Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Coronavirus and Benefits: Low Income Families Hit.

with 26 comments

Employment and benefits support - Understanding Universal Credit

System Already Starting to Fail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This from the research paper by Policy In Practice.

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

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

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

This is worth looking at:

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

Written by Andrew Coates

May 24, 2020 at 12:03 pm

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

with 153 comments

 

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

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

“Heaps of entangled weeds that slowly float….”

Ancient prophecy foretelling Universal Credit.

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

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

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

And a lot more.

She made this gaff,

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

There’s another point.

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

This is what she was referring to:

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

The ‘I’.

 

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

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

UC single person basic rate:  £ 409.89 a month.

Do the maths…

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

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

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

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

These demands should be pushed and pushed!

Written by Andrew Coates

May 20, 2020 at 5:40 am

The New Universal Credit Claimants.

with 103 comments

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

DWP Picture with Tasteless Cartoon Images of the Virus.

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

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

It’s no good trying to cover this up.

The BBC reports,

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

The numbers claiming are set to rise and rise.

 

 

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

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

She re-tweeted this…

 

Peter Grimes.    George Crabbe.

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

May 18, 2020 at 6:37 am

Outrage as Homeless to be thrown back into the streets.

with 110 comments

This story has been developing all morning.

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

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

But what we need is to stop this now!

Written by Andrew Coates

May 15, 2020 at 10:08 am

Ipswich Unemployed Action Back.

with 12 comments

We are, we hope, back..

 

More to follow.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 14, 2020 at 4:33 pm

Coronavirus Ireland: emergency unemployment payment of €203.

with 1,272 comments

 

Image

Bold Measures in Ireland. 

Irish Mirror. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this is a good move.

Here:

This is what our boss is tweeting about:

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

Ireland: 

COVID-19 (coronavirus) and social welfare payments

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

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

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

Back in the UK:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2020 at 11:34 am

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

with 213 comments

Image result for cornovarius universal credit twitter

Response to Government “Hype and Hot Air”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The central Budget measure affecting Claimants is this.

Make of it what you will.

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

Huff Post.

But what is this?

It’s the following,

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

..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homing into two issues the Guardian commentator writes.

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

..

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

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

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

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

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

Then there is this:

Others note the problems:

The Minister for Work and Pensions gets her priorities right!

Other Tories have reasons to be cheerful:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 12, 2020 at 11:33 am

DWP Statement on Coronavirus as Inquiry into Universal Credit Begins.

with 92 comments

Image result for coronavirus uk

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

Coronavirus: UK tactics defended as cases expected to rise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Statement from DWP on coronavirus (COVID-19)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Published 9 March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

What does the Committee want to hear about?

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

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

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

This inquiry is currently accepting evidence

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

Read the call for evidence before submitting

Written by Andrew Coates

March 10, 2020 at 10:33 am

Coronavirus and Universal Credit Claimants.

with 104 comments

Image result for coronavirus universal credit

 

Devon Live reports today,

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

They continue,

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

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

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

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

Important – contact your local Jobcentre

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

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

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

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

Citizens Advice:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Coronavirus: Calls for emergency legislation to protect Universal Credit claimants

Welfare Weekly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update:

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

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

More:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 6, 2020 at 12:18 pm

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

with 120 comments

Image result for food banks universal credit

DWP to Recognise Facts?

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

The Mirror.

This is worth noting just in its own right.

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

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

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

Now….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the exchange between the Noble Lordships in Hansard.

 

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

 

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

March 3, 2020 at 10:22 am

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

with 26 comments

Image result for universal credit depression

 

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

Welfare Weekly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So it continues:

And,

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

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2020 at 2:44 pm

The Saga of Universal Credit Destitution Continues.

with 72 comments

Image

The Saga of Universal Credit Destitution Continues,

Nothing escapes our newshounds.

As  Krankie noted,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, as people also saw, there is this:

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

The Mirror reports,

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Care Bear of a PM replied,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mirror underlines this point:

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

February 27, 2020 at 11:34 am

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

with 107 comments

Image

Thérèse Coffey Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mirror reports, (22nd of February),

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

Shrinking value of Universal Credit payments

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

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

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

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

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

Lords daily allowance more than monthly Universal Credit payment

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

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2020 at 10:39 am

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

with 108 comments

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

I thought it was a fine investigation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Universal Credit clearly did not help.

This is how some people saw it,

Bolton News.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others had even more difficult battles with the system.

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

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

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

Mirror:

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

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

Amongst many comments this stands out:

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

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

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

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

This is Coffey’s latest Tweet..

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 19, 2020 at 4:46 pm

The ‘Claimant Commitment’ Minefield.

with 118 comments

Image result for universal credit journal

Keeping Track of Your Life for Work Coach Nosey Parkers.

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

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

But here it is their story,

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

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

..

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

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

This is the sting,

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

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

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

People on Universal Credit get a ‘journal’.

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

Universal Credit: Your Online Journal

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

More:

To Do’s.

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

Examples of work related activity to record in your journal:

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

Yet more:
Examples of a To Do:

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

A pretty complete record of your daily life!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still these people are well-chuffed with their jobs:

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 16, 2020 at 10:57 am

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

with 40 comments

Image

Thérèse Coffey Stays as Chief of DWP.

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

 

 

Here is the News  nobody else was waiting for.

Just to rub it in:

And again,

Latest Failure, retching….

Newshounds Report Celebrations by Suffolk Coastal Pub Owners.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 13, 2020 at 4:00 pm

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

with 71 comments

Image result for benefit freeze

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

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

For standard benefits it’s  1.7 per cent.

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

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

Hold on !

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welfare Weekly runs the story.

Here is the story:

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

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

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

….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, somebody’s doing nicely!

Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2020 at 10:56 am

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

with 52 comments

Image result for david norgrove letter to boris johnson UNiversal Credit

Uproar over Latest Johnson Lies.

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

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

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

Serina Sandhu

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

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

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

The BBC says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is why he dropped his US nationality.

Boris Johnson among record number to renounce American citizenship in 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2020 at 10:25 am

Inside The Welfare State documentary on Universal Credit sparks anger.

with 65 comments

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

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

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

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

And the homeless Irish bloke…

This is well true:

 

These are some of the reports and reviews.

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

Mirror.

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

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

Three-part BBC Two series Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State launched on Tuesday evening, with episode one focusing on Peckham Jobcentre in London, visited by more than 1,000 people each day, including former NHS worker Rachel and homeless man Declan.

Job Centre employee Karen, meanwhile, finds herself faced with similar difficulties to her clients, and has to take a second job to support herself.

Taking to Twitter during the initial broadcast at 9pm last night, viewers were shocked at the difficulty of accessing benefits and distressing backgrounds of the claimants featured, as well as the way they are treated.

Evening Standard.

A new BBC documentary series explores the benefits system

ALASTAIR MCKAY

The true story of this benefits revolution is on the shop floor where the job centre staff must accommodate the demands of the claimants, many of whom are ill-equipped to understand the beautiful simplicity of the benefits revolution.

Rachel, a single mother who left her NHS job after 27 years to care for her parents, struggles with anxiety. Job centre worker Karen does a second job in a pound store after absorbing the anger of claimants all day. And there’s grumpy, articulate Phil, with track marks on his arm and a lost dream of becoming a photojournalist,  weighing up the value of a job cleaning trains for the minimum wage.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 5, 2020 at 1:53 pm

As Universal Credit Documentary Airs Tonight, System “completion not expected until 2024”.

with 53 comments

Image result for universal credit inside the welfare state

Tonight.

Latest news…

Universal Credit: Welfare system to be delayed again with completion not expected until 2024

The Independent reports,

Late implementation will cost taxpayer a further £500 million over five years.

The completion of the government’s troubled Universal Credit welfare scheme has been put back yet again, at a cost of £500 million.

Slower-than-expected transfers of claimants from existing benefits mean the date of completion of the roll-out has been put back by nine months to 2024.

When first announced by Iain Duncan Smith as a replacement for a range of benefits in 2010, Universal Credit was due to be fully implemented by 2017.

But it has been beset by a series of delays, and welfare delivery minister Will Quince today announced that more time was needed to transfer the final 900,000 claimants.

Universal Credit was implemented first with new claimants, or those whose circumstances had changed, with the more complicated transfer of individuals from existing benefits left until later.

The Department of Work and Pensions attributed the latest delay in part to the robustness of the labour market, which has meant that fewer people than expected experienced a change in circumstances, leaving 900,000 more people than expected claiming the old benefits.

Mr Quince said: “Universal Credit is the biggest change to the welfare system in a generation, bringing together six overlapping benefits into one monthly payment and offering support to some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Here is one reaction:

And another:

All eyes will be on this tonight:

BBC Two

Episode 1

At Peckham Jobcentre in London, Rachel has recently moved onto Universal Credit after leaving her 27-year NHS career to become a carer for her ill parents.

The Guardian preview:

Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State
9pm, BBC Two

Designed to streamline benefits payments and make them easier to navigate, universal credit has met with fierce opposition since its protracted and troubled rollout. This three-part series opens in Peckham Jobcentre, where more than 1,000 people visit each day, including former NHS worker Rachel, who is living precariously during the five-week wait for her first universal credit payment. It is a humanising look into the real-life consequences of political choices. Ammar Kalia

The Shocking Reality Of Living On Universal Credit

……a harrowing three-part BBC documentary series which puts universal credit under a magnifying glass. Universal Credit: Inside The Welfare State focuses on Jobcentres in Peckham, Toxteth and Bolton. As well as senior civil servants and MPs, we hear from those directly affected by the most controversial change to the benefits system in a generation. Some of the most powerful stories involve women dealing with mental health issues, redundancy, raising their children alone and working under temporary contracts, all while adapting to universal credit.
Somebody has other things on her mind:

Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2020 at 9:44 am

House of Lords Launch Inquiry, Headed by Thatcherite Lord Forsyth, into Universal Credit.

with 43 comments

This Blog, and contributors, have lost count of the inquiries into Universal Credit.

About the only time I took any interest in a House of Lords debate was when this one happened,

 

Now we have this:

Peers to probe Universal Credit

Lords committee launches inquiry on how the ‘reform’ might be reformed.

Bill Tanner

Peers are probing Universal Credit, with a key Lords committee calling for evidence on how the ‘reform’ might be reformed.

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee will make recommendations to government on its findings.

But the inquiry is reserved to England and Wales with Universal Credit a partially devolved matter in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Our Committee will consider if the original objectives of Universal Credit are still fit for purpose and able to provide adequate and fair social security – we will then make our recommendations to Government in due course,” said committee chair Lord Forsyth.

Overall, the Committee will examine whether Universal Credit is meeting its original objectives and whether the policy assumptions reflected in its design are appropriate for different groups of claimants.

“To inform our work we want to hear from as broad a range of people as possible – we encourage anyone with experience or expertise on the issue under investigation to share their views,” said Lord Forsyth.

His Lordship is a close associate of the hard right Adam Smith Institute.

And,

Chairman of Secure Trust Bank, and a Director of J&J Denholm and of Denholm Logistics Ltd. He was a director and Chairman of Hyperion Insurance Group until its merger with RKH Group in 2015. A former Deputy Chairman of JPMorgan UK and Evercore Partners International, he was knighted in 1997 and appointed to the House of Lords in 1999. He is a member of the Privy Council and served on the Development Boards of the Royal Society and the National Portrait Gallery. He is also a past President of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

Michael Forsyth, Baron Forsyth of Drumlean

Wikipedia.

More background,

Lord Forsyth: Thatcherite who rose through the Tory ranks

The Montrose-born politician was one of the key right-wing members of the Tory governments of the late 1980s and early 1990s. No stranger to controversy, he once said that Margaret Thatcher was one of the most compassionate people he had ever met.

Before his election as MP for Stirling during the Tory landslide of 1983, he worked as a public relations executive in London. It was during this period that the then Mr Forsyth, an early, enthusiastic advocate of Thatcherism, was elected as a Tory member of the City of Westminster Council.

Economic Affairs Committee

The economics of Universal Credit inquiry

Scope of inquiry

This inquiry investigates the economic impacts of Universal Credit. The inquiry will investigate whether Universal Credit is meeting its original objectives, whether the policy assumptions reflected in its design are appropriate for different groups of claimants and the extent to which Universal Credit meets the needs of claimants in today’s labour market and changing world of work. The Committee will make recommendations to the Government.

Call for evidence

Send a written submission

Focus of the inquiry

The Committee will examine whether Universal Credit is meeting its original objectives and whether the policy assumptions reflected in its design are appropriate for different groups of claimants. It will also examine the extent to which Universal Credit meets the needs of claimants in today’s labour market and changing world of work.

The Committee is seeking answers to the following questions:

  • How well has Universal Credit met its original objectives?
  • Were the original objectives and assumptions the right ones? How should they change?
  • What have been the positive and negative economic effects of Universal Credit?
  • What effect has fiscal retrenchment had on the ability of Universal Credit to successfully deliver its objectives?
  • Which claimants have benefited most from the Universal Credit reforms and which have lost out?
  • How has the world of work changed since the introduction of Universal Credit? Does Universal Credit’s design adequately reflect the reality of low-paid work?
  • If Universal Credit does not adequately reflect the lived experiences of low-paid workers, how should it be reformed?

We are looking to hear from as diverse a range of views as possible because hearing from a range of different perspectives means Committees are better informed and can more effectively scrutinise public policy and legislation. We encourage anyone with experience or expertise on the issue under investigation to share their views with the Committee, with the full knowledge that their views have value and are welcome.

Chair’s comments

Lord Forsyth, Chairman of the Committee, comments:

“Our Committee will consider if the original objectives of Universal Credit are still fit for purpose and able to provide adequate and fair social security. We will then make our recommendations to Government in due course.

“To inform our work we want to hear from as broad a range of people as possible. If you have a view on Universal Credit, look at our call for evidence and let us know what you think.”

Here’s some evidence.

 

Meanwhile back from her latest UFO trip and safely landed in Rendlesham Forest Therese Coffey has time to tweet this (her latest in fact).

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 31, 2020 at 4:35 pm

Thérèse Coffey “Food Banks” are the “perfect way” to help “vulnerable people”.

with 64 comments

Elizabeth Truss and Dr Therese Coffey, to |Spend more time at Blythburgh Pork in Suffolk?

This Blog sometimes wonder about the Work and Pensions Secretary.

Thérèse Coffey is the MP for the Constituency next to Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal.

She seems happiest when, like her predecessor in the place, John Gummer, she’s pottering around the quaint by-ways of rural life, or visiting the big town, Felixstowe, to bestow her airs and graces on a local event.

Coffey’s spent most of her time recently slavering over the prospect that Brexit offers to her mates to make a pretty penny.

