Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Sanctions and Homelessness: Universal Credit in Action.

with 41 comments

Image result for homelessness and sanctions

The Threat Looming Over Universal Credit Claimants.

As the juggernaut of Universal Credit continues, and millions are caught up under its wheels, it’s sometimes best to illustrate its effects through individual cases:

This is one:

“I was sanctioned after missing a Universal Credit appointment due to seizures. The DWP should help job-seekers like me, not penalise them.”

By Luke O’Donnell in today’s ‘I’.

They said Universal Credit would make things more simple. Having fallen foul of the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) trigger-happy use of sanctions, I can say that this is not the case. I have epilepsy and missed a Job Centre appointment in November after having seizures.

I missed a second meeting in January after being in a status epilepticus, which left me in a hospital bed, connected to a drip. While I had evidence for this, I could not provide anything to prove why I missed my previous appointment. The DWP stated I had “failed without good reason to comply with a work-related requirement to attend a work-focused interview”. I was sanctioned for three of my four weeks’ benefits.

Sanctions demotivated me This showed me there was no common sense or discretion being applied by the DWP. In bundling all benefits into one system they appear to have lost the ability to use reasoning or any sense of fair play.

O’Donnel continues:

Their sanctions only served to demotivate me further than my health had already. Quite the opposite of the intended effect. It just augmented my worries about finding an employer who’d take my health seriously because if a Government agency doesn’t consider it worth taking into account, what would employers think when they find out about my brain damage?

My case was so outrageous that when I tweeted the letter upholding my sanctions after I’d navigated the DWP’s arbitrary “mandatory reconsideration” process, it quickly gathered momentum on social media and was picked up by i and BBC News. As a result of the widespread negative attention the DWP’s flagship new benefit service received, my case was given a “second reconsideration”. My benefits were hastily reinstated and I heard no more. I was lucky. But I still wanted the DWP to acknowledge it was aware of the effects Universal Credit was having on people. I got in contact with Esther McVey, Minister for Work and Pensions, but received no response. So I tried again, to no avail.

My case is just a drop in the ocean. A simple search on Twitter will reveal thousands of people with disabilities and serious health conditions are being penalised instead of helped. I personally believe there is now a culture of “sanction by default, for as much as possible” within the DWP. We are being treated as though we’ve done something wrong because of the effect our health has on our ability to work. What use is a social security system that works against those very people it was initially set up to help?


DWP says sanction review of epileptic man who missed benefits appointment was due to press coverage Luke O’Donnell said it was ‘satisfying’ to read a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Serina Sandhu Wednesday August the 8th.

In March, i reported that Luke O’Donnell, who has epilepsy, was penalised after missing a work-related appointment for Job Seeker’s Allowance because he could not prove his seizures had prevented him from attending. At the time, the 24-year-old said the system was “cold-hearted”.

The story was widely shared and less than two weeks later, the Universal Credit department at the DWP informed him his sanctions would be reversed, saying “not enough consideration was placed on Mr O’Donnell’s health following three days of epileptic episodes”.

Even though his case was resolved and benefits fully reinstated, Mr O’Donnell wrote to Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey in June because he wanted acknowledgement that she was aware of the effects Universal Credit was having on claimants. “I wanted to see what she had to say. How does she justify these problems she’s causing people?”

A response from her office read: “The Department for Work and Pensions are committed to ensuring people with disabilities and health conditions get the right support they need, and we are sorry that we have not met this standard during a period of time when you were in ill health.” But it was also confirmed that the move to review Mr O’Donnell’s case was triggered by the press coverage. The decision to revoke the sanctions, however, was a result of a “full review of all evidence and information.”

It’s good that Luke O’Donnell found a way out of his problems.

But sanctions can have even more devastating effects.

The system cannot deal with the most “difficult” cases.

Welfare conditionality, benefit sanctions and homelessness in the UK: ending the ‘something for nothing culture’ or punishing the poor?

We have here a ‘multiple-miscreant’ population (homeless, unemployed, poor, many dependent on drugs or alcohol) but a policy (benefit sanctions) virtually impossible for them to comply with. It is, therefore, difficult to see how any moral rectification can flow from such a policy. It can, however, discipline or punish. Rather than producing a compliant working class, then, it pushes people out of the very system (social security) initially designed to protect them

The impact of Universal Credit and sanctions can be seen in this area, the news story that’s hit the headlines today.

