by Andrew Coates

March 27, 2018 at 3:02 pm

Work and Health Programme Looms with more ‘Schemes’.

with 44 comments

First Thing to Learn: Never Trust a Dummy’s  Guide to a Work Programme.

Material about this latest scheme has begun appearing in local Job Centres.

The Work and Health Programme helps you find and keep a job if you’re out of work.

It’s voluntary – unless you’ve been out of work and claiming unemployment benefits for 24 months.

There follows this little list of eligibility – which does not mean, of course that you are not going to be “eligibalised” regardless if you’ve been on the dole for more than 24 months.

The Shaw Trust, the people offering this scheme in this region, are in partnership with the ominous looking lot   Realise Futures
Realise Futures, CPA 5, Suffolk.

The various bodies put this little list on their pages.

“The Work and health programme is different from other employment programmes because it recognises that everyone:

  • Is different
  • Has their own set of challenges
  • Has their own individual reasons for being out of work
  • Will have a different path to finding a job

It is not a “one-size” fits all approach.

That is why it works.”

So, the Shaw Trust has a “partner” (that is they cream off DWP money and get others to do the delivery):

8th of March 2018. Realise Futures wins contract to deliver Work and Health Programme in Suffolk”

Who are Realise Futures?  you may well ask.

“Realise Futures, which was spun out of Suffolk County Council as a community interest company a year ago, provides advice, training, skills development and paid employment for people who are disabled or disadvantaged.” (EADT. 2013).

In other words it’s a profit making body for ‘social’ ends, that replaced a public service owned and run by an elected council.

Anybody able to find out how much the Directors make at Realise Futures?

There is this, less than glowing report about conditions for those working there:

I  loved the teaching role, and the development of the learners and watching the achieve their goals was a great experience.

However, as the role was zero hours contract, and paid for only the teaching hours, the weekly teaching was approximately 14 hours, and the paperwork approximately 25 hours, with 14 weeks no teaching, this was not a feasible way to earn a living.

No doubt some people may get something out this programme.

But not everybody want to have to do yet another “scheme”.

By running a wide range of subjects and courses as well as working together with local and voluntary groups, we aim to achieve:

 Healthy lives

 Progression to further learning

 Employability

 Positive social and individual relationships

 Active engagement in the community – including volunteering

 Capacity building in the community

Written by Andrew Coates

March 23, 2018 at 5:23 pm

Food Bank Use Set To Soar with Universal Credit.

with 49 comments

Image result for Food banks supermarkets

Charity Replacing Rights.

Like many people I have mixed feelings about Food Banks.

If I had no money and I really needed to eat I would use them.

But I do not like the idea of charity help replacing welfare rights.

The involvement of supermarkets, like Asda, and the toffs’ shop Waitrose, as the hungry claimants’ new best friends.

Asda, The Trussell Trust and Fareshare launch £20 million partnership to help a million people out of food poverty.

Tesco, Food Collection

The Food Collection is part of our ongoing effort to encourage customers to donate long-life food to charity. The December 2016 collection contributed 3.4 million meals to people in need. Since we ran our first collection in 2012, we have collected over 46 million meals.

 You can’t thinking that the glow of satisfaction donors would be better directed at ending the system which makes people queue up and beg for some grub.
Be that as it may this looks like happening.

Food bank use ‘could rise after universal credit roll-out.

BBC Today.

The full roll out of universal credit could see a significant rise in people needing emergency food supplies in Wales, the Trussell Trust has warned.

Director Tony Graham said food banks in Wales were already preparing for more people needing help as the new benefits system is rolled out.

The new system replaces six benefits including housing benefit, unemployment benefits and tax credits.

The DWP said it will help to improve people’s lives.

But some claimants who are on universal credit claim long delays in receiving benefits or changes to the money they receive has left them in poverty.

Mr Graham said: “We have seen a 30% increase in food bank usage in areas of universal credit roll-out in England, so we would expect similar sorts of averages to happen here in Wales when universal credit is fully rolled out.”

The new system has been fully rolled out in Torfaen and Flintshire, and the rollout has begun in some other Welsh counties including Cardiff.

Wales’ first Trussell Trust food bank was set up at Festival Church in Ebbw Vale 10 years ago this week.

In its first year, it gave out 76 three-day emergency food supplies but the network has since grown to include 37 food banks and 110 distribution centres across Wales.

Last year, 95,190 three-day supplies were given out to families in crisis across Wales.

They summarise:

  • The Trussell Trust says the majority of people need emergency food because of changes or delays to benefit payments, but low wages and rising living costs means many working people also cannot manage
  • All food is donated by churches, supermarkets and local people
  • Increasingly, food banks are receiving donations of other items, including toiletries, washing powder and pet food
  • People in crisis are referred to a food bank by services including charities, social services and GPs
  • Supplies can be tailored to individual circumstances, including giving kettle bags – with items such as Pot Noodles – to people who do not have access to cooking facilities other than a kettle.

Background.

Trussell Trust. 

Putting food on the table: the human right to eat in the fifth richest country in the world

On World Social Justice Day, Elliot Marcus, law graduate and human rights advocate, explains why the Government must uphold the right to food

Call for urgent cut to six-week Universal Credit wait as foodbank demand soars across the UK.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 20, 2018 at 10:24 am

Ian Duncan Smith – Yes, Ian Duncan Smith – Calls for Reversing Universal Credit Cuts.

with 52 comments

 

Image result for ian duncan smith cartoon we're getting people off benefits

IDS: A Sinner Repents.

There is no doubt rejoicing in heaven at Ian Duncan Smith’s call.

But for those with a less than angelic disposition will remember this before reading today’s reports:

I, Daniel Blake: Iain Duncan Smith slams Ken Loach’s benefits sanctions film.

Mr Duncan Smith presided over £15bn of cuts to the benefits system in the five years after 2010.

Former Work and Pensions Secretary Mr Duncan Smith said: “I did think that whilst on the one level this was a human story full of pathos and difficulty, and I’m not saying  for one moment there aren’t serious difficulties and issues when you’re under pressure, when things like this happen … the film has taken the very worst of anything that can ever happen to anybody and lumped it all together and then said this is life absolutely as it is lived by people, and I don’t believe that.”

There were £15bn of cuts to the welfare budget over the five years between 2010 and 2015, during which time Mr Duncan Smith was Work and Pensions Secretary. He eventually quit over further cuts to the Universal Credit system he helped design.

Reverse universal credit cuts, Iain Duncan Smith tells chancellor

Guardian.

The former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has warned the chancellor that he risks undermining the whole purpose of welfare reform if he fails to reverse cuts to universal credit (UC) in his spring statement.

Philip Hammond is under mounting pressure from across the party to use better than expected tax revenues to reverse cuts made after the 2015 election. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that 340,000 people could be taken out of poverty by reversing the cuts to work allowances.

I think he’s under a lot of pressure. There are a lot of colleagues around who would like to see the money restored to UC as a step in the right direction,” said Duncan Smith. “Hammond has got more money to spend. But will he? He says no … The answer to that is, we’ll see.”

UC, which rolls six major working-age benefits – including job seeker’s allowance, tax credit and housing benefit – into one monthly payment, has been beset with problems. It is years behind schedule and there have been four different secretaries of state since Duncan Smith resigned in 2016, protesting about cuts to disability benefits – saying they were a “compromise too far” that made the cuts look political rather than economic.

These four Universal Credit changes spell bad news for families

Birmingham Live.

The four key benefit cuts coming in to force on April 9 are:

– Year three of the four-year cash freeze in working age benefits, affecting almost 11 million families.

– The 3% real terms cut in working age benefits this year is set to be by far the biggest of the four-year benefit freeze.

– A two child limit for benefit claims , costing up to £2,780 for a family having a third child. This will affect 150,000 families.

– Withdrawal of the family element of support for new tax credit and universal credit claims from families with children , costing up to £545 and affecting 400,000 families.

The rollout of Universal Credit , saving £200m this year due to lower entitlements than the existing benefit system for long term sick and working families in particular.

Before we feel warm and shed a little tear of sympathy for Ian Duncan Smith…

Not fit for work: All the times Iain Duncan Smith has got it badly wrong.

This week two heavily critical reports were published on Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit programme, joining a long list of damning critiques of his time as work and pension secretary. As a result, now seems as good a time as any to take a closer at his record and all the times he has got it badly wrong.

Claim: In 2012 IDS boasted that the roll out of Universal Credit would improve the lives of millions of claimants by “incentivising work and making work pay.”

Reality: A report published yesterday by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, says that although the policy would encourage some people into work this was’t the case for everyone. In fact some groups, like single parents, will have even less of an incentive to work under Universal Credit than under the old system. Crucially it also suggested the changes would leave working families worse off on average, with their research suggesting 2.1 million families will face an average loss of £1,600 a year.

Claim: The Bedroom Tax would help tackle the housing shortage

One of Duncan Smith’s key defences of the Bedroom Tax was that it would help free up social housing for those who most need it. The idea being that rather than take a cut in housing benefit for having a spare room, people would move out of their properties and into smaller accommodation, thereby freeing it up for larger families.

Reality: A shortage of smaller properties meant that the overwhelming majority of people affected by the bedroom tax stayed put. A recent government study into the impact of the changes found that 76% of those affected have been forced to cut back on food, with thousands more claimants being driven into taking on payday loans. Only a small fraction of those affected moved into alternative accommodation.

Claim: Face-to-face assessments of disability benefit claimants would mean payments would only go to those who most need them

Reality: Many people with serious disabilities and even life-threatening conditions have been judged as fit-for-work under the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) scheme. In 2013 Linda Wootton died in hospital just nine days after the government stopped her benefits and ordered her to go back to work. Amid growing criticism of the assessments, in March 2014, it was confirmed that ATOS, the private company contracted to carry out the assessments, were to end their contract with the government a year early.

Claim: Personal Independence Payments would “better reflect today’s understanding of disability” than the Disability Living Allowance (DLA)

Reality: The switchover from DLA to PIP was a disaster with thousands of people waiting months for their applications to be assessed. This was made even worse by the introduction of a new step in the appeals process. The Mandatory Reconsideration stage resulted in many of those who had already waited long periods for a decision to be made being left waiting even longer to have the opportunity to challenge .

And so it goes….

Role in Universal Credit as  Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

He also announced a far more radical series of reforms intended to simplify the benefits and tax credits scheme into a single payment to be known as Universal Credit. A major aim of welfare reform was to ensure that low earners would always be better off in employment. “After years of piecemeal reform the current welfare system is complex and unfair,” said Duncan Smith, citing examples of people under the existing system that would see very little incremental income from increasing their working hours due to withdrawal of other benefits.[30] Outlining the scheme in more detail in November 2010, Duncan Smith promised “targeted work activity for those who need to get used to the habits of work” and sanctions, including the possible removal of benefits for up to three years for those who refused to work. He said welfare reform would benefit all those who “play by the rules” and ensure “work always pays more” by easing the rate at which benefits are withdrawn as income rises.[31]

The next phase of welfare reform announced by Duncan Smith in late 2011 required benefits claimants with part-time incomes below a certain threshold to search for additional work or risk losing access to their benefits. “We are already requiring people on out of work benefits to do more to prepare for and look for work,” he said. “Now we are looking to change the rules for those who are in-work and claiming benefits, so that once they have overcome their barriers and got into work, in time they can reduce their dependency or come off benefits altogether.”[32] He said that benefits were not a route out of child poverty but hundreds of thousands of children could be lifted out of child poverty if one of their parents were to work at least a 35-hour week at the national minimum wage.[33]

He also argued that a proposed £26,000-a-year benefits cap, would not lead to a rise in homelessness or child poverty “The reality is that with £26,000 a year, it’s very difficult to believe that families will be plunged into poverty – children or adults,” he told BBC Radio 4‘s Today programme. “Capping at average earnings of £35,000 before tax and £26,000 after, actually means that we are going to work with families make sure that they will find a way out.”[34] but added there would need to be “discretionary measures”.[34] Duncan Smith led the governments legislation in the House of Commons in January 2013 to cap most benefit increases at 1%, a real terms cut.[35]

On 1 April 2013, Duncan Smith said he could live on £53 per week as Work and Pensions Secretary, after a benefits claimant told the BBC he had £53 per week after housing costs.[36]

In September 2013, Duncan Smith’s department cancelled a week of “celebrations” to mark the impact of enhanced benefit sanctions. Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) commented: “It is distasteful in the extreme and grossly offensive that the DWP would even consider talking about celebrating cutting people’s benefits.”[37] In the same month, Duncan Smith’s department was subject to an “excoriating” National Audit Office report. The department he runs was accused of having “weak management, ineffective control and poor governance; a fortress mentality, a “good news” reporting culture, a lack of transparency, inadequate financial control, and ineffective oversight” as well as wasting 34 million pounds on inadequate computer systems.[38]

The Department for Work and Pensions had said that 1 million people would be placed on the new Universal Credit benefits system by April 2014, yet by October 2014 only 15,000 were assigned to UC. Duncan Smith said that a final delivery date would not be set for this, declaring “Arbitrary dates and deadlines are the enemy of secure delivery.”[39] In 2014, it was revealed that his department was employing debt collectors to retrieve overpaid benefits, the overpayment purely down to calculation mistakes by HMRC.[

Written by Andrew Coates

March 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

Key Benefit Cuts this Year. End the Benefit Freeze!

with 19 comments

Image result for benefit freeze

 

The Labour Party has been criticised for not campaigning for an end to the Benefit Freeze.

This is the last time it came up, on the 25th of August 2017, “Jeremy Corbyn will today call on the Government to end the benefits freeze – despite failing to contain a similar pledge in Labour’s election manifesto.” (Politics Home).

The Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Debbie Abrahams, has said nothing recently on this burning issue – at least that can be tracked down.

She has however retweeted the following article:

Anybody  worried about fuel bills after the hard winter, and the fact that everytime you go to the supermarket some price seems to go up, not to mention the next round of Council Tax demands (payable up to 20% of the total in some councils even for even those on benefits), would want an answer, beginning with calls to end the benefit freeze.

Today (as in the above Tweet) the Observer publishes a long article, Millions of families on brink face deepest benefit cuts in years by 

He highlights that this is far from a minority concern.

There are four key benefit cuts this year. Working-age benefits will be frozen for a third year, saving £1.9bn and affecting almost 11 million families. The 3% real-terms cut in working-age benefits this year will be by far the biggest of the freeze, set to last four years.

A measure limiting benefit claims to a family’s first two children, costing up to £2,780 for a family having a third child, saves £400m this year and affects 150,000 families.

The withdrawal of the family element of support for new tax credit and universal credit claims from families with children will cost families up to £545. It saves the public purse £200m this year and will affect 400,000 families.

Finally, the rollout of the controversial universal credit system, which combines several benefits into one payment, saves £200m because some claimants have lower entitlements compared with the existing system, especially the long-term sick and working families.

This is particularly striking,

New research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the decision to press ahead and freeze most working-age benefits and tax credits this year would see a couple with two children left £380 worse off compared with a scenario in which their universal credit claim had increased in line with prices.

Savage says this,

Labour is planning to embarrass the government and Tory MPs on Tuesday by forcing them to have a vote on controversial changes that are set to leave some poor families without free school meals for their children or free childcare.

What we need is an end to the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

March 11, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Esther McVey Forced to Reveal Secret – Damming – Universal Credit Reviews.

with 28 comments

Image result for Esther mcVey

McVey Forced to Reveal Secret Universal Credit Reports.

Thanks to Whoknew for flagging this up.

Like the Liverpool Echo angle…

Tory benefits minister Esther McVey forced into embarrassing U-turn over Universal Credit

The Merseyside-born MP wanted to keep secret policy reviews from the public

Universal credit: Government to publish internal reviews of controversial benefit in new U-turn.

Tory cabinet minister Esther McVey has been forced to make an embarrassing U-turn over Universal Credit and release secret reviews of the controversial benefits shake-up.

The Work and Pensions Secretary announced today she will yield in a two-year battle keep the Project Assessment Reviews’ from the public.

Mirror Online’s political reporter Dan Bloom reports the decision comes just weeks after Ms McVey refused to publish the documents and was due to face challenges at a tribunal.

The contentious reviews chart the progress of the Tories’ massive benefits shake-up between 2012 and 2015 – and they don’t bode well for Universal Credit.

Mirror Online reports that of 10 reviews completed, not a single one gave Universal Credit a “green” rating – meaning a clean bill of health.

Independent.

Assessments failed to produce evidence that more people would be helped into work, say MPs who viewed them.

Internal reviews of universal credit, which expose holes in the case for the controversial new benefit according to MPs, will be published in a government U-turn.

Ministers have abandoned attempts to keep the assessments under wraps after being forced to release them to a Commons committee and after criticism by the independent Information Commissioner.

Esther McVey, the Work and Pensions Secretary, conceded there was “no point in continuing to argue” for restricted access to the documents, after the committee issued a report on them.

….

Ms McVey said the committee had agreed “the historic issues” have now been addressed and “substantial achievements have been delivered since 2013”.

They commended the department for running the universal credit programme “more professionally and efficiently with a collective sense of purpose”, she said.

And she insisted the decision to release the assessments to the public was “exceptional”, with future reports still to be “treated as confidential”.

Last year, Conservative MPs forced extra help for universal credit claimants, after joining with opposition parties in pleading for an urgent rethink.

The Government agreed to slash the wait for a first payment from six weeks to five, although the revolt had demanded a cut to four weeks.

However, cuts to the “work allowance” – the amount of earnings kept before claimants lose benefits – has swiped more than £1,200 a year from many families.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 8, 2018 at 1:32 pm

Protests, “No More Death on our Streets” as “Open Season” on Street People Grows.

with 50 comments

 

Background:

Homeless charities slam ‘open season’ on street people

 Guardian.

Police and vigilantes are seeking to ‘other’ people on the street, says chief executive of Crisis.

Charities have expressed concern about an “open season” on homeless people following tough language by police and political figures and vigilante threats to “fake homeless”.

Those working on the frontline suggested that rough sleepers and others might be facing a cold climate in a broader sense even as a major operation swung into action to shelter homeless people amid heavy snow and falling temperatures.

At least one homeless man has died during the freezing weather: he was found dead on Tuesday in his tent in the snow in Retford, Nottinghamshire.

Police in Cambridgeshire claimed last week that every single “homeless” beggar in Ely was making “substantial amounts of money” and that the city had no genuine rough sleepers.

In Ipswich, by contrast, there a number of initiatives to help homeless people.

Anyone with concerns about someone sleeping rough can make a report to StreetLink, which will be sent to street outreach teams.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 4, 2018 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Cuts, DWP, Esther McVey, Food Banks

Tagged with , ,

Universal Credit, the Revolt Continues….

with 67 comments

Some Public Day of Action Activities May be Postponed Because of Bad Weather but  Protests will continue as….

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

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

This couldn’t come sooner. In October, I warned of the hidden cut within UC for disabled people: thanks to the abolition of both the severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP). As a result, according to the disability charity Scope, the move to UC will see claimants lose as much as £395 a month. The outcome of the legal challenge could have widespread ramifications for 230,000 disabled people who it is estimated will be hit by the removal of disability premiums under UC.

Launching a multibillion pound benefit system only to remove vital income from some of the poorest people in the country is a particularly warped use of public money – and a move that exemplifies just how low the Conservatives are willing to sink in their rush to gut Britain’s safety net. The campaign group, Disabled People against Cuts, is launching a national protest in response on 1 March. As UC is hailed as the biggest reform to the welfare state since Beveridge, there’s a very real risk that its greatest achievement will be making more disabled people hungry and housebound. Led by one terminally ill man, the time has come to fight it.

Benefit delays leave hundreds of thousands penniless and reliant on foodbanks

Welfare Weekly,  Steven Preece

DWP failed to meet its own target of processing new benefit claims within ten days on 214,000 occasions last year, new figures show.

Delays in processing new benefit claims are leaving tens of thousands of vulnerable adults and children without money for long periods of time and dependent on foodbanks to stave off hunger, damning figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal.

