Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Sanctions Regime Scandal Continues As Calls Made for Root-and-Branch Reform of the System.

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There’s lot to Dramatise about Universal Credit…..

Perhaps it’s just us lot, but the sanctions regime really sticks in the craw.

This is in the Daily Record.

Universal Credit sanctions imposed on 256,000 claimants as charity demands halt to harsh regime

Citizens Advice Scotland demanded an immediate halt to the harsh benefit sanctions regime after a quarter of a million people across Britain were penalised in a year.

The Department for Work and Pensions published a report confirming 256,000 sanctions between May last year and April for people on Universal Credit.

It comes days after a woman said she had thousands of pounds cut when she missed an appointment because she suffered a miscarriage.

Mhoraig Green, from Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “We have long raised concerns about cases where people have had their benefits unfairly sanctioned, leaving them without any income for a sustained period, causing them to require crisis support including food bank referrals.”

In Scotland, the network of Citizens Advice offices helped people with sanctions 1273 times in the past financial year.

Earlier this week, Danielle John’s story sparked revulsion after she revealed a 229-day sanction was imposed because she
forgot to inform her work coaches about a miscarriage suffered the day before an appointment.

A DWP spokesman said: “It is only right that we expect some claimants to meet certain agreed commitments in exchange for their benefits.

“We want to ensure sanctions are effective and support claimants, which is why we constantly review them and have announced an end to single fixed-period sanctions lasting more than six months.”

Benefit sanctions statistics to April 2019

This is from the Background to the Report,

There are four sanction levels in UC: –
• Lowest Level: Failure to attend or take part in a Work-Focused Interview. The sanction lasts until the claimant attends or takes part in one, or moves to either the Working – no requirements or No Work Requirements conditionality regimes.
• Low Level: The sanction lasts until the claimant does what they previously failed to do and were sanctioned for (e.g. failing to attend a training course) or because either the requirement is no longer appropriate or an alternative compliance condition has been met, plus 7, 14 or 28 days for the first, second or third low level sanction in any 12-month period.

• Medium Level: The sanction lasts 28 days for the first sanction in any 12 month period, and 96 days (approximately 3 months) for a second medium level sanction. Medium level sanctions apply, for example, where the claimant has to meet the work availability requirement, but has failed to be available to attend an interview or start work.

• High Level: The sanction lasts for 96 days (approximately 3 months) for the first sanction in any 12-month period, 182 days (approximately 6 months) for a second high level sanction and 1095 days (approximately 3 years) for a third.
Universal Credit Sanctions Official Statistics

Which lead to this, apart from the Play above

this is extremely interesting:

Selection of Recommendations.

  • Recommendation: The DWP needs to abolish the 5 week wait for Universal Credit.
  • Recommendation: The DWP needs to urgently comply with the findings of the High Court, that people paid monthly but whose earnings for two months fall into one assessment period should be treated as having been paid for the period when their wages were earned, rather than the date they were received.
  • Recommendation: People who are self-employed should be able to request 3-monthly assessment periods for earnings and costs. This would even out sporadic payments and fit with reporting requirements for Making Tax Digital, reducing bureaucracy for micro businesses.
  • Recommendation: The rigidity of monthly assessment periods needs to be urgently reviewed. People who are paid on a different schedule should be able to average their earnings. Those who have a change of circumstances during the assessment period should have the option to average out the impact
  • Recommendation: Claimants should be paid twice-monthly by default as they are in Northern Ireland, and in pilots in some Jobcentres, with the option to be paid monthly if they wish.
  • Recommendation: All claimants should have the option of direct payments to their landlord from the start of the claim.
  • Recommendations: Benefits should rise by 2% above inflation for each of the next 4 years in order to restore their value to 2015 levels.
    A minimum standard of income for benefits claimants should be assessed and implemented by the DWP for all elements of Universal Credit.
  • Recommendation: The value of Local Housing Allowance should be restored to accurately reflect the lowest 30% of market rents in every area.

 Sanctions.

The DWP’s UC Full Service Survey showed that 11% of claimants had been sanctioned, of whom 18% had been sanctioned more than once.

These are far higher rates than JSA or ESA.

  • Recommendation: The DWP should publish a list of common circumstances that constitute ‘good reason’ for breaching the claimant commitment. There needs to be a standardised sanctions process across the country to reduce reliance on judgement and increase fairness and accountability in the application of sanctions.
  • Recommendation: All DWP staff and work coaches should receive training on the definition of ‘good reasons’ for claimants not to be issued with a Universal Credit sanction. This should include an ‘other circumstances’ category where judgement can be applied. The training must also ensure that DWP staff are aware of and follow standardised procedure in relation to sanctions. This should be followed up with a requirement for decision makers to ensure that these procedures have been applied before sanctions are implemented.
  • Recommendation: Remove fixed term sanctions – sanctions should end when claimants have complied with their requirements. Sanctions should also end if the claimant becomes unable to comply, for example due to becoming unwell or having a new baby.

 

There’s a lot more: read it!

Followed by:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 15, 2019 at 11:15 am

Sanctions Regime: The Story of Danielle John.

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Beginning of a Spiral of Sanctions.

DWP cuts woman’s Universal Credit ‘for missing appointments after miscarriage’

Mirror.

Danielle John from Cardiff saw her life spiral out of control following the sanctions imposed by the Department for Work and Pensions

A woman says she was driven to shoplifting and drug abuse after having thousands of pounds from her Universal Credit payments cut after missing an appointment the day after suffering a miscarriage .

Danielle John forgot to inform her work coaches about the miscarriage and later received a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions telling her that she would be sanctioned as a result.

The letter said: “You didn’t come to a meeting with us […] because of this, you’ll lose some or all of your universal credit payment for a time.

“We call this being sanctioned.”

The letter explained she would lose £10.40 every day for 229 days, a total of £2,381.6

The system lifted me from poverty. Today, Danielle John is not so lucky

Last week, a woman’s sanction letter from the Department for Work and Pensions went viral on Twitter. Danielle John, from Cardiff, simply wrote: “Was told to put this up on Twitter… this was because I had a miscarriage and missed appointment.”

These stories are fairly common now. We are used to seeing reports about people being sanctioned because of attending a funeral/cancer treatment/their child being in hospital. But this one struck me in particular because the language was so coldly efficient. Brief to the point of cruelty. I didn’t know it was possible, even in a business letter, to say: “We’re about to ruin your whole life” without a shred of empathy.

The letter, written in February 2017, starts in large font: “You’ll lose some of your payment… This reduction will last 229 days.” Two hundred and 29 days for a single missed appointment. That’s almost 32 weeks of punishment. Or, if you prefer, February until August, with no money at all. When you consider that the harsher punishments for domestic violence introduced in 2018 suggest a sentence towards the upper limit of “a fine to up to 26 weeks’ custody” for common assault, you have to wonder what fantastical, sadistic metric the DWP has used to calculate sanctions.

The letter goes on to say that for her missed appointment – I just want to pause to remind you here that Danielle John was having a miscarriage at the time of missing this appointment – she would be sanctioned £10.40 for each of those days. So, a total of £2,381.60.

Because of this Daneille John got attacked,

Contributors to this Blog are familiar with sanctions.

In February 2019, 66% the UC caseload were in the conditionality groups that could be subject to sanction, compared to 81% in August 2015. service decisions resulted in a sanction. This is up 5 percentage points from August 2018 to October 2018. migration to Universal Credit.14 May 2019

A few months ago this was the story,

Tories ditch ‘ineffective’ three-year benefit sanctions

Punishment, criticised for being pointlessly cruel, doesn’t work, admits Amber Rudd

The government is to abolish “counterproductive” three-year benefit sanctions, in an official acknowledgement that depriving jobless people of social security income for long periods undermines their attempts to move into work.

The announcement, made by the work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, during a speech on employment on Thursday morning, was welcomed by campaigners and MPs, who encouraged her to make further changes to the controversial policy.

But

Mentally ill universal credit claimant receives less than £6 for month after £312 deducted for sanctions

‘This poverty has no prejudice. This is the kind of thing that drives people to homelessness, and to suicide’

May Bulman 

Amber Rudd has yet to comment on the latest case.

End the Sanctions Regime! 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 12, 2019 at 11:40 am

Universal Credit Faces New Legal Challenge.

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Merseyside Job Centre has been covered in graffiti protesting against the government’s controversial Universal Credit benefit policy (August 2019)

A lot of social security legislation and the bodies administering it  seem to end up in legal cases.

From the private chancers running parts of the welfare state there is Capita.

Capita seeks to reverse ‘reputational damage’ after death of claimant

BBC.

Benefit-assessment company Capita is going to court to try to reverse the “reputational damage” it says it suffered after a claimant died.

Victoria Smith died months after her personal independence payments were stopped following a Capita assessment.

The outsourcing company was ordered to pay £10,000 in damages over its handling of her disability claim.

It was found to have made incorrect statements but wants the county court verdict set aside and the case reheard.

The company conducts health assessments for personal independence payments (PIP), the main disability benefit, on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

While the decision over whether someone receives the benefit is made by a DWP official, Capita’s assessment of how a person’s disability affects their life is a crucial part of the process.

Now there is this:

Universal Credit bosses face new legal battle over ‘unfair’ payments in ‘flawed and illogical policy’

Claimants threaten legal proceedings because they are being short-changed.

Birmingham Live.

Universal Credit bosses are facing another legal battle over the amount some claimants are paid.

The Government is being taken to court for a third time over the way disabled people are treated when moved on to the new benefit.

Those who previously received Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP) say they’ve lost out since being forced to go on to Universal Credit instead.

Two men, who are only identified as TP and AR, have already won two legal challenges against the DWP over the issue.

The High Court ruled the way claimants were treated was unlawful discrimination on both occasions.

The pair have now written again to Amber Rudd, Secretary of State of Work and Pensions, after she said the level of payments for severely disabled individuals who have moved onto UC will be set at £120 for single claimants.

They say this is unfair and does not reflect the money they have actually lost, which is about £180 per month.

TP and AR argue that “the Universal Credit migration arrangements announced on 22 July 2019 are still unlawful as they short-change individuals who previously received the Severe Disability Premium and Enhanced Disability Premium and moved onto Universal Credit before 16 January 2019 when the SDP Gateway Regulations came into force.”

The regulations meant that anyone on Income Support, income-related Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or Housing Benefit will not be forced on to Universal Credit if they also get the Severe Disability Premium.

But now TP and AR say those who moved across before those rules came into effect will receive £50 less a month than those who no longer face being moved on the new benefit.

TP and AR have asked the DWP how the £120 figure was reached and argue that the full £180 per month shortfall should be given, otherwise the regulations will still be unlawful discrimination.

They also ask why the new regulations provide discretionary hardship payments for individuals who are subject to “managed migration” onto UC but not for those who have already had to move onto the benefit because their circumstances changed.

They argue that this is a further difference in treatment between the two groups.

The Government has been given a deadline of August 15, 2019, to reply to the letter, or the men say they will launch further legal proceedings.

Of course the law gets involved for simpler reasons:

Woman ‘unable to survive’ on £44 a month Universal Credit shoplifts from Primark

Mirror.

Universal Credit claimant Lisa Payne draped £117 worth of jeans over her arm and walked out of the Primark in Grimsby.

A woman left with just £44 a month on Universal Credit was caught stealing nine pairs of jeans from Primark, a court heard.

Lisa Payne “simply couldn’t survive with £44” over an entire month, her solicitor claimed.

The court heard Payne stole £117 worth of jeans from a Primark at the Freshney Place shopping centre in Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

The 46-year-old draped the pairs of jeans – costing £13 each – over her arm and walked out of the shop, but she failed to elude security officers, GrimsbyLive reported.

A guard followed her out of the store and the jeans were recovered during the theft on May 23.

Amber Rudd is hot on the job of making things better:

Written by Andrew Coates

August 7, 2019 at 9:46 am

After Day of Protest on Universal Credit: What is the Labour Party Doing?

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SALFORD JOINS STOP UNIVERSAL CREDIT DAY OF ACTION 

Unite the Union, above all Unite Community held a day of action on August the 1st (there will be a street stall in Ipswich soon).

These are the demands:

Unite is campaigning to #STOPUniversalCredit. The government must:

  • Abandon the long waits for claimants to receive money
  • Allow people to apply for Universal Credit in a jobcentre, not just online
  • Provide people with better help when the system fails them
  • Pay landlords directly to stop people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes
  • End benefit sanctions for all claimants.

Here are the reasons for the protests:

10 reasons why Universal Credit should be stopped

  1. Unbearably long waits for claimants to receive money
  2. People can only apply for Universal Credit online making it inaccessible for many
  3. Not enough help for claimants when the system fails them
  4. Rent paid directly to claimants instead of Landlords causing people to get into arrears and even to lose their homes
  5. Letting agents are already refusing to rent to anyone claiming Universal Credit
  6. Cruel sanctions for both in-work and out-of-work claimants
  7. Payments only go to one named member of a household
  8. Universal Credit takes 63p in every £1 people earn
  9. Universal Credit leaves many working families much worse off than the old system
  10. People in part-time work could be forced to give up work that suits their disability or family life in order to take up worse paid full-time work or risk sanctions.

There is a long list of events that took place:

#StopUniversalCredit
NATIONAL DAY OF ACTION – 1 August 2019
List of events across the country.

 

This is the most recent story that I can find on Labour’s policy:

Confusion – again – after Labour backtracks on Corbyn pledge to scrap universal credit

Labour’s policy on universal credit has again become mired in confusion after its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, promised to scrap the government’s “catastrophic” and “iniquitous” benefit system if his party wins the next general election.

Such a move would be seen as a significant victory for disabled activists and allies who have pushed the party to promise to scrap universal credit, instead of pledging only to halt the rollout of the system and fix its many flaws.

Interviewed after the party’s success in last week’s Peterborough by-election, Corbyn told Channel 4 News (pictured): “We are ready for a general election, and that general election will deliver a Labour government.”

He added: “If you voted Remain in 2016, and you’re on universal credit, if you voted Leave in 2016 on universal credit, you actually want to get rid of universal credit. That’s what Labour offers.”

Despite Corbyn’s comments, what seemed to be a significant change in policy appeared not to have been noticed by any mainstream media.

And the party’s press office today (Thursday) issued a statement that conflicted with what Corbyn said, merely stating again that a Labour government would pause the rollout of UC and try to make it fit for purpose.

A party spokesperson said: “Universal credit isn’t working and cannot continue in its current form.

“Labour will stop the roll-out, and ensure our social security system genuinely protects people from poverty.”

Disabled activists, particularly Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), have campaigned for the government – and any future Labour government – to “stop and scrap” universal credit (UC).

Only last week, DPAC released new research which detailed media articles on UC published between January and May this year, which it said was “a damning record of UC systemic and catastrophic failures”.

It said that UC had reached a point where it was “unable to adapt to claimants’ complex circumstances, and is forcing people with the least resources into further poverty, homelessness, and hunger”.

DPAC said it was calling for UC to be scrapped because it had become a social security system “which not only does not offer security, but actively undermined people’s ability to cope with the hazards of life”.

A DPAC spokesperson said last night (Wednesday), in response to Corbyn’s comments, but before the party had released its statement: “We welcome it as it’s the only credible position that Labour or any other party can take given UC’s well-evidenced fundamental failings, enormous waste and terrible harm but we remain unsure of Labour’s position until there is a firm public commitment.”

It is not the first time that Labour has appeared to call for UC to be scrapped and then retreated from that position.

This – there is no recent reference to Universal Credit – has been retweeted by the Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, Margaret Greenwood.

She is, rightly, concerned about this:

Labour seems more interested in this scheme, which looks unlikely to solve the immediate problems of Universal Credit.

Critics point to three major flaws in Universal Basic Income

  • It is not redistributive: the Tories and their business friends can continue to trouser as much money as they wish.
  • It does not cover the real costs of living, nobody could pay their rent (housing benefit),  and cover all the costs of a decent life on this ‘basic’ unless it were set at a much higher rate than is feasible to pay out to everybody in the county.
  • It does not cover special needs, the money needed by disabled people to begin with.

In this vein,

DPAC warns Labour to rethink support for universal basic income

The DPAC report warns that too little attention has been paid to the implications of UBI for disabled people.

The report warns that it is likely that housing benefit and disability benefits would remain outside a UBI system.

This would mean the need for continuing disability assessments, and the risk that the high cost of running a UBI system would mean further cuts to benefits and services relied on by disabled people, such as social care support.

DPAC’s Ellen Clifford, author of the new report, said: “While we would be in favour of tax rises to fund welfare provision – particularly corporation tax and a progressive rise in the higher rate of income tax – the use of this for a UBI rather than more traditional forms of disability and unemployment support would mean much of the benefit flowing back to employers rather than those in most need.”

Two other grassroots organisations of disabled people, Black Triangle and WinVisible, have this week added their voices to the concerns raised by DPAC about UBI.

Clifford’s report concludes that implementing UBI “risks detracting attention and resources from the urgent task required to overhaul the disability benefits system and make it fit for purpose”.

It adds: “Given the history of disabled people’s exclusion and the marginalisation of our issues it is reasonable for disabled people to fear that attention and resources dedicated to the task of implementing a UBI will be at the expense of affecting the level of change needed to ensure disabled people receive adequate support.”

There are also concerns, says the report, that a more flexible employment market ushered in by UBI, with greater job insecurity and the likelihood of poorer working conditions and lower wages for lower-paid workers, would further disadvantage disabled workers.

They also say that right-wing versions of UBI are seen as a way of saving money by avoiding spending on a decent living wage and social protection.

And the report says that pushing for UBI risks deferring demands for full reasonable adjustments at work for disabled workers, and “full and unconditional support” for those unable to work, while “ending up with a system that is more of a helping hand for employers than for disabled people”.

The report says DPAC’s concerns are born out by the results of pilot UBI schemes that have been run across the world, including one in Finland that has just ended, but has not yet been assessed officially, which critics say has forced unemployed workers into bad jobs while undermining unions, wage equality, and the welfare state.

And it says concerns have been raised about the proposed pilot schemes in Scotland, including the cost and potential negative impacts on disabled people, including likely cuts to other social protection schemes.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 3, 2019 at 10:02 am

Universal Credit Claimants punished for not having Mobile Phones.

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Unite day of action against Universal Credit, Thursday 1st August

(Details of Actions, including in Ipswich, on the Saturday, to follow).

In the meantime somebody is happy:

While Amber Rudd basks in her success, and we await copies of the Boris Johnson Guide, Protect and Survive a No-Deal Brexit,  the mess that is Universal Credit continues to pile up.

Our newshounds have often posted about the “all digital” “on-line” problem-creating side of the madcap scheme to make everybody poorer.

Even the Boris Backing Currant Bun has admitted that,

PORTAL PROBLEMS 

Universal Credit’s online system ‘requires huge amounts of mobile data and doesn’t alert claimants’

A proper journalist for Third Force News reported only this year,

The shocking digital divide that punishes Universal Credit claimants

As many as one in three people seeking help with Universal Credit (UC) in Scotland don’t have access to the internet to make their claim.

Research carries out by the country’s network of citizen’s advice bureaux (CABs) point to a shocking digital divide impacting the most vulnerable.

The introduction of UC has caused myriad problems for claimants, plunging many into misery – not least because it is an online only system.

One side of this has just come up, from today’s Daily Record.

People without mobile phones facing delays on lifeline Universal Credit payments

Dedicated staff at Renfrewshire CAB say they are finding some of the most vulnerable people who do not have a phone are at risk of facing delays in their applications.

Having a mobile phone is something most of us take for granted.

But, for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, being without a mobile phone could mean lifeline cash that keeps a roof over their head and food in their fridge, simply slips out of their hands.

Staff at Renfrewshire Citizens Advice Bureau, in Paisley, have laid bare the issues faced by Universal Credit applicants who don’t have access to a mobile phone.

The most pressing concern is that claimants can’t find out how their application is progressing and what steps they need to take next.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) uses a call back system, which means that, without a mobile phone, some people who are in dire need can face their application being delayed as there are no means of contacting them.

Bureau manager Kay Taylor, who has worked at the Renfrewshire branch for eight years, insists the system makes the application process much more difficult for many.

She said: “Some of the clients who come here have complex issues and are dealing with chaotic lifestyles.

“And although, quite rightly, the DWP has this call-back in place, it can be problematic for people with complex issues as they may have no means for the DWP of getting in touch with them and it can stall their claims.

“If they don’t have a mobile phone, they can’t get the notifications about their applications telling them what next steps they need to take.

“They can come here to have the DWP call them back on a landline at a specific time, but sometimes that can be difficult or is not possible.”

Amber is still wafting away in the happy clouds of forgetfulness.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 30, 2019 at 10:36 am

Forever Amber, Rudd: She’s Back and No More Mrs Nice Lady!

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Forever Amber: “If you had better sense you’d have learned by now that nothing thrives so well as wickedness”

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“It was a position of no mean prestige, and of considerable activity.”
― Kathleen Winsor, Forever Amber.

Not only that, but she’s spread her wings!

 

A Happy Amber today:

Tipped for Greater things!

Amber Plans to build on her past successes!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 25, 2019 at 10:00 am

Amber Rudd Pleads for a Job as New Report Slams Universal Credit – Again.

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Job Hungry Amber Pulls the Other One, Bells and All!

The Currant Bun reported.

Boris was asked about who he wanted to win ITV’s Love Island.

He joked that the Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd should go home with £50k after audience members clamoured for ‘Amber’ to win.

When asked if he had been watching the show, he said: “I have been watching it very dimly.

“Seems to involve these people with very few clothes on.”

He then asked the audience who they think should win – with dozens of onlookers shouting ‘Amber’ in reply.

He replied: “Amber? Amber is in Love Island!”

But leadership rival Jeremy Hunt said: “I don’t know, I don’t watch it.”

For the moment Amber is Pleading, Gizza Job! I can do that!

Back to Universal Credit:

Universal Credit ‘lobster pot’ leaving claimants out of pocket without warning, MPs warn

Politics Home.

In a new report, the cross-party Work and Pensions Committee found confusion among DWP advisers over when claimants should move over to the new benefit, with some recipients facing a steep drop in income if they make the switchover.

Universal Credit aims to roll six existing working-age benefits into one payment, a move the Government says will simplify the welfare system and cut costs.

..

The DWP has pursued a policy of “managed migration” for those making the switch to the new system, with the policy aiming to ensure that claimants moving off of the older benefits get transitional payments so that they do not take an immediate financial hit.

