Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Universal Credit – Threat to Self-Employed Claimants.

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DWP has its finger on the Pulse.

A couple of days this was published;

Universal Credit ‘loans’ trap new claimants in debt and leave them unable to afford repayments, say MPs.

An influential group of MPs has called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to introduce new Universal Credit “starter payments”, to ensure that new claimants can support themselves while waiting for an initial payment.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPSC), a cross-party group of MPs charged with scrutinising government welfare policy and recommending improvements, says the mandatory five-week-wait for a Universal Credit payment can leave many people unable to afford food and pay vital household bills.

The Committee’s new report, titled ‘Universal Credit: the wait for a first payment‘, finds that the current system of ‘advance payments’, that allow new claimants to borrow up to a full month’s worth of Universal Credit.

Today this is the news:

Self-employed people could lose hundreds of pounds per month if a little-known ‘Minimum Income Floor’ resumes as planned on November 13

A major change to Universal Credit on November 13 is set to cost self-employed people hundreds of pounds a month unless the DWP decides to delay it.

A little-known policy called the Minimum Income Floor (MIF), which limits how much the self-employed can get in benefits, was suspended for eight months due to Covid-19.

But that suspension is due to end on November 13, according to current laws.

Unless that date is extended, the MIF will take force again from that date – deducting some strivers’ benefits just as swathes of England are plunged into new lockdowns.

Ministers today told the House of Commons they are still reviewing whether or not to delay the November 13 date.

But they refused to rule out sticking to the date – despite the nation entering a second wave.

There’s also this:

Always at the cutting edge of social issues Coffey has herself been re-tweeting on subjects that concern us all, visiting the Golden Key and The Plough and Sail for a good lunch:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 21, 2020 at 10:40 am

Job Support Scheme Meets Universal Credit Problems.

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New Scheme Hits Problems.

Last week the Mirror pointed this out:

The coronavirus Job Support Scheme has been updated so workers whose venues are shut down will no longer be high and dry. But millions will still fall through the cracks.

1. It won’t help curfew-hit pubs – or theatres, cinemas and wedding venues

2. There’s no new help for the self-employed

3. Some workers in local lockdowns will get nothing for weeks

4. Shielding workers could fall through the cracks

5. And workers will be stuck on 67% of usual pay

 

The Mirror.

On Wednesday, the gaffe-prone PM said ‘whatever happens’ government schemes will mean ‘nobody gets less than 93% of their current income’ in Tier 3 lockdowns – but that isn’t true

Boris Johnson has quietly corrected a a false claim he made about the level of support people could receive during a Tier 3 lockdown.

On Wednesday, the gaffe-prone PM said “whatever happens”, government schemes will mean “nobody gets less than 93% of their current income” if their bar or pub is shut.

But it quickly emerged that that was untrue, because while many workers can get this sum, not all of them can.

The Tory leader said the 93% could be reached by taking the Job Support Scheme, which pays 67% of wages, and topping it up with Universal Credit.

Today appearing at a Downing Street press conference where he was quizzed about the Government’s response he didn’t repeat the error – although he has yet to correct the record in the House of Commons

They continue,

In reality, Universal Credit is not paid to anyone who has £16,000 or more of savings, or if their partner has more than £16,000 of savings.

It is also paid on the basis of household income, so if a husband has their income cut to 67% and a wife is on 100%, the husband may not be able to top up to 93%.

What’s more, some people will get less than 67% of their wage under the Job Support Scheme, because it is capped at £2,100 a month.

The Job Support Scheme is only open to workers whose businesses are forced to shut completely by government, not those that can stay open but are hit by restrictions.

Then there is this:

n

Written by Andrew Coates

October 16, 2020 at 7:21 pm

Unemployment Rises, Out-of-Work Face Universal Credit Low Benefits.

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.Universal Credit tweaked to make it easier for self-employed to get cash quicker

Drastic Cuts in Income for Workers Who Become Unemployed.

 

This is the news today:

The UK unemployment rate has surged to its highest level in over three years as the pandemic continues to hit jobs.

BBC>.The unemployment rate grew to 4.5% in the three months to August, compared with 4.1% in the previous quarter.

Meanwhile redundancies rose to their highest level since 2009, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

It comes as the government prepares to impose tough local lockdown rules that will force some businesses to close, potentially leading to more job losses.

UK job figures: why there is worse to come

The big picture is that unemployment is going up while employment and participation in the labour market are going down.

These trends look sure to get worse as the economic recovery seen during the summer peters out and the government cuts back on its support for wages. Rishi Sunak’s response to the figures from the Office for National Statistics was telling.

The DWP are hot off the mark:

What about the social security system for those out of work?

This is the basic problem:

Then there is this:

The Rowntree Trust notes:

They are campaigning for the £20 extra to be made permanent, but no word about the legacy claimants who do not get this.

Somebody has pointed this out:

People on this site have noticed the importance of this:

And so it continues…

Written by Andrew Coates

October 13, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Thérèse Coffey plans to help millions back to work.

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DWP MInister Thérèse Coffey on her “Dream Job” and Universal Credit. | Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Coffey: Workers Experienced in Customer Care Can Retrain for New Jobs.

The DWP Minister Thérèse Coffey has stirred up controversy for her latest helpful suggestions.

The Mirror reports,

The government’s welfare chief has prompted fury by suggesting sacked cabin crew can retrain as carers.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey claimed thousands of airline staff made redundant after planes were grounded and international travel ground to a halt in the coronavirus crisis should switch careers.

She told The Spectator: “I want to encourage them to perhaps go into teaching or go to college and to be the people who train the next lot of people who are going to do those jobs.”

She added: “How do we help draw out of them the transferable skills that they have, and that could be working in social care?

“It may not be their dream job for the rest of their lives.

“But it may well be very useful: They get more money coming in than if they’re on benefits and it can also provide something really valuable and rewarding.”

Yet Thérèse Coffey has defenders, well, at least one: the person who wrote the article that’s got people hot under the collar..

How Thérèse Coffey plans to help millions back to work

The Work and Pensions Secretary on unemployment, reshuffles and turning cabin crew into nurses

Writing for the popular Alternative View column, Davidus Toricus Spartacus, in the Spectator Katie Ball, née Bollocks (creator of  the podcast, Women with Balls, note, this is not made up) begins by noting, “Many things have gone wrong for the government over the past few months, but the welfare system has (so far) held up. “

My main task has been making sure that DWP runs effectively. Being in the news would probably be a sign that it wasn’t,’ she says over lunch in The Spectator’s boardroom. ‘I’m a great believer in the DWP being boringly brilliant — or brilliantly boring.’ After just 13 months in the job, she has already lasted longer than her last five predecessors.

We hope a ‘good lunch’ – the MP is much-loved in Suffolk Coastal for her support for local hostelries, sacrificing many hours visiting pubs, inns and ale-houses to support their work for the community – and this good feed put her in more than usual good spirits.

She thinks the social care industry could benefit from workers experienced in customer care such as air hostesses. ‘How do we help draw out of them the transferable skills that they have and that could be working in social care? It may not be their dream job for the rest of their lives. But it may well be very useful: they get more money coming in than if they’re on benefits and it can also provide something really valuable and rewarding so there are those sorts of things where we are going to try and help people think through what it is they can do, even if it is only for the next two to three years.’

She also supports Boris Johnson’s enthusiasm for air hostesses to become nurses. ‘I’m sure other cabin crew as well who are male could make equally good nurses. It’s just whether or not people want that as a complete lifestyle change.

Reflecting on issues that concern us, the well-being of her soul, she said,

As a practising Catholic who has missed mass on a Sunday only six times in her life, Coffey is more relaxed than most politicians when it comes to discussing faith. One of the upsides of lockdown, she says, was online church services: ‘We just basically did a tour of the UK. I’ve become quite fond of St George’s in Taunton, the St Gerard Majella in Bristol — very nice priest there. Northampton Cathedral is pretty good. A church crawl is a bit different to a pub crawl, isn’t it?’

We take this fine distinction on the word of a seasoned  veteran of many a tavern and rustic taproom.

Therese Coffey MP appointed Beer Parliamentarian of the Year after visiting all 118 pubs in her constituency

Will she ever be booted out?

She is the second-longest serving Tory work and pensions secretary, but would need to last until the next election to take first place from Iain Duncan Smith. There’s a rumour she confronted the Prime Minister a few months ago at cabinet about reshuffle reports in the press — he told her she wouldn’t be moved anytime soon. When I mention it, she blushes and won’t get into the details of what was discussed, but she does say rumours of hirings and firings are unhelpful, especially in a department where the lifespan of a Secretary of State is measured in weeks and months.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 9, 2020 at 3:13 pm

Job entry targeted support (Jets): New Government ‘scheme’ for the unemployed.

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Government announces new £238 million JETS employment programme that will  help hundreds of thousands of jobseekers

Somebody was well proud of that ‘Jets’ name!

 

Thérèse Coffey was on BBC News this morning, most of the time she spent sucking up to Johnson and his handling of the pandemic.

 

She managed to spend about a minute on the new scheme, though when I caught the words, ‘Reed’ and ‘Shaw Trust’ a large rodent scuttled round the room.

The BBC site says this,

Job Entry Targeted Support is aimed at helping those out of work because of Covid-19 for three months.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said it would give people “the helping hand they need”.

But Labour said the scheme “offers very little new support” and it was “too little too late”.

More details in the Guardian

New jobs coaches will help people back to work, says Rishi Sunak

Thousands of work coaches will be hired under a new government employment programme to help those who have lost their jobs during the pandemic, amid fresh warnings of an unemployment crisis as the furlough scheme ends.

The £238m job entry targeted support (Jets) scheme will help jobseekers who have been out of work for at least three months. It will be available to people receiving the “all work related requirements” universal credit payment, or the new style jobseeker’s allowance.

The Department for Work and Pensions says Jets will “ramp up support” to help people back to employment, with specialist advice on how to move into growing sectors, as well as CV and interview coaching. It is recruiting an additional 13,500 coaches to help deliver the programme.

The Currant Bun spills the beans (blimey that’s a bit of an image…!)

It specifically targets Universal Credit (UC) All Work related Requirements (AWRR) and New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants who have been unemployed for at least 13 weeks.

Through JETS, the Department for Work and Pensions will give scheme-members access to tailored, flexible support to help them quickly get back into employment.

The new programme will also see a number of providers offer a range of help, including specialist advice on how people can move into growing sectors, as well as CV and interview coaching.

The programme will give job hunters a return-to-work action plan, which will be agreed with their personal Work Coach, and complemented by peer support and opportunities to build their skills.

Veterans of these “schemes” may have other views.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 5, 2020 at 6:59 am

Universal Credit System Failing To Deal With Mass Unemployment.

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Universal Credit - universal chaos? - Church Action on Poverty

Today this story looks like stirring the issue of Universal Credit up again, yet again,

 

This story appeared yesterday.

 

300,000 universal credit applications in first few months of pandemic deemed ineligible due to savings.

To be honest most people, if not all of us, would not have thought of this, since we do not having anything near the savings limits.

At least 300,000 applications for universal credit during the first four months of pandemic were deemed ineligible because those trying to claim had over £16,000 in savings or their partners were deemed to earn too much under strict means-tested welfare rules, according to official figures obtained by the Labour party.

The article continues,

About 26% of new universal credit claimants are from managerial, administrative and professional backgrounds, according to findings by the ESRC-funded Welfare at a Social Distance academic research project, a trend that may bring fresh scrutiny of a welfare system designed primarily for people on low incomes.

Daniel Edmiston, a lecturer in social policy at the University of Leeds, said the benefits system was unable to keep pace with real-life living expenses for many entering it as a result of Covid-19: “First-time claimants are often surprised by the amount they receive, and the UK’s flat-rate system of payments, given the contributions they have previously paid into the system.”

There are currently about 6 million people on universal credit, twice as many as before the pandemic. A surge in benefit applicants is expected this autumn as furlough support winds down and hundreds of thousands of jobs are cut.

This again is something we would find odd that anybody did not know about, and by ‘we’ I mean not just people on benefits now, but our friends and those we know, many of whom have been unemployed.

A Guardian investigation, in which more than 200 people submitted accounts of their first-time experience of universal credit after losing their job under Covid-19, revealed shock and surprise at the tight restrictions on eligibility – and the parsimoniousness of what is available to those who manage to qualify for support.

Emma Dempsey, 32, a freelance TV producer who was refused both universal credit and financial help through the self-employed income support scheme, told the Guardian: “I have paid taxes all my working life … I feel the state has completely broken its social contract with me.”

As this comment indicates on the same topic,

Ben Claimant continues and retweets this:

I already know people on benefits who’ve been pushed out onto the street, into temporary/emergency accommodation. I bet plenty here do too. This is not news for us.

What is being done to prevent this now spiralling out of control?

Here is another aspect to benefit poverty:

 

 

 

Asked about this Ms Coffey has said,

Ms Coffey replied: “Well Mr Chairman, you’ll be aware it was a one-year measure introduced by the Chancellor as part of the £9.4m injection into the welfare support for people in this difficult time.”

She continued: “As it stands, I think it’s fair to say the legislation does automatically come to an end, but I will be open with you in that a lot of these discussions on what we continue to do with welfare support are still in active discussions with The Treasury.”

Mr Timms sought clarification on Ms Coffey’s response and asked: “So that particular point remains under review at the moment?”

Ms Coffey confirmed that it was and said: “Yes, there’s a number of different elements and I think more broadly, we’ve been thinking carefully about our spending review which is under way.”

She went on to explain how the Budget would normally be the time for discussing these matters, but as it has been postponed until “early 2021” Ms Coffey said the DWP would need to have a “separate process in how we take that forward in our consideration.”

Daily Record.

So it stands at this:

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 1, 2020 at 3:24 pm

“Tsunami of Unemployment” Coming Warns Gordon Brown.

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Job odds worst in 50 years as 4,000 go for single vacancy in work 'lottery'

Facing  “tsunami of unemployment”

Today there is this:

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown warns of ‘tsunami of unemployment’ after lockdown

Edinburgh News.

Former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has warned of a “tsunami of unemployment” and business bankruptcies – unless the Chancellor delivers new economic lifelines.

..

Mr Brown, former MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, will address a Communication Workers Union conference today (Monday).

He said: “Facing a winter of massive job losses, rapidly-mounting unemployment and a wave of businesses bankruptcies, the Chancellor must go back to the drawing board, call a jobs summit to understand the despair in communities and rewrite his winter plan by fixing its fundamental flaws. “

He said last week’s package didn’t help 1.5m people currently unemployed, or those on Universal Credit and the self-employed excluded from the furlough scheme.

He added: “Shamefully, there was nothing additional to the inadequate Kickstart scheme for young people, 500,000 of whom will likely end up on the streets or isolated at home, and becoming this century’s lost generation.”

Mr Brown warned: “It is becoming clear the majority of the four million furloughed will be unlikely to benefit from the ‘part-time’ wage subsidy –now that the government’s contributions drops from 80 per cent in March to 22 per cent from November and workers have to accept a 22 per cent pay cut.

“Millions of workers need far more help if they are to get jobs or stay in jobs.”

Gordon Brown has been on television over the last few days:

Brown is involved in this initiative:

These are recent headlines.

Covid: Jobs scheme ‘won’t stop major rise in unemployment’

 

Rishi Sunak’s new jobs support scheme will slow but not stop, “major” job losses, influential think tank the Resolution Foundation has warned.

The chancellor said he hoped the new plan, announced on Thursday, would “benefit large numbers”.

But the Resolution Foundation said the fact firms had to pay employees for hours not worked meant many would have “little or no incentive” to use it.

The plan “will not significantly reduce the rise in unemployment,” it said.

The Foundation also highlighted that around six million of the UK’s poorest households could see their incomes cut by £20 a week from next April, when the government’s temporary boost to basic benefits comes to an end.

The Resolution Foundation notes,

The rise in unemployment, combined with planned benefit cuts, mean a grim outlook for living standards

Extract.

Given that very significant government support protected household incomes from the full force of the pandemic’s hit to GDP in its early stages, rising unemployment is the point at which household incomes start to be seriously impacted. Flowing off furlough and onto unemployment benefits is not just a matter of moving between schemes, but means a very significant fall in income, as Figure 4 shows. While a worker on £20,000 a year would have had 83 per cent of their income covered by the JRS when furloughed, when they are made redundant UC will only replace 29 per cent of their former take-home income. UC’s basic level of support for a single adult (excluding any housing or child-related support) is only £94 a week (around £4,900 a year): a level considerably below the absolute poverty line of £150 a week.

But, as well as the likely rise in unemployment this winter hitting living standards, there is a risk of a further blow in the spring, because on current plans, policy is still set to change from supporting incomes to cutting them. In the early months of the crisis, changes in benefit policy – not least a very welcome £20 a week boost to tax credits and UC – meant that the incomes of the poorest were relatively well-protected. But this boost is currently only intended to go up to March 2021.

The planned withdrawal of the £20 a week (£1,040 a year) boost would be a significant mistake. It is inconceivable that the labour market will be in full health by April, even assuming a rapid vaccine roll-out: the crisis will by no accounts be ‘over’. Second, there is the question of the basic adequacy of the benefit system. The £20 a week boost can be seen as a reflection of the fact that out-of-work support was not adequate when we entered the crisis and – without the boost – certainly won’t be adequate in future. And third, ending the boost would mean withdrawing perhaps £8 billion from disposable incomes in 2021-22, precisely from those groups and places that need it most to support spending and the economic recovery in 2021-22.

As Figure 12 shows, the losses from this withdrawal would be very large – with the average income of the bottom half of the population falling by £600 (with this average calculated including pensioners and others who would be unaffected). In Scotland, the South of England and the East Midlands, around one in four non-pensioner households are set to lose over £1,000. But in Northern Ireland, Wales, the West Midlands, and the North of England, that rises to around one in three households.

This is another analysis confirming the above:

Millions face a bitter winter of rising unemployment and squeezed living standards’, says MP

Welfare Weekly.