You wonder if she likes the Blue Nun style white wine from  Bruisyard in the county.

Well -wishers hope that in the near future she will be spending more time in Suffolk.

Perhaps she could share some of that tasty pork an crackling with those fortunate than herself….

The East Anglian Daily Times reported on January the 27th (yesterday).

Work and Pensions Secretary and Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey and International Trade Secretary and South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss are both thought to be vulnerable in any reshuffle.

Dr Coffey would be particularly disappointed to lose her department only five months after being promoted to the cabinet after the sudden departure of Amber Rudd. She has been a loyal supporter of the Prime Minister, but is seen by some as an “accidental cabinet minister” who reached the top table unexpectedly.

Another accident waiting to happen just did:

Minister says food banks are a “perfect way” to meet challenges of “difficult times”

Left Foot Forward.

Food bank use has increased by around 2,800% since the Tories came to power.

McDonalds has just paid off its British boss with a £30m payout so Sultana asked: “Does the Minister accept that it is a gross injustice that nurses are forced to use food banks while fat-cat bosses receive obscene pay-outs?”

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey replied that food banks are a “perfect way to try and marry the challenges that people do face at difficult times in their lives”.

A  further report,

Tory minister called ‘totally out of touch’ after labelling food banks ‘perfect way’ to support vulnerable people

In 2017, then-backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg sparked uproar when he said “the real reason for the rise in numbers is that people know that they are there”.

Earlier this month, in a blog about food bank use, New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne said people who receive benefits need “help” with how to spend their money.

The Trussel Trust, who run a nationwide network of food banks, gave out a record number of food parcels in the last year.

The organisation recorded a 23% increase in the number of emergency food parcels given out compared to the previous year.

Here are few responses:

More.

 

And more will come!

Written by Andrew Coates

January 28, 2020 at 5:58 pm

The Daily Misery of Universal Credit – Rent Short-Falls, Draconian Sanctions, Waits for already Miserly Payments.

with 44 comments

Image result for universal credit"

“If  they wanted  to set up something to defeat the objectives it was meant to deliver, Universal Credit couldn’t have done a better job…”

 

Every day there are people in Ipswich Library with problems about Universal Credit.

A major difficulty is rent.

Local Housing Allowance, set up under Labour in 2008, with a number of objectives, including ” inciting”  people to find cheaper accommodation, was never meant to cover the rent for all properties.

Now it’s created out of control problems.

I can’t imagine people I know in London, in work, paying £200 a week (this, believe me, in not made up)  for a room in a shared flat could if they became unemployed and reliant on Local Housing Allowance and Universal Credit.

We all know that people end up cutting back on food and heating to pay for a place to live in – if they can manage that.

Or end up homeless.

Now the triumphant Tories intend to make things worse.

if you wade through the details of this announcement you’ll find that one layer of -meagre – support is about to end.

Apparently it’s because a 1,7% increase means it’s no longer needed.

Targeted Affordability Funding ends as LHA freeze thaws

24Housing.

DWP Minister says the 1.7% increase to the LHA rate negated the need for the funding scheme.

Targeted Affordability Funding (TAF) is over – ending with thehawing of the LHA (Local Housing Allowance) freeze to be replaced by Discretionary Housing Payments.

DWP Minister Will Quince confirmed the end in responding to a written Commons question from Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey.

TAF was introduced in 2014 to shore up LHA rates that had shifted furthest from real local market rents.

Four years on, a report from CIH said TAF had a negligible impact in reducing the number of LHA rates with a gap – being capped at 3% of current rate regardless of the size of the gap.

Healey asked if the DWP was going to maintain TAF for local housing allowance from April this year, when the LHA freeze ends.

Quince said the 1.7% increase to the LHA rate negated the need for TAF.

“For individuals who may require more support, Discretionary Housing Payments are available,” he said.

TAF typically covered 10% – 30% of the gap with the 30th percentile rent before the award was made.

The replacement rates were higher for the shared rate and slightly higher for the four-bed rate – intended to partly reflect the fact that the 30th percentile for both was more volatile in being likely to fall back in years subsequent to an award.

To the CIH, the low replacement rates meant that, on its own, TAF was incapable of keeping LHA rates reasonably well aligned to local (30th percentile) rents.

Last year, a report from Shelter said that as the freeze thawed additional TAF must be made available – with changes made to the way it is administered to ensure those most at risk of homelessness received adequate amounts.

That’s just one part of the welfare regime under Universal Credit.

 Aasma Day in the Huffington  Post does a brilliant job in looking at it on the ground.

Oldham Piloted Universal Credit 7 Years Ago. Here’s The Grim Reality Of What Happened Since.

“If they wanted  to set up something to defeat the objectives it was meant to deliver, Universal Credit couldn’t have done a better job,” says the chair of a housing association in Oldham.

Oldham was one of the areas that volunteered to be a pilot site for Universal Credit in 2013 in the hope it would simplify the benefits system and encourage more people back into work.

But seven years on, those hit by the benefits change tell a different story.

One housing association told HuffPost UK that it lost in the region of £400,000 in rent during the first year of Universal Credit  – money which it won’t recover.  Unlike housing benefit, which was paid direct to the association, Universal Credit is handed direct to the claimant. Currently, 41% of the housing association’s tenants are in arrears.

The social landlord says some of its customers are struggling so much due to the wait for Universal Credit and the problems they experience applying for it, in the last 12 months, they referred an unprecedented 199 people to food banks.

Speaking to  Vinny Roche, chief executive of First Choice Homes, we find,

 “The safety net for the most vulnerable in society has been completely eroded.” he said: “If they wanted to set up something to defeat the objectives it was meant to deliver, Universal Credit couldn’t have done a better job.”

His major criticism of Universal Credit is the five-week wait when people are having to borrow to survive. “You have some of the poorest people in the country having to wait weeks for their money.

“When they finally get their payment, they already owe a fortune to other people, or worse still, to loan sharks.

“The people in real need are now on less money, receive less welfare payments and the  support mechanisms that once helped them have gone. Then the systems for applying for benefits and the sanctions are a lot more draconian.

“A combination of all these things is driving people into abject poverty.”

…..

“The current system doesn’t work. We really need radical change if we are serious about fixing the safety net, reducing poverty and inequality and making sure there is a support network in place for the most vulnerable.”

Read the article in full through the link above.

Michel Says,

“Universal Credit stinks.” he said. “It definitely does not make life better for people. I was depressed all the time when I was on it and didn’t have any money and couldn’t do anything.

The ‘I’ has this story today,

Universal Credit: Seven years after the roll-out of the benefit, the prescription forms for free medication are finally updated

A charity for patients said the updated forms were ‘better late than never’

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 25, 2020 at 10:08 am

New Resolution Foundation Report Blasts Universal Credit.

with 81 comments

 

Image result for universal credit resolution foundation long and winding road

New Reports Slams  Universal Credit.

 

The long and winding road

The introduction and impact of Universal Credit in Liverpool City Region and the UK

Key findings

  • UC is a bigger deal in some parts of the country than others. 205,000 working-age families in LCR (31 per cent of the total) are expected to receive UC once it is fully rolled out, compared to 775,000 working-age families in the whole of the North West (27 per cent), and 6.2 million families in the UK as a whole (24 per cent of the total).
  • Focusing on UC’s effect on incomes compared to the legacy benefits system it replaces, we find that more families lose from the switch to UC – and fewer gain – in LCR than the UK as a whole. 52 per cent of benefit-recipient families in LCR lose out from the switch to UC, while only 32 per cent gain. The respective figures for the UK as a whole are 46 per cent and 39 per cent.
  • While those with IT skills valued UC’s digital focus, many said that the five-week wait for the first payment put them under significant financial and mental stress. Some reported that the wait had forced them to use food banks, and worsened existing mental health issues.
  • The interviews revealed a variable understanding among recipients of exactly how taking on more work would affect their incomes. Most understood they would be better off in work, but many felt that the system’s responsiveness to their earnings meant that taking on more hours wasn’t worth their while financially. This, says the Foundation, risks weakening one of the central claims of UC, that it will ‘make work pay’.

The  PCS union has responded.

The report entitled the Long and Winding Road explored regional differences in the roll-out of Universal Credit which has been plagued by problems.

2.7 million people are thought to be on Universal Credit and due to the complex system, depending on where claimants live, people are worse off in some areas than others.

Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotheram said: “Universal Credit has made life miserable for some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”

He called on ministers to heed warnings, adding that they need to, “implement reforms to make our welfare system more humane.”

But PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said the system needed to be scrapped and replaced.

He said: “Universal Credit is a disaster for claimants and needs to be scrapped in favour of a more humane system.

“At the moment claimants face immense hardships and barriers accessing UC, causing them to fall into debt homeless and in some cases, even contemplate taking their own lives.

“Our members are passionate about helping those in need and do their utmost under the circumstances. However, they cannot make a system work that is fundamentally hurting those it is supposed to help.”

More media coverage.

24 Housing.  Bill Tanner

Report says varying Universal Credit impact UK-wide is being ignored

The very different impact of Universal Credit (UC) across the country is being ignored amid debates about how to level up economic outcomes UK wide, a new report warns.

Already, a metro mayor says its time the government listened to such “frontline warnings” and implement improvements to make UC more humane

Released by the Resolution Foundation, The long and winding road notes that the new parliament will be a critical period for  the UC roll-out, with two-thirds per of the six million families who will eventually be on UC moving across during this session.

The final – and most challenging – phase of the roll-out, involving the transfer of existing benefit and tax credit claimants onto UC, is also due to start later this year.

The Foundation notes that following welcome reforms, including the recent £1,000 boost to work allowances, the benefit is set to be slightly more generous than the legacy system it is replacing (as long as take-up gains are achieved), with families receiving £1 a week more an average.

However, this marginal average figure masks sizable groups of families that gain and lose out by large sums, and significant geographical variation across the UK.

Thanks to factors such as local rent and earnings levels, and the characteristics of local populations, some parts of the country will be left significantly worse off as the switch to UC goes ahead.

Laura Gardiner, Research Director, Resolution Foundation, said those recent reforms hid a complex mix of winners and losers, with families in some areas of the UK faring particularly badly.

“As well as making reforms at a national level – such as helping families to overcome the first payment hurdle and offering more flexibility for those with childcare – policy makers across the country need to better understand the effect Universal Credit will have in different places.

“That understanding should be central to policy debates that are rightly focusing on what can be done to close economic gaps between parts of the UK,” she said.

The report references the Liverpool City Region (LCR) – one of the areas that has experienced the biggest UC roll-out so far, and in which a higher proportion of working-age families will end up on UC than across the country 31% compared to 24% – where just 32% of families will be better off under UC, compared to 52% who will be worse off.

This compares to a national average of 46% losing out, and 39% gaining.

The article continues,

The report identifies the difference as largely driven by LCR having a relatively high proportion of single parents, out-of-work single people and disabled people, all of whom fare badly under UC.

In addition, UC’s greater generosity towards working families with high rents has less impact in LCR, which has below-average rent levels.

To help understand the localised impact of the transition to UC, the Foundation carried out in-depth interviews in LCR, focusing on recipients’ experiences of various aspects of the new system. These interviews uncovered a number of areas where further improvements are needed.

While those with IT skills valued UC’s digital focus, many said that the five-week wait for the first payment put them under significant financial and mental stress. Some reported that the wait had forced them to use food banks, and worsened existing mental health issues.

Other reported problems with the childcare element of UC – despite it being more generous than tax credits – with one single parent explaining how paying childcare costs up front was hard, and that reimbursements could be withheld if they forgot to obtain receipts on time.

The interviews revealed a variable understanding among recipients of exactly how taking on more work would affect their incomes.

Most understood they would be better off in work, but many felt that the system’s responsiveness to their earnings meant that taking on more hours wasn’t worth their while financially.

This, says the Foundation, risks weakening one of the central claims of UC, that it will ‘make work pay’.

Steve Rotheram, LCR Metro Mayor, said it was time the government listened to “frontline warnings” and implement serious reforms to make UC more humane.

“Rather than penalising people for finding work and forcing them into crisis with the five week wait for a first payment, it should be reformed to offer a genuine safety net to struggling people,” he said.

The Foundation says that now is the time for the government to make vital improvements.

These improvements, stressed as needing to top be national, should include:

  • Helping families overcome the first payment hurdle – the government should increase the proportion of new claims paid on time and in full; help families overcome the first payment hurdle by testing approaches like an interim payment for certain groups and backdating the start of claims; and carry the financial risk from late payments.
  • Ensuring UC fits better with the lives of those who need it – in particular, reforms are needed to make the generous childcare support in UC more flexible and easier to navigate.
  • Making UC more female-friendly – boosting work allowances for single parents and second-earners would boost their work incentives and increase household incomes.

The Foundation adds that policy makers in Whitehall, and, crucially, across the UK, need to consider the impact of UC at a local level.

At exactly the time that policy debates are rightly focusing on what can be done to close economic gaps between parts of the UK, the reform will be rolled out with very different impacts on those places, the Foundation says.

S, 

Data shows areas with high numbers of unemployed and disabled will be worse off, says thinktank.

Therese Coffey is still on a high…

This is an example of Universal Credit “works”.

Universal Credit Monthly Design, “unpredictable and seemingly arbitrary variations in payments.”

with 85 comments

From the House of Commons Library.

Surprisingly informative.

Universal Credit: Does the monthly design work for claimants?

The story so far
After an uncertain start to the programme, the full version of UC was finally rolled out to every part of the UK in December 2018. The number of claimants is growing steadily and by the end of 2019 around 2.4 million households will be on UC. The final ‘managed migration’ stage is to start in late 2020 and finish by December 2023. People still getting existing ‘legacy benefits’ will be contacted to claim UC.

“The Universal Credit assessment period and payment structure is a fundamental part of the design… Minimising the difference between paid employment and being on benefit effectively removes a key barrier to moving back into work by helping claimants to budget on a monthly basis.” – Freedom of Information response DWP ref: FoI 1288, DWP, 5 June 2017.

“People in low-paid work are not paid monthly. Yet the system is built around monthly earnings. Likewise, no one in the real world has their wages paid to a partner. Yet the system pays a whole month’s universal credit into a single bank account belonging to one member of the household.” – Frank Field, FT article, 19 October 2018.

“…the ostensibly simple system of monthly assessment periods for all claimants – regardless of their working arrangements and pay cycles – can, in reality, lead to unpredictable and seemingly arbitrary variations in payments which make budgeting extremely difficult.” – Rough Justice, CPAG, August 2018.