But the MPs warned that there are no similar protections in place for those whose circumstances have changed and so are deemed to have undergone “natural migration” by the department.

And they said: “Understanding when existing benefit claimants will need to naturally migrate to UC is so complex, it baffles even experienced benefit advisers.”

The committee warned that claimants could end up out of pocket because of changes that do “not seem significant”, including moving house to a different local authority area or even suffering a bereavement.

“Losing a partner is classed as a change in circumstance — which means that claimants who have just lost their partner must immediately claim UC at a time of considerable grief and distress,” they said.

“We urge the Department instead to allow people who have lost their partner to remain on legacy benefits for a grace period of one year.”

The situation could also have “drastic consequences” for disabled claimants, the committee warned, with disabled adults and children among the groups “most likely to see their income fall when they move to UC via natural migration”.

They accused the DWP of failing to give “clear or comprehensive information” to its own staff on when exactly somebody might need to move to Universal Credit and how it would affect their income.

That meant claimants were left “at risk of moving to UC either inadvertently, not realising that they will lose out, or because they are given the wrong advice by DWP staff or other organisations”, they committee said.

From the Report Universal Credit: natural migration

27th Report from the Committee…. 

The Government has said repeatedly that once the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) is complete, it will be more generous than the system it replaces. But it is not more generous for everyone. While some people are entitled to more money under UC than they would have received in the previous benefits system, many will be entitled to less.

Some of the Department’s plans for moving people to UC recognise that some claimants will be worse off. For instance, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP/the Department) plans to take a cautious approach to what it calls “managed migration”—the process of moving claimants on existing benefits to UC. It plans to provide claimants who move to UC in this way with transitional protection—payments to ensure they do not lose income overnight—and other support to minimise any stress or adverse effects of the move. This is, of course, welcome.

But the majority of claimants on existing benefits will move, or have already moved, to UC through a process known as “natural migration”, which usually happens when their circumstances change. For these claimants, there is no transitional protection. People naturally migrate to UC when they have a change in their lives which would require a new claim for a legacy benefit. There are a vast number of changes which can lead to natural migration. By contrast, there are very few which can end transitional protection under managed migration. This is because the Department deliberately selected the few circumstances in which to end transitional protection, whereas the natural migration process, by its own admission, was based on its own administrative needs. The Department has moved staff away from legacy benefits to Universal Credit and other roles, and says that the only way it can administer a change of circumstances is through the claimant making a new claim to Universal Credit.

The Department argues that it is fair that claimants who experience a “significant” change in their circumstances should not receive transitional protection, on the grounds that it has always been the case that new claims for legacy benefits would be assessed on a claimant’s new circumstances. It is difficult to reconcile this explanation, however, with the fact that the design of UC—which, unlike the legacy system, now represents all, or the majority, of a claimant’s income—means that any change in a claimant’s circumstances exposes them to all aspects of UC, which may be less generous than the legacy system and which may not be related to their specific change. For example, a disabled claimant who moves home could lose their disability premiums, even though their disability remains the same. What is more, the disparity between the changes that can lead to natural migration and those that can end transitional protection mean that some claimants will lose out simply because of when their circumstances change. Therefore, when managed migration begins, households with the same circumstances will be receiving different amounts of Universal Credit—not because their needs are different, but because of the route by which they moved to Universal Credit. This cannot be fair.

For claimants, some of the changes that can trigger this move will not seem significant. For example, moving house within the same local authority area does not trigger migration to Universal Credit—but moving to a different local authority does. That means in practice that someone who moves to a different local authority area loses their entitlement to transitional protection. The DWP justifies this purely by reference to its own administrative processes, with no mention of a claimant’s needs. The Government should commit to providing ongoing payments to meet the shortfall in income for all claimants who move or have moved to UC simply because they moved home outside of their local authority.

https://twitter.com/AmberRuddHR/status/1153368833744363520?s=20

Make Universal Credit Great! The Last Days of Amber Rudd……(?)

with 95 comments

Image result for amber rudd universal credit cartoon

No More Right Honourable Nasty Type.

Do politicians do swan songs?

One could be forgiven for thinking that Rudd in unlikely to stay in her job..

Amber Rudd warns Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt their Brexit plans will ‘collide with reality’

The Work and Pensions Secretary, who is backing Jeremy Hunt over Boris Johnson in the race to be the next Conservative leader, said both men would have to make concessions to win over a “difficult” Parliament.

And she admitted to being “surprised” that the two contenders had taken a hardline stance on leaving the EU in a head-to-head debate earlier this week.

Matt Honeycombe-Foster. Politics Home.

Now Rudd is making all kinds of final performance sounding statements about reforming Universal Credit.

Amber Rudd has change of heart over Universal Credit five-week wait and says it could be cut.

Birmingham Live.

Tory leadership contender Jeremy Hunt revealed that Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has spoken to him to suggest reducing the time frame.

Jeremy Hunt said the Tory welfare chief “persuaded” him the five-week wait should be axed.

….on Tuesday, July 16, Ms Rudd confirmed her apparent change of heart when she told POLITICO’s London Playbook Live: “I’m talking to Jeremy Hunt to see what we can do and how we will address that. A shorter wait would be good.

“I would like to see if we can get more money into Universal Credit.

“I want to make sure that people who need benefits, particularly people who are coming onto UC from other benefits – so they are already dependent on a monthly pay – can have access to the money as soon as possible.

“We have done that up to a point, because they can now get advances straight away, usually on day one and repay it over a twelve-month period.

Rudd to the Rescue!

More happy ideas:

Said once, said twice!

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 18, 2019 at 11:14 am

Council Tax Benefit (Support/Reduction) Messed up by Universal Credit.

with 78 comments

Image result for eric pickles

Eric Pickles has a Laugh at Claimants.

Pre-dating the mess of Universal Credit was the decision by Blubber Guts Eric Pickles to make all benefit claimants pay a proportion of Council Tax.

In 2013 we had, this “the benefit is being replaced by a new system, council tax support, that will be run by English local authorities but with 10% less funding.

It began like this,

 

Council tax benefit cuts: the expense of getting people with no money to pay up

2013.

Unlike the “bedroom tax“, which only affects tenants of councils and housing associations, changes to council tax benefits from April will also affect owner-occupiers and private tenants. It is currently claimed by 5.9 million recipients and is the most widely claimed means-tested benefit. Local authorities have been asked by the government to replace council tax benefit with new local schemes that reduce the amount of council tax relief councils can pay out.

 

Some have opted to protect the 100% council tax benefit that poorer residents who live in property in a low council tax band currently receive. Instead they are reducing the amount of benefit for people living in higher council tax band properties. Other councils have chosen to spread the cuts equally, opting for a maximum 90% rebate for everyone. In this case, people on the minimum income possible to survive will from April have to use their meagre income to pay 10% of their total council tax.

This was the result,

Eric Pickles and David Cameron handed local authorities the power to administer council tax benefit, then cut the budget by 10%, resulting in the number of households in council tax arrears to increase by 45%.

It soon developed: – and it is rare to find anywhere which has a 100% reduction today as the name “Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called Council Tax Support)”  indicates.

Though there is this example (July 2019):

Some low income residents in South Ribble might not have to make a minimum contribution towards their council tax bills from next year.

South Ribble Borough Council is set to launch a public consultation on a proposal to scrap the so-called council tax support scheme, which means all working-age households pay a flat rate of £3.50 per week – even if their income level entitles them to help to cover the rest of the bill.

Now we have this, proving that if there’s one thing Universal Credit is good for, it’s making things worse.

DWP: Why Universal Credit is causing ‘one big headache’ over changes to council tax

Teesside Live.

Residents are being hit with different levels of bills due to complications caused by Universal Credit

Universal Credit is increasing the burden on struggling staff at a Teesside authority and leaving residents confused, due to its effect on council tax, a meeting heard.

Stockton Council has launched a six-month review into its council tax support scheme.

It does not take much to see that this must be happening across the country.

About 11,000 people receive council tax support in the borough and everyone of working age gets at least 20% of their bills.

But Julie Auffret, the council’s revenues and benefit services manager, has revealed how Universal Credit had hit both customers and council staff in how they dealt with council tax.

She told a meeting of the council’s place select committee that the introduction of Universal Credit was leasing to confusion and stress.

She said: “What it creates for us is complications which perhaps didn’t exist when we were dealing with housing benefit and council tax benefit ourselves.

“It meant we could calculate benefits at the same time – now that has been split, it has complicated it and makes it a slightly lengthier calculation than it used to be.”

Universal Credit rolled six benefits into one and was introduced in Stockton a year ago.

But the benefits manager explained month-on-month adjustments to Universal Credit had meant the council had to keep recalculating its own council tax support.

Ms Auffret said: “For us that’s becoming quite a significant administrative burden – and for customers it’s becoming difficult for them to understand why their council tax support is being recalculated repeatedly and why they’re getting lots of bills.

“We’d really like to explore a different way of doing things to make it simpler.”

Changes were made to the council tax system in 2013 when the Government abolished council tax benefit and told local authorities to form their own support schemes.

Stockton runs a “work incentive” programme designed to offer those on low incomes a boost from their wages.

But a review is being considered given the impacts of Universal Credit.

This was all so obvious…

Plus, the fact that we have had to pay this tax, without any corresponding increase in benefits, was another part of the great reduction in our basic living standard this lot of thieves introduced.

Johnson, and his mates, have no plans to change this unjust council tax regime.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 12, 2019 at 5:07 pm

DWP Cuts Staff as Universal Credit Mess Gets Worse and Worse.

with 80 comments

Image result for universal credit protests

UNITE Community Protests, but where is Labour?

This got our attention today:

 

DWP blasted for ‘reckless’ staff cuts at same time as launching Universal Credit

The number of staff working in the welfare department has plummeted by a fifth since the benefit began life in 2013

Written by Andrew Coates

July 8, 2019 at 3:30 pm

Boris Johnson Plans to Tackle Food Poverty.

with 47 comments

Image result for Boris johnson sin tax

Benefit Poverty to be Solved by Cheap Sugary Drinks.

Benefits have not risen – and have stayed at a declining pittance – for so long that barely a living soul can recall when you could buy a pints of Wallop, a twist of shag, and a mid-day plateful of liver and onions with your dole with enough over for a fish supper.

But while not talking about Universal Credit, or benefits, or unemployment, during his leadership contest Boris Johnson has our feeding and drinking interests at heart.

Tory leadership: Boris Johnson promises review of ‘unhealthy food taxes’

Boris Johnson has said he wants to examine whether levies on foods high in salt, fat and sugar are effective, and has vowed not to introduce any new ones until the review is complete.

The “sugar tax” on drinks came into force in April 2018, and a wider levy on all unhealthy foods is being considered to help tackle obesity.

Mr Johnson says he is concerned they unfairly target the less well-off.

Many a cynic will suggest that his plans include a special Brexit US chlorinated chicken, dunkin’ donuts, and cactus cooler diet as the base for DWP calculation on the food claimants’ need to eat (in the old days they produced a calculation on such things as part of ‘what you need to live on’).

Back in the world of tears we hear today.

Since Universal Credit came in the food bank has been packed: My Wigan Pier Story

Mirror.

As part of our Road to Wigan Pier project, eight decades after the publication of George Orwell’s essay, Coventry Food Bank project manager Hugh McNeill, explains how visitor numbers have soared since the introduction of Universal Credit.

And, also today:

And

 

Not to mention this:

 

Amber is active as well!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 3, 2019 at 4:21 pm

DWP Sending Universal Credit into Meltdown.

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Image result for universal credit DWP campaign binned

DWP has Money for this….

Didn’t she do well?

Anybody with a sighting of any surviving Tory leadership figure talking about Universal Credit, from Johnson to Hunt, or one of their minions, please write in comments.

So far not a dicky bird….

Yet it continues to make it into the media.

This is a good article.

The DWP’s muddled maths is sending universal credit deeper into meltdown

The Independent.

By the estimable May Bulman Social Affairs Correspondent

It may come as a surprise, then, that nine years on, the government’s spending watchdog has revealed that fraud and error in the welfare bill are at their highest levels since 2006 – with much of the rise down to the introduction of universal credit.

To go into the numbers, the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed on Thursday that benefit claimants and pensioners lost out on £2bn that they were entitled last year to because officials short-changed them. Another £1.1bn was wrongly handed out to claimants because they failed to give the right details about their income – through the complex online portal system – on time.

What appears on the surface like a fairly bland report, filled with numbers and percentages, sheds light on the scale of devastation being inflicted on people across the country. Families are being denied the support they rely on to live on because of careless errors. People are finding their monthly allowance fluctuating from a liveable amount to near to nothing, with no prior notice, as the government tries to claw previous overpayments back.

And the real stories are out there. Last month, a seriously ill father-of-two told me he was living “hand to mouth” because the DWP was withdrawing more than £90 from his allowance each month – half of which was deducted for previous debts and historic overpayments.

A  key feature of the sweeping reform was that payments would taper off as the recipient moved into work, not suddenly stop, thus avoiding a “cliff edge” that was said to “trap” people in unemployment. If jumping from £312 one month to £5.32 the next isn’t a cliff edge, I don’t know what is.

Also at play here is the DWP’s often arbitrarily punitive sanctions regime, which penalises benefit claimants who miss job centre appointments – with often little consideration of the many variables in people’s lives. Charities have told of cases where parents have had hundreds docked after having to miss meetings with job coaches due to childcare issues.

If universal credit was designed to help people manage their own finances and make the benefits system simpler, why are we are seeing vulnerable individuals and families being swung from pillar to post, more at the mercy of the state than ever?

More on the finances:

Record fraud and errors in DWP payments

Dominic Brady Public Finances.

28th of June.

Fraud and errors related to payments made by the Department for Work and Pensions have reached record highs and are set to grow due to universal credit.

Meanwhile….

Written by Andrew Coates

June 28, 2019 at 3:34 pm

DWP Still in Denial about ‘Misleading’ Advertising Campaign.

with 100 comments

 

Boris the Bounder is back all over the news but this continues to rumble:

A few days ago this was in the paper many of us on the dole actually read, the ‘I’

Universal Credit: Controversial DWP newspaper adverts were ‘deliberately misleading’, advertising watchdog told

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) – an umbrella group of 80 organisations including Age UK, the MS Society and the Royal British Legion – has written to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the DWPcampaign, which it claims breached several advertising rules and could be “knowingly dangerous to the health and security of disabled people”.

Universal Credit adverts that were published in Metro from 22 May claimed to “bust myths” about the controversial benefit. But the DBC, which also counts Macmillan Cancer Support, Scope and foodbank charity The Trussell Trust as members, has branded them “a disgrace” and urged the ASA to take action.

The original statement from this estimable organisation is this:
DBC letter to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) is a national coalition of over 80 different charities and other organisations committed to working towards a fair benefits system.

As a coalition we are writing to issue an official complaint regarding the recent advertisement campaign from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) concerning universal credit, which ran for the first time in the Metro newspaper on Wednesday 22ns May 2019.

The DWP are advertising what they call ‘Universal Credit uncovered’, a series of adverts ‘busting myths’ on Universal Credit.  According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), you ‘work to make sure all advertising wherever it appears is legal, decent, honest and truthful’, we consider that the aforementioned DWP adverts are deliberately misleading. We believe the adverts breach the Non Broadcast Codes – in particular those regarding misleading advertising

3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.

The adverts claim it’s a “myth” that “Universal Credit doesn’t work”, adding: “fact: it does.” These statements omit the thousands of claimants universal credit does not ‘work for’ but instead has driven them into debt, rent arrears, foodbanks, and homelessness.

A joint DWP and HMRC study, which examined how tax credit claimants coped with the move to universal credit, found 60% of those who said they struggled to pay bills said their difficulties began when they moved on to the new benefit[1]. About half of those surveyed did not have sufficient savings to tide them over until they received their first payment. A few claimants endured “considerable stress” after payment delays meant they had to wait up to three months to get their money1.

The Work and Pension Select Committee report ‘Universal Credit: support for disabled people’ found that one in eight universal credit claimants do not receive their benefit on time and in full[2]. One in ten receive nothing at all on time and disabled people fare even worse as only a third of new claimants whose award includes an additional amount for disability receive payment on time and in full.

The DBC recently surveyed around 500 disabled people about their experience of Universal Credit. The survey highlights some serious concerns and deeply worrying findings. The majority of respondents who moved from employment support allowance onto universal credit said they now get less or a lot less money than they did previously. People told us that the impact of having less money includes struggling to pay for food (70%), driving a significant number of people to food banks (35%) and a worsening of people’s health, in particular their mental health (85%) and most worryingly driving people to consider suicide.

The government claim that universal credit supports you if you are on a low income or out of work. Given disabled people are struggling to get by on universal credit, to claim it works is simple misleading.

3.2 Obvious exaggerations (“puffery”) and claims that the average consumer who sees the marketing communication is unlikely to take literally are allowed provided they do not materially mislead.

A second advert says “myth: Universal Credit makes it harder to pay your rent on time.” Followed by “fact”; your Jobcentre can give you an advance payment and pay rent directly to landlords”.

In reality, the DWP will never pay an advance payment to a landlord, only directly to the client.  The wording implies an advanced payment can be paid directly to the landlord. The use of two different colours to separate the claim is inaccessible to some disabled people and will leave people wrongly believing that an advance payment can be paid directly to a landlord.

This claim also clearly implies that anyone can have their rent paid directly to the landlord.  In reality, you have to apply to the job centre for this to happen, and you have to meet certain criteria.  So, for a person on the old legacy benefits, who would have had housing benefit paid directly to the landlord, it is true that it will be harder to pay their rent on time, because they now must take responsibility for doing it themselves, which takes more planning.

The claim clearly does not distinguish between advanced payments which cannot be paid to landlords and regular payments. It also makes no distinction of whom would be eligible for direct payment and implies this option is guaranteed for everyone. This is again misleading and incorrect.

3.3 Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.

One advert says it’s a “myth” that “you have to wait 5 weeks to get any money on Universal Credit”, followed by “fact: Jobcentres can “urgently pay you an advance.” It is not clear that an advance must be paid back, the advert omits that these advances are taken out of future payments and have to be paid back over several months. This means claimants receive less money in the following months, and less money than they will have actually budgeted for. It could be misconstrued to mean it is a payment in advance instead of a payment in arrears; it is essentially a loan.

This claim also misleads the reality disabled people face when taking out the loan before receiving their payment. Given that disabled people are a key audience for universal credit this advert is clearly targeting vulnerable groups without providing the necessary clarity. One disabled person who took out the loan said:

“The full monthly payment is nowhere near adequate anyway, and now I’ve taken an advance I get even less. I’ve never been in such a financial mess and I’ve now been forced to get help from a foodbank. It felt like a walk of shame.”

Latest statistics show 840,000 people have had reduced payments as a result of taking out this loan. Of this 840,000 claims with a deduction[3]:

  • 50% (420,000 claims) had deductions up to 20% of the Standard Allowance
  • 20% (170,000 claims) had deductions between 21% and 30% of the Standard Allowance
  • 28% (238,000 claims) had deductions between 31% and 40% of their Standard Allowance
  • 1% (13,000 claims) had deductions above 40% of their Standard Allowance

The fact that people who take out this loan can then look to have 40% reductions in future benefits should have been set out clearly in the advertisement. It is not clear in the language that this payment is a loan and that taking it out can leave disabled people in a worse financial position.

The advert itself is visually misleading and inaccessible. Given the target audience is those who are out of work, many of whom will be sick or disabled, the lack of clarity that it is a DWP advertisement is disingenuous. An internal memo, reported by the Mirror, claims the lack of clarity (no logo or DWP branding) regarding this being a DWP advertisement was deliberate[4].

These are some of the most vulnerable people in society. It is a disgrace that they are being treated with such disregard. At best these adverts are accidentally misleading at worst they are knowingly dangerous to the health and financial security of disabled people.

We believe there is clear evidence that these adverts are misleading and urge the ASA to take this complaint seriously and act as quickly as possible.

We look forward to your response,

The Disability Benefits Consortium

[1] Gov UK, Transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: qualitative and quantitative research with claimants. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/transition-from-tax-credits-to-universal-credit-qualitative-and-quantitative-research-with-claimants

[2] Work and Pensions Committee, Universal Credit: support for disabled people. https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/1770/1770.pdf

[3] Universal Credit:Written question – 257147 – https://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-question/Commons/2019-05-21/257147/

[4] Mirror, ‘Fury as DWP launches taxpayer-funded ‘spin’ campaign to defend Universal Credit‘. https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/fury-dwp-launches-taxpayer-funded-16183343?utm_source=sharebar&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=sharebar

DWP disputes survey claiming Universal Credit adverts were ‘deliberately misleading’

Teeside Live.

A coalition of disability charities say that Government adverts paid for in local newspapers are ‘deliberately misleading’

The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) highlighted a recent advertising campaign by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) which was described as a “myth buster” on the flagship benefit.

The complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) coincides with new research from the DBC, which claims Universal Credit benefit was having a “devastating impact” on disabled people.

The complaint relates to a recent newspaper advertising campaign by the DWP, which the charities say featured adverts designed to look like news articles.

 

Meanwhile even this Blog can report exclusively on this:

Written by Andrew Coates

June 22, 2019 at 1:28 pm

Universal Credit Five-Week Wait Pushed Women into Sex Work, Government admits.

with 156 comments

Image result for universal credit sex work

Government Admits Truth of Story.

Contributors to this Blog have talked about the Work and Health programme .

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

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

So says the DWP, but people have lots of criticisms…

It would be important to continue this in more detail, any information and opinions welcome.

In the meantime, the Universal Credit Sage continues.

First, the attention grabbing.

Back in April there was this from the Work and Pensions Committee.

Universal Credit and Survival Sex: sex in exchange for meeting survival needs inquiry

Then in May Committee hears first evidence on Universal Credit and “survival sex”

 This week there was this: DWP Minister questioned on Universal Credit and survival sex

The Committee stated.