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 28, 2020 at 10:13 am

Unemployment Set for Big Rise as DWP Recruits New Staff.

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HRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambrige sit and talk with Anife, a newly appointed Work Coach.

Royalty Do Their Bit: Meeting a former claimant who recently joined the DWP as a Work Coach.

Ken reminds us that unemployment is set to rise, a lot.

This is the Guardian article he links to:

New Covid-19 restrictions mean UK unemployment will get much worse

Larry Elliot.

Bank of England forecasts for 7.5% unemployment this winter may have to be revised up considerably.

The clampdown could not have come at a worse time for the chancellor. Rishi Sunak has admitted that unemployment will rise over the coming months but he hoped that temporary cuts in VAT and stamp duty, together with his eat out to help out scheme, would limit the rise in joblessness.

Now the chancellor is coming under pressure to extend the furlough scheme, which has prevented the unemployment rate from rocketing by paying workers to stay at home.

Why?

Gordon Brown, who was in charge the last time Britain faced an economic crisis, used his first keynote speech to a Labour conference in a decade to call on Sunak to come up with a new economic recovery plan within days.

The former prime minister said job prospects were at their worst in 50 years. There were, he added, 2,932 applicants for a single warehouse job in Northumberland, 2,653 applicants for a factory job in Sunderland, 2,154 applicants for an administrative job in Coventry and 15,000 applicants for 10 assembly operative jobs in Birmingham.

The Federation of Small Businesses supported Brown’s call for urgent action. “Many businesses – particularly those at the heart of our night-time economy and events industries – are now seriously fearing for their futures,” said its national chairman, Mike Cherry.

What is going to happen?

As the wage subsidy scheme unwinds, the Bank of England expects unemployment to rise substantially, reaching 7.5% by the end of the year.

That, though, was before the new restrictions were announced. By winter’s end it could now be a lot higher than that.

What is the DWP doing?

Here is an indication:

 

This is coming:

Royalty has already been pitching in to help out.

DWP Boss Thérèse Coffey is doing her best to stimulate the economy (and it’s only a short drive from Ipswich, for those of us with a sturdy MPV with seating for six, and up to date Sat-Nat  to navigate the lonely, bus-free, back lanes and by-ways of Suffolk).

 

One could mention the Kickstart Scheme, but to the readers of this Blog the message below is the important one:

The Covid Pandemic  Denial Maniacs,  whose comments here keep mysteriously vanishing,are no doubt getting ready for a weekend piling up bog rolls, just in case.

 

h

Written by Andrew Coates

September 23, 2020 at 5:42 pm

The New Wave of Covid-19 Claimants and the Old Wave of Universal Credit Problems.

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The New Wave of Claimants.

A few days ago this was the news (BBC),

The UK unemployment rate has risen to its highest level for two years, official figures show.

The unemployment rate grew to 4.1% in the three months to July, compared with 3.9% previously.

Young people were particularly hard hit, with those aged 16 to 24 suffering the biggest drop in employment compared with other age groups.

The below sheds some light on who the new claimants are,

Who are the new COVID-19 cohort of benefit claimants?

University of Salford Manchester.

Since March 2020, we have witnessed the fastest increase in the number of people claiming working-age social security benefits in the UK since records began. The incorporation of a new group of benefit claimants into the social security system has presented its own procedural and administrative challenges for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Some commentators have lauded the government’s response to the crisis amidst a surge in new claims. Beyond the sheer volume of claimants, recent developments present a fresh set of priorities for those working in benefit, income and employment support. These priorities stem from the considerable challenges facing the UK labour market with sizeable portions of the economy having to adapt to a ‘new normal’ of altered hours and working practices alongside shifting demand and capacity. Additionally, these priorities stem from a large new group of claimants who face their own unique challenges in accessing adequate social assistance and appropriate employment support during the course of the pandemic.

This is a summary:

The new cohort of COVID-19 benefit claimants are more likely to be:

  • younger: almost half (46%) of new benefit claimants are aged between 18-39 years old, compared to 37% of existing claimants.
  • BAME: 8% of new claimants are from BAME backgrounds compared to 6% of existing claimants. New BAME claimants have been disproportionately impacted by job loss and/or a reduction in their hours.
  • men: 49% of new benefit claimants are male compared to 43% of existing benefit claimants.
  • not experiencing a disability: only 38% of new benefit claimants experience some kind of health condition or disability compared to 67% of existing claimants.
  • from a higher ‘social grade’: more than a quarter (26%) of new claimants are from social grade AB compared to 15% of existing claimants.
  • university graduates: almost a third (32%) of new claimants had a University Diploma or above, compared to 26% of existing claimants. In part this is driven by the younger age profile of new claimants who are more likely to be university graduates. However, this is also evident when focusing exclusively on those aged 18-39. Amongst this age group, 41% of new claimants hold a university diploma or above, compared to 28% of existing claimants.
  • owner occupiers: 29% of new benefit claimants were owner occupiers compared to 25% of existing claimants. In addition, only 13% of new claimants were social renters compared to a 33% of existing claimants.

Anybody looking for stories about Universal Credit on the Net will notice that papers, particularly the right-wing loony bin type, are full of clickbait stuff.

They are trying to appeal to the above people who must be looking around for some way to lessen the impact of being on the dole.

Universal Credit: Are you eligible for SDP payments of over £400 a month? Check now (Express)

Universal Credit claimants could receive an additional payment of £812 – rules explained (Express)

This stuff reminds me of the junk-mail you get in your In-Box from Dogsville USA, “New Benefit for Veterans!”.

Our contributors by contrast noticed this a couple of days back.

The House:

Scrap Universal Credit and replace it with a system that offers a safety net for all

Labour has long been calling for changes to social security to avoid entrenching people into a cycle of poverty they cannot escape. We have been clear that the Government must adopt five urgent social security measures to provide immediate support to people affected by the coronavirus crisis:

  • Convert Universal Credit advances into grants instead of loans, ending the five-week wait.
  • Remove the £16,000 savings limit which disqualifies individuals from accessing Universal Credit.
  • Suspend the benefit cap.
  • Abolish the two-child limit in Universal Credit and Tax Credits.
  • Uprate legacy benefits to match the increase in Universal Credit, providing an immediate increase in Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.

In the meantime people are struck with the existing system.

This means that a lot of people, a real lot, are having to adjust to things like this:

1.6 million households hit by £60 cut to benefits in just one month

Welfare Weekly,

Well this chap is helping out:

Our Boss is spreading joy and light in a different way:

I watched Sky Arts yesterday.

It is about as entertaining as being stuck on Orford Ness in mid-winter drizzle.

I was not impressed….

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 19, 2020 at 9:21 am

Thousands of new Work Coach vacancies open across the UK…

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Your local jobcentre is hiring! Make a difference and apply to be a Work Coach today.

Are you “so

People may have missed this announcement. (though Trev  has not……).

  

 

 

Here it is again!

The number of Work Coaches is to be doubled to 27,000 nationally.

  • Employment Minister calls for those who want to make a difference in their communities to apply now.
  • Thousands of new expert Work Coaches to boost support for jobseekers and build back an even stronger economy.

From today (Thursday 10 September 2020), jobseekers across the country will be able to apply for one of thousands of new jobcentre Work Coach vacancies being offered by the Department for Work and Pensions, as part of its pledge to double the number of Work Coaches to 27,000 by March 2021.

Getting Britain back to work as quickly as possible is vital, as the UK strives to build back an even stronger and more resilient economy. Thousands of new Work Coaches will be at the forefront of this recovery, and will be deployed in communities across the country.

These expert Work Coaches will be trained in how to get the best out of people and make sure they have the support they need to get back into work.

Through a rapid recruitment plan, the department will have 4,500 Work Coaches in place by October 2020, with a further 9,000 by March next year.

Minister for Employment, Mims Davies said:

Getting Britain back into work is key to our national recovery and our DWP Work Coaches are on the frontline of this effort – boosting their numbers means we can build back stronger.

Our Work Coaches not only deliver financial support to millions of claimants across the country, but take time to listen, encourage, advise, and ensure everyone has access to the best support available – helping those facing a tough time get back on their feet sooner.

If you are someone who cares about your community and are keen to take on a fresh role helping others, then you can make a real difference by becoming a Work Coach and I want you to join our team today.

Work Coaches will deliver:

  • New flagship programmes, such as the £2 billion Kickstart scheme, a key part of the Government’s Plan for Jobs, which puts young people receiving benefits first in line for new, high quality, six-month roles provided by employers from all sectors. The placements give them a wage for the duration and the chance to build their experience and professional networks.
  • Increased support for 40,000 jobseekers of all ages will also be available through DWP’s Sector-based Work Academy Placements, which received a £17 million funding boost this summer and will help people learn new skills through a mixture of work experience and training.
  • Work Coaches will also offer vital retraining opportunities to people looking to start a new career, as well as support for those who need to update their skills and CV, or simply prepare for an interview.

For more information on applications and deadlines in your region, please visit the Work Coach recruitment site.

Today’s announcement to boost the frontline comes as jobcentres across the country continue to offer more support for jobseekers in Coronavirus-secure offices, as part of the Government’s Plan for Jobs. While many appointments will still be conducted virtually, jobcentres are now open for customers to meet safely with their Work Coaches face-to-face when necessary.

AFfer this good news Thérèse Coffey is on yet another roll!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 12, 2020 at 8:14 am

The Full Return of Job Centres and Benefit Sanctions.

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Image

 

Benefit Sanctions were reintroduced in July,

The return of benefit sanctions is a risky, painful and dangerous bet by the government

New Statesman.

Against a potential backdrop of mass layoffs, the cruelty of the old system is going to feel a lot sharper.

Benefit sanctions will return to the United Kingdom from 1 July, the government has confirmed. The requirement that people claiming Universal Credit demonstrate they are actively seeking work was suspended during the lockdown, but will resume on Wednesday, when Job Centres reopen and in-person meetings there return.

DWP docked 35,000 people’s benefits at height of coronavirus despite ending sanctions

The Mirror reported on the 20th of August.

More than 35,000 people were losing money to benefit sanctions at the height of coronavirus – despite them being halted.

Thousands were still having their payments docked long after new sanctions were suspended for three months due to the pandemic.

Now the DWP has plans to fully-open Jobs Centres the process looks set to begin against in earnest.

05 Sep 2020

PCS has reiterated that the safety of members is our priority as we oppose government plans to get 80% of civil servants in England to attend their usual workplace each week by the end of September.

We have been informed that permanent secretaries have been told to greatly increase the number of staff in workplaces. The government claims sending tens of thousands of civil servants back to their buildings by the end of the month would be “hugely beneficial”.

As we understand it, departments which have not staffed offices up to the so-called Covid safe limits must now seek to do so. This must be done in a supposedly Covid-secure way, taking advantage of the return to schools this month and increased public transport availability.

Moreover departments are being strongly encouraged to use staff rota systems to get more staff into the workplace over the week, for example 20% for five days, 30% for three days and 30% for two days.

Departments have been set a target of 80% of staff in England to attend their usual workplace each week by the end of September. Staff elsewhere in the UK are expected to follow local guidance and continue working from home.

We understand the prime minister has asked to see departmental return to the workplace figures on a weekly basis.

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 7, 2020 at 10:25 am

Former DWP Chief Stephen Crabb calls to make the £20 addition for Universal Credit permanent and extend it to legacy benefits.

with 288 comments

Equal Benefits for Claimants! Raise Legacy Benefits in Line with Universal Credit Rates! | Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Stephen Crabb, “legacy benefits like JSA, ESA and IS should be raised to match the universal credit increase.”

This is the benefits story of the day:

‘allo, ‘allo, what ‘ave we here?

Read the article…..

As a first step, the government should make permanent the additional £20 per week for the universal credit standard allowance that it brought in to strengthen social security during the crisis. Removing it next spring, as currently planned, will amount to a painful cut in income for many people still struggling to come to terms with the loss of their jobs and who have found the transition from furlough to benefits a very hard landing indeed.

In parallel, the personal allowance of so-called legacy benefits like JSA, ESA and IS should be raised to match the universal credit increase. This is particularly important for those with disabilities, and their carers, who make up most of the people remaining on these benefits. It’s just not right that some of the most vulnerable people have not seen equivalent protection.

My Government Must Do More To Help Working Poor Cope With Covid

We should also look at extensions to the furlough scheme, writes Stephen Crabb MP.

Meanwhile this rumbles on.

The Work and Pensions Committee, a Commons Select Committee, is continuing its investigation into Universal Credit.

There next evidence hearing session is on the 2nd of September,

Universal Credit: the wait for a first payment

Inquiry

Universal Credit has a “baked in” wait for the first payment. After completing all of the stages of their application, claimants must then wait for at least five weeks to receive their award. They can ask for an Advance payment if they need money more urgently, which they then pay back out of their future Universal Credit payments.

Many organisations have concluded that the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment must be reduced or eliminated entirely. There is, however, a lack of agreement about how this might be most effectively—and affordably—achieved. Some of the options suggested include:

  • Scrapping the five week wait for all claimants: for example, by making the Advance non-repayable;
  • Offering non-repayable Advances to some claimants: for example, those considered vulnerable;
  • Allowing more flexibility for the start of a claim to be backdated;
  • Extending run on payments to cover all legacy benefits;
  • Substantially reducing the rate at which Advance Payments—the main existing mitigation measure—are paid back, to help claimants better manage their money;
  • Paying UC two-weekly, like many legacy benefits, rather than monthly.

The Committee wants to help the Government to better understand the upsides and downsides of these options, and explore other possible solutions.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 31, 2020 at 3:04 pm

The 35 Hours a Week ‘Job-Search’: 2.3 million claimants for 90,939 Jobs.

with 131 comments

Image

35 Hours a Week!

The hard right Express takes a brief break today from whinging about Rule Britannia and Land of Hope and Glory.

Universal Credit UK: DWP warns payments will stop or reduce if you fail to do this

When claiming Universal Credit, a person will need to make an agreement with their work coach which is called a “Claimant Commitment”.

The requirements of things they need to do will depend on the individual person’s situation.

It may be that it includes activities such as writing a CV, looking and applying for jobs, or going on training courses.

The Express continues mentioning things like a change of circumstance, and everything else you have tell the DWP.

But it does not go into the detail of the “looking and applying for jobs.”

This is in interesting post which chimes with what people on this site have been saying for some time.

Absurd as 2.3 million Universal Credit claimants required to chase “90,939 Jobs” on DWP Jobsite (findajob.dwp.gov.uk)

It is absurd to require 2.3 million Universal Credit claimants to search for work up to 35 hours per week, or face severe financial penalties (benefit sanctions), when the DWP itself is only able to get UK employers to advertise just 90,939 jobs on it’s own website.

All UC claimants are required to accept a Claimant Commitment (CC) and this will include sanction based obligations to search for and prepare for work. It is highly probable that nearly all of the 2.3 million claimants will have a CC requirement to evidence creating a DWP ‘Find A Job’ (FAJ), uploading their CV to it and then using it to search and apply for work through FAJ.

 

And, as our contributors have already noted,

Followed by:

Enforcing the rule about jobsearch has always been a sore point.

If you are on one of these ‘courses’ it is not unknown to be stuck in front of a computer every day ‘doing’ jobsearch.

Or was, because nobody can exactly see these ‘courses’ operating at the moment.

Or making sure that everybody has access to the Web.

As katrehman says,

How do they expect claimants with no WiFi, landlines or even maybe no credit/Internet left on their PAYG mobile if they have a mobile, to search for jobs or spending an hour or two ringing employers? I have a PAY phone for a tenner per month I have 4GB Internet, fine as WiFi is included in my rent, plus unlimited minutes and texts, I work and top up on payday, but for those on 74 a week or even 94 this is A LOT of money! So I guess there’s still jobclubs and mandatory JCP job search sessions?

But the DWP is here to help!

 

The Minister is spreading joy:

All is going well.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 25, 2020 at 5:48 pm

Basic Income Trials: Solution to Benefit Poverty or Mirage?

with 38 comments

A Universal Basic Income Is Essential and Will Work - Global Research

Solution or Mirage?

 

Support is said to be growing for Basic Income. Some of our contributors have shown interest and have noticed that this experiment is underway:

Germany to give people £1,000 a month, no questions asked, in universal basic income experiment

The Independent article says,

Researchers in Germany will give a group of people just over £1,000 a month, no strings attached, as part of an experiment to assess the potential benefits of introducing a wider universal basic income (UBI).

The radical idea has attracted a growing amount of interest around the world as a way of potentially supporting people during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.

Advocates claim a small, regular income from the state to all citizens would help tackle poverty, encourage more flexible working practices, and allow some people to spend more time caring for older family members.

The German pilot study will initially see 120 people handed the monthly sum of 1,200 Euros (£1,085) to monitor how it changes their work patterns and leisure time.

Researcher Jurgen Schupp – who is leading the ‘My Basic Income’ project at the Berlin-based German Institute for Economic Research – said he wanted to discover how a “reliable, unconditional flow of money affects people’s attitudes and behaviour”.

The present trial follows this one in 2019.

Germany’s ‘money for nothing’ experiment raises basic income questions

250 randomly-selected recipients of Hartz IV, the bottom rate “safety net” German welfare payment, have begun to receive their monthly €416 without any conditions attached.

Hartz IV recipients have certain obligations to meet, for example, the need to keep appointments at the job center or to show evidence of looking for work. Failure to meet the conditions might see their benefits cut via “sanctions.”

For the next three years, the activist organization Sanktionsfrei (“Sanctions-Free”) will automatically reimburse any sanctions imposed on the 250 test recipients. Effectively, they will be guaranteed a basic income of €416 every month.

The participants will fill out regular questionnaires, documenting the effects of their new status. An additional 250 Hartz IV recipients will act as the control group, filling out the same form while still being subject to the usual conditions.

Strictly speaking, this endeavour, labeled “HartzPlus” is not a Universal Basic Income (UBI) experiment. For starters, it is backed by a private organization and is not supported by the German government.