UC payment arrangements are not the same across the whole of the UK. Claimants in Scotland can choose to receive their UC payments twice a month and for their landlord to receive the housing element directly. The Scottish Government also plans to split payments of UC to couples, “to increase equality within the welfare system”. In Northern Ireland, twice-monthly payments and direct payments to landlords are the default, and evidence suggests very few claimants have opted out.

In England and Wales, ‘Alternative Payment Arrangements’ (APAs) are possible, but only where claimants can’t manage single monthly UC payments and are at risk of ‘financial harm’. The emphasis is instead on help with monthly budgeting.

In January 2019 the DWP announced new measures to improve access to APAs. These include making it easier for private landlords to request direct payment of rents, and trialling new ways to promote more frequent payments. The DWP also said it was looking at what more might be done to ensure that, for couples with children, household payments go directly to the main carer.

But the DWP is facing calls to go further. CPAG has recommended that APAs should be available on request, arguing that the current criteria are too difficult to meet. Citizens Advice has argued that, in the long term, the Government should make UC payment cycles more flexible so that claimants can choose the schedule that best suits their needs.

Further reading

You wonder if these villains have read the above:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 19, 2020 at 1:32 pm

JobCentres to “Target” Homeless People.

with 189 comments

Image result for job centres homeless

New government scheme will provide rough sleepers with help finding jobs.

 

Ipswich, like every town and city in the country, has had homeless people on the streets since the Tory government made it almost impossible for people with a variety of problems to get somewhere to live.

Every single day I see people begging in the streets.

There are piles of sleeping bags in the doorways round here and people sat on them.

Every single day the library has people come in and use the computers to help them get a roof over their head, or just somewhere to stay the night.

Now the Job Centre is going to help – no doubt by getting them to fill in Universal Credit (onLine only) applications and do a daily Job Search.

 CV tips will be very useful as well.

Jobcentre staff to target homeless people in new £3m government scheme

Welfare Weekly.

Charities say government should focus on the root causes of homelessness and invest in the benefits system.

Jobcentre staff are to take to the streets in a new government scheme designed to provide proactive employment support for homeless people and rough sleepers, the minister for welfare delivery Will Quince has announced.

Teams will work together with charities to locate homeless people who are currently not receiving back to work support from the Jobcentre and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The Sunday Observer reports that new £3 million scheme aims to help homeless people and rough sleepers find and keep secure employment, but it is not without its critics.

Official Government statistics published in December 2019 revealed that the number of households in England who are recognised as being homeless or at risk of becoming homeless rose by 11.4% over the last 12 months.

They continue,

Jon Sparkes, Chief Executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, told inews: “The DWP has an important role in preventing and ending homelessness.

“It’s essential that people forced to live on our streets and in temporary accommodation face no barriers to accessing benefits that can help them into a stable and secure home. We would welcome working with the government on this.

However, he also called on government to tackle the “root causes” of homelessness by investing in housing benefit and in building more affordable homes.

“Without these people will continue to have to choose between food and rent and end up being forced into homelessness”, he said.

 

This is one of the causes of homelessness.

The issue of local housing benefit (housing allowance) , meaning that full rents are often not covered, is a major cause of problems with accommodation.

“The data shows that the housing benefit shortfall, which is the amount of an individual’s rent not covered by housing benefit, equates to families having to give up at least a quarter of the national average weekly food shop for a small family in 70 of the country’s 152 ‘broad rental market areas’.

Broad rental market areas are designated by the government and are used to determine how much housing benefit private renters across the UK receive.

According to Crisis, central London has the highest housing benefit shortfall, as the average rent for the cheapest third of two-bedroom properties is £523.56 compared with a housing benefit rate of £320.74 – leaving a shortfall of £202.82. The average national weekly food shop for a small family (two adults and two children) is calculated at £59, meaning foregoing the weekly food shop will still not cover the shortfall for a London families.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 13, 2020 at 10:33 am

DWP Rule Change to Block help for Claimants from Elected Representatives.

with 99 comments

Image result for appeals on universal credit"

 

Trev flagged up this story yesterday.

 

Tories trying to keep Universal Credit claimants in the dark

Welfare Weekly on the reaction in Scotland.

Outrage at new barriers to Universal Credit appeals process.

The SNP has accused the UK Tory government of trying to block MSPs from supporting Universal Credit claimants through the appeals process.

SNP MSP Linda Fabiani has hit out at new changes imposed by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that requires claimants to sign a waiver form explaining why they have approached a politician for support – rather than going directly to the Job Centre.

The new changes also require claimants to state exactly what they have discussed with their elected representative before information can be disclosed regarding an appeal.

Previous figures have shown that 55% of people who were denied Universal Credit support by the DWP had their decisions overturned in court.

Commenting, SNP MSP Linda Fabiani said: “The Tories are making it difficult for constituents to approach their MSPs for support and making MSPs jump through hoops to help their constituents – it’s a disgrace and an insult to devolution.

“The Universal Credit system is fundamentally flawed and needs to be halted.

“With so many loopholes and barriers put in place to stop claimants receiving the support they are entitled to, it’s no wonder people come to their MSP for support.

“Neither the DWP, nor Boris Johnson’s Tory government, has the right to stop people approaching their elected representatives for help and support – that’s what we’re here to do.

“This is just the latest extension of the hostile environment introduced by this right-wing Tory government designed to lock people out from receiving the financial support they are entitled to.

“Our MPs at Westminster will continue to push for this system to be kyboshed [sic].”

As this is happening we hear that the reliably bonkers Minister for Work and Pensions is still enjoying the festive mood of last week.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 8, 2020 at 2:43 pm

Iain Duncan Smith’s Honour, “Slap in the Face”.

with 168 comments

Image

DWP likes a Larf.

Guardian.

The new year honours list is a reliable source of controversy, with perennial outrage about the worthiness of the recipients.

But the knighthood given to the former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has been particularly unpopular, with more than 237,000 people signing a petition objecting to the award for a man “responsible for some of the cruellest, most extreme welfare reforms this country has ever seen”.

One person with decades of experience adjudicating on the benefits system was especially appalled. “As a retired social security commissioner and upper tribunal judge, I spent a lifetime hearing thousands of appeals of decisions made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP),” wrote Stephen Pacey in a letter to the Guardian.

……

The letter went viral as anger mounted, with at least one former MBE recipient announcing they were going to give their honour back, wanting no association with a system “that rewards social cruelty above social conscience”.

Dad ‘has 30p in coppers to last him a month’ after Universal Credit ‘mix up’

Adrian Keal, 48, claims he is at risk of losing his one-bed flat in Hull and is so broke he can’t turn the heating on – but the DWP says he received an advanced Universal Credit payment in November.

 

Meanwhile the reliably bonkers Minister for Work and Pensions, wearing her hairshirt,  celebrates the beauty of this windswept pile of shingle  which hosted a former military station.

(Note, I have visited the place and know Orford well. Perhaps she has plans to get us to clean it up, for our dole..).

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 3, 2020 at 4:39 pm

Iain Duncan Smith receives knighthood for creating Universal Credit.

with 198 comments

Image

This Blog woke up this morning to this news:

Iain Duncan Smith receives knighthood in New Year Honours

Former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith heads the political recipients in the New Year Honours, with a knighthood.

As work and pensions secretary under David Cameron, Sir Iain was the architect of the Government’s controversial Universal Credit welfare reforms.

Opposition parties said it “beggared belief” that someone whose policies had caused so much distress should be honoured in this way.

In government, Sir Iain argued the changes were designed to end the benefits trap, ensuring that it always paid for claimants to take work, while simplifying the system.

Iain Duncan Smith knighthood labelled a reward for ‘legacy of cruelty’

The award of a knighthood to former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith has been criticised as a reward for a “legacy of cruelty and failure”.

As work and pensions secretary under David Cameron, Sir Iain was the architect of the Government’s controversial Universal Credit welfare reforms.

Opposition parties said it “beggared belief” that someone whose policies had caused so much distress should be honoured in this way.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy lambasted the award, tweeting that it was a “disgraceful decision by Boris Johnson to reward a legacy of cruelty and failure”.

 

Angry backlash as former Tory leader and Universal Credit architect Iain Duncan Smith is knighted Max Jeffery

An angry backlash has erupted after former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith was given a knighthood in the New Year Honours list.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 28, 2019 at 9:32 am

Universal Credit: The Struggle Continues!

with 187 comments

Image result for universal credit

 

Contributors have remarked that this Blog has not posted for a short while.

 

The simple reason is that the issues us lot are interested in have not got much of a mention.

 

We are not happy that Johnson and Sado Populism now rules this country.

 

They have a direct effect on us.

 

Here are some reasons why.

 

https://twitter.com/DailyMirror/status/1208520383672070149?s=20

https://twitter.com/RespectIsVital/status/1208682117342863361?s=20

Written by Andrew Coates

December 22, 2019 at 11:49 am

BBC Panorama Shows Tory Universal Credit Regime “setting up some claimants ‘to fail’ .”

with 493 comments

Image

 

Ipswich Unemployed Action, and many of our contributors, have said that the issues around Universal Credit have not made much of an impact during the election.

Anybody who wants to know what Boris Johnson thinks of people less well-off or protected than himself – from NHS patients to us lot – could see the man himself in action yesterday.

Last night the BBC screened this programme, (originally it was listed for the week before) that went into how Universal Credit (UC) affects people’s lives.

The BBC faces criticisms for allowing the likes of Johnson ample room to spout his opinions. Some say that the media are slanted towards the Tories.

But Universal Credit – One Year On with Catrin Nye is a thorough, moving demolition of the Tory Universal Credit system, from the sanctions regime, to the mess it has left many claimants in.

At the start of the programme we were told that Universal Credit  is designed to simplify social security and other benefits.

It intends to “make work pay”.

What Catrin Nye showed is that UC is also made to make those out of work, disabled or unemployed, pay in financial misery.

It is made to make people out of well paid full time employment suffer.

It also illustrated how those in work who still need some help get trapped in a long list of difficulties.

Keith, who has mental health issues, came up with a topic many know all too well – how the all “on line” system is a barrier in itself.

Panorama looked at the reality behind the  massive increase in the numbers of  people paying off debts (from rent arrears to UC loans).

Case studies of those trapped in its clutches, reduced to scrambling for money, illustrated just how damaging UC is.

One striking thing was that advice agencies, like the CAB and Shelter, are now acting as full-time case workers to help those in need.

Families, not well off themselves,  are forced to come to the rescue.

These real life stories are probably more effective than any high-sounding political speech in showing what’s wrong with Universal Credit.

To put it simply, UC is, as many have claimed before, “setting people up to fail”.

The BBC is to be congratulated for this excellent programme. 

 

 

 

Universal credit is setting up some claimants “to fail”, charity staff have told BBC’s Panorama.

BBC.

Since October 2017, the Department for Work and Pensions says 60% of eligible new claimants have been given an advance or loan to help them manage the five-week wait for their first payment.

The DWP deducts money from claimants’ monthly benefit payment to repay this, as well as other debts they might have.

But after deductions are made, many say they are “struggling” to cope.

Housing charity Shelter says deductions for rent arrears are now double what they were under the old system.

The DWP says they have put safeguards in place to make sure repayments are affordable.

When universal credit was first announced in 2010, the then Work and Pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, said it would replace a “complex, outdated and wildly expensive system”.

It combined six benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, jobseekers’ allowance, employment and support allowance and working tax credit – into one.

The government said the new system was designed to make work pay and encourage people, some of them the most vulnerable in society, to manage their own finances.

Flintshire in north Wales was one of the first areas to test the new system.

Last year, BBC Panorama visited the area and found people struggling to adjust.

Since then, the government has made changes and Panorama has returned to see how claimants are managing.

A year ago, Keith, who has mental health problems, was at risk of losing his home.

Universal credit encourages people to manage their own finances – including making their own rent payments – but he was struggling to cope and was behind with the rent on his council house.

Today, Keith has managed to hold onto his home after housing charity Shelter helped him change the way his benefits are paid.

The housing element of his benefit cheque now goes direct to his landlord, the council.

He is one of 2.6 million people on universal credit across the country

By the end of 2023, the Department for Work and Pensions says the system will be fully rolled out

It expects some seven million households to be claiming the new benefit.

Debt Repayment.

To repay the debts Keith built up to cover his rent, he has money deducted from his universal credit payments every month.

As a result, he has less to live on. He told BBC Panorama: “It’s a struggle”.

Victoria Tomlinson, the Shelter advisor who helped Keith with his rent arrears, says the system is routinely taking double the deductions compared to what happened previously.

She told Panorama that tenants with arrears should pay them back, but added, “you can’t make somebody pay something when they don’t have it”. If the repayments are too high “then you’re setting them up to fail”.

The programme met others who say they too are struggling with debt under universal credit.

Helen Barnard, deputy director of policy and partnerships at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, told the BBC many claimants can be out of pocket from the start because they have to wait for their first payment.

“This all starts really with the fact that there is a minimum five-week wait at the beginning of your claim before your income comes through, so what’s offered is an advance – which is a loan,” she said.

“So what that does is pulls people into debt right at the beginning of their claim.”

Rebecca and her young family moved into a council flat in north Wales in February last year and couldn’t afford a lot of the basics for their new home

Her partner is a chef but his work is irregular so the couple depend on benefits.

Family help

“We needed everything. The only thing we had was a bed and a cot, that was literally it.

“So I reached out to universal credit and I was like, well, I’m going to have to get a loan out,” Rebecca told the BBC.

She secured an advance and now around £90 is deducted from her benefits every month to repay it, and other debts.

The couple say this leaves them without enough money at the end of every month and they have to turn to Rebecca’s family for help.

The DWP says it has put safeguards in place to make sure repayments are affordable, adding that claimants can contact them to negotiate lower payments and have 12 months to pay back any advances.

But Ms Barnard says that unlike financial institutions, “the Department of Work and Pensions doesn’t have any standard affordability assessment” and the system “assumes” that the person applying for an advance understands how it works.

The DWP says that many tenants on universal credit have pre-existing rent arrears, but the proportion of people with arrears reduces over time

Written by Andrew Coates

December 10, 2019 at 10:03 am

Universal Credit System Breakdown, “Civil servants ‘ashamed’ to work for DWP”.

with 178 comments

A protester in a crime scene outfit crouches by a sign saying universal credit is a crime

This week there were people begging just near to Suffolk College.

They have moved from the Ipswich central shopping streets outwards.

I don’t want to see a country where people have to depend on the kindness of strangers but get decent benefits.

Generous strangers give £26k to Universal Credit mum with just 14p to her name

Mirror today

Hundreds of Britons have offered to help homeless mum Rachel Finn, from Grimsby, after she pulled 14p out of her pocket and said “that’s all our money”

The 39-year-old, who is staying in temporary accommodation with her 18-year-old son, Bradley, has been backed by the likes of pop star Lily Allen.