Minister of State for Employment Alok Sharma confirmed in a written Commons answer that the DWP failed to achieve its own target of processing new claims within ten days on 214,000 occasions last year.

This is equivalent to more than 1 in 10 claims, leaving some of the poorest in society struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table.

The same figures also reveal how more than 970,000 claims took longer than a week to be processed.

The article follows this report on the ‘I’ yesterday,

Foodbank use driven by benefit delays

“How else can those people put food on the table and keep their homes warm, let alone apply for jobs, if it takes weeks and weeks to register their claim and establish an income?”

According to Mr Sharma’s answer, 110,180 Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claimants and 103,650 Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants waited more than two weeks for their applications to be assessed.

A total of 671,250 JSA claimants and 302,900 ESA claimants waited more than a week for news of their applications.

The DWP does not have information about the number of claimants receiving emergency advances to tide them over.

Around one-quarter of people who use foodbanks say they are visiting because of delays receiving their benefit payments, according to the Trussell Trust, which co-ordinates the national network of foodbanks.

‘Cash advances available’ Mr Field said he was contacted last week by a mother with a one-year-old child who had been left with “7p to my name” as a result of her benefit claim being delayed. A DWP spokeswoman said: “We strongly believe people should be able to access support when they need it and the vast majority of JSA and ESA claims are processed within 10 working days. “Anyone who needs financial support during that time can apply for an advance on their first payment, or should speak to their jobcentre ..

Day of Action. Update.

We are sorry to announce that due to the bad weather forecast for London this week, and the associated travel difficulties this will bring, we have taken the decision to CANCEL the planned action this Thursday 1st March at the Houses of Parliament.

All of the online actions planned for 1st March will continue as planned

We leave decisions about local actions to the local groups and urge organisers to update us with any decisions (to proceed or to cancel) as soon as possible so we can get the word out.

Check DPAC for more information.  Updates on local actions against UC

And more reasons to Revolt!

Written by Andrew Coates

February 27, 2018 at 4:38 pm

Compulsory Employment “Schemes” for Jobseeker’s Claiming Council Tax Support.

with 45 comments

Image result for workfare

Is Workfare For Council Tax Support part of the new Austerity Agenda?

Council Tax support is falling apart.

This affects people on Job Seeker’s Allowance, and now, Universal Credit,.

Hard.

You can expect a great deal of thieving from Tory Councils.

Barnet led the way:

Everyone of working age has to pay a minimum contribution of 20% from 01 April 2015 (the contribution for the period 01 April 2013 to 31 March 2015 will remain at 8.5% as agreed in January 2013) of their Council Tax liability unless they are in a protected group. (War pensioners, war widow(er)s and people who receive Armed Forces compensation scheme payments will not have to pay the minimum contribution).

This 20% rule is pretty widespread now.

A hefty sum, around £287.8 a year (National average, band D,  Band D property to £1,439).

In Labour run Ipswich, by contrast,

In Ipswich, all people of working age have to pay at least 8.5% of their Council Tax bill, regardless of their income. From 1st April 2018, this will reduce to 5%.

But now we learn Leeds Labour Council is running this compulsory scheme.

Personal work support programme

If you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and have been claiming Council Tax support for 26 weeks or more, you will be offered a place on the personal work support programme.

You will have to complete this programme to keep receiving Council Tax support unless you’re part of one of the exempt or protected groups (PDF 1.2MB)​​.

You will be required to complete five review appointments with one of our employment advisors who are able to support all aspects of looking for work which includes:

  • Help to update your CV
  • Advice and support for applying for vacancies online
  • Advice on how to find the type of work you are looking for
  • The latest job vacancy information
  • Free access to our computers
  • Help with any health, money, benefit or housing concerns that you may have

To book an appointment with an advisor, please call 0113 222 4404.

You can find further information on the package of support available in our Council Tax Support for Jobseekers leaflet (PDF 223KB)​​.

Ipswich Unemployed Action has been informed that there are other councils, some Tory, who have similar schemes.

Some, it is said, involve workfare.

In the opinion of a professional Welfare Adviser this is not legal

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2018 at 3:43 pm

The Feckless Poor, The Stigma of Welfare. Mary O’Hara

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Tory Pick-Pockets Idea of Poverty.

There is a theory, a well-attested theory, that the key to the  government ‘welfare reform’ is that they intend to make life for claimants as unpleasant as possible. This will not only reduce the number of people willing to apply for benefits, it will compel them to take whatever work they can get. Over the years they have tried to a variety of schemes, The Work Programme, and now (for a more limited group), the Work and Health Programme, that are intended to guide people into employment.

Over the years ‘nudges’ (this is not a joke, they tried at one point with this daft plan, “Jobcentres try ‘nudging’ the workless” 2013), were replaced with pushes, sanctions.

Some would say that the massive increase in rough-sleeper numbers, a result of housing crisis and the fact that these days the down and out get not benefits  is – for the more hard-line Tories – a welcome ‘nudge’, a constant reminder of where you could fall if you do not pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get work.

Now Universal Credit looks set to cause a lot more misery for a much wider group of people.

Not to mention this:

A lot has to do with the cock-ups of those who created the system, and the way its run.

But the message about the feckless poor keeps on and on.

Mary O’Hara is the author of Austerity Bites,

After coming to power in May 2010, the Coalition government in the United Kingdom embarked on a drastic programme of cuts to public spending and introduced a raft of austerity measures that had profoundly damaging effects on much of the population. This bestselling book by award-winning journalist Mary O’Hara chronicles the true impact of austerity on people at the sharp end, based on her ‘real-time’ 12-month journey around the country just as the most radical reforms were being rolled out in 2012 and 2013. Drawing on hundreds of hours of compelling first-person interviews, with a broad spectrum of people ranging from homeless teenagers, older job-seekers, pensioners, charity workers, employment advisers and youth workers, as well as an extensive body of research and reports, the book explores the grim reality of living under the biggest shakeup of the welfare state in 60 years. with a new Foreword by Mark Blyth, Professor of International Political economy and International Studies at Brown University, USA, Austerity Bites dispels any notion that “we are all in this together” and offers an alternative to the dominant and simplistic narrative that we inhabit a country of “skivers versus strivers”.

This is a review of the book,

Mary O’Hara, Austerity Bites: A journey to the sharp end of cuts in the UK, Policy Press, 2014, xiv + 320 pp, 1 4473 1560 5, hbk, £19.99

During 2012 and 2013 Mary O’Hara travelled the UK to find out what effects the Coalition Government’s public sector cuts were having by interviewing some of the people affected by them: both those suffering directly from the austerity measures and those working with them to try to mitigate the measures’ effects.

The introduction describes in broad terms the ways in which wages have fallen, poverty and debt have increased, new sanctions have been imposed on jobseekers, and public services have been cut – and all this in the cause of an austerity that further damages the economy.

O’Hara’s visits and interviews reveal the depth of the crisis: increasing food poverty (and hence the rise in the number of food banks); mounting pressure on household budgets as costs rise but incomes – both in and out of work – stagnate; the disruptive effects of the bedroom tax; and the rise of personal debt and of high-street high-interest lenders. They also reveal the increasing stigma imposed on people who cannot find employment, and on people with disabilities and long-term health problems; declining wages and job security; cuts in local authority services on which some of our most vulnerable citizens depend; and rising rents and homelessness.

This is in many ways a familiar story, but what gives this particular telling of it an added authenticity are the excerpts from the interviews. Here we find the voices not of statisticians, journalists, or politicians, but of those suffering the effects of cuts in services. In the concluding chapter, we hear the voices of those voluntary sector workers who are coping with increasing demand, disappearing grants, and staff redundancies. The concluding chapter ends with a description of the way in which the Government and the tabloid press have succeeded in persuading us that the previous Labour Government and the poor are responsible for the country’s financial problems, and therefore for austerity; and with a description of small-scale resistance to that austerity – as if local pressure groups can defeat the Government- and media-driven prejudice to which we have been submitted for the past four years. They can’t.

Perhaps for our readership the most significant finding from O’Hara’s visits and interviews is that ‘the social security system that had protected much of the population from the worst vagaries of inequality was being ripped from its foundations’. She goes on:

I saw at first hand how destabilised and fearful it was leaving people. What I observed during my travels was a society in deep existential as well as economic and political flux. It seemed to me that austerity was generating social and economic schisms faster than they could be tracked, never mind adequately countered. There was a sense of an expanding segregation of the rich and poor, the entrenchment of a ‘them and us’ view of the world that produced not only a lack of social contract but also a political gap so wide as to seem unbridgeable. (p.15)

As a society we need to take to heart what is being said here, and determine to build a new social security system that will protect everyone from ‘the worst vagaries of inequality’ and will heal our ‘social and economic schisms’.

Today she writes in the Guardian.

Let’s tell the truth about poverty – and stop this assault on welfare

When the Department for Work and Pensions last week decided to issue a Valentine’s message to people on benefits – clearly implying that recipients lie about their “living arrangements” to fleece the state – it was the latest attack designed to blame and shame. It is a well-worn pattern, especially for people who qualify for benefits.

Since the emergence almost a decade ago of the poisonous rhetoric of “skivers and strivers” that has helped to prop up the fiasco that has been Tory austerity, a culture of dismissing poor people has become well and truly entrenched. The despicable idea that being poor is somehow the byproduct of personal flaws rather than bad policy, and that strong welfare systems should be rejected, is pervasive.

How else to explain the fact that food banks have become normalised or that the repeated denial of benefits – and dignity – to people with disabilities has failed to provoke a nationwide revolt? How else to compute that a homeless person dies on the doorstep of the Houses of Parliament and registers only as a temporary blip on the national consciousness?

The DWP’s Valentine’s message on Twitter to benefit recipients

 

In the early days of austerity Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP framed the slashing of the welfare state as welfare reform in order to sell it to the public as an improvement that would prevent the system being exploited. This tactic was straight out of the American playbook from the mid-1990s when Bill Clinton all but ended the welfare system under the guise of reform, only to exacerbate poverty.

This pernicious, repetitive narrative that has underpinned bad poverty policy for so long is a maliciously clever ruse. But if what it means to be poor can be framed one way, then it can be framed in another, more truthful way, too. In fact, it is already starting. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has launched an initiative called “talking about poverty”,to which I will be contributing, that explicitly aims to examine how to change the conversation. It is incumbent on us to make that happen.

I am not entirely convinced that O’Hara is right to refer exclusively to the USA.

In France there’s been political and media attacks on unemployed ‘spongers’ – if not on the UK scale (France has no Daily Mail, no Express and no Sun for a start)  – for some time.

Presidential Macron announced at the end of last year something that looks to me a ‘job seeker’s agreement’ for the out-of-work on benefits complete with a sanctions regime if you don’t look hard enough for employment (Le gouvernement va renforcer le contrôle des chômeurs.  27.12.17).

I could extend this to other European countries.

But her overall points are well taken.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2018 at 4:36 pm

Tories Drop Proposed “gentler approach” to Sanctions Regime for Claimants.

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McVey Goes Back to Cruel Sanctions Regime.

The ‘sanctions regime’ is a long standing gripe of claimants.

In 2016  amongst many reports there was this: (Independent 30th of November), Benefits sanctions don’t work and plunge claimants into ‘hunger and depression’, National Audit Office finds

The benefit sanctions system has become a ‘postcode lottery’ and is doing more harm than good, according to the public spending watchdog

The public spending watchdog has launched a scathing attack on the benefit sanctions system, claiming that fining people for breaking the terms of benefits does more harm than good and costs more to enforce than it saves.

The National Audit Office (NAO) found that benefit sanctions were being inconsistently applied across the country, with some jobcentres being far stricter than others on people who, for example, are unable to show they have been actively seeking employment in order to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. The watchdog found that withholding of benefits, which it found to be commonplace, plunges claimants into hardship, hunger and depression.

The NAO said the Department for Work and Pensions must launch a proper investigation into how benefit sanctions are affecting the lives of people on benefits, and to bring to an end a system it described as “pot luck” and a “postcode lottery”.

Labour’s Meg Hillier, who chairs the Public Accounts Committee, said: “Benefit sanctions punish some of the poorest people in the country. But despite the anxiety and misery they cause, it seems to be pot luck who gets sanctioned.”

She added: “While studies suggest sanctions do encourage some people back into work, other people stop claiming but do not start working and the Department for Work and Pensions has no record of them. If vulnerable people fall through the safety net, what happens to them?”

In October last year we learnt, (Disability News Service),

Ministers are to test a new approach to dealing with claimants who breach strict benefit conditions for the first time, in the latest sign that the government is finally listening to calls to soften its much-criticised sanctions regime.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has agreed to trial handing out warnings instead of benefit sanctions when a claimant breaches the conditions imposed on them for the first time.

It is one of five recommendations made in February’s report by the public accounts committee (PAC) on benefits sanctions, all of which have been accepted by ministers, according to a document sent by the Treasury to the committee earlier this month.

Today we hear:

By John Pring Disability News Service 15th February 2018

Ministers have quietly dumped their promise to test a gentler approach to dealing with claimants who breach strict benefit conditions for the first time.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) agreed in October to trial handing out warnings instead of benefit sanctions when claimants breach the conditions imposed on them for the first time.

It was one of five recommendations made in a report on benefit sanctions by the Commons public accounts committee (PAC) in February 2017.

But DWP has now said that it will not carry out the trial after all, because of “competing priorities in the Parliamentary timetable”.

There was no public announcement, but the decision was included on page 139 of the latest Treasury Minutes Progress Report, which describes progress on implementing those PAC recommendations that have been accepted by the government.

It was spotted by welfare rights advisers on the rightsnet online forum, and from Buckinghamshire Disability Service.

Although the progress report is dated 25 January, a DWP spokeswoman insisted that the decision to dump the sanctions trial had been taken before the appointment of Esther McVey as the new work and pensions secretary on 8 January.

She said: “The decision not to undertake a trial was taken at the end of 2017 – before Esther McVey took up her position as secretary of state.

“As you have read, introducing the trial through legislative change cannot be secured within a reasonable timescale.

“But we are keeping the spirit of the recommendation in mind in our thinking around future sanctions policy.

“To keep the sanctions system clear, fair and effective we keep the policies and processes under continuous review.”

Last October’s decision to trial handing out warnings had been seen as a sign that years of campaigning by disabled activists and anti-austerity protesters aimed at raising awareness of the harshness of the sanctions regime might finally be paying off.

It had come only weeks after the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities made sweeping criticisms of the UK government’s welfare reforms.

The UN committee had called on the government to review “the conditionality and sanction regimes” linked to employment and support allowance, the out-of-work disability benefit, and “tackle the negative consequences on the mental health and situation” of disabled people.

David Gauke, at the time the work and pensions secretary, admitted at his party’s annual conference last October that sanctions often fail to work and can instead cause harm to claimants, particularly those with mental health conditions.

He promised then to try to find a way to make the sanctions system less damaging to people with mental health conditions, and the announcement of the trial soon afterwards appeared to demonstrate his department’s commitment.

But that commitment is now being questioned, following McVey’s appointment as his successor.

Universal Credit Sanctions

The rules about sanctions under Universal Credit mean that there will be more people who will be sanctioned than the previous benefits system. In fact evidence is suggesting that the rate of sanctions under Universal Credit is three times that of JSA. It is possible to be sanctioned even if you are in paid work.

It should also be noted that Hardship Payments are paid as loans and will have to be repaid at the end of the sanction.

The rules for the level of Universal Credit sanctions are based on the rules for JSA and ESA sanctions. Anyone who receives Universal Credit can be sanctioned and the level of the sanction depends upon the conditionality group that you are placed in. More information about the conditionality groups can be found in the article Your Responsibilities if you get Universal Credit.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 16, 2018 at 11:16 am

Private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits, failing to meet the Government’ s own quality standards.

with 26 comments

Government Responds to Critical Report by Wheeling out Lies.

Capita and Atos, the latter later replaced by Maximus, names that should be on every infant’s lips… as bogeymen.

The crooks contacted to run our public services have come a cropper again.

This time they have created misery for thousands and thousands of disabled people caught in the Benefit’s system.

Disability benefit assessors failing to meet Government’s quality standards

Independent.

Errors in assessment process lead to ‘pervasive lack of trust’ in system and ‘untenable human costs’ to claimants, MPs find

All three private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits are failing to meet the Government’ s own quality standards, leading to decisions being made based on inaccurate or incomplete assessments, new research shows.

A report by the Work and Pensions Committee found failings in the assessment process have contributed to a “pervasive lack of trust” in the system and an “untenable human costs” to claimants, as well as financial costs to the public purse. They concluded that the process was in need of “urgent change”.

In one case flagged up by MPs, a person with Down’s syndrome was asked when they “caught” it, while in another, a woman reporting frequent suicidal thoughts was asked why she had not yet killed herself. In a third case, a claimant’s assessment stated that she walked a dog daily, when she could barely walk and didn’t own a dog.

Of the 170,000 appeals for personal independence payments (PIP) claims that have been taken to the Tribunal in the past five years, since 2013, claimants won in 63 per cent of cases. In the same period, there have been 53,000 employment support allowance (ESA) appeals, of which claimants won in 60 per cent of cases.

Both Atos and Capita – the companies contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’ to carry out the bulk of the assessments – saw a rise in the proportion of reports graded “unacceptable” last year.

The article concludes:

A DWP spokesperson said: “As the Work and Pensions Committee highlights, assessments work for the majority of people, with 83 per cent of ESA claimants and 76 per cent of PIP claimants telling us that they’re happy with their overall experience. However, our aim has to be that every person feels they are treated fairly, with respect and dignity.

“We are committed to continuously improving the experience of our claimants, that is why we’ve commissioned five independent reviews of the work capability assessment – accepting over 100 recommendations – and two independent reviews of PIP assessments.

“We continue to work closely with our providers to ensure people receive high quality assessments, and are exploring options around recordings to promote greater transparency and trust.”

We know what kind of ‘research’ they use to reach this conclusion:

As Kitty writes,  Summary of key problems with the DWP’s recent survey of claimant satisfaction

The Government says: “This research monitors claimants’ satisfaction with DWP services and ensures their views are considered in operational and policy planning.” 

Again, it doesn’t include those claimants whose benefit support has been disallowed. There is considerable controversy around disability benefit award decisions (and sanctioning) in particular, yet the survey does not address this important issue, since those experiencing negative outcomes are excluded from the survey sample. We know that there is a problem with the PIP and ESA benefits award decision-making processes, since a significant proportion of those people who go on to appeal DWP decisions are subsequently awarded their benefit.

The DWP, however, don’t seem to have any interest in genuine feedback from this group that may contribute to an improvement in both performance and decision-making processes, leading to improved outcomes for disabled people.

Last year, judges ruled 14,077 people should be given PIP against the government’s decision not to between April and June – 65 per cent of all cases.  The figure is higher still when it comes to ESA (68 per cent). Some 85 per cent of all benefit appeals were accounted for by PIP and ESA claimants.

Francis Ryan writes in the New Statesman.

The mass rollout of PIP and the out-of-work sickness benefit, the employment and support allowance (ESA) – first started by the coalition government – were in many ways the centre of the Conservatives’ anti-welfare drive, with ministers handing out hundreds of millions to private companies to run the assessments while claiming there are hordes of scrounging disabled people whose benefits should be withdrawn to get the “welfare” bill down.

It’s resulted in a system so inept that vast numbers of disabled people are having their support removed incorrectly: since 2013, of 170,000 PIP appeals taken to tribunal, 63 per cent won, while 60 per cent of the 53,000 ESA appeals succeeded.

Bear in mind this is at a time when legal aid cuts and the closure of welfare advice centres means many disabled people forced to appeal have no help to do so (imagine what the appeal rates would be if these were healthy people given legal support).

The impact of this is brutal. More than a third of those who have had their benefit cut say they’re struggling to pay for food, rent and bills, while 40 per cent say they’ve become more isolated as over 50,000 disabled people lost access to Motability vehicles.

The recent appointment of Esther McVey – famed in her role as Minister for Disabled People for her punitive attitude to benefit claimants – as the new Work and Pensions Secretary does not bode well for hopes to reform the system.