Two key points immediately stand out:

“Dismissive” attitude of DWP

The first, which was strongly echoed in the public evidence that followed but was first articulated by Witness M in private, was the “dismissive” attitude of the Department for Work and Pensions toward the inquiry. As M put it, describing the DWP’s first written evidence submission (“memorandum”):

“M: I really felt that the memorandum was an attempt to kind of cover the DWP’s back and be like, “Oh well, you can’t prove that it is us or you can’t prove that it is Universal Credit that is the issue”, like it tried to blame sex workers for being here and it kind of like proved the point that it is poverty and it is this horrible system that is making us be in the sex industry…

It is the five-week waits. The other thing is [the single household payment of Universal Credit] in domestic violence relationships, apparently I have heard the man will get the money and then can control like that. I think that is one…”

The Committee had a similar impression of DWP’s first response and wrote back  “inviting” it to reconsider its stance : the Department’s s revised submission, received last Thursday, will be considered at the evidence hearing with the Minister tomorrow.

Too daunting to apply

A second clear point reinforced the impression of the first: despite the four women’s very different stories, most had found it too daunting or prohibitive to even attempt to apply for Universal Credit, even though some had experience of successfully claiming “legacy” benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance.

The story reached the media again yesterday

Woman Tells MPs Selling Sex Is ‘Easiest Way To Survive’ After Struggling With Universal Credit

Nicola Slawson Huffington Post.

A  woman has told MPs how selling her body for sex became the “easiest thing to do” to make ends meet, after Universal Credit left her with just £52 a month to live on.

The 21-year-old, who was not identified, told a parliamentary hearing how she would have to see “five or six” clients just to get the money for a day’s rent.

The hearing is part of an inquiry into the possible link between the controversial new benefit and claimants resorting to exchanging sex for money, food or shelter, known as “survival sex”.

The testimony was part of evidence by four women dubbed T, K, B and M to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

T told the committee she had previously worked 12-hour shifts as a care worker while struggling under the old benefit system resulting in her losing her housing benefit.

She applied for Universal Credit and had to visit foodbanks three times while waiting for her first payment – and ended up homeless as she tried to scrape together enough money for food and tampons.

This was the result:

 

Universal credit delays a factor in sex work, government accepts

Patrick Butler. Guardian.

The government has dropped its hardline refusal to accept that destitution caused by five-week waits for universal credit payments has been a major factor in forcing some women to turn to sex work.

Giving evidence to the work and pensions select committee, the minister for family support, Will Quince, apologised for a memo his department sent to the committee last month and said it “did not very well reflect my views on this issue”.

The memo dismissed evidence that universal credit was a cause of increased numbers of women turning to sex work as anecdotal. It said the phenomenon was influenced by a range of factors, from drug addiction and the rise of AirBnB to EU immigration

Quince told the committee he had changed his views after hearing accounts from four women who gave evidence of how impoverishment related to universal credit issues had led them to take up escort and brothel work.

“Those very brave testimonies of the young women who have gone through the most horrific of experiences gave me a better understanding through their lived experiences. What it showed me more than anything is we need to better understand this area,” he said.

A transcript of the private committee hearing in May included a testimony from M, a brothel worker. She said the fact that drug and alcohol drove people into survival sex work did not mean that universal credit had not caused “a really big influx”

This is another committee at work whose findings and recommendations, out today, something tells, me won’t get the same publicity:

Scottish parliamentary committee calls for universal credit overhaul

Kerry Lorimer

The introduction of universal credit, and in particular the five-week delay before receipt of the first payment, has led to an “unacceptable” rise in rent arrears north of the border.

In a new report, members of the Scottish Parliament’s social security committee called for an overhaul of the benefit, which would see a review of the initial delay as well as the direct payment of the housing element to landlords in order to reduce arrears.

The MSPs also called for abolition of the “frankly discriminatory” shared accommodation rate, which limited the amount of housing benefit or universal credit that can be claimed by tenants under the age of 35, who rent a room in a shared house from a private landlord.

According to evidence heard by the committee, the shared accommodation rate created “significant financial difficulty, debt and hardship” among younger people, with separated parents particularly badly affected.

The report also draws attention to the widening gap between local housing allowances and the cost of renting in the private sector, especially in Edinburgh and other urban areas.

Originally uprated in line with market rent, local housing allowances have been frozen since 2016, meaning that in many parts of Scotland they do not serve their intended purpose and should be reviewed, the MSPs said.

The committee was also “extremely concerned” by the high cost of temporary accommodation and “troubled” by the poor quality of the accommodation some tenants had been offered. Although temporary accommodation is intended to be a short-term measure, people find themselves trapped there due to the shortage of affordable alternatives, they heard.

Bob Doris, convener of the social security committee, said the rapid increase in rent arrears since the introduction of universal credit was “unacceptable”, and that steps must be taken to address this issue, which was increasing the budgetary strain on both local authorities and social landlords.

“We want to see the housing element of universal credit paid directly to landlords and the Department for Work and Pensions must review the minimum five-week wait for new…claimants, both of which contribute to rising arrears,” he said.

“Our inquiry highlighted a number of issues, including the frankly discriminatory shared accommodation rate which should be abolished immediately.

“It is also clear that local housing allowance rates are not fit for purpose and are failing to help claimants meet the rising cost of the private rented sector.”

A UK government spokeswoman said that while rent arrears could not be linked to any one cause, many people joined universal credit with pre-existing arrears, and research showed that number fell by a third after four months.

“In Scotland we already pay rent directly to landlords where requested and can pay universal credit more frequently to help with budgeting,” she said.

“Meanwhile, Scotland has significant welfare powers, including flexibilities within universal credit and the power to top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits altogether.”

Written by Andrew Coates

June 13, 2019 at 3:13 pm

Protests Begin Again Against Universal Credit.

with 116 comments

Saturday Protest: Norfolk Against Universal Credit

No photo description available.

Protests have begun again against Universal Credit.

People are protesting outside a Leicester Jobcentre because of Universal Credit

Leicestershire  Live. 

A number of people braved the rain to make their point.

(Note to Editor, not the most inspiring lead….)

A group of campaigners staged their latest protest against the introduction of Universal Credit in Leicester this week.

Members of the Labour Party and the Unite trade union staged the event as part of their ongoing campaign against the benefit, which they say is causing financial hardship in households across the country.

Today’s event was also aimed at a member of staff at the Job Centre who told LeicestershireLive last month that he believed Universal Credit had ‘changed things for the better’ for those receiving it.

Steve Bruce, 38, a work coach team leader at Leicester’s Wellington Street Job Centre Plus, said: “There are always going to be people who have a negative experience, but we see the amount of good Universal Credit has done and that’s our encouragement to carry on, the proof that it works.

The protestors, who were joined by recently elected city councillors  Jacky Nangreave and Gary O’Donnell, said they were not calling for action to be taken against the member of staff but wanted to highlight their disagreement with the points he made in the article.

This is a good story too:

Yet the DWP keeps churning it out:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 9, 2019 at 11:21 am

Trussell Trust Takes on DWP Universal Credit Propaganda and Calls for Grants to Replace ‘Loans’.

with 83 comments

Trussell Trust.

 

This Wednesday, MPs will debate Universal Credit and debt – we want to make sure as many MPs as possible turn up and speak out.

Everyone who applies for Universal Credit has to wait at least five weeks for a full payment – some are left waiting longer. This is leaving many people without enough money to cover the basics, forcing them to food banks.

While you wait, you can apply for an ‘advance payment’ – a loan from the Government to see you through that five week period. But once your Universal Credit payments start, you pay that loan back automatically through deductions from your monthly payments.

This puts people between a rock and a hard place: hardship now or hardship later?

Ending the five week wait should be the Government’s first priority to help create a future without food banks.

Background:

Universal Credit advance payments should be ‘scrapped and replaced by grants’

Mirror.

New figures show these so-called ‘bridging loans’ – which come with fixed repayment plans – are only causing more debt. It’s time to scrap them

Government loans designed to tide people over until their first Universal Credit payments reach them are causing more harm than good, a new report has suggested.

Charities StepChange and the Trussell Trust said advance payments to help ‘people get by’ are only fuelling more hardship because of the repayment thresholds.

A new report detailing the front-line impact of the five-week wait said advance payments are not a solution for many households already at risk.

In many cases it said these payments should simply be written off as grants instead.

The Trussell Trust – which manages a network of 420 foodbanks across the UK – said the biggest reason for referrals last year was benefit payments failing to cover the cost of living.

It said going five weeks or more with no income can lead to debt and rent arrears, with those faced with “additional inescapable costs”, such as disabled people and families with children, the most likely to fall into the poverty bracket.

“Repayments don’t take into account people’s ability to afford them,” the report said.

“It’s vital that this is done in an affordable way.”

In the private sector, all loans must come with an affordability – and repayment – assessment.

However, Universal Credit advance payments are different. Deduction levels are fixed by the DWP and these can be hard to challenge, even if you fall into financial hardship while repaying.

“In some cases, you can have your repayment levels renegotiated, but this is rare,” the report added. “By that point, you’re likely already to be in financial difficulty, and may be in arrears on other bills.”

The DWP can deduct up to 40% of your Universal Credit allowance to repay debts. This will fall to 30% in October this year.

And the impact is worrying. StepChange said after three months, 44% of Universal Credit claimants are still struggling to pay their bills.

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile as our Newshawks have already noticed:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 5, 2019 at 12:08 pm

Universal Credit: Cuts, Debts, and “Secret Penalties.”

with 83 comments

Image result for universal credit press show

Ipswich Unemployed Review of the Papers’ UC News.

You’d have thought that the visit of his Most High, Mighty, and Illustrious Donald John Trump would have driven Universal Credit off the newspaper pages.

Apparently not.

This is our ‘Review of the Papers’, better than the Sky News Press Preview, and even more without Sky’s stalwart, Claire Fox, since the leading cadre of the Revolutionary Communist Party, then Spiked, is now a Brexit Party MEP with Trump’s best mate, Nigel Farage.

This caught our panelists’ eyes:

Secrets of Universal Credit system revealed in ‘debt guide’

Bristol Live.

There’s a secret DWP priority list.

Sanctions imposed as a punishment for breaking conditions of a claim are clawed back first, then advances that have been paid to tide over claimants in the five-week wait for the first payment.

Here is the list in full:

1. Fraud Sanctions

2. Conditionality Sanctions

3. UC Advance of benefit (New claim or Change of Circumstances)

4. UC Advance of benefit (Benefit Transfer)

5. Budgeting Advance

6. Owner-occupier service charges arrears

7. Rent, including service charges, arrears (minimum deduction rate 10%)

8. Fuel arrears (Gas and/or Electricity)

9. Council Tax or Community Charge arrears

10. Fines or Compensation Orders (minimum deduction rate 5%)

11. Water charges arrears

12. Old Scheme Child Maintenance

13. Flat Rate Maintenance

14. Social Fund loans

15. Recoverable Hardship Payments

16. Housing Benefit and DWP Administrative Penalties

17. Housing Benefit, Tax Credit and DWP Fraud overpayments

18. Housing Benefit and DWP Civil Penalties

19. Housing Benefit, Tax Credit and DWP normal overpayments

20. Integration loan arrears

21. Eligible loan arrears

22. Rent, including service charges arrears (maximum deduction rate of up to a maximum 20 per cent, inclusive of the minimum 10% applied above)

23. Fines or Compensation Orders (maximum deduction rate of up to £108.35, inclusive of the 5 per cent applied above)

How many claimants are hit?

More than half of Universal Credit claimants have had their payments cut, figures have shown.

It was revealed earlier that 532,000  Universal Credit  claimants had some of their payments deducted in October 2018.

A total of 6,000 claimants had reductions of 40 per cent of their allowance or more, while 129,000 claimants had deductions of between 31 and 40 per cent.

Our panelists though this one was also a bleeding liberty:

 

And this.

And this, which only goes to show what diamond geezers the DWP are really, looking out for us and all.

 

The Currant Bun has not arrived to our Press Show, busy spaffing about Trump and Boris Johnson we hear,  but this other far-right daily raised a chuckle.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 1, 2019 at 3:32 pm

Universal Credit Staff in Two Day Strike.

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Image result for universal credit strike PCS

PCS Strike in Universal Credit Service Centres.

At a meeting held by the Trades Council some months ago we heard a speaker from the PCS tell us about the many faults of Unviersal cerdit.

He also underlined that many people employed by the DWP were unhappy at their working conditions and pay.

The number of phone calls they had to take was a particular gripe.

There had been walk outs.

Now there is an official strike.

Today:

Universal credit staff to launch two-day strike over workload and low recruitment

The Independent reports:

Union boss says members cannot stand by while ministers make their job ‘impossible’

Staff at two sites dealing with the universal credit benefits system will launch a two-day strike on Tuesday in a dispute over workloads and staff recruitment.

It will be the second stoppage by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union at Wolverhampton and Walsall.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members who work to support some of the most vulnerable members of society will not put up with DWP management ignoring their real concerns over staffing and underinvestment

“This strike will be part of sustained campaign of action which could spread to other parts of universal credit, if the government doesn’t meet union negotiators to discuss workers’ concerns.

“Our members care passionately about the work they do and the people they support.”

He added: “However, they cannot stand idly by while ministers make the job of supporting claimants impossible.”

PCS members are demanding the recruitment of 5,000 more staff, permanent contracts for fixed-term employees and a limit to the number of phone calls required per case manager.

Here is the Union statement:

PCS members in the UC Service Centres in Walsall and Wolverhampton will take two more days strike action on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 May, in their campaign for more staff and improved working conditions

Despite two well supported days of action in March, which had a knock-on effect across the whole UC network, the DWP has refused to meet the demands of members.

A recent announcement that Wolverhampton will become a national telephony site has further inflamed the situation. DWP management have also refused PCS’s request to make staff on fixed term appointments permanent, review the decision on Wolverhampton and properly engage with PCS about improving the staffing situation in Universal Credit.

The 5 key demands from PCS members working in UC are:

  • 5,000 new staff, permanency for fixed term staff
  • Limit the number of phone calls per case manager
  • Limit the size of the national telephony hub
  • Improve consultation
  • A quality-focused approach – no more management by statistics.

Action may spread

PCS has held members’ meetings in other UC Service Centres, and members in affected jobcentres are also being consulted.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members who work to support some of the most vulnerable members of society will not put up with DWP management ignoring their real concerns over staffing and under investment.

“This strike will be part of sustained campaign of action which could spread to other parts of Universal Credit, if the government doesn’t meet union negotiators to discuss workers’ concerns.

“Our members care passionately about the work they do and the people they support. However, they cannot stand idly by while ministers make the job of supporting claimants impossible.”

PCS full-time official Ian Bartholomew said: “Unless DWP takes action to increase staffing in UC, and reduce the pressure that our members are working under, it is likely that we will see more sites calling for strike action.”

Please send messages of support to leeds@pcs.org.uk

Written by Andrew Coates

May 28, 2019 at 12:01 pm

UN Report on Poverty in Britain: Welfare to Workhouses.

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Image result for alston report poverty Jaywick

Special UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty Philip Alston in Jaywick, Essex.

A couple of days ago I heard a group of lads talking about Universal Credit.

They’d all got caught up in its clutches and they had many a merry tale to tell.

It does not take imagination to see that poverty, they mentioned the waits for money, the on-line gibberish, and Coachy.

The DWP, our Newshawks say, always responds with stout denial to any criticism.

This must have stung sharper than a serpent’s tooth..

The report begins,

The social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities’ budgets, which have eliminated many social services, reduced policing services, closed libraries in record numbers, shrunk community and youth centres and sold off public spaces and buildings. The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos. A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.

The Guardian covered the story as following:

UN report compares Tory welfare policies to creation of workhouses

A leading United Nations poverty expert has compared Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses and warned that unless austerity is ended, the UK’s poorest people face lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

Ministers in denial about impact of austerity since 2010, says poverty expert

The far-right Mail publishes the bleats and denials of the DWP and Amber Rudd.

Amber Rudd is to lodge a formal complaint over UN’s ‘barely believable’ poverty report accusing Britain of violating human rights obligations by creating ‘Dickensian’ conditions for the poor

  • UN report claims Britain is returning to ‘Dickensian’ conditions, where citizens lives are, quoting Hobbes, ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’
  • But government points out that UN research published just two months ago ranked Britain as the 15th happiest country to live in
  • DWP says Rapporteur paints ‘completely inaccurate picture’ after his whistle-stop two-week human rights fact-finding visit last November

Poverty in the UK is ‘systematic’ and ‘tragic’, says UN special rapporteur

The UK’s social safety net has been “deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos”, a report commissioned by the UN has said.

Special rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston said “ideological” cuts to public services since 2010 have led to “tragic consequences”.

The report comes after Prof Alston visited UK towns and cities and made preliminary findings last November.

The government said his final report was “barely believable”.

The £95bn spent on welfare and the maintenance of the state pension showed the government took tackling poverty “extremely seriously”, a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.

Prof Alston is an independent expert in human rights law and was appointed to the unpaid role by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014. He spent nearly two weeks travelling in Britain and Northern Ireland and received more than 300 written submissions for his report.

He went on to observe

Some observers might conclude that the DWP had been tasked with “designing a digital and sanitised version of the 19th Century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens”, he said.

The report cites independent experts saying that 14 million people in the UK – a fifth of the population – live in poverty, according to a new measure that takes into account costs such as housing and childcare.

In 2017, 1.5 million people experienced destitution, meaning they had less than £10 a day after housing costs, or they had to go without at least two essentials such as shelter, food, heat, light, clothing or toiletries during a one-month period.

Despite official denials, Prof Alston said he had heard accounts of people choosing between heating their homes or eating, children turning up to school with empty stomachs, increased homelessness and food bank use, and “story after story” of people who had considered or attempted suicide.

Now I’ve got a bit of respect for Human Rights. One of the greatest British radicals, Tom Paine, wrote the Rights of Man (1791), which was a founding book for our labour movement and left. My dad said they were still reading it in Glasgow in the 1930s.

Comrade Paine wrote this,

In the closing chapters of Rights of Man, Paine addresses the condition of the poor and outlines a detailed social welfare proposal predicated upon the redirection of government expenditure. From the onset, Paine asserts all citizens have an inherent claim to welfare. Paine declares welfare is not charity, but an irrevocable right.

One of the great founders of modern socialism, the Frenchman Jean Jaurès, (1859 – 1914)., did not just stand up for welfare, he defended social and human rights. Jaurès campaigned for the innocence of Dreyfus against the anti-Semites of his day. He mixed together workers’ and welfare right with socialism. He was murdered in 1914 by one of national populists of the Farrage ilk for opposing the start of the First World War.

When I read people disrespecting Professor Alston I think they are insulting our glorious forebears.

Apart from that, the present social security system, Universal Credit and all, stinks to high heaven.

This is the Report’s conclusion:

The philosophy underpinning the British welfare system has changed radically since 2010. The initial rationales for reform were to reduce overall expenditures and to promote employment as the principal “cure” for poverty.

But when large-scale poverty persisted despite a booming economy and very high levels of employment, the Government chose not to adjust course. Instead, it doubled down on a parallel agenda to reduce benefits by every means available, including constant reductions in benefit levels, ever-more-demanding conditions, harsher penalties, depersonalization, stigmatization, and virtually eliminating the option of using the legal system to vindicate rights.

The basic message, delivered in the language of managerial efficiency and automation, is that almost any alternative will be more tolerable than seeking to obtain government benefits.

This is a very far cry from any notion of a social contract, Beveridge model or otherwise, let alone of social human rights. As Thomas Hobbes observed long ago, such an approach condemns the least well off to lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. As the British social contract slowly evaporates, Hobbes’ prediction risks becoming the new reality.

 

Job Centres to Open in the Evening and on Saturday.

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Job Centre Opening Hours to Expand in line with “banks and GP surgeries”. 

This has been of concern for many people who do not live near a job centre.

What It’s Like To Lose Your Local Job Centre

Between 2016 and 2018, more than 100 job centres – about 15% of the network – were closed for good.

Huffington Post (2019)

Why are Britain’s jobcentres disappearing? The Conversation.

Britain’s national network of jobcentres is currently undergoing radical change as the government implements multiple welfare reforms and cuts as part of its continued austerity drive. Between 2016 and 2018, over 100 jobcentres – about 15 per cent of the network – will have closed.

Support for the long-term unemployed and disabled jobseekers has also been cut. A new Work and Health Programme will assist less than a quarter of the participants of the programmes it replaced. Across the country, hundreds of specialist organisations working with jobseekers have lost contracts, and thousands of experienced employment advisers have lost their jobs.

Anybody who lives in places like Suffolk, outside the towns like Ipswich, knows the struggle it is to use public transport to get anywhere, let alone to attend a meeting with Coachy in the Job Centre at the constantly changing times of appointments to sign on.

Yet things are taken a new turn.

A few days ago the far-right Daily Mail published this story, which their friend Amber Rudd publicised,

Job centres to stay open later into the evenings and at the weekend to help older workers change careers

  • Amber Rudd wants to help employees search for new job or get retraining tips
  • Work and Pensions Secretary said change would bring centres into line with banks and GP surgeries
  • Miss Rudd said new opening hours would help people better themselves in work

Job centres will stay open in the evenings and at weekends to help older workers change career. Amber Rudd said she wanted to make it easier for employees to search for a new job or get advice on how to retrain

‘However it’s not just important to get people into work, it’s vital we help people get even better work earning even more money,’ she said.

‘So opening up job centres in the evening and on Saturday will help people who are busy working, by making our services more available at convenient times.

‘Because the job centre is not just a place for benefits.’

Job centres in seven areas – Chester, Dudley, Oldham, Poplar, Todmorden, Wick and York – will open in the evening and on Saturdays as part of a trial before ministers decide on whether to extend the system to all 600 across the country.

‘Work coaches’ will also offer advice to clients outside regular working hours.

Miss Rudd said the new opening hours would help people better themselves in work, access higher pay and protect themselves from technological changes, such as automation.

‘I want everyone, no matter their background, to progress in the workplace and outperform their and society’s, expectations,’ she said.

‘From stay-at-home parents, particularly women, to older workers wanting a new career, offering more job centre availability could make a massive difference, and I’ll be watching this trial closely.’

‘As the Prime Minister said in Parliament this week, this is a Government which raises people up.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said the shake-up would bring job centres into line with the banks and GP surgeries that have extended their hours of operation.

 And from here:

It sounds to many people like an extension of surveillance.

Imagine if you live in one of those areas, without trains or the tube, where the old Job Centre is closed and you have to rely on public transport to get you somewhere in the evening on Saturday when there are even fewer buses.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 21, 2019 at 10:45 am

DWP Propaganda Campaign for Universal Credit gets off to a Rocky Start.