Her story captured the nation’s attention after she emptied her pockets and put down four 2p pieces and six 1p coins on a table – tearfully saying “that’s all our money” – for a BBC crew reporting on vulnerable and low-income voters in Grimsby.

This is the I today,

Jasmine Andersson

I’m a working single mother who receives Universal Credit, and I’ve had to take my daughter to friends’ houses so we can eat

Sporadic Universal Credit payments and nursery fees have landed her in thousands of pounds of debt.

A working single parent has been taking her daughter to friends’ houses to eat to because she can’t afford to meet the family’s living costs.

Ayo, 29, a communications worker, owes money to debtors, her family and friends because she cannot afford to cover nursery costs for her two-year-old daughter’s nursery bills.

Although Ayo returned to work after she gave birth to her daughter in 2017, her debt has been compounded by missed Universal Credit paymentsnursery fees and rent arrears, leaving her living pay-cheque to pay-cheque.

The young woman, who lives in Hammersmith, London, told i she fell into debt because of her childcare bills.

“When I fell pregnant, I was in a job for less than 26 weeks, so I was only entitled to statutory maternity pay. Because I was entitled to statutory maternity pay, I couldn’t receive any Universal Credit, so I couldn’t get a sure start grant to cover my childcare costs,” she said.

“I went back to work, so I had to find a nursery to look after my daughter. I had to pay a registration fee. I was lucky to pay just one nursery registration fee, because if there’s a waiting list, a lot of parents have to pay more. On top of that, I had to pay a month’s deposit, and a one month nursery fee in advance.

No wonder this is happening: (5th of December).

Civil servants described to colleagues how they were “ashamed” to work for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) because of the experiences of their own relatives when claiming universal credit, leaked documents have revealed.

The thoughts of DWP civil servants were shared with colleagues on the department’s intranet earlier this year, and they have now been passed to Disability News Service.

They appear to destroy DWP’s continuing insistence that UC “is a force for good” and that it has overwhelming support from its own staff.

In all, three separate civil servants used the DWP intranet in early May to criticise the way their own relatives had been treated while attempting to claim UC.

It comes as Labour has promised to scrap UC if it wins next week’s general election, as has the Green party, while the Conservatives have pledged to “continue the roll-out”, and the Liberal Democrats have said they would try to improve the system.

A DWP staff member who passed the comments to DNS said he wanted the public to know that many of his colleagues did not share the views of Conservative ministers like work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey, who insists that universal credit (UC) “provides a safeguard for the most vulnerable in our society”.

Instead, he said, many of his colleagues were concerned about the flaws in the system, which is gradually being rolled out by the government and has been described as “toxic” by disabled campaigners and linked to “soaring” rates of sanctions and foodbank use in areas where it has been introduced.

The comments were made on the DWP intranet, which is open to all staff members, in response to an update headlined “Universal Credit – the myth busters get to work”, which was posted by a senior member of staff on 2 May.

Soon after the discussion, a DWP memo was leaked to the media and led to widespread outrage when it revealed that the department was planning a national “myth-busting” campaign aimed at dealing with media “negativity and scaremongering” about UC.

The newly-leaked intranet comments appear to show what DWP members of staff really think about UC.

The update had explained how jobcentres had invited local reporters into their offices to “show the reality of the great service we provide within our community”.

But the post drew a scathing response from several staff members over the following week.

One civil servant told colleagues, less than an hour after the original post, that his brother’s experience on UC was “not made up or exaggerated”.

He added: “I was and still am ashamed to work for [a] department that could treat my Brother so poorly. I am sorry to say ‘myth busting’ is another name for propaganda when it comes to Universal Credit

Meanwhile the extreme-right pro-Brexit Express carries this story:

Universal Credit claimants could get £1,200 bonus money – how to get the tax-free cash

UNIVERSAL CREDIT recipients may be able to get additional help with savings under a government scheme. How does the Help to Save scheme work, and who is eligible for this bonus money?

This is what the Tories really think of those less fortunate than themselves:

Here’s what Labour thinks:

Written by Andrew Coates

December 6, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Universal Credit Raises Demand for Help, While Tories Cut, and Will Continue to Cut, Advice Funding.

with 89 comments

Universal credit

System that Tories Will Continue Doubles Demand for Advice and Help.

One of the ways the Tories have been running down this country is through cutting back on the money available for essential local services.

Citizens Advice (CAB)  is the last port of call for many people.

With Universal Credit, on-line only, you see libraries being used as, unfunded, a a source of help for people who need to apply through the net.

But anybody with more needs usually goes to the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux, other advice services having been run by local government and other cuts in funding over the years.

A couple of years ago the Guardian published this,

More people are turning to Citizens Advice but there are fewer and fewer places I can refer them to and crisis grants from local authorities are disappearing

This year we saw this in Suffolk, a last minute rescue after the rural bigwigs who run Suffolk County Council cut the CAB funding.

Citizens Advice services in Suffolk thrown lifeline after Clinical Commissioning Groups step up to fill funding gap

Citizens Advice services in Suffolk have been thrown a lifeline after two clinical commissioning groups stepped up to pay the £187,000 that was due to be cut from their funding this year.

Suffolk County Council has proposed the 50 per cent cut to Citizens Advice funding in 2019/20, with a view to cutting it completely next year.

But the joint agreement between the county council, NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG and NHS West Suffolk CCG means that funding to the service for the coming year will total £374,000 – the same as last year.

The cuts are part of Suffolk County Council’s plans to save more than £11 million, with the 2019/20 budget due to be discussed at a full meeting on Thursday.

October saw this,

Colchester Citizens Advice centre has funds cut

AN advice centre says it is business as usual despite council funding cuts.

There are fears Citizens Advice Colchester could be forced to reduce services after cuts in Colchester Council’s Voluntary Welfare Grant funding.

The council announced its grant to the advice bureau year will be £25,000 – half of which has already been received.

Since then trustees have met to discuss future arrangements with volunteers.

However, Jo Blyth, operations manager at Citizens Advice Colchester, said nothing is changing yet.

This is happening across the country.

Yet….

Today the BBC reports that the need for CABs continues to grow.

Advice issued on universal credit more than doubled in Scotland in the last year, according to new data.

Citizens Advice Scotland gave guidance 40,000 times in 2018/19, its state of the nation report shows.

It comes as the charity demands the next government helps with the cost of living, especially for low-income households.

Chief executive Derek Mitchell said people were also struggling with debt, social security and energy.

The report also showed the charity gave more than 100,000 pieces of advice issued in relation to debt.

Meanwhile our one time boss is having a merry time:

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Why isn’t this a Universal Credit Election?

with 91 comments

Image

There are over 2,300,000 (latest figures, July 2019) people on Universal Credit.

There were 20 million people claiming DWP benefits at August 2018 alone (most recent full figures).

Benefits and Universal Credit should be key election issues.

To take two examples:

Housing benefit no longer enough for struggling families to afford any Ipswich rental properties

Ipswich Star, today,

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism could not find a single two bed property in Ipswich that was affordable on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) during a recent snapshot search.

The TBIJ research found that only one in 20 of the two-bed properties advertised for rent nationally were affordable on LHA. Across most Suffolk and Essex just a fraction of the properties advertised for rent would be affordable on LHA.

It means many families are having to make tough decisions to cope.

LHA is supposed to cover the cheapest 30% of properties in that area. But it was frozen in 2016 as a cost-cutting measure, intended to save £1.3 billion a year, rising to about £1.7 billion by 2020-21.

Although the number of affordable rent homes created in Suffolk has risen over recent years – reaching 500 for the first time in 2017/18 – councils still rely on private landlords to provide much of the housing for benefit recipients.

The article goes into the problems of renting and Local Housing Allowance  – which affects the whole country – in depth.

Read it.

Then there is, something that’s hardly a secret.

Why isn’t this the food bank election?

In the world’s sixth richest country, a record number of people will be starving at Christmas.

A record number of people will use food banks this Christmas. The busiest month for food banks last year was December, and there has been a general rise in food bank use since then (April to September this year saw a 23 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2018). We’re heading for a record high this winter, according to the Trussell Trust food bank charity.

There will also be people who go without income over the Christmas period. Universal Credit, the new welfare system, has a five-week waiting time for the first payment. This delay has not been reduced by the government, despite it driving up food bank use. People applying for Universal Credit now will go without money over the Christmas period, unless they meet tight criteria for an emergency loan.

Chakelian says that this issue – we could add Benefits as such – have not been talked about in the election.

Why?

Perhaps it’s because the Labour party, which is more sympathetic to these things and has tried to come up with answers, is distracted. Perhaps it’s because the Conservatives don’t accept their manifesto is forecasted to bring about record child poverty, or don’t believe they play a part at all. Perhaps it’s because charities that usually campaign on these things have to submit to extra-strict impartiality rules around election time. Perhaps it’s because media outlets decided this would be the “Brexit election”, once and for all.

Perhaps it’s also because many people, that is many amongst those who vote, are not going to be swayed by talking about the real world of Universal Credit, benefits, and poverty.

Let’s follow this example and bring these unwelcome, difficult, subjects, into the election.

Our contributors have plenty of ideas!

A photo highlighting the huge imbalance between Britain’s richest and poorest people has gone viral on Facebook – and generated awareness of homelessness at Christmas.

Posted in the Facebook group ‘Sh*t London’, Cliff Judson’s breathtaking snapshot shows the plush and extravagant display outside House of Fraser’s flagship store on London’s Oxford Street – while homelessness in is on the increase.

The 43-year-old Londoner was aiming to highlight poverty at Christmas time, when there are more visible signs of inequality.

Over a million households on Universal Credit having benefits cut to repay debts and loans.

with 158 comments

How much can be taken from Universal Credit payments? There is an overall maximum percentage rate for all debts and deductions that can be taken from a Universal Credit payment. The maximum amount that can be deducted is an amount equivalent to 30% of the claimant’s Universal Credit standard allowance.

It’s, odd as it seems, an improvement on the previous rate which was 40%.

The new rate came in this October,

The changes mean, from this month, the maximum amount that can be taken out of Universal Credit payments will fall from 40% to 30%.

This means if you’re currently affected by the 40% rate, you will start to see more money coming in every month.

Deductions can be taken out of a person’s Universal Credit entitlement for various reasons, including sanctions and for recovering debts such as arrears on rent and fuel bills.

Universal Credit changes coming into force this month – how they will affect you (Mirror)

But thirty percent is still very stiff, when you realise that the full rate of payment is already the bare minimum to live on.

Hence this story in the Observer.

Million universal credit households ‘do not get full entitlement’

Deductions to cover loans are forcing many to turn to food banks.

More than a million households on universal credit – 60% of everyone receiving the payments –are having their benefits cut to repay debts and loans.

Data sourced under the Freedom of Information Act show that in May – the most recent month for which figures are available – 1,048,000 universal credit claimants had a deduction of their benefit payment out of 1,759,000 claimants who received any universal credit payment that month.

The figures exclude deductions for fraud and sanctions. Nearly a third of all people on the troubled welfare scheme are having more than a fifth of their payment cut, often to repay loans that some claimants received to tide them over during the five-week wait for their first payment to arrive.

Charlotte Hughes, an anti-austerity campaigner who provides support and advice to benefit recipients, said universal credit deductions come up as an issue in her work every day. “Everyone is being hit by deductions in one way, shape or form. I don’t know anybody that actually receives the full amount of money that they’re supposed to get.”

She added that many claimants were having to use food banks as a result. “Your health suffers, your housing situation suffers, you can’t eat properly, you worry, you stress. It’s just never-ending.”

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Our evidence shows many people on universal credit are struggling to make ends meet, and that deductions are contributing to this.” She said the government should introduce affordability tests when recouping debts from claimants.

The story continues,

A separate freedom of information request shows that universal credit claimants who are having their benefits deducted to repay debts and loans owe an average of £903. About 570,000 households owe more than £1,000, including 80,000 people owing more than £5,000.

The largest deductions are often due to overpaid tax credits, incurred when claimants earned more than expected under the existing tax credit system. Many of these debts date back many years.

Minutes of a meeting of welfare rights advisers in October 2018 show that Neil Couling, the head of the universal credit programme, “admitted that the government over the last 18 months has demanded a push to recover old debt and has provided UC with extra funds to do this”.

There is plenty of scope for the DWP’s famous ability to get things wrong.

Sarah, from Lancashire, is one claimant affected by this “push”. Unable to work for health reasons, she lives with her partner and daughter. The government has been deducting more than £100 a month from her universal credit payment, mostly to repay tax credit overpayments dating back to 2009. The level of the deduction changes each month, as does the amount of benefit she receives, making it impossible for her to budget.

“If I owe money I’ll pay it back,” she said. “I have no qualms about paying money back that I owe. But my argument is, ‘Why are they taking such a big chunk of my money?’ Over £150 some months – that’s a lot of money. That’s like two weeks’ worth of shopping, that they’re taking off me and we are running out of food.”

She started claiming universal credit in 2017 after leaving full-time work to become a part-time paid carer for her uncle. A car accident and subsequent diagnosis with osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia forced her out of paid work altogether.

The deductions are forcing her to borrow from her family. “We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. We get our money today, we get our food shopping, we always make sure our bills and everything are paid first, and then we pay back whoever we owe. So we end up with no money left.”

On top of her tax credit debts, she is also having £50 a month deducted for a loan that she never borrowed. After the Observer spoke to the Department for Work and Pensions about Sarah’s case, it accepted that the loan deduction was a mistake and pledged a refund, while agreeing to discuss recovering the tax credit debts at a more affordable rate.

In the meantime DWP MInister  Thérèse Coffey re-tweeted this happy little note;

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2019 at 10:27 am

Labour Manifesto: Scrap Universal Credit and “end poverty by guaranteeing a minimum standard of living.”

with 146 comments

Labour’s Manifesto is out today.

Here is the section our Contributors will focus on.

Image

Social Security.

While Labour wants a society in which people care for one another, the Tories are trying to pitch us against each other.

Under the Tories, the social security system has lost sight of its purpose. Poverty has become endemic, the glue that binds our society together has come unstuck and, in the words of the United Nations, the UK’s social safety net ‘has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos’. The cruelty and heartlessess of the Tories has made the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) a symbol of fear. When people feel the DWP is more about harassment than a helping hand, something has gone seriously wrong.

Labour will completely change this culture, replacing the DWP on day one with a Department for Social Security, which will be there to help and support people, not punish and police them.

Universal Credit

The Tories’ flagship social security programme, Universal Credit (UC), has been a catastrophe. It has pushed thousands of people into poverty, caused families to lose their homes and forced parents to visit food banks in order to feed their children.