But the past month has shown with enough pressure, the government can be forced into a climb-down: in January, the Department for Work and Pensions announced every person receiving PIP – that’s 1.6 million people – will have their claim reviewed after a court challenge.

This week’s coming report could be another nail in the coffin in the Conservatives’ disability benefit agenda. In the meantime, cancer patients and people with severe depression are being left without the money they need to live.

Public Finance reports that the call is out for an end to the contracting-out scam:  MPs highlight breakdown in trust over disability benefit tests

Mark Smulian

Public contract failures have led to a loss of trust that risks undermining the operation of the Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance disability benefits, MPs have said.

In a report published today, the Commons work and pensions committee called for urgent reforms to the system.

Chair Frank Field said: “For the majority of claimants the assessments work adequately, but a pervasive lack of trust is undermining its entire operation.

“In turn, this is translating into untenable human costs to claimants and financial costs to the public purse. No one should have any doubt the process needs urgent change.”

Field said the Department for Work & Pensions should immediately require recording of face-to-face assessments and provide these to claimants, adding “it beggars belief that this is not already a routine element of the process”.

He called the DWP’s resistance to this idea “bewildering”, noting that making recordings available could in itself reduce the incidence of disputes leading to costly appeals.

Assessments have been carried out by contractors Capita and Atos, the latter later replaced by Maximus.

Ministers should consider taking assessments in-house, Field said, as “the existing contractors have consistently failed to meet basic performance standards but other companies are hardly scrambling over each other to take over”.

PIP and ESA assessment work was outsourced in the name of efficiency and consistency but the committee said no provider had ever hit their quality performance targets while many claimants experience anxiety and other damage to their health over a process regarded as “opaque and unfriendly” throughout.

The committee also urged better understanding amongst health and social care professionals and claimants of what constitutes good evidence for PIP and ESA claims, improved accessibility at every stage and better quality control.

It said there had been an unprecedented response to its call for evidence from service users and a recurrent, core theme had been “that claimants do not believe assessors can be trusted to record what took place during the assessment accurately [which] has implications far beyond the minority of claimants who directly experience poor decision making”

Still there’s this: Happy Thought for the Day from the DWP..

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

Government Claimant Survey and Universal Credit Review Attacked.

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Happy Shiny People Like Universal Credit!

Here is a brilliant look at how the government gets its sense of self-statisfaction,

A critique of the recent government survey of peoples’ “satisfaction” with the DWP. Conservatives have been eager to cite this survey but it is flawed. The biggest flaw is that only people with an open claim who had interacted within a 3 month timescale with the DWP were included in the sample. Those whose claim had been disallowed were excluded. Yet those were the people most likely to register dissatisfaction. Because of sampling bias, which was intentional – no generalisations or inferences may be taken from the survey results. In other words, it serves only as a PR exercise for the DWP.

A critique of the government’s claimant satisfaction survey. Written by Kitty S Jones.

The Department for Work and Pensions Claimant Service and Experience Survey (CSES) is described as “an ongoing cross-sectional study with quarterly bursts of interviewing. The survey is designed to monitor customers’ satisfaction with the service offered by DWP and enable customer views to be fed into operational and policy development.”

The survey measures levels of satisfaction in a defined group of “customers” who have had contact with the Department for Work and Pensions within a three-month period prior to the survey. One problem is that satisfaction is an elusive concept, not easily definable, accessible or open to quantitative measurement.

Who carried out this well-rewarded task?

The research was commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions and conducted by Kantar Public UK – who undertake marketing research, social surveys, and also specialise in consultancy, public opinion data, policy and also economy polling, with, it seems, multi-tasking fingers in several other lucrative pies.

I won’t give all Kitty’s post, which should be read in full, but this strikes the eye,

The Government says: “This research monitors claimants’ satisfaction with DWP services and ensures their views are considered in operational and policy planning.”

It doesn’t include those claimants whose benefit support has been disallowed. There is considerable controversy around disability benefit award decisions (and sanctioning) in particular, yet the survey does not address this important issue, since those most impacted negatively are excluded from the survey sample. We know that there is a problem with the PIP and ESA benefits award decision-making processes, since a significant proportion of those people who go on to appeal DWP decisions are subsequently awarded their benefit.

You get the impression this is the same method behind this pile of cack – don’t include losers and critics.

Universal credit project review full of ‘gobbledegook’, says Commons committee

The Independent.

‘They have produced no evidence to back up the key, central economic assumption of the biggest reform to our welfare system in 50 years. William Beveridge will be rolling in his grave’

The universal credit project review is full of “management gobbledegook” with ministers failing to make a full business case for the rollout of the Government’s flagship welfare reform, an influential Commons committee has warned.

Frank Field, who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, said the architect of welfare state, William Beveridge, “will be rolling in his grave” at the failure to produce evidence to back up the key economic assumption of universal credit.

He said people are being expected to take it on good faith that the contentious overhaul of the welfare in Britain will deliver.

After examining internal project assessment reviews of the universal credit programme’s finances and delivery by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), the committee expressed concerns about the situation.

While MPs said it was to the department’s credit that it brought universal credit back from the “brink of complete failure” in 2013, they said it continues to face major challenges.

Mr Field said that perhaps the most damning point emerging from the assessment of the Government’s progress on universal credit is that in its eighth year of the programme, the department itself “is yet to produce the full business case for its own mega reform”.

The world is waiting for Esther McVey’s response…

Opps, another problem popped up today:

 

Work and Pensions Secretary makes a fool of herself as Sack Esther McVey Again Campaign takes off.

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SALFORD SONGWRITER CREATES NATIONAL SACK ESTHER MCVEY CAMPAIGN TRACK

In January, a campaign was launched, backed by Salford TUC, to Sack Esther McVey Again, building on a previous successful campaign to get her sacked as MP for the Wirral (see previous Salford Star article – click here). And this week she had to step down from the advisory board of The Samaritans after a similar outcry.

Today, McVey is set to face questions in Parliament about DWP benefit cruelty, and, to coincide, a new hard hitting but catchy track is being launched called No More (Sack Esther Now), written and sung by Salford’s Dominic Williams.

The track hits on issues like war on the poor and consequent benefit and sanction deaths, or ‘de-population by stealth’, with the chorus…

‘Take a look tell me can you see
She’s never ever going to let you be
The vitriol she’s aiming at the sick and at the poor…No more…’

The track is both a catalogue of McVey’s ‘crimes’ as a former Tory Employment Minister, and a call to arms for activists, or ‘She’ll finish what she’s started/Now her foot’s back in the door…’

“Yes, it is hard hitting, especially the second verse, but it’s not far off the truth” says Dominic “That’s what it seems to people and it’s how people have been treated in the system. The number of people who have been declared fit and then died in a matter of days; it’s like, ‘Hello‘…But you don’t choose to live in poverty, circumstances dictate that, and it’s wrong that we demonise them. It’s easier to go after the ones who can’t help themselves.

“I’m very passionate about things like the NHS and the way the DWP do these kind of things because I’ve seen what it does to people, and it’s wrong” he adds “What price do you put on a life?”

Meanwhile….

Tory welfare chief Esther McVey rebuked by House of Commons Speaker for attack on Labour’s use of statistics

The Mirror.

John Bercow slapped down Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey after she accused Labour of twisting statistics – instead of answering a question about pensions.

Tory welfare chief Esther McVey has been rebuked by the House of Commons speaker for an attack on Labour that was not “relevant”.

John Bercow slapped down the new Work and Pensions Secretary today after she accused Labour of twisting statistics – instead of answering a question about pensions.

In her first Commons Questions since she took office, Ms McVey repeatedly highlighted a letter from the UK Statistics Authority watchdog to her Labour rival Debbie Abrahams.

The watchdog has rebuked Ms Abrahams over Labour’s claim that “40,000 children will wake up in poverty on Christmas Day because the Tories refuse to pause and fix Universal Credit.”

Chair Sir David Norgrove said Labour’s claim was not “fully supported” by the statistics and sources it relied on.

But Ms Abrahams accused Ms McVey of using the letter to distract from the Tories’ dire record.

And Commons Speaker John Bercow repeatedly admonished the minister – and fellow Tory MPs – for bringing up the watchdog’s letter in a Commons session designed to look at her own record.

Esther McVey’s “disgraceful” answer to question on closing Job Centres in her “home town”

The controversial former Wirral MP has failed to impress in Parliament again.

Esther McVey was labelled a “disgrace” for dodging a question about the closure of Job Centres in Liverpool.

The new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was quizzed in the Commons by Wavertree MP Luciana Berger about the Tories’ plan to shut down the only two Job Centres in the area – leaving local people with nowhere to go for employment support.

Ms Berger asked the former Wirral MP if she had looked at plans by Liverpool City Council to try and co-locate Job Centres in some of its other buildings as a means of still offering people a place to get advice, support and benefits – but she managed to completely avoid the question and suggest things have vastly improved in her “home town” of Liverpool.

Ms Berger asked: “Can I ask the Secretary of State if she’s had the opportunity to review the very helpful and generous offer made by Liverpool City Council to her predecessor to provide office space for closure threatened Job Centres.

“There are two Job Centres in my constituency – not one but two – that her government wishes to close, leaving my constituents with zero Job Centres – and they are due to close in a few weeks’ time.

In her response, Ms McVey elected not to deal with the subject of Job Centres closing or the offer made by the city council at all.

She said: “It is really important that everybody gets the support they need and actually a lot of the support that will be going forward will actually be outreach work, so that they don’t need to go to the Job Centre Plus.”

She added: “But obviously I am pleased that in the Liverpool City Area, which is my home town – employment is now far higher than it was in 2010 and when you look at the unemployment rates of the Labour Government – unemployment 2.8m in 2008, even before the banking crisis.

McVee still has one friend, a certain Quinten, and it would take two seconds to guess which paper publishes him,

When Theresa May today makes her speech marking the women’s suffrage centenary, and deplores the ‘intimidation and aggression’ prevalent on social media, she should pause to toot brief salute to Esther McVey.

Miss McVey, who was recently promoted to Work and Pensions Secretary, has had to endure horrible abuse over the years.

She has put on a front of cheerfulness but inside I bet she has been through the mangle.

Labour activists have called her all sorts of names, far worse than anything any parliamentary sketchwriter would use.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell even spoke about lynching her.

The (successful) campaign to oust Miss McVey from her marginal Merseyside seat at the 2015 general election was almost unhinged, it became so personal.

All that from the party that accuses Righties of being intolerant and anti-women!

In all that time, Miss McVey never lost her composure in public.

She had no husband or children to comfort her but she did have her old dad. I met him once. Good bloke.

The only other man in her life is Philip Davies (Con, Shipley), with whom she shares digs.

Miss McVey, who returned to the Commons as MP for Tatton (George Osborne’s neglected seat) in 2017, was at the despatch box yesterday for her first departmental Questions.

She  has this to muse over,

Thousands of Universal Credit decisions could be reviewed as terminally ill man takes government to court

A terminally ill man has won the right to launch a legal challenge against the introduction of the universal credit.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2018 at 11:30 am

Gov.uk Verify System Creating Chaos for Universal Credit Claimants.

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Image result for Gov.uk Verify problems universal credit

A Cause of Major Snarl Ups for Universal Credit Claimants.

Computer Weekly is one of our favourite reads, an essential source for information about a crucial part of the Benefits system, IT.

One of our contributors pointed to this story way back in the mists of time (2014):  The IT risks facing Universal Credit.

A few days ago the esteemed organ flagged up yet another  major problem for Universal Credit, Gov.uk Verify.

The origin of the latest mess is, as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau said last year

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

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

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

The Advice Service (facing cuts be it noted) stated the origin of the difficulty was this,

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

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

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

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

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

Plenty of posters on this site have said the same based on the well-known scientific research principle of common sense.

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants unable to use Gov.uk Verify to apply for benefits.

Bryan Glick

Government research shows that barely one-third of benefits claimants can successfully apply for new Universal Credit digital service using flagship online identity system.

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

The Universal Credit (UC) digital system, which is due to be introduced at all Jobcentres by the end of 2018, works on the basis that people applying for benefits will set up an account online and prove their identity electronically using Gov.uk Verify – either on their own computer or with assistance from Jobcentre staff.

But the Government Digital Service (GDS), which develops Verify, has revealed research showing that while 35% of UC users can set up a Verify account online, 30% are not able to, and the remaining 35% could use Verify, but do not.

“Further research at a job centre showed that out of 91 users, 48 needed help with the process,” according to the latest minutes from GDS meetings with the Privacy & Consumer Advisory Group (PCAG), a panel of independent identity experts who advise on Gov.uk Verify issues.

The article  continues,

Benefits claimants tend to have less of a digital footprint than people in employment, who are more likely to have mortgages or credit cards, and as a result Verify finds it harder to gather enough data to prove their identity. The new GDS research is the first time Verify figures have been published that are specific to the UC digital service.

Most of the 1.2 million UC claimants so far have used the original “Pathfinder” system, which handles only a limited number of benefit types and does not rely so heavily on Verify. It is being replaced by the digital service – now known as UC Full Service – which is being rolled out across the country and will be used for all new UC claims by the end of the year.

In the month to 14 December 2017, 77,000 people applied for Universal Credit, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). With the UC Full Service being introduced at, on average, 50 Jobcentres a month this year, hundreds of thousands of new claimants will soon be expected to use Verify as part of the application process. Based on the latest GDS figures, at least three in 10 people will not be able to do so and many more will struggle.

A telephone helpline is available to help apply for UC, and Jobcentre staff can also assist, but the expansion of UC Full Service assumes that the majority of claimants will prove their identity using Verify. If many thousands of people are unable to successfully use Verify to submit a claim, it is likely to cause significant extra work for Jobcentre staff.

The Gov.UK Verify system has faced other charges in the recent past (May 2016)

Gov.UK Verify finally launches but critics warn of security and privacy problems

Campaigners warn people will lose control of their identity

Gov.UK Verify, the Cabinet Office’s in-house identity scheme intended to govern access to public services, has finally been launched, years late and to intense criticism.

Verify’s purpose is for citizens to register to use government services quickly and easily by matching their identity to other systems.

“When you use Gov.UK Verify to access a government service you choose from a list of companies certified to verify your identity,” the government said.

“It’s safe because information is not stored centrally, and there’s no unnecessary sharing of information. The company you choose doesn’t know which service you’re trying to access, and the government department doesn’t know which company you choose.”

However, campaigners have argued that Verify is unnecessary and limited, potentially insecure and will encourage users effectively to cede control of valuable personal information to the eight private contractors picked to oversee the scheme: Barclays, CitizenSafe, Digidentity, Experian, Post Office, Royal Mail, SecureIdentity and Verizon.

LOGJAM signals that after the above article Computer Weekly has now written its own criticisms,

There’s a growing body of opinion that the government’s flagship digital identity system, Gov.uk Verify, has now become a major hindrance to the development of the UK’s digital identity infrastructure.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2018 at 10:48 am

Benefit Assessors Capita in Financial ‘Problems’.

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Image result for Capita PIP

 

Some well-dodgy companies and ‘charities’ are set to run the Work and Health Programme,

Central England Shaw Trust January 2018
2 North East England Reed in Partnership January 2018
3 North West England Ingeus November 2017
4 Southern England Pluss January 2018
5 Home Counties Shaw Trust January 2018
6 Wales Remploy December 2017

This is how one DWP ‘contractor’ (PIP and ‘ DWP partnered with Capita Document & Information Services and Capita’s 10 enquiry lines on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)) is faring, despite siphoning off tonnes of public money.

Capita: more than £1bn wiped off value of UK government contractor

Grim state of outsourcing firm’s financial position emerges two weeks after collapse of Carillion.

More than £1bn was wiped off the stock market value of the government contractor Capita on Wednesday, sparking fears of job losses and forcing Downing Street to play down the threat of a collapse echoing the demise of rival Carillion.

Capita, whose major contracts range from collecting the BBC licence fee to electronic tagging of prisoners, saw its share price nearly halve in a day following a grim financial update that reignited concerns over the outsourcing industry and the stability of public services.

This is a major part of Capita’s Welfare ‘Business’.

Personal Independence Payment Assessments

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a non means tested benefit for people aged between 16 and 64 who have a long term health condition or impairment.

It replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people aged between 16 and 64. DLA recipients can use the DWP PIP Checker to see if and when they will be affected.

Capita carries out PIP assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Wales, the West Midlands and the East Midlands (Independent Assessment Services, delivered by Atos covers the other parts of Great Britain). Assessments are focused on how an individual’s health conditions may impact on their daily life, rather than the health conditions themselves. You can read about the DWP’s entitlement conditions and assessment criteria in detail on the DWP website.

DWP accused of ‘rewarding failure’ over ‘extortionate’ benefit assessors payouts. 

April 2017

Labour accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of “rewarding failure” by Atos and Capita, which appear set to be paid more than £700 million for their five-year contracts.

This compares with an original estimate of £512 million for the contracts to carry out assessments for personal independence payments (PIP). The DWP said the assessment process for PIP is key to supporting claimants, and it has to balance effective support for the most vulnerable with getting the best value for the taxpayer.

Analysis by the Press Association shows Atos and Capita have already been paid £578 million in relation to PIP since it launched in 2013. This includes £257 million in 2016, the highest year so far, according to the department’s monthly spending data.

But the three original call-off contracts for this work totalled £512 million. This figure was supposed to cover a five-year period, according to the original contract documents.

The contracts are due to run out in December. With DWP having paid Atos and Capita an average of £19 million a month over the past two years, the companies are set to be paid in excess of £700 million by the time the contracts hit the five-year mark.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said:

“It is beyond belief that this Tory Government is rewarding failure. “The PIP process is in disarray and these private companies are receiving huge payouts in a time of extreme austerity.

“It is clear that these costs are spiralling out of control.

“The Government needs to get an urgent grip on these extortionate payments to private companies, especially at a time when they are getting more and more assessments overturned in the courts.”

Watchdog orders DWP to publish secret reports on Atos and Capita PIP failings

22nd January 2018.

The information commissioner has ordered the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to release documents that are likely to expose the widespread failings of two of its disability benefit assessment contractors.

DWP has been attempting to prevent the documents being released since receiving a Freedom of Information Act request from campaigner John Slater in December 2016.

He said the documents – if and when they are eventually released – will reveal the truth about what DWP knows about Atos and Capita.

Last month, the two outsourcing companies, which are paid hundreds of millions of pounds to carry out personal independence payment (PIP) assessments, told members of the Commons work and pensions committee that they had never met contractual quality standards on the reports their staff write for DWP.

The documents Slater has been seeking could provide further evidence of such failings, and fuel campaigners’ fears that Atos and Capita have been told by DWP to find a certain proportion of claimants ineligible for PIP.

Under the terms of their contracts to assess claimants across England, Wales and Scotland for their eligibility for PIP, Atos and Capita must provide monthly reports to DWP that cover “all aspects of quality, including performance and complaints”.

The reports include detailed “management information”, including the number of complaints made against assessors, what proportion of assessments led to claimants meeting the PIP criteria, and the average length of time taken for face-to-face assessments.

Slater, who works in programme and project management when he is not campaigning on issues around freedom of information, had asked DWP to provide copies of these reports for every month of 2016.

He told Disability News Service that the reports would provide “raw data” on the companies’ performance, before DWP “has had a chance to massage it”.

He said: “I suspect what they will show is not only that the contractors are struggling but also how bad DWP is at managing contracts.”

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.c

Latest news:

Capita PLC (LON:CPI) could be an “interesting recovery story” but it is too early to tell whether the new chief executive’s turnaround plan will bear fruit, according to analysts at Jefferies.

The outsourcing firm, which holds several contracts with the government, on Wednesday issued a profit warning and announced plans for a £700mln rights issue, to scrap its dividend and sell off non-core divisions.

The news sparked worries that it could face the same fate as collapsed contractor Carillion PLC (LON:CLLN).

Jonathan Lewis, who started as Capita’s chief executive two months ago, admitted that the company was “too complex” and “too widely spread across multiple markets and services”, making it challenging to maintain a competitive advantage in every business.