…..

some observers of HartzPlus have pointed out that it is not a UBI as it is not paid if the person finds a job which pays more than the welfare claim.

The present experiment is just that, an Experiment.

Germany is set to trial a Universal Basic Income scheme

  • Starting this week, 120 Germans will receive a form of universal basic income every month for three years.
  • The volunteers will get monthly payments of €1,200, or about $1,400, as part of a study testing a universal basic income.
  • The study will compare the experiences of the 120 volunteers with 1,380 people who do not receive the payments.
  • Supporters say it would reduce inequality and improve well-being, while opponents argue it would be too expensive and discourage work.

The study, conducted by the German Institute for Economic Research, has been funded by 140,000 private donations.

Interest in Basic Income continues.

There is interest in the USA.

This was reported in July.

Twitter boss donates $3m to basic universal income project

BBC.

Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey has become the first investor in a radical plan to give people a basic income, regardless of job status.

He has donated $3m (£2.4m) to the scheme, which is being piloted by the mayors of 16 US cities.

He said it was “one tool to close the wealth and income gap”.

The idea of governments paying a basic income to citizens has gained momentum in response to the threat to jobs from artificial intelligence

There are three basic problems with applying  experiments in Basic Income  to a whole country.

  • Unlike social security payments they do not redistribute money by taxation from those who make extra cash out of other people, business and the wealthy, and give some of this surplus to those who have less money. Everybody gets the same basic income.
  • Despite claims that Basic Income schemes would give everybody “enough to live on” no proposed system can allow for the variable and extra costs that payments under social security systems (in Europe at least) cover, Housing Benefit (local Housing Allowance), or the extra cash needed by ill or disabled people (PIP and so on). The German plans, for example, would mean that somebody who is unemployed and paying rent would still have to rely on getting welfare payments to cover housing costs that go beyond the sum given.
  • Apart from not fully covering people’s needs, they do not answer a problem that unemployment brings for those who wish to work: to use our abilities as we can.

There would have to be criteria to get Basic Income – they could not be open to anybody from anywhere to come and claim.

A large proportion of public spending would go on any variety of the scheme. We would have the absurd position in which those with large private incomes would get an extra “top up” every month.

Would pensioners get the money? If this is the case we would see a huge increase in spending on the retired alone.

As Anna Coote says (Guardian. 2019.  Universal basic income doesn’t work. Let’s boost the public realm instead)

The cost of a sufficient UBI scheme would be extremely high according to the International Labour Office, which estimates average costs equivalent to 20-30% of GDP in most countries. Costs can be reduced – and have been in most trials – by paying smaller amounts to fewer individuals. But there is no evidence to suggest that a partial or conditional UBI scheme could do anything to mitigate, let alone reverse, current trends towards worsening poverty, inequality and labour insecurity. Costs may be offset by raising taxes or shifting expenditure from other kinds of public expenditure, but either way there are huge and risky trade-offs.

Money spent on cash payments cannot be invested elsewhere. The more generous the payments, the wider the range of recipients, the longer the scheme continues, the less money will be left to build the structures and systems that are needed to realise UBI’s progressive goals.

The report Coote cites, Universal Basic Income. A Union Perspective, says,

At the heart of the critique of UBIs contained in this brief is the failure of the most basic principle of progressive tax and expenditure, which can be summarised as “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need”.

Whereas universal benefits such as healthcare or unemployment payments are provided to all who need it, UBI is provided to all regardless of need. Inevitably it is not enough to help those in severe need but is a generous gift to the wealthy who don’t need it. It is the expenditure equivalent of a flat tax and as such is regressive. But the consequences are more than a question of principle.

The estimates of funds required to provide a UBI at anything other than token levels are well in excess of the entire welfare budget of most countries. If we were able to build the political movement required to raise the massive extra funds would we chose to return so much of it to the wealthiest, or would it be better spent on targeted measures to reduce inequality and help the neediest?

What’s more such schemes require the total current public welfare budget to be used. Do we really want to stop all existing targeted programmes such as public housing, public subsidies to childcare, public transport and public health to redistribute these funds equally to billionaires.

UBI would erode the basis for the welfare state.

And this raises other practical political issues. With a UBI in place many have argued that the states obligations to welfare will have been met. That people would then be free to use the money as they best need – free from government interference. With such a large increase in public spending required to fund a UBI it would certainly prompt those who prefer market solutions to public provision with powerful arguments to cut what targeted welfare spending might remain.

Arguments put by proponents of UBI to counter these questions usually involve targeting of payments, or combination with other needs-based welfare entitlements. However, as this report notes, models of UBI that are universal and sufficient are not affordable, and models that are affordable are not universal. The modifications inevitably required amount to arguments for more investment, and further reform, of the welfare state – valuable contributions to public debate but well short of the claims of UBI.

It is a mirage solution.

It is one of the unfortunate mirages of UBI, as clear from the evidence and trials outlined in this report, that UBI can mean all things to all people. But the closer you get to it the more it seems to recede. A further, and significant point for trade unionists, is the assumptions UBI proponents make about technological change and the effect on workers. The argument that technology will inevitably lead to less work, more precarious forms and rising inequality is deeply based on the assumption that technology is not within human control. In fact, technology is owned by people and can be regulated
by government if we chose.

Work is not disappearing – there are shortages of paid carers and health care workers, amongst others, across the globe. And precarious work can be ended at any time with appropriate laws. What is missing is the political will to control technology, and work, for the benefit of the population. In this regard UBI is a capitulation to deregulation and exploitation, not a solution to it.

If, in a sense, with the Pandemic work is disappearing. Is a massive transfer of spending from the welfare state to everybody through UBI, instead of targeted schemes that focus on maintaining employment, the answer?

The German scheme, DW noted back in 2019, has this difficulty,

The most persistent criticism that advocates of a universal basic income face is the question of cost. For example, to take a crude measurement, if the close to 70 million adults in Germany were all to receive an unconditional, universal basic income payment of €416 per month (the current Hartz IV rate), the annual cost to the German government would be around €350 billion. In a savings-obsessed country, that might prove a hard sell.

All the problems outlined above indicate that Universal Basic Income is not a solution but a mirage.

The neoliberals of the Adam Smith Institute  think differently.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 23, 2020 at 9:42 am

Mass Unemployment Coming, Calls for “Permanent Increase in Universal Credit.”

with 237 comments

FInally there is the poverty created by low benefit levels  – even with the ‘top up’ for those on UC, which those on Job Seekers Allowance and other ‘Legacy Benefits’ are refused.

Everybody knows – I only have to go out of the front door and walk to the town centre and look at the state of the shops, and see the small numbers of passengers on the buses  – that there have been mass job losses.

The Government is recruiting Work Coaches to meet the rise in claims.

It is said that their role models are going to be saintly folk in a certain Yorkshire Jobcentre, always ready to help claimants and deal with the occasional scamp.

Totals of the out-of-work are set to rise further.

Today we hear more confirmation of the arrival of mass unemployment, suggesting that we are on the verge of a ” Great Depression”.

Readers will note that because this is going to affect more than the usual ne’er do wells Tories are calling for a rise in Universal Credit rates.

End of UK furlough scheme ‘means needless loss of 2m jobs’

Two million viable jobs will be needlessly lost under the government’s plan to end its flagship jobs support scheme, Boris Johnson is being warned on Sunday, amid cross-party demands for further emergency help.

After confirmation that Britain has entered the deepest recession since records began, new analysis seen by the Observer finds that as many as 3 million jobs will still be reliant on the government’s furlough scheme by the time it is closed at the end of October.

While 1 million jobs will be lost permanently as a result of the pandemic’s impact and changing demand, it finds that the remainder could be saved in the long run by adopting a successor to the furlough scheme focused on viable jobs in the hospitality, entertainment and construction sectors.

The new research, drawn up by the Institute for permanent increase in universal credit warns that simply withdrawing the furlough scheme with nothing in its place will cause unemployment at levels “not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s”. It also calls for major increases in universal credit to help those who are out of a job – an idea that is gaining support among Tory MPs.

You read it right,

Meanwhile, support is growing on the Tory benches for a permanent increase in universal credit to help those out of work. Stephen McPartland, a Tory MP who led a successful rebellion against tax credit cuts in 2015, said: “We have to support those who will be losing their jobs and universal credit needs to change if it is going to provide that support. It is clear what needs to be done, but the political will to find the funds has just not been there.”

Pressure is building outside parliament. Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We’re already supporting one person every two minutes on a redundancy issue. As the furlough scheme ends, that number could snowball. Failure to act now risks long-term social and economic scarring that could take decades to recover from. It’s crucial the government takes further steps to prevent redundancies and strengthen the safety net for people who’ve struggled as a result of this crisis.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, warned that the number of over-50s who were made redundant and then completely fell out of employment was already rising sharply. “We fear that unless the government intervenes to help, unemployment among older shielded workers is set to soar,” she said.

Read the calls again….

…to help those out of work. Stephen McPartland, a Tory MP who led a successful rebellion against tax credit cuts in 2015, said: “We have to support those who will be losing their jobs and universal credit needs to change if it is going to provide that support. It is clear what needs to be done, but the political will to find the funds has just not been there.”

Pressure is building outside parliament. Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “We’re already supporting one person every two minutes on a redundancy issue. As the furlough scheme ends, that number could snowball. Failure to act now risks long-term social and economic scarring that could take decades to recover from. It’s crucial the government takes further steps to prevent redundancies and strengthen the safety net for people who’ve struggled as a result of this crisis.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, warned that the number of over-50s who were made redundant and then completely fell out of employment was already rising sharply. “We fear that unless the government intervenes to help, unemployment among older shielded workers is set to soar,” she said.

Here is the IPPR report and recommendations:

 

Long Term Unemployment Crisis Looms for Older Workers.

with 271 comments

Emily Andrews (@Emilyishness) | Twitter

Putting it Mildly: Quarter of a million over-50s ‘will never work again’.

Our contributors have been discussing plans to recruit an extra 13,500 Work Coaches.

Whether or not they are needed to sign claimants on, “coaching” people back into work is not going to be the major problem, Coachey!

It’s going to be a lot more than that.

Quarter of a million over-50s ‘will never work again’ after coronavirus

Telegraph.

You cannot read any more unless you wish to pay the keeper at the gate of the Telegraph’s pay-wall.
If the Torygraph thought that was going to stop our Crack Reporting Team you can sod off….
The same story appears here,

A quarter of a million over 50 ‘will never work again’ after coronavirus

A major problem for older job seekers is that training and apprenticeship programmes tend to be geared towards younger people, the Centre for Ageing Better said.Andy Briggs, government czar of older workers and managing director of Phoenix Group, an insurer, said: “It’s also up to employers to crack down on unconscious bias. If a senior reveals their age on a resume, they are much less likely to get the job. ”

Older women, in particular, find it difficult to keep their jobs because many have to adapt their jobs to family responsibilities, he added. One in four women over 50 provides informal care for a loved one, compared to one in eight men the same age, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Women are likely to be the hardest hit. Nearly 40,000 women aged 50 to 64 have left the labour market since the start of the pandemic, as shown by the analysis of ONS data by job site Rest Less. At the same time, economic activity has increased in all other age groups of working-age women. For men aged 50 to 64, it increased by 3%.

Stuart Lewis of Rest Less said: “In the last recession, women could retire at age 60. Today he is 66 years old. Losing their jobs will force them to retire early, which many cannot afford.

Diving into savings and pensions will eat up funds quickly, especially when stock markets are down.

Since March, the number of women over 50 claiming universal credit has jumped 95%, compared to 92% among men in the same age group.

Which leads to some crafty leg work and,…….!

The new report from the Centre for Ageing Better and Learning and Work Institute shows that the number of older workers on unemployment related benefits has nearly doubled as a result of the pandemic – increasing from 304,000 in March to 588,000 in June.

There is a risk of a ‘second wave’ of job losses for older workers as the furlough scheme comes to an end in October. One in four older workers – 2.5 million in total – have been furloughed, and hundreds of thousands of these workers may be unable to return to their previous jobs as some sectors struggle to recover.

The report finds that older workers who lose their jobs are far more likely to slip into long-term worklessness. Just one in three (35%) over 50s who lose their job return to work quickly, compared to two in three (63%) workers aged 25-34. Over 50s who are unemployed are twice as likely to have been out of work for over a year than those aged 18 to 24.

A mid-life employment crisis: how COVID-19 will affect the job prospects of older people

Over 50s have been poorly served by previous employment support programmes. The Work Programme – which was introduced following the last recession – failed older claimants; just one in five (19%) adults in their late 50s found a lasting job, compared to two in five (38%) young people aged 18-24.

Many older workers interviewed as part of the new research explained how the crisis had left them pessimistic about their future employment prospects, uncertain about their next steps, and concerned about employers’ perceptions of older workers.

‘When you read that there’s 9 million people that have been furloughed and they’re saying that 1 million people are going to be made redundant. It is going to be very hard and you’re competing with younger people who understand the IT stuff a bit better. So, it’s not easy at my age anyhow.’

On the cusp of retirement, and soon to change this Blog, I can agree with the last sentence 100%.

This is what her NIbs is thinking:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 9, 2020 at 3:36 pm

Universal Credit Is Not Working – House of Lords Report.

with 322 comments

 

After having posted about mass unemployment looming people have been speaking more and more about redundancies and the prospect of being out of work. You don’t have to have family or friends who are affected, just look on the Web, and here (one of our contributors excepted).

It is seriously worrying when secure jobs are under threat.

These things tend to work out in ever-expanding rings.

Now people face the prospect of joining the inner circle of hell, the dole, and specifically Universal Credit.

Their Lordships have produced this report which is making a splash.

The reason is obvious, as this Sky headline underlines,

Universal credit ‘harms the most vulnerable’, says major report amid surge in claims

Some 3.2 million people made new Universal Credit claims between the start of the lockdown in March and mid-June.

The BBC covers the story

Universal Credit ‘failing millions of people’, say peers

Universal Credit is “failing millions of people”, especially the vulnerable, according to a new report from peers.

The Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee said it agreed with the government’s aim for the scheme – to bring together multiple benefits into one payment.

But it criticised its design, blaming Universal Credit for “soaring rent arrears and the use of food banks”.

Welfare delivery minister Will Quince said the government was “committed to supporting the most vulnerable”.

But he said the scheme had “defied its critics in unprecedented and unforeseeable circumstances” during the coronavirus pandemic, adding: “The case for Universal Credit has never been stronger.”

Reactions are beginning to tumble in.

One poverty charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the report “reinforced the scale and urgency of reforms needed”.

And Labour said the system was “simply not working”, instead “pushing people further into poverty and debt”.

Note well this bit.

The Lords’ report said cuts to social security budgets over the last 10 years had caused “widespread poverty and hardship”.

As a result, the committee said Universal Credit needed “urgent investment just to catch up and provide claimants with adequate income”.

The peers called on the government to make the rise in payments due to the coronavirus crisis permanent.

They also called for a non-repayable two-week grant to be introduced to cut the current five-week wait for a claimant’s first payment.

The government said urgent payments were already available, but peers said the standard five weeks “entrenches debt, increases extreme poverty and harms vulnerable groups disproportionately”.

So, Universal Credit is a problem.

Let’s begin with the beginning, with the money you have to live on.

Coming up to my Pension I notice that even the increased UC payment is far below Pension Credit.

It would also perhaps be better if this report came from other people  than those who Daily Allowance (£150) alone (excluding their other revenues, paid in guineas or  gold sovereigns)  is nearly the JSA rate for a fortnight.

This is what their Lordlyships say,

Lords Select Committee.

 

The Economic Affairs Committee publishes its report ‘Universal Credit isn’t working: proposals for reform’, which calls on the Government to make substantial changes to universal credit in order to protect the most vulnerable.

“Most people, including our Committee, broadly agree with the original aims and objectives of Universal Credit. However, in its current form it fails to provide a dependable safety net. It has led to an unprecedented number of people relying on foodbanks and not being able to pay their rent.

“The mechanics of Universal Credit do not reflect the reality of people’s lives. It is designed around an idealised claimant and rigid, inflexible features of the system are harming a range of claimant groups, including women, disabled people and the vulnerable.

“Universal Credit needs more money to catch up after 10 years of cuts to the social security budget. It requires substantial reform to its design and implementation, the adequacy of its awards, and how it supports claimants to navigate the system and find work.

“The five-week wait for a first payment must be replaced by a non-repayable two-week grant to all claimants. The monthly payment calculations which can result in big fluctuations to claimants’ incomes should be fixed for three months. Historical tax credit debt needs to be written off.

“The punitive nature of Universal Credit has not worked. It punishes the poorest by taking away their sole source of income for minor infractions. It needs rebalancing, with more carrot and less stick, particularly as large numbers of claimants will have ended up on it because of events completely out of their control.”

Other findings

The Committee’s other key findings and recommendations include:

  • The Government must prioritise helping people into work, particularly with the increase in unemployment that the Covid-19 pandemic is causing. All claimants should have a work allowance, at a higher rate than now, to allow them to keep more of their award as they move into work.
  • The Government should consider reducing the taper rate to ensure that the poorest in society do not pay higher marginal effective tax rates compared to the richest in society.
  • The conditionality requirements on claimants who can look for, or prepare for work, has been increased significantly over recent years. Less emphasis should be placed on obligations and sanctions. Instead, there should be more support to help coach and train claimants to find jobs or to progress in their current roles. Conditionality should be adapted to accommodate changing labour market conditions, including at the local level, particularly in the light of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The UK has some of the most punitive sanctions in the world, but there is limited evidence that they have a positive effect. Removing people’s main source of support for extended periods risks pushing them further into poverty, indebtedness and reliance on food banks. There is a substantial body of evidence which shows that sanctions harm people’s mental health. The Government should evaluate the current length and level of sanctions. It should also expedite its work on introducing a written warning system before the application of a sanction. Sanctions must be a last resort.
  • The Government is doubling the number of work coaches in response to potential levels of high unemployment. This may not be enough to support people to find work in a stagnant labour market with high levels of competition for jobs. A cap should be introduced on the number of cases for which each work coach can be responsible.
  • Paying awards on a monthly basis does not reflect the way many claimants live. It causes unnecessary budget and cash flow problems. All claimants should be able to choose whether to have Universal Credit paid monthly or twice monthly.
  • Including childcare support in Universal Credit was a mistake. Paying costs in arrears has been a barrier to in-work progression and in some cases, it has been a disincentive to work. The Government should remove childcare support from Universal Credit and be made into a new standalone benefit paid in advance.