Labour will scrap UC.

We will immediately stop moving people onto it and design an alternative system that treats people with dignity and respect.

Our ambition in designing this system will be to end poverty by guaranteeing a minimum standard of living.

We will start developing this system immediately. But we have learned the lessons from Tory failure: major policy change can’t be delivered overnight, especially when people’s lives depend
on it.

So we will also implement an emergency package of reforms to mitigate some of the worst features of UC while we develop our replacement system.

  • We will end the five-week wait by introducing an interim payment based on half an estimated monthly entitlement.
  • We will immediately suspend the Tories’ vicious sanction regime and ensure that employment support is positive not punitive.
  • We will stop 300,000 children from being in poverty by scrapping the benefit cap and the two child limit, so ending the immoral and outrageous ‘rape clause’.
  • We will pay childcare costs up front so that parents aren’t forced to turn down work or get into debt to pay for childcare.
  • Labour will protect women in abusive relationships by splitting payments and paying the child element to the primary carer.
  • We will make it easier for people to manage their living costs by introducing fortnightly payments and paying the housing element directly to landlords.
  •  The Conservative’s ‘digital only’ approach is excluding vulnerable people. Labour will end the digital barrier and offer telephone, face-to-face and outreach support.
  • We will recruit 5,000 additional advisors to deliver this.
  • Tory cuts are pushing people into rent arrears and leaving them at risk of homelessness. We will stop housing costs running away from benefits by scrapping the bedroom tax and increasing the Local Housing Allowance.

In the meantime:

Priti Patel says poverty “isn’t the government’s fault” while stood in a food bank

“Everybody just says it’s the Government as if it’s this sort of like bland blob that you know, you can just go and blame.”

Priti Patel has been criticised for arrogantly dismissing the government’s role in poverty while stood in a food bank in Barrow.

The Home Secretary attempted to push blame onto local authorities during an interview, even though local government has suffered “enormously from vicious Tory cuts”, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said.

When told that four in 10 children in parts of Barrow, Cumbria, are born into poverty, she told BBC North West Tonight: “Well it’s appalling.

“But of course everybody, and it’s not just people in Westminster, it’s not just at a national level it’s at a local level.”

Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2019 at 11:57 am

“Social security allowances have hit their lowest relative levels since the creation of the welfare state.”

with 105 comments

Image result for universal credit failure"

Underlying Crisis is Big Drop in Payment Levels.

“This paper will argue that it is time to embrace a more progressive vision of social security in the 21st century. Fundamentally, it would recognise that, in the world’s fifth richest country, a basic minimum standard of living should be a foundation for citizenship. This idea must sit at the heart of the social security system.”

Universal Credit and social security payments have fallen to just 12.5% of average earnings, think tank says

The ‘I’, the paper that many of us buy.

Just out….

 

Universal Credit payments have fallen to just 12.5 per cent of average earnings, the think tank IPPR has reported.

Social security allowances have hit their lowest relative levels since the creation of the welfare state, according to the group’s report.

Universal Credit payments have fallen to just 12.5 per cent of average earnings, the think tank IPPR has reported.

Social security allowances have hit their lowest relative levels since the creation of the welfare state, according to the group’s report.

Real time spending its lowest since the system began, according to the “Social (in)security” report.

As a share of the gross domestic product (GDP) – the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year – spending has fallen from 47 per cent to 40 per cent, and is set to be 3.9 per cent lower in real terms by 2021/22 than it was in 2010/11, amounting to £37bn less being spent on working-age social security.

The IPPR say the calculations issue a stark warning.

It believes the government needs to invest at least £8.4bn into the system to keep it afloat.

“Social security should offer a safety net, not a tightrope over poverty,” said Clare McNeil, the associate director of the IPPR.

“It is remarkable that in postwar Britain the support for those living in poverty was closer to average earnings than it is today. This is the very simple fact that lies behind the record levels of personal debt, rising use of food banks and increasing destitution that we see in the UK.”

These conclusions will come as no surprise to contributors to this Blog.

The Report from the IPPR.

Social (in)security: Reforming the UK’s social safety net

The UK has experienced a decade of austerity. While this has not resulted in a dramatic decrease in public spending in absolute terms, it does represent the longest pause in real-terms spending growth on record. Moreover, with the UK’s population continuing to grow, spending per head has fallen, and is set to be 3.9 per cent lower in real terms by 2021/22 than it was in 2010/11. Likewise, as a share of GDP, spending has fallen from 47 per cent to 40 per cent.

This reduction in spending on social security has occurred at the same time as fundamental reform to how working age benefits operate in the UK, with the introduction of universal credit, which aimed to encourage more people into work and simplify the system, thereby reducing fraud, error, confusion and administration costs.

However, it is far from clear that this has been the result. Moreover, across a whole host of other metrics, social indicators show that our welfare system is failing to deliver as we would expect it to. Having declined significantly during the first decade of the century, poverty is now growing again, particularly amongst pensioners, children and those in-work. 

This paper will argue that it is time to embrace a more progressive vision of social security in the 21st century. Fundamentally, it would recognise that, in the world’s fifth richest country, a basic minimum standard of living should be a foundation for citizenship. This idea must sit at the heart of the social security system.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 18, 2019 at 5:41 pm

Steepest Rise in Foodbank Need for 5 Years.

with 86 comments

Trussell Trust reveals steepest increase in five years as it hands out 823,000 emergency food parcels in six months

More people than ever are being forced to turn to food banks, after welfare problems over the last six months have led to the steepest increase in emergency food parcel handouts in five years, according to the anti-poverty campaign the Trussell Trust.

The trust, which runs two-thirds of the UK’s food banks, said it distributed a record 823,145 food parcels between April and September, including 301,653 that went to children. This was a 23% increase on the same period last year, representing the steepest rise the charity has witnessed since its network of food banks was fully established.

The Trussell Trust press release says,

As the General Election nears, the Trussell Trust is calling for politicians of all parties to pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics. The charity reports more people than ever before are being forced to food banks, with more than 820,000 emergency food parcels given out in the past six months.

New data released today shows April to September 2019 to be the busiest half-year period for food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network since the charity opened. During the six months, 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the UK; more than a third of these (301,653) went to children.

This is a 23% increase on the same period in 2018 – the sharpest rate of increase the charity has seen for the past five years.

The main reasons for people needing emergency food are low benefit income (36%), and delays (18%) or changes (16%) to benefits being paid.

The new figures come just a week after the Trussell Trust released State of Hunger, the most in-depth study ever published into hunger and the drivers of food bank use in the UK. The research revealed:

  • The average weekly income of households at food banks is only £50 after paying rent
  • One in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food
  • 94% of people at food banks are destitute

State of Hunger shows there are three drivers hitting people simultaneously and leaving no protection from hunger and poverty. These drivers are problems with the benefits system, ill health or challenging life experiences, and a lack of local support.

One of the key issues people at food banks face is the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment. Although Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people at food banks experience problems with, the majority (65%) of food bank referrals made in April – Sept 2019 due to a delay in benefits being paid in the UK were linked to Universal Credit.

At the moment, people moving onto the government’s new benefits system have to wait at least five weeks – and often longer – with no money. People can get offered an Advance Payment, but this is a loan that must be paid back, often forcing people into debt.

As the election nears, the Trussell Trust is calling for politicians on all sides to pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.  It is asking the next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by:

  1. Ending the five week wait for Universal Credit
  2. Ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living
  3. Investing in local emergency support for people in crisis

The Trussell Trust’s chief executive Emma Revie said:

 “More people than ever before are being forced to food banks’ doors. Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.

 “This is not right. But we know this situation can be fixed – our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty. This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics. We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.

“Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support. It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change.”

This is worth reading.

We’ve missed an important reason why people are going hungry in Britain

Inadequacy, gaps and reductions” of the benefits system are identified as one of three simultaneous factors driving hunger in the UK. The other two reasons are “challenging life experiences and ill health” and “lack of informal support”.

It’s that last reason that is the least explored. The report describes it like this:

“The vast majority of people referred to foodbanks had either exhausted support from family or friends, had a resource-poor social network or could not access support due to social isolation.”

People in Britain report feeling lonelier than ever across age groups, which is often described as a “loneliness epidemic” because of the very real health impacts. Alongside this is the reduction of public spaces where people can commune locally for free: libraries, children’s services and youth clubs have been cut, plus pub closures and the decline of town centres.

“Other support mechanisms, so let’s say being able to go to a library where you can apply for your benefits because there’s a computer there, being able to go to a local advice drop-in, or a mental health support service – all those have seen cutbacks as well,” says the Trussell Trust’s policy and research manager Abby Jitendra.

“Partly it’s because councils are the main funders and they don’t have enough money, but also partly because the national government, austerity has stripped a lot of services back, and that often means that the voluntary crisis support tends to be very, very important to people because there’s nowhere else to turn.”

The loss of traditional state and private support structures can be very isolating, as well as the informal social changes impoverished communities can bring.

“If you are on a very low income, it’s often the case that your family’s also on a very low income, that your local community doesn’t have the resources to be able to support you because it might be deprived as well,” says Jitendra. “Having debts to your family can be really damaging to your relationships, and compound loneliness and isolation – if the financial resilience of your network is also very low, you really have nowhere else to turn [other than foodbanks].”

When reporting on foodbanks, I have not only come across people desperate for support, but also desperate for company. Some come in for a cup of tea when they don’t even need a food parcel. That’s partly why many foodbanks have a sort of front-room café set-up – they’re a last resort for community support, as well as for sustenance.

Feeling hungry is “extremely isolating”, and can fracture your networks further, says Jitendra. “Human interaction completely changes when you can’t afford to even sit down and have a cup of tea with your friend because you can’t afford tea, or to turn the kettle on”.

Grahame Lucas, who has managed Worcester’s foodbank for five years after helping to found it seven years ago, finds foodbanks now provide “an outlet, a place to go” for people who have no other place to turn to.

 Thérèse Coffey is out and about doing her bit to help the poor overcome loneliness..

The popular politician  gets the Parson’s Nose of mass support.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 13, 2019 at 4:10 pm

Universal Credit Lies Slammed But DWP Misinformation Continues.

with 157 comments

Image

Resting Place for DWP Fake Information Campaign on Universal Credit.

The Ministry  of Truth still says,

It’s come to a sorry pass when even Bunga Bunga Boris’s daily points to the reality behind this porky,

Universal Credit claimants keep less of their pay than millionaires

The Sun.

Those on million pound salaries get to keep 54p from every £1- but if you’re on Universal Credit you are just 37p better off.

That’s because of the way the benefit works. If you’re on Universal Credit you have 53p from every £1 you earn – known as the taper rate – over the work allowance deduced from your benefits payment.

The work allowance you get is based on if you have children, are in a couple or get help with housing costs.

It means that hard-working people on Universal Credit have their payments slashed, effectively paying a tax on earnings, as we’ve highlighted in our Make Universal Credit Work campaign.

We want the government to increase the work allowance and lower the taper rate.

The benefit is leaving hard-working Brits penniless, like Roxy Thobald, who despite working 20 hours a week, fed her seven-year-old daughter Bella leftover party food because she had no cash due to Universal Credit’s harsh taper rate.

Or single mum Gemma Hickman who is studying to be a physiologist and works 20 hours a week but can’t afford present for her kids this Christmas.

Sara Willcocks, from poverty charity Turn2us, said: “Universal credit just isn’t working for low income families. How can it be when people earning low wages have more deducted from their incomes than millionaires?

The same story appears in the Mirror, suggesting that the Currant Bun has not gone further than a keyboard and the net to write their article.

Universal Credit claimants keep less of their pay than millionaires

People with jobs but still claiming Universal Credit see a bigger chunk of their incomes vanish than those on seven-figure salaries thanks to the way the benefit works.

The merry tale about the fake Universal Credit ads (Universal credit adverts banned as ‘misleading’) continues,

Hotspur has already noticed these letters in the Guardian.

Aditya Chakrabortty’s article (The government uses your money to gaslight poor people, 6 November) revealed the depth that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will go to defend its failing flagship universal credit programme, which has pushed thousands of people into poverty. It is important people are able to make decisions that impact on their finances based on factual information.

The anti-poverty charity Z2K (Zacchaeus 2000 Trust) that I lead was the first to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about this series of ads, and we are named in the ASA’s final ruling. We were compelled to make this complaint because we simply could not understand why the DWP would make assertions without clear evidence to back up their claims.

We were really pleased to see such wide coverage of the ASA ruling, and to know that thousands of Guardian readers share our concerns. We are, however, very disappointed that the DWP is neither able to satisfactorily explain its actions or apologise for the harm they will have caused to the people who may have moved on to universal credit as a result.

The ruling comes too late as the now discredited campaign has already ended. That’s why Z2K has launched a public campaign calling for an apology from the DWP and an independent investigation into how and why these adverts came to be authorised. It is vital that we the public can trust government departments to be telling us the truth, particularly in being clear about their strategies to ensure that the social security system works as a safety net to reduce the numbers of people now living in poverty in the UK. Instead of using taxpayers’ money on a failed PR campaign, the DWP must now start engaging meaningfully with the widespread evidence of the impact of welfare reform on pushing people into poverty. Join our campaign to tell the DWP to #StopMisleading today.
Raji Hunjan
CEO, Z2K (Zacchaeus 2000 Trust)

The ASA found that government claim “people move into work faster” under universal credit breached the advertising code under the rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.9 (Qualification) and 3.11 (Exaggeration). That exact phrase has been used by government MPs 67 times in parliament to defend universal credit, as well as in countless media interviews. It is the key plank of the government’s claim that universal credit is making lives better – yet it fails to meet the basic standards of truthfulness and honesty that we demand of soap powder commercials. It is time that it is removed from the mouths of government ministers.
Paul Morrison
London

 Huge credit to Aditya Chakrabortty. Credit also to cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, for ruling that the government cannot publish a Treasury analysis of Labour’s spending plans. While both developments are clearly embarrassing to the Conservatives, I think they also reveal a worrying failure by the civil service to adhere to its “core values” of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.

Specifically, officials in the DWP and Treasury seem to have been willing participants in attempts by the government to manipulate the evidence in order to support a predetermined policy (universal credit), rather than providing an objective analysis of its impact; and to devote resources to rubbishing opposition spending plans for party political purposes, while apparently not having sufficient resources to analyse the impact of the government’s Brexit deal.