“Capita could be an interesting recovery story but it is too opaque to model with conviction, management guidance has been unreliable, and perpetual UK political turmoil continues to weigh on the revenue outlook,” said Jefferies.

The broker cut its rating on the stock to ‘hold’ from ‘buy’ and slashed its target price to 200p from 750p.

Capita now expects 2018 underlying pre-tax profits to be lower at around £270mln to £300mln, well below consensus forecasts of £380mln, due to contract delays, higher attrition, weak new sales and higher costs.

Revenue is expected to be flat compared to the previous year, which is ahead of consensus forecasts for a 204% decline.

“The new CEO may have kitchen-sinked expectations and front-end loaded investment costs but it’s difficult to prove at this juncture,” Jefferies said.

The view of RBC Capital Markets is that Lewis is “doing all the right things” but weaker trading and the “more precarious” balance sheet mean he has had to raise capital before completing a full strategic review.

…..

Shares in Capita fell 3.2% to 176.30p in morning trading.

It’s a pitiful state of affairs when our public services are dependent on “morning trading” in shares.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 1, 2018 at 11:45 am

PIP payments: 1.6 million claims to be reviewed, a “complex exercise of considerable scale”.

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Image result for personal independence payment latest news

Review, a “complex exercise and of considerable scale”.

Personal Independence payments: All 1.6 million claims to be reviewed

BBC.

Every person receiving Personal Independence Payments (PIP) will have their claim reviewed, the Department for Work and Pensions has said.

A total of 1.6 million of the main disability benefit claims will be reviewed, with around 220,000 people expected to receive more money.

It comes after the DWP decided not to challenge a court ruling that said changes to PIP were unfair to people with mental health conditions.

The review could cost £3.7bn by 2023.

The minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, said the DWP was embarking on a “complex exercise and of considerable scale”.

She added: “Whilst we will be working at pace to complete this exercise it is important that we get it right.”

As the Mirror rightly adds,

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister Sarah Newton admitted it will be a “complex exercise of considerable scale”.

Ms Newton was unable to say how long the review will take – prompting fears disabled people will be left waiting years for justice.

 Some details are emerging,

PIP is the main disability benefit and gives people up to £141 a week to meet the everyday costs of their condition.

The DWP said no one will have to endure a fresh face-to-face disability assessment.

Instead case managers will review people’s claims using existing information, and bump up their benefits if appropriate.

Case managers will contact claimants or their GPs if they need to find out more.

Priority will be given to claimants who have since died, and those who had their benefits denied entirely.

Officials will then move on to those who were paid PIP but got less than they deserved.

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams comments,

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said the admission was “shocking”, adding: “The Minister refused to publish a timetable of how many months or even years it will take for this ‘complex exercise’ to be completed.

The Government was wrong to bring in the PIP regulations last year and it was wrong to ignore time and time again the views of the courts.

“This sorry debacle is one of their own making.

“They must now get a grip on the PIP process and ensure all those affected by this policy receive back payments as soon as possible.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 30, 2018 at 11:46 am

Labour’s Policy on Universal Credit: from “Fix it” to Change the Whole System.

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Related image

What Labour is up against.

Labour’s policy on Universal Credit, 

“The Tories’ Universal Credit programme is pushing thousands of families into poverty, debt and homelessness.

We’re demanding the Tories urgently pause and fix Universal Credit, before millions more are affected.

Say you’re with us.

Now some may say that calling on the Government to ‘fix’ Universal Credit is not much of a policy.
This is some more detail, (from November, Guardian).

Labour has unveiled a list of demands to improve the rollout of universal credit, seeking to keep up the pressure on Philip Hammond over the issue before Wednesday’s budget.

The shadow pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams, has written to the chancellor demanding changes to UC, which Labour and other critics say is putting people in debt as it is rolled out into new parts of the country.

The main request is to reduce the initial six-week wait for a payment under the system, which is designed to replace a range of other benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit.

Charities working with claimants have said the six-week wait tends to put people into arrears, especially with their rent, and means they have to seek support from food banks. There has been speculation the government is planning to reduce this period.

Abrahams is also seeking an option of fortnightly rather than monthly payments, a change to the assessment period and modifications to ensure that the benefit always rewards people for finding more work.

In a separate article for the Guardian, Abrahams said there was increasing evidence that UC “is not fit for purpose – and Labour believes the budget is a chance to fix it”.

The original aims of the system – to simplify social security support, ensure people were always better off in work than on benefits and reduce child poverty – were laudable, and had been supported by Labour, Abrahams wrote.

“But UC is failing to deliver on its objectives, as we have heard from respected charities including Child Poverty Action Group, Trussell Trust, Citizens Advice and Gingerbread. Even former government advisers, civil servants and UC’s own architects are now critical of the scheme,” she added.

The system’s inherent problems were made worse by benefit cuts imposed in 2015, she added.

“As it is being rolled out, universal credit is pushing people into debt and rent arrears, with many people in social and private rented housing being served eviction notices.”

As well as the six-week initial wait, and obligatory monthly payment, Abrahams highlighted UC’s lack of responsiveness to the changes in income of self-employed people.

“The problem is that this is assessed on a monthly basis, with no discretion for the natural peaks and troughs of self-employed work, or indeed for the niceties of the occasional holiday,” she wrote.

“Should they take a Christmas break, many self-employed people may suddenly find they have not met the [Department for Work and Pensions] work requirements, and be sanctioned as a result.

“If you’re thinking this doesn’t affect you, I’m sorry to say that might change, with the government planning to roll out ‘in-work conditionality’. This would require people who are working to report to the jobcentre and demonstrate they are seeking more hours, or face their UC support being cut.”

Most serious, Abrahams warned, were cuts to benefit levels, citing a forecast from the Child Poverty Action Group that reductions to UC would put a million more children into poverty by 2022.

Hammond could begin to fix the situation in the budget, Abrahams said, by reducing the six-week wait, allowing rent to be paid directly to landlords, allowing payments to be split between partners, improving flexibility for self-employed claimants and restoring the cuts to work allowances.

“Anything less won’t make UC fit for today’s labour market,” she wrote. “Anything less will sentence a million more children to be brought up in poverty. Anything less will mean that this prime minister’s promise to tackle ‘burning injustices’ is no more than empty rhetoric.”

This is some good work Debbie Abrahams is doing now.

 But this Blog, being this Blog, would like to see more:

 

  • We need an end to the Benefit Freeze. Anybody going shopping knows prices are rising, as our bills also show.  Housing Benefit should meet costs. We need a Pay Rise!
  • We need an end to the way private chancers and ‘charities’, companies who run the ‘Unemployment Business”, of the likes of the Shaw Trust, Reed In Partnership, Ingeus, Remploy, are now going to take charge of the Work and Health Programme. Carillion indicates how these state contracted firms operate a poor service giant Ponzi schemes, pyramid  sub-contacting is the least of it – for the profits and salaries of their bosses.
  • We need an end to the system by which those on benefits have to pay a percentage of Council Tax. This obligation, introduced by Eric Pickles in 2013, means people pay different rates up and down the country, and was never compensated by a rise in out benefits. From this cut in our income there has come a rise in the numbers in Council Tax arrears.
  • We need an end to any form of Workfare, something people suggest may come up again in the Work and Health Programme.
  • The Sanctions Regime must be abolished.

Food Banks and homelessness should not be seen as permanent features of our society.

We want a decent standard of living, housing, and dignity, for all.

Being Rude about Esther McVey.

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Image result for esther mcvey cartoon

Is it wrong to be rude about Esther McVey?

The Tories and their mates in the press seem to think so.

They keep stirring up a campaign to defend the poor Work and Pensions Secretary.

The I reports yesterday

John McDonnell once again refused to apologise for repeating comments that called for Cabinet minister Esther McVey to be “lynched”. The Shadow Chancellor was recorded during an event in 2014, in which he said people in Liverpool were using the violent language about Ms McVey, who was employment minister at the time. Mr McDonnell’s comments have resurfaced after the Tory MP was promoted to Work and Pensions Secretary this month, with Commons leader Andrea Leadsom branding them “truly evil”.

Lynching the b*****d

Appearing at a comedy night organised by the Stop the War Coalition on Remembrance Sunday in 2014, Mr McDonnell quoted an activist who had shouted that instead of sacking Ms McVey, Labour should be “lynching the b*****d”. But the Labour frontbencher insisted he was quoting other people so he has nothing to apologise for.

So in fact McDonnell did not call for McVery to be lynched, he repeated what somebody had said.

No doubt there are people out there (where I have yet to find, as a Twitter and Facebook user I have seen none) who pass beyond being angry to making threats.

Threats are always wrong, being rude is not.

The Tories manage to mix the two things.

The Mail, at the start of the year, was beside itself.

Esther McVey is subjected to a tide of abuse after her promotion to Work and Pensions Secretary as trolls brand her ‘evil’, ‘vile’ and a ‘bitter and dangerous woman’

McVey was drafted in as Work and Pensions Secretary late last night by PM

May appointed her to the high profile post after Justine Greening turned it down

McVey is already a hate figure on the left because of her last spell in Government.

This is one of the Tweets that got the Mail’s goat.

And another.

Then there is – horror of horrors! – this:

Image result for esther mcvey threatening tweets

People say all kinds of things on Twitter.

This is the (former) leader of the Ipswich Borough Council Conservatives,

Image result for Ipswich Tory leader resigns tweet Nadia Cenci

This followed (July 2017): Nadia Cenci quits as Ipswich Tory leader after Grenfell Tower tweet

This is a story about McVey herself,

The Conservative minister Esther McVey has apologised for a tweet attacking the Labour Party during the Hillsborough memorial service.

A tweet from the account of the MP for Wirral West linked to a press release and said: “Wirral Labour can’t be trusted” at 15:51 GMT on Tuesday.

Posts on the social media site claimed the timing showed a lack of respect.

The MP said she did not send the tweet but took “full responsibility” as it was sent from her account.

BBC

 The present storm about McVey is not going to end soon even if her ladyship now confines her own tweets to this decorous one.

Others on her side are not so restrained.
According to a Tory just over a week ago McDonnell is “truly evil”, and…he was nasty about her on her Birthday!
That seems pretty rude to me.

John McDonnell Branded ‘Truly Evil’ By Tory Cabinet Minister For Attack On Esther McVey

Written by Andrew Coates

January 23, 2018 at 11:03 am

The New Dependency on Universal Credit.

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https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DT5g0SsWsAA9W2M.jpg

 

The coordinated counterattack waged by representatives of capital against these two ideas since the 1980s has been very successful. Protection of the return on capital is now the over-riding long-term policy goal, and it is one that has engineered for itself considerable popular support. Its preferred ideological disguise is a version of the American dream: anyone can “make it” if they work hard enough in a system of “free competition” (as though there were such a thing). The history of the development of the welfare state up to the middle of the 20th century bore witness to the growing recognition that this belief was simply false. Welfare measures addressed the fundamental human needs of the great majority of those who, at certain not always predictable moments in their lives, would find themselves vulnerable and helpless in the face of impersonal economic forces. It was a great advance in civilisation when society enacted measures to address these needs. Their recent erosion or repeal is a cause for shame.

 Review of  Bread for All  – how Britain is regressing to the early 19th century. Chris Renwick.

Whoknew recently posted this abstract of  Foundations of the Workfare State – Reflections on the Political Transformation of the Welfare State in Britain

The British ‘welfare state’ has been transformed. ‘Welfare’ has been replaced by a new ‘workfare’ regime (the ‘Work Programme’) defined by tougher state regulatory practices for those receiving out-of-work benefits. US-style mandatory community work programmes are being revived and expanded. This article, therefore, considers shifting public attitudes to work and welfare in Britain and changing attitudes to working-age welfare and out-of-work benefits in particular. It also considers the extent to which recent transformations of the state may be explained by declines in traditional labourist politics and class-based solidarity. Thus, we attempt to develop a richer understanding of changing public attitudes towards welfare and the punitive regulatory ‘workfare’ practices engaged by the modern state in the liberal market economy; reflecting on the nature of the relations between ideology, party policies, popular attitudes and their political impact.

One way of putting this is to say that the Welfare State was designed to provide a “safe place” for people, a help when misfortune happens, a right that everybody has to a minimum incomes, a place to live, and enjoy our lives free from the constant anxiety of getting into a position without money.

Increasingly however we can see that the Welfare state is now not designed to help with “fundamental human needs “.

It is meant to set people up to work, that is to be disposable (in all senses) for employers.

If we look at the US model given above the large numbers of people without shelter, without money – the very visible army of street people – is a kind of living example to people to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and get on the ladder to success.

By no coincidence whatsoever we were once shown on course a DVD of the story of a Black US man, with his son, who does just that, ending up after a series of troubles, including being in a hostel for the homeless, to become the founder of  successful brokerage firm (whatever that is).

Poster-pursuithappyness.jpg

I sometimes think that the homeless in Ipswich, who you see every day, are part of this plan, an object of charity, and a warning to everybody else.

In any case sanctions, which have not gone away, are there are a constant threat.

Then there was Workfare, such as  “Community Work Placements”,

In November 2011, the Prime Minister’s Office announced proposals under which Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants who haven’t found a job once they have been through a work programme will do a 26-week placement in the community for 30 hours a week.[3] According to The Guardian in 2012, under the Government’s Community Action Programme people who have been out of work for a number of years “must work for six months unpaid, including at profit-making businesses, in order to keep their benefits”

During their 2013 annual conference the Conservative Party announced a new scheme, called Help to Work, the workfare aspect of which “Community Work Placements” expected claimants to work for up to 30 hours a week for 26 weeks in return for JSA (Job Seekers Allowance). The scheme was introduced in April 2014, but scrapped in November 2015.

Whether the new Work and Heath Programme will include a workfare aspect is not as yet clear,

Plans for Universal Credit itself began seriously in 2010

Under the changes, housing benefit, income support, incapacity benefit and dozens of other payments will be swept away in a major reform programme intended to break the culture of welfare dependency by making work pay.

The new system will carry a guarantee that anyone taking a job will be better off than if they were on the dole, with claimants allowed to keep more of their benefits when they enter work or increase their hours.

Mr Duncan Smith has made clear that the introduction of the universal credit is essential to his reform plans, and will bring long-term savings as the overall welfare bill falls.

One of the aspects of Universal Credit is that people are meant to be responsible for their budget “just like everybody else”.

A move in this direction came when they made everybody pay at least a part of their Council Tax – thus effectively cutting benefits which had previously meant that Council Tax Benefit was simple: if you were on JSA and the rest you paid nothing.

Now you will get UC once a month, just like “real” wages (except that your frozen benefits are not remotely in line with inflation), and your rent is given to you directly so you will fork it out, (“just like everybody else”0 to the landlords.

In the real world people struggle enough with their low incomes on benefits so that their lives are not remotely “like everybody else”, they are like low paid workers, and not at all like people on decent incomes.

Low paid workers are now also to be caught up in the Universal Credit trap.

Instead of “welfare dependency” we have dependency on a useless system made to oblige people to work without giving them the means to live decently.

The result is,

There are manifold problems, but the political focus centres on the minimum 42-day wait for a first payment endured by new claimants when they move to universal credit (in practice this is often up to 60 days). For many low-income claimants, who lack savings, this in effect leaves them without cash for six weeks. The well-documented consequences for claimants of this are rent arrears (leading in some cases to eviction), hunger (food banks in universal credit areas report striking increases in referrals), use of expensive credit, and mental distress.

Guardian.

Now our contributors could add a lot, a lot, to that!

Our heart meanwhile, goes out to Esther McVee.

Daily Mail. Esther McVey faces fresh campaign of intimidation by hard-Left activists after suffering lynching threats

Union firebrands and Labour councillors are plotting a fresh campaign of intimidation against Esther McVey.

Hard-Left activists behind a vile effort that drove the Cabinet minister out of her Merseyside seat are planning to target her again.

The 50-year-old former television presenter was the most high-profile Tory casualty of the 2015 general election when she was ousted in Wirral West. The campaign included threats to lynch her.

And it can also be revealed that a Labour member with links to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has helped co-ordinate online abuse against Miss McVey.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 20, 2018 at 11:06 am

Tories, Vasectomies, the Poor, the Unemployed, and the Fat.

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Image result for fat tory minister pickles

Eric Pickles Former Minister Set Example to Loafing Unemployed.

First it was this, in the Mirror (16th of January)

Tory MP warns poor overweight kids could become an ‘unemployable under-class’ if Britain doesn’t cure its obesity epidemic

Ex-Minister Andrew Selous warned poor kids are more likely to be overweight and suggested things were better when Popeye was a role model.

A Tory MP has warned that poor overweight kids will become an “unemployable under-class” in Britain’s obesity epidemic.

Former Minister Andrew Selous predicted dire futures for overweight during a Westminster debate on the public health crisis.

We cannot allow an unemployable under-class to grow up – children who are obese, who go on into adult life being obese, having a low self-image, low self-confidence, struggling to get work as a result, being on low-income or benefits.

“We are talking about a lifetime of opportunity if we don’t grasp this issue.”

Then it was this on the BBC.

A Conservative MP has apologised for a 2012 blog post in which he suggested benefit claimants should have vasectomies.

The 28-year-old Mansfield MP had been writing in support of the benefits cap.

“Sorry but how many children you have is a choice; if you can’t afford them, stop having them! Vasectomies are free,” his post read.

“Families who have never worked a day in their lives having four or five kids and the rest of us having one or two means it’s not long before we’re drowning in a vast sea of unemployed wasters that we pay to keep!”

The Daily Record adds,

Tory MP apologises for suggesting poor people should be sterilised

Ben Bradley warned in blog post that it would not be long before Britain would be “drowning in a vast sea of unemployed wasters”.

Tory MP promoted in Theresa May ‘s reshuffle has apologised over a blog post suggesting benefit claimants should have vasectomies.

Ben Bradley, who was named as Conservative vice chairman for youth, said people on welfare should stop having children if they could not afford them, before suggesting sterilisation.

The Mansfield MP, 28, was writing in support of the benefits cap and suggested it would not be long “before we’re drowning in a vast sea of unemployed wasters”.

Apparently this is because he is out for the “inspirational working people’s vote.

Not to mention this article, another past comment which cuts out a few aspirational workers.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 17, 2018 at 11:59 am

Cognitive Therapy for the Unemployed: G4S Crooks to Deliver ‘Service’ in Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

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Image result for cognitive therapy for unemployed protests

“We are saving the taxpayer £120 million a year in benefit savings.” Sean Williams – Welfare to Work, Managing Director, G4S.

Carillon’s collapse, which involved the farce of having fire-engines on standby today in Oxfordshire in case the company could not deliver school meals for one of their many outsourced contracts, has not stopped the government from continuing their policy of giving large sums of money to private companies to deliver ‘services’.

 The problems of Universal Credit have tended to obscure other aspects of the government’s welfare policy.

One of the most outrageous sides  is this, which we have previously posted on.

It is part of the Work and Health Programme, rolling out this year.

The key service providers are:

Service Providers

It will be run by five service providers across six regions in England and Wales. The successful providers were:

  • Shaw Trust (Central England and Home Counties)
  • Reed in Partnership (North East)
  • Ingeus (North West)
  • Pluss (Southern)
  • Remploy (Wales)

But some parts of the programme are delivered by other ‘providers’.

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

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

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

This year (2016)  they took a step forward in their plans,

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

In 2017 the Guardian published this letter signed  by more than 400 psychologists, counsellors and academics signed an open letter   protesting against chancellor George Osborne’s plans, laid out in the latest budget, to embed psychological therapy in a coercive back-to-work agenda.

The linkage of social security benefits to the receipt of “state therapy”, as announced in the chancellor’s latest budget, this is totally unacceptable. “Get to work therapy” is manifestly not therapy at all. With the ominous news that Maximus (the US company replacing Atos to do work capability assessments) will also be managing the new national Fit for Work programme, it is time for the field’s key professional organisations to wake up to these malign developments, and unequivocally denounce such so-called “therapy” as damaging and professionally unethical.