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DWP Propaganda Genius at Work.

This week this story came out:

Coming soon: the great universal credit deception

A leaked memo shows that the Department for Work and Pensions is about to embark on a PR campaign to defend its worst ever policy

How to sell the unsellable? How to pretend utter chaos is a plan coming together? How to persuade the public, who just refuse to buy it, to at least keep on paying for it? I believe I have found the answer.

It comes in the form of an internal memo from the Department for Work and Pensions that somehow floated past my desk. Published on the staff intranet just a few days ago, on 2 May, it is signed by three of the department’s most senior officials, including the DWP’s director of communications and Neil Couling, its head of universal credit. And it is that toxically controversial benefit which is its subject.

What follows is an elaborate media strategy to manufacture a Whitehall fantasy, one in which the benefits system is running like a dream while a Conservative government generously helps people on the escalator to prosperity. It begins at the end of this month with a giant advert wrapped around the cover of the Metro newspaper; inside will be a further four-page advertorial feature. This will “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”. What’s more, “the features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC – you won’t see our branding … We want to grab the readers’ attention and make them wonder who has done this ‘UC uncovered’ investigation.”

..

Then comes the letter’s grand reveal: BBC2 has commissioned a documentary series, which is “looking to intelligently explore UC” by filming inside three jobcentres. “This is a fantastic opportunity for us – we’ve been involved in the process from the outset, and we continue working closely with the BBC to ensure a balanced and insightful piece of television.” Wading through such adjectives, one remembers how the most important of the letter’s signatories, Neil Couling, told Holyrood parliamentarians that the rise of food banks was down to “poor people maximising their economic opportunities” and that “many benefit recipients welcome the jolt that … sanctions can give them”.

What follows is an elaborate media strategy to manufacture a Whitehall fantasy, one in which the benefits system is running like a dream while a Conservative government generously helps people on the escalator to prosperity. It begins at the end of this month with a giant advert wrapped around the cover of the Metro newspaper; inside will be a further four-page advertorial feature. This will “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”. What’s more, “the features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC – you won’t see our branding … We want to grab the readers’ attention and make them wonder who has done this ‘UC uncovered’ investigation.”

No such danger with this three-part series, which is driven by access rather than led by a reporter. When the civil servants’ trade union, the PCS, found out about the filming, it asked if staff could talk frankly to the crew, only to be told no: they would still be subject to the civil service code, which demands complete impartiality. Perhaps this explains an internal PCS note on the BBC series I have seen, which remarks that staff are unhappy about being identified on screen. At one of the nominated jobcentres, in Toxteth in Liverpool, “It is our understanding that there have been no volunteers to take part in the filming.” The risk is that any staff who do participate toe the management line, making the film an advert for universal credit.

The PCS briefing also reports a senior universal credit manager telling union reps that “the DWP would have access to the film before transmission”. The BBC confirms that is the case, although it says it has “editorial control”. When I contacted the DWP it refused to answer even the most basic of questions, advising me to submit them via a freedom of information request.

Here is the DWP’s wheedling away already:

This is Amber Rudd’s own retweet of the myth machine:

The Mirror followed up the story,

Universal Credit union blasts DWP ‘propaganda’ as staff announce two-day strike

A union chief accused the DWP of trying to “cover up” the very failures staff want addressed after a leaked memo revealed plans for a massive PR campaign.

Universal Credit staff have announced a two-day strike with a blast at DWP “propaganda” about the benefit.

Call handlers in Wolverhampton and Walsall will strike on May 28-29 in protest at workloads and staff shortages.

It is the second walkout in three months from the workers – who want 5,000 new staff, permanent contracts and limits on the number of phone calls per manager.

Yet hours before it was announced, a leaked DWP memo revealed chiefs plan to “bust myths” about the benefit with an advertising campaign – at a major cost to taxpayers.

The PCS union, which represents the workers, accused the DWP of trying to “cover up” the very failures its strike is focused on.

General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Instead of trying to solve this ongoing dispute over workloads and recruitment, Ministers are spending thousands on a propaganda campaign to promote a failed Universal Credit system.

Critics were quick off the mark.

Followed by this news today.

Liverpool Job Centre staff ‘refuse’ to take part in Universal Credit publicity BBC programme

Liverpool Echo.

DWP planning documentary series and advertising campaign to ‘tackle misconceptions and improve the reputation of UC’Liverpool job centre staff have reportedly refused to take part in a TV show promoting the reputation of Universal Credit.

Details of the leaked memo first emerged in a Guardian column and were verified by Mirror Online.

The memo explains the DWP is working with BBC2 on a new documentary series, which will be filmed inside three jobcentres.

But according to The Guardian, the programme has already run into problems.

At one of the nominated job centres, in Toxteth , the PCS note explains that: “It is our understanding that there have been no volunteers to take part in the filming.”

The newspaper reports that an internal note from the Public and Commercial Services Union explains that staff are unhappy about being identified on screen.

A DWP spokesman refused to comment directly on the memo, but said: “It’s important people know about the benefits available to them, and we regularly advertise Universal Credit.

 

 

 

Pressure Grows and Grows for Changes to Universal Credit.

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Image result for universal credit sanctions cartoon

Iain Duncan Smith: the Father of the Universal Credit Mess.

The labyrinth, or should that be maze?, of Universal Credit is leading to all kinds of difficulties, that is, for people who have to reply on it.

The Guardian carries this story,

Half of low-income families will lose thousands of pounds a year, warns new study
It continues,

Flagship welfare reforms will trigger a big increase in families unable to make ends meet, new analysis reveals.

The number of children living in families that have a monthly deficit will double in some areas, because of the combined impact of universal credit, a two-child limit on some welfare payments and the benefits cap.

The research, produced for the children’s commissioner, found that a quarter of children in its sample would be hit by the measures. Almost half of low-income households examined were affected, losing on average £3,441 a year.

Charities and researchers are already warning of rising child poverty. Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, has been attempting to soften the government’s reforms, putting more money into universal credit, limiting the two-child policy and sanctioning fewer claimants.

Now this is a step forward, but the Sanctions regime is still there.

Suffering without money for a year is still there.

The ‘I’ also covers the Policy in Practice report,

There will be a huge increase in the number of families living in poverty because of reforms to the welfare system, it has been claimed.

The benefits cap, the impact of universal credit and the two-child limit on some welfare payments will see the number of children in poverty double, new analysis has found.

The research, carried out on behalf of the children’s commissioner, has found that half of low-income families will lose, on average, £3,441 a year.

Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has been making efforts to put more money into universal credit as well as ditch plans to extend benefits caps for families with more than two children.

Ms Rudd also announced in January this year that she would relax the two-child limit for families who had a third child before the policy came into effect on 6 April 2017.

But the Policy in Practice consultancy found that a quarter of children in its study were still in families who would be unable to make ends meet because of the effects of the welfare reforms.

This is relevant to everybody,

Transparency issues with Universal Credit are leaving claimants confused about how much money they should be receiving and one of the big problems with the system is the lengthy wait for the first payment for those claiming benefits.

Those finding themselves in that situation can apply for an advance payment – but they are forced to pay it back, starting from out of their first payment and they must pay it back within 12 months – a practice that, the study found, would plunge 1 in 10 low-income households into deficit.

It also found that while universal credit made 56 per cent of households better off by £172 a month, 40 per cent are worse off and lose £181 on average. But if the two-child limit was abolished, a fifth of low-pay households would be £366 a month better off on average.

This is from their report THE IMPACT OF WELFARE REFORM ON CHILD VULNERABILITY which can be read here.

Our analysis finds that:
● Universal Credit broadly benefits families with children, with 56% of households better off by £172 per month, though 40% are worse off and lose £181 per month on average
● The five week wait for the first UC payment would push 70% of families currently facing a cash surplus into cash shortfall, 73% of families with savings would see them completely exhausted at some point during those first five weeks
● The Universal Credit advance payment provides a short-term boost to cashflow but also increases the percentage of households who would face a cash shortfall from 11.6% under Universal Credit, to 18.9% once the advance payment is deducted from UC awards
● Under the two child limit (applied to all families) 32.1% of children living in a cash shortfall would find their families in surplus were the policy removed. The policy is placing 15.6% of children who are already facing a cash shortfall further at risk
● The Benefit Cap affects 2.9% of households, who lose £2,832 per annum on average

● The cumulative impact of welfare reforms are considerably greater than the impact of each reform in isolation, affecting 48% of households losing £3,441 per annum on average
● When the effects of Universal Credit, the two child limit and the Benefit Cap are combined, 25% of children in low income families would be unable to make ends meet, doubling the number from 13% if these reforms were not in place

Meanwhile Amber Rudd gives this advice:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 13, 2019 at 10:56 am

Universal Credit, More Disasters as Commons Select Committee Probes “in-work progression”.

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Image result for in work progression

Every day there’s more stories in the media about the disaster known as Universal Credit.

You could start the morning by listing the latest:

Universal Credit bosses branded ‘morally corrupt’ after forcing family to repay £6.5k DWP payments blunder

Birmingham Live.

“The real duty they have is to prevent overpayments in the first place rather than forcing taxpayers to clear up after their mess”

Errors made by the Department for Work and Pensions mean that Billy Pierce and his partner have been paid too much for the past 14 months

Mr Pierce said he and his partner had no idea they were being overpaid because they had never received the new benefit before and had given the DWP all the correct information to calculate Universal Credit payments.

DWP have ordered the money to be repaid at a rate of £100 a month – which means it will take over five years to clear the debt.

DWP officials took months to correct payment mistakes, says Tower Hamlets council.

Even the Currant Bun tries to get in on the act:

Five-week Universal Credit delay forced me into B&B where my baby got covered in cocaine – now I’m stuck in a caravan’

Mum-of-two Kylie Goodyear, from Ipswich, blasts Government for trapping her family in poverty.

I stop for now because it’s all too familiar to our contributors.

Who have recently signaled another area of burning concern:  so-called “In-work Progression”.

Jim commented,

When the DWP piloted “in-work conditionality” the average increase in pay after twelve months with “work coach assistance” was, get this, an absolutely piffling £5.25 per week! Which blows the “work is the best way out of poverty” crap out of the water.

Here’s a link to the DWP report that spills the beans: Universal Credit: In-Work Progression Randomised Controlled Trial 

The Work and Pensions Committee are now conducting an inquiry, holding a session this very day, on the issue.

In-work Progression: latest Universal Credit inquiry launched

In 2016, the Committee launched an inquiry on “in-work progression” for people claiming Universal Credit. This is the name for the Government’s policy plan to encourage and support people who are in already in work and claiming Universal Credit to increase their pay, through more hours, or getting a better paying job. The Committee has previously described the plans as “potentially the most significant welfare reform since 1948”.

The Committee identified particular concerns, however, about the conditions that could be attached to any new “support” to assist people trying to increase their income from work.

Conditions or “conditionality” are already of course attached to job-seeking benefits: the requirements on every claimant who can work, or at least look for work to do so, as a condition of getting the benefit.

The other side of that is the sanction, a cut to part of your benefit if you fail to meet a condition of the benefit, like meeting with your Work Coach or going on a course, or to a job interview.

The Committee reported on the deep problems of Benefit sanctions late last year, and called on the Government not to introduce sanctions for people in work until there was robust evidence to show that they helped people to progress.

In the context of in-work progression,  conditions might include being obliged to seek extra hours of work, or continue to look for higher paid work while in your existing job.

How this would work in practice, and whether or how sanctions would apply if you couldn’t, for example, take on extra hours you were offered because of caring responsibilities, are among the questions the Committee will be looking at.

Among the concerns the Committee identified in its 2016 inquiry into In-work progression in Universal Credit were:

  • There is not yet comprehensive evidence on how to deliver an effective in-work service
  • JCP work coaches would have to develop new skills and become a new form of public servant
  • The case for in-work conditionality backed up by financial sanctions is untested so far

They state:

The Committee is now holding a follow-up inquiry, to look at the progress the Government is making, the readiness of Jobcentre Plus work coaches, and what more the Government could do to support people to progress in work.

This is happening today:

08 May 2019 9:30 am

Oral Evidence Session

Universal Credit: In-work progression

View details

Witness(es)

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute
Tony Wilson, Director, Institute for Employment Studies
Julia Waltham, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Working Families
Laura Dewar, Policy Officer, Gingerbread
Amanda Faull, Partnerships and Development Manager, Timewise Foundation
Sharlene McGee, Policy and Research Manager, Leonard Cheshire Disability

Location

Room 16, Palace of Westminster

Written by Andrew Coates

May 8, 2019 at 9:23 am

Universal Credit, “Something Orwellian” about a system which can “generate and aggravate human misery” says CPAG Report.

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System Slammed as Orwellian.

This report documents the systemic failure of universal credit to meet these basic standards. People in need are left to guess at and grope for things which should be clear and tangible. The consequences are not limited to over or under-payment. They feed into the stress and worry that so many people managing on low incomes experience, which in turn can affect family life for children growing up in these environments. There is something Orwellian about a system which is intended to alleviate hardship yet is administered in ways which generate and
aggravate human misery.

The Rt Hon Sir Stephen Sedley, former Lord Justice of Appeal

Computer says ‘no!’ – stage one: information provision

Universal credit is ‘Orwellian’, says former high court judge

Guardian.

Sir Stephen Sedley says digital benefits system is also failing to meet legal obligations.

A former high court judge has described universal credit as “Orwellian” because of its tendency to create and exacerbate misery for claimants even while it professes to be rescuing them from hardship.

Sir Stephen Sedley’s comments about the troubled digital benefits system accompanied a report that revealed hundreds of claimants risked falling into debt because the system had miscalculated their monthly benefit payments.

Claimants who were underpaid, or overpaid, sums amounting in some cases to hundreds of pounds a month were routinely unable to work out the correct payment, or how they could challenge the decision, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) report said.

The charity criticised the “opaque” way in which individuals’ monthly benefits payments were calculated, and said the lack of information provided to claimants who wished to challenge the calculation was in some cases unlawful.

This is what the  CPAG says, (

Computer says ‘no!’ – how good is information provision in universal credit?

It’s a fundamental principle in a democracy that governmental bodies must have reasons for their decisions… that they should be able to explain what those reasons are… [and any] decision should be open to review or appeal.” So begins our latest report, Computer says ‘No!’ These words are from former Court of Appeal Judge Sir Stephen Sedley, who offers the benefit of his many years of legal experience to something that often gets overlooked as too technical, but which can affect the day-to-day lives of many people: what information claimants are given about decisions relating to their universal credit support, and what information they have about challenging any of those decisions.

Our new report exposes how people claiming universal credit are kept in the dark about what they are getting – the online statements do not explain in full how universal credit amounts are calculated. This means that people cannot easily check if they are getting what they should be getting, and find it harder to predict how their payment will change if their circumstances do. This matters not just because we know the government does get things wrong when calculating benefits, but also because there is a vital principle at stake. In our social security system, decisions are made all the time about what support people are entitled to (for example when they are awarded help with rent, deemed fit for work, or given a sanction). If people cannot clearly see what those decisions are, they cannot challenge them when errors are made.

To take just one example, let’s look at the case of a working mother who we’ll call Sarah.  Sarah, who works two part-time jobs to support herself and her daughter, claimed universal credit when she couldn’t make ends meet. She was surprised to get much less support than she was expecting. She could see on her universal credit online account that she was getting the standard allowance and support for housing costs, as well as details of her earnings and how these affected her universal credit. Sarah couldn’t see anything wrong, but a welfare rights adviser spotted that there was no child element included for her daughter and the work allowance – which she was entitled to as a working parent – had also been missed. As a result Sarah and her daughter were about £400 worse off each month than they should have been.

This is perhaps the most significant section for our contributors.

The online system makes it difficult for claimants to identify decisions as they are often hidden within a range of processes and communications. It’s only when a claimant can see how and when a decision has been made that they’re able to tell whether this decision was correct. And it’s only when a claimant knows how they can challenge an incorrect decision that they can go about getting it fixed. If the decision-making is murky you can’t begin to challenge it. If you don’t know how to challenge it then the chances of getting it fixed are slim to none. Our report sets out practical ways in which the DWP could improve the information it provides to people receiving universal credit, to make sure all decisions and appeal rights are clearly explained. As more and more people move on to universal credit and as we see the effect wrong decisions can have on people’s lives, we urge the DWP to act to fix these problems urgently.

Sedley ends his introduction with this,

Whether this is happening by accident or by design is an argument for another time and place. Child Poverty Action Group, with its long and honourable record of standing up for the poorest members of our society, has made a powerful and well-documented case for demystifying the process by which government is computing the benefit support on which hundreds of thousands of our poorest citizens now have to depend, and for ensuring that errors can be identified and corrected. If the rule of law is to mean anything, it must at least mean this.

From CPAG thread:

Full report available here.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2019 at 11:42 am

Food Banks and Universal Credit. Go together like an ‘orse and carriage.

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In the last five years, food bank use in our network has increased by 73% (Trussell Trust).

To go to a Food Bank is not easy.

Last night on Channel Four the news carried a report on the food poverty that is driving people there.

Charity handed out 1.6m foodbank parcels in one year – rise of 20 per cent

A leading food bank charity says the number of three-day supplies it’s given out in the last five years has “soared” by 73 per cent.

According to figures released by the Trussell Trust, in the last year 1.6 million emergency food bank parcels were handed out – that’s a 19% increase on the year before. Of those, more than half a million went to children.

Our Social Affairs Editor Jackie Long has been to meet some of the young people who understand food poverty first hand, and are now determined to do something to tackle it.

The Guardian reported on the same day.

‘I’m at rock bottom’: food bank offers respite from universal credit

The food bank in St Simon’s church hall, in a quiet residential street off Shepherd’s Bush Green in west London is buzzing with activity. It’s open for three hours, offering a brief window of help and respite for scores of local people who have fallen on hard times.

Livia, 44, is a self-employed fitness trainer making her first visit to a food bank, accompanied by her daughter. Work is supposed to be the path out of poverty, but universal credit is stressing her out, an “absolute nightmare”, and causing her to run up rent arrears. “I put on a brave face but I’m at rock bottom.”

As with many self-employed claimants, the vagaries of universal credit have proved demoralising for Livia. Although her business is new – and she had to have time off after a family bereavement – she is required to meet demanding monthly income targets and, if she does not make them, universal credit will not make up the difference.

And this:

The Trussell Trust site can be accessed here:

 

Meanwhile Amber Rudd is still happy:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 26, 2019 at 10:10 am

Scottish Unions call for end to Universal Credit and for a “radical welfare system to replace it.”

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Does Universal Credit Offer a Greater Joy!

Scottish TUC Conference (Morning Star) – thanks Ken.

Unions should campaign for a radical welfare system to replace universal credit, delegates hear

Note

There are a number of motions about replacing Universal Credit making their way through the Labour Party policy making structure and the TUC (Ipswich Labour Party and Ipswich Trades Council have submitted one).

UNIONS should campaign not just for the scrapping of universal credit (UC) but draw up a radical welfare system to replace it, Scottish TUC delegates heard today.

A motion proposed by Edinburgh Trades Union Council called for the STUC to campaign for the replacement of UC as soon as possible with a system free from sanctions, outsourcing and benefits caps.

Speaking in favour of the motion, Public & Commercial Services (PCS) union delegate Steve West described UC as “a conscious strategy to demonise benefits claimants.”

He condemned the increased foodbank use, “cruel” assessments and outsourcing to the private sector that results from the system.

But Mr West emphasised that a replacement should not simply constitute a return to old benefits, which he said had resulted in many of the same problems before they were combined to form UC.

“The people of Scotland deserve a far better social security system than we already have, and the trade union movement can play an important role in making sure that happens,” he said.

PCS acting president Fran Heathcote told congress that 40 per cent of those responsible for administering UC are also in receipt of the benefit.

She accused the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) of adopting a bunker mentality and refusing to address any of the problems raised by claimants and unions.

Ms Heathcote called for “a system that our members can take pride in delivering.”

Congress also heard from Unison delegate Helen Duddy, who gave a personal account of her granddaughter’s difficult experience with UC bureaucracy when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2017.

“We’re a very strong, close family with strong ties to Unison, who helped us,” said Ms Duddy. “I would not like any other family to go through this scenario.”

National Union of Journalists delegate Lorraine Mallinder described how UC has been “an unmitigated disaster,” describing it as “tantamount to a super-sanction on freelancers.”

Supporting the motion, Unite delegate Tam Kirby told congress that the support of “every single trade unionist in Scotland” was required to end the UC benefits system.

UC is “the latest weapon they’re using against us in the class war they’re waging against us,” Mr Kirby said.

Meanwhile in the DWP:

We ran this story a few days ago but it continues to develop.

Independent Wednesday.

Ministers have been accused of keeping “alarming” findings about their flagship universal credit scheme under wraps for a year and a half.

MPs say it was “deeply irresponsible” to delay the release of the report, which suggests nearly half of claimants were not aware their tax credits would stop when they claimed universal credit, and 56 per cent felt they received too little information from HMRC.

The document was produced in November 2017 but only released this month to MPs who, in the meantime, have had to make “pivotal” decisions based on “partial” information, according to the chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field.

In a letter to senior ministers, Mr Field said the “excessively long delay” had taken place during ongoing decisions about the flagship welfare benefit, which have affected the “lives and incomes of millions of people”.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has repeatedly argued that universal credit is more generous than the old benefit system and provides a “safety net” for those who need it.

Our old friend Amber Rudd is still at it!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2019 at 10:07 am

Work and Pensions Committee treated “like dirt” for criticising Universal Credit.

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The Work and Pensions Committee site,

The Committee has today taken the exceptional step of publishing a follow up report to the Government’s response to its report on support for childcare as a barrier to work under Universal Credit.

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

“We on the Committee are frankly sick of these disrespectful Government responses that treat us like dirt and fail to engage with our robust, evidence-based conclusions. It’s not clear they’ve even read this one. Worse, in responding this way, Government dismisses the experience and evidence of the individuals and organisations that have taken the time, and made the effort, and are working with us to try to fix the unholy mess that is Universal Credit.

“This response in particular is simply not acceptable, and that is why we are taking the unusual step of issuing this report, demanding that they go back, look at what we and our witnesses have said, and come up with a second, decent response. This will not do.”