ITN carried this story a couple of days ago,

Food banks report ‘unprecedented demand’ during Covid crisis as unemployment predicted to rise to 10% by the end of 2020

Food banks experienced their “busiest month ever” during the coronavirus crisis as families faced a loss of income due to job losses or furlough schemes, the Trussell Trust has said.

The food bank network saw an 89% increase in demand for emergency food parcels in April compared to the same period in 2019.

The figures included a 107% increase in food parcels sent to children with the number of families seeking help almost doubling since last year.

The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) reported similar increases reporting 175% more emergency food parcels given out in the UK during April 2020 compared to last year.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 31, 2020 at 6:54 am

Mass unemployment on the cards.

with 120 comments

UK headed for mass unemployment like the 1980s without urgent ...

“Eight people are claiming benefits support for every job opening”.

Two headlines in the Guardian.

Today: Eight people claiming employment support for every vacancy, says thinktank

Richard Partigan.

Analysis comes as some new vacancies in UK are receiving hundreds of applicants each

The number of people claiming unemployment benefits per job vacancy in Britain has increased fivefold since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an employment thinktank.

The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) said approximately eight people are claiming benefits support for every job opening, up from 1.5 people per job before the crisis began in March.

The number of job vacancies in Britain has plunged by almost half a million since January to 333,000 in June, hitting the lowest levels since comparable records began in 2001. With companies making redundancies, putting hiring plans on hold or furloughing their workers, the numbers of people claiming unemployment-related benefits has climbed by 112% since March to reach more than 2.6 million – resulting in an average of 7.8 benefit claimants per vacancy.

Last week it emerged a restaurant in Manchester had nearly 1,000 applications for a receptionist post within 24 hours, while pubs in London have also pulled in hundreds of applicant despite offering very few jobs.

As many as 9.5 million people – a third of the UK’s workforce – have been been placed on the government furlough scheme, which covers 80% of workers’ wages. However, economists fear that the Treasury closing the scheme at the end of October could trigger mass unemployment unparalleled since the 1980s.

Office for National Statistics:

Labour market overview, UK: July 2020

Estimates of employment, unemployment, economic inactivity and other employment-related statistics for the UK.

Also today: Recruiters inundated as virus takes toll on UK labour market

The jobseeker

‘I can see my mental health declining massively’

Ellie, based in Devon, has applied for 100 jobs since she was made redundant from a food service company the day before lockdown. She had been in the job for less than a month but with cafes and pubs closing, the business went downhill “really rapidly”. Ineligible for the government’s furlough scheme Ellie, 25, found herself out of work for the first time.

“I had a good few weeks of being really down and depressed. I didn’t have the strength to job hunt,” says Ellie. She eventually landed a temporary contract with a call centre in May but knows that the work could end at any time. “It’s really stressful not knowing if I could be let go tomorrow,” she says.

Our Boss is on the job immediately!

https://twitter.com/theresecoffey/status/1287855223495634945?s=20

Written by Andrew Coates

July 28, 2020 at 8:10 am

Claimants Moving to Universal Credit to Get Bonus.

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EXTRA 2 WEEKS' MONEY FOR THOSE MOVING TO UNIVERSAL CREDIT - Island ...

More Money for Some on Benefits as Unemployment Set to Soar.

This looks a fishy.

The DWP has announced that thousands of benefit recipients moving on to Universal Credit will receive up to two weeks of additional cash to provide them with extra support

Is there a catch?

Ah….

This one-time payment, known as a run-on, will help people during their first assessment period, and will not have to be paid back.

It’s been in place for housing benefit claimants for more than two years – and has benefited around 2.3million people so far according to DWP figures.

However, from this month, it will also be paid to those who join from child tax credit, income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance and working tax credit.

In total, it could help an estimated 1.1million households, according to one report seen by Birmingham Live.

What about those who remain on Legacy Benefits?

 

From Wednesday, July 22, if someone’s existing claim of income-based jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), income-related employment and support allowance (ESA) or income support ends due to them applying for universal credit, they will be eligible for a payment worth up to two weeks of their former benefit.

Anyone on the legacy benefits being replaced by Universal Credit is moved across when their circumstances change, such as moving home, losing their job or having a baby.

But….

Everyone else on the legacy benefits is expected to be moved across by September 24. This date is much later than originally forecast and will increase the cost of implementing Universal Credit to £4.6 billion.

So, it’s nothing for those on legacy benefits, who will remain deprived of the extra £20 a week Universal Credit claimants get.

In the meantime the mess that is Universal Credit was shown up in Court today.

Universal credit earnings calculations unlawful, judge says

Guardian

Single mother lost up to £463 a month due to four-weekly pay cycle not fitting rules

A working single parent who was benefit-capped and left up to £463 a month worse off because of the “irrational” way universal credit calculated her monthly earnings has won a high court victory against the Department for Work and Pensions.

The ruling – the second in less than a month in which the DWP’s guidelines for assessing universal credit earnings have been ruled unlawful – found the system was unreasonable and placed absurd conditions on benefit claimants who fell foul of it.

Universal Credit: Mum wins High Court fight against DWP

BBC.

A single working mother has won a High Court challenge against the Department for Work and Pensions over its “irrational” Universal Credit system.

Sharon Pantellerisco, from Merseyside, had her benefits cut as her employer paid her salary on a four-week basis.

However, if she had been paid a monthly salary, the reduction of up to £463 per month would not have been applied.

The High Court said the DWP’s method when calculating earnings in this case had been “irrational and unlawful”.

The DWP has been contacted for a comment.

The court heard how Ms Pantellerisco, from Southport, is the sole carer of her three dependent children who all live together along with her eldest child, who is now aged 19.

The 41-year-old is employed for 16 hours a week at the national living wage rate but, because she was paid on a four-week basis, this resulted in her falling short of the income threshold to avoid the benefit cap.

Watch out for this – seriously worrying for many people.

Looks like Coffey is thinking about her holidays (tweet with 3 likes!)

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 20, 2020 at 5:48 pm

Court Rules Against “No DSS” Discrimination.

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Many of us know people affected by this discrimination, and others who are terrified at losing their jobs because their landlords say they will not keep on tenants who are receive Housing Benefit (It’s being replaced by Universal Credit.)

BBC.

A judge has ruled that blanket bans on renting properties to people on housing benefit are unlawful and discriminatory.

The “momentous” court ruling found a single mother-of-two had experienced indirect discrimination when a letting agent refused to rent to her.

She ended up homeless with her two children, when her case was taken on by housing charity Shelter.

The judge ruled “No DSS” rental bans are against equality laws.

Previously cases backed by Shelter – and first reported by BBC News – have established that “No DSS” landlords and agents are guilty of indirect discrimination, but the cases were settled before any court heard them in full.

In February 2018, single mother Rosie Keogh won compensation for sex discrimination from a lettings agency that refused to consider her as a tenant because she was on state benefit, but the case was settled out of court.

The ruling was welcomed by the housing charity Shelter as a “nail in the coffin” of the No DSS rule – an archaic reference to the former Department for Social Security – used by some landlords to describe the vetting of a class of tenants they regard as unsuitable.

Rose Arnall, the Shelter solicitor who fought the case, said: “It finally clarifies that discriminating against people in need of housing benefits is not just morally wrong, it is against the law.”

But….

Although the ruling, made in a virtual hearing on 1 July, does not set a legal precedent, Shelter said it sent a warning to landlords and letting agents that they should end the practice. Five similar cases brought by the charity in recent years were settled out of court in Shelter’s favour.

This is a welcome decision.  But but apart from not creating a new law, or right to housing, it will not end accommodation problems for people on Benefit, the fact that benefits do not always cover rents, or housing problems in general.

Such as this:

Foodbanks and homelessness charities fear ‘huge storm’ of demand this autumn

FOODBANKS and charities working with the homeless are fearful of a “huge storm” of demand this autumn, as the effect of redundancies are felt and hunger mounts.

Already, volunteers are looking ahead with “fear and trepidation at what is coming down the road at us”, one foodbank manager reported.

Charities fear that, as government support tails off in the autumn, the demands on charities will increase to unsustainable levels, and that a new wave of homelessness will be unleashed. Those most at risk of destitution are those already vulnerable, including migrants who are have no access to government support.

(Just as a note, I am about to reach retirement – this will mean this Blog will not continue in its present form).

Written by Andrew Coates

July 14, 2020 at 8:08 am

Job Search Proof Returns as Mass Unemployment Predicted.

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Quote reads: "Well, they say 35 hours. That’s what you’d sign the disclaimer for. But if you job searched for 35 hours, and you’re not getting a job, I’d guarantee within a month you’re going to have depression."

Job Search Returns.

Contributors have been talking about signing-on and sanctions.

Job Search, and the proof, by UC Diary, print outs, or  completed form,  is at the centre of the Sanctions Regime:

Here is the research link:

 

Meanwhile:

UK unemployment rate could hit 15 per cent with second Covid wave, says OECD

The UK unemployment rate could soar to 15 per cent if there is a second wave of coronavirus infections, the OECD has said.

Even without a second wave, the global economic organisation reckons unemployment could hit 11.7 per cent, a level not seen since the 1980s.

It comes as the UK gradually reopens its economies after lengthy coronavirus lockdowns. As it does so, the government plans to gradually wind down its support for the economy.

The OECD today added to fears that the removal of support will lead to a surge in unemployment when it published a report into jobs markets around the world.

By the end of the year, the UK unemployment rate will have jumped to 11.7 per cent from the current level of 3.9 per cent, it said.

The labour market will take time to recover, the report predicted, with unemployment only dropping to 7.2 per cent in 2021.

However, the OECD said that a second wave of infections and the subsequent lockdown could send unemployment soaring to 14.8 per cent as millions lose their jobs. That would be well above anything seen in recent memory.

Our Boss is gearing up!

Written by Andrew Coates

July 7, 2020 at 10:31 am

Benefit Sanctions Return.

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Labour condemns move to restore claimant conditionality rules as ‘incomprehensible’

The Guardian reports,

The work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, has indicated benefit sanctions will be reintroduced this week as jobcentres in England start to reopen after lockdown, saying it is important claimant rules are reinstated.

Face-to-face meetings in jobcentres were suspended in March, and with them the system of “claimant conditionality” – a set of rules that require people to agree to carry out job search activities as a condition of claiming benefits.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Coffey refused to extend the arrangements after the three-month period finished on Tuesday. “It’s important that as the jobcentres fully reopen this week, we do reinstate the need for having a claimant commitment,” she said.

In the New Statesman Stephen Bush writes,

The return of benefit sanctions is a risky, painful and dangerous bet by the government

Against a potential backdrop of mass layoffs, the cruelty of the old system is going to feel a lot sharper.

Benefit sanctions will return to the United Kingdom from 1 July, the government has confirmed. The requirement that people claiming Universal Credit demonstrate they are actively seeking work was suspended during the lockdown, but will resume on Wednesday, when Job Centres reopen and in-person meetings there return.

The academic evidence on sanctions is that they don’t work, which led the work and pensions select committee, then-chaired by Frank Field, to declare them “pointlessly cruel” in 2018. The counter-argument in government circles is that the story of the last decade has been record employment growth – and that without the changes to unemployment and in-work benefits, including sanctions, that job growth wouldn’t have happened.

More reactions:

Here is another report, from the Mirror,

Written by Andrew Coates

June 30, 2020 at 2:12 pm

Equal Benefits for Claimants! Raise Legacy Benefits in Line with Universal Credit Rates!

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Under the hood: what Universal Credit means for Council Tax ...

Around £20 a Week Less for Single ‘Legacy Benefit’ Claimants, “The DWP has blamed operational difficulties for the disparity.”

As our contributors raise concerns about the re-opening of Jobcentres for signing on, and the resumption of the fortnightly proof of ‘job search’ or the daily Diary record for Work Coaches,this issue still rankles.

 

This week Civil Service News carried the following story.

A new report by the Work and Pensions Committee says the pandemic is leaving “huge numbers” of people “struggling to cover the cost of essentials.

The government has already raised Universal Credit and working tax credit payments by £20 a week for 12 months.

But the committee warns that those on benefits that have not yet been replaced by Universal Credit — including jobseekers’ allowance, employment support allowance and child tax credits — have not received the same help.

The cross-party group says it is “unacceptable that people have been left facing hardship through no fault of their own, simply because of the outdated and complex way in which so-called legacy benefits are administered”.

And they call on the DWP to increase rates for legacy benefits by an equivalent amount, with the payment backdated to April.

It continues,

Committee chairman Stephen Timms said: “DWP’s frontline staff have worked hard to get support to millions of people. Without their actions, the impact of the pandemic could have been much worse.

“But the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted weaknesses in a social security system which at times is too inflexible and slow to adapt to support people in times of crisis.”

He added: “The focus has mostly been on the unprecedented numbers of new claims for Universal Credit. But in the background, people on legacy benefits – including disabled people, carers and people with young families – have slipped down the list of priorities.

“It’s now time for the government to redress that balance and increase legacy benefits too. It’s simply not right for people to miss out on support just because they happen, through no fault of their own, to be claiming the ‘wrong’ kind of benefit.”

The Committee said clearly,

Raise the rates of legacy benefits to support people hit hard by coronavirus pandemic, not just Universal Credit, say MPs

Rates of older benefits must be raised to provide help for millions of people who have not yet moved to Universal Credit and who are struggling to meet the extra inescapable costs imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, the Work and Pensions Committee says today.

The report on the Department for Work and Pensions’ response to the coronavirus outbreak finds that the pandemic has left huge numbers of people struggling to cover the costs of essentials, with some disabled people in particular hit hard by increased costs of care and rising food prices.

Raise level of pre-Universal Credit benefits – Government must not ‘simply ignore the needs’ of people claiming legacy benefits

  • The Committee heard evidence that coronavirus has increased living costs for disabled people. In a survey of 224 disabled people in April, the Disability Benefits Consortium reported that 95% of people surveyed had experienced a rise in costs for food, utilities and managing their health.
  • While the Government has raised the rates of standard Universal Credit and basic Working Tax Credits by £20 a week for 12 months, people on benefits yet to be replaced by UC, including Jobseekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Child Tax Credits, have not been similarly helped, with the DWP blaming operational difficulties for the disparity.
  • The Committee argues that it is unacceptable that people have been left facing hardship through no fault of their own, simply because of the outdated and complex way in which so-called legacy benefits are administered. It calls on the DWP to boost the rates by an equivalent amount to the rise in UC, backdated to April.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 25, 2020 at 9:02 am

Work and Health Programme’s Dire Results and Latest on Universal Credit.

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Pluss launches Work and Health Programme | Pluss

Programme that’s Not Working.

The Work and Health Programme (WHP) aims to provide support to help people find and keep a job. It is
available to the following groups:

  • The Disability group is voluntary for disabled people as defined in the Equality Act 2010. This is the
    main group that the WHP is aimed at.
  • The Early Access group is voluntary and aimed at people who may need additional support to move
    into employment and are in one of a number of priority groups (e.g. homeless, ex-armed forces, care, leavers, refugees).
  • The Long-term unemployed group is mandatory and is for Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit claimants who have reached 24 months of unemployment

Disability Rights  noted in 2019,

9 out of 10 of Work and Health Programme participants do not have a job outcome

31 May 2019

9 out of 10 of Work and Health Programme (WHP) participants (88%) have not obtained a ‘job outcome’.

A ‘job outcome’ is work with earning above a threshold of 16 hours per week for 26 weeks at the National Living Wage, London Living Wage or Real Living Wage) or having completed six months in self-employment.

This week’s Private Eye, under the title, “Doleful Result”  carries the story’s latest turns.

They state that 15% of the people who began the welfare to work scheme, the Work and Health Programme from its  start in late 2017 till February 2019 (the latest available figures)  found a job.  That is “at least six months of self-employment of employment of 16 hours a week at, at least, the minimum wage.

They conclude, “Around two-thirds of participants haven’t earned a penny within a  year of joining the scheme, and half never do.”

This is from the latest DWP statement and  figures (next release of statistics in August 2020).

Work and Health Programme statistics to February 2020

The WHP predominantly helps disabled people, as well as the Long-Term Unemployed and the Early Access group (which is made up of certain priority groups) to enter into and stay in work.

People are referred by jobcentres to work with organisations known as providers, from the public, private and voluntary sectors. The providers are paid a service delivery fee as well as outcome-related payments when a person reaches either:

Here are the outcomes:

Since the WHP began there have been:

  • 166,160 referrals for 138,330 individuals
  • 103,300 starts
  • 13,710 job outcomes

Note: those starting more recently have had shorter time to achieve a job outcome, therefore it is not meaningful to divide the number of job outcomes by the number of starts or referrals.

Note how low the job outcomes look in this table:

Another statistic:

69% of all individuals referred by August 2019 have started the programme, and of these, so far 15% have reached the job outcomes earnings threshold or 6 months of being in self-employment by February 2020.

If you wish to, you can read the list of failure in the rest of the document.

Meanwhile the Civil Service News reports,

The Department for Work and Pensions is facing calls to give an “urgent lifeline” to recipients of Universal Credit, after a study found six in ten families claiming the benefir have been forced to borrow money since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

The latest study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Save The Children found families have been increasingly forced to rely on payday loans or credit cards to ensure they can afford food and pay bills during the pandemic.

It came as the latest official figures released on Monday showed the UK’s “claimant count” – including both those on Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit – had soared to 2.8 million in May.

Don’t forget!

More on the reports:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 18, 2020 at 3:45 pm

Universal Credit Claims Double in Two Months.

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The Mirror has just reported.

3million people have now made a Universal Credit claim since coronavirus hit

Total claims between March 16 and June 2 are 2,976,140 individuals, in 2.3million households.

The milestone suggests the number of people on the six-in-one benefit has almost doubled in just a few months.

In mid-February there were 2.6million households on Universal Credit as part of a decade-long rollout set to last until 2024.

But the number of people being forced onto the welfare state for the first time has soared amid the pandemic.

Not all those who put in a claim will receive money under UC.

The Mirror revealed that of the first 800,000 post-coronavirus UC claims in late March, 264,000 had not yet resulted in a payment.

Of those, half had an award of £0 in their first month due to their earnings being deemed too high. The other half were either deemed ineligible for Universal Credit or withdrew their claim.

DWP officials insisted large numbers of those people will have joined other government support packages like the furlough scheme.

Not to mention:

And,

And,

‘Legacy Benefit’ payments have still not been upgraded to include the extra £20 a week that Universal Credit claimants get (if they get it). 

The scandal of this discrimination against the poor continues to fester.

Our contributors have commented that Job Search on Universal Credit or the much lower ‘legacy benefit’ JSA, is hard.

But those kind folks at the DWP think of everything:

Looking for work? jobhelp is a good place to start.

Despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak, there are still jobs out there to apply to. We’re here to help you get started.

In the meantime this rumour is rife:

 

Government Prepares for Big Rise in Unemployment; Plans to Double Work ‘Coach’ Numbers.

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Working with your Work Coach (Universal Credit full service) - YouTube

More Work ‘Coaches…’

DWP draws up plans to double the number of work coaches for Universal Credit

The Mirror seems to be the first with this news.

Congratulations to them!

The government is braced for a rise in unemployment and millions more on benefits due to the economic fallout of Covid-19.

Benefit chiefs have drawn up plans to double the number of frontline staff working on Universal Credit.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is looking at several “scenarios” to grapple with a longer-term rise in unemployment from the pandemic.

One of those would be to double the current 13,500 ‘work coaches’ – a staff member assigned to help claimants find work.

Revealing the plans today, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said “hopefully” the economy will “bounce back”.

But she told the Lords Economic Affairs Committee: “We do anticipate the interactions with Universal Credit claimants may be somewhat different from an era where we’ve had very low levels of unemployment.”

Background: The economics of Universal Credit

This was a “virtual meeting”, as listed here.

Another report:

More on Politics Home:

Government ‘may need to double’ part of DWP workforce to deal with coronavirus fallout

The Mirror continues:

She said the recruitment “recognises the larger number of people who will need our services” in the “wider labour market”.

She added it will reflect the “changing situation we have for our economy as a consequence of the recent coronavirus public health emergency.”

Universal Credit director-general Neil Couling told peers he is already “actively recruiting” 2,500 new work coaches, but it is “highly dependent on the volumes we will have to face.”

Double Plus Congratulations to the Mirror for this item:

Universal Credit was boosted by £20 a week from April 2020 to March 2021 in a helping hand to those hit by coronavirus.

This week the government’s Social Security Advisory Committee demanded the same boost is handed to more than 2million people on ‘legacy’ benefits – most of them sick or disabled.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 2, 2020 at 7:02 pm

Universal Credit “Very Unlikely” to Survive Covid-19 Pandemic.

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‘Very unlikely’ Universal Credit will survive the Covid-19 pandemic

Welfare Weekly reports,

Redefining the State of Welfare argues it is very probable that Coronavirus will bring to a head discontent with the existing system that has been growing for some time and will lay bare its weaknesses, particularly that of its central element: Universal Credit.

As such, a major public debate or conversation over our welfare state is imminent and inevitable. One idea bound to garner support – and which has a “head start” – is a Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) and, in particular, one version of that: a Universal Basic Income (UBI).

Read the full article.

But bear this in mind.

Welfare Weekly is shy about saying too directly that the report, from the Institute of Economic Affairs (an ‘ultra’ free-market body funded by tax-dodging off-shore companies and various chancers, tobacco firms .  is by a right-wing free-market academic. The author, Steven Davis, is “co-editor with Nigel Ashford of The Dictionary of Conservative and Libertarian Thought (Routledge, 1991).

“The IEA supports privatising the National Health Service (NHS); campaigns against controls on junk food; attacks trades unions; and defends zero-hour contracts, unpaid internships and tax havens.” They were also pro-Brexit, as were all business groups that rely on dodgy money moving around the world with as little regulation and taxation as possible (Right-wing think tank Institute of Economic Affairs issued with formal warning after Brexit report ‘breached charity law’.)

That said, it is clear that there will be calls for wholesale change in the benefit system, including  a replacement to Universal Credit.

There are many reasons: the delays, the inability to deal with changing incomes, and the (so far) temporary effort to cover rents, which is unlikely to continue, the injustice of having one rate for UC claimants, and a lower one for those on ‘legacy benefits’, the injustice of claimants paying wildly different percentages of Council Tax across the country, and the Sanctions Regime, which may return with a vengeance. Not to mention that the very problematic future of the Welfare-to-work schemes and the private ‘Unemployment Business’ involved in ‘training’….

Our contributors could add to this list…

In case anybody wants a guide to applying for UC,all its traps and pitfalls, and the present waivers for Job Search and the rest this is good.

Note this (which of course only applies to those getting the higher rate):

“concerns have been raised about the £1,000 boost (about £90 a month) only being in place for 12 months.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “If the Government believes this level of support is necessary during lockdown, why do they believe people will need less money when the (lockdown) ends and the normal cost of living would apply?”

Welfare Weekly continues,

Redefining the State of Welfare outlines two possible partial measures that could be introduced, that would be followed by a “recovery basic income” in which more substantive reforms would be made as part of a process of recovering from the pandemic and which would start the process of moving the system towards a GMI.

The main alternative, as outlined in the briefing, is that of Universal Basic Services: the state owns productive assets and uses them to provide a range of essential services either free of charge to the end user or for a flat rate and nominal fee (designed to regulate demand rather than fund the service).

That’s true, but nobody had solved the simple problem that any Universal Income faces: we do not universal equal expenses, rents are not the same, disabled people do not have the same costs, and, frankly, why should the well-off get even more money?

By contrast, apparently this is the more typical IEA supporters’concern:

Many free-market liberals sceptical of a UBI are even more alarmed by the idea of UBS, on civil liberties grounds.

Hard to get that one. I suppose they mean the liberty of private companies to live off the public purse by drawing money from contracting out, or the freedom of people to get better health care if they can pay for it. Universal Basic Services would have to – at least its supporters think – mean upgrading, not downgrading. UBS would mean an end to privileged access, or would it? It could equally mean a ‘basic’ provision, and a better one for the better off…

But there’s also plenty of problems for those who cherish equality. If everybody gets free access to basic services, including housing, does this include food, drink, transport? Most people would think that different needs still exist, not everybody is ever going to get them satisfied, until we have a society where “from each according to her/his abilities to each according to their needs”. Anybody with greater resources to start with is bound to get more services. Not just fine wines and meals, but the rest of a better life-style.

The IEA report does make some sense if we look it as “blue skies thinking” without much regard to practical issues, not to mention the whole structure of the DWP/Job Centres….

We can perhaps only agree on this:

Moving to a UBI is not simply a matter of practicalities such as cost. It also raises fundamental questions about the way we live, how we as a society see ourselves, our institutions, and the relations between us – which again cut across conventional ideological divides.

The Coronavirus crisis therefore will almost certainly trigger a debate that will have an uncertain outcome. What seems very unlikely is that the status quo will survive the experience of the pandemic.

The report itself, Redefining the State of Welfare, ends by saying,

Major crises and interruptions to the regular course of events are always both a cause of and opportunity for reflection on how things might change.They have historically been the occasion for systematic welfare reform.

The Covid-19 epidemic has already begun a conversation, which is certainly going to continue, and with the idea of a GMI or UBI as one of its major elements. It is almost certain that the status quo in welfare will not survive this test, so this is a conversation that will have effect. What should not happen is for foundational questions to go unexamined or for one agenda to win by default.

Why would right-wing loony-bins back UBI?

Not for loony reasons.

Indeed the IEA are far from the kind of wild alt-right ranter against ‘Globalism’ some might across.

This looks like one possible explanation (the article is about the Adam Smith Institute in 2018  but applies to the IEA and now).

A right-wing think tank is now supporting Universal Basic Income – but they’ve missed the point

Kyle Lewis, Will Strong

Once implemented, for example, it is easy to imagine a scenario in which leading conservative politicians and think tanks would argue that individuals will now have the “economic autonomy” with which to meet their own individual health care needs, resulting in a rapid withdrawal of funding for the NHS and social welfare, and the implementation of a US-style healthcare system. While a “basic” individual health care insurance policy might be affordable and calculated into a UBI payment, a traumatic life-changing injury or disease would push the burden of responsibility back onto the individual with no social safety net for protection beyond their personal payments.

Left-wingers have their own answers:

Thus, we should welcome the proposal for “Universal Basic Services“ that researchers at UCL put out a few months ago. Generally much cheaper than a UBI, UBS offers something different: free housing, food, transport, education, forms of communication, healthcare and legal aid for all. Creating free, essential services – and not just distributing free money – could be the way forward.

We await our new Beveridge Report…

Written by Andrew Coates

May 28, 2020 at 7:31 pm

Coronavirus and Benefits: Low Income Families Hit.

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Employment and benefits support - Understanding Universal Credit

System Already Starting to Fail.

As the pandemic continues, and furtive Dominic Cummings is trying to brazen out his lock-down breaking, this story may get passed over.

Upper limit on benefits remains static, and research shows thousands of families are losing out on £185 a month

Tens of thousands of poor households are being denied extra support designed to ease the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, after being hit by the government’s benefit cap.

The number of low-income households affected by the cap in London has doubled since the crisis started, according to analysis seen by the Observer. Households already at the cap when the crisis hit have been missing out on £320 a month in additional support. For private renters with children, this is £532 a month. A further 22,000 households are now at the cap and are missing out on an average of £185 a month.

It has led to an outcry that there is now a two-tier system, in which workers on the government’s furlough scheme have access to far more support than some of those reliant on welfare. Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, is calling for the cap to be increased during the pandemic.

The government introduced new help for those claiming universal credit, however, the cap was not increased or suspended.

New research by the Policy in Practice consultancy, commissioned by City Hall, found that there were 44,300 households affected by the cap in April. This could rise to 63,700 by next year as more people are forced to make a claim.

This from the research paper by Policy In Practice.

Policy in Practice has been commissioned by the Greater London Authority to analyse the interaction between the COVID-19 increase in benefits introduced in April 2020 as part of the COVID-19 response and the benefit cap. Our findings show that benefit capped households are set to double.

Read The interaction of COVID-19 measures and the Benefit Cap on low-income Londoners

In March 2020, the government announced a series of financial measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and increased the level of support available to households receiving means-tested state benefits. The government increased support for those in receipt of Universal Credit or Tax Credits by increasing the personal allowances by £20 per week. It also raised the maximum support available to private renters by aligning Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to the cheapest 30% of market rents.

This is worth looking at:

One could add, as our contributors have underlined, the failure to upgrade all benefits, that is, from JSA onwards, to the £20 increase offered to Universal Credit claimants, is another injustice.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 24, 2020 at 12:03 pm

Huge rise in claims for “unfit for purpose” Universal Credit.

with 155 comments

 

Universal Credit: Thérèse Coffey confident in system during ...

Thérèse Coffey: Defends Universal Credit by Crook and by Hook.

“Heaps of entangled weeds that slowly float….”

Ancient prophecy foretelling Universal Credit.

Peter Grimes. George Crabbe – national poet of Suffolk Coastal, Therese Coffey’s constituency.

Yesterday, if you watched the BBC, television heard the radio, or glanced at other media outlets,  you could hardly avoid the Work and Pensions Secretary.

Therese Coffey talked about the glories of Universal Credit and how well the benefit system is dealing with the avalanche of new claims.

And a lot more.

She made this gaff,

Thérèse Coffey has suggested “wrong” scientific advice could have led to blunders in the Government’s response to the pandemic.

The Suffolk Coastal MP did not get an easy ride from Piers Morgan on GMB on the assertions about her mates’ response to the pandemic.

The  TV presenter, ungentlemanly, said she had come our with a “pack of lies”.

 

 

Her ‘it’s everybody’s fault but ours” burbling was quickly repudiated by the government.

No 10 distances itself from Therese Coffey after she suggested any Govt mistakes down to ‘wrong’ scientific advice

But what of the Suffolk Coastal MP’s tangled weed, Universal Credit?

This is what this Blog is concerned about – after all!

The New Statesman publishes an excellent article on the sea wrack dragging many people down below water.

Coronavirus is introducing the pitfalls of Universal Credit to many new claimants

 

Universal Credit is a reformed benefits system introduced under the coalition government, designed to mimic salaried employment via monthly payments into one household bank account, with the stated aim to “make work pay”.

This design jars with a period of rising unemployment, when it is even harder to transition back into work after a brief stint on benefits during a blip in your working life. The jobs and hours just aren’t there. In the last two weeks of March, the total number of weekly hours worked saw the largest drop in a decade, and a quarter fewer hours were worked in the last week of that month than in any other weeks in the same quarter.

Plus, the new welfare system is already beset with problems. A five-week wait for the first payment is built into the system – a design that has caused rising foodbank use, and now leaves people for over a month

There’s another point.

Coffey talked, on one of her many, many, respectful interviews, of an extra £20 for Universal Credit claimants.

This is what she was referring to:

The Government has introduced another increase in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced more people to apply for Universal Credit. From April, for 12 months, the Universal Credit standard allowance is increasing by £20 a week.

The ‘I’.

 

Some Benefit Claimants (UC) get the extra money; others don’t.

Legacy Benefits (such as JSA) remain at this kind of rate: JSA, single person basic rate:  £74.35 a week

UC single person basic rate:  £ 409.89 a month.

Do the maths…

We assume that JSA and other non-UC claimants don’t need the money and are happy as they are…

Or not, as a top IUA contributor , Sire Sedley, says:

Hath not a Legacy JSA Claimant hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Universal Credit claimant is ? If you prick us, do we not bleed ? If you tickle us, do we not laugh ?

Therefore Mistress Coffey I prithee, renounce this cruel delay and make haste to right the great wrong that hath been performed unto the legacy claimants. Revoke this intemperate withdrawal of twenty English pounds and give it in all justice to claimants, each alike unto another.

These demands should be pushed and pushed!

Written by Andrew Coates

May 20, 2020 at 5:40 am

The New Universal Credit Claimants.

with 103 comments

Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Universal Credit Important Announcement ...

DWP Picture with Tasteless Cartoon Images of the Virus.

Our contributors, campaigners, including this Blog, have been critical of Universal Credit from its creation.

However careful and sensitive we wish to be it’s impossible not to see ways in which UC has created difficulties for the enormous numbers of people now having to claim the benefit.

It’s no good trying to cover this up.

The BBC reports,

 

 

Some people applying for universal credit for the first time have found themselves worse off after losing their existing benefit payments.

The system means legacy benefits such as tax credits are stopped at the point of application, even if the claim proves to be unsuccessful.
One applicant said his family was worse off “at the click of a button”.

Universal credit claims have soared amid the coronavirus outbreak, with the next figures published on Tuesday.

 

It is obvious that these kind of difficulties are the tip of a giant iceberg of problems facing the new Universal Credit claimants.

The numbers claiming are set to rise and rise.

 

 

Faced with the crisis the DWP Minister, Therese Coffey, seems, on her twitter feed, to be more concerned with scoring political points against Keir Starmer and Sadiq Khan, and a “nice weekend on Suffolk Coast” than doing her job sorting out these kind of problems.

This, suitably grim Opera, based on an even grimmer poem about a cruel fisherman, a miserable tale located in a hamlet just next to Suffolk seaside town, Aldburgh, is our Minister’s night-time entertainment.

She re-tweeted this…

 

Peter Grimes.    George Crabbe.

“Peter Grimes is part of a collection of rural poems published by George Crabbe in 1810 called ‘The Borough’. This poem explores the criminal psyche.”

Old Peter Grimes made fishing his employ,
His wife he cabin’d with him and his boy,
And seem’d that life laborious to enjoy:
To town came quiet Peter with his fish,
And had of all a civil word and wish.
He left his trade upon the sabbath-day,
And took young Peter in his hand to pray:
But soon the stubborn boy from care broke loose,
At first refused, then added his abuse:
His father’s love he scorn’d, his power defied,
But being drunk, wept sorely when he died.

I did this poem for ‘O’ level English literature…..

Written by Andrew Coates

May 18, 2020 at 6:37 am

Outrage as Homeless to be thrown back into the streets.

with 110 comments

This story has been developing all morning.

There is plenty more in the pipeline as evictions are set to start again in June.

More information from contributors, and is more than likely that we know people affected by the above, welcome.

But what we need is to stop this now!

Written by Andrew Coates

May 15, 2020 at 10:08 am

Ipswich Unemployed Action Back.

with 12 comments

We are, we hope, back..

 

More to follow.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 14, 2020 at 4:33 pm

Coronavirus Ireland: emergency unemployment payment of €203.

with 1,272 comments

 

Image

Bold Measures in Ireland. 

Irish Mirror. 

The Government has introduced an unemployment payment of €203 per week for anyone whose employer can’t pay them during the coronavirus pandemic.

Any employees who have lost their jobs or any self-employed people will be eligible to get the payment for up to six weeks.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection said: “COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment has been introduced for anyone whose employer is unable to continue to pay them.

“The payment is available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost employment due to the pandemic.

“You will get a payment of €203 per work for up to six weeks (as applicable).”

I am pretty aware that the Irish welfare system is far from perfect, and the health service is part privatised and requires, expensive,  individual insurance.

But this is a good move.

Here:

This is what our boss is tweeting about:

The DWP could at least start by ending the sanctions regime.

Ireland: 

COVID-19 (coronavirus) and social welfare payments

COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. Ireland is trying to reduce transmission of the virus by implementing a range of measures.

The following measures are in effect until Sunday 29 March 2020:

  • Schools, colleges and childcare facilities are closed from the evening of 12 March
  • Indoor mass gatherings of 100 people or more and outdoor mass gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled
  • All State-run cultural institutions are closed
  • All pubs have been advised to close from midnight on 15 March
  • People have also been asked not to have house parties.

Back in the UK:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2020 at 11:34 am

Budget Fails to offer anything to Fix Universal Credit Mess Facing New Coronavirus Strains.

with 213 comments

Image result for cornovarius universal credit twitter

Response to Government “Hype and Hot Air”.

Before the Budget there were calls, from no less a figure than Ian Duncan Smith, for more money to be put into Universal Credit, to clean up the mess he’d helped create.

The former welfare slasher said despite years of compromises, the six-in-one benefit still needs more money – and the five-week wait for payment should be cut.

In case you’d thought he’d gone soft the Mirror report adds,

Defending his system overall, he told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee: “There is no question in my mind that Universal Credit is better than the benefits that went before.”

And he condemned political rivals for “using the most vulnerable” to “stir up an argument”.

But he added: “I resigned over the fact that the government withdrew money at the time we were trying to roll it out, which was a big mistake.

“Now the government has sought to put most of that money back – there’s still some more to go.”

The central Budget measure affecting Claimants is this.

Make of it what you will.

Rishi Sunak Announces People Can Get Benefits A Week Sooner Amid Coronavirus Outbreak.

Huff Post.

But what is this?

It’s the following,

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced people on contributory employment and support allowance will be able to claim from day one instead of day eight, in anticipation of workers having to self-isolate as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

..

Unveiling his Budget in the Commons on Wednesday, Sunak announced a series of “temporary, timely and targeted” measures including a “strengthened safety net”.

In total the chancellor announced a £30bn fiscal stimulus to “support British people”.

The government has already said people will be able to claim statutory sick pay from day one instead of day four.

“But of course, not everyone is eligible for statutory sick pay. There are millions of people working hard, who are self-employed or in the gig economy,” Sunak said today.

“They will need our help too. So to support them, during this period, we’ll make it quicker and easier to get benefits.”

Sunak also announced statutory sick pay will also be available for all those who are advised to self-isolate – even if they haven’t yet presented with symptoms.

And he said rather than having to go to the doctors, people would soon be able to obtain a sick note by contacting 111.

In fact there’s a complete failure to deal with the crisis of Universal Credit.

Johnsonism’s first budget is floating on hype and hot air

Homing into two issues the Guardian commentator writes.

Johnson declared last week that workers who isolate themselves to protect others from the virus should not be “penalised for doing the right thing”. But the grand sum of £94.25 sick pay a week is just not enough to live on, and the coverage for workers in the gig economy looks very patchy.

..

Yet Johnson’s first budget was devoid of either redistribution or predistribution. There was nothing to fix the debacle that is universal credit, nor a single extra penny for social care.

There are reports that Food Banks have new problems getting donations, with supplies down because of panic buying.

Charities struggling for supplies urge people to think before coronavirus stockpiling.

Food banks in Britain are running out of staples including milk and cereal as a result of panic-buying and are urging shoppers to think twice before hoarding as donations fall in the coronavirus outbreak.

Donations from shoppers at branches of Sainsbury’s and Waitrose slumped to 25% of their normal volume at one food bank in London, while they have fallen by a third at a Kirkcaldy food bank – where UHT milk has run out. Some facilities have warned they may close because of concerns about cross-infection, and a food bank in Stonebridge, a deprived area of north-west London, will cut the size of its food parcels by a third from Wednesday, with larger families facing the biggest reductions.

Then there is this:

Others note the problems:

The Minister for Work and Pensions gets her priorities right!

Other Tories have reasons to be cheerful:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 12, 2020 at 11:33 am

DWP Statement on Coronavirus as Inquiry into Universal Credit Begins.

with 92 comments

Image result for coronavirus uk

The seriousness of the Coronavirus pandemic is beginning to hit home.

Coronavirus: UK tactics defended as cases expected to rise

The decision to delay closing schools and introduce other strict measures to combat coronavirus has been defended by England’s deputy chief medical officer.

Dr Jenny Harries said experts are assessing new cases on an hourly basis to achieve a “balanced response”.

She told BBC Breakfast new measures could follow as UK cases begin to rise rapidly over the next two weeks.

In the UK, five people with the virus have died. There were 319 confirmed cases as of 09:00 GMT on Monday.

Dr Harries said the vast majority of those diagnosed with coronavirus in Britain are “pretty well” but that they may “feel a bit rough for a few days”.

She added: “Within 10-14 days we will be likely to advise people with symptoms to self-isolate and we are expecting that start of the peak [of coronavirus cases] to come during that period.”

Dr Harries said cancelling big outdoor events like football matches would not necessarily be a decision supported by science.

“The virus will not survive very long outside,” she said. “Many outdoor events, particularly, are relatively safe.”

Statement from DWP on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions, has made an oral statement to Parliament about the coronavirus (COVID-19).

 

The department is fully prepared for all eventualities and has conducted extensive planning against reasonable worst case scenarios. I have been in discussions with the chancellor and will continue to work across government to prepare.

If claimants cannot attend their jobcentre appointment in person because of self-isolation, work coaches can exercise discretion, so claimants should engage with them and they will not be sanctioned – as long they let us know before the appointment.

And as my Rt Hon Friend the Prime Minister set out last week ‘nobody should be penalised for doing the right thing’.

That’s why the government’s safety net also extends to those who are self-employed or who work in the gig-economy. They can apply for Universal Credit or new-style ESA. Advances are available for Universal Credit immediately.

Madame Deputy Speaker, these are exceptional circumstances and we will support workers to do the right thing for their health and the protection of public health.

Published 9 March 2020

The DWP statement leaves open some important issues.
  • If people are self-isolating, and they are able to contact their Work Coaches in time, (an ‘if’), what kind of “discretion” can they rely on?
  • If people working in the “gig economy” or are self-employed, have to apply for Universal Credit will be able to manage on the meagre “advance loan” they will be eligible for?
  • Will they have to undergo constant “Job Search”?
  • What sanctions regime will they face?
  • What are the plans for Job Centres to avoid people catching the virus?
On the second issue this has also taken place to less publicity.

Universal Credit has a “baked in” wait for the first payment. After completing all of the stages of their application, claimants must then wait for at least five weeks to receive their award. They can ask for an Advance payment if they need money more urgently, which they then pay back out of their future Universal Credit payments.

Many organisations have concluded that the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment must be reduced or eliminated entirely. There is, however, a lack of agreement about how this might be most effectively—and affordably—achieved. Some of the options suggested include:

  • Scrapping the five week wait for all claimants: for example, by making the Advance non-repayable;
  • Offering non-repayable Advances to some claimants: for example, those considered vulnerable;
  • Allowing more flexibility for the start of a claim to be backdated;
  • Extending run on payments to cover all legacy benefits;
  • Substantially reducing the rate at which Advance Payments—the main existing mitigation measure—are paid back, to help claimants better manage their money;
  • Paying UC two-weekly, like many legacy benefits, rather than monthly.

The Committee wants to help the Government to better understand the upsides and downsides of these options, and explore other possible solutions.

What does the Committee want to hear about?

The Committee would like to hear your views on the following questions about the wait for a first payment of Universal Credit.

You can respond as an individual, a group or an organisation. You don’t need to answer all of the questions. The deadline for sending your views is Friday 17 April 2020.

  1. To what extent have the mitigations the Government has introduced so far (e.g. Advance payments) helped to reduce the negative impact of the five week wait for UC claimants?
    1. What problems do claimants still experience during the five week wait?
  2. What is the best way of offsetting the impact of the five week wait?
    1. Is it possible to estimate how much this would cost the Department?
    2. Is it possible to estimate any costs or savings to third parties (for example, support organisations)?
  3. Are different mitigating options needed for different groups of claimants?
  4. Are there barriers or potential unintended consequences to removing the five week wait—either for claimants or the Department? How can they be overcome?

This inquiry is currently accepting evidence

The committee wants to hear your views. We welcome submissions from anyone with answers to the questions in the call for evidence. You can submit evidence until Friday 17 April 2020.

Read the call for evidence before submitting

Written by Andrew Coates

March 10, 2020 at 10:33 am

Coronavirus and Universal Credit Claimants.

with 104 comments

Image result for coronavirus universal credit

 

Devon Live reports today,

Families in receipt of DWP benefits are being urged to contact their local jobcentre if they suspect they have come down with associated COVID-19 symptoms

They continue,

One of those is how those in receipt of DWP welfare benefits would be affected should they show worrying signs.

Families in receipt of Universal Credit already know cash penalties are imposed if they fail to meet a range of critera. That could be failing to turn up to interviews, not applying for work or claiming more than they’re entitled to (i.e. their medical needs are not as serious as what they have documented).

Claimants who fall ill with suspected coronavirus could be prevented from doing any one of those things.

So here’s a crucial guide outlining in full what welfare recipients need to do in order to avoid benefit sanctions.

Important – contact your local Jobcentre

Some claimants could have their payout docked if they fail to properly notify job centres, experts warn.

The new welfare system requires most claimants to fulfil a set number of hours of paid work or job hunting in order to receive the monthly payment.

Concerns have been raised about payments being docked if claimants fail to properly notify job centres about being unable to work due to restrictions on public transport or having to look after a child in the event of a school closure related to the coronavirus spread.

Charities are urging the government to ensure Universal Credit is “flexible enough to accommodate situations like this”.

Citizens Advice:

If you’re claiming benefits or asked to go to a medical assessment

You should still go to your usual appointments, for example at the Jobcentre Plus. You should also still go to any medical assessments – for example for ESA or PIP.

If you don’t, you might not get the money you’re entitled to.

If you’re ill and can’t go to your appointment, phone the office paying your benefit to explain why you can’t go.

If you’re claiming Universal Credit, you’ll need to use your online journal to explain why you can’t go to your appointment.

You can find out more about getting Universal Credit if you’re sick.

 

Coronavirus: Calls for emergency legislation to protect Universal Credit claimants

Welfare Weekly.

Both Labour and the SNP have called on the Prime Minister to provide emergency legislation to protect workers’ rights and ensure people receiving Universal Credit do not face sanctions if they are unable to make an appointment due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In Prime Minister’s Questions, Ian Blackford MP asked that while the Governor of the Bank of England suggested a ‘financial bridge’ may be available to assist markets through any economic volatility, would there will also be a ‘financial bridge’ for ordinary workers and those on social security.

He said statutory pay must be in line with the Living Wage, and Universal Credit claimants must not face sanctions.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also urged the Prime Minister to ensure that workers and benefit claimants are protected from hardship, should they need to self-isolate and are unable to work or attend Jobcentre appointments.

The Prime Minister announced during PMQ’s that rules on statutory sickpay will be changed to allow Coronavirus patients to claim from the first day of their sickness.

But with many workers such as freelancers and the self-employed ineligible for sick-pay, opposition parties warned that those affected may be forced to choose between their health and financial security.

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford MP said: “All of us must provide clear, calm and practical leadership in the days ahead.

Update:

This appeared a couple of days ago, and is becoming more and more worth considering:

Johnny Void: With Coronavirus Around The Corner It’s Time To Scrap Sanctions And Brutal Benefit Assessments

More:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 6, 2020 at 12:18 pm

DWP Minister, “no doubt that Universal Credit has contributed to the increased use of food banks”.

with 120 comments

Image result for food banks universal credit

DWP to Recognise Facts?

DWP minister says there’s ‘no doubt’ Universal Credit has driven people to foodbanks

The Mirror.

This is worth noting just in its own right.

How long ago (29th of January 2020) this seems!

The Tory Minister made the controversial comment replying to a question from Labour MP Zarah Sultana.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has described food banks as the “perfect way” to help the poor.

Now….

Tory minister Baroness Stedman-Scott, who led a youth unemployment charity, said the six-in-one benefit has “contributed” to a rise in people seeking help

There is “no doubt” Universal Credit has driven people to food banks, a DWP minister said today.

Tory minister Baroness Stedman-Scott admitted the six-in-one benefit “has contributed” to the soaring numbers of people turning to charities for help.

The peer, who worked for 30 years at a youth unemployment charity, stressed the benefit was “not everything” and people were not sanctioned without reason.

She told the House of Lords: “I’ve got no doubt, and I’ve agreed with this before, that Universal Credit has contributed to the increased use in food banks. But it’s not everything.

“However, I would say to you that claimants will only ever be sanctioned where without good reason they’ve failed to meet the reasonable requirements agreed in their claimant commitment.”

She was asked: “Does the minister understand the correlation between new attendants at foodbanks and sanctions of Universal Credit?

“And what is the government going to do about that, because almost all new signups to food banks are due to delays? Not only is it bad for your health, but it’s bad for your mental health.”

n earlier exchanges the Tory minister also said she would be “really upset” if people are sanctioned for missing appointments due to Coronavirus.

The Trussell Trust charity handed out a record 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels in the six months to September – a 23% rise on the previous year.

Low income was the primary reason for 36% of referrals followed by benefit delays (18%), benefit changes (16%) and debt (9%).

Here is the exchange between the Noble Lordships in Hansard.

 

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) the debt levels, (2) the mental health, and (3) the ability to work, of people in receipt of Universal Credit.

 

The noble Baroness’s Question recognises issues experienced by many people in our society. The department has made no official assessment of universal credit’s effect in these three specific areas. We often find that people experience debt and mental health issues that existed prior to claiming universal credit. We think that attempting to make an accurate assessment could be difficult—but not impossible.
I thank the Minister for her Answer. She is very straightforward, and I know she will want to get this right. I know too that the majority of people in this House agree that individuals are better in work—better for themselves, their families and the broader society—and benefits need to be simplified. However, we are spending billions of pounds of public money here. Theory is one thing, but practice is another. I ask the Minister to attempt again to persuade the Government to conduct an assessment, so that we can see whether there are any unintended consequences for mental health well-being, work mobility and indebtedness, and that we can properly debate this issue and recommend any changes and improvements where needed.
I am so glad that we agree on the principle that people should be, and in the majority of cases are, better off in work. I like the noble Baroness’s idea, and I am touched that she thinks my powers of persuasion are so good. In order that I can deploy them to the maximum, let us meet prior to me going back to work the magic. I would like to go with the best case possible to see if we can do this, to get the information that helps us help people more.
Are the Government aware that a number of the people sleeping rough on our streets at the moment have fallen through the universal credit net? Would the Minister like to comment on that?
Like all noble Lords in the House, I am only too well aware of the size of the problem of homelessness and people sleeping on the streets. I normally agree with the noble Lord, and I do agree that universal credit may have added to some people’s anxiety and their issues. Many of them have had issues for a long time that we have not done what we should have done to deal with—but I do not think they are 100% attributable to universal credit.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that a large body of evidence supports the case that benefits sanctions have a devastating effect on claimants’ mental health and could even result in suicides? In the light of last week’s report in the Lancet, when will the Government conduct a comprehensive assessment of the impact of benefits sanctions on claimants, as the DWP pledged to do in 2013?
My Lords, could the Minister update the House on what the Government are doing to support those with mental health issues in accessing universal credit seamlessly, so that those issues are not exacerbated, and to help them get into work, which, as we all know, can sometimes help with mental health and well-being?
I thank my noble friend for that question. Mental health is a major issue for people on universal credit, and in other walks of life. At present, we are introducing health model offices in 11 jobcentres. These focus on claimants with health conditions. Blackburn jobcentre has agreed a new initiative, “advance to ausome”, for people with autism. Another jobcentre, in north London, is running quiet sessions for people who cannot cope with coming in.This is what I would like noble Lords to go away with today. A young man came to the jobcentre who was working full-time, had mental health issues and did not know how he was going to keep his job. He was in a bad way. Our work coaches worked with him and, through the Access to Work mental health support programme, he is now back at work and working towards a promotion. None of that would have been possible without that support. We are doing everything we can—and there is more to be done—to help people with these issues.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister something quite specific? What plans does DWP have to deal with the outbreak of coronavirus? For example, can people on zero-hours contracts who cannot go to work get universal credit to support them if they have to isolate themselves at home and are unable to work? In a similar vein, can she guarantee that those on universal credit will not be sanctioned if they cannot go to a job interview, to the jobcentre or fulfil their commitments because they are isolating themselves at home? Will the Government suspend sanctions and advertise universal credit for those affected by isolation patterns?

I was not prepared for that one, that is for sure. I know that the Permanent Secretary has a plan to make sure that people get paid and get the help they need. However, I will be really upset if people are sanctioned because of this. I will go back to the department and write to the noble Baroness, to make sure that the issue is understood.
Does the Minister understand the correlation between new attendants at food banks and universal credit sanctions? What are the Government going to do about that? Almost all new sign-ups to food banks are caused by delays. Not only is that bad for your health, it is bad for your mental health.
The issue of food bank usage and the reasons for it came up during a Question I took recently. I have no doubt that, as I have agreed before, universal credit has contributed to the increased use of food banks, but that is not everything. However, claimants will only ever be sanctioned where, without good reason, they fail to meet the reasonable requirements agreed in their claimant commitment.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 3, 2020 at 10:22 am

DWP Bosses get over £1 Million in “Performance Bonuses.”

with 26 comments

Image result for universal credit depression

 

DWP bosses pocket over £1 million in ‘performance bonuses’ after slashing benefits for Britain’s poorest

Welfare Weekly.

“It beggars belief that DWP chiefs are taking big handouts while families across the country are struggling.”

Senior officials at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have been gifted with eye-watering bonuses despite rising poverty and record numbers of people turning to food banks to feed themselves and their families, it has been revealed.

Information published by the DWP reveals that DWP bosses were handed £595,392 in “end of year” bonuses in 2017/18 and further £544,745 in the following year.

The shocking revelation has sparked anger and disbelief at the bonanza of bonuses awarded to DWP officials, who together have helped to implement some of the harshest cuts to social security benefits in living memory.