More generally, the wider reality of a society thrown completely off balance by the emotional toxicity of neoliberal thinking is affecting Britain in profound ways, the distressing effects of which are often most visible in the therapist’s consulting room. This letter sounds the starting-bell for a broadly based campaign of organisations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health. For now, we call on all the parties in this election – and particularly Labour – to make it clear that they will urgently review such anti-therapeutic practices, and appropriately refashion their much-trumpeted commitment to mental health if and when they enter government.

To remind us of this Kitty S jones wrote last year

A major concern that many of us have raised is regarding consent to participation, as, if benefit conditionality is attached to what ought to be a voluntary engagement, that undermines the fundamental principles of the right to physical and mental care. Such an approach would reduce psychologists to simply acting as agents of state control, enforcing compliance and conformity. That is not therapy: it’s psychopolitics and policy-making founded on a blunt behaviourism, which is pro-status quo, imbued with Conservative values and prejudices. It’s an approach that does nothing whatsoever to improve public life or meet people’s needs.

Kitty noted that,

The highly controversial security company G4S are currently advertising for Cognitive Behavioural Therapists to deliver “return-to-work” advise in Surrey, Sussex and Kent.

This is yet another lucrative opportunity for private companies to radically reduce essential provision for those that really need support, nonetheless, costing the public purse far more to administer than such an arrangement could possibly save, despite the government’s dogged determination to rip every single penny from sick and disabled people and drive them into low paid, insecure jobs.

Yes, G4S is a player in the delivery of the “new Work and Health Programme 2017 – 2020/21. Commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions, the programme is intended to assist people who are long term unemployed or who have disabilities and health conditions into work.”

Well it was all announced.

For those with the stomach to read it you can see this many pages long Wiki entry:

Controversies surrounding G4S

At the start of last year this  was one response.

G4S, Maximus and ‘A4E’ all set to win contracts under Work and Health Programme

Some of the country’s most controversial and discredited outsourcing companies are set to win contracts under the government’s new programme to find jobs for disabled people and other marginalised groups.

The 11 organisations that have been successful in the bidding process will be allowed to tender for the back-to-work contracts that will be offered under the Work and Health Programme.

They were all bidding for the right to tender for contracts across six regional areas in England and Wales, and a single national contract across the two countries.

The Work and Health Programme will support disabled people, those who are long-term unemployed, and other groups such as ex-carers, ex-offenders, homeless people and those with drug or alcohol dependencies.

Among those successful in the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Umbrella Agreement for Employment and Health Related Services were Maximus, People Plus (formerly known as A4E) and G4S.

G4S has been successful in every area apart from Wales, while People Plus has been successful in all seven lots.

Maximus, through its UK company Remploy, has been selected only for the Wales lot.

Maximus has a disturbing track record of discrimination, incompetence and fraud in the US, while Remploy, formerly owned by the government, revealed plans last year to halve the pay of service-users who take part in inspections of health and care facilities.

Last year, Maximus was accused in the House of Commons of falsifying the results of “fitness for work” assessments, and of “a disconcerting pattern of behaviour that indicates that the trade-off between cost-cutting and profit maximisation is being felt by very vulnerable people”.

People Plus, which has secured places in all seven lots, was formerly known as A4E, but in 2015 was taken over by another company and rebranded, after 10 former A4e employees were sentenced for a back-to-work fraud.

The previous year, DNS reported allegations that emerged during an employment tribunal – and were strongly refuted by the company – that A4E had introduced a new policy that forced advisers with no specialist training or experience to start working with “vulnerable” claimants with mental health conditions, learning difficulties and drug and alcohol problems on the Work Programme.

Last year, the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell, criticising the decision to hand the government contract to run the national discrimination helpline to G4S, told fellow peers that the company had “an appalling history of abuse and mismanagement”.

G4S’s track record includes claims of assault and racism at immigration detention centres, the failure to provide enough security staff for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a coroner’s verdict of “unlawful killing” at the hands of G4S staff after the death of Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga in 2010, and serious allegations concerning G4S staff at secure training centres for children.

The other successful organisations are Ingeus, Reed, Shaw Trust, APM, Working Links, The Work Company, Pluss and Prospects.

Many of the country’s largest disability charities are likely to seek funding under the Work and Health Programme as sub-contractors for the organisations that win the main contracts, in a move which many activists believe could make it harder for them to speak out on welfare reform.

The Work and Health Programme will replace the mainstream Work Programme and the specialist Work Choice scheme for disabled people, but there have been concerns that it will see a significant cut in funding.

The government has promised £100 million a year by 2020-21 for disabled people found to have limited capability for work – paid for from cuts of more than £1 billion over the four years from April this year to new claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) – as well as another £130 million a year for the overall programme.

But industry research has suggested that this will mean a sizeable overall drop from the £750 million spent on employment support in 2013-14.

DWP said yesterday (Wednesday) that it did not recognise this figure but was not able to say how much the overall budget on employment support had been and how much it would be under the new programme.

She said the budget for the new programme was not yet “in the public domain”.

Asked about the track records of Maximus, G4S and People Plus, the DWP spokeswoman said the umbrella agreement had been subject to public sector procurement regulations, and was conducted in an “open, transparent non-discriminatory manner”.

She said: “Each competition is designed to identify the winning bids over a range of pre-determined criteria.”

She said contracts would be awarded this autumn.

Meanwhile, the consultation on the government’s work, health and disability green paper – which outlines its plans for the Work and Health Programme – is due to end tomorrow (17 February).

The green paper revealed that the government was considering forcing all sick and disabled people on out-of-work disability benefits to take part in “mandatory” activity, including those who are terminally-ill or have the very highest support needs and have been placed in the ESA support group.

It also repeatedly emphasised that the government wanted to “reinforce work as a health outcome”, increasing the number of job advisers in healthcare settings and making “the benefits of work an ingrained part of the training and professional approach of the health and social care workforce”.

It will be interesting to see how this lot fare in the present climate of private provider failure…

Esther McVee has got off to a flying start!

As left accused of “fostering hatred” for Esther McVey we show her caring “Tips on How to Be Successful”.

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In the past: Former GMTV presented McVey might want to forget these saucy snaps

Warm and Caring McVey on GMTV.

Jeremy Corbyn accused of fostering hate as Esther McVey faces renewed abuse.

“Reports” the Telegraph.

Jeremy Corbyn supporters have renewed a vicious hate campaign against new work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, posting death threats online.

The Tory MP, who replaced David Gauke as the new secretary of state earlier this week, was branded a “murderess”, a “ruthless, dishonest coward” and an “odious, toxic liar”.

A number of users also posted death threats on Twitter, including on Labour-supporting user who said: “The appointment of Esther McVey as DWP minister is a death sentence for thousands more disabled people. We’ll do whatever it takes to put her out of her misery”.

Such outrageous remarks, which some may nevertheless hesitate to call “death threats” or indeed anything more than fair comment, and moderate in the circumstances,, may, alas, only continue.

As a measure to call a halt to this campaign we show the New Minister’s warm and caring side.

Here it is:

Staring down the camera in front of cheesy music and a montage that begins with John Major, she says: “We all have dreams, whether it be about success in our careers, improving our relationship with family and friends, or sorting out our finances.

“Plenty of people have [turned dreams into reality] so why shouldn’t you?

“Success isn’t anything to do with being lucky.

“It’s knowing what you want, taking the necessary action and believing you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

Welcome to the world of personal development.”

According to an archived schedule, it aired on BBC mid-morning TV in February 1996. So it could, of course, have a tongue in its cheek.

The clip was billed as “Esther McVey’s tips on How to Be Successful”.

Daily Mirror.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 11, 2018 at 9:54 am

Esther McVey named Work and Pensions Secretary: New Sack Esther McVey Day to be Soon Announced.

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Image result for Sack Esther McVey Day"

Sack McVey Day (2014) – New Day to be Soon Announced. 

Well, Gauck’s silence is now explained.

He was up for the chop.

“The big winner from the change-up so far is David Lidington who has been given the post of Cabinet Office Minister vacated by the sacking of Damian Green, although he was not made First Secretary of State which made Green the de facto deputy PM.

David Gauke was moved from the Department for Work and Pensions to Justice replacing Lidington leaving a gap at one of the most important and difficult departments.

Last night the big news was the loss of Justine Greening from the government after she refused to be moved to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Instead it is Esther McVey, a former DWP minister who lost her seat in 2015 but was re-elected in June, who takes on the controversial role.

Mirror.

Esther McVey’s new job – “This will put fear into the hearts of the vulnerable”

Liverpool Echo.

Merseyside MPs and members of the public have lined up to blast the controversial appointment.

Esther McVey’s promotion to the role of Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions was met with shock and anger on Merseyside today.

The MP, who is disliked across the region after her controversial stint as Minister for Disabled people, was given the role after it was turned down by former Education Secretary Justine Greening.

 Ms McVey, who was born in Liverpool was the last Tory MP on Merseyside, losing her Wirral West seat in 2015 to Labour’s Margaret Greenwood.

As a deputy to Iain Duncan-Smith, she took the brunt of public anger over the hated “bedroom tax” policy.

Now MP for Tatton, her appointment late last night was met with derision from Merseyside MPs as well as ECHO readers, who all expressed concern for those in need based on her track record in the DWP.

Wirral South MP Alison McGovern said she was “gobsmacked” to hear news of the former GMTV presenter’s return to a cabinet role.

She said: “Like many in Merseyside, I am gobsmacked that anyone would think Esther McVey ought to be appointed Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

“People in Wirral West rejected her in 2015 when she was Minister for Work after her government failed to act on zero hours contracts, made life immeasurably harder for people with disabilities, and set in train cuts to family income that will see child poverty grow by 400,000 over the next few year.

“Her Government also introduced the 2011 changes to women’s pensions that hammered women born in the 1950s.”

 

Vox Political has the background on this individual,

Esther McVey is now Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Expect many, many deaths

As Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for People with Disabilities, she oversaw the dismantling of Remploy as a government-owned employer of disabled people, saying the factories should be “freed from government control” and funding could be better used if spent on helping disabled people into work through individual support. Experience in the years since then has proved this claim to be false. The disability employment gap is widening, with 114 disabled people leaving work for every 100 gaining jobs. And only last month, Chancellor Philip Hammond lied to the nation with a claim that lower productivity in the UK economy was due to disabled people.

In December 2012, Ms McVey boasted that, when Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PiPs), more than 300,000 people would have their benefits cut or removed altogether. She thought it was a good thing.

In January 2013, she did not bother to turn up to a Parliamentary debate on private firm Atos’s handling of the hated Work Capability Assessment of people claiming Employment and Support Allowance, even though she was the minister responsible. She left it to Mark Hoban, then-Minister of State at the DWP, who answered only 10 questions out of dozens that were put to him. In August of that year, she sent Mr Hoban out to lie on her behalf again – on the same subject.

She misled Parliament and the public with regard to Disability Living Allowance, the benefit that was replaced by PIP.

In April 2013, she tried to justify the change from DLA to PIP by saying it was an “outdated benefit” for which “around 50 per cent of decisions are made on the basis of the claim form alone – without any additional corroborating medical evidence.” She also said 71 per cent of claimants were awarded the benefit for life, without checks. These were both lies.In fact, just 10 per cent of claims were based on the 40-page-long form. In 40 per cent of claims a GP’s report was required for a successful claim and in a further 45 per cent of cases further evidence was used, such as information from a social worker or healthcare professional.  And six per cent of claimants were called in for a face-to-face assessment. And only 23 per cent of DLA awards were indefinite.

Along with Iain Duncan Smith and the other DWP ministers of the time, she supported the regime of sanctions imposed on those who refused to take part in what was then known as the Work Programme, despite having documentary proof, not only that they don’t work, but that they harm claimants’ families as well as the claimants themselves, and are known to cause suicide. With the others, she supported a change in the law after previous rules were found to be illegal. She procured the suicide of disabled and otherwise disadvantaged benefit claimants.

See the site for more.

There is more, more and more….

There is also this.

“In April 2014, McVey was criticised on social media for attacking the Wirral Labour Group in a tweet published while a memorial service for the Hillsborough disaster was being held at Anfield. Later, in a radio interview with BBC Radio Merseyside, she expressed regret over the mistiming of her communication and also stated that she did not personally send the tweet.[16]

John McDonnell, the current Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer,[17] in 2014 discussed a “Sack Esther McVey Day” among Labour activists and politicians, saying that “a whole group in the audience” argued ‘Why are we sacking her? Why aren’t we lynching the bastard?'”[18] Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps requested Labour to withdraw the whip following the “sickening demand, in public, for a violent attack on an MP”.[18]McDonnell described McVey as “the stain of inhumanity” in a Commons debate in 2015. “I simply reported what was shouted out at a public meeting”, he said about his earlier comments.[19] The issue reemerged in September 2016 when Labour MP Jess Phillips was interviewed by LBC. While disagreeing with McVey’s politics, she described McDonnell’s comments as “utterly despicable”, and added “I cannot imagine why he refuses to apologise”.[17]

Update:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 9, 2018 at 9:53 am

May Cabinet Reshuffle: No Sanctions – yet – for Gauke’s Universal Credit Failure.

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Image result for david gauke

DWP Minister with Best Friend. 

As today’s Chaotic Cabinet Reshuffle is underway we hear no news –  yet – about David Gauke.

More on the Telegraph. 

No doubt Gauke, who has been observing a Trappist Monk like silence over the last couple of weeks, hopes that his record stands for itself.

Latest today:

Universal Credit leads to council tenants owing almost £120,000 in rent

More than 60 per cent of claimers owe more than four weeks rent

Universal Credit has already left more than 100 council tenants across Nuneaton and Bedworth owing almost £120,000 in rent.

The first snapshot of how the government’s new single benefit payment has impacted the borough has revealed a shocking picture.

According to borough council figures, as of December 14 last year, there were 156 Local Authority (LA) tenants claiming Universal Credit (UC) and, of these, 126 were in arrears with their rent.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 8, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Gauke Gives Up on Twitter after Hectic Christmas.

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David Gauke

David Gauke: still recovering from the effects of too many mince-pies and unable to tweet or reply to queries. 

Last known Tweet from the Gauke, (and this is a miserable re-tweet….)

Roll-out of Universal Credit in two weeks will mean ‘major changes’ for welfare claimants in Derry.

This is the latest

A senior civil servant at the Department for Communities says the roll-out of the controversial new Universal Credit (UC) welfare system in Derry in a fortnight’s time will mean “significant change” for claimants. Under the benefits shake-up new applicants living in the Waterside will be required to claim UC from Wednesday, January 17, while the system goes live on the Cityside three weeks later on February 7. Dr. Denis McMahon, Deputy Secretary of DfC’s Work and Inclusion Group, said: “It is a significant change to the way the benefit system works in Northern Ireland, and we are using a phased roll-out to give the best possible support to claimants as they get used to the new system.” UC replaces Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credits. Existing claimants will transfer to Universal Credit between July 2019 and March 2022. Dr. McMahon said: “Instead of individuals having to fill in multiple forms and manage several claims, they can claim the single benefit of Universal Credit online. “This simplifies the process, with digital support available for those who need it. People can claim using a PC, tablet or mobile phone. The local Lisnagelvin and Foyle Jobs & Benefits Offices will have a Digital Zone with PCs and free Wifi which claimants can use to access their online account, with staff available to provide help and support.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 4, 2018 at 11:51 am

Councils have to step in to Help Universal Credit Claimants, while Gaucke still recovering from too much Turkey Stuffing.

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Image result for david gauke christmas

Gaucke, too busy with the Sherry and Turkey Stuffing to do his Job. 

David Gauke, has taken to retweeting,  like a blogger writing from his basement which smells of hamster wee.

 Eagle-eyed news hounds may have noticed that the last tweet he wrote himself was just before Christmas.

Too much sherry and too much turkey stuffing to intervene since the 22nd.

But lo, this has just happened….

Councils forced to fund emergency help for universal credit claimants

Labour says its findings offer more evidence that the government should pause rollout of new benefit system.

Cash-strapped councils are being forced to set aside extra resources to cushion the blow of switching to universal credit for vulnerable households, according to analysis by Labour.

Responses to a series of freedom of information requests submitted by the party have revealed many local authorities are allocating significant funds to support tenants with rent arrears and provide advice to help them navigate the new system.

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow minister for employment, said: “Universal credit is causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces. This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll out of universal credit so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Written by Andrew Coates

December 29, 2017 at 11:31 am

David Gauke’s On-Line Xmas Panto over Universal Credit.

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Image result for david gauke christmas

It’s Ho Ho Ho! with Gaukey this Christmas!

This show will run and run…

David Gauke Vows Not To Let ‘Hard Left’ Win On ‘Social Media Battlefield’

20.12.17.

The cabinet minister entered into a Twitter spat – with mixed results – after Labour MP and work and pensions select committee chair Frank Field claimed the roll-out of the controversial benefit system had left one woman with no income until after Christmas.

…….

During a briefing on Universal Credit roll-out hosted by the Centre for Social Justice, alongside former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, Gauke told journalists: “I think it’s important that we don’t desert the battlefield. Social media can at the moment feel almost dominated by the hard left, and I think it’s important that we engage and make the points.

“I strongly believe that we have got a really good policy that has positively transformed lives, but – and I am not for a moment suggesting Frank is part of the hard left – there is almost a sort of knee-jerk criticism, and a temptation, I think in particular with Universal Credit, that you can almost say anything critical and it goes without challenge.”

He said reports of problems with the system from Labour MPs had led to claimants becoming anxious about the process, while Duncan Smith blamed “irresponsible”.

 After stout denials by Gaukey and lashings of mince pies, the story developed,

 

Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke faces a backlash after issuing a strongly-worded rebuttal to a report of hardship on crisis-hit Universal Credit.But in a further twist on Wednesday, Field claimed Gauke was wrong himself and that the claimant in question had not, in fact, received £688 in an advance payment this week….

But in a further twist on Wednesday, Field claimed Gauke was wrong himself and that the claimant in question had not, in fact, received £688 in an advance payment this week.

“It’s great that you’ve found and helped someone in such desperate need. But the mum to whom I referred still hasn’t had an appointment,” he wrote.

“The public has ensured she has money for food and heating today. She’s still seeking help from DWP and I hope you’ll ensure this happens.”

Gauke’s elves in the Tory Party have been working hard up this very moment.

Field does not look as if he’s backing down (Oh Yes he is! oh No he isn’t!).

Meanwhile other very sociable people have their own views on Santa Gauke’s Universal Credit.

Guardian 21st of December.

Readers respond to secretary of state for work and pensions David Gauke’s letter that universal credit is helping people improve their lives.

David Gauke seems unaware of his own rules (Letters, 21 December). The government’s website states that single parents with a child under five years old should not be transferred to universal credit, but he implies that the mother cited in his letter received her payment through this system. His local officials in Slough were also ignorant of this directive when they did just such a transfer to UC in the case of a single mother with a one-year-old. She was indeed paid a sum to cover Christmas, which amounted to 30p! The transfer to UC has now been cancelled after representations, but no money will be forthcoming till 29 December, if then. This saga has been going on since mid-October and she and her child would have starved without support from friends, local churches and the food bank. This is not scaremongering but hard evidence that the whole system and those administering it are callous or incompetent or both.
John Wilding
Slough, Berkshire

Perhaps Gauke will reply to these letters and to this,

Universal credit ‘will cause evictions’ BBC. Today.

Yesterday: BBC.

Six months after people moved over to universal credit in Torfaen there are tales of difficulties.

Richard Davies, Torfaen council’s head of revenue and benefits, said it was causing impact across the council’s services.

“We’ve seen an immense difference, we’ve seen a significant spike in rent arrears, more vulnerable people being brought into the process.

“It’s put a tremendous strain on the local authority – we’re now having to provide assistance to claimants with online and personal budgetary support.

“I’ve been in public services since 1985 and I have never seen anything like it”.

Day Before Yesterday: BBC.

Universal credit: Minister apologises for payment delays.

Benefit claimants who have suffered problems because of a welfare overhaul have been given an apology by a UK government minister.

Universal credit merges six benefits into one monthly payment but critics said people have had to wait six weeks for their first payment.