Powerful witness evidence

Among those who gave evidence so powerfully to the original inquiry was Thuto Mali, a single mum who was forced to turn down a well-paid job offer because she could not at that moment find the obligatory upfront cost of childcare so that she could start work.  The multiple problems of Universal Credit also forced her to turn, with her young son, to a foodbank at the Christmas before last. Save the Children recently informed the Committee that Thuto just won The Sun’s ‘Supermum of the Year’.

Correspondence published today between the Chair of the Committee and the Secretary of State on Universal Credit:

Today’s report says Government should now:

1)  review its response and provide a response which matches the consideration the Committee employed in an attempt to help parents to move into work, as the Government claims it is encouraging them to do. If the Government considers that the solutions the Committee recommended are not practicable, it should explain why and set out alternative means of addressing those problems.

2)  explain how, in the absence of plans to introduce direct payments, it intends to address the serious difficulties that both parents and childcare providers are experiencing with the current system

3)  explain the details of the pilots it is running to trial a more flexible approach to the provision of receipts for childcare costs, including where these pilots are being run, what options for providing evidence of childcare costs are being trialled, when the pilots started, how long they will run for and how they will be monitored;

4)  explain why it is so difficult to publish information about the use of the Flexible Support Fund, what analysis it has done of the additional administrative work that would be created, and if it will be published in full;

5)  explain its view on the recommendation that it should divert funding from the schemes aimed at wealthier parents (Tax Free Childcare and the 30 hours free childcare) towards Universal Credit childcare to help more people into work.

6)  commit to providing an analysis of the Government’s spending on the 30 free hours free childcare by income decile, to show which households are benefiting from this policy – in addition to the analysis on the impact of UC childcare cost caps it has already promised

By convention, the Government has two months from publication of a Committee report to respond.

MPs slam ‘dismissive’ and ‘disrespectful’ DWP over Universal Credit report

Work and Pensions Committee blasts “disrespectful Government responses that treat us like dirt”.

Furious MPs have today (Thursday) blasted the UK Government over its “dismissive” and “disrespectful” response to a report on Universal Credit (UC) from the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee.

The Committee’s report concluded that, far from helping parents get into or back into work after having a child, the way the “support” is constructed under UC actually acts as a barrier to work.

In a hard-hitting second report sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) today, the Committee said the Government’s response to its original report was “simply dismissing the very serious problems that are plaguing parents who are trying to get into work”.

Benefit claimant left sarcastic suicide note ‘thanking’ the DWP before taking his own life

He was left unable to top up his electric meter due to problems with Universal Credit.

A man reportedly left a “sarcastic” note thanking the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for leaving him unable to afford electricity, shortly before taking his own life from a lethal overdose.

The Derby Telegraph reports that Brian Sycamore was experiencing difficulties with the new benefit, which merges six social security benefits into one single monthly payment.

The 62-year-old is said to have suffered with back pain for a number of years and was plunged into financial distress because of problems claiming Universal Credit.

The report concludes:

Coroner Pinder recorded the cause of death as “suicide”, but did not refer to the issues Mr Sycamore was having with Universal Credit in her report.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Suicide is a very complex issue, so it would be wrong to link it solely to someone’s benefit claim.

Amber Rudd meanwhile is bathing in flattery.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 13, 2019 at 10:17 am

Fourth Anniversary of the Benefit Freeze Plunges More and More People into Deep Poverty.

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Image result for benefits freeze

George Osborne Introduced Benefit Freeze (2015 Budget).

The 2015 Budget introduced a four-year freeze on most working-age benefits and tax credits. This meant that in 2016 and onwards their value remained as it had been in 2015 rather than rising with inflation.

Everybody knows the Benefits Freeze its biting.

On this issue the Government is not split between those who’d like to make Britain a US-style free-market economy, allied with Trump, and with a minimal post-Brexit Welfare state, and those who want to a decent standard of living for all, including those on benefits.

The free-market chancers in the Hard Brexit camp may be the worst in the long term, but each side at the moment is keep the disaster that is Universal Credit, and the linked Benefit Freeze going.

Just how mad and detached from reality they are can be seen from – potential leadership candidate, and present DWP Minister Amber Rudd’s recent tweet:

It’s good to know that the Currant Bun has gone back to the Tory fold, and has dropped its grating efforts to be the Universal Credit claimants best mate.

Perhaps they’ll run this “story”,

Cheery old Woolfy!

The cockles of your heart warmed you can turn to this:

Families likely to be ‘pulled into poverty’ by benefits freeze continuing for another year

The freeze – introduced in 2016 by the then chancellor George Osborne – entered into its fourth year on Monday.

Florence Snead continues in todays ‘I’

More families are likely to be “pulled into poverty” because of the benefits freeze continuing for another year, it has been claimed.

The decision to continue with the cap on working-age benefits and tax credits is “unjustifiable” and will leave families living in poverty on average £560 worse off over the next year, according to a charity.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said this was equivalent to three months of food shopping for an average low-income family.

In the midst of huge political and economic uncertainty, families who have already seen their support eroded know that the coming year will be hard to get through,” said the JRF chief executive, Campbell Robb.

“It’s not right that more parents will face impossible situations – trying to decide which essential bills to pay and what they can cut back on to make it through each week.

“Keeping benefits and tax credits frozen is unjustifiable: 4.1 million children are locked in poverty, nearly three-quarters of whom are in a working household.”

The organisation said ending the freeze would help working families to stay afloat.

“As the Government approaches its spending review, it needs to look at how best to protect people from harm who are otherwise left without an anchor in uncertain times,” Mr Robb added.

The JRF was among nine charities which wrote to the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, in February urging him to end the freeze this year.

It said continuing the freeze until April 2020 would result in 200,000 more people being locked into poverty.

Nigel Grey MP MP wrote on Monday on Politics Home:

Today marks the beginning of the fourth year of the benefit freeze. Like many of the UK government’s failures – the Windrush Scandal, the shambolic implementation and rollout of Universal Credit, the appalling neglect child refugees – if Brexit wasn’t happening, the disastrous impact of the benefit freeze would be plastered across the front-pages on an almost daily basis.

The benefit freeze was introduced by the Welfare Reform and Work Act in 2016, and freezes most working-age benefits at the same value as in 2015/16. In practice, what this means is that while Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 6.5% since the freeze was brought in, the benefits that many working-age people rely on have not increased at all.

This Tory government has implemented a massive real-terms cut to people’s income, and it’s having a catastrophic impact on people’s lives. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have said the benefit freeze will have affected more than 27 million people across the UK and will have pushed 400,000 people into poverty by 2020.

On top of this, with Brexit pushing up inflation, the benefit freeze will cut another £4.4 billion this year – nearly a billion more than intended out of the pockets of those least able to bear it.

Moral outrage

The freeze includes benefits for children, as well as support for disabled people looking for work. Targeting austerity at disadvantaged children and disabled people is nothing short of a moral outrage and this Tory government should hang their heads in shame.

Theresa May and her government have taken almost no action to boost support for people who rely on social security. In one year, the benefit freeze cut will more than wipe out the total investment in the Work Allowance boost up to 2022 that was announced in the 2018 Budget.

Advance payments of Universal Credit which are meant to help people during the five week wait are, in fact, just loans that have to be paid back to DWP. And the two-child cap on Child Tax Credit is taking thousands away from families with more than two children.

A tragedy and a farce

Moreover, the revolving office-door of the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is both a tragedy and a farce. The idea that the Department chiefly responsible for the wellbeing of poor, elderly and vulnerable people is being used as a platform from which Tory MPs can hop, skip or jump depending on which way the political wind blows is indicative of the contempt the UK government has for the disadvantaged and the marginalised.

The benefit freeze represents one of the biggest cuts to social security we have seen in recent times, yet Labour didn’t even bother to mention it in their last manifesto and the current DWP Secretary has shown nothing but apathy towards evidence of its terrible impact.

The cuts imposed by the UK government have and will further entrench poverty across the UK.

This is a political choice, not a necessity. One of the quickest ways this Government could put money back into people’s pockets would be to lift the freeze immediately and up-rate benefits with inflation.

 

Neil Gray is SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts and the SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2019 at 3:38 pm

Ministry Hid Report on Universal Credit Hardship.

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Image result for Universal credit transition from tax credits report

Damming 2017 Report only now Released. 

 

Universal Credit may not get the headlines it deserves these days, something else happening I hear on the wireless, but, while Parliament’s  leaking roof capture’s the world attention there is (finally) this very unleaky report.

Study for DWP reveals 78% of people moved to Universal Credit struggle with bills

Mirror.

The shocking report dated November 2017 was only slipped onto the government’s website today

Joint DWP and HMRC report was released on Thursday but dated November 2017

Ministers sat for nearly a year and a half on research that revealed that tax credit claimants experienced “real financial problems” after they signed on to universal credit, it has emerged.

The joint Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HMRC study, which examined how tax credit claimants coped with the move, found 60% of those who said they struggled to pay bills said their difficulties began when they moved on to the new benefit.

More than half of claimants reported that the routine six-week wait for a first payment took them by surprise, and nearly half of those who were expecting a delay underestimated by a third how long the wait would be.

Strike us feather me down.

The study was slipped out on the DWP and HMRC websites on Thursday morning – even though the report itself is dated November 2017, and the research was carried out between October 2016 and July 2017.

Forgetfulness, understandable perhaps…

More than half of claimants reported that the routine six-week wait for a first payment took them by surprise, and nearly half of those who were expecting a delay underestimated by a third how long the wait would be.

About half of those surveyed did not have sufficient savings to tide them over the six weeks, the study found, and this group struggled especially. A few claimants endured “considerable stress” after payment delays meant they had to wait up to three months to get their money.

Overall, 25% said they were having real financial problems and falling behind with many bills and commitments, 13% said they were falling behind with some commitments, and 13% said they were keeping up but it felt a constant struggle to do so,” the report found

Here is the report: The transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: qualitative and quantitative research with claimants.

More from this:

Making a claim online

The UC system is designed to be administrated predominantly online, including the application process. It is therefore important that individuals can complete the application online on their own: ideally, claimants would not need assistance from DWP. Most survey participants reported that they were able to make their UC claim online (77 per cent). Over half (57 per cent) of all claimants interviewed completed the claim themselves, whilst a one in five (20 per cent) required help from someone else such as their partner, friend or relative. A further 19 per cent reported applying with help from an adviser at the Jobcentre. If it is assumed that the adviser would have assisted with an online claim, then the proportion of those claiming online overall is 96%. Claimants’ main reasons for not completing their application online were a lack of familiarity using computers (21 per cent) and a lack of access to computers or the internet (11 per cent).

Payment Gap.

Universal Credit claimants typically experience a payment gap22 of about six weeks from making their UC claim until their first UC payment is made. Once the UC claim is made, tax credits stop. Less than half (42 per cent) of claimants were aware that there would be a gap in payments. Awareness was particularly low amongst female claimants and claimants with children (57 per cent of female claimants, compared to 43 per cent of male claimants, and 55 per cent of claimants who had children included on their claim compared to 41 per cent who did not, were not aware of the gap). Of those that were aware of the payment gap, just over half found out through Jobcentre Plus (54 per cent).

Service.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of Universal Credit (UC) claimants were satisfied with the service they received during transition to Universal Credit (15 per cent were very satisfied and 30 per cent were fairly satisfied). Similar proportions reported being dissatisfied: 42 per centoverall (13 per cent fairly dissatisfied and 29 per cent very dissatisfied).

Where claimants were dissatisfied with the process, the survey explored why this was. The three main reasons for dissatisfaction were lack of clear information about the process The transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: qualitative and quantitative research with claimants of stopping tax credits and claiming UC (34 per cent), length of the payment gap (29 per cent) and poor organisation (29 per cent) (e.g. a lack of departmental knowledge of the process and timescales or the ability to advise claimants accordingly).

Reactions:

Ironically, Frank Field, chair of the commons work and pensions committee, accused the DWP at the time of “withholding bad news”, claiming that Gauke only gave the go-ahead to universal credit because officials “had withheld the true scale of the problems”.

Margaret Greenwood MP, the shadow work and pensions secretary, asked why the government was only now publishing the findings. She said: “Universal credit should be helping people out of poverty; instead it is pushing many people into debt and towards food banks. The government must take notice of its own research and stop universal credit as a matter of urgency.”

Yet all is not darkness.

The Currant Bun has this Good News!

Amber Rudd plans £2bn Universal Credit spending spree to help out struggling parents

The Work and Pensions Secretary wants to pump more cash into child benefits and housing allowances

AMBER RUDD is preparing a near £2billion spending spree on benefits for low-paid Brits to tackle a shock rise in child poverty.

The Sun can reveal the Work and Pensions Secretary is demanding a small fortune to top up child benefits and housing allowances.

With all this joy being spread it’s no wonder the DWP has the cash for this:

Written by Andrew Coates

April 5, 2019 at 11:58 am

New Help to Claim Service to “offer that little Bit of extra help” adds to the “best things” about Universal Credit, Amber Rudd (April the First).

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Image result for classical painting unicorns

Amber Rudd’s DWP Universal Credit Help Service.

New ‘Help to Claim’ service provides extra Universal Credit support

DWP invests £39 million into new ‘Help to Claim’ service provided by Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland for Universal Credit claimants.

Published 1 April 2019

Amber Rudd has been happy for days and days and days!

 

 

 

Sunday’s Mail, a byword for accuracy, reports that the Tories are up in arms against anybody saying otherwise!

Tories blast BBC’s ‘poverty bias’ as ministers say Panorama report which claimed Universal Credit causes hunger and suffering is ‘fake news’ and left out details on huge payouts for ‘victims’

Ministers are at war with the BBC over a ‘fake news’ campaign against the Government’s Universal Credit system.

Officials working for Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd have submitted a dossier to the Corporation of what they describe as ‘biased and inaccurate’ reporting about people’s ability to survive on the benefits, received by 1.3 million claimants.

It comes as a Mail on Sunday investigation has also uncovered a number of glaring inconsistencies in reports about the system by the BBC and other media outlets.

Officials began compiling the alleged catalogue of errors and half-truths following an edition of the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Panorama on the ‘Universal Credit Crisis’ in Flintshire, North Wales, in November.

Yet, strangely, all the advice and all the bleating by poor put-upon Tories in the world is not going to change this:

Universal Credit increasing debt for Solihull social housing tenants

DWP: Almost 3,000 ‘sanctions’ for Teesside’s 10,000 Universal Credit claimants

New figures reveal that payments had been stopped or reduced on Teesside almost 3,000 times, as of October

And so it goes….

Written by Andrew Coates

April 1, 2019 at 3:28 pm

Sanctions Threat Set to Grow in Understaffed Universal Credit.

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Related image

Benefit Sanctions Encourage Goodthink.

Lots of posters on this site are rightly concerned about benefit sanctions.

Benefit sanctions, that is people losing money, right up to getting nothing whatsoever,  can happen for many reasons and leave people in dire poverty.

These are the official reasons for sanctions.

You may get a lower level sanction (four or 13 weeks) if:

  • you lose an employment scheme place through misconduct or without good reason
  • you don’t go to meetings on time with your adviser or work coach, or take part in interviews
  • you don’t do what your adviser or work coach tells you to do to find work, such as attend a training course or update your CV
  • you don’t take part in employment schemes (for example, Steps 2 Success) when your adviser or work coach tells you to
  • you don’t meet your employment scheme adviser on time or take actions they tell you to
  • you give up a place on a scheme voluntarily

Intermediate level sanctions

  • if you aren’t available for or actively seeking work, your claim may be ended.
  • if you make a new claim you may get an intermediate level sanction up to either four or 13 weeks.

Higher level sanctions

You may get a higher level sanction (13, 26 or 78 weeks) if:

  • you were dismissed for misconduct from your last job or without good reason
  • you left your last job
  • you don’t apply for suitable jobs your adviser, work coach or employment scheme adviser tells you about
  • you don’t take a job you are offered that your adviser, work coach or employment scheme adviser had told you about.

By in large it’s the “actively seeking work” area that’s the most of a problem.

With the so-called “34 Hours a Week” job search, part of your ‘agreement’ with the Job Centre, there’s plenty of leeway for abuse.

In fact, as Ted points out, if you can prove you’ve taken  real steps to try to get work , you should, in principle be fine.

In October last year the justification for this punishment system was undermined:

No evidence that benefit sanctions work, finds secret DWP report

The report, published with no ministerial announcement on 12 September, shows docking benefits as a punishment for alleged failures to comply with Jobcentre Plus rules does not encourage claimants to apply for additional work, and in some cases “damages the relationship between the work coach and the claimant”.

A specific area of concern has led to this call:

BPS signs consensus statement calling for removal of benefit sanctions

22 March 2019

The British Psychological Society has joined eight other leading mental health organisations in calling for the removal of benefit sanctions for people with mental health difficulties.

Yet the fault-ridden system has stayed in place and now looks set to get worse.

The report below is based on a National Audit Office Report primarily about Supporting disabled people to work.

Full report here

Coverage of this, DWP rapped for ‘disappointing’ lack of insight on helping disabled people find jobs  Civil Service World.

But there are wider implications which The Independent’s May Bulman reports on:

More universal credit claimants could face sanctions as workload of DWP staff doubles, campaigners warn

The NAO report highlights concerns with the DWP’s approach to helping disabled people into work, saying ministers were yet to make a “significant dent” in the number of unemployed disabled people.

The watchdog said the rise in caseload for work coaches meant they may not be able to maintain the amount of time spent with disabled claimants, “let alone meet the department’s aim of increasing time with disabled people who are furthest away from working”.

More universal credit claimants could face cuts to their benefits when their caseworkers are handed bigger workloads to reduce costs, politicians and charities have warned.

Support for claimants could also worsen, said the National Audit Office (NAO). Their warning came after the government predicted work coaches – the frontline staff in job centres – would have to deal with more than twice the number of claimants as universal credit is rolled out.

Campaigners said the increased workload on “already struggling” staff would lead to more claimants being placed on sanctions – when benefits are docked because conditions are not met.

..

Figures published in a report by the NAO show the caseload for work coaches will rise from around 130 to more than 280 by 2024-25. Within this, the number of claimants per work coach in the “intensive work search group”, who require the most support, is expected to increase from 96 to 133 – an increase of 39 per cent.

Universal credit workers last month took two days of strike action in Walsall and Wolverhampton over workloads, demanding the recruitment of more staff, permanent contracts for fixed term staff and a decrease in workloads, and accusing ministers of “running the service into the ground”.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: “Universal credit workers are at breaking point and the latest rollout will only add to the chronic problems of this disastrous policy.

..

Amber Rudd, meanwhile, is tip top cheerful today:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2019 at 5:29 pm

The Bedroom Tax that Never Went Away.

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Image result for bedroom tax

It’s still there, and worse, under Universal Credit.

Amongst all the other things about Universal Credit, wait for payments, sanctions, benefit freeze, on-line forms and the hated ‘journal’, life under the rules of Coachy, and all the rest, most people, well this Blog for one, had forgotten about the Bedroom Tax.

Not, apparently the dogged Newshounds of the regional press.

Today: Birmingham Live.

Universal Credit claimants face bedroom tax of up to 25 per cent – here’s what you need do

These are the Universal Credit housing rules – as Government tries to make system fairer for tenants.

People receiving Universal Credit are being hit by cuts in their benefit because of the so-called bedroom tax.

Those in council or housing association properties are finding their Universal Credit reduced if they have more rooms than they need – even if there is a lodger living in one of them.

The amount paid to cover the rent could be slashed by as much as 25 per cent, says Shelter and Citizens Advice.

Bedroom tax – more formally known as under-occupancy penalty – was introduced in 2012 to reduce housing payments to those with spare bedrooms.

And it applies to Universal Credit, which has replaced six existing social security payments including the old housing benefit.

Liverpool Echo.

Claimants warned that Bedroom tax can reduce Universal Credit payments by 25%

Payments can be reduced – even if there’s a lodger living in the room.

If you want further cheer..

Birmingham Live.

The TRUTH about Universal Credit – from DWP Jobcentre staff

These are the stories of the staff who deal with Universal Credit on a daily basis.

Meanwhile Amber Rudd is still relentlessly full of high spirits.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 25, 2019 at 11:22 am

Universal Credit, 50% of Claimants Face Deductions from their Benefits.

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Amber Rudd Faces 50% of UC Claimants Misery.

On the things that ‘Think Tanks’ like Bright Blue seem unable, er, to think about, is the way Universal Credit has led to many people having deductions taken from their benefits.

Plain as the wart on their noses – causes being, amongst others, the long wait for money, and the problems with paying rent, and utility bills, the scale of this practice, as well as the immediate causes, astonishes even this Site.

The story is all over the media today so even the Rotters Club and the ERG might deign to notice it.

Over half of Universal Credit claimants have money deducted from payments, new figures show

Independent.

Deductions made when claimants have outstanding debts with their utility companies or landlord

More than half of Universal Credit claimants have money deducted from benefit payments

Chronicle Live.

Deductions are automatically taken from benefits when a claimant has a debt to pay, but an MP argues they’re cruel and force a reliance on foodbanks.

More than 50% of Universal Credit claimants have their benefits deducted – which an MP says is the ‘main supply route to food banks’.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures released yesterday reveal 53% of Universal Credit claimants had some cash taken out of their payments in October 2018.

Deductions – which differ from sanctions – are made when claimants owe money to utility companies or landlords. The automatic deductions are used to pay the outstanding debts.

But MP Frank Field, the chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee who requested the figures, says the deductions leave families unable to afford essentials and are “a main supply route to foodbanks “. He has called on energy companies to write-off debts for customers who genuinely cannot afford to pay.

The figures show that 532,000 Universal Credit claimants had some of their payments deducted in October 2018.

Six thousand claimants had reductions of 40% of their allowance or more, while 129,000 claimants had deductions of between 31 and 40%.

October’s statistics show a sharp rise in deductions compared to figures obtained by FOI in August 2018 by The Guardian newspaper, which showed one-third of claimants at that time saw money deducted from their payments.

In May 2017, just one in 10 claimants had their payments deducted, the figures said.

Here is the actual reply: Department for Work and Pensions.

Asked by Frank Field (Birkenhead)
Asked on: 07 February 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Universal Credit
Answered by: Alok Sharma
Answered on: 20 March 2019
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many and what proportion of universal credit claims had a deduction applied in the most recent month for which data is available.

The Government recognises the importance of safeguarding the welfare of claimants who have incurred debt. Under Universal Credit there is a co-ordinated approach to deductions from benefit, which simplifies the current complex arrangements.