Rough sleeping: £100m government plan to tackle homelessness unveiled

The Guardian  publishes this commentary:

Homelessness is caused by policies: decisions on how many houses to build, and in which price range. Universal credit, sanctions, the child benefit cap – these are political decisions that have contributed to people being unable to afford their rent. Up to a third of universal credit claimants are having their payments deducted because they are in rent or council tax arrears. The government is acting like its own incompetent opposition, decrying a situation of its own making, offering solutions that are nowhere near the source of the crisis.

Homelessness is back on the Tories’ agenda, yet it’s they who made this crisis worse

Written by Andrew Coates

August 14, 2018 at 11:28 am

41 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating.


    August 14, 2018 at 11:51 am

  2. Unemployment might be down but the claimant count of people reliant on state benefits is up again.


    Yes despite claiming a victory, its a shallow victory when you examine the evidence and don’t fall for the gaff of observing unemployment statistics which along with UC, completely muddies the water of whats actually going on.
    With a nip and a tuck here, a push and pull there and the Tories pulled off a masterful stroke that has all but those with the discerning eye fooled.
    Yep, just reverse engineer the Tory jenga block and co-pow, the truth is laid bare that all we have done is move the money and terminology about while the problem firmly persists.
    And it does not just stop at the pearly gates of welfare as the Tories have done it across the board so the next time someone says we live in a have and have not society, its not such a tinfoil hat conspiracy as the money you have has to come from somewhere even if it equates to a debt to the other.
    The problem is the other isn’t someone abroad meaning essentially we are feeding on each other or better put, financial cannibalism.


    August 14, 2018 at 12:44 pm

  3. Support, to help,to carry,to instruct,etc,etc,etc

    All in any reference is about giving to the other yet how do we explain for example sanctioning a homeless person.
    Roll it over in your mind, “im taking away this homeless person basic essential funding we say is the min to live by because its helping them”.
    Are we teaching them don’t come to the state, go to foodbanks and soup kitchens propped up by working people and business donations while we the government continue to take the same damn amount out of hard working peoples pay packet every week/month, that its the only way to screw more money out of the public who aren’t unwittingly supporting a form of eugenic sectarianism via guilt and conscience tricking.

    Homeless people like the disabled need the most support so it should come as no surprise when talking balancing books that it turns out these are the least supported.
    These two trees like being unemployed have all but been picked clean meaning my dear working people, they are now going to come for you which considering your the majority, is what this has been about all the entire time. Tell me, do you think your personal debt was by coincidence, did you not think QE debt wouldn’t be needed to be distributed all among the public.


    August 14, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    • I think the study which concluded with, “We have here a ‘multiple-miscreant’ population (homeless, unemployed, poor, many dependent on drugs or alcohol) but a policy (benefit sanctions) virtually impossible for them to comply with.” was stating facts so obvious that even the DWP must realise it.

      I can dimly recall down and outs getting money on a daily basis from the dole and queing up for it, nothing about ‘conditionality’ then.

      Perhaps somebody could recall more details.

      Andrew Coates

      August 14, 2018 at 3:51 pm

      • The problem, which started with Labour, is the conflation of social security and paid work.

        Originally social security consisted of minimal benefits paid to those who qualified to keep them ticking over for as long as necessary and then along came Tony Blair and David Freud and saying that those in receipt of social security benefits had make additional efforts to keep them like prove they were “actively seeking work”, going on “courses”, undertaking unpaid work with employers and such like with penalties put upon them much worse than any employer could inflict on any worker under the law. This process accelerated under the Tories with Osborne freezing working-age benefit for for years because wages weren’t going up, as if benefits and wages were the same thing which they weren’t; benefits only ever rose with inflation and were never linked with wage increases. Laughable really. When wages were rising healthily already inadequate benefits were hardly increased at all, only enough to keep them at the same basic level of purchasing power, but when wages wages were static Osborne decided to freeze them as if they were wages meaning that there was no bottom line as far as state support was concerned and the poor began to get progressively very much poorer.

        Insinuating that benefits and wages are similar, or the same, and have to be earned was a very bad thing.

        Labour started this and had some crazy ideas about “contribution”, e.g., people who were working should jump the queue over more desperate and needy non-working people for social housing and people who had paid in more National Insurance into the system should get higher benefit levels than poorer people who paid less into the system because they had been out of work more. Universal Credit before it began to be rolled out had the idea that everybody should be involved in “work or preparing for work” for 35 hours a week and that people working less than 35 hours a week would only get UC if they had “full participation”, which meant making up the difference in hours by doing workfare which eventually boiled down to in-work conditionality where part-time workers have to prove that they are looking for “more hours, another part-time job or a full-time job” to keep their benefits.

        (The wall-to-wall workfare idea failed because there wasn’t that much workfare out there to do it.)