I worked for 38 years as a government analyst and I know that the UK civil service, in particular its analytical professions, has a deserved reputation for observing high standards of professionalism and propriety. It saddens me to see this now under serious threat from the actions of current government ministers, combined with the pressures from austerity and the demands of Brexit. It will be important for the next government, and civil servants themselves, to take steps to restore this reputation before it is too late.
Alan Spence
Southport, Merseyside

Meanwhile Therese Coffey is preparing for the Great Flood that will hit Suffolk Coasts

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 9, 2019 at 11:29 am

Food Banks, The Tory Universal Credit’s Legacy.

with 59 comments

A few days ago a contributor pointed out that the planned rise in benefits is a joke.

And what will be the rise, 75 pence ? And the Tories think they can buy people’s votes with this.

Ipswich Unemployed Action team of seasoned  Newshounds has been looking around the local shops for ways to spend this king’s ransom.

A tin of baked beans? A few bananas? Some onions?

The choice is royal.

Food poverty  is one of the most visible legacies of Universal Credit and low incomes for those on benefits.

It’s not just the “freeze” in levels, it’s the wait, the sanctions, and the low level of money people get.

This leads them to go to get help from charity for basics- a great opportunity no doubt for giving and virtue, or as Rees Mogg might say ” “rather uplifting” and growth “shows what a compassionate country we are”.

No doubt go bothering electric shock dog collar hairshirt Coffey likes them too.

People don’t talk much about Food Banks much – in person, to friends.

I can’t think of anybody telling me the details face to face.

But Sky News did the job for us this morning.

UK households at food banks living on £50 a week, research shows

The State of Hunger report found that 94% of people at food banks are destitute, with one in five having no money coming in.

A charity is calling for benefit payments to cover the true cost of living after a report revealed people at food banks have an average weekly income of £50 after paying rent.

The Trussell Trust, a food bank charity, commissioned the State of Hunger 2019 report, which was conducted by Heriot-Watt University.

It found that over 94% of people at food banks are destitute, while three-quarters live in households affected by ill-health or disability.

Meanwhile, the average weekly income of people at food banks is only £50 after paying rent, and almost one in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food.

The report identified three reasons: issues with the benefits system, ill health and challenging life experiences, and a lack of local support.

Two-thirds of people at food banks were affected by problems with benefits in the last year.

The key issues include a reduction in the value of benefit payments, being turned down for disability benefits, having benefits stopped, and delays in payments such as the five-week wait for universal credit.

..

As a result, the Trussell Trust is calling for three key changes as a priority to protect people from hunger:

  • End the five-week wait for universal credit
  • Benefit payments must cover the true cost of living
  • Funding for councils to provide local crisis support should be ring-fenced and increased.

The Guardian covers the story:

Research says evidence ‘clear’ policies such as universal credit can cause destitution

You can download the full report.

This is how they present their findings,

Over the last five years, the number of emergency food parcels provided to people in crisis by food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network has increased by 73%. No charity can replace the dignity of buying your own food. To help end the need for food banks, the Trussell Trust commissioned State of Hunger – the most authoritative piece of independent research into hunger in the UK to date. Here’s what the research reveals…

This is worth noting:

Some features of the benefit system have been associated with increases in the incidence of ‘failures’ of claimants to qualify. This is illustrated by the remarkable swings over time (and space) in rates of JSA sanctions, by variations in the health/disability assessment outcomes associated with PIPs, and variations in the assignment of ESA claimants to different groups. This study of household food insecurity has revealed some of the severely adverse impacts of these processes, both on destitution and on mental health.

On UC, there is evidence from multiple sources that the ‘five-week wait’ is viewed as a delay in benefit payment rather than a system feature. We conclude from a range of evidence including the survey, modelling and qualitative interviews that the waiting period is one of the most critical drivers of food bank use, particularly in this period with the general roll-out of UC. Not everyone fails to cope with the five-week wait, but people who have experienced longer term poverty, those without family and friends able to help and particularly people with multiple deprivation – homelessness,offending, drug misuse and mental health issues – are particularly vulnerable.

Therefore, there is a strong case for shortening this or alleviating its effects in other ways, but not ways which simply pile up more problem debt on people at the very bottom of the income distribution.

There appear to be gaps in oversight of debt repayment, with many people paying significant proportions of their (already very low) benefits back to the DWP and third parties to cover debts. It is not quite clear how far this is about a lack of guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions about what is acceptable or a lack of oversight about what proportion of income is being taken. Even the amounts being recouped for the UC advance payment alone can be very large; an area where that one would expect the Department for Work and Pensions to be able to straightforwardly monitor. Ideally, however, there should be clear, shared protocols for acceptable levels of deduction covering all parties and purposes and these should be consistently implemented.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 5, 2019 at 10:28 am

New Help for Vulnerable People for Universal Credit “as a route into work”?

with 39 comments

Image result for therese coffey church

Thérèse Anne Coffey out on Election Trail.

Electric Shock Dog Collar Coffey has made this announcement, wholly unconnected to the General Election.

DWP announce £10million fund to help vulnerable people claim Universal Credit

Secretary of State Therese Coffey has today (1 November 2019) announced a £10 million Universal Credit Transition Fund for outreach programmes to help vulnerable people make Universal Credit claims.

The fund will be available to partner organisations across the UK, including charities, from April 2020.

It will aim to help vulnerable people, including disabled people, care leavers and those with mental health issues, claim Universal Credit as a route into work.

It will support innovative ideas for engaging with vulnerable people early, helping them to make timely claims to the new benefit.

Figures show that a fifth of claimants delayed making a claim for Universal Credit, largely because they didn’t know how to make a claim or because they thought they would find a job quickly.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Dr Therese Coffey MP said: “I am delighted to announce a £10 million challenge fund to support the most vulnerable in society with their Universal Credit claims.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this statement.

“Route to work”?

What about this case?

And this.

What about help to avoid this?

Perhaps the dosh will go to this:

And so it goes.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 2, 2019 at 11:14 am

Amber Rudd Bows Out.

with 65 comments

The chief whip's missive provoked a furious Twitter response from Ms Rudd

The former DWP Minister Amber Rudd is bowing out.

The BBC reports,

Former Home Secretary(NO mention of her DWP role!!!)  Amber Rudd has announced she will not be standing at the general election in December.

The Hastings and Rye MP said she was “not finished with politics” but would not be defending her seat.

Ms Rudd, who had a majority of 346 at the last election, resigned from the cabinet and surrendered the Tory whip over Brexit in September.

She was not among those Tories who had the party whip restored by the prime minister on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Evening Standard earlier, Ms Rudd said: “I will be leaving the House of Commons on perfectly good terms with the prime minister and I want him to succeed.

“I’m happy to leave the House of Commons as a Conservative MP.” Government Chief Whip Mark Spencer she would not be having the Tory whip restored.

Asked about her actions during the party row over Brexit, Ms Rudd said: “I felt I made the right steps at those critical points and I am pleased that the prime minister has now restored the whip to some of those colleagues.”

She did not rule out a return to Westminster in the future, but said there were “many other things I want to do”.

Ms Rudd is the latest high-ranking Conservative to announce they will not be standing at the general election.

This is when our paths, fleetingly, crossed,

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

On  16 November 2018, Rudd returned to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions following the resignation of Esther McVey over opposition to Theresa May’s Draft Withdrawal Agreement and the Brexit negotiations. As Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rudd had to take on Sarah Newton‘s responsibilities as Minister for Disabled People following her resignation.

Amber will be remembered on this Blog by our contributors as somebody who implemented, if briefly,  the cruel and hated Universal Credit scheme, dreamt up by arch-villain Iain Duncan Smith and administered at present – for how long? –  by “electronic shock Dog Collar” Thérèse Coffey.

The new Minister is said to spend weekends in a hairshirt praying at the Atomic Weapons Research centre on Havergate Island, Orford Ness.

Related image

How cruel her Amber’s friends have been!

Boris Johnson takes revenge on Amber Rudd by SNUBBING her plea to be let back into Tory fold amid fury at her Brexit disloyalty – but she claims he BEGGED her to stand again in Xmas election.

Daily Mail.

  • Former Cabinet minister Amber Rudd has announced she is quitting Commons
  • The Hastings & Rye MP will not be standing in the looming snap general election
  • Ms Rudd expected to be brought back into the Conservative fold this afternoon
  • But Tory chief whip Mark Spencer has dismissed her request in a brutal letter
  • Ms Rudd retorted that refusal was ‘funny’ as PM begged her to stand at election

In a moving tribute a contributor writes,

” Her honey-coloured hair fell in heavy waves below her shoulders and as she stared up at him her eyes, clear, speckled amber, seemed to tilt at the corners; her brows were black and swept up in arcs, and she had thick black lashes. There was about her a kind of warm luxuriance, something immediately suggestive to the men of pleasurable fulfillment- something for which she was not responsible but of which she was acutely conscious.”
― Kathleen Winsor, Forever Amber

Her legacy shall not be forgotten:

DWP: Just one scammer prosecuted so far for snaring people in Universal Credit fraud

EXCLUSIVE: 28 cases are being prepared directly against benefit claimants, but only one third-party scammer has been convicted so far

Just one scammer has been successfully prosecuted so far for ensnaring Universal Credit claimants in an “industrial-scale fraud”.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) chiefs confirm there has been “one successful third-party prosecution” since the con emerged earlier this year.

A second case against a suspected third-party scammer is due in court next month.

It comes despite the DWP assigning an army of 145 staff to comb through 85,000 suspected cases of advance payment fraud totalling £1.8m so far.

The BBC revealed in July how fraudsters had conned struggling families into applying for Universal Credit in order to get cash from the DWP.

Claimants split the money with con artists, only to find out it was an “advance payment” loan – which has to be paid back to the DWP in full over 12 months.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 30, 2019 at 4:37 pm

After “Survival Sex” Scandal Work and Pensions Committee Calls for End to 5 Week Waiting Period for Universal Credit.

with 60 comments

 

Image

Our contributors have noticed this story:

Selling sex for £5 is the only way I can survive after Universal Credit chaos’
Sky
As the government faces calls to axe the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments, one ex-claimant describes her experience.

Women are being driven to carry out “survival sex” work because of the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments, MPs have warned.An inquiry by the Commons’ work and pensions committee has found the wait for payments is why some claimants said they had turned to prostitution.

The committee has urged the government to remove the five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payment, which it described as a “fundamental design flaw”.Here, a woman called Susie tells Sky News why her struggle with the Universal Credit system has left her selling sex for just £5.Within the next week if my situation doesn’t change I am going to have to go back on the streets.

Universal credit: MPs call for action on women driven to ‘survival sex’

BBC.

Evidence that women are being driven to sex work because of problems with universal credit must lead to government action, MPs have said.

A number of women told the work and pensions committee they turned to sex work because their benefits payments did not cover their basic needs.

The committee said the government had previously been “dismissive” of the issue but had now changed its position.

The government said it was taking the evidence “very seriously”.

The committee has been investigating a potential link between universal credit and “survival sex” – when people, overwhelmingly but not exclusively women, turn to sex work to meet their basic needs, including food, shelter and clean clothes.

Universal credit merges six benefits into one payment and was designed to simplify the benefits system and help people move into work.

However, the committee has heard evidence that problems with the new system, including a five-week wait for the first payment, are forcing some women to rely on sex work.

 

This is the report behind these articles.

Survival sex and Universal Credit: Remarkable reversal in Government’s “defensive, dismissive and trite” position welcome – but insufficient

This inquiry was driven initially by a Committee member’s direct experience in their constituency. Specialist support organisations told him, that problems with Universal Credit were pushing women into survival sex.

The initial response from the Department for Work and Pensions, when asked in Parliament about the problem, was wholly inadequate. The former Secretary of State, Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, suggested that the Department’s Work Coaches (frontline Jobcentre staff) might tell “these ladies” that there are “record” numbers of job vacancies in the UK and “perhaps there are other jobs on offer”. This response suggested that the Department had little understanding or insight into the issue – to put it mildly. The Committee subsequently launched a full inquiry. The evidence that we received was, in many cases, alarming and distressing.

“The manager said if I gave him [oral sex] he’d let me off [shoplifting food, due to Universal Credit delays]. What could I do? It was that or have the police called. I just did it. I just kept thinking “please don’t call the police”. Anyway, he said afterwards that if I did the same next week he’d let me have forty quid’s worth of stock. It seemed like a fortune. […]

“In the end, I held out for two weeks. I got my [UC] money, and again it was short, and again it was gone on bills before I’d even thought of food. So, I left the baby with next door and went down to the shop […] It’s been like that for months now.”

The Committee expected the Department to respond in full to the Terms of Reference for its inquiry, by submitting written evidence. But the Department’s first attempt at a written response was “defensive, dismissive and trite”. People with personal, first-hand experience told the Committee—and similar evidence was widely available in media sources – that Universal Credit was a factor in their decisions to turn to, or return to, sex work. DWP’s written evidence largely ignored these personal, frontline testimonies, and instead presented what appeared to be its own internet research on whether there is a “direct causal link” between Universal Credit and survival sex.

Chair’s comments

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

“The women who gave evidence to us were courageous enough to share some enormously difficult and distressing experiences, in the hope of helping us and the Department to better understand this issue. We are grateful for the Minister’s intervention, which helped to ensure that we, and more importantly the people who bravely gave their evidence to us, got a more meaningful response. Welcome though that was, that cannot be the end of it. The Department, having belatedly acknowledged that there is a problem, must take the steps to resolve it.”

The response echoed DWP’s argument when the Committee raised concerns that UC’s single household payment was playing into the hands of domestic abusers, by giving them control of the entire family budget. DWP’s argument then was essentially that domestic abuse had also gone on under legacy benefits and so Universal Credit could not be blamed. One of the Committee’s witnesses – M, a student and a sex worker – said that the DWP’s response “wilfully misrepresented” the issue.

I am about to be moved on to Universal Credit. I will lose £200 a month, approximately […] The thought of going into debt and having no money is really frightening. I have children. I can’t do that. I will sell my body. – K

The report sets out and draws on the private and public witness testimony that the Committee heard in May and June this year. Given its concerns about the Department’s grasp of the problem, the Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance (Will Quince MP) was invited to sit in on a private session with witnesses B, K, M and T: four women who are, or have, engaged in sex work due in part to problems with Universal Credit and the wider benefit system. The women themselves were highly critical of the Department’s initial response.

I was really upset with this sensationalist media quote [DWP] had about someone earning £450 a night and they are kind of implying, “Oh well, sex workers make loads of money in the industry”. My last brothel shift, I was there for three days and I earnt £158, so it just does not reflect the actual reality of survival sex work […] it just seemed to be kind of ridiculing us. – M

The Minister’s subsequent, public acknowledgement that DWP got it wrong was welcome, of course, but the Committee notes that this is not an isolated incident. DWP has shown a “pattern of unwillingness to engage with frontline evidence about the impact of its reforms”. The Committee says DWP’s responses to urgent evidence from the frontline of UK poverty should not be dependent on whether a topic catches the eye of a given minister – and should not depend on evidence being provided by organisations with the resources to lobby Parliament.