The aim of the deductions policy in Universal Credit is to protect vulnerable claimants from eviction and/or having their gas, electricity and water cut off, by providing a last resort repayment method for arrears of these essential services.

Work has been done to increase awareness of advances and access to them for claimants, and to support this, new guidance has been issued to staff.

This guidance makes it clear that claimants should be made aware of advances, made aware of their maximum entitlement and informed that their entitlement will be adjusted over the relevant recovery period to take this into account. This increased awareness has resulted in around 60% of eligible new claims to Universal Credit receiving an advance in October 2018, providing further financial support until their first payment.

Of all eligible claims* to Universal Credit Full Service due a payment in October 2018, 53% (532,000 claims) had a deduction to their standard allowance.

Of these 532,000 claims with a deduction:

a) 53% (284,000 claims) had deductions up to 20% of the Standard Allowance (28% of all eligible claims).

b) 21% (113,000 claims) had deductions between 21% and 30% of the Standard Allowance (11% of all eligible claims).

c) 24% (129,000 claims) had deductions between 31% and 40% of their Standard Allowance (13% of all eligible claims).

d) 1% (6,000 claims) had deductions above 40% of their Standard Allowance (0.6% of all eligible claims).

Notes:

*Eligible claimants are claimants that have satisfied all the requirements of claiming Universal Credit; they have provided the necessary evidence, signed their claimant commitment and are eligible and have recieved their first payment.

These figures do not include sanctions or fraud penalties which are reductions of benefit rather than deductions.

Claim numbers may not match official statistics caseloads due to small methodological differences.

Claim numbers are rounded to the nearest 1,000.

Amber has other things on her mind:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2019 at 11:32 am

The Moral Diseconomy of Universal Credit.

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How the Crowd Reacted to Injustice in the Past.

It is possible to detect in almost every eighteenth-century crowd action some legitimising notion. By the notion of legitimation I mean that the men and women in the crowd were informed by the belief that they were defending traditional rights or customs; and, in general, that they were supported by the wider consensus of the community. On occasion this popular consensus was endorsed by some measure of licence afforded by the authorities. More commonly, the consensus was so strong that it overrode motives of fear or deference.”

Libcom: The moral economy of the English crowd in the eighteenth century – E. P. Thompson

Last night I listed to this on the wireless (with a mug of Co-Op 99 Tea…): Polling Badly. Archive on 4.

“Bad policy or badly implemented? Sarah Smith explores what went wrong with the Poll Tax. Have lessons been learned or is Universal Credit a repeat of history?”

The first thing that struck me about the Poll Tax was that the “Community Charge” was so disliked, without going into the obvious details, what that is went against the “consensus” that by right the poor did not get taxed as much as the rich. The better off (who make their money from the rest) should pay their whack out of their accumulated dosh. The Duke and Dustman having to fork out the same cash to pay for local services ran up against everything that people traditionally thought.

The programme then went into the way the Poll Tax was implemented.

A lot simpler than Universal Credit (UC) you may say.

One mob, the Tory lot, thought it a grand idea, since who cared about the poor – not them! – and it would all mean less expense for their well off crowd.

That was not the view of local authorities who saw their revenues crash as people either (1) could not or (2) would not pay up. (3) Disappeared from the electoral register so they would not even get a payment demand.

As E.P.Thompson might have said, the “crowd”, that is, everybody affected badly, got so angry that people rioted against it.

When they got to UC the focus was all about the implementation, the principle, putting benefits all together, was apparently, fine.

They didn’t go into much detail but it was obvious, bleeding obvious, that a system based ‘on-line’ would first of all run into problems (1) The private chancers who designed the computer systems are not bright enough to design a way to make this work properly, and (2) Not everybody is ‘on line’, able to use computers, get access to them, and all the rest. (3) Putting Coachy in charge of the ‘journal’ you are meant to fill in, as a religious duty…..

Next comes the detail, the way that waiting for weeks before you get money, sanctions, and the way that rent cash in hand can easily be spent immediately on other things.

Then there is the thorny issue of “in work” benefits with “conditionality”. That means people having to prove they are looking for better wages, for more hours, and the famous ‘job search’.

We could continue, and our contributors have.

Poll Tax Defeat.

The Poll Tax, they said on Polling Badly, was defeated because everybody was concerned.

And non-payment cut its roots out.

Not everyone is snarled up in Universal Credit.

But a hell of a lot of us are.

We cannot refuse to get paid!

But there’s a crowd of us all the same.

Universal Credit goes against the “Moral economy” principle that people unable to work should be entitled to a decent minimum to survive on, and those in work who need benefits should get them without being spied on, made to fulfill demeaning job search requirements, and not getting the money they need to live on.

This does not look like the end of the misery.

But Lo!

The “independent liberal conservative think tank”, “the modernising wing of the Tory party”,  Bright Blue has the answers……

Universal Credit proposal for ‘helping hand’ payout to end nightmare wait for cash (Birmingham Live).

Thinktank also suggests launch of Universal Credit phone app and live chat option

Among the problems associated with the Government’s new Universal Credit system are the nightmare five-week wait for the first payment and the online access that’s required.

These issues could be resolved if a series of new proposals are adopted, says thinktank and pressure group Bright Blue.

More  from the same ThinkTank: (TeesideLive)

DWP should pay compensation for late Universal Credit payments, report recommends

A think-tank has identified a number of issues, which could have helped hundreds of thousands of people

Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2019 at 11:25 am

New Outsourcing Scandal Hits Universal Credit.

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DWP Plans Outsourcing Shenanigans with the Usual Chancers. 

As these things do they creep up on you and then…Pow!

Ho hum.

Then we got this, excellent Blog post: New Assessment System Could Lose You TWO Benefits At Once

Then this:

Exclusive: Government’s £1.4 Billion Universal Credit And Welfare Reform Outsourcing Bill Revealed

Huffington Post.  Emma Youle

The government has awarded at least £1.4billion of outsourcing contracts linked to the roll-out of Universal Credit and other welfare reforms since 2012, HuffPost UK can reveal.

As Universal Credit continues to be beset by criticism it is forcing the poorest into debt, food poverty and rent arrears, new data has shown the firms that have profited from implementing the government’s social security reforms.

The data, obtained exclusively by HuffPost UK, reveals the vast sums the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has spent carrying out health and disability assessments on benefit claimants.

It has prompted mental health and disability charities to call for DWP to urgently review the “failing” system of assessment checks.

Among the firms that have won contracts are global giants of the consultancy world.

A huge £595million contract was awarded to American consultancy group Maximus to provide health and disability assessments, the largest single DWP contract related to welfare reform since 2012 according to the data.

The firms Atos and Capita also won contracts totalling £634million to carry out assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), a disability benefit.

Consultancy firm Deloitte was awarded a £750,000 contract for work to support the Universal Credit programme and a £3million deal was signed with IT firm Q-Nomy to develop an appointment booking service for the social security payment, which is intended to simplify working-age benefits.

Another £60,000 contract was awarded for the purchase of MacBooks for Universal Credit to Software Box Limited.

(Read the full article via link above).

And to top it all off the first story is developing.

As the Blog Post by Universal Credit Sufferer says,

Another glaring point raised by Channel 4 was that the DWP are looking to again to outsource this to private contractors. This contract however would be the biggest private contract by the DWP since 2012. The single contract would be worth a staggering £3 billion and that’s before VAT.

That amount of money could be used to bring an end to the crippling benefits freeze. It could be used to tackle the rise in homelessness and so much more. Instead, in true Tory fashion it will go in the coffers of company directors and their shareholders.

At a time when inequality has never been so high in modern times, when people are dying waiting for benefit decisions, this is an incredibly ridiculous thing to do.

And it’s always worth reading the small print of government announcements, as in the Spring Statement:

Yuk!

Amber Rudd meanwhile ploughs on:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2019 at 5:17 pm

Benefit Sanctions on Universal Credit Misery.

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Sanctions, a subject this Blog and our contributors have often raised, are in the news today.

The awful number of Universal Credit sanctions forcing Hull families into poverty

Hull Daily Mail.

Shocking new figures have revealed the number of people in Hull who have had their Universal Creditpayments stopped or cut since the scheme was rolled out.

…. 1,547 of the people in Hull claiming Universal Credit saw their payments stopped or reduced at least once since the scheme began, according to official figures as of October 2018.

Payments are either reduced or stopped completely depending on the severity of the sanction.

The lowest levels sanctions are those where a person has failed to attend a work-focused interview whereas the highest level of sanctions, which can last for up to three months, could be given for refusing a job offer.

If people are sanctioned more than once they can have their payments halted or reduced for extra weeks as a penalty.The findings have been condemned by critics with many agreeing that the sanctions are casting the most vulnerable people in society into “destitution.”

These are known as “sanctions,” and happen when a person is judged to have failed to meet the terms of their Universal Credit commitment.

And Cambridgeshire Live (also today),

This is how many people have had their Universal Credit stopped in Cambridgeshire

Payments are reduced or stopped, depending on the severity of the sanction given to that person

More than a thousand people who get Universal Credit in Cambridgeshire have seen their payments stopped or cut since the scheme started.

Warnings from experts have been issued as they think it means more people are having to use food banks, are being pushed into debt, and are forced to “struggle against the tide of poverty”.

The controversial “six-in-one” benefits system replaces “legacy”benefits, including tax credits, housing benefit and unemployment benefit.

But 1,362 people in Cambridgeshire have seen their payments stopped or reduced at least once since the scheme rolled out, according to official figures as of October 2018.

Some background:

Nine times more people sanctioned under Universal Credit

(2018. Mind)

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile Amber Rudd has grub on her mind:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 10, 2019 at 3:32 pm

End the Benefit Freeze, “predicted to increase poverty more than any other policy”.

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Image result for benefits freeze

I imagine many of us have the same routine.

Look in B&M for cheap food offers (tins of tomatoes to start with), and walk around to all the other places where stuff is good value – Aldi, Lidl, near the top of the list.

Every time – and I’m not talking about Bills, this is everyday, you notice that prices are slowly, but surely, going up.

Unlike benefits.

The Benefit Freeze started, believe it or not, in 2014.

The horror began where so many do – at Conservative party conference. In September 2014, then Chancellor George Osborne announced to the audience in Birmingham that benefits for people of working age would be frozen for two years.

New Statesman.

In the last few days there’s been a number of stories about this injustice.

Welfare Weekly,

Tory benefit freeze ‘predicted to increase poverty more than any other policy’

Chancellor Philip Hammond urged to end the freeze to working-age benefits a year earlier than originally planned.

It has been predicted that prolonging the four-year freeze to working-age benefits will “increase poverty more than any other policy” introduced by the Tory Government since 2015.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPSC), a cross-party group of MPs, has received evidence showing that a family of four receiving Universal Credit will be over £800 a year worse off by 2020, when the controversial freeze is set to end, “even if both parents are working full-time on the National Living Wage”.

And analysis of figures from the House of Commons Library shows that affected households will have incomes between £888 and £1,845 lower in 2019-20, in real-terms, than they would have had if the freeze wasn’t in place.

Evidence compiled by the WPSC found that ending the benefit freeze – for all frozen benefits other than child benefit – a year earlier than originally intended would lift 200,000 people out of poverty.

“Households have seen significant actual cuts to their real income because of the various caps and freezes since 2010: a single earner couple with two children’s income will fall by 0.7% in real terms, and an out-of-work lone parent with one child by 6.7% in real terms, between 2010/11 and 2019/20.”

Witnesses told the Committee that that the main issue driving poverty and destitution “is that working-age benefits are paid at far too low a level now and have been for a number of years”.

They added: “Obviously, that has been exacerbated by the benefit freeze, so they are losing value year on year.”

The UK’s largest food bank network Trussell Trust says the only way to alleviate poverty and ease demand on food banks is to “ensure incomes, from both work and benefits, can meet people’s living costs”.

The charity recommended that the benefits freeze be lifted and benefits uprated in line with inflation, “in particular, Child Tax Credits and the Child Element of Universal Credit should be uprated in line with inflation to reflect the additional, inescapable costs upon families.”

The demand for an end to the freeze came from the Work and Pensions Committee,

Benefit freeze “predicted to increase poverty more than any other policy”: Committee to question Amber Rudd on benefit levels “driving destitution and poverty” – ahead of Spring Statement next week, Committee makes costed case to end freeze year early.

During March the Committee is taking evidence on the effects of the – effective – cut in people’s living standards.

Ahead of the evidence hearing the Committee has written to Amber Rudd saying “the current freeze was originally designed to save £3bn… the Treasury would still make in-year savings of £2.5bn in 2019/20, even if the freeze was ended a year early. This, combined with the most recent monthly public borrowing figures showing a budget surplus of £14.9bn in January 2019—£5.6bn more than the surplus in January 2018, and the largest January budget surplus on record   – lead the Committee to encourage the Secretary of State to “urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider ending the benefit freeze a year early”.

This call fell on deaf ears:

The Mirror.

Benefit freeze from April APPROVED by MPs – costing families up to £1,800 a year

It means millions of people’s benefits will be frozen for the fourth year in a row – while MPs’ pay rises 2.7% to almost £80,000

MPs tonight approved another year of the cruel benefit freeze – meaning it is now costing some families £1,800 a year.

Millions of working-age people’s benefits will now be frozen for the fourth year in a row from April.

Amber Rudd in the meantime is dancing with unicorns.

https://twitter.com/AmberRuddHR/status/1102946279783624704

Written by Andrew Coates

March 6, 2019 at 11:08 am

Nightmare on Universal Credit.

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Universal Credit Money Management.

A few weeks ago we posted this:

The alleged simplicity of Universal Credit and the lived experience of benefit claimants Kate Summers and David Young 

It noted the following,

Moreover the earmarking tools and short-term orientations are sometimes seen as deficiencies to be fixed with money management education and training. Instead they should be recognised for what they are: astute responses to managing on a very low income.

All of this was blown sky high when the series Skint Britain was shown on Channel Four.

What struck this writer in the last episode  was the entirely predictable way that some claimants immediately spent their monthly payments and had nothing left for rent. Conveniently now directly paid out, instead of to the landlord, the result was huge debts, which the letting agencies were left with, and evictions.

The Hartlepool Mail notes,

6 minutes in: Sad scenes show a tenant being evicted from a property for failing to pay their rent.

Letting agent Billy says the tenant owes him more than £2,000 in rent arrears, so he has been forced to come down to the property to change the locks.

This  problem about Universal Credit ‘money management’ is unlikely to be sorted out by pious ‘education’.

Then there was this, from the excellent coverage in the Hartlepool Mail.

Skint Britain: Police vow to investigate latest episode of controversial documentary filmed in Hartlepool

The last episode of the three part series showed people on the benefit system using loan sharks as they struggle to cope – but repaying debts sees both those borrowing money and the loan sharks themselves resorting to violence.

Scenes show people on the streets with knives and guns and now Cleveland Police have confirmed that they will be investigating the latest episode.

A spokeswoman for the force said: “Cleveland Police will be investigating the Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits episode from Wednesday night.”

Today we have more on “money management” on Universal Credit.

‘Universal credit is a nightmare – the stress is overwhelming’Guardian.

Jacqueline Widick, 47, on how osteoarthritis has left her struggling to pay her bills.

I receive £732 a month through universal credit, with £400 of it going straight on my rent. Apparently I was overpaid my jobseeker’s allowance five years ago so they’re taking £75 a month from me. So I have about £235 left to pay for gas, electricity and any other bills. It’s left me suicidal. I tried killing myself in September and tried again when I found out how much I’d be receiving a month. Thankfully when I called my best friend he came over and stayed with me. People like me used to receive severe disability premiums on top of JSA but they took that away under universal credit. Now I receive about half as much as I used to.

I live in a bungalow owned by a housing association that costs £400 a month. If I’m working I have to pay this; I get no help with rent. My bills come to about £200 a month. I can’t really afford food. My friend drives me once a week to a supermarket and pays for my food bill which comes to £20. I limit how much I eat to just once or twice a day. I can’t afford days out or to go for a meal.

I’m caught in a perpetual cycle of having to do contract work because I’d lose my benefits if didn’t. The issue with universal credit or JSA is if you don’t take a temp role you get sanctioned; you lose your money for six weeks if you don’t take it. And they check everything, all the interviews and jobs applied for, and contact the agencies. My list of jobs is enormous because if don’t take a temp role I lose my benefits. Now I’m trying to find a permanent role and the potential employers question why I’ve had so many jobs – they’re worried I’ll leave.

This is also in the news, as flagged up by our contributors.

Universal Credit claimants lose High Court ‘discrimination’ case They argued they were worse off after being moved on to the new system from their previous benefits

Three Universal Credit claimants who said they were “unlawfully discriminated against” under the controversial welfare scheme have lost a High Court case against the Government. In a test case over Universal Credit, the claimants argued they were left worse off after being moved on to the new system from their previous benefits. Patricia Reynolds, 51, who is disabled and lives alone, said she lost £180 a month, while a 38-year-old woman identified only as TD and her severely disabled 12-year-old daughter received £140 less a month for 18 months. They argued that, having been transferred on to UC because of “errors” made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), they were unable to return to their previous, higher level of welfare payments.

As always Amber Rudd is ahead of the curve.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 2, 2019 at 10:51 am

“Universal Credit is Affecting Everyone”.

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Don’t forget the Benefits Freeze as Brexit Hits Prices.

The Universal Credit disaster continues:

As our contributors write,

Not even students are spared the ravages of Universal Credit. Students are even more worse off than part-time workers who lose 63p from their UC for every pound earned. Students unfortunate to claim Universal Credit lose a whole £1.00 for every pound of their grant.

And now they’re coming for the pensioners:

The Mirror today:

Universal Credit leaves hundreds behind on council rent

The Scotsman,

HUNDREDS of students across Scotland have today joined together to sign an open letter to the government demanding a review of the impact of Universal Credit (UC) on their lives and ability to continue in higher education.

The group say UC has “fundamentally disregarded students” in the way it calculates their income, with lone parents, the disabled and students from low income families among the hardest hit.

Paloma Paige, president of the St Andrews University Students’ Association, is the main signatory of the letter and warns of the long-term impact on access to education.

The headline from Plymouth Live sums it all up:

Universal Credit is affecting everyone – the heartbreaking horror stories

No matter where you are in the country, you are guaranteed to find masses of people who have had problems with Universal Credit.

Last week, Plymouth Live ran a story detailing how you could change your payments if you were struggling – and dozens of people reached out to us to share their stories.

We have heard extensively from Plymouth families who have become increasingly worse off after the change-over.

One single mum who told Plymouth Live she had been stung by the benefit cap – brought in by the previous Coalition Government in 2010 – and faced legal eviction from her home because of her wrangle with the benefits system that forced her into rent arrears.

Disabled Plymouth man, Neil Wright, said he was utterly bamboozled with the new Universal Creditbenefit – after receiving a payment of just 1p and being left with 77p to live on for two weeks.

But now, people from all over the UK have shared their horror stories and they are truly heartbreaking.

Here is the Minister’s Response:

Written by Andrew Coates

February 25, 2019 at 11:28 am

As Universal Credit “on-line Journals” Crash, End the Surveillance Regime!

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Private Eye this week outlines some of the results of ‘on-line by default’ Universal Credit.

People have problems enough with Universal Credit.

One major difficulty is the above ‘on-line Journal’.

It goes beyond just ‘getting in touch’.

Yesterday somebody showed me his: Nosey Parky Coachy has to be kept informed of your every move.

It reminded me of the Panopticon system

The basic setup of Bentham’s panopticon is this: there is a central tower surrounded by cells. In the central tower is the watchman. In the cells are prisoners – or workers, or children, depending on the use of the building. The tower shines bright light so that the watchman is able to see everyone in the cells. The people in the cells, however, aren’t able to see the watchman, and therefore have to assume that they are always under observation.

As this article goes on to say,

The looming interconnectivity between objects in our homes, cars and cities, generally referred to as the internet of things, will change digital surveillance substantially.

What does the panopticon mean in the age of digital surveillance?

In the case of the UC ‘journal’ Coachey is watching you!

Our contributors have suggested that it is not clear if we all have to sign up to this surveillance.

Surely, some say, if we can prove we are looking for jobs do we need a roach peering over your shoulder every time you look on the Internet for work?

More responses welcome.

Last night’s Friends Without Benefits had this:

Darren and Donna, were sanctioned for failing to comply with the job search requirements and Darren turned to robbing drug dealers to bring in cash, a move which left him fearing for his life after receiving threats of retaliation.

Perhaps he should have shown these jobsearch efforts to Coachy.

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2019 at 11:52 am

Universal Credit Call-Handlers Voting on Strike.

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Universal Credit call handlers will vote on whether to hold a major strike after being treated with “contempt”.

The Mirror reported this a few days ago.

It follows numerous articles on the PCS site, and – in person – a speech from a PCS representative in Ipswich which outlined the problems.

Up to 295 Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) agents in Wolverhampton and Walsall are poised to walk out for two days in a row over heavy workloads.

The PCS union says the system is crippled by “severe under investment, staff shortages and criticism from claimants on how they are treated”.

Chiefs are demanding 5,000 new staff, full contracts for fixed-term workers, an end to “management by statistics” and a limit on the number of phone calls each case manager has to handle.

It comes after top Tories heaped praise on rank-and-file staff in their defence of the six-in-one social security shake-up.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the strike ballot – which runs to February 25 – must be a “wake-up call” to ministers.

Civil Service World gives a more extensive report,

Written by Richard Johnstone on 13 February 2019 in News

Union sets out five demands to cut workload of staff at Universal Credit service centres in Wolverhampton and Walsall

The ballot could lead to two days of strike action next month at the Wolverhampton and Walsall service centres, with up to 295 staff being balloted for both strike action and action short of a strike.

The union said that the rollout of the government’s flagship welfare reform, which will merge six existing working-age benefits into one payment, has made some DWP staff’s workloads unmanageable.

PCS has made five demands of DWP to ease the pressure. These include hiring 5,000 new staff nationwide and permanent contracts for fixed term staff to increase capacity as more people transition onto the new benefit system. It also wants the department to limit the number of phone calls per case manager, commit to service centres rather than contact centres, improve staff consultation, and a implement quality-focused working environment, with an end to management by statistics.

The union’s general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “The possibility of a strike by Universal Credit staff should serve as a wake up call to ministers who have repeatedly insisted Universal Credit is working well for workers and claimants when the opposite is in fact the case.