Work and Pensions Minister Damian Hinds told BBC Wales the change was helping people back into work as intended despite “mistakes” in its introduction.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 22, 2017 at 12:05 pm

More and More, “I, Daniel Blake” Comes to Life with Universal Credit.

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Image result for Moi daniel blake

Daniel Blake.

David Gauke..

‘Real I, Daniel Blake’ man who can’t work after being stabbed faces Christmas eviction after Universal Credit blunder

“Tony Rice said that trying to work out what’s going on with his Universal Credit situation is like ‘hitting his head against a brick wall’.”

This Blog says the Mirror is to be congratulated for this story, but the man affected, Tony Rice, deserves the support of every rational human being in Britain.

I add, personally, that I know people who cannot use computers – one of the reasons I have not seen the full version of the Ken Loach Film is that an incident involving this has happened to somebody I know.

Fortunately I and others were there to help…

I could go on, but this tale of misery is all too common.

Three years ago, Tony Rice was forced to stop part-time sales work after being stabbed in the thigh and face.

Tony is about to be evicted from his home in North London, and for the first time in his life, has found himself reliant on food banks.

Like so many others, he’s fallen victim to the failed roll-out of Universal Credit.

The 51-year-old, from Waltham Forest, has been deemed unfit to work by his doctor: he suffers from a combination of physical and mental health difficulties, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Tony has lived in a council flat for six years. He moved out of his parents’ old house nearby after they died two years apart (you cannot succeed government-owned property twice).

Computer illiterate Tony, who was previously claiming incapacity benefit in a system that provided him a decent, if modest way of life, was put onto Universal Credit at the end of last year.

But contrary to his GP’s professional view, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) assessed him fit for work. Tony was not informed of sanctions for more than half a year – an oversight that has led to massive debt.

Debt, the word makes you cringe already.

On December 12, his Doughty Street Chambers barrister, Mary-Rachel McCabe, managed to persuade the judge at a county court to give him a little more time before Waltham Forest Council – which on the day wanted to press ahead with a possession order – eventually sends the bailiffs round.

If Tony’s Universal Credit payments aren’t amended by Christmas, in the next few months he’ll be on the streets.

“I got stabbed three years ago,” Tony told Mirror Online. “I used to help another guy out in the area with a few things. I was round his house and we got into an argument. He went for me.

“I’ve been paranoid since that and don’t go out much. It’s dulled my confidence really. I’d not encountered violence like that before.”

Tony said he was told at the start of 2017 that he no longer qualifies for Employment Support Allowance, but was not aware of penalties that have left him in arrears amounting to £10,000.

He said: “I don’t understand Universal Credit at all. I can’t use a computer and I feel like banging my head against a brick wall. It’s such a struggle.

“I’ve appealed and tried to get in touch with someone at the DWP so many times. There’s no line of communication whatsoever and I’m not told anything.

“I’m just not getting enough money to survive. I never thought I’d have to use food banks.”

Read the full story via the link above.

Conclusion,

Mirror Online spoke briefly to the DWP four days ago but has yet to get a statement on Tony’s circumstances. Or Universal Credit in general.

Unfortunate as it is, Tony’s case is all too common. And in Mary-Rachel’s view, only stands to worsen.

The housing law barrister said that in the past that legal aid was available for those in Tony’s situation, so issues would be dealt with earlier and eviction therefore less likely.

Legal aid for those claiming welfare benefits advice was cut in 2013.

Mary-Rachel added: “Universal Credit is not fit for purpose.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 18, 2017 at 4:42 pm

While DWP Minister Celebrates Universal Credit Success Emergency Food and Fuel Vouchers are Ready.

with 55 comments

With Rev Richard Lowson at Carpenders Park and South Oxhey Methodist Church

Gauke Celebrates Universal Credit Tidings of Good Joy.

Super Ted reminds us how people on benefits can be left on dire straits by the workings of the system.

That system is still getting worse, despite a few sticking plasters.

This story from Wales shows the low point we have reached under Gauke, who is no doubt enjoying some mince pies and mulled wine while his minions are busy.

Emergency food and fuel vouchers handed out as the latest Universal Credit rollout takes place

WalesonLine.

Swansea is the latest place in Wales where Universal Credit is being rolled out.

Emergency packages have been drawn up in Swansea to prepare for hundreds of families being left hard-up over Christmas by the controversial roll-out of Universal Credit.

Bosses at Coastal Housing are preparing their staff to hand out emergency food and fuel vouchers to help people through the crunch time.

Work and pensions secretary David Gauke previously said the system had been stress-tested and added latest figures seemed to suggest it was a success as 50% of new claimants were taking up an advanced loan.

Following a pilot scheme of the new system, Coastal Housing tenants have run up arrears of £73,000 an average of £830 each.

A Coastal Housing spokesman said emergency packages were fully in place ahead of Universal Credit coming into force.

He said: “The introduction of the Full Universal Credit service, which started in Neath Port Talbot on October 4 and will be followed by Swansea on December 13, will mean some Coastal tenants will not receive a full payment this side of Christmas.

“While we welcome moves taken by the UK Government in the recent budget to abolish the waiting week, for many claimants these changes will be too late.

“Therefore Coastal has created a package for those tenants we know will not have access to all their money in time for Christmas and the New Year, including individual support packages, the issuing of emergency food and fuel vouchers, and supporting the Evening Post’s Christmas campaign which donates to food banks.

“We’ve been able to do this with the backing of our business partners who have donated money to support our tenants and the wider community.”

..

Grandmother Geraldine Hill, 56, who lives in Coastal Housing accommodation, managed to get by for more than two decades on benefits without falling into debt despite bringing up three children after being unable to work as a result of a combination of anxiety, depression and lung disease.

But the switch to Universal Credit had proved to be life-changing and she previously said: “It’s been a struggle, I have to rely on a food bank and I’m living in the living room.

“All my housing, rent and DLA (Disability Living Allowance) was stopped, I ended up accumulating arrears through no fault of my own.

Pause for another pie and sip of heated plonk for Gauke,

‘Scrooge’ DWP bosses warned Universal Credit roll out will cost lives this Christmas.

The Courier.

The introduction of the new system, which replaces six existing means-tested benefits, has prompted fears thousands of Scots could be plunged into poverty as they endure a six-week wait for payments to come through.

David Alexander, co-leader of Fife Council, said officials are already “preparing for disaster” this winter and warned many people could face a “really tough time” under the new rules.

Dundee City Council’s finance spokesman, Baillie Willie Sawers, warned the payment delay is placing a “great strain” on some of the city’s most vulnerable people and admitted the roll out has been a “huge concern” for the authority.

As Gauke nibbles some more hors d’oeuvres before a good lunch we hear the peasants in Brum are not going too well either.

Birmingham Mail.

Foodbank fear Universal Credit will wipe them out – this is why

Volunteers at one of the city’s biggest foodbanks fear their shelves will be emptied by a sharp increase in the need for emergency food if the roll-out of Universal Credit continues.

Bosses at B30 Foodbank – which has seen a staggering 200 tons of donations since it launched four years ago – are concerned their warehouse will be emptied by a huge increase in demand.

The facility, based at Cotteridge Church, has fed almost 7500 adults and children in the B30 postcode and surrounding areas over the past year.

Ministers have claimed evictions, homelessness and debt will all rise if the government’s Universal Credit roll-out continues across Birmingham.

The Trussell Trust, a charity which provides foodbanks, said demand had risen in areas where Universal Credit was introduced.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

December 13, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Universal Credit is Wonderful: Official!

with 74 comments

Image result for david gauke

Gauke:  “I welcomed Universal Credit Full Service to my local Jobcentre yesterday.”

Ipswich Unemployed Action is sometimes accused of peddling negative stories  on Universal Credit.

Articles these:

Britain’s poor and vulnerable ‘living in fear’ of Universal Credit rollout

Single mum with Bipolar Disorder says she’s constantly “living in fear” of the next DWP letter posted through her letterbox – and she isn’t alone.

A Conservative MP wept in the House of Commons after hearing of the desperate situations of people affected by government welfare reforms. Heidi Allen’s voice cracked and she was visibly emotional following the speech by Labour’s Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

Misleading tales such as this:

True stories of human suffering can change MPs’ hearts. I’ve seen it happen  

False information from fringe publications.

DWP staff are volunteering to stuff foodbank Christmas hampers because they’re ‘unhappy’ with Universal Credit, MP reveals (Mirror).

Tories could be FORCED to publish reviews of Universal Credit they’ve kept secret for nearly two years  (Mirror)

Calamitous roll out of Universal Credit is being secretly delayed in Theresa May’s backyard  Mirror

Or this,

So we are happy to offer a platform for the Alternative View (with permission from comrade Dave S) from young David Gauke, (National Amalgamated Union for Grinding the Faces of the Poor Operatives and Allied Trades).

Image result for dave spart

Once Again, Labour Are Spreading Fake News About Universal Credit

Labour are once again putting out fake news about Universal Credit, this time alleging that the slowed rollout of Full Service is somehow skipping over prominent Government MPs’ constituencies. Towards the end of a week in which Labour have been passionately pushing out falsehoods – in Parliament, on social media and to the constituents.

What complete rubbish.

DWP have slowed the pace of rollout for Universal Credit so we can implement the improvements announced during the Budget. This is £1.5billion worth of help to ensure that anyone coming onto UC who needs it can get interest-free cash right away and paid back over a year, so that people can get their benefits sooner and so that people can get an extra two weeks of housing benefits.

I’d have thought that Labour would welcome these changes and welcome the slowed pace of rollout given their campaign to stop the rollout all together. But, instead we see Labour ignore the facts. To not only withhold valuable information from people, but then to mislead them into thinking there is no help available while they transition onto Universal Credit is a serious dereliction of duty.

The truth is that Universal Credit is a better benefit and we are now improving it

On Tuesday, we had over three hours of debate on Universal Credit. I asked the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Debbie Abrahams, to apologise to the House and to the public for Labour’s scaremongering about Universal Credit, and urged the Opposition to stop misleading people – not because I can’t take political fire, but because these falsehoods are causing real harm. Just last week a Labour leaning newspaper published a story about a family who feared they had to cancel Christmas only to learn that actually, they didn’t have to worry. They had seen the scare stories.

The truth is that Universal Credit is a better benefit and we are now improving it. That is slowing the pace of the rollout of the Full Service. 80% of all Jobcentres without Universal Credit Full Service will face some level of delay in getting it. Jobcentres are not arranged by constituency and some serve several constituencies. Of those Jobcentres who will have a delay in getting Full Service, half are in Conservative held seats and half are in Labour held or other seats.

So, who will see a delay in getting Universal Credit to their Job Centres? Not me, I welcomed Universal Credit Full Service to my local Jobcentre yesterday.

David Gauke is the work and pensions secretary and Conservative MP for South West Hertfordshire

Written by Andrew Coates

December 9, 2017 at 11:12 am

Parliament Debates Universal Credit, Tory MP Breaks down in tears at Government, “improving the welfare system and the lives of those who use it”.

with 82 comments

Image result for parliamentary debate on universal credit tears

Tory MP Heidi Allen breaks down in tears hearing misery inflicted by Universal Credit.

Debbie Abrahams Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  2:38 pm, 5th December 2017

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, That she will be graciously pleased to give directions that the five project assessment reviews, carried out into universal credit between 2012 and 2015 by the Government’s Major Projects Authority now known as the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, and any subsequent project assessment reviews carried out into universal credit by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority between 1 January 2016 and 30 November 2017 that have been provided to Her Majesty’s Ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions, be provided by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to the Work and Pensions Committee.

The purpose of today’s debate on universal credit, the fourth in nearly eight weeks, is to seek the release of the project assessment review reports on universal credit to enable this House to scrutinise the Government’s flagship social security programme.

She continues,

Debbie Abrahams Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

As some of my colleagues are saying, we are asking for the documents now. We are pleased the Government finally acknowledged that their universal credit programme is not fit for purpose, and now we need to understand the extent to which it is not fit for purpose through the publication of these reports.

I wish to start by giving some context to today’s debate and then set out why it is so important that we have access to these project assessment reviews. For many months now, Labour has been calling on the Government to pause and fix universal credit. This is a direct response to the mounting evidence that the full service programme is driving hardship in the areas where it has been rolled out. I am sure hon. Members from across the House will now be aware of the figures, but the realities of the misery being caused by this programme bear repeating: half of those in rent arrears under UC report that their arrears started after they made their claim; 79% of those in debt are recognised as having priority debts by Citizens Advice, putting them at higher risk of bailiffs and evictions; and two in five have no money to pay creditors at the end of the month.

This is of interest,

David Gauke The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I very much agree about the importance of a culture in which problems can be identified and passed up the command chain, with that system understood across the board. Clearly, when that does not happen, something needs to be addressed. When I entered this House in 2005—the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister at the time—we were wrestling with the problems of the tax credit fiasco, which was causing misery for vast numbers of people. If Members want an example of a project that failed because there was not a willingness to identify problems early, that is it.

The Infrastructure and Projects Authority’s policy that review reports remain confidential is founded on the position that an effective and trusted system of assurance in government is in the public interest, and that the premature disclosure of review reports undermines that public interest. Those considerations must be balanced with the desire for transparency and parliamentary scrutiny. In exceptional cases, sharing information with a Select Committee, in confidence, can be appropriate.

The motion refers to a number of reports, many of which date back some years, as my hon. Friend Heidi Allen pointed out. To disclose those papers without subsequent reports showing how well universal credit has progressed would give a partial picture. In line with the motion, I will provide, by the time the House rises for the Christmas recess, the reports directly to the Work and Pensions Committee. Let me point out to the shadowSecretary of State that her motion does not require us to publish these reports or to lay them before the House. Specifically, it says that those reports should be provided to the Committee. In those circumstances, it is acceptable for us to do so. As is customary, I will need to consider redacting any appropriate material, such as the names of junior officials and information that is commercially sensitive. I wish to emphasise that it is the Government’s view that this is an exceptional request that will be agreed to on an exceptional basis, and does not set any precedent for future action. Against that background, I shall provide the reports to the Select Committee on a confidential basis. In those circumstances, I hope and expect that the documents will not be disclosed further.

And, above all this:

David Gauke The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Let me turn to the substance of universal credit then. Universal credit is the biggest modernisation of the welfare state in a generation. The old system traps people in a cycle of benefits dependency, incentivising working only 16 hours or fewer a week and preventing people from reaching their potential. Universal credit frees people from those hours limits and lets them keep more of what they earn. Under universal credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the previous system. Once universal credit is fully rolled out, it will boost employment by around 250,000, which is equivalent to 400 extra jobs per constituency. It is improving the welfare system and the lives of those who use it.

Not to mention this reply to Gauckey,

Ruth George Labour, High Peak

If the Minister is so convinced of all the facts about universal credit that he claims, why does he not release the post-implementation review that the Department was apparently putting together and give us the full details of how universal credit is working, instead of relying on a study of a tiny sample of single people without jobs that was conducted more than two years ago, before the cuts, in order to make these wild claim

Read the full – long –  debate here.

This is what most people will remember.

Tory MP breaks down in tears at Labour MP’s story about family invited to a funeral just so they could eat

Heidi Allen urges colleagues to ‘make this better’ after hearing tales of despair the policy is causing Ben Kentish Independent.

 A Conservative MP was moved to tears after listening to a Labour colleague describe how the Government’s universal credit left one of his constituents contemplating suicide and others forced to attend a funeral in order to eat.

Heidi Allen was visibly upset as she rose to speak in a debate on the controversial policy, the implementation of which has been the subject of criticism from across the political spectrum.

The South Cambridgeshire MP was speaking moments after Labour’s Frank Field, who represents Birkenhead, told the Commons he had had to persuade a man not to take his own life because of the “destitution” the welfare policy has caused.

Speaking immediately afterwards, Ms Allen paused and said: “I don’t know where to start after that. I’m humbled by the words from my honourable, good friend from Birkenhead.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 6, 2017 at 11:30 am

Stop and FIX Universal Credit Day of Action. Some Images.

with 61 comments

Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action Saturday 2nd of December: Ipswich, Giles Corner.

There was a really good atmosphere, and people came to give support.

It was helped by this, even without mince pies!

The Mirror notes:

The government has consistently refused to “pause and fix” the scheme which has seen families pushed in to debt and rent arrears – despite losing a vote called by the Labour Party to do so.

The document titled “Universal Credit Transition Rollout Schedule” was published on the DWP website the day after the budget, replacing a previous version.

It lists the point at which UC will be rolled out in each JobCentre.

However, an analysis of the new timetable for, comparing it to the previous rollout schedule, showed that Maidenhead, Ashford, Hemel Hempstead, Walthamstow and Redbridge Job Centres Plus will all now delay the roll out by three months.

These cover the bulk of the constituencies of Maidenhead, Ashford, South West Hertfordshire and Chingford and Woodford Green.

Last week the Government caved in to pressure to cut the waiting time for first payments from six to five weeks.

But it will be too late for struggling families at Christmas as the change will not come in until February.

The move means that all three Work and Pensions Secretaries who designed and implemented the Universal Credit across much of the country will all see it delayed for their own seats – until the reduced waiting time and other reforms are in place.

Only South Oxhey, a small, working class and generally Labour-voting area of David Gauke’s constituency will continue to have Universal Credit imposed on time.

The other Job Centre Plus in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, which serves Labour seats rather than Iain Duncan Smith’s seat, will implement UC earlier.

When questioned on the decision in parliament David Gauke told MPs: “We are rolling out Universal Credit in a way that is safe, we are making adjustments as and when we need to but I am pleased to say the date on which UC will be fully rolled out remains unchanged March 2022 if it could be earlier I would make it earlier but that is the safest point at which we can do it.”

Stephanie Peacock had asked the minister: “I note in his department’s recent statement last week the right honorable gentleman postponed the rollout of Universal Credit in his constituency and those of the prime minister and the first secretary of state.“As he’s in the mood to reconsider the policy, can he do the same and pause the rollout of Universal Credit for the people of Barnsley East

There are more reports on the protests  circulating. Here are some.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2017 at 10:28 am

Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action, Saturday 2nd of December.

with 86 comments

Like many people I buy the ‘I’ Newspaper.

This story today gives lots of reasons – if we needed them – why everybody should be protesting against Universal Credit this Saturday.

Evictions, poverty and stress: Life for single parent families on universal credit

Hunger, anxiety, shame: the universal credit ‘catastrophe’ is hitting lone parents hardest of all. Emily Goddard meets mothers facing a grim Christmas. ‘I have to borrow from my child’s paper round money to top up the meter,’ one tells her.

Lily can smell the cigarette smoke from the next room along the corridor seeping through the crack under the door of her Croydon bed-and-breakfast room that she shares with her seven-year-old daughter. They have spent nearly a month here already after becoming homeless when they were evicted from their privately rented home in another part of the town because Lily couldn’t make the rent payments while waiting for her first universal credit payment.

Every day the 39-year-old returns from working her two low-pay, part-time jobs with her daughter to this room, which contains two single beds. The pair uses a potty in the room to go to the toilet because they don’t have a bathroom of their own – nor a shower, kitchen or washing facilities – and all the communal rooms that are shared by the other 40 to 50 residents are filthy.

Sometimes the noise is overwhelming, with doors banging, arguments raging on and “sex sounds”. And, as if the smell of cigarette smoke hanging heavy in the air was not bad enough, there have been people rolling and smoking joints in the kitchen that every resident in this wholly inadequate emergency accommodation has to share.

If you need more reasons the Mirror has them.

Universal Credit claimants face ‘disaster’ as helpline shuts for most of Christmas

MP Frank Field, who leads the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, has written to the Prime Minister as he warned there’ll be further ‘guerilla war’.

Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action

Saturday 02 December 2017 at 08:00-20:00

Fix universal credit ident

This Christmas will be cancelled for thousands of families claiming the new benefit Universal Credit. Despite knowing Universal Credit causes serious problems for claimants, Theresa May’s Tory government is pressing ahead and rolling it out to thousands of people who will have to wait weeks to receive any money.