The inquiry once again highlights the deep, structural and administrative problems with Universal Credit, including the five week wait for a first payment. These problems are exacerbated by DWP’s continued failure to systematically gather, use, and respond to frontline evidence, and claimants’ lived experience of Universal Credit.

Universal Credit, the five week wait, “advances”, and survival sex

The Department has put in place several measures to help offset the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment. All claimants can receive a repayable Advance Payment of their Universal Credit (a loan from the Department) when they start their Universal Credit claim, to tide them over while they wait for their first payment. Some claimants will also receive non-repayable “run on” payments of some of their current benefits.

Yes, they do give you an advance, they do give you that. I am not going to say they don’t, they do give you that, but you have to wait six weeks and £250 is not going to last anybody six weeks. Like I am only 21 and I only spend £20 on gas and electric a fortnight, do you know what I mean, and that is cheap. I am trying my best, £30 on shopping, not a penny over, because if I go a penny over I can’t get other stuff that I need, tampons and things, do you know what I mean? That Universal Credit Advance, by the time I got it I had spent it and then I was waiting another three to four weeks for my benefit. Even then when I got my benefit, they were taking £150 off my benefit and I was left with £50. – T

The Department would not tell the Committee how much these measures cost, but it is clear that they are sticking plasters over a fundamental design flaw in Universal Credit: the five week wait. The Committee has repeatedly called on the Government to eliminate the five week wait, and does so again in this Report. In the meantime, the Committee says that the Department should offer non-repayable Advances to claimants who would otherwise suffer hardship. This would include several of the women who gave evidence to the Committee.

This is also of great interest: 

The digital service

Universal Credit is “digital by default”: claimants are expected to make and manage their claims online. the digital service has the potential, in time, to reduce DWP’s operating and staffing costs, and offer claimants a convenient, modern way of managing their benefits. But some claimants will struggle with aspects of the digital service, or simply never be able to use it. People must not be excluded from benefits they need and are entitled to because they struggle with computers. Although DWP says alternatives are available (such as managing claims by telephone), the experiences of witnesses and Committee Members’ own constituents suggest there is a significant gap between what DWP says is available, and what claimants actually receive.

I have complex PTSD, from very early age child sex abuse, and over the years my mental health has deteriorated […] That, for me, is also partly another reason why I will not be going on Universal Credit because, again, it doesn’t allow supporting people who can’t both mentally and physically do that admin-based work, which it takes a lot of time and effort and it is online stuff. – B

The Committee recommends that DWP:

  • Scrap the (minimum) 5 week wait for first payment and, in the meantime, offer non-repayable Advances to vulnerable claimants who would otherwise suffer hardship.
  • Put in place a proper evaluation framework for UC which takes account of claimants’ “lived experience” of the benefit, and evidence from frontline organisations.
  • Change its guidance to Decision Makers to emphasise that payment of Universal Credit into a non-claimant bank account should be considered an absolute last resort. The Committee heard that people who cannot open bank accounts are allowed to nominate a non-claimant’s account (often belonging to a “friend” or “boyfriend”) to have their UC paid into. All too often, those payments never reach the claimant because they are stolen by the “friend”.
  • Prioritise allowing telephone applications for Universal Credit from people due for release from prison to help ensure that “day 1” of coincides with “day 1” of a Universal Credit claim.
  • Improve, publicise and monitor the non-digital means of applying for UC
  • commission and publish a review on improving services for this group of claimants: as for many other groups, the specialist support provided by Jobcentres is patchy and varies from JCP to JCP.

Electric Shock Dog Collar DWP MInister Coffey has been busy.

 

Benefits Freeze is “over” but cut of 6% stays – future halt to rises not ruled out.

with 95 comments

Working-age benefits are set to continue to their relative decline (Resolution Foundation).

Last week this news item marked Thérèse Coffey, first Parliamentary intervention in her “dream job” as Work and Pensions Secretary.

Freeze imposed in 2015 was planned to last until end of 2019-20 financial year.

The government has refused to commit to ending its freeze on benefits despite a promise to turn the page on a decade of austerity.

The work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, said she could not give a definitive answer about whether the freeze on most working-age benefits and tax credits would continue beyond its initial four-year term.

Imposed in 2015 by chancellor George Osborne, the benefit freeze was planned to last until the end of the 2019-20 financial year. However, Coffey said talks were ongoing about what the government would do next and she left the door open for a possible extension.

Answering questions from MPs on the Commons work and pensions committee, she said: “I don’t think anybody should make any assumptions by default, but we’re looking very carefully right now on what we can do on benefits going forward from 2020. I can’t give you a definitive outcome on what we will do.”

The electronic dog collar disciplinarian did not taker account of this – as the article continues,

Inflation figures published earlier on Wednesday indicated that benefits could rise by 1.7% from April if the freeze is lifted. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said inflation remained unchanged in September, with the consumer price index (CPI) holding steady at 1.7%.

The inflation reading for September is used by the government to uprate the value of benefit payments each year, as well as state pensions and business rates.

The Resolution Foundation think tank said the welfare freeze had cut the value of benefits by 6% in real terms since 2015, leaving the average poor couple with children £580 a year worse off.

It said the social security safety net was continuing to be eroded as wages and pensions rose by more than double the rate of benefits.

This is the Resolution Foundation report, well worth reading.

The benefit freeze has ended, but erosion of the social security safety net continues

The major working-age benefits will rise in cash terms in April 2020, for the first time in five years. They will increase by 1.7 per cent, based on new figures released today – assuming no change in government policy. But while the benefit freeze has now ended, its effect of significantly weakening the social security safety net has not.

Further data, also released this week, means that the state pension will rise by a higher 3.9 per cent. The difference between the two increases highlights the fact that working-age benefits will continue to be eroded in value relative to earnings and pensions. This policy approach comes despite households with children typically having lower incomes than other groups, and higher poverty risks.

They continue,

The ‘benefit freeze’ is over.

We now know that CPI inflation was 1.7 per cent in the year to September. This figure is particularly important as it determines (among other things) how far many benefits will rise next April.

Remarkably, for a range of benefits – including Child Benefit, Universal Credit, (non-disability) Tax Credits, Housing Benefit limits, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, and Employment and Support Allowance (except the support group component) – this will be the first cash increase in basic entitlements since April 2015, thanks to the benefit freeze introduced by then Chancellor George Osborne.

After adjusting for price increases, this benefit freeze has cut the real level of those benefits by 6 per cent, and in many cases that has come on top of earlier real cuts.

It is of course a good thing that the freeze is coming to an end. (Though, to be clear, the freeze was always due to come an end in April 2020 – there has not been any recent policy change.)

But, while the direction of travel is no longer downwards, working-age benefits are clearly now stingier than they were pre-freeze, or indeed pre-austerity (even putting aside any wider considerations, such as sanctions or waiting periods). In fact, the real value of basic out-of-work support in 2019-20 is – at £73 a week (£3,800 a year) – lower than it was in 1991-92, despite GDP per capita having grown by more than 50 per cent since then. Even more starkly, child benefit for a second child or beyond is worth less in 2019-20 than when it was (fully) introduced in 1979. It seems a rising tide does not always lift all boats.

….

Although the benefit freeze and departmental austerity are ending, this is not the end of working-age welfare cuts

The question of whether we could and should do more to support household incomes through working-age benefits (the answer to both is yes) seems particularly pertinent when the age of austerity has come to an end for departmental spending, and when the likely upcoming election may feature some very expensive promises on other spending and tax cuts.

But despite the end of the benefit freeze, the turning point for departments, and the abandoning of previous fiscal rules, we shouldn’t forget that some benefit cuts continue to be rolled out. As Figure 4 shows, the two-child limit in particular has some way to go, as it applies only to those born after April 2017. The slow roll-out of Universal Credit, although a positive overall, will also create many losers as it continues over the next few years.

When it comes to working-age benefits, it is clear that austerity is not yet over.

Coffey’s stout denial of poverty continues.

And here.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 22, 2019 at 10:18 am

Digital Welfare Nightmares.

with 71 comments

Image result for digital welfare dystopia' around

“Claimants struggle with Universal Credit’s online portal…”

Following the post on Surveillance Welfare and sending out our newshawks to investigate the main thing they found was that for many people it is becoming bloody hard to to get to grips with a “online” benefits system.

The local facthounds confirm that this story, from the start of the year, is well the case in Ipswich and elsewhere.

As a librarian I spend most of my time helping benefits claimants work out the Universal Credit system

Georgia Grainger is happy to help but wishes library services were not cut so frequently because they do such important work

  • Librarian says some claimants have no idea how computers work
  • Says libraries forced to prop up services not provided by Jobcentres
  • Says benefits claimants feel ’embarrassed’ to ask for help with forms.

The reality of being a librarian at Charleston Community Library in Dundee, Scotland, couldn’t be more different. The 23-year-old, whose job title is library and information assistant, says she spends most of her time helping benefits claimants attempt to navigate the Universal Credit system from the library computers.

Hard pressed library staff across the country help people deal with a system designed to help the DWP and their private providers, not claimants.

Our contributors have unearthed many a merry tale as well but this latest news opens up a worse prospect.

What they could call the “digital divide” exists across the world.

It’s not just access to services online, which are not always available. Not everybody wants to, or can, use computers and the internet.

In French they even have an expression for those unable to use computers, L’illectronisme – illiteracy in electronic devices. 

There may not yet be any systematic studies to translate into figures the rate of “digital illiteracy” (or DI — we will use this term, pending an English equivalent to the French illectronisme) but we already have a feeling of how bad it may be. Again, the social consequences of DI and plain illiteracy are similar.

Digital illiteracy – a real handicap Jean-Claude Elias 

Now we have this report:

Universal Credit: UN report warns of ‘digital welfare dystopia’ around DWP benefits system

Ruchira Sharma The ‘I’.

The report said that many claimants struggle with Universal Credit’s online portal, stopping them from even understanding their own case.

The report, which will be presented to the to the General Assembly on Friday, cited the DWP’s Universal Credit system and how its use of online portals stops many claimants who lack digital skills from understanding their own case and having the ability to appeal.

..

The report highlighted that despite being a wealthy country, in 2019 in the UK there are 11.9 million people (22 per cent of the population) who do not have the essential digital skills needed for day-to-day life.

An additional 19 per cent cannot perform fundamental tasks such as turning on a device or opening an app, while 4.1 million adults (8 per cent) are offline because of fears that the internet is an insecure environment – proportionately almost half of those are from a low income household and more than half are over 60.

Welfare Weekly has the story.

World stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia’, warns UN report

A UN human rights expert has expressed concerns about the emergence of the “digital welfare state”, saying that all too often the real motives behind such programmes are to slash welfare spending, set up intrusive government surveillance systems and generate profits for private corporate interests.

“As humankind moves, perhaps inexorably, towards the digital welfare future it needs to alter course significantly and rapidly to avoid stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia,” the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, says in a report to be presented to the General Assembly on Friday.

The digital welfare state is commonly presented as an altruistic and noble enterprise designed to ensure that citizens benefit from new technologies, experience more efficient government, and enjoy higher levels of well-being.

But, Alston said, the digitization of welfare systems has very often been used to promote deep reductions in the overall welfare budget, a narrowing of the beneficiary pool, the elimination of some services, the introduction of demanding and intrusive forms of conditionality, the pursuit of behavioural modification goals, the imposition of stronger sanctions regimes, and a complete reversal of the traditional notion that the state should be accountable to the individual.

“Digital welfare states thereby risk becoming Trojan Horses for neoliberal hostility towards social protection and regulation,” said the UN Special Rapporteur.

“Moreover, empowering governments in countries with significant rule of law deficits by endowing them with the level of control and the potential for abuse provided by these biometric ID systems should send shudders down the spine of anyone even vaguely concerned to ensure that the digital age will be a human rights friendly one”.

It continues,

“Most Governments have stopped short of requiring Big Tech companies to abide by human rights standards, and because the companies themselves have steadfastly resisted any such efforts, the companies often operate in a virtually human rights free-zone,” said Alston.

The human rights community has thus far done a very poor job of persuading industry, government, or seemingly society at large, of the fact that a technologically-driven future will be disastrous if it is not guided by respect for human rights and grounded in hard law.

There is no shortage of analyses warning of the dangers for human rights of various manifestations of digital technology and especially artificial intelligence.

“But none has adequately captured the full array of threats represented by the emergence of the digital welfare state,” the UN expert said.

Here is the summary of the report,

Report of the Special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

The digital welfare state is either already a reality or is emerging in many countries across the globe. In these states, systems of social protection and assistance are increasingly driven by digital data and technologies that are used to automate, predict, identify, surveil, detect, target and punish. This report acknowledges the irresistible attractions for governments to move in this direction, but warns that there is a grave risk of stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia. It argues that Big Tech operates in an almost human rights free-zone, and that this is especially problematic when the private sector is taking a leading role in designing, constructing, and even operating significant parts of the digital welfare state. The report recommends that instead of obsessing about fraud, cost savings, sanctions, and market-driven definitions of efficiency, the starting point should be on how welfare budgets could be transformed through technology to ensure a higher standard of living for the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 18, 2019 at 10:46 am

Surveillance Capitalism Comes to the Dole.

with 53 comments

Image result for surveillance capitalism panopticon

New DWP HQ.

I, and many other people ,have got interested in Surveillance Capitalism recently.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power Professor Shoshana Zuboff

It’s a book, a bloody long one,  about “the unprecedented form of power called “surveillance capitalism,” and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control us.”

She says,  “human experience is subjected to surveillance capitalism’s market mechanisms and reborn as ‘behaviour”.

It seems people are very willing to give up their private information in return for perceived benefits such as ease of use, navigation and access to friends and information. Zuboff recasts the conversation around privacy as one over “decision rights”: the agency we can actively assert over our own futures, which is fundamentally usurped by predictive, data-driven systems. Engaging with the systems of surveillance capitalism, and acquiescing to its demands for ever deeper incursions into everyday life, involves much more than the surrender of information: it is to place the entire track of one’s life, the determination of ones path, under the purview and control of the market.

Guardian.

Universal Credit, which we do not even ‘buy’ is a much more complex version.

It’s modelled on it.

We have to fill in all our details, and personal problems, not to mention physical difficulties if we want Disability Allowances.

In return they watch our search for work like hawks.

On-line journals and the rest.

Not to mention the threat of sanctions.

The next stage is coming.