“Our members have not taken the decision to ballot lightly but the responsibility for the breakdown in industrial relations lies squarely with the government, who want to run this service into the ground while treating staff with contempt.”

The ballot will close on 25 February.

(we will be watching for like ‘awks…)

Responding to the announcement, a DWP spokesperson said the department was determined to give all employees, including those delivering Universal Credit, the necessary resources to carry out their roles successfully, including manageable workloads.

The size of a case manager’s workload depends on a number of factors, including their experience and the complexity of the caseload, they added.

“We are disappointed that PCS has chosen to take this course of action and planned meetings with the union are ongoing,” the spokesperson said.

“Our top priority remains assessing and making payments to customers. We are comfortable with current staffing levels and will monitor and reallocate resource where necessary.”

In the meantime the misery of Universal Credit continues,

Controversial changes to the benefits system are leaving Welsh councils with hidden costs, it has been claimed.

BBC.

Universal credit aims to make claiming simpler by combining several benefits.

But 16 of Wales’ 22 councils said the UK government is not covering the full cost of assisting claimants, including teaching IT skills needed to apply.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said councils can apply for reimbursement of additional costs, but councils denied that was the case.

The body representing councils, the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), and Welsh local government minister Julie James said the rollout of the benefit was not working.

Universal credit has to be applied for online, and will eventually replace housing benefit, income support and other payments.

At the moment councils can reclaim some money for each person they help who needs support with digital skills and budgeting to cope with the new system.

Wales’ 22 councils estimated the total bill for providing that help was more than £1.2m last year – even after claiming payments from the DWP.

Protest:

Universal Credit protest banner leads to ‘offensive weapons’ argument before meeting

Teeside Live.

A small group of Labour supporters hung a banner over the balcony before Redcar and Cleveland’s Borough Council meeting.

February’s meeting of Redcar and Cleveland’s Borough Council went on for more than three hours – and didn’t even cover its agenda.

Heated argument over protest

Even before councillors had taken their seats, there was a heated exchange in the public gallery.

A small group of Labour supporters had hung a Labour Party banner over the balcony which read “STOP UNIVERSAL CREDIT”.

But, with the banner secured to the balcony with rope weighted down on one side by a hammer tied and a chisel on the other, one member of the public took objection to the display.

“Get rid of these offensive weapons – they’ve been put here by the Labour Party,” he said.

“We have a right to protest,” said one of the protesters.

“Not with offensive weapons you don’t,” objected the man.

In the end, an officer solved the problem by removing the tools and securing the ropes with tape.

Universal Credit should be rolled back says council leader

In her opening address, council leader Cllr Sue Jeffrey, once again called for the controversial roll-out of Universal Credit should be postponed.

But because it takes five weeks to receive a payment after making a claim, hundreds of families in Redcar and Cleveland were left facing a Christmas with no money.

She said: “As you know, despite our pleas to the Government, on November 28 Universal Credit full service was rolled out in the borough of Redcar and Cleveland which meant claimants were going to be dealing with new claims over the Christmas period.”

She said the DWP hadn’t yet provided figures of how many people had made new claims for Universal Credit over Christmas but added that the council’s own records suggested around 2,100.

She said there had been an 80% increase in requests for personal budgeting support and 52 residents who approached the council for help with the new online system.

Picture of Offensive Weapon:

Image result for Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council meeting universal credit

Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2019 at 11:32 am

Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits. Review.

with 89 comments

Abbey and Nathan are forced to rely on their dog to help them catch food (Mirror).

Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits.

Not that long ago Channel Four put on one of the worst series about people on benefits, the wittily named Benefits Street. White Dee and the rest of the Brummie crew were a barrel of not-unlovable rouges playing the system. Some said it was a modern freak show. That may be insulting to the people shown, but not far off about way they were shown.

How we laughed!

Channel Five’s the Great British Benefits Handout and others followed – like rats excited at easy prey. It looked like the telly had become screen version of the Sun, the Express and the Mail. It was open-season on scrounging idlers.

How things have changed. Last night Channel Four put on Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits. In the first of 3 episodes there not many chortles. We saw people struggling with the rollout of Universal Credit in Hartlepool. Emphasis on struggling.

We got the message about the new angle right from the start. A couple of gammon talked about people having to work to eat. Switch to the “35 hours a week job search” and the Universal Credit Journal. The youngster who couldn’t read or write, having to cope with that. The fact that, in Hartlepool there weren’t jobs there for the taking.

Then there was woman juggling with paying either gas or electricity. We saw what it means for the under-25s who get less than those who’ve reached the magic age. Somebody made homeless because he couldn’t get the rent together. More juggling, ducking and weaving. Tracey, who managed to survive cancer, is the carer for her husband, who has multiple sclerosis. Single mum Terri, out desperately trying to get proper work.

David “fucking” on-Hold Music.

“Some of the most affecting moments in the programme were about David who had severe problems with his eyesight – a major, and rare, illness, keratoconus. He had got his PIP removed and is found fit for work. Now he is left with a fiver for a whole month to feed himself. He had to phone up the Dole for an appointment. On a pay-phone, outside the Food Bank. As he said, the waiting music alone was designed to fucking drive you up the wall. He gets told he has to do 5 days Job search…..

The poor sod, driven from pillar to post, was left in a world like Jo the Crossing Sweeper living in Dickens’ Tom-all-Alone.

The programme did not fail to mention that crisis loans no longer existed, and the ‘local’ (‘devolved’) Council fund, Local Welfare Assistance, couldn’t help those who asked.

Or to put in clips of Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May praising Universal Credit.

The “safety net” of the old welfare state is so full of holes it is starting to disappear.

Nathan and Abbey, waiting – how you wait! –  for the first payment on Universal Credit,  had one way of getting food when they were broke. Nathan got his dog Twister out tracking down rabbits on the local heath. There are few scenes on telly sadder than seeing the new hunter-gatherers preparing the cony and chucking the faithful hound a choice morsel. At least they had a bit of good cheer.

The world of Universal Credit is not just Dickens sprung to life. The homeless, who we only just glimpsed in this episode, have become like the street urchins of Les Misérables. Some would hope that like Gavroche they would rise on the barricades….

The series is a must-see.

Government Rejects Benefit Sanctions Inquiry report call to change “inhuman” Sanctions Regime.

with 61 comments

Image result for benefit sanctions uk

 

Our contributors could have already have said the following: “Benefit sanctions found to be ineffective and damaging. Study concludes that punishing claimants triggers profoundly negative outcomes”. (Guardian May 2018)

In fact some people who write here  are in dire straits because of this regime.

But the Government is still turning its face against facts’

Today:

Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responding to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s publication of the government’s response to its benefit sanctions inquiry, said:

“The government appears to be in complete denial about the impact of its sanctions regime on people’s lives. It is damaging people’s health and well-being and leaving many at risk of destitution.

“There is no evidence that sanctions lead to people finding work that lasts and lifts them out of poverty. This government is so extreme that it has rejected reducing the length of sanctions and is even prepared to consider making them longer.

“The real way to help people into work is through an industrial strategy to deliver jobs and growth and employment support tailored to each person’s needs. Labour will end this government’s cruel and counter-productive sanctions regime.”

11 February 2019 Work and Pensions Committee.

No respite for “victims of a sanctions regime that is at times so counter-productive it just seems pointlessly cruel” in Government’s response

The Committee is today publishing the Government’s response to its report on benefit sanctions. While the Government has finally agreed to evaluate one aspect of the impact of its reforms to conditionality and sanctions – the “only major welfare reform this decade to have never been evaluated”  – it is looking only at their effectiveness in getting people into work. While this is clearly key, as it is the supposed objective of the policy, the Government is still not even considering the impact of sanctions on claimants’ financial and personal wellbeing. The widely reported detrimental impact of sanctions on claimants’ welfare formed the basis of the Committee’s report, when the Chair noted “We have heard stories of terrible and unnecessary hardship from people who’ve been sanctioned. They were left bewildered and driven to despair at becoming, often with their children, the victims of a sanctions regime that is at times so counter-productive it just seems pointlessly cruel”.

Negative impact of sanctions worked against people getting into work

Even confined to the question of impact on employment, the Committee found that the negative impact of sanctions actually worked against people getting into work, to the extent that the Government’s approach appeared “arbitrarily punitive”. No evidence the Committee received was “more compelling than that against the imposition of conditionality and sanctions on people with a disability or health condition. It does not work. Worse, it is harmful and counterproductive.”

The Committee’s inquiry highlighted the distressing stories of claimants like Jen Fidai, a young disabled woman forced to sofa-surf and sleep in the Uni library for a year, and ultimately give up her studies, after she was sanctioned  – erroneously, as it turned out. It is these impacts on claimants’ lives, and the countless others which the Committee’s report and ongoing shocking news reports only scratch the surface of, which the Government is refusing to assess.

Forceful recommendation by Committee rejected

The Government rejected the recommendation that claimants already found to have limited capability for work should be exempt from sanctions, and also rejected the recommendation that claimants who are waiting for a Work Capability Assessment  – the medical assessments for disability benefits PIP and ESa which the Committee has previously denounced as “riddled with errors and omissions”, and also subject to lengthy delays  – should be exempt from sanctions if they had a “Fit Note” from a doctor saying they were unable to work. Government says it is looking into the possibility of a general policy that conditionality shouldn’t apply to those assessed as having limited work capability and people waiting for a WCA – although this decision would be in the hands of Work Coaches, ignoring the Committee’s wider concern that leaving too much to Work Coaches’ discretion in terms of sanctions more widely risked leading to inconsistent practice. The Government also rejected the recommendation to define “good reason” for failing to meet a requirement that led to a sanction – currently left to work coach discretion, leading to inconsistent practice – in legislation.

The Committee’s forceful recommendation – in the face of distressing evidence of the impact of sanctions on lone parents and their children – never to dock more than 20% of a lone parent’s benefit, was rejected, with the Government promising only to assess the employment impact of sanctions on this group as well. The Committee has reported elsewhere on the particular, deep difficulties lone parents are encountering under the major welfare reforms of the decade, including in its report on support for childcare costs under Universal Credit

Once again, the Government’s position on a key recommendation – that claimants is no longer subject to the requirement, the condition, that led to the sanction should also have the ongoing sanction lifted: the Government rejected this recommendation – is difficult to square with the supposed objective of the policy.  If sanctions are about incentivising, for example, looking for work, it is difficult to see the point of continuing to punish someone for not making sufficient efforts to find work when they are no longer in fact required to find work.

Chair’s Comment

Commenting on the response, Committee Chair Rt Hon Frank Field said:

“Our report laid bare the inhumanity of the Government’s sanctions regime, which it has pursued for years without ever stopping to check whether it works or what it is doing to the people it is meant to “support”.

In response, the Government has failed utterly to grasp the seriousness of the matter. It talks about reviews and “proof of concept”: it might want to take a look at the concept of not pushing disabled people and single parents—not to mention their children—into grinding poverty and hardship.”

Tories SNUB pleas to rein in ‘pointlessly cruel’ benefit sanctions

The Mirror.

New limits to the punishments were proposed in a damning report last year. But now DWP chiefs have rejected the plan – triggering a furious response.

Ministers have snubbed a series of recommendations designed to ease the burden of benefit sanctions on vulnerable claimants, it is revealed today.

A damning report from the Commons Work and Pensions Committee branded the system “pointlessly cruel” in November.

MPs warned the human cost of the sanctions regime was “simply too high” and called for new protections for single parents and people with disabilities and health conditions.

Committee chairman Frank Field today accuses ministers of “failing utterly to grasp the seriousness of the matter” after recommendations were rejected by Amber Rudd’s Department for Work and Pensions.

Under the current system, sanctions can be imposed for missing appointments or failure to show efforts to find work,.

Claimants face being stripped of up to 100% of their Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit standard allowance.

In some “higher level” cases – such as a failure to take up paid work – claimants can lose benefits for as long as three years.

The committee recommended that the maximum period for such sanctions should be limited to two months for the first failure to comply and four and six months for subsequent breaches.

But the DWP rejected the plan, along with recommendations to ensure lone parents with children aged under five are never subjected to the withdrawal of more than 20% of their welfare payments; limit sanctions on care-leavers below the age of 25 to 20% of their benefits; remove the threat of sanctions from claimants deemed to have “limited capability for work” and those with valid sickness notes from their doctors; and remove sanctions if a change in circumstances means the claimant is no longer subject to the requirement that led to benefits being withheld in the first place.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2019 at 11:31 am

Universal Credit Creates “looming Eviction Crisis.

with 110 comments

 

For many people Citizen’s Advice is the first port of call when they have problems with benefits, starting with Universal Credit.

Here is what’s happening with our Citizen’s Advice Service in Suffolk.

The East Anglian Daily Times reports:

On Thursday, February 14, the final vote on 2019/20 budget proposals will take place at Suffolk County Council’s full council meeting, where divisive cuts to the £368,000 Citizens Advice grant over two years has been put forward by the Conservative administration.

But the opposition Labour group, which has already called for a reversal of the cuts, has now tabled an amendment to ringfence £2,500 from each councillor’s locality budget – an £8,000 pot each councillor has to spend on projects and improvements in their ward – for Citizens Advice.

With 75 elected councillors, the proposal would secure £187,500 for Citizens Advice’s core funding.

It means that the £184,000 Citizens Advice is set to lose in 2019/20 is covered, while further ways to cover funding will be explored for 2020/21. Sarah Adams, Labour group leader, said the planned cuts were “a dangerous act of self-harm that will pile even more pressure on the council’s beleaguered public services”.

Here is the CAB’s latest statement on Universal Credit.

Citizens Advice reveals half of claimants seeking benefits assistance risk being evicted

Citizens Advice has called for a root and branch overhaul of universal credit, after revealing that half of all claimants who came to it for help managing the new benefit were at risk of being evicted owing to rent arrears and hardship.

Relatively minor changes to the way the benefit operates, announced by ministers in the 2017 budget after coming under intense pressure from campaigners, have “only made a dent in the problem rather than fixed it”, the charity said.

The minimum five-week wait for a first benefit payment left nearly half of claimants it advised unable to pay household bills, or forced them to go without essentials such as food or heating, it said, while 54% had to borrow cash from family and friends to stay afloat.

“Half the people we help with universal credit are still struggling to keep a roof over their heads while they wait for their first payment,” said Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice.

Here is the CAB Press Release:

People claiming Universal Credit are still struggling to pay for the roof over their heads, despite the wait for their first payment being reduced from 6 weeks to 5, new Citizens Advice data shows.

1 in 2 people the charity helped were in rent arrears or fell behind on their mortgage payments, the same number as when the wait for the first payment was longer.

Citizens Advice also found 60% of people it helped are taking out advances while they wait for payment.

The research also found that, following changes by Government in 2017, fewer people are falling behind on their bills or going without essentials during the wait period. Payment timeliness has improved – now 1 in 6 people are not paid in full and on time, while previously it was 1 in 4.

The report, Managing Money on Universal Credit, released today, reveals new analysis based on the 190,000 people Citizens Advice has helped with Universal Credit.

Among the people the charity helps with debt and Universal Credit:

  • Debt problems are more common for the people we help with Universal Credit than those claiming benefits under the previous system, with 24% of the people we helped with Universal Credit also seeking debt advice.

  • Nearly one in two (47%) have no money left after essential living costs (such as food, housing and transport) to pay creditors, or are spending more than they take in.

  • More than 4 in 5 (82%) hold priority debt such as council tax, rent arrears or mortgage payments, and energy debts.

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to make Universal Credit far more flexible to fit around people’s lives and to make sure people have enough money to live on.

It also wants Alternative Payment Arrangements to be more widely available, allowing for rent to be paid direct to a landlord, more frequent payments, and a payment to go to both members of a couple.

Just 3% of claimants currently receive more frequent payments, while just 20 households in the UK receive split payments to different family members.

Four in 10 of the people helped by Citizens Advice are aware of managed payments to landlords, while just 1 in 6 know payments can be made more frequently.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“Half the people we help with a Universal Credit claim are still struggling to keep a roof over their heads while they wait for their first payment.

“Changes to the waiting period for first payment have improved things for many people, but our evidence shows they don’t go far enough.

“Universal Credit must continue to be reformed so it works for all claimants and leaves people with enough money to live on.”

I watched this last night:

Life on Benefits: Universal Credit?

Brexit might be dominating the headlines – but arguably one of the biggest changes to the welfare state in a generation is the roll out of Universal Credit – which could affect over eight million people across the UK.

Tonight, Richard Bacon explores the impact of Universal Credit and meets some of those receiving the benefit.

CRITICISM

Universal Credit was announced in 2010 by Tory politician Ian Duncan Smith as a way to combine many benefits and incentivise people into work, but critics are furious that it’s bringing hardship to many families.

Everywhere you look there are issues with the system. It’s not working for the disabled, it’s not working for families, it’s not working for lone parents, it’s not working for those in jobs and it’s not working for the self employed.

– TESSA GREGORY, A SOLICITOR WITH LEIGH DAY

The Trussell Trust are a nationwide network of food banks and say the use of food banks have increased by 52% in areas where Universal Credit has been introduced.

Fair enough as it went, but it could have been an hour long instead of 30 minutes.

The ‘Simplicity’ of Universal Credit – Anything But, say Top Researchers.

with 69 comments

Image result for universal credit cartoon simplicity

Iain Duncan Smith Universal Credit is about simplifying the “complexity of the existing benefit system”.

The day begins with the usual.

Walk into the town centre, passing a chap cowering, just out of the rain, on the steps of one of the boarded up old County Hall (derelict since 2004 – plans afoot to make it into, no doubt ‘luxury’ flats).

Job Search (Just added, er, just in case….).

Look at the stories on Universal Credit:

I spent a week living on Universal Credit – this is what it’s like

The Mirror.

Receiving weekly allowance for a 23-year-old, one young reporter ended up with just £6 a day to spend on food, heating and travel.

It soon dawned on Alex that even Tesco meal deals – priced at £3, or half his daily allowance – would have to fall by the wayside, too.

Alex added: “I am a sucker for a Tesco meal deal which sets me back £3 a day and although it’s a great offer, it costs me almost half of my daily budget.

“I knew I had to change my ways so every night I made sandwiches to take into work and bought multipacks of crisps instead of wasting money buying individual packs as part of a meal deal.”

There is a high possibility, particularly at a time when we are experiencing sub-zero temperatures, that I would have had to endure freezing cold nights and sacrificed my warmth in order to get by.

He should be so lucky!

Couple’s Universal Credit payment leaves them with just £1 a day.

Metro.

A couple claim they’re struggling to survive on just £1 a day after their Universal Credit payment was miscalculated. Colin Robinson said he was forced to rely on food banks in Coventry because the £39 he received in December was not enough for him and his wife to survive on. Mr Robinson, 46, now fears he could lose his home if his benefits are not increased.

Now we learn that some serious types have looked into the way we are expected, or going to be expected to live.

The alleged simplicity of Universal Credit and the lived experience of benefit claimants

Kate Summers and David Young challenge the assumed simplicity of Universal Credit by focusing on its single monthly payment design. They draw on two empirical studies of means-tested benefit claimants in order to explain how short-termism is a crucial tool for those managing social security benefits.

2019 started with another announcement that Universal Credit (UC) is being reset and rethought. While some of the changes being introduced are welcome, piecemeal policymaking draws our attention away from the bigger picture. We want to return to one of the principles underpinning UC: simplicity. In his short introduction to Universal Credit in 2010, Iain Duncan Smith made it clear that simplifying the “complexity of the existing benefit system” is a central tenet of welfare reform. Complexity will be “cut through” and the system will be “streamlined”.

Currently, however, claims of simplicity can only be sustained if UC is considered at a superficial level: one monthly payment per household, delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions, with a single taper rate, and with the amount calculated and adjusted monthly. But if we consider the system in any detail and from a claimant perspective, claims of simplicity fall away.

…..

What about the claimant experience of simplicity within a changing policy environment? We draw on evidence from two empirical studies to examine one element in particular: the single monthly payment under Universal Credit. Monthly payment is based partly on the evidence that three quarters of people in the UK are paid their work income monthly, making the move from benefits to work purportedly easier by aligning social security payments with ‘the world of work’. However, when looking at those earning less than £10,000 a year, around half of workers are paid more often than monthly, raising questions about how successfully Universal Credit fits with the reality of the lives of low-income claimants. There is also evidence of longstanding budgeting processes developed by those on a low income that centre around the regular receipt of different sources of income for whom monthly payments pose significant challenges.

In the first research by Kate Summers, 43 claimants in receipt of the ‘legacy’ outgoing payments were interviewed. People spoke about how they organised their money, and the majority were oriented around short-term (days and weeks) timescales that were bolstered by the ‘pay days’ of the legacy benefits (these overlap and span from weekly, to two weekly, to four weekly). Three main notions underpinned this short-termism: 1) the ability to establish some degree of security by managing and planning in the short-term; 2) conversely that short-termism was essential as a matter of survival when, as one participant put it, “you’re budgeting pennies”; 3) meaning that inevitably money is experienced highly transiently and “just goes”. Only seven of the 43 participants talked about managing their money on slightly longer term timescales (weeks and months). However, these participants tended to be in work, they were paid monthly and had opted to receive their tax credits four-weekly.

The second, ongoing research by David Young involved 15 households claiming UC and legacy benefits over a three-month period. Seven of those households adopted weekly budgeting periods, four adopted two-weekly budgeting periods and four adopted monthly budgeting periods. The most common reason for short-termism was a sense of control in the face of unstable and inadequate income. The most common reason for monthly budgeting was experience of a monthly income and regular monthly bills.

…..

The evidence shows that social security recipients have developed effective tools and processes to make ends meet while in receipt of meagre means-tested payments: the monthly payment design of UC pushes against many of these strategies. Moreover the earmarking tools and short-term orientations are sometimes seen as deficiencies to be fixed with money management education and training. Instead they should be recognised for what they are: astute responses to managing on a very low income.

Within the current ‘re-think’ period, there remains a powerful consensus that Universal Credit is, or at least can be, simple. While certain administrative simplification still has the potential to improve a system widely seen as too complex, this must be considered alongside claimant experience. Claims of simplicity can often mean that complexity does not go away but is shifted out of sight, backstage. We argue that with Universal Credit, the complexity of managing to make ends meet on a very low-income could end up being shifted onto those that can least afford it: the claimants themselves.