Claimants are descending into debt, relying on food banks, getting into rent arrears and in many cases getting evicted from their homes because of in- built problems with Universal Credit.

Take action NOW against Universal Credit

On Saturday 2 December 2017 Unite Community will be staging a national day of action against Universal Credit to send a message to the Tory government that they must STOP & FIX Universal Credit before rolling it out and further or thousands of families face a cold a hungry Christmas and the threat of losing their homes.

Who gets Universal Credit

Universal Credit replaces five benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit.

Seven million households will be affected, including over one million low paid part-time workers. For the first time ever people in work could face being sanctioned (having their benefits stopped) if they don’t prove to the job centre that they’re searching for better paid work or more hours.

What needs fixing

Unite is calling on the government to:

  • Abandon the long waits for claimants to receive money
  • Allow people to apply for Universal Credit in a jobcentre, not just online
  • Provide people with better help when the system fails them
  • Pay landlords directly to stop people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes
  • End benefit sanctions for in-work and out-of-work claimants
  • Stop payments going to one named member of a household
  • Make work pay – Universal Credit takes 63p in every £1 people earn

Tell us your story

Get in touch and tell us about your Universal Credit stories. Send your stories to Liane.groves@unitetheunion.org

Sat 11:00 · The Giles Statue · Ipswich
All welcome, this is an activity for everyone who is concerned about the impact of Universal Credit, not just union members.

Contacts and actions in your area

Contact your local community coordinator and get involved on Saturday 2 December.

REGION AREA TIME ADDRESS
North East Yorkshire & Humber Ashington 10.00-11.30 Argos, Wansbeck Square, Station Road, Ashington, NE63 9XL
John Coan Barnsley 12.00-13.30 May Day Green, Outside Barnsley Town Hall, Barnsley, S70 1RH
0113 236 4830 Consett  10.00-12.00 Unit 4, 26 Newmarket Street, Consett, County Durham, DH8 5LQ
07711 375536 Grimsby 10.00  1 DEC Freshney Place Shopping Centre, Grimsby, DN31 1ED
John.coan@unitetheunion.org Huddersfield 14.00-15.00 Huddersfield bus station, Upperhead Row, HD1 2JL
Leeds 11.00-13.00 Outside Debenhams, 121 Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6LX
Middlesbrough 14.00-15.00 Middlesbrough Town Hall, Albert Road, Middlesbrough, TS1 2QJ
Newcastle 11.00-12.30 Sports Direct, 15/21 Northumberland Road, Newcastle NE1 7AL
Redcar 10.00-12.00 Redcar High Street, Redcar, TS10 3BZ
London & Eastern Central London from 14.00 Costa Coffee: Oxford Street and turn left on to Great Portland Street.
Dave Condliffe Barking, Dagenham & Havering 10.00-16.00 Chequer’s Corner to highlight how important Dagenham JobCentre
0208 800 4281 Brent 12.00-14.00 Neasden Parade Kilburn Unemployment WC
07791 113806 Cambridge All day Mill Road Winter Fair
David.condliffe@unitetheunion.org  Clacton-on-Sea 10.30-14.00 Brotherhood Hall
Colchester 16.00-18.00 Town Hall, Colchester High Street
Essex 11.00-14.00 Waltham Abbey
Herts & Beds 13.00- St Mary’ Square, leafleting in Watford High Street
Lambeth 11.00-13.00 Brixton tube station
Norfolk 11.00-14.00 Magdalen Street flyover, Anglia Square
Peterborough 11.45-14.00 Peterborough Bus station within central shopping area
Suffolk 11.00-14.00 Suffolk Unite Office
Tower Hamlets 10.00-13.00 Whitechapel Road by tube
West London TBC
South East Bracknell 12.30-14.30 Princess Square, by the War Memorial
Kelly Tomlinson Crawley 13.00-14.30 Crawley, Queens Square (by old bandstand site)
02392 824 514 Dover 10.00-12.00 Dover Biggin Street
07941 342835 Eastbourne 11.00-13.00 Bankers corner, Terminus Road, Cornfield Road
Kelly.tomlinson@unitetheunion.org Gillingham 11.00-13.00 Outside the Conservative club, 122-124 High Street
Hastings 12.00-14.00 Town centre opposite Lloyds, joint stall with the LP.
Herne Bay 10.00-12.00 Corner of Mortimer Street / Sea Street
Hove 13.00-15.00 Hove town hall, Church Rd/Tilsbury Place corner
Milton Keynes 12.00-14.00 Central MK, outside McDonalds
Oxford 11.00-13.00 Carfax tower, junction of Cornmarket Street, High Street, Queen Street and St. Aldgate’s
Portsmouth 14.00-16.00 Commercial Road, by the Fountain
Sittingbourne 10.00-12.00 High Street entrance to The Forum
Slough 10.30-13.00 Slough Square, outside the cinema
Southampton 12.00-14.00 Meet at The Bargate midday
South West Bath 11.00- Xmas Market, meeting point Bath Spa Station  BA1 1SU
Brett Sparkes Barnstaple TBC
01793 836480 Bridgwater 11.00-13.00 Cornhill, Bridgwater TA6 3BU
07718 666593 Bristol 11.00- Fountains (opposite the Hippodrome) St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol BS1 4UZ
brett.sparkes@unitetheunion.org  Bude 11.00-14.00 The Triangle, Belle Vue EX23 8JJ
Gloucester 11.00- Gloucester Eastgate St. GL1 1PA
Minehead 11.00- Iceland The Avenue, Minehead TA24 5AZ
Truro 11.00-14.00 Lemon Quay TR1 2PU
Yeovil 11.00-14.00 Middle Street, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 1LS
Ireland Belfast 13.00- DfC HQ, Causway Exchange, Bedford Street, Belfast
Albert Hewitt Derry TBC Derry Foyle Jobs and Benefits office
02890 020418
07711 375537
albert.hewitt2@unitetheunion.org
Scotland TBC
Jamie Caldwell
0845 604 4384
07711 376562
jamie.caldwell@unitetheunion.org
North West  Cumbria TBC TBC
Sheila Coleman Ellesmere Port 11.00-14.00 York Rd, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0DB
0151 203 1907 Lancashire TBC TBC
07711 375538 Liverpool 11.00-14.00 Williamson Square, Liverpool city centre
sheila.coleman@unitetheunion.org Manchester TBC TBC
Wirral 11.00-16.00 Open day for advice on Universal Credit, St Anne Street, Birkenhead, CH41 3SU
Midlands  Chesterfield TBC Chesterfield Unite Community, New Square
Shaun Pender East Staffs 10.00-11.45 Outside Primark in Burton town centre
01332 548400 Northampton 10.00-13.00 The entrance of the Grosvenor Centre Northampton town centre
07885 803449 Nottingham TBC Brian Clough Statue, Junction of Queen & King St, Off Market Sq, Nottingham, NG1 2BL
shaun.pender@unitetheunion.org Stoke/North Staffs 11.00-13.00 The Iron market, Newcastle-under Lyme town centre
Wolverhampton City centre
Wales  Aberystwyth 11.00-13.00 TBC
Ian Swan Cardiff 11.00-13.00 Cardiff central library
02920 394521 Merthyr 11.00-13.00 Merthyr town centre
ian.swan@unitetheunion.org Rhyl 11.00-13.00 TBC
Wrexham 11.00-13.00 Wrexham town centre

Written by Andrew Coates

November 29, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Where Introducing Universal Credit Will be Delayed, and where it will not – Ipswich for starters (April 2018).

with 111 comments

Image result for David gauke

After a Hard Day’s Work Bringing Universal Credit Joy to the People, David Gauke Relaxes with a Pint. 

The Minister at the Helm of the DWP is a busy chap.

He Tweets,

He goes on telly:

David Gauke: ‘Universal Credit is about transforming lives’ – Channel Four.

He even deigns to speak to Parliament,

With permission, Mr Speaker, following the announcement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in his Budget speech yesterday, I shall make a statement on universal credit.

Universal credit represents the biggest modernisation of the welfare state in a generation. It supports those who can work and cares for those who cannot. Under universal credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the previous system. Once it is fully rolled out it will boost employment by about 250,000, which is equivalent to about 400 extra jobs for every constituency. It was introduced to replace the complex and failed benefit system run by the last Government, which created cliff edges, discouraging people from working more than 16 hours a week and trapping 1.5 million on out-of-work benefits for nearly a decade. Members on both sides of the House have voiced their support for the principles underpinning universal credit. It is a modern welfare system which—through one simple monthly payment—ensures that work always pays, mirrors the world of work, and helps people to earn their way out of financial insecurity and welfare dependency.

As we introduce universal credit, we are constantly improving the way in which the system works. We recently introduced changes to ensure that everyone who needs advance payments has access to them, and we are making our telephone lines Freephone numbers. I have consistently made it clear that we will continue to introduce universal credit gradually. Of the total number of households that will eventually move on to it, 9% are currently receiving it, and the number will increase to 12% by February. That will enable us to make improvements over time.

Colleagues have had concerns about the waiting time for the first payment, and I am grateful to my parliamentary colleagues for their constructive engagement on this issue. There have been several debates here and in the other place. This statement responds to them and fulfils the commitment made on behalf of the Government by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House in relation to the resolution of the House on 18 October 2017. We are now offering a balanced package of improvements that puts more money into claimants’ hands earlier, ensuring extra support for those who most need it.

Rest via link.

Probably he even bleeding sings for his supper.

But we are bored with him already.

Meanwhile. 

The Mirror reports,

After months of protests, the Tories finally announced a £1.5billion lifeline for people on Universal Credit at this week’s Budget.

The waiting time for first payments under the controversial benefit will be shortened from six weeks to five from February.

They mean Universal Credit’s rollout has been delayed – for arguably the EIGHTH time in its chaotic history.

It will now be introduced to just a thin trickle of Jobcentres in February, March and April, instead of the torrent that was planned.

The paper lists the places where it’s delayed.

And the others…

The full list of that ‘thin’ trickle where the disaster that is Universal Credit is coming  is here.

It includes:

April 2018 Universal Credit Transition Rollout Schedule
Local Authority Jobcentre area
Denbighshire County Council Rhyl JCP
Ipswich Borough Council Ipswich JCP
North Lanarkshire Council Airdrie JCP
Bellshill JCP
Cumbernauld JCP

Motherwell JCP
Slough Borough Council Slough JCP*
(*Also serves South Bucks District Council)
South Bucks District Council Slough JCP*
(*Also serves Slough Borough Council)
Wigan Council Ashton in Makerfield JCP
Leigh JCP
Wigan JCP

Note,

Are you already claiming benefits?

Existing benefits and tax credits claimants who do not have a change of circumstance (see below) will not be asked to claim Universal Credit until July 2019 at the earliest. The government expects to finish moving existing benefit and tax credit claimants onto Universal Credit by March 2022.

What counts as a change of circumstance?

There’s no published list of what counts as a change of circumstance to trigger a move from one of the existing benefits to Universal Credit but below is a guide of the changes likely to be included:

  • If your entitlement to the current benefit ends prompting a need to claim a new one, for example if you stop being entitled to Working Tax Credit because you lose your job (or regularly reduce your hours below the minimum number of hours you must work) or you stop being entitled to income-based Jobseekers’ Allowance because you start working more than 16 hours a week.
  • If you become entitled to a different or extra benefit, for example you are claiming income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and have a child so you would have become eligible for Child Tax Credit, or you separate from a partner and would have become eligible for help with your rent through Housing Benefit.
  • If you have a change in your relationship, for example if you move in with somebody already claiming Universal Credit you will claim Universal Credit together.

It is not currently clear if moving house counts as a change of circumstances but it may be the case that moving within the same local authority doesn’t count as a change but moving to a new authority does. We will update this guide when this has been confirmed.

There are also a few changes that are unlikely to count as a change of circumstance, which will generally be changes to benefits you are already claiming. For example, you are already getting Child Tax Credit and you have another child, you are already getting Working Tax Credit and you change jobs (as long as you still meet the hours rules) or you are already getting Housing Benefit and your rent increases.

In many cases you are obliged to report a change of circumstances. If you are in any doubt as to whether a change in your circumstances means you will have to claim Universal Credit see if a local advice agency is able to help you or contact the relevant benefits team to ask.

And then there is this:

A standoff between banks and the government means that loan applicants could be rejected if they receive the new payment.

Thousands – perhaps even millions – of people could have trouble obtaining a mortgage because of problems with the way the government’s universal credit system and banks and building societies “talk” to each other.

A Guardian Money investigation into the difficulties experienced by a homebuyer living in one of the areas chosen to test the new benefit has revealed that some recipients could be at risk of being turned down for a mortgage. Some lenders are saying they will not accept universal credit at all when calculating how much they will lend, while others have apparently not amended their IT systems to deal with it – leading to problems and delays. On its published list of acceptable income types, Halifax’s website simply gives a blunt “no”.

Many lenders do accept it in some situations, but a key problem is that the most up-to-date version of universal credit is fully online and paperwork-free. Many banks and building societies, however, still insist on an official “hard copy” letter detailing how much benefit someone is getting. In essence, it’s an “old tech v new tech” clash.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Budget: Universal Credit Sticking Plaster Announced.

with 102 comments

Image result for universal credit unite community

 

As Ace Reporter, Breaking News, informs us, with the rest of our tip top team of Contributors, there are some changes to Universal Credit in the Budget.

I was initially confused with all this talk of 1,5 Billion, which it turns out, is not the Queen’s Billion,  a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000),  but a miserable US thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000).

But here it is,

The Mirror, which is pretty good on these things, reports,

Chancellor Philip Hammond has bowed to pressure over Universal Credit with a £1.5 billion package to cut the waiting period for payments- by a week.

He has also removed the seven-day waiting period so entitlement starts on the day of the claim.

Changes announced today will also mean any household needing an advance can access a full month’s payment within five days of applying instead of half a month’s worth.

While the repayment period for advances will increase from six to 12 months.

He said that any new Universal Credit claimant in receipt of housing benefit will continue to receive that benefit for a further 2 weeks.

But Jeremy Corbyn slammed the U-turn as simply not good enough.

He told the House of Commons: “Wouldn’t it have been better to pause the whole thing and look at the problems it has caused?”

In response to Mr Hammond, Mr Corbyn said: “The Chancellor’s solution to a failing system causing more debt is to offer a loan,” referring to increased ‘advances’ for people in need.

It’s pretty clear what us lot think, but it’s good to hear somebody say it in a national paper,

The reaction from the Child Poverty Action Group, who have campaigned passionately for changes to Universal Credit, was mixed.

The charity’s Chief Executive Alison Garnham welcomed changes to the waiting days but said the chancellor had missed an opportunity to completely overhaul the flawed system.

She said: “We were the first to sound the alarm over the waiting days for universal credit, so we’re pleased the Chancellor has acted to remove them and put in place new arrangements for receiving advances as part of an emergency rescue package, but this should have been the budget that ushered in much needed structural reform of Universal Credit to revive the central promise to strengthen the rewards from work and that didn’t happen.”

The trusty lot at the Mirror put all this into place,

Hammond’s Budget is no game changer and tinkering with Universal Credit is a con when deep, painful welfare cuts for families in and out of work will plunge more kids into grinding poverty.

Branding a £7.83 an hour minimum wage a “living wage” adds insult to injury when independent experts calculate the real rate would need to be £8.75 – or in expensive London, £10.20.

Sunny BBC reporters summarise this dream-package for those who wish to go a but further:

“For the average person claiming the benefit, they’ll have £73 extra in their pockets plus housing costs and any other elements they qualify for – like childcare support.”

More details:

People claiming universal credit will now wait, to be precise, 35 days rather than 42 before they get their first payment.

It’s helpful to think of the current waiting period before people can receive their first universal credit in three chunks:

  • Four weeks to assess how much someone has earned in the last month
  • An administrative week set aside to process the payment
  • A further seven “waiting days” during which claimants are not eligible for any benefit – this is what the chancellor is scrapping

The four weeks is more or less baked into the design of the system. Universal credit was designed to be paid in arrears once a person’s monthly income has been assessed. Changing this feature would have required a fairly significant change to the whole structure of the benefit.

So it was in the other 14 days that the government had some leeway.

The reduction in the waiting period announced in the Budget strips away seven of those extra days, leaving a full week to process the payment. Arguably, the chancellor could have shortened the payment processing time too.

It was the seven additional “waiting days” many took issue with, since it’s difficult to see what purpose those days served other than to save money.

David Finch, a senior policy analyst at think tank the Resolution Foundation, described them as a “completely unnecessary saving” which had a disproportionate negative impact on claimants.

And a report on the six week waiting period by a cross-party group of MPs, chaired by Labour MP Frank Field, described the motivation of those extra days as “primarily fiscal”.

But the motivation behind universal credit was not a cost-saving one – it was supposed to be all about getting more people into work.

The report’s authors added that they had been told by a wide range of charities, councils and housing associations that the seven waiting days did “nothing to further the stated objectives of Universal Credit but contribute to claimant hardship.”

Who will benefit?

Just over a third of people eligible for universal credit have always been exempt from having to go for seven “waiting days” with no benefits.

This group includes people who are moving on to universal credit from a relevant existing benefit, those who have claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance in the past three months, young people under the age of 22 leaving local authority care and victims of domestic abuse.

The other 64% of new claimants will benefit from this change.

The actual number of people will vary – there were 47,000 new people starting to receive universal credit in the most recent month we have data for (13 September to 12 October).

Still, while we pause,  this is a good larf..

But…..(leaving aside the rest of the unfit for purpose system stays in place),

Benefits are still frozen.

Food prices, to begin with, are rocketing.

Butter has gone up by 40%’: readers on rising UK food prices.

As inflation sticks at a five-year high of 3%, readers share their experiences of how they are coping with the squeeze.

It’s very generous of the Chancellor to extend rail cards for young people, to those who are under 30.

“Discount railcard extended for people aged up to 30”.

I shall bear that in mind the next time I am under 30.

But duty on high-strength “white ciders” to be increased in 2019 via new legislation.

Like the kind of po-faced Scottish nationalists who do not want the poor to drink the devil’s buttermilk, and who have introduced ‘Minimum Pricing’ for alcohol, you can see here an attempt to stop the really hard up getting pissed up on the cheap with White Lightening.

One to watch out for, as there are  temperance lobbyist in other parties in the UK who’d  like to do the same here.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 22, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Universal Credit to bring Misery for over 100,000 over Christmas.

with 87 comments

DWP Explains Universal Credit for Dummies.

(What the hell this design means hell knows…)

A friend in Ipswich told me about this story this morning, and WhoKnew has posted about it, but it’s still hard to get to grips with something quite so bad.

Universal credit: Households to miss out on benefits over festive season.

Thousands of people on universal credit may not be paid over the festive season or may get a reduced payment, the BBC Money Box show has highlighted.

Those hit will be some of the 67,000 people who claim the benefit while working and who are paid weekly.

This is because there are five paydays in December, so their monthly income will be too high to get any or some of the benefit. Some will have to reapply.

The government said only a “minority” of claimants would be affected.

The Department for Work and Pensions warns on its website that people who are paid five times in a month may have an income that is too high to qualify for the benefit in that period.

It says people will be notified if this happens and told to reapply for the benefit the following month.

Other people who are paid fives times in a month but do not earn enough for universal credit to end will have their benefit reduced.

Kayley Hignell, from Citizens Advice, said the way universal credit was calculated brought some benefits but also “significant budget challenges”.

She said: “The key thing here is about communication.

“People need to know that if they’re getting extra income in one month… it may stop their universal credit payment, and that they then subsequently need to put in a new claim to make sure that they continue to get those payments.

“If you’ve got extra money in the month, don’t necessarily bank on the fact that your universal credit is going to stay the same, because it could change it either in this month or the next.”

The Independent shares our initial disbelief.

100,000 people on universal credit will not receive a payment at Christmas

‘It sounds like nonsense doesn’t it? A script from a political farce. But no, it’s actually what’s happening’ Rob Merrick

At least 100,000 low-paid people on universal credit will receive no payment at Christmas, in a fresh controversy about the new benefit.