        Universal Credit claimants are treated much, much worse than any employee working in the public or the private sector. No employer could treat any employee as harshly or badly as the DWP treats people who get sanctioned. Universal Credit is nothing like the world of work unless you are talking about work in the third world where workers have no rights to speak of and slavery still exists.

        No government since the war has been as dishonest, incompetent and malicious as the one we have now. Christ knows what will be heaped on the poor when we leave the EU and data privacy, workers and human rights begin to be watered down and dismantled.


        August 15, 2018 at 9:27 am

      • Wholly agree.

        Good account, should be in the school text books……

        Andrew Coates

        August 15, 2018 at 2:43 pm

  4. I’ve twice said to joke center advisors, “unemployment’s down to just 4.1%”, on both occasions they just laughed, they know the real figure is closer to 20%.

    Yet Another Fine Mess

    August 14, 2018 at 1:35 pm

  5. Now their saying the homeless/rough sleepers are all metally ill

    The source is GOV/DWP. for many.


    August 15, 2018 at 8:40 am

    • Government will soon stop saying that when someone points out then its a graver dereliction of duty of government to have ever allowed this to happen in the first place let alone continue it to.
      It amazes me that the Tories can claim to know how to run an entire country yet seem completely dumb founded because its so complex when it comes to issues of homelessness,suicide and what not.

      We live in a society where governments and business decide fate so why do we kid ourselves when each consistently blames the other do we not see the wood for the trees.


      August 15, 2018 at 10:23 am

  6. Chief executives pay jumps 11% to almost £4 million last year(meanwhile the peasants struggle on tory austerity lunacy and who funds the tories?)



    August 15, 2018 at 12:02 pm

  7. Andrew Coates

    August 15, 2018 at 2:48 pm

  8. Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.


    August 15, 2018 at 5:37 pm

  9. The DWP just revealed the sanctions regime is now even more out of control
    The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) just released the latest figures on benefit sanctions for Universal Credit. They show that not only are more and more of its decisions wrong, but the sanctions it is applying are for longer than under any other benefit.



    August 15, 2018 at 9:10 pm

  10. Andrew Coates

    August 16, 2018 at 10:59 am

    • Oh dear, Esther McVey is doing it again.

      She once made a bold claim that people signing off had found work to a certain committee yet when pressed for direct evidence instead of anecdotal evidence along with a top official of DWP, had to admit they don’t actually have any real documented proof beyond reasonable question.

      no causal effect between the benefit and the number of people who died should be assumed from these figures”. The department “does not hold information on the reason for death”

      The death benefit question has been on the table for years, long enough for government to compile a definitive answer so government and DWP cant really say its not. We don’t rule as a definitive no when there is no or insufficient evidence to support either argument, nor do we simply forget about it either.


      August 16, 2018 at 12:07 pm

      • The Tories have made life cheap in the UK.

        Patriotism is the refuge of a scoundrel.


        August 16, 2018 at 12:17 pm

    • “… no causal link…”

      All you need to see this is to see whether the death rate per 1000 claimants, say, is more under the new system than the old system before it was “reformed”. If significantly more people die now than in the past you have strong circumstantial evidence of a link between benefit changes and premature death all other things being equal.

      The DWP – ministers of government and staff – are a national disgrace.


      August 16, 2018 at 2:59 pm

  11. The DWP was just forced to reveal that 100 benefit claimants a day have been dying on its watch


    August 16, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    • Do benefit claimants just like live forever then pmsl


      August 16, 2018 at 4:58 pm

  12. Universal basic income is attempt to ‘euthanise the working class as a concept’

    PROPOSALS to hand everyone in Scotland a basic, flat-rate income are an attempt to “euthanise” the working class as a political concept, a think-tank director has said.

    Tom Kibasi, director of the left-wing Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), insisted the scheme was to the UK’s economic problems “what snake oil is to medicine”.

    He argued it would mean “getting into bed with the billionaires” by letting capitalism off the hook and entrenching power inequalities.

    It comes after Nicola Sturgeon pledged to fund research into a universal basic income (UBI) last year, with £250,000 set aside for potential pilots in four council areas. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has also said pilots could be included in the next Labour manifesto.

    Mr Kibasi was debating the issue at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with economist and basic income campaigner Annie Miller and economist and journalist Stewart Lansley.

    Ms Miller, co-founder of Citizen’s Basic Income Network Scotland, suggested every adult could be paid £162 a week. This would be funded by hiking income tax to at least 45%.

    The IPPR previously said such a scheme would cost £20 billion a year in Scotland and would risk making child poverty worse.

    Agreeing the economy is in crisis and in need of fundamental reform, Mr Kibasi said a basic income was seductive “precisely because it’s a big idea, but the problem is that big ideas aren’t necessarily good ideas”.