Or to put it clearly, managing a tiny budget over a month is anything but simple.

Then there is this:

Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2019 at 12:21 pm

“Deflection script’ used to get Universal Credit claimants off the phone (Sky News).

with 67 comments

 

Image result for universal credit deflection script

All week our contributors have been talking about the Digital Disgrace of Universal Credit.

Harpo commented,

With Universal Credit’s full digital service you don’t actually physically sign your CC. You accept what is recorded on it by clicking a button later on a page in your UC online account or, as poor Violet has discovered, the automatic system doesn’t pay you by direct transfer into your bank account.

Ken suggested,

Get rid of that online account.The situation can rapidly go down hill you don’t know who’s looking I there and what could be going on, these could be a dozen heads looking in there hence a dozen opinions and none of them lawful.

How can a claimant commitment be agreed online it must be done face to face,simply someone putting anything on there is like giving some an ultimatum.Try to avoid using family for support as this could put a strain on relationships long term.The whole idea of the welfare state is to provide the support not the family.

I’ve had horrendous experiences with these Claimant Commitments with no doubt many more people,all well mentioned.

There are so many other comments – they all deserve a serious read – that it would be hard to keep up.

One thing that comes out is the way “online” is meant to be the way everything gets done – E-Mails from job application to the UC Journal.

You get the feeling that there’s some gleaming Web World out there where everything goes on with a few taps on the keyboard.

In the meantime where most of us live ordinary people, and the poor, wander around, looking, er, not well off, popping into Poundland and B&M to look out for cheap stuff.

This story, which I saw on the telly this morning, just about sums it all up.

The issue emerged last year:

A Labour MP has described the practice, which sees claimants urged to head online instead of speak on the phone, as “outrageous”

Sky News has obtained a “deflection script” which confirms Universal Credit call agents were officially told to refer claimants online instead of addressing their concerns on the phone.

The claims had been dismissed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as “completely false” after our initial report in October, when a former Universal Credit case manager, Bayard Tarpley, came forward to lift the lid on the controversial practice.

The documents reveal that the “deflection scripts” were introduced in November 2016 to “support staff during telephone calls”.

The guidance was designed to cut down on the thousands of claimants contacting call centres by getting callers to log on to access their benefit.

According to the document, five call centres took place in a two-week pilot last year – including in Blackpool, Canterbury, Middlesbrough, Belfast and Bristol.

call centre hub in Grimsby, where Mr Tarpley worked as a case manager, used the deflection scripts for a longer period of time.”

Managers listened in on calls between handlers and claimants to see if the scripts were effective in “encouraging claimants to use their online account”.

Watch it: it shows a woman whose dad was plunged into misery because of this ‘script’.

The poor bloke was so stressed out that he took his own life.

Leanne Bailey’s father Brian was put on Universal Credit at the beginning of 2018. In July, he took his own life. He was 59.

She said: “He couldn’t understand the system from the very start. He was told to go online and access his journal but he didn’t have a clue about the internet. He was constantly ringing up and asking for advice but was told to go online. It really got him down.”

Sky News concludes,

A National Audit Office report concluded that Universal Credit has been too slow in its introduction, causes unnecessary hardship and is not providing value for money.

It has also been claimed that funding cuts have meant there was not enough support for those trying to access their claim.

The criticism follows warnings from several non-governmental organisations. Last year, the UK’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, reported that demand for food parcels in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out increased by an average of 30%.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary at the Public and Commercial Services (PSC) Union, said: “It is breathtaking that ministers have been caught lying to the public about the existence of a so-called ‘deflection script’ for Universal Credit claimants.

“Our members would prefer to be given the resources and time to give a first class service to help claimants. However they are instructed to use this deflection script as a means to get people off the phones.

“It is another example of a government who has failed to invest in staff and support claimants. This is why Universal Credit must be scrapped and replaced with a system that supports those in need.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “There has never been a policy to hurry callers off the phone and accusations that this is the case are completely false. Call handlers are encouraged to spend as much time as necessary on the phone and remind claimants that they are able to complete certain activities online where appropriate.”

Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, has promised to make changes to Universal Credit admitting it lacks compassion towards those accessing it.

Update:

Written by Andrew Coates

February 1, 2019 at 9:49 am

While Amber Rudd is Elsewhere Universal Credit Crisis Continues.

with 90 comments

Image result for universal credit
Public interest in Universal Credit has not dampened down.
Though  Amber Rudd has does not pay much attention.

A steady drip of really bad stories continues.

This site would like to hear from people on the issues around the  Universal Credit Job Search and the Journal.
We were told, or least got the impression,  that the transfer of millions of people already on benefits to UC  was being halted.
Or rather,

Ms Rudd will delay asking MPs to approve the transfer of three million benefit claimants to UC, and instead plans to move just 10,000 onto the system this summer as part of a trial to study its effectiveness.

Independent. 11th of January.

Other important changes include pressing ahead with a pilot to support 10,000 people from ‘legacy benefits’ on to Universal Credit in a test and learn approach.

There remains this:

What is natural migration

‘Migration’ is the word in common use for the process by which a claimant with a current award of a ‘legacy’ benefit (income-based job-seeker’s allowance (JSA), income-related employment and support allowance (ESA), income support(IS), housing benefit(HB), child tax credit (CTC) and working tax credit (WTC)) has that award (or those awards) terminated, instead being obliged to rely on UC for means-tested support. Under current plans, the DWP intends to start an official ‘managed migration’ process in 2019. This will see the DWP mandatorily terminating current legacy benefit awards and replacing that with a claim for UC. In this process, transitional protection will apply for those whose UC award is lower than their legacy benefit entitlement. The process is due to be complete by March 2022.

By contrast, ‘natural migration’ is the process by which a current claimant can end up, in effect, being obliged to claim UC instead of legacy benefits for means-tested support, completely outside of the managed migration process. No transitional protection will apply. Natural migration is possible at any time, including before 2019. It is more likely to occur in UC full service areas, but can occur in UC live service (or gateway) areas too.

This was announced last week, and, er, got buried under others news:

DWP not engaging with expert calls for change to Universal Credit

The Work and Pensions Committee is today launching a new inquiry into what the Government calls “natural migration”: the process by which people claiming existing benefits move onto Universal Credit if they have a change in their circumstances,

What is natural migration?

Universal Credit has now been rolled out to every Jobcentre in the country. This means that if people who are already claiming benefits under the old system have a change in their circumstances (for example, if they form part of a new couple, or separate from an existing partner), they can’t make a new claim for the old benefits. Instead, they have to make a whole new claim for Universal Credit.

The Government calls this “natural migration” to Universal Credit. People who transfer onto Universal Credit in this way aren’t eligible for any transitional protection payments and so may see a change in their income from benefits. For many people, this may be the first time that they discover that their income will change under Universal Credit.

Natural Migration inquiry launched

The Committee has heard concerns that:

  • the Government hasn’t given clear and comprehensive information about the “triggers” for “natural migration”
  • the absence of transitional protection means people might have to cope suddenly with a drop in income.

This is the latest stage in the Committee’s ongoing work on Universal Credit – which has already resulted in the Government making significant changes to the system

n its November report on so-called “managed migration” – the process of wholesale moving existing benefit claimants onto Universal Credit even if their circumstances haven’t changed  – the Committee called on the Government to publish an assessment of the impact of a sudden loss of income due to natural migration on different claimant groups, and then to look again at whether the triggers for natural migration are appropriate. In its official response to that report, published today alongside this new inquiry launch, the Government has refused to do that.

The Chair has written back to the Secretary of State with a series of questions about the Government’s response:

The Committee is disappointed and concerned by the Government’s failure to engage with its report and reasoning behind key recommendations, and intends to return to several of them including, now, the “triggers” for natural migration. The Department declined, again, to set tests that it will meet before managed migration begins. “Given that we, the NAO and SSAC all made this recommendation, this continued resistance is very disappointing.”

The Government’s response also does not address the central issue of who takes the risk in the transition to Universal Credit, with the Committee arguing repeatedly that it should be Government, making the huge reform, who assume the risk, not existing benefit claimants who include the most vulnerable people in our society. The Government says it’s simply impossible for it to move people over without requiring them to make a new claim, but “did not offer—and has not offered during our inquiry—any evidence” why.

DWP also appears strangely reluctant to acknowledge the key recommendation it did accept. The Committee had said DWP should not ask MPs to vote on new UC rules until it had listened to expert views on them. And that is what happened: rather than a vote before Christmas as the Government had originally planned, revised rules were published last week. The Chair was therefore very “surprised to read that the Government ‘does not accept this recommendation’, given that by the time the response arrived the Government had not only accepted the recommendation but also implemented it.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 29, 2019 at 1:18 pm

Universal Credit “quirk” means Hundreds of Thousands are threatened with Housing Underpayment.

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Image result for universal credit

Universal Credit Achievement.

Food is bad enough.

But if there is one thing people really worry about, it’s housing.

You only have to walk around here to see why: figures in the doorways sleeping in evening.

People get anxious, to say the least, about threats such as having a ‘review’ of their cases when they get Personal Independence Payment.

Transferring to Universal Credit means a gap in money – making not just the rent hard to pay, but demands for the full rate of Council Tax.

All the benefits listed on the DWP site carry the potential to get taken away.

Sanctions are there to remind us, that like some bad nipper, we lose our supper and sweets because we haven’t done our homework.

You can see what can happen:

I don’t think those who’re not on the Dole realise just how small the amount we get weekly is:

Age JSA weekly amount
Up to 24 up to £57.90
25 or over up to £73.10
Couples (both aged over 18) up to £114.85

The  writer of this post lives in the centre of a large town, and doesn’t have to pay bus fares.

This is the cost of what is essential for anybody who wants to come to the library or the Job Centre on public transport (and Ipswich is cheap):

Ipswich Town Fares
One Zone (Pink) Two Zone (Yellow)
Single £1.00 £1.50
Return £1.90 £2.90

That’s quite wodge on top of all the other expenses.

Not that this kind of thing concerns her ladyship Amber Rudd:

Now there is this.

Universal Credit technicality threatens hundreds of thousands with Underpayment

Hundreds of thousands of social housing tenants on Universal Credit are set to have their housing costs underpaid in the next financial year due to a quirk in the calendar which means 53 weekly rent payments will fall due.

The article continues,

The National Housing Federation (NHF) is currently at loggerheads with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over the issue.

Many social landlords collect rent every Monday – and in 2019/20 there will be 53 Mondays.

However, the Universal Credit system will continue to account for 52 rent weeks over the year only, meaning that thousands of social tenants across the UK who pay their rent weekly will be one week short and face rent arrears.

The 53-week phenomenon last occurred in 2013/14. Then, fewer than 20,000 people were claiming Universal Credit but now there are more than 1.5 million.

As of August, around 290,000 social rented households were using Universal Credit to pay their rent, many on a weekly basis.

Housing association Bolton at Home estimates that its 4,000 tenants paying will be left a total of £300,000 short, while Rochdale Boroughwide Housing says 3,000 residents will have a gap of £220,000.

The Mirror also reports:

Universal Credit: Hundreds of thousands of people set to lose out on a week’s rent

Housing associations say the problem will hit tenants who pay rent weekly in 2019/20 – and demanded action from the DWP to close the “bizarre” loophole.

……..

Labour MP Ruth George, who has raised the issue face-to-face with DWP chief Amber Rudd, added: “Having 53 weeks of rent in a year is an anomaly of the system, it’s not anyone’s fault.

“So to refuse to compensate tenants on Universal Credit is a bizarre decision that will leave claimants even more out of pocket.”

The problem, raised by the NHF and first reported by Inside Housing, is expected to affect Universal Credit claimants who pay weekly rent once every six years.

The NHF says that because UC is paid monthly, it is calculated using a formula that effectively takes 52 of a claimant’s weekly rent payments and divides the total by 12.

But there are 52 weeks plus one day in each year. That means every six years or so, a tenant has to make 53 rent payments, not 52.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 25, 2019 at 5:04 pm

DWP “unfit for purpose and should be axed” Demos “Provocation Paper.”

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Image result for dwp office

Unfit for Purpose? 

This Blog is, with good reason, suspicious of Demos.

Here are some reasons,

In the run-up to the 1997 general election it was seen as being close to the  Labour Party in particular its then leader Tony Blair defines itself, however, as independent of any political party. Geoff Mulgan went on to work inside  Downing Street in 1997. At that time Demos was seen as central to New Labour’s  vision for Britain.

But the excellent Welfare Weekly sumarises some of this paper in a way which makes it sound attractive.

In a new report, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Demos says welfare reforms first introduced by the Tory-Libdem coalition and then continued by the Tory government have “caused more harm than good”, and demonstrate a “lack of compassion” that has become synonymous with the DWP and the welfare system.

The thinktank states: “The Conservative government and its predecessors promised transformation, yet their changes have amounted to little more than palliative tweaks.

“Universal credit and the replacement of incapacity benefit with ESA caused more harm than good.

…….

a punitive regime of benefit conditionality has regularly left many people destitute.”

The report’s author Tom Pollard, formerly of the mental health charity Mind, has spent 18 months with the DWP and warns that staff have become afflicted by a “benefits lens”, where they see benefits as a tool for punishing people rather than helping them into work.

Sanctioning claimants for minor infringements, such as arriving late to meetings, has “created a confrontational dynamic of power asymmetries” – “benefits are the carrot, sanctions are the stick”.

This approach means claimants now see the DWP and Jobcentre staff as the enemy, rather than a friend that exists to help them in their hour of need.

“There’s such a rift between the DWP and hard to help groups that I don’t know how you could get back to engaging on meaningful terms – there’s too much baggage”, says Pollard.

The DWP’s narrow-minded focus on “weeding out instances of fraud and error” has been harmful to the Department’s relationship with benefit claimants, says.

This is what Demos itself says:

Is the DWP capable of moulding itself to a radical new agenda?

In a provocation paper that marked the start of Demos’ research examining the Department of Work and Pensions, Tom Pollard, formerly of the mental health charity Mind and fresh from an 18 months secondment to the DWP, depicts a bureaucracy blighted by historic dynamics and averse to radical thinking.

Pollard’s paper identifies three problems with the DWP. First, the department is afflicted by a “benefits lens”, where case handlers perceive employment support as a condition for receiving benefits, rather than a means of enabling claimants to pursue fulfilling work. Where benefits are the carrot, sanctions are the stick. Sanctioning claimants for misdemeanours such as arriving late to meetings creates a confrontational dynamic of power asymmetries.

Second, Pollard argues the department is impoverished in ambition. DWP staff are often promoted from frontline roles working in job centres. While such expertise is valuable, he argues that staff often seem “incapable of thinking about radical solutions”, and repeat the mistakes of the past, gravitating towards systems of conditionality and sanctions.

These factors contribute to the DWP’s injured reputation among frontline users. Productive engagement between case handlers and claimants is dependent on trust. “There’s such a rift between the DWP and hard to help groups that I don’t know how you could get back to engaging on meaningful terms – there’s too much baggage”, Pollard describes.

A question hangs over Pollard’s paper: Is the DWP capable of moulding itself to a radical new agenda? To find an answer and identify potential solutions, Demos recently hosted a roundtable discussion with industry experts and senior parliamentarians.

Participants described the DWP’s lack of compassion, which is exacerbated by the department’s focus on weeding out instances of fraud and error. Unlike many organisations that deal with vulnerable customers, the DWP has no special provisions for claimants with accessibility needs, they added.

Moreover, a culture of suspicion means the department often fails to serve the public. One expert noted that while the DWP has a child maintenance exemption for people suffering domestic abuse, staff “don’t tell claimants this up front”, and are guided instead by an institutional culture that pushes people outside of the system, rather than supporting claimants within it.

Where Universal Credit was supposed to update welfare for the 21st century, one expert said the policy was “exactly the same as the old days”, and only provided “small switches”. Instead of tweaks or fixes, they advocated for a broader change – making people “believe” in the welfare system again.

The practical recommendations barely scratch the surface of Universal Credit.

While the press releases do not make this clear the thrust of the report is directed only to one – important – side of UC problems.

Or as Disability Rights puts it, “DWP incapable of delivering a pathway from poverty for ill and disabled people.”

That is in the Demos language, the ‘harder to help’ groups, not in-work UC claimants, or the unemployed who were/are on JSA.

From the  report: Pathways from Poverty.

These are the three areas Tom Pollard suggests change in:

  • We need to look afresh at the challenge of supporting ‘harder-to-help’ groups into employment. In doing so, we must question the default assumption that the DWP should lead this work. The factors driving this assumption are the very ones which fundamentally undermine the department’s ability to effectively support these groups – the ‘benefits lens’ through which employment support is seen; and the presence of the existing infrastructure, staff, processes and approach, which I believe are not ‘fit for purpose’.
  • we must transfer responsibility for helping ‘harder-to-help’ groups away from the DWP. The responsibility (or opportunity) to provide support to
    these groups could instead be assumed to sit with a range of organisations who, working together, may be better placed to foster the type of
    engagement that the DWP is unable to. As this project evolves we will explore a variety of options, for example:
    • Greater onus could be placed on the Department for Health and Social Care, working with NHS England, to support people with healthrelated barriers to employment. This would also provide moreopportunity to the devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and
    Northern Ireland to try different approaches.
    • Those who have substantial skills-related barriers to employment could be supported to access training and qualifications by the Department
    for Education, which holds responsibility for education and skills funding. • We could devolve more responsibility and funding for these groups to sub-national government, whether local or combined authorities. This would allow a place-based approach with collaboration across a
    range of local public services.
  • Note this: (third sector covering the usual chancers, worthy and respected by still charities  –Polland worked for Mind – and no doubt ‘social enterprises, profit making companies with a fancy name) With the right environment and contracting/payment arrangements, specialist third sector organisations could play a greater role in supporting these groups, making use of the expertise, trust and rapport they already hold in relation to their clients.
  • Thirdly, whoever leads or contributes to these new approaches should make use of modern design methodologies, including meaningful co-production with those they are looking to support, in order to ensure that systems and services reflect the reality of people’s lives, needs and aspirations. Although it is vital to take account of existing evidence on what works, imagination, creativity and bravery are also required to move on from the current orthodoxies and develop radical approaches that are commensurate with the challenge.

Waffle and more chancer designer’ opportunities….

Our suspicions prove rapidly justified.

Here is a pretty weighty objection:

Welcoming the new Demos paper, DR UK’s Welfare Rights and Policy Officer Ken Butler said:

“Disabled people will readily agree about the problems with the DWP Pollard identifies. Especially its focus on work conditionality and the threat of benefit sanctions. Many we also support his conclusion that the DWP is incapable of the radical reform and innovation that’s needed to take disabled people out of poverty.

And his proposed solutions are innovative and very worthy of discussion. Although those with experience of claiming tax credits will have grave doubts about benefit and pension payments responsibilities being moved to HMRC.”

Disability Rights. UK

Written by Andrew Coates

January 22, 2019 at 5:31 pm

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Claimants to Pay for Universal Credit Delay as Bishop Butler “Welcomes” Changes.

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Résultat de recherche d'images pour "moi, daniel blake"

A Film Loved Across Europe.

Last weekend when they showed I, Daniel Blake,  on the telly many people asked me if I had watched it.

I did not.

The reason is very simple: some of the scenes (which I have seen from clips that our contributors posted on this site) were part of my own life.

I refer to the one in which the bloke could not use the computer and had to be helped.

This happened to me when a mate, who is a joiner, and much more skilled than me in all kinds of things, asked me to help him use one for ‘Job Search‘.

I could add that when Universal Credit first came on the horizon a friend, who is a single parent, explained to me how her situation, small jobs, child care, was going to affect her.

Disaster.

This young women, it took her ages to go into the details, is going basically spend her life filling in forms – on-line naturally.

Us lot know first hand what the Dole is like, but this is beyond the usual stuff.

People here know this all too well.

There is a geezer I know, I saw him stocking up on Sainsbury’s Basics a few days back, who, live in dire straits.

In fact is was so bleeding obvious that it would take only some as thick as pig shit not to have guessed that Universal Credit would wreak havoc on people.

Back to the latest news:

Claimants will pay for universal credit delay

Guardian. 

The delay Amber Rudd announced in the roll-out may appear to be a concession to UC’s critics. But in fact it will cost some claimants dearly, says Patricia de Wolfe

Your leader on universal credit (Rudd’s adjustments are no solution to the serious problem of welfare reform, 12 January) is too kind to Amber Rudd. The delay she announced in the roll-out of universal credit (UC) to existing claimants of means-tested benefits may appear to be a concession to the benefit’s countless critics. But in fact it will cost some claimants dearly. Cynics might even regard the delay as a cost-saving measure for the government.

When existing claimants are eventually moved to UC in the course of what is known as managed migration, their previous level of benefit will be protected if it is higher than their UC entitlement (though it will not rise until their UC entitlement catches up with the amount they receive). But pending the managed migration, existing claimants whose circumstances change must claim UC without this protection: their previous benefits stop and they are treated as new UC claimants. There is no rationale for this distinction between “managed” and “natural” migration beyond stinginess.

A relevant change of circumstances for UC purposes might consist of a move to a different area, or a change in household composition or in employment status. Inevitably, as many years go, by some claimants’ capacity for work will lessen; some claimants will need to relocate; couples will form or split up; babies will be born. This means that the longer the managed migration of existing claimants is postponed, the more people who would be helped by transitional protection will have to forgo it.

For fairness, transitional protection should be introduced immediately for all claimants of means-tested benefits moving to UC, with compensation for those who have already lost out.

Patricia de Wolfe
London

Yet, steady on Padre, this type says this today.

Bishop Butler welcomes Universal Credit reform.

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, has welcomed the reforms to Universal Credit which were announced by the Government last week.

After the news that the two-child benefits cap for families with children born before the system began in 2017 would not be implemented, Bishop Butler said: “As a just and compassionate society, we believe that every child is a blessing and deserves to be treated equally.”

He went on: “I very much welcome today’s announcement that the two-child limit policy will not be extended to children born before the policy came into effect in April 2017. I also welcome the Government’s more considered approach to moving people on to Universal Credit from the old benefits system.

“I look forward to working with Ministers to continue reviewing these policies as part of a broader, coherent strategy to reduce child poverty, helping parents to give their children the best possible start in life.”

Ipswich Unemployed Action looks forward to working for MInisters’ downfall!

Written by Andrew Coates

January 18, 2019 at 9:47 am