The claimants will be hit because they are paid weekly and their income “will likely go over the universal credit limit”, officials say.

They will be able to reapply in January – but, it is feared, will be left without money over the Christmas and New Year period.

 The same problem will re-occur in other months which, like December, have five paydays, because universal credit is calculated on a monthly basis.

“It sounds like nonsense doesn’t it? A script from a political farce. But no, it’s actually what’s happening,” said one worried claimant on the Mumsnet website.

Here is the Official Cheery Yuletide Message from the DWP,

 If you’re paid weekly

If you’re paid weekly by your employer, you will get either 4 or 5 payments of earnings within a Universal Credit assessment period. Depending on the amount you get paid this may affect your Universal Credit.

When you have 5 weekly earnings payments within an assessment period, your income may be too high to qualify for Universal Credit in that month.

If this happens you will be notified that your income is too high and you will no longer get Universal Credit.

You can re-apply the following month as you should only get 4 wage payments in your assessment period then.

You will need to be prepared for a month when you get 5 wage payments in one assessment period and budget for a potential change in your monthly Universal Credit payments.

Find out what you need to do if you need to start your Universal Credit claim again within 6 months of your previous claim ending. For example, because you’ve received more earnings in an assessment period than usual.

There’s plenty of other side-splitting stuff on the same site:

Guidance

Universal Credit: different earning patterns and your payments (payment cycles).

This is real larf: “Personal Budgeting Support (money advice).”

If you have any complaints do not hesitate to fill this in, it’s at the bottom of the DWP page:

 

Help us improve GOV.UK

Don’t include personal or financial information like your National Insurance number or credit card details.

What you were doingWhat went wrong

Send

Written by Andrew Coates

November 18, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Government to Cut Universal Credit Wait to…..5 Weeks!

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Image result for universal credit campaign

I Week off the Wait, to meet Universal Credit Crisis.

Our best mate and Mentor, Tutor and Guide,  Google informs us of this,

Government preparing to trim wait for new benefit after Tory backbenchers raised concerns about impact on constituents.

The government is preparing to confirm that it will cut the six-week waiting time for universal credit, caving in to Conservative backbench rebels.

After being promised concessions by ministers, a group of Tory MPs concerned about the impact of the delay on their constituents were persuaded not to vote against the government in a Labour-led debate on universal credit last month.

The six-week wait was the central concern of the group, which includes Heidi Allen and Johnny Mercer, and the government is expected to reduce it, most likely by eliminating the seven-day mandatory waiting time at the start of any new claim.

The move comes as MPs prepare to vote on a cross-party motion to cut the wait for a first payment from 42 days to a month. The backbench business debate in the House of Commons on Thursday will focus on the recommendations of the recent work and pensions committee inquiry report on universal credit.

The committee chair, Frank Field, warned that a government defeat would send a clear message to ministers that the long wait had to go: “Universal credit’s design and implementation have been beset with difficulties that knock claimants into hunger, debt and homelessness, but the most glaring of these in the first instance is the six-week wait for payment.

“I doubt many households in this country could get by for six weeks, and for many, much longer, with no income, never mind those striving close to the breadline. The baked-in wait for payment is cruel and unrealistic and government has not been able to offer any proper justification for it.”

But wait, hark, what is this we hear?

The massive concession turns out to be a lonely 5 week wait.

Government backs down on Universal Credit wait.

Sky News understands the concession will be made in the coming days as Theresa May tries to see off a Tory rebellion.

The Government is to cut the controversial six-week wait for Universal Credit payments in the comings days in a bid to see off a Conservative rebellion.

A Government source familiar with the plans told Sky News there would be “some movement [on the wait time] in the early part of next week” after intensive behind-the-scenes discussions with a group of up to two dozen rebel MPs.

The source said ministers were working on plans to cut the wait to five weeks or less in a significant concession to backbench MPs.

And Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke is also said to be looking to do more on advance payments for claimants as the roll-out of Universal Credit is expanded from five to 50 job centres a month.

Universal Credit combines six benefits into one single benefit and is designed to simplify the welfare system and to “make work pay”.

It was the flagship welfare reform of David Cameron’s coalition government, but has been plagued with delays since its inception and by criticism over its design.

One flaw is the six-week wait time which has been criticised across the political divide amid concerns it is pushing claimants into arrears on rent and council tax, and forcing some to use food banks.

The 5 week wait and “more” to get people into debt with advance payments is miserable, miserable, penny-pinching, Scrooge’s idea of a Christmas present.

As Julia Rampen says in the New Statesman says,

The government is set to cut the six week initial waiting time for Universal Credit, Sky News reports. If this retreat on welfare is true, it’s welcome. The expectation that people forced to rely on this country’s meagre safety net would somehow have the cash to tide themselves over for six weeks was always fantasy.

As increasingly panicked reports from the areas where the new “streamlined” benefit is being rolled out attest, six weeks is a long time when you have no money in your pocket, and rent and bills to pay. Claimants can get an advance payment, but this can easily turn into yet another debt to pay. Evictions are mounting, and stories from frontline workers are harrowing – such as the one from a foodbank manager, who met a young boy picking through the bins while his mother waited for her first Universal Credit payment.

All the same, there is not much to celebrate. Commuting the waiting time from six weeks to five, as the report suggests will happen, still means a very long wait for access to food or heating, or the resources to pay your rent and other bills. It suggests that Universal Credit will still be structured around a monthly payment, and allocated based on monthly income – even though Resolution Foundation research found the majority of claimants had previously been paid weekly or fortnightly, and many in-work recipients have different hours from month to month. Nor does there seem to be any movement on the fact that Universal Credit is paid to only one member of the household – a structure ripe for abuse. And then there’s the whole question of whether the benefit designed to “make work pay” is actually penalising workers, since any increases in payment under the new system are minimal.

Most worryingly, though, a climbdown on the waiting period does nothing to address the cause of much Universal Credit misery – the glitches. As an anonymous Universal Credit manager wrote for the New Statesman, benefits case managers are overwhelmed, with 300 cases on the go at once. A rigid, automised priority list means that many claims with fall through the cracks. With Jobcentres closing, claimants are set to be even more reliant on communicating with these overworked staff through online messaging or crowded phonelines.

CAN YOU CREDIT IT?

 

Brits spend £6.5million ringing Universal Credit helpline between April and September

 

Shocking figures reveal there were 4.2million calls to the helpline over the five months with an average landline fee of up to 12p

Pile it on against the bastards!

More from Sky just now,

The Prime Minister has been warned thousands of families are being put through the “trauma” of fearing eviction over Christmas due to flagship benefit changes.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tackled Theresa May over the roll-out of Universal Credit, as he revealed a letting agency’s warning to tenants that they could be asked to leave their properties.

In a letter from Lincolnshire-based GAP Property, tenants are told the company cannot sustain arrears “at the potential levels Universal Credit could create” when the new benefits system is introduced in the area next month.

Highlighting a six-week wait claimants will face for their first benefit payments under Universal Credit, the agency adds: “IF YOU DO NOT PAY YOUR RENT WE WILL HAVE NO OPTION BUT TO LEAVE AND RECOVER LOSSES FROM YOUR GUARANTOR”.

GAP Property insists to tenants the letter is “not intended to cause you alarm, rather to inform you of the problems that could very well occur during the roll-out of Universal Credit”.

Challenging Mrs May over the letter at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Corbyn asked: “Will the Prime Minister pause Universal Credit so it can be fixed or does she think it is right to put thousands of families through Christmas in the trauma of knowing they’re about to be evicted because they’re in rent arrears because of Universal Credit?”

In response, Mrs May acknowledged concerns about people managing their budgets to pay rent during the Universal Credit roll-out, but added: “What we see is after four months the number of people on Universal Credit in arrears has fallen by a third.”

The Labour leader told the Prime Minister he suspects “it’s not the only letting agency that’s sending out that kind of letter” and highlighted increased food bank usage and child poverty fears as he demanded the Government pause the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Mrs May countered the new benefits system “is ensuring that we are seeing more people in work and able to keep what they earn”.

And,

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams repeated Labour’s demand for a pause to Universal Credit while “these issues are fixed”.

She said: “The Government is reportedly planning to reduce the six week wait for Universal Credit payments.

“I hope they have now listened to Labour’s repeated calls to significantly reduce the waiting time, which has driven many into debt, arrears and evictions.

“Much more needs to be done.

“The Government must confirm that alternative payment arrangements will be offered to all recipients, including fortnightly payments, and bring forward plans to restore the principle that work always pays under the programme.”

Before I forget (and after seeing the rise in Food Prices today): End the Benefits Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 15, 2017 at 4:19 pm

Stop the Roll Out of Universal Credit! Protests on December the 2nd.

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Stop the rollout of Universal Credit

 

Organising  has  begun.

 Unite Community Day of Action for Universal Credit on December 2nd.

Contact: community@unitetheunion.org to find out where your local action is or to offer your help.

Please do your bit and share the articles to your networks. Get the word out so we can maintain the pressure on this Tory Govt.

Solidarity comrades.

Latest news stories, BBC.

The Scottish government is calling on the chancellor to stop the rollout of Universal Credit to enable “fundamental flaws” to be fixed.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has written to Philip Hammond asking for improvements to be made to the payments system in his autumn Budget.

He said a delay in payments had caused hardship to families across Scotland.

The UK government said the vast majority of people were paid their Universal Credit in full and on time.

The controversial measure, which is being rolled out across the UK, brings six existing benefit payments into one – but critics have claimed the six-week wait some people have for their first payment is contributing to a rise in debt, rent arrears and evictions.

In his letter to the chancellor, Mr Mackay said the announcement by the work and pensions secretary to offer Universal Credit advances upfront would “do nothing to fix the fundamental design flaws with Universal Credit”.

He said: “The Universal Credit system is fundamentally flawed and causing unnecessary hardship and suffering to families across Scotland.

“It is vital that the UK government addresses these failings and that the roll-out is halted until the problems are fixed.

“I strongly urge the chancellor to use the autumn Budget to pause the roll-out, reduce the first payment wait time to a maximum of four weeks, move to a twice-monthly payment system and reverse cuts to work allowances.

“These measures would help ease financial pressures and stop pushing more families into poverty.”

Telegraph,

Theresa May faces revolt over Universal Credit as MPs prepare to vote on reducing wait times

Theresa May is facing a second revolt over the roll-out of one of the Government’s key welfare reforms after ordering her MPs to abstain on an earlier vote.

The Sunday Telegraph understands that more than a dozen Conservative MPs are intending to back a cross-party motion this week demanding that ministers reduce the waiting period for Universal Credit payments.

The Democratic Unionist Party, whose MPs are propping up Mrs May’s Government, is also believed to be considering supporting the motion.

The vote is likely to cause embarrassment to the Prime Minister in a week when she is attempting to reassert authority over her party after losing two Cabinet ministers in the space of a week.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Universal Credit and Elaine Morrall who “Died Cold and Alone”.

with 109 comments

 

Mum-of-four dies cold and alone after missing Universal Credit meeting

Elaine “Died Cold and Alone”. “How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?’

 

This story makes everything else look small.

A mum-of-four died cold and alone after her benefits were cut because she was too ill to attend a Universal Credit meeting. Elaine Morrall was found dead in her home wearing a coat and scarf, her family claimed. Metro.

The 38-year-old had her benefits stopped because she failed to attend a meeting about Universal Credit while she was in a hospital intensive care unit, they said.

Elaine, who suffered from an eating disorder and mental health problems, was found dead earlier this month in Runcorn, Cheshire. Her family claims she wouldn’t put her heating on until her kids got home from school because of the cost. Her grieving mother Linda Morrall blamed the Department of Work and Pensions for her untimely death.

In an open letter on Facebook, she wrote: ‘How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?’ ‘My daughter lived in Boston ave. She died on the afternoon of 2 November 2017 at home on her own. She was 38yrs. ‘In the cold with her coat & scarf on. Because she wouldn’t put her heating on until her kids came home from school. Why?? Because she couldn’t afford it. ‘Because she was severely depressed. Suffered from eating disorder & many other problems for many years. ‘Mainly due to authoritarians of 1 form or another. I can give you details. Was in & out of hospital in recent months in intensive care. ‘But was deemed not ill enough for ESA. Had her benefits stopped numerous times, which in turn stopped her housing benefit. ‘No income but expected to be able to pay full rent. Was told being in intensive care was not sufficient reason for failing to attend a universal credit interview. ‘I went to the job centre to inform them that she couldn’t attend. But benefits stopped again. ‘Uncaring housing taking her to court. She’s due to go to court on monday. Is being dead now enough reason. Is that what’s had to happen to prove she was ill?? ‘How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?? ‘What are you and your fellow councillors going to do to protect your constituents??’

Background to the growing crisis.

Demand for Suffolk and Essex food banks continues to grow.

Ipswich Star. 7th of November. 

Changes in the benefit system and the rising cost of living are among the issues driving a surge in demand on Suffolk and Essex food banks, it has been claimed.

Ipswich charity Families in Need (FIND) has given out around 3,400 food parcels so far in 2017, and founder Maureen Reynel said more people were using the service every year.

Food bank bosses say the roll out of Universal Credit, which is replacing most means-tested benefits, is leaving local people struggling because new applicants have to wait around six weeks after a successful assessment to receive the cash.

Mrs Reynel said: “It means people are waiting for money, even though it’s back dated they have to eat in the meantime so any change in benefits, doesn’t matter what label they put on it, has an adverse affect on people using those benefit systems.

“It’s just a mess really. We just have to keep trying to plug a gaping hole to see these people through until something else good happens for them.”

Demand on FIND is “non-stop”, Mrs Reynel said, with the number of food parcels handed out hitting double figures most days.

The same evening there was a report on the effect of Universal Credit on people, driving them into utter poverty, on the BBC Look East.

Trussell Trust foodbanks report record surge in demand amid Universal Credit rollout

The statistics lay bare the link between the welfare reform and rising need for emergency handouts.

The controversial rollout of the Tories’ flagship welfare reform has triggered a 30% surge in hungry families, shock figures reveal today.

Foodbanks handed out 586,907 emergency rations between the start of April and end of September – a 13% rise on the same period last year, according to the Trussell Trust.

With each parcel having enough food for three meals a day for three days, volunteers handed out the equivalent of almost 5.3 million meals.

And foodbanks in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out for six months or more have seen an average 30% spike in the first six months after its launch compared to a year before.

Charity leaders fear the crisis will deepen in the run-up to Christmas when the number of foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit service will triple, and when demand for food traditionally rises.

Trussell Trust chief executive Mark Ward said: “We’re seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 8, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Work and Health Programme: After Universal Credit another Opportunity for Government Cock-up.

with 126 comments

 Image result for work and health programme

Work and Health Programme?

Providers announced for the Work and Health Programme (Thanks to contributors for flagging this up)

The Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work, Penny Mordaunt, has announced the 6 providers for the new Work and Health Programme.

Area Successful provider
Central England Shaw Trust
North East Reed In Partnership
North West Ingeus
Southern Pluss
Home Counties Shaw Trust
Wales Remploy

Local government partners in London and Greater Manchester have been given funding under devolution deals and are selecting their own providers.

In Scotland, funding for employment programmes for unemployed and disabled people was devolved in line with the Scotland Act.

The Work and Health Programme is not available in Northern Ireland.

As this Ipswich Unemployed Action I will concentrate on the Shaw Trust – which will provide services in ‘Home Counties’ East Anglia.

Past criticisms:

To be put on a 2 year Work Course is Compulsory, you have no choice, other words! My CV is sent, without my permission or any discussion with myself, to any Employers, whether I can do the job or not! Sometimes I will only get a few hours notice that an interview has been arranged for me! Plus I never get told what the hours are or the hourly rate, so I’m going into the interview ‘blind’. As I have a hernia, I was told not to tell the Employer.I had to lie just so I could get the job?
I will not lie, give false information that may be to my detriment, just so they can get rid of me! Despicable and underhand treatment of a human being!

More criticisms here

Example: May 2017

Terrible charity to work for bullying , harassment, under mining rife by management . Take my words of warning DO NOT WORK FOR THIS ORGANISATION YOU WOULD HAVE A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.

Advice to Management

Stop the bullying and harassing culture that is rife in the organisation, absolutely disgusting that’s why I left….. . if DWP only knew how they treat their staff and how it would impact on the customers we support that they are paying us to do using taxpayers money. Get rid of the existing management team and directors and start again worst place I have worked in my entire LIFE!

(which to their credit the Shaw Trust registers and replies to).

Accounts up to 31st of March 2017,

The accounts reveal that the number of staff at the Wiltshire-based trust increased from 1,597 to 1,814 and the number of employees earning more than £60,000 increased from 46 to 56. The document says this “is substantially due to the conversion of three new schools into Shaw Education Trust during 2016-17”.

The highest salary paid during the year was in the £170,000 to £180,000 pay band. The recipient of this money is not identified in the accounts. 

Aspects of the new Programme:

Groups targeted:

Who is the eligible group for the Programme? (1)
It is expected that the Programme will support individuals from the following
participant groups:
• A person with a disability, as defined in the Equality Act 2010 can volunteer
to join the programme at any time including additional places for eligible and
suitable WRAG claimants
• Long Term Unemployed (LTU) – these will be claimants in the intensive work
search regime in Universal Credit or JSA claimants – who have not moved into
employment within 24 months of their claim

 

Programme participation
Participants will remain on the programme for up to 15 months of job finding
support
• If in that period they find a job they will stay on the programme until they
achieve a sustained Job Outcome
• If after 15 months support they do not find a job they return to the JCP offer
• Following a job start, the provider will be required to provide light touch inwork
support, for the participant if the provider and claimant agree it is
necessary in order for the claimant to remain in work.
• In-work support will continue until a sustained Job Outcome is achieved (not
indefinitely) and arrangements for continuation of support are in place if
necessary before the provider support ceases.
• The details and type of support will be set out by providers in their bids and
should complement other in work support.

Comment: One of the greatest concerns is shown by the head image.

Will this programme involve putting unemployed people into ‘therapy’?

More information on this programme welcome.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 4, 2017 at 10:49 am

Tory U-Turn on Universal Credit?

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Image result for universal credit

Conservatives ‘planning Budget U-turn’ over rollout of Universal Credit regime

The Independent says,

It was reported that Chancellor Philip Hammond is set to make an announcement at the autumn Budget – scheduled for 22 November.

Ministers are reportedly preparing for a major U-turn on the rollout of Universal Credit in the Budget by reducing the controversial six-week wait to four for the first payment to claimants.

It comes after weeks of sustained pressure on Downing Street from Conservative backbenchers, the Labour party and charities warning the Government’s flagship welfare programme – due to be accelerated this month – is pushing recipients into poverty, arrears and a reliance on food banks.

The main anxiety among MPs and charities focuses on the six-week wait claimants are forced to endure before receiving their first payment under the new regime after transferring from the legacy benefits system.

Meanwhile :

Call for Merseyside to have new powers to stop Universal Credit “misery”

A new system could mean struggling families are not left waiting for four weeks for payments

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 30, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Even Tories Want End to Universal Credit Madness.

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Image result for Ian duncan smith cartoon

Even IDS now regrets his past.

 

Some of us lot think this is a Poll Tax Moment.

Hat-tip to whoknew.

The Independent reports,

Tory voters want universal credit waiting time cut, finds poll

 

Three-quarters of the British public – including the majority of Conservative voters – want government action now to cut the time vulnerable people are waiting before receiving universal credit benefit payments, a poll has revealed.

The exclusive survey by BMG Research for The Independent showed 74 per cent of people think the average six-week wait facing most new claimants before they get a first full payment is too long.

There is growing pressure to use the Budget next month to tackle the issue, with a group of Tory MPs and even the benefit’s architect Iain Duncan Smith saying the waiting time should be shorter.

Can I also signal this article by somebody many of us consider one of the best activists in the UK.

She would blush at this, but Pilgrim  came to Ipswich and we talked for quite a while.

We were  impressed.

Universal credit has poleaxed the jobless. Now for low-income workers

Guardian.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 25, 2017 at 12:52 pm