    He added: “My real objection to UBI is that it lets capitalism off the hook. It is giving in, it is embracing defeat.”

    He said the policy was widely supported by Silicon Valley tycoons such as Elon Musk, former Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg – as well as Richard Branson.

    He continued: “In politics you always get strange bedfellows – that’s absolutely the case. But if you’re going to get into bed with the billionaires, you’ve got to ask yourself, ‘Why are they in favour of it?’

    “The reason is that UBI actually maintains unequal power relations.”

    He said introducing a basic income risked leaving 20 or 30 per cent of the population as a “dependent class”, and insisted it was “trying to attempt a form of kind of euthanasia for the working class as a political category and a political concept”.

    Dismissing the idea as “magical thinking”, he argued money should instead be spent on building good homes, boosting the budget of the NHS or improving schools.

    He also insisted UBI would “solidify and reinforce” gender inequality, because women would come under pressure to stay at home and look after their children.

    He added: “UBI is to our economic problems what snake oil is to medicine.”

    Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and North Ayrshire councils are all considering basic income pilots.

    They will be ready to begin their trials in March 2020 – subject to a final decision on whether or not the proposals are feasible.

    Supporters deny the scheme is being held up as a “silver bullet” that will solve all of society’s problems.

    Ms Miller said UBI would help “emancipate” people and prevent poverty, and branded the current social security system “very cruel”.

    But she said it would need to be introduced gradually to prevent disruption and allow the system to settle in.

    She said UBI would live up to the four words engraved on the mace in the Scottish Parliament: justice, integrity, compassion and wisdom.

    “I can’t think of a better foundation for a society than a basic income, bringing about some of these changes that I hope will happen,” she added.

    A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are interested in any proposals to help reduce poverty and inequality.

    “We have awarded £250,000 over the next two years to four local authorities developing work that seeks to better understand the impact of a citizen’s basic income – including costs, benefits and savings.”



    August 17, 2018 at 3:50 am

  13. Are pensioners really poor? Do they really exist on a diet of value custard creams/bourbon creams/ginger nuts/rich tea, or nice biscuits if they are feeling flush, and sweet tea? Do they really shiver in sub-zero temperatures during the winter?

    Pension Credit

    What you’ll get Your circumstances Guarantee Credit per week Savings Credit per week
    Single people Top up to £163 Up to £13.40
    Couples Top up to £248.80 Up to £14.99

    Pensioners are so poor that the unemployed are expected to contribute their benefits to ‘Pensioner Benevolent Funds’ to ‘stop a poor pensioner starving to death’. We also here that pensioners make up the vast majority of foodbank ‘customers’.

    Let’s have a look at what the unemployed receive in benefits


    What you’ll get

    Age JSA weekly amount
    Up to 24 up to £57.90
    25 or over up to £73.10
    Couples (both aged over 18) up to £114.85

    Shouldn’t be the unemployed cracking open the value custard creams and brewing sweet tea?

    Are Pensioners Really Poor?

    August 17, 2018 at 6:05 am

    • Thing is unemployed people are supposed to be fit for work and have a chance to get work. For the elderly unless you’re a judge or a MP you have no possibility of securing gainful employment and so will have to live on your pension permanently. In my view pensioners, at least those with low savings and few assets, deserve everything they get and more.


      August 17, 2018 at 8:25 am

      • But what the Government are effectively admitting is that £163 for a single person and £248.80 a week is the MINIMUM amount need to live on. Unemployment benefits are less than half that. Only really useful for tiding you you if you lose your job on a Friday until you start a new one on Monday. Unemployment benefits are not designed to live on ‘long-term’.


        August 17, 2018 at 8:59 am

      • But what the Government are effectively admitting is that £163 for a single person and £248.80 for a couple a week is the MINIMUM amount needed to live on. Unemployment benefits are less than half that. Only really useful for tiding you you if you lose your job on a Friday until you start a new one on Monday. Unemployment benefits are not designed to live on ‘long-term’


        August 17, 2018 at 9:00 am

    • Just like with a ‘SALE up to 100% off’ poster all these benefit rates include the words ‘up to’ which clearly includes the figure zero.

      Abbie Cuss

      August 17, 2018 at 3:42 pm

      • Up to? Like these are the MAXIMUM amounts. What happened to the ‘minimum amount the LAW says you need to live on’?


        August 17, 2018 at 3:45 pm

      • Bingo.