This happened a a few days ago but, unfortunately, I did not notice much of this reaction:

Poverty has soared under the Tory Government but DWP civil servants have pocketed extra cash.

So it continues:

And,

Still she’d got time for a good feed while tackling the really important issues:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2020 at 2:44 pm

The Saga of Universal Credit Destitution Continues.

with 72 comments

Image

The Saga of Universal Credit Destitution Continues,

Nothing escapes our newshounds.

As  Krankie noted,

Paul Delaney got stuck in minimum wage jobs where employers failed to pay on time and, after ending up on Universal Credit, debts and stresses began to pile up.

A former North Lanarkshire councillor has revealed he was forced to turn to foodbanks after the benefits system plunged him into poverty.

Paul Delaney got stuck in minimum wage jobs where employers failed to pay on time and, after ending up on Universal Credit, debts and stresses began to pile up.

The 51-year-old turned to Motherwell and Wishaw MP Marion Fellows for support, who helped resolve issues regarding failed payment from previous employers.

However, Paul revealed that he ended up in a crisis situation from last October until January this year because of the benefits system, and had to rely on foodbanks during that period to survive.

The benefits system exists to accelerate people into poverty,” said Paul. “It’s the only thing it excels at.

“It’s a bare minimum, life supporting system – and it doesn’t even do that properly.

Then, as people also saw, there is this:

Boris Johnson admits £111 a month Universal Credit is not enough to live on

The Mirror reports,

The Prime Minister said ‘in a word, no’ after being asked if the paltry sum was enough for a woman who was eight and a half months pregnant.

Boris Johnson has admitted £111 a month of Universal Credit is not enough to live on after being confronted with the shocking case of a pregnant woman.

The Tory leader – who once described his £250,000 newspaper salary as “chicken feed” – made the confession at Prime Minister’s Questions after he was quizzed by SNP MP Mhairi Black.

Ms Black raised the case of a constituent who is eight-and-a-half months pregnant and on the new six-in-one benefit – which includes a five-week wait for the first payment.

That wait leads many families to take out advances, paid back out of their future benefits, to cover the gap. But they’re then hit by the repayments, which totalled £50 million in one month alone last year.

She said: “After deductions, including an advance, she is left with the grand sum of £111 a month to feed herself, to heat her home and care for her child.

The Care Bear of a PM replied,

Ms Black said she would be happy to give the PM more details so he could help, but added: “I want to ask him in principle.

“As the Prime Minister, does he think that £111 a month is enough for anyone to live on?”

Further details of the case – including the woman’s name or details of why she only ended up with £111 – were not immediately available.

DWP statistics say the average Universal Credit payment is £720 a month, though the advice on deductions is less clear.

Mr Johnson replied to Ms Black: “I am of course very happy indeed to look at the case and to do whatever we can to help with the individual case.

“But I must say to her that in the round, Universal Credit has helped and is helping 200,000 people into work.

“As I’ve said to her before I am more than happy to look at the case.

And the answer to her question, in a word, is no.”

The Mirror underlines this point:

Johnson worded his answer carefully just weeks after being slapped down by the official statistics watchdog for making a false claim about Universal Credit.

In January the Prime Minister told PMQs the six-in-one benefit “has in fact succeeded in getting 200,000 people into jobs.” But the UK Statistics Authority said his claim was inaccurate – because the figure is only predicted once the benefit is fully rolled out in 2024.

Coffey, meanwhile, is still  bathing in this glory..

Written by Andrew Coates

February 27, 2020 at 11:34 am

“I need Loans for Basics” – Universal Credit in Action.

with 107 comments

Image

Thérèse Coffey Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The Eastern Daily Press reports (23rd of February),

‘I need loans for basics’ – number of people claiming Universal Credit nearly doubles

Universal Credit is ‘plunging people into debt’, campaign groups say, as figures show the number of claimants in the east has risen to 214,000.

Just 12 months ago 24,933 people in the region were claiming UC, showing an increase of 178pc year-on-year.

Will Quince, minister for welfare delivery, said this shows the scheme “is helping to support thousands of people across the east of England as they look for work”.

“The number of claimants has doubled, and food banks in the region have also seen twice as many people this year,” said Mark Harrison, chairman of Norfolk Against Universal Credit.

“UC plunges you into debt which you are forced to repay back at an unreasonable rate further compounding the debt.”

Launched in 2016, UC merged six benefits in a rework of the benefits system that sees payments reduced as you earn more.

The scheme was criticised after former chancellor George Osborne made it so those on the scheme and working would pay the government 63p of every £1 earned.

Mr Harrison said: “It’s indicative that we live in a region where wages are below the national average, people can’t live on slave wages.

“People have less to live on, and this has a knock on effect on the NHS and mental health services.”

The Mirror reports, (22nd of February),

Sheila Shepherd has been told by social housing provider Plymouth Community Homes she must pay more than £12,000 towards the renovation of her home in Plymouth

Shrinking value of Universal Credit payments

New figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal the shrinking value of social security benefits in the UK, as a leading charity calls for urgent improvements to the widely condemned Universal Credit system.

Figures published today (Tuesday) show that the value of Universal Credit payments have reduced in real-terms since the new benefit was introduced in 2013.

Data shows that the monthly payment for a single person in April 2019 was worth 88% of what it was in April 2013, according to the Retail Price Index (RPI).

In April 2013 the Universal Credit rate was £246.81 for under 25s and £311.55 for those aged 25 or over. By April 2019 the Universal Credit rate was £251.77 for under 25s and £317.82 for those aged 25 or over.

However, when considering RPI, the real value of Universal Credit has dropped since April 2013 from £285.09 for under 25s and from £359.87 for those aged 25.

Lords daily allowance more than monthly Universal Credit payment

The new daily allowance for the “unelected and unaccountable” House of Lords is set to rise to £323. The monthly allowance for a single person over 25 on Universal Credit is £317.82.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2020 at 10:39 am

Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State. Hats off to the BBC!

with 108 comments

The BBC documentary on Universal Credit showed a side of life a lot people know about, and yet some do not.

I thought it was a fine investigation.

The investigation showed ordinary people, people you could know, grappling with a system that, for many, makes their lives worse.

Debt, on the pitiful level of benefits, is a major problem.

They programme makers could have showed a lot worse…..

They did run the smug, no doubt richly rewarded,  git at the DWP head office who thinks that UC is the shining future…

Hats off to the BBC for Universal Credit: Inside The Welfare State

The thread in the programme last night that struck me was how hard it is to juggle working on a zero hour contract and any kind of decent life.

Universal Credit clearly did not help.

This is how some people saw it,

Bolton News.

Viewers hit out at Universal Credit ‘vultures’ after BBC show centres on Bolton

VIEWERS of a BBC show have hit out at the government after an episode set in Bolton showed people struggling to deal with the Universal Credit system.

The final episode of Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State was aired last night and showed two struggling women, Jenny and Paula, who are trying to navigate the new rules around benefits.

20 year-old Jenny finds a waitressing job which appeals to her. However, she quickly realises that the zero-hour contract makes her shift pattern unpredictable.

As Universal Credit is paid a month in arrears it can leave her with very little to live off and confused about how much money she will get on a monthly basis.

Paula takes advantage of an advanced payment system to get her money earlier. But, she is not used to receiving this amount of money in one payment, and spends much of it quickly leaving her struggling to survive on what’s left.

The show drew a strong reaction from viewers and many were angry at the way the system works.

Twitter user MidBoss wrote: “Saw trending, was reminded that the vultures at DWP once tried to sanction me for attending a doctor’s appointment to alleviate a serious health concern.

“Meanwhile, the landed gentry sleep in the House of Lords and get paid to do so.”

Others had even more difficult battles with the system.

One Twitter user wrote: “I was unemployed for 5 years on JSA under the job centre’s boot, do you have any idea how it feels to be rejected for every single job interview for 5 years without feedback?

“I was close to suicide before I got into university, lucky really.”

Another Twitter user Sean Michael said: “A huge portion of people on UC are hard working people who want to do the most they can.”

Mirror:

People were disgusted at the problems in Universal Credit where claimants end up in debt, in the last episode of BBC show Inside the Welfare State.

Twitter user Martyn G said: “Just watching the BBC programme on Universal Credit and these Middle Class Morons who have been running the DWP have been hiding their fat heads in the sand with regards to the Delay in payments having a direct effect on hardship and foodbank use!”

Amongst many comments this stands out:

Twitter user Thomas Hemingford said: “With Universal Credit and work, the system leaves people constantly chasing their tails, not knowing if they’ll have money for bills. It’s no way to live, you can’t plan, and you can’t build a life like that.”

And then later: “Universal Credit crushes people. It causes severe anxiety and mental health problems. Not just amongst adults, but children, too. It pushes people into a debt spiral. That does not help anyone.”

One viewer tweeted that they had worked in finance and analysis for 21 years before they “became unable to work” and went onto Universal Credit after moving towns.

They said they “keep meticulous budgeting spreadsheets for myself and even I came unstuck during the 5-week wait”.

This is Coffey’s latest Tweet..

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 19, 2020 at 4:46 pm

The ‘Claimant Commitment’ Minefield.

with 120 comments

Image result for universal credit journal

Keeping Track of Your Life for Work Coach Nosey Parkers.

For reasons that escape this Blog the far-right Express has been publishing about the ‘Claimant Commitment’.

You’d get a better idea of how this operates by watching the 3 part BBC documentary on Universal Credit.

But here it is their story,

Universal Credit: What is a ‘claimant commitment’ and how can it affect payments?

Universal Credit applicants will need to submit their claim within 28 days of creating an account. From here, most interactions with the Universal Credit system will take place through a local Jobcentre Plus. At these Jobcentre sites, applicants will be paired with a work coach. This work coach will support applicants throughout their Universal Credit tenure, providing support, information on various job search programmes and answering any questions regarding the system. It will be the work coach who creates the claimant commitment, usually in the first meeting with the applicant.

..

The claimant commitment will be updated as individual situations evolve. The specifics of how it will change will vary from person to person. However, the government has provided some examples of circumstances which will have a corresponding effect on claimant commitments:

  • If the claimant is earning as much can be expected – financial support will be given without any other conditions to increase earnings
  • If the claimant is able and available for work – the individual will need to do everything they reasonably can to give themselves the best chance of finding work. Preparing for and getting a job must be the full time focus
  • If the claimant has limited capability for work, related to a disability or health condition, but this is expected to change over time – support will be given until the circumstanced improve and they claimant can work. The individual will be expected to prepare for work so far as they are able
  • If the claimant has a disability or health condition which prevents them from working – the applicant will not be asked to work, they will be supported fully through Universal Credit.

This is the sting,

The assigned work coach will focus entirely on helping applicants ensure they meet their commitments.

They will keep track of certain targets such as job goals and regular work search activity levels.

The government details that, for those able to work, job seeking should be viewed as a full-time job. Looking or preparing for work is expected to take up a minimum of 35 hours a week of the applicants time.

People on Universal Credit get a ‘journal’.

Some people – I have just asked one who does – fill in their journal every day.

Universal Credit: Your Online Journal

In your journal, you’ll:
• Complete To Do’s
• Record your job search
• Keep in touch with your work coach
• Report any changes

More:

To Do’s.

  • A To Do is a task left for you by your work coach. You’ll need to complete these as soon as possible to continue to get Universal Credit.
  • Top Tip: Log in to your Universal Credit account every day to check for To Do’s.
  • Recording your job search If you’re expected to look for a job you will need to record your work related activity. Record every job that you apply for in your Online Journal. It’s a useful
    record of what you’ve applied for.
  • Examples of work related activity to record in your journal:
    o Accept your commitments in your claimant commitments
    o Attend your work search review
    o Prepare for you claimant commitment meeting

Examples of work related activity to record in your journal:

  •  Accept your commitments in your claimant commitments
  •  Attend your work search review
  •  Prepare for you claimant commitment meeting

Yet more:
Examples of a To Do:

  • Writing a CV, or spending time adapting your CV for a particular job
  • Completing a job application form
  • Contacting employers to follow up from applications.
  • Travelling to job interviews

A pretty complete record of your daily life!

It takes no imagination whatsoever to see the problems this can create for these people:

Exclusive: Salvation Army calls on government to make it easier for people to access the benefit

Thousands of vulnerable people on low incomes – particularly those with mental illness – are at risk of destitution because they do not have the skills or support to apply for and maintain a universal credit benefit claim, the Salvation Army has warned.

The Christian church and charity said there was “overwhelming evidence” that many people found it a struggle to engage with the mainly digital benefit, leaving them unable to pay rent or buy food and effectively locking them out of employment support.

It called on the government to increase the level of support to make it simpler for vulnerable people to make a claim before the next phase of the universal credit programme later this year, when about 750,000 ill and disabled benefit claimants start to be moved on to the benefit.

“Rolling out universal credit in its current form will steamroll vulnerable people into poverty, but the government has time to turn this around by accepting our recommendations and making it easier to apply,” said Rebecca Keating, the Salvation Army’s employment director said.

Still these people are well-chuffed with their jobs:

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 16, 2020 at 10:57 am

Thérèse Coffey Rewarded for Failure – Stays as Secretary of State for DWP.

with 40 comments

Image

Thérèse Coffey Stays as Chief of DWP.

Our hope for Coffey’s exile in a Hermitage on this desolate marsland are dashed:

 

 

Here is the News  nobody else was waiting for.

Just to rub it in:

And again,

Latest Failure, retching….

Newshounds Report Celebrations by Suffolk Coastal Pub Owners.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 13, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Benefit Freeze Ends: Spend Your £1·25 pence a Week Wisely!

with 71 comments

Image result for benefit freeze

End of the Benefit Freeze Still Leaves Us in the Cold.

Like the rest of us I am on tenterhooks waiting for the Benefit raise this year.

For standard benefits it’s  1.7 per cent.

I shall be counting the days waiting for the happy event.

Some extra cuppas of Rosey Lea, a pack of (4) apples and a tin of baked beans a week will make all the difference to my life.

Hold on !

At £1.25 pence a week (Jobseekers’ Allowance:  £74.35 (from £73.10) or Standard allowance, Universal Credit, single: (monthly,  £323.22 (from £317.82) )  it won’t stretch that far!

Citizens Advice, cold-hearted that they are, raise the point that this increase means even less for those in serious difficulties.

Making Ends Meet: The impact of the benefits freeze on people in debt [ 350 kb]

Since the benefits freeze began, we’ve seen an increase in the proportion of people we help with debt who have no money left at the end of the month once they’ve covered their living costs.  These households are deemed to have a negative budget.

Our new report, Making Ends Meet: The impact of the benefits freeze on people in debt, shows that from April to August 2019, 40% of people we helped with debt who claim income-related benefits had a negative budget.

We have developed a model that explores what the impact would be on people we help with debt through different benefit uprating scenarios over the next four years. We found that:

  • Ending the benefits freeze and uprating income-related benefits by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) would still leave 38% of households  with a negative budget by 2024.
  • Ending the benefits freeze and uprating income-related benefits by CPI +2%, as well as recalculating the Local Housing Allowance to the 30th percentile of local rents, would mean the proportion of households with a negative budget would fall to 28% by 2024.

That’s why Citizens Advice is calling for the Government to:

  • Uprate the value of frozen benefits by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) plus 2% for four years.
  • Recalculate the Local Housing Allowance to at least the 30th percentile of local rents to re-establish the link with rental prices.
  • Ensure Universal Credit provides people with enough to live on, by reviewing areas such as the amount of money retained by working claimants and deductions for those faced with debts

Our report Negative Budgets – A new perspective on poverty and household finances contains further information about the experiences of people we help with debt who have a negative budget.

Welfare Weekly runs the story.

Here is the story:

Ending the four-year freeze to working age social security benefits will do little to help households who are forced to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families, says Citizens Advice.

While the move to finally put an end to the benefits freeze has been welcomed, new analysis by Citizens Advice suggests suggests that four in ten households who approach the charity for help and advice would still struggle to make ends meet.

The charity warns that a growing number of people still do not have enough income to cover basic bills and household essentials, such as groceries and energy costs.

….

According to Citizens Advice, the number of people who are unable to cover basic living costs has increased since the benefits freeze came into force in 2016.

In the first five months of the current financial year, 40% of the people the charity helped with debt who claim income-related benefits didn’t have enough money to cover their living costs – an increase of 25% since the freeze came into effect.

However, the charity argues that ending the freeze won’t be enough to help people like Sheila and are calling for wider reforms to the benefits system to ensure that payments cover day-to-day living costs.

This includes ensuring Universal Credit gives people enough to live on by reviewing areas such as the amount of money retained by working claimants, and deductions for those dealing with debts or repaying advance payments.

Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Our evidence shows that increasing numbers of people simply don’t have enough money to make ends meet.

“While a step in the right direction, increasing benefits by inflation will not go far enough to help solve this problem.

“The benefits system was created to support people in times of need.

“The government should show it’s serious about meeting this ambition by properly investing in working-age benefits, and making sure fewer families are left in a downward spiral with no way to pay their bills.”

Still, somebody’s doing nicely!

Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2020 at 10:56 am

Boris Johnson Goes Trump, Makes False Claim that 200,000 are in work thanks to Universal Credit.

with 52 comments

Image result for david norgrove letter to boris johnson UNiversal Credit

Uproar over Latest Johnson Lies.

As Universal Credit takes hit after hit its supporters are resorting to desperate tactics.

Universal Credit: Boris Johnson made false statement in PMQs about number of people in work because of the benefit, regulator confirms

The UK Statistics Authority has confirmed Boris Johnson’s assertion 200,000 people are now in jobs because of the benefit was incorrect.

Serina Sandhu

A comment made by the Prime Minister about the number of people who are in employment as a result of Universal Credit has been confirmed to be incorrect by the UK Statistics Authority.

Boris Johnson claimed in January that 200,000 people had already found jobs because of the benefit during a session of Prime Minister’s Questions after being challenged over its its effect on poverty.

The shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood, who sought to fact-check the statement, has now called on the Prime Minister to apologise for his claim which she said was “simply wrong”.

The BBC says,

In a letter to the prime minister, the watchdog’s chairman Sir David Norgrove confirmed the figure was an estimate, rather than for “the effect so far”.

The jobs figure, estimated to be achieved by 2024/25, was made by the Department for Work and Pensions in its 2018 business case for universal credit.

It has already been questioned by the National Audit Office, which concluded the department would “never be able to measure” the impact on employment.

“It cannot isolate the effect of universal credit from other economic factors in increasing employment,” the NAO concluded in a 2018 review.

This is not the first time the chairman of the UK Statistics Authority has clashed with Mr Johnson over his use of statistics.

In 2017, Sir David criticised him for his claims during the EU referendum campaign that Brexit would save the UK £350m a week.

He added that the figure, used by Mr Johnson whilst he was foreign secretary, constituted a “clear misuse of official statistics”.

Not only is Boris Johnson an admirer of Donald Trump’s politics of brazen lies but he was until not long ago a dual British and US citizen.

This is why he dropped his US nationality.

Boris Johnson among record number to renounce American citizenship in 2016

Boris Johnson has renounced his US citizenship, ending years of ambiguous loyalties and probably ridding himself of a hefty tax bill.

A list released by the US Treasury department showed the UK foreign secretary was one of 5,411 individuals to renounce his American citizenship in 2016.

Johnson was born in New York when his parents worked there, but has not lived there since he was five years old. His decision does not appear to be an attempt to distance himself from the politics of Donald Trump, but may instead be a move to ensure he is out of reach of America’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In 2014 he publicly said that the US was trying to hit him for tax on the sale of his home in Islington, north London, something he said he regarded as “absolutely outrageous”, although he later reportedly paid the demand. The US tax authorities have been mounting a campaign to crack down on the earnings of dual nationals.

As she squirms at the prospect of losing her job Electric Dog Collar Thérèse Coffey tweets this.

It looks like a return to a full blown Workfare programme.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2020 at 10:25 am

Inside The Welfare State documentary on Universal Credit sparks anger.

with 65 comments

I watched the programme and the above is one of the strong messages I got from it.

That, and the geezer (who could be somebody I know, though his previous drug habit looked as if it had been worse than most)  sat in front of a computer for 8 days a Day doing ‘Job search’ – he finally ended up cleaning light railway trains for a pittance.

The Food Bank looked a horror, like the cheap end of B & M, and the handout was miserly.

Then there was the woman caught in the difficulties the Tweet above talks about.

And the homeless Irish bloke…

This is well true:

 

These are some of the reports and reviews.

Universal Credit system slammed by ‘heartbroken’ BBC benefits documentary viewers

Mirror.

Viewers have branded a new BBC documentary about the struggles of relying on Universal Credit as “heartbreaking” while slamming the “broken” system which allowed it to come about.

One launched a tirade at the perceived lack of empathy shown by some staff at a Job Centre, after it was suggested claimants need to budget better.

Three-part BBC Two series Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State launched on Tuesday evening, with episode one focusing on Peckham Jobcentre in London, visited by more than 1,000 people each day, including former NHS worker Rachel and homeless man Declan.

Job Centre employee Karen, meanwhile, finds herself faced with similar difficulties to her clients, and has to take a second job to support herself.

Taking to Twitter during the initial broadcast at 9pm last night, viewers were shocked at the difficulty of accessing benefits and distressing backgrounds of the claimants featured, as well as the way they are treated.

Evening Standard.

A new BBC documentary series explores the benefits system

ALASTAIR MCKAY

The true story of this benefits revolution is on the shop floor where the job centre staff must accommodate the demands of the claimants, many of whom are ill-equipped to understand the beautiful simplicity of the benefits revolution.

Rachel, a single mother who left her NHS job after 27 years to care for her parents, struggles with anxiety. Job centre worker Karen does a second job in a pound store after absorbing the anger of claimants all day. And there’s grumpy, articulate Phil, with track marks on his arm and a lost dream of becoming a photojournalist,  weighing up the value of a job cleaning trains for the minimum wage.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 5, 2020 at 1:53 pm

As Universal Credit Documentary Airs Tonight, System “completion not expected until 2024”.

with 53 comments

Image result for universal credit inside the welfare state

Tonight.

Latest news…

Universal Credit: Welfare system to be delayed again with completion not expected until 2024

The Independent reports,

Late implementation will cost taxpayer a further £500 million over five years.

The completion of the government’s troubled Universal Credit welfare scheme has been put back yet again, at a cost of £500 million.

Slower-than-expected transfers of claimants from existing benefits mean the date of completion of the roll-out has been put back by nine months to 2024.

When first announced by Iain Duncan Smith as a replacement for a range of benefits in 2010, Universal Credit was due to be fully implemented by 2017.

But it has been beset by a series of delays, and welfare delivery minister Will Quince today announced that more time was needed to transfer the final 900,000 claimants.

Universal Credit was implemented first with new claimants, or those whose circumstances had changed, with the more complicated transfer of individuals from existing benefits left until later.

The Department of Work and Pensions attributed the latest delay in part to the robustness of the labour market, which has meant that fewer people than expected experienced a change in circumstances, leaving 900,000 more people than expected claiming the old benefits.

Mr Quince said: “Universal Credit is the biggest change to the welfare system in a generation, bringing together six overlapping benefits into one monthly payment and offering support to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Here is one reaction:

And another:

All eyes will be on this tonight:

BBC Two

Episode 1

At Peckham Jobcentre in London, Rachel has recently moved onto Universal Credit after leaving her 27-year NHS career to become a carer for her ill parents.

The Guardian preview:

Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State
9pm, BBC Two

Designed to streamline benefits payments and make them easier to navigate, universal credit has met with fierce opposition since its protracted and troubled rollout. This three-part series opens in Peckham Jobcentre, where more than 1,000 people visit each day, including former NHS worker Rachel, who is living precariously during the five-week wait for her first universal credit payment. It is a humanising look into the real-life consequences of political choices. Ammar Kalia

The Shocking Reality Of Living On Universal Credit

……a harrowing three-part BBC documentary series which puts universal credit under a magnifying glass. Universal Credit: Inside The Welfare State focuses on Jobcentres in Peckham, Toxteth and Bolton. As well as senior civil servants and MPs, we hear from those directly affected by the most controversial change to the benefits system in a generation. Some of the most powerful stories involve women dealing with mental health issues, redundancy, raising their children alone and working under temporary contracts, all while adapting to universal credit.
Somebody has other things on her mind:

Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2020 at 9:44 am

House of Lords Launch Inquiry, Headed by Thatcherite Lord Forsyth, into Universal Credit.

with 43 comments

This Blog, and contributors, have lost count of the inquiries into Universal Credit.

About the only time I took any interest in a House of Lords debate was when this one happened,

 

Now we have this:

Peers to probe Universal Credit

Lords committee launches inquiry on how the ‘reform’ might be reformed.

Bill Tanner

Peers are probing Universal Credit, with a key Lords committee calling for evidence on how the ‘reform’ might be reformed.

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee will make recommendations to government on its findings.

But the inquiry is reserved to England and Wales with Universal Credit a partially devolved matter in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Our Committee will consider if the original objectives of Universal Credit are still fit for purpose and able to provide adequate and fair social security – we will then make our recommendations to Government in due course,” said committee chair Lord Forsyth.

Overall, the Committee will examine whether Universal Credit is meeting its original objectives and whether the policy assumptions reflected in its design are appropriate for different groups of claimants.

“To inform our work we want to hear from as broad a range of people as possible – we encourage anyone with experience or expertise on the issue under investigation to share their views,” said Lord Forsyth.

His Lordship is a close associate of the hard right Adam Smith Institute.

And,

Chairman of Secure Trust Bank, and a Director of J&J Denholm and of Denholm Logistics Ltd. He was a director and Chairman of Hyperion Insurance Group until its merger with RKH Group in 2015. A former Deputy Chairman of JPMorgan UK and Evercore Partners International, he was knighted in 1997 and appointed to the House of Lords in 1999. He is a member of the Privy Council and served on the Development Boards of the Royal Society and the National Portrait Gallery. He is also a past President of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

Michael Forsyth, Baron Forsyth of Drumlean

Wikipedia.

More background,

Lord Forsyth: Thatcherite who rose through the Tory ranks

The Montrose-born politician was one of the key right-wing members of the Tory governments of the late 1980s and early 1990s. No stranger to controversy, he once said that Margaret Thatcher was one of the most compassionate people he had ever met.

Before his election as MP for Stirling during the Tory landslide of 1983, he worked as a public relations executive in London. It was during this period that the then Mr Forsyth, an early, enthusiastic advocate of Thatcherism, was elected as a Tory member of the City of Westminster Council.

Economic Affairs Committee

The economics of Universal Credit inquiry

Scope of inquiry

This inquiry investigates the economic impacts of Universal Credit. The inquiry will investigate whether Universal Credit is meeting its original objectives, whether the policy assumptions reflected in its design are appropriate for different groups of claimants and the extent to which Universal Credit meets the needs of claimants in today’s labour market and changing world of work. The Committee will make recommendations to the Government.

Call for evidence

Send a written submission

Focus of the inquiry

The Committee will examine whether Universal Credit is meeting its original objectives and whether the policy assumptions reflected in its design are appropriate for different groups of claimants. It will also examine the extent to which Universal Credit meets the needs of claimants in today’s labour market and changing world of work.

The Committee is seeking answers to the following questions:

  • How well has Universal Credit met its original objectives?
  • Were the original objectives and assumptions the right ones? How should they change?
  • What have been the positive and negative economic effects of Universal Credit?
  • What effect has fiscal retrenchment had on the ability of Universal Credit to successfully deliver its objectives?
  • Which claimants have benefited most from the Universal Credit reforms and which have lost out?
  • How has the world of work changed since the introduction of Universal Credit? Does Universal Credit’s design adequately reflect the reality of low-paid work?
  • If Universal Credit does not adequately reflect the lived experiences of low-paid workers, how should it be reformed?

We are looking to hear from as diverse a range of views as possible because hearing from a range of different perspectives means Committees are better informed and can more effectively scrutinise public policy and legislation. We encourage anyone with experience or expertise on the issue under investigation to share their views with the Committee, with the full knowledge that their views have value and are welcome.

Chair’s comments

Lord Forsyth, Chairman of the Committee, comments:

“Our Committee will consider if the original objectives of Universal Credit are still fit for purpose and able to provide adequate and fair social security. We will then make our recommendations to Government in due course.

“To inform our work we want to hear from as broad a range of people as possible. If you have a view on Universal Credit, look at our call for evidence and let us know what you think.”

Here’s some evidence.

 

Meanwhile back from her latest UFO trip and safely landed in Rendlesham Forest Therese Coffey has time to tweet this (her latest in fact).

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 31, 2020 at 4:35 pm

Thérèse Coffey “Food Banks” are the “perfect way” to help “vulnerable people”.

with 64 comments

Elizabeth Truss and Dr Therese Coffey, to |Spend more time at Blythburgh Pork in Suffolk?

This Blog sometimes wonder about the Work and Pensions Secretary.

Thérèse Coffey is the MP for the Constituency next to Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal.

She seems happiest when, like her predecessor in the place, John Gummer, she’s pottering around the quaint by-ways of rural life, or visiting the big town, Felixstowe, to bestow her airs and graces on a local event.

Coffey’s spent most of her time recently slavering over the prospect that Brexit offers to her mates to make a pretty penny.

You wonder if she likes the Blue Nun style white wine from  Bruisyard in the county.

Well -wishers hope that in the near future she will be spending more time in Suffolk.

Perhaps she could share some of that tasty pork an crackling with those fortunate than herself….

The East Anglian Daily Times reported on January the 27th (yesterday).

Work and Pensions Secretary and Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey and International Trade Secretary and South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss are both thought to be vulnerable in any reshuffle.

Dr Coffey would be particularly disappointed to lose her department only five months after being promoted to the cabinet after the sudden departure of Amber Rudd. She has been a loyal supporter of the Prime Minister, but is seen by some as an “accidental cabinet minister” who reached the top table unexpectedly.

Another accident waiting to happen just did:

Minister says food banks are a “perfect way” to meet challenges of “difficult times”

Left Foot Forward.

Food bank use has increased by around 2,800% since the Tories came to power.

McDonalds has just paid off its British boss with a £30m payout so Sultana asked: “Does the Minister accept that it is a gross injustice that nurses are forced to use food banks while fat-cat bosses receive obscene pay-outs?”

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey replied that food banks are a “perfect way to try and marry the challenges that people do face at difficult times in their lives”.

A  further report,

Tory minister called ‘totally out of touch’ after labelling food banks ‘perfect way’ to support vulnerable people

In 2017, then-backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg sparked uproar when he said “the real reason for the rise in numbers is that people know that they are there”.

Earlier this month, in a blog about food bank use, New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne said people who receive benefits need “help” with how to spend their money.

The Trussel Trust, who run a nationwide network of food banks, gave out a record number of food parcels in the last year.

The organisation recorded a 23% increase in the number of emergency food parcels given out compared to the previous year.

Here are few responses:

More.

 

And more will come!

Written by Andrew Coates

January 28, 2020 at 5:58 pm

The Daily Misery of Universal Credit – Rent Short-Falls, Draconian Sanctions, Waits for already Miserly Payments.

with 44 comments

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“If  they wanted  to set up something to defeat the objectives it was meant to deliver, Universal Credit couldn’t have done a better job…”

 

Every day there are people in Ipswich Library with problems about Universal Credit.

A major difficulty is rent.

Local Housing Allowance, set up under Labour in 2008, with a number of objectives, including ” inciting”  people to find cheaper accommodation, was never meant to cover the rent for all properties.

Now it’s created out of control problems.

I can’t imagine people I know in London, in work, paying £200 a week (this, believe me, in not made up)  for a room in a shared flat could if they became unemployed and reliant on Local Housing Allowance and Universal Credit.

We all know that people end up cutting back on food and heating to pay for a place to live in – if they can manage that.

Or end up homeless.

Now the triumphant Tories intend to make things worse.

if you wade through the details of this announcement you’ll find that one layer of -meagre – support is about to end.

Apparently it’s because a 1,7% increase means it’s no longer needed.

Targeted Affordability Funding ends as LHA freeze thaws

24Housing.

DWP Minister says the 1.7% increase to the LHA rate negated the need for the funding scheme.

Targeted Affordability Funding (TAF) is over – ending with thehawing of the LHA (Local Housing Allowance) freeze to be replaced by Discretionary Housing Payments.

DWP Minister Will Quince confirmed the end in responding to a written Commons question from Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey.

TAF was introduced in 2014 to shore up LHA rates that had shifted furthest from real local market rents.

Four years on, a report from CIH said TAF had a negligible impact in reducing the number of LHA rates with a gap – being capped at 3% of current rate regardless of the size of the gap.

Healey asked if the DWP was going to maintain TAF for local housing allowance from April this year, when the LHA freeze ends.

Quince said the 1.7% increase to the LHA rate negated the need for TAF.

“For individuals who may require more support, Discretionary Housing Payments are available,” he said.

TAF typically covered 10% – 30% of the gap with the 30th percentile rent before the award was made.

The replacement rates were higher for the shared rate and slightly higher for the four-bed rate – intended to partly reflect the fact that the 30th percentile for both was more volatile in being likely to fall back in years subsequent to an award.

To the CIH, the low replacement rates meant that, on its own, TAF was incapable of keeping LHA rates reasonably well aligned to local (30th percentile) rents.

Last year, a report from Shelter said that as the freeze thawed additional TAF must be made available – with changes made to the way it is administered to ensure those most at risk of homelessness received adequate amounts.

That’s just one part of the welfare regime under Universal Credit.

 Aasma Day in the Huffington  Post does a brilliant job in looking at it on the ground.

Oldham Piloted Universal Credit 7 Years Ago. Here’s The Grim Reality Of What Happened Since.

“If they wanted  to set up something to defeat the objectives it was meant to deliver, Universal Credit couldn’t have done a better job,” says the chair of a housing association in Oldham.

Oldham was one of the areas that volunteered to be a pilot site for Universal Credit in 2013 in the hope it would simplify the benefits system and encourage more people back into work.

But seven years on, those hit by the benefits change tell a different story.

One housing association told HuffPost UK that it lost in the region of £400,000 in rent during the first year of Universal Credit  – money which it won’t recover.  Unlike housing benefit, which was paid direct to the association, Universal Credit is handed direct to the claimant. Currently, 41% of the housing association’s tenants are in arrears.

The social landlord says some of its customers are struggling so much due to the wait for Universal Credit and the problems they experience applying for it, in the last 12 months, they referred an unprecedented 199 people to food banks.

Speaking to  Vinny Roche, chief executive of First Choice Homes, we find,

 “The safety net for the most vulnerable in society has been completely eroded.” he said: “If they wanted to set up something to defeat the objectives it was meant to deliver, Universal Credit couldn’t have done a better job.”

His major criticism of Universal Credit is the five-week wait when people are having to borrow to survive. “You have some of the poorest people in the country having to wait weeks for their money.

“When they finally get their payment, they already owe a fortune to other people, or worse still, to loan sharks.

“The people in real need are now on less money, receive less welfare payments and the  support mechanisms that once helped them have gone. Then the systems for applying for benefits and the sanctions are a lot more draconian.

“A combination of all these things is driving people into abject poverty.”

…..

“The current system doesn’t work. We really need radical change if we are serious about fixing the safety net, reducing poverty and inequality and making sure there is a support network in place for the most vulnerable.”

Read the article in full through the link above.

Michel Says,

“Universal Credit stinks.” he said. “It definitely does not make life better for people. I was depressed all the time when I was on it and didn’t have any money and couldn’t do anything.

The ‘I’ has this story today,

Universal Credit: Seven years after the roll-out of the benefit, the prescription forms for free medication are finally updated

A charity for patients said the updated forms were ‘better late than never’

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 25, 2020 at 10:08 am