The UK government is accelerating the development of robots in the benefits system in a digitisation drive that vulnerable claimants fear could plunge them further into hunger and debt, the Guardian has learned.

The Department for Work and Pensions has hired nearly 1,000 new IT staff in the past 18 months, and has increased spending to about £8m a year on a specialist “intelligent automation garage” where computer scientists are developing over 100 welfare robots, deep learning and intelligent automation for use in the welfare system.

As well as contracts with the outsourcing multinationals IBM, Tata Consultancy and CapGemini, it is also working with UiPath, a New York-based firm co-founded by Daniel Dines, the world’s first “bot billionaire” who last month said: “I want a robot for every person.” His software, used by Walmart and Toyota, is now being deployed in a bid to introduce machine learning into checking benefit claims.

Note this,

The DWP is also testing artificial intelligence to judge the likelihood that citizens’ claims about their childcare and housing costs are true when they apply for benefits.

It has deployed 16 bots to communicate with claimants and help process claims and is building a “virtual workforce” to take over some of the jobs of humans. One recent tender document requested help to build “systems that … can autonomously carry out tasks without human intervention”.

The developments emerged during a Guardian investigation into one of the most radical but least understood welfare reforms since the roll-out of universal credit that will apply to 7 million people.

And this,

But claimants have warned the existing automation in UC’s “digital by default” system has already driven some to hunger, breakdown and even attempted suicide. One described the online process as a “Kafka-like carousel”, another as “hostile” and yet another as a “form of torture”. Several said civil servants already appeared to be ruled by computer algorithms, unable to contradict their verdicts.

This,

Key details about the automation push remain secret. The DWP has refused freedom of information requests to explain how it gathers data on citizens. Simon McKinnon, the chief digital and information officer of DWP Digital, said this year it was developing a way to “build a holistic understanding of digital personas”, but refused to say what information was gathered to do this.

The ministry has previously told parliament it gathers data from private credit reference agencies, the police, the Valuation Office Agency, the Land Registry and the National Fraud Initiative, which gather information from public and private bodies. But it is now declining to update the list, claiming it would “compromise the usefulness of that data”.

“There are concerns that government is accelerating the automation of the welfare system without a proper evidence-based consultation about its impacts,” said Dr Lina Dencik, co-founder of the Data Justice Lab at Cardiff.

More,

Staff are using UiPath to develop machine learning to check claims for fraud, which suggests welfare computers will autonomously learn and alter the way they make decisions with minimum human intervention.

One recent staff member at Newcastle told the Guardian they already “have ways of creating a digital image of somebody”. He stressed much of the work was secret, but said this did not mean it was against citizens’ interests.

The digital transformation is costing hundreds of millions of pounds. The DWP Digital’s budget has risen 17% to £1.1bn in the past year and IT firms have been awarded huge contracts to help run the system. The DWP is also rapidly expanding its own private technology company Benefits and Pensions Digital Technology Services, which recruited more than 400 staff in the year to April, while DWP Digital recruited 520.

I bet this is just the beginning of an almighty row.

Then there is this:

Down with Machine Rule!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 14, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Universal Credit on World Homeless Day.

with 53 comments

Image result for world homeless day

Yesterday was World Homeless Day.

Anybody walking around our towns can see people begging in the streets.

It’s back to the kind old world of Dickens and Jo the Crossing Sweeper.

Related image

 

Talk to most people and they go on about the astronomical cost of rents, and, when it’s anybody on the dole, how ‘local Housing Allowance’ increasingly does not cover real housing costs.

Now some people try and do something to help street sleepers.

Bus Shelter Ipswich project for the homeless gets £5K boost

July 2019. EADT

Established in November 2017, The Bus Shelter Ipswich is a community interest company that provides free accommodation, advice and support to vulnerable people in and around the Ipswich area via its first converted bus, called ‘Tiffers’, and two outreach vans.

The organisation was appealing for funds to help finalise a second bus, called ‘Cheys’, which will be a mobile drop-in and advice centre. According to the Rough Sleeping in England report, homelessness in Ipswich has increased by over 60% since 2010.

The kind folk at the DWP think of everything!

 

Last year (2018)  this was one of many reports:

Observer investigation finds system in chaos, putting chancellor under pressure to change tack

Government welfare reforms are fuelling a rise in homelessness in towns and cities across the country, an Observer investigation has found.

Interviews with homelessness charities across England reveal a support system in crisis as the rollout of universal credit and freezes to local housing allowance rates put even basic accommodation beyond the means of many. One shelter said universal credit was a factor in a third of its clients ending up in its care.

Now we have this:

1 in 7 people in England directly hit by the housing crisis

More than 8m people in England – around 1 in 7 – are living in an unaffordable, insecure or unsuitable home, according to the first ever ‘state of the nation’ report on the housing crisis, released today by the National Housing Federation.(i)

Benefits freeze pushing low-income families to the brink of homelessness

Welfare Weekly.

94% of properties in the private rented sector are unaffordable for families on benefits.

More than nine in ten properties in the private rental sector are unaffordable for families on benefits and with a chronic shortage in social homes an increasing number of people are struggling to find an affordable home.

This is according to a new report from the National Housing Federation (NHF), which warns that the benefits freeze is “pushing low-income families to the brink”.

The report finds that 94% of private rental properties are unaffordable for families on Housing Benefit, or the equivalent Local Housing Allowance (LHA), and 65% of these are families in work.

The NHS says this is fuelling the rise in homelessness, which is now at record levels, as well as contributing to children living in overcrowded and poor quality accommodation.

LHA was initially designed to cover bottom 50% of market rents in any area. However this was reduced to 30% in 2011. Rates were then divorced from market rents altogether in 2013; and finally frozen in 2016, so they stopped keeping up even with inflation.

This means that in some parts of the country less than 1% of private rented properties are covered by LHA.

The National Housing Federation is calling on the government to end the freeze and increase LHA payments, so that they cover at least the bottom 30% of private rent homes in any local area.

They are also calling for £12.8bn annual investment in building new social housing, so that fewer families are forced to seek more expensive housing in the private rented market.

Channel Four found a really bad case of how this is affecting people.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 11, 2019 at 10:09 am

Abuse of Claimants, DWP Manager, “We should nominate one person to throw a grenade in.”

with 79 comments

Image

Universal Credit staff taped making disgusting comments about claimants

Mirror.

EXCLUSIVE: One member of staff was recorded saying disabled people were “faking it” to get government cash

Benefits managers have been caught on tape making horrifying comments about claimants.

One advocated blowing them up with a grenade, another accused them of getting money for nothing while the disabled were accused of “faking it.”

In one disturbing taped conversation a manager says: “The police sometimes have sting operations where they gather people together.

“We should nominate one person to throw a grenade in.”

Another reveals a case manager railing at claimants, who can be out of work because of ill health.

They rant: “It does my head in. They’re getting something for nowt, they don’t really have to do a great deal to get it. And they still whinge.”

Another says they “have absolutely no time” for claimants with depression and anxiety.

 

Today the incompetent  lazy bones managers  at the DWP are shown up.

DWP Universal Credit: 700 ‘suspected errors’ flagged by one council in 18 months

Mirror.

EXCLUSIVE: Labour-run Tower Hamlets demanded the DWP halt the benefit’s rollout after compiling the figures for 18 months

More than 700 “suspected errors” in Universal Credit have been flagged in 18 months by a single town hall.

Labour-run Tower Hamlets began compiling the figures in April 2018 over fears the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was not dealing robustly enough with problems.

Since then the deprived London borough’s officers have reported 728 cases to the DWP – identifying £335,000 in alleged overpayments and £215,000 in underpayments.

Officials claimed some cases took months and several attempts to contact the DWP before they were resolved.

The Borough’s mayor John Biggs said: “The roll out of Universal Credit should be halted. It’s failing our most vulnerable residents and pushing them into hardship.

“It’s simply not good enough that these blunders continue.”

Deputy Mayor Rachel Blake added: “The continuing errors we are seeing due to Universal Credit show it’s not fit for purpose.

Not to mention the present mess find ourselves in:

This has always struck people as inevitable.

Poverty is rising for all groups – even those in work – according to a new financial inclusion monitor report.

Research from the University of Birmingham and the University of Lincoln shows nearly 1.6 million people falling behind with council tax payments, with six in ten people in the poorest fifth of the population reporting they are in problem debt – mainly council tax payments, rent or utility bills.

Nearly 1 million people are behind with their rent, while over a 1 million people are behind on water bills.

The 2019 Briefing, found that nearly 2.2 million people report having been contacted by bailiffs and nearly one million experiencing bailiffs breaking the rules.

A growing number of personal insolvencies were also highlighted, with over 70,000 Individual Voluntary Arrangements (formal alternative to bankruptcy) made in 2018, up from 40,000 in 2015.

Karen Rowlingson, Professor of Social Policy and Deputy Director of the Centre on Household Assets and Savings Management (CHASM) at the University of Birmingham and co-author of the report, said: “The government is saying that austerity is over but our research shows that millions of people are still struggling to pay essential bills.

“Much more needs to be done to increase income levels to help people make ends meet.”

Electric Dog Collar Shock Coffey is on a high:

Written by Andrew Coates

October 7, 2019 at 12:42 pm

DWP MInister Thérèse Coffey on her “Dream Job” and Universal Credit.

with 88 comments

Image

Thérèse Supporting People into Work (Falcon Inn in #Felixstowe).

DWP Secretary attacks Labour’s plan to scrap Universal Credit

DWP Secretary Therese Coffey’s speech at the Conservative Party.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, the new Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “Conference I’m delighted to be here in Manchester for my first speech as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

“Let me tell you that there are a lot of unexpected things that have happened to me very late on a Saturday evening. But taking a phone call from the Prime Minister to become a cabinet minister was certainly a new one.

Electric Shock Dog Collar finally got to Universal Credit,

“Universal Credit provides a safeguard for the most vulnerable in our society. It supports strivers, who are not content living a life on welfare.

“We know that work is the best route out of poverty. But Jeremy Corbyn would scrap our benefits system that makes work pay. With no alternative – from the Party that only knows how to trap people on benefits.

“And just like last time – it’s working people who would end up paying the price for Labour’s incompetence. Instead, our party, the Conservatives, want to increase the incomes of the lowest paid.

“And since last year working people have benefited from a £1,000 increase in work allowances in Universal Credit providing those in work with a much needed financial boost.

“And workers across the country are receiving a well-earned pay rise – now at 4 per cent – the highest in over a decade – alongside 18 months of real pay growth.

“Conference, we are not blind to the challenges that face some families. That for some the money coming in does not stretch to cover the costs at the end of the month.

“And so let me say to you: we are on your side. We will work for you. Because this is a compassionate Conservative government.

“So my priorities for my Department are simple…

  1. To continue to improve Universal Credit to ensure people get the money they need in a timely manner, are helped into work, and onto an escalator up to better work.
  2. To help with the cost of living across the country to ensure     that people feel secure in their homes and can support themselves financially.
  3. To support everyone in society – especially disabled people –     so we all can share in the success and prosperity of this county.

“Which is I have today announced a further £4 million package to support people to find not just any job, but that dream job.

Not everybody wishes the pious Minister well.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 2, 2019 at 9:33 am

Labour Pledge to Abolish Universal Credit.

with 86 comments

Image result for labour universal credit

Labour Plans to Abolish Universal Credit. 

Universal credit: Labour pledges to scrap welfare scheme

BBC.

Mr Corbyn will promise that a Labour government would introduce “an emergency package of reforms” including:

  • scrapping the two-child limit, whereby families only receive welfare support for the first two children of a family
  • suspending sanctions whereby a claimant’s support can be reduced if they miss appointments

His party also wants to drop the benefit cap which limits the amount of benefit a person can receive.

Shadow communities secretary Andrew Gwynne said while the system could not be “completely replaced overnight”, the announcement was “more than an aspiration” and “the next Labour government will replace universal credit”.

Mr Corbyn will make his announcement on Saturday at a rally in Chingford and Woodford Green – the Greater London parliamentary seat of Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith, who originally implemented the universal credit scheme when he was work and pensions secretary.

The Labour leader is expected to criticise the welfare project for being “over-budget” and “inhumane”.

“Social security is supposed to give people dignity and respect, not punish and police them, make them wait five weeks for the first payment or fill out a four-page form to prove their child was born as a result of rape,” he will say.

The BBC notes some further points and the initial reactions:

Labour also says it would drop the system’s “digital-only” requirement, arguing that it excludes those who do not have access to the internet.

The Department for Work and Pensions says claimants can get paid urgently if required.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: “This is totally irresponsible from Jeremy Corbyn, who now admits he would happily scrap financial support for vulnerable people with no plan as to what Labour would replace it with.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said it would welcome significant reform “but any changes need to avoid further upheaval for those who depend on it”.

The charity’s director for policy and partnerships, Helen Barnard, said Labour’s proposals appeared to “get rid of some of the worst bits of universal credit which we know are pulling some people into really difficult poverty and debt”, citing sanctions and the five-week wait for the first payment.

However, she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there were also aspects of the system, including the way it avoids people moving to a different benefit when they begin work, which should be preserved.

Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies Paul Johnson said while Labour was proposing a series of changes to universal credit, the announcement did not appear to be calling for an end to the idea of merging six benefits into one payment, which he said had simplified the system.

Food bank charity the Trussell Trust welcomed the end of the five-week wait proposed by Labour – but warned that the party’s plans could create further problems.

It said that “scrapping universal credit may only result in further upheaval”.

The Guardian notes some of the details,

Although Labour says it will “scrap” universal credit it seems it will not drop all aspects of the payment, which merges six benefits into one. It will remain digital in nature, although Labour says it will end the current “digital only” approach and will hire 5,000 advisers to support claimants unable to access the internet or manage their claims online.

It will also allow claimants to be paid fortnightly rather than monthly as now and allow households to split payments between two adults. The current single household payment has been criticised as enabling domestic abusers to control family finances.

Benefit sanctions, the two-child limit on child benefit and the benefit cap – seen as unfair, ineffective and key drivers of child poverty – will be scrapped. The party already has plans to scrap the bedroom tax.

Commenting on the proposals, Adam Corlett, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Labour has set out some significant reforms, but they sensibly do not amount to actually scrapping universal credit. Now isn’t the time for another huge overhaul of our social security system.

“Instead, Labour have focused on reforming universal credit, and scrapping entirely separate benefit cuts that are set to drive up child poverty.”

Our contributors are always noting difficulties, and scepticism about the statement.

But bear this in mind (from the father of Universal Credit):

And this (Retweeted by Thérèse Coffey):

Here is how the Brexit lot greet the news:

 

Here

Written by Andrew Coates

September 28, 2019 at 9:20 am