        If you have a job and that job via the taper rate nullifies any benefits to zero, you are still required to be subject to conditionaility. The norm of course would be while you don’t receive unemployment, you would still no doubt receive housing benefit, tax credit,etc as DWP aren’t allowed to defer payment to another time beyond the stipulated time allowed to make a decision.
        SO, this means they can subtract depending on the pendulum of hours you work, either an amount equal to unemployment benefit or income tax credit from other benefits received.
        Mentioned it many many many moons ago.


        August 17, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      • That’s really quite a significant, fundamental change. But of course, only Abbie and Sugar notice – the rest too busy discussing Nazis!

        Eagle Eyes

        August 17, 2018 at 4:42 pm

      • Yes, you have mentioned it once or twice, doug, but now it is cast in Tablets of Stone right in front of our very eyes.

        Moses on the Mountain

        August 17, 2018 at 4:49 pm

  14. When the moderator is away Violet/Foxglove comes out to play 😉


    August 17, 2018 at 8:49 am

  15. All the Germans I have met hate Hitler and the Nazi regime more than anybody else on earth. However, as I don’t want to encourage people to wreck this blog by keeping up an argument this is the last I’m going to say about it and look forward to seeing all of the silliest, most inappropriate and irrelevant comments deleted.



    August 17, 2018 at 11:10 am

  16. The Moderator Returns.

    Andrew Coates

    August 17, 2018 at 11:31 am

    • “There should be an independent appeal and monitoring system – open to all – for anyone on the Work Programme”.

      Your words i believe Andrew.
      Tell us all why should government as a matter of good practice follow this but you not ?
      Are you going to hide behind being a private enterprise, isn’t that somewhat capitalistic,authoritarian, not typical behavior for a socialist.


      August 17, 2018 at 11:53 am

      • Nazis Raus!

        Andrew Coates

        August 17, 2018 at 12:06 pm

      • You still haven’t answered the question on why you are any different to those you oppose.
        Shouting Nazi just demonstrates a serious lack of understanding not to mention a deliberate propaganda campaign exactly akin to the ploy Hitler implemented to gain power. You are aware Stalin studied and practiced Hitler as he did him. Lets also not forget Benito Mussolini, another devout socialist.
        Experts agree the very definition of fascism is to attack democracy and that it matters not the direction it comes from or how far when considering more subtle yet equally as repressive actions/reactions to subvert a democracy.
        You see subtle forms are accepted also because they are the fundamental building blocks of full on fascism. Something which would come as no surprise to any studying Aung San Suu Kyi.


        August 17, 2018 at 2:09 pm

      • What the heck are you talking about, doug?

        What has blog moderation got to do with the Work Programme?

        Have you lost your marbles?

        Blogs offer free content usually for public consumption and often invite readers to comment but not without restriction. Blogs are not open forums that can be used by anybody to write about anything that they like about whatever they like. Favourable comment about the joys of Nazism and pleasures of intolerance, made in response to an article about the evils of Universal Credit, or suffering caused by mistaken welfare reform, are not apposite, are inappropriate, have nothing to do with debate or discussion on a serious blog like this and should be deleted out of hand.

        The accepted rule for blogs is that people should try to stay on topic in respect to published articles and not disseminate off topic opinions which have nothing to do with any of the matters which are being considered. People who want to rant about religion, or air racialist opinions, or defend Nazism, or deny the holocaust, or whatever, should get their own blog or go to another blog owned by a person agreeing with those ugly views to express themselves not try to subvert another person’s site which disapproves of such opinions.

        I come here to keep abreast and informed about politics and social security not the Hitler mythos.

        Play the game folks and don’t spoil a decent blog read by many, about serious issues, for serious purposes.


        August 17, 2018 at 2:24 pm

  17. Why are we talking about Nazis on a serious blog devoted to work, welfare and politics?


    August 17, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    • The policy taken is because some alt-right numpties think it’s funny to slam and spam this Blog with rubbish.

      For their background read this (which I did last week, incidentally):

      Kill All Normies: Online culture wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right Paperback – 30 Jun 2017
      by Angela Nagle

      Not that the book is gospel…

      Note: an old codger sends thanks to the youngsters who’ve kept me in touch with this strategy of the alt-right.

      Andrew Coates

      August 17, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    • You had to read a book ?

      Do you know how so old that practice is and why its so important you keep your sh*t politically tight. The alt right is a slender man and you my friend have truly fallen down the rabbit hole unless you are complicit in this. The alternate right is a vague term just like hate as a crime is, just as is frowning on people of a certain phobia or people who are being accused of possibly installing said phobia.
      When you strip them apart with critical thinking you arrive at a subjective opinion based on feeling with little to no evidence to back it up.


      August 17, 2018 at 4:44 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: