Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Universal Credit Failing People With Mental Health Problems.

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This appeared recently on the Disabled People Against Cuts Site.

Given the importance of issues about mental health recently should be looked at by the widest possible audience.

Some background before the article:

Universal credit leaves claimants with mental health problems ‘tangled in bureaucracy’

July 2018: 

People with mental health problems are becoming “tangled up” in the bureaucracy and flaws of the government’s new universal credit benefit system, a committee of MPs have heard.

Members of the public accounts committee heard this week that claimants were facing “considerable hardship and considerable deterioration in their mental health” because of universal credit.

Sophie Corlett, director of external relations for the mental health charity Mind, told them: “They struggle with the process, but they end up tangled in the process and unable to dig their way out of it.

“They struggle with the online application, they struggle with the conditionality that comes while you wait for your work capability assessment (WCA), they struggle with waiting for their first payment and if they are able to get an advance payment they struggle to pay that back.”

She also highlighted concerns about the role of the government’s work coaches, who are based at jobcentres and have “discretion” about whether they make adjustments to the process, including whether to relax the conditions placed on disabled claimants.

A key concern, said Corlett, was the period between the start of a universal credit claim and the WCA, during which claimants can be forced to carry out the usual 30-plus hours of jobsearch activity while waiting to be assessed for their “fitness for work”.

Carrying out this jobsearch activity was “a huge barrier” for many people with mental health problems, who were often not even well enough to visit their jobcentre.

Mental Health in the Social Security System

As the number of unemployed social security claimants has declined, the government’s drive for reductions in the benefits bill has focussed increasingly on the chronic sick and the disabled. The government’s aim is not to improve the well-being of these claimants but rather to classify as many of them as possible as fit for work and to push them into whatever jobs are available by cutting their benefits and, very frequently, imposing sanctions upon them. This strategy is backed up by a simplistic account of the mental health problems which, today, account for most sickness claims.

The key problem today is that mentally distressed claimants are being offered simplistic and ineffective remedies and are being pressurised by the social security system to seek employment of any kind, including in poor quality jobs which can aggravate their mental health conditions


Analysis

Over the last two decades, mental health problems have become a key issue in social security policy. This is because, first, straightforward unemployment is much lower and state-provided unemployment indemnities are now a very small fraction of social security expenditures, so that long-term illness and incapacity, which affect many more people, dominate in terms both of case-loads and spending.

Second, long-term illness itself now predominantly takes the form of mental distress, with anxiety and depression more frequent than the physiological problems, such as back pain, which used to account for most sickness-related social security claims.

In Britain  and in many other advanced economies social security claims related to illness increased rapidly in the wake of the deindustrialisation of the 1980s. One can trace these increases to labour market conditions and interpret them as a form of disguised unemployment in that they would not have been as severe if labour markets for industrial workers had remained buoyant. The geography of sickness benefits confirms the interpretation: For example, Merthyr Tydfil, devastated by the decline in Welsh heavy industry, was a notorious sickness benefit black spot.

In the 1980s policy-makers tended to accept the increased sickness benefit bill as the lesser of two evils, as preferable to much higher levels of open unemployment and as providing a certain compensation to some of the most vulnerable victims of structural change. However, as high numbers of sickness claims persisted and began to affect more recent generations governments became less passive and started to search for ways to limit the problem. One sign of this switch was a reformulation of labour market objectives: an increase in employment rates was seen as a better target than a reduction in unemployment as such in that high rates of inactivity (either through sickness or for other reasons) were now seen as in general undesirable.

Women were adversely affected by this shift because, in the drive to maximise employment, social security systems became much less supportive of women claimants who were full-time mothers and housewives. From the 1990s on, governments also started to make less use of early retirement as a palliative for long-term unemployment.

These changes should not disguise the continuity both in labour market conditions and in the nature of incapacity. There is certainly an alarming rise in mental health problems across western countries but the musculoskeletal disorders which prevailed in the past were not necessarily a completely distinct phenomenon: in an economy where most jobs were manual they could act as a sickness-induced disqualification from employment in general; in today’s service-dominated economy psychological malfunctions can, in a similar way, indicate an inability to meet the typical constraints of existing labour market conditions.

Thus the changing forms of sickness in no way undermine the notion of “disguised unemployment” or, in less tendentious terms, adverse labour market conditions, as a principal source of incapacity. Recent British policy, however, completely inverts this widely accepted causal relationship: current policy is based on the view that the labour market is not the cause of, but rather the remedy for, sickness-related inactivity. This view has led to the imposition of policies towards claimants which needlessly aggravate their distress while leaving untouched the labour market structures and practices which actually disqualify so many people from employment.

Two main developments have led to the policy impasse: the degeneration of the universal credit (UC) social security reforms and the drive within the NHS to address mental health problems through “Improved Access to Psychiatric Therapies” (IAPT).

The original objectives of the UC reforms were to simplify the benefit system, by bringing together six of the most important benefits under a single means-test, and consequently to strengthen employment incentives by reducing the rate at which benefits were withdrawn as claimants re-entered employment or took on more hours of paid work. Because these goals were seen as moving social security in the right direction, UC was widely welcomed by both researchers and organisations concerned with poverty, such as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Child Poverty Action Group.

Gradually the welcome gave way to critical concern. After the election of 2015 the Conservative government stated its intention to reduce expenditures on working-age social security benefits by £12 billion, more than 10%, that is, to claw back some £12 billion per annum from the three largest claimant groups: the unemployed, the chronic sick and the low-paid.

It is an indication of social attitudes towards social security claimants, even though many are in employment, that the Labour Opposition did not at that time condemn these cuts but decided to abstain when they were debated in Parliament, though some, including many now in leadership positions in Labour, did vote against them.

While positive incentives to seek and retain employment were reduced, an increasingly harsh and oppressive treatment of claimants was substituted. The conditions for benefit payments were tightened continually, while breaches of these conditions were increasingly met with frequent and severe sanctions. Claimants with health problems were subjected to repeated assessments of their capacity to work – often crudely administered by unqualified staff in the service of revenue-hungry corporations. It was clearly intended to re-designate as many sickness-related claimants as possible as actually or potentially fit for work.

Unemployed claimants had to sign contracts committing them to often futile hours of job search and to participation in often badly-designed “work experience” and training schemes – both of these outsourced to corporations more concerned with profit than either high quality services or accurate reporting of their own performance.

The explosion in the numbers resorting to food banks and the arbitrary benefit reductions following from the “bedroom tax” (the so-called “spare room subsidy” removal) can both stand as emblems of the increased pressures on claimants.

Meanwhile, actual conditions on the labour markets towards which claimants were being impelled continued to deteriorate in terms of both wage rates and job security. Indeed the increasingly harsh regime imposed on those without employment may be leading people to accept worse pay and conditions rather than become claimants. The roll-out of UC in place of previous benefits became in itself a source of concern as new and renewed claims now attracted substantially lower levels of benefit.

Now the epidemic of mental distress became ever more central to the drive for social security spending cuts since, with falling rates of open unemployment, Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the corresponding sickness-related benefits under UC became a key item in social security spending and, at the same time, mental health problems increasingly predominated in these claims. The resulting policy difficulties could seem complex and intractable; they also called into question the punitive treatment of claimants which had in practice emerged from the UC reforms.

If claimants are suffering from anxiety and/or depression it is hard to see how suspending their benefits can improve their situation, and growing awareness of the severe consequences of sanctions – including suicides – may well have been a factor behind the unannounced but rapid and clearly policy-driven reduction in the use of sanctions after the peak they reached in 2014.

In this conjuncture the programme “Improving Access to Psychiatric Therapies” (IAPT) seemed to offer a silver bullet. Mental health problems could be easily overcome because:

  1. They were individual and not socio-economic in origin (after all, there are lots of people who cope);
  2. Thus the undeniable correlation between mental distress and socio-economic disadvantage should be interpreted as showing that mental health problems lead to disadvantage and not the other way round (the social security agenda does not require structural change in the sphere of employment);
  3. Most psychological problems can be easily dealt with by brief “talking therapies”;
  4. The essence of such “behavioural therapy” is not to improve the socio-economic situation of the sufferer but simply to alter their patterns of thought so that they cease to dwell on alarming or depressing features of their experience and so that they become – such is the hope – more likely to seek or retain employment;
  5. No great level of skill or knowledge is required to administer such therapy;
  6. Thus it can be provided cheaply;
  7. There will be a big pay-off in terms of employment and fewer claims for benefit since employment as such promotes psychological well-being and mental health.

One sign that this approach was completely unrealistic has been the failure to deal with many cases of depression and anxiety among claimants at the level of the least qualified mental health workers – the only group of workers in the field who have seen recruitment increase. Nor has the rolling out of IAPT led to any fall in the incidence of mental illness, nor any slowdown in the increasing prescription of psychotropic drugs in response to it.

Policy Framework

There is mounting evidence that current policies are aggravating the material and mental problems of many of the most vulnerable social security claimants. Social security reforms in the future must take fully into account their impact on mental health.

A complete refocus of policy on the well-being of the long-term sick and disabled is needed in the context of strategies which address the socio-economic determinants of poor mental health. Meanwhile, resources could be released by curtailing the frequently dysfunctional “assessments” and “work preparation” programmes to which mentally disturbed claimants are subjected, and by ceasing to contest large numbers of perfectly valid claims for sickness benefits.



John Grahl is Emeritus Professor of European Economics at Middlesex University. 

More: Rethink Mental Illness.

We know that money and mental health problems often go hand in hand. That’s why Rethink Mental Illness, as part of Mental Health UK, have set up a new website. It will help you understand, manage and improve your mental and financial health. You can find a wide range of information to help you with your benefits. Just visit www.mentalhealthandmoneyadvice.org to find out more.  

Clear, practical advice and support for people experiencing issues with mental health and money.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 4, 2018 at 10:26 am

40 Responses

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  1. musculoskeletal disorders, my feet, still cracking on but for how much longer.

    mentally stable

    September 4, 2018 at 11:12 am

  2. Overpayments, the modern problem.

    The idea of the welfare reform was to revolutionize welfare to save taxpayer money yet figures show, overpayments soar year after year.
    Now if you read the report,

    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/707831/fraud-and-error-preliminary-estimates-2017-2018.pdf

    It states JSA and ESA has increased. What it does not explain however is how that is so. Well its a fixed amount you either receive 100% or not. The only time this varies in amount is if a person is working and whether or not they took working holiday, a statutory employment right. Now like registering for a benefit, work reduction via taper is done in arrears (1 month). The problem is however, Most working people don’t all get paid at the same time not to mention EAOs, loans,SSP,TAX,NIC,etc complicate the process further.
    If this wasn’t enough self employment and business owning makes matters very hard when calculating benefits.

    Another big problem both in overpayment and fraud is housing benefit. Without getting into this, in the case of overpayemnts only, the system would work a lot better if landlords were worked with directly on payments rather than claimants.

    doug

    September 4, 2018 at 11:46 am

  3. Reblogged this on sdbast.

    sdbast

    September 4, 2018 at 2:06 pm

  4. The Work & Health Programme is supposed to be going to get 1,000,000 long-term sick and disabled people and unemployed over 50s, amongst others, into some kind of work over the next seven years. One million is a nice round number and goodness knows why or how the DWP plucked this figure out of the air as the measure of success for their new cut down scheme. The “sick” includes very seriously mentally ill people too. I can’t help but wonder if the able-bodied struggle to find a decent job what kind of jobs the DWP is going to try to bully fragile and brittle schizophrenic, bi-polar and clinically depressed people into accepting and what kind of employers will be offering the work to legions of very impaired persons at the behest of the DWP. If it’s done badly, which I fear it will, we could end up with people becoming sicker and even dying needlessly.

    WORK DOES NOT ALWAYS OFFER A WAY OUT OF POVERTY OR IS GOOD FOR YOUR HEALTH!

    To be honest the Work & Health programme itself sounds kind of mental to me.

    Neil Milbourne

    September 4, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    • half of the provider guidance for the hwp is sanctions and mwa, mandatory work activation notices for workfare same as the work programme.

      tho only problem is it is only mandatory if you sign the providers contract so DONT!

      if you refuse to sign then the dwp cant do jack about it they tried it with me and lost at tribunal.

      superted

      September 4, 2018 at 3:03 pm

      • It is all spelled out crystal clear on this site, ted. All the evidence is clearly presented. There is NO EXCUSE for readers of this site to come on here whining that they were sanctioned because they agreed to something or signed a contract that they didn’t have to. NO EXCUSE!

        Rose Lee

        September 4, 2018 at 3:27 pm

      • Thats just it Superted people cannot afford to lose money by the time of the tribunal process.What you have shown by paperwork shows complete and utter contempt of peoples rights.

        https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-sign-your-name-without-assuming-liability-cathy-bilsky

        https://www.inbrief.co.uk/contract-law/duress-undue-influence-in-contracts/

        ken

        September 4, 2018 at 3:42 pm

      • if i done the mr in writing like all the other times it would of not gone to tribunal as could of sent the foi i have with the mr and it probable would have ended there but thats no fun is it.

        i done the mr over the phone as wanted to go to tribunal so got a budgeting loan to cover the sanction and pay the bills as i knew i had them buy the balls.

        doug and others wanted proof you could win so i done just that 😉

        superted

        September 4, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      • I’ve read that if you’re unemployed for 24 months you can be forced onto the Work & Health scheme, or will be when it gets up and running properly. I’ve never heard of anybody having this happen to them though and so don’t know if Jobcentre Work Coaches have started to draft people onto the scheme or whether they ever will.

        Neil Milbourne

        September 4, 2018 at 4:22 pm

      • Nor have I.

        Not a dicky bird.

        Andrew Coates

        September 4, 2018 at 5:16 pm

      • what they used to do is give you a letter to attend a placement/provider and state it is mandatory to attend which it is but only for that day.

        providers dont get paid for you attending or a skills assessment so thats why as soon as you sit down you are given forms to sign ie there contracts for funding.

        dwp own rules state you dont have to sign provider paperwork and that you can still participate but as they wont be getting any funding for you so you will be asked to leave under the grounds of health and safety or what ever bs they come up with.

        a contract must be signed for you to participate in any providers course as they get the funding from the esf or sfa so if you refuse that is the end of that.

        i have been doing this since b4 the first work programme came about so its nothing new to me and yes they try to sanction me all the time for it but it never goes past a dm if i do a mr in writing with foi requests with there rules and regs and goes no further.

        tho since i went to tribunal they dont want to play with me anymore pmsl 😉

        superted

        September 4, 2018 at 4:35 pm

      • Nor have I.

        Not a dicky bird.

        i think the new gdpr has something to do with it as ujm soon vanished as soon as that came out and the provider guidance also came out b4 the gdpr came in.

        as the providers now will need complicit consent as well as there contracts signed for there funding it cant or never will be mandatory.

        all i have been told at my jcp is that the whp is to volunteer for it as there is now no way to mandate ppl via there lies on dwp paperwork.

        i bet they will still try it on with the sheeple tho but it must be getting to a point where these providers can no longer operate due to lack of funding and a constant stream of ppl from the dwp.

        superted

        September 4, 2018 at 6:05 pm

      • Many people simply don’t realise Rose Lee,they simply take the governments word and except that is the law as it stands.

        Its a sign of a problems in leadership exist much as claims of no uenemployed and the attacks on disabled all being without foundation except for the rare case blown up for publicity purposes.

        ken

        September 5, 2018 at 8:44 am

      • I was supposed to have been referred to the WHP end of March. Then it got put back to end of May. Since then I’ve heard nothing. Like superted says, I think it it has a lot to do with the new GDPR. DWP can mandate you to attend WHP but you are under no legal obligation to sign any provider documents or enrolment forms. If you don’t sign then out the door you go. Because if you don’t sign; they don’t get paid. It’s as simple as that. The Jobcentre will try and pressure you into signing, implying if you don’t then you MAY be referred to a decision maker, etc. Emphasis on “MAY”. They will never say you WILL be referred to a decision maker and they will never say you Will be sanctioned if you don’t sign.

        jj joop

        September 5, 2018 at 7:05 pm

      • i have not seen any new news on the hwp post gdpr i dont even have the new find a job site on my cc anymore like ujm was.

        seems the dwp are running low on sanction ammo atm as ppl are waking up to there bs and not having any off it.

        superted

        September 5, 2018 at 7:26 pm

      • https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/jobsites_deemed_inapropriate_by#incoming-1225912

        Jobsites deemed inapropriate by a work coach for jsa and or uc work search entitlement conditions?

        Issuing a Jobseeker’s Direction to mandate claimants to
        create an account and upload a CV in Find a job or if more
        appropriate, another jobsite
        1. For legal reasons, you can’t issue a Jobseeker’s Direction (JSD) to mandate a
        claimant to create an account and upload a Curriculum Vitae (CV) in Find a job or if
        more appropriate, another jobsite unless a Department for Work and Pensions
        (DWP) customer computer is reasonably available to them should they need to use
        one, for example, because they don’t want to accept cookies and therefore need to
        have access to a device on which cookies have already been accepted.

        so they cant pull crap like this anymore tho i did give them one and they kept it binned it sent me to another adviser and then tried to sanction me for it as said it was not received on the lms.

        DSC_0678_01

        superted

        September 5, 2018 at 7:36 pm

  5. And in much more important news…

    Make misogyny a hate crime, Stella Creasy urges

    “A Labour MP is trying to change the law so that misogynistic behaviour is treated as a hate crime.

    Stella Creasy wants to amend new legislation that bans taking unsolicited pictures under someone’s clothing.

    Her changes would mean someone convicted of the crime would get a tougher sentence if it was “motivated by misogyny”.

    MPs will consider the draft legislation on Wednesday.”

    Seriously?!, why the hell aren’t MPs discussing trivial matters such as homelessness, universal credit, foodbanks? And what sort of rarefied, cosseted world does Stella Creasey live in that this cobblers even enters her mind, like it is all that she has to concern her, like it is uppermost in her mind. Bet if she hadn’t been paid universal credit for six months and was facing homelessness she would soon find other topics to preoccupy her. And what a disgusting waste of precious Parliamentary time.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-45408492

    Stena Creaseball the Third

    September 4, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    • “A Labour MP…” Just more evidence that Labour is shit. Why do Labour never mention the disaster that is universal credit. Labour is SHIT! Jezza is SHIT!

      Flinkerbert Humperdinck the First

      September 4, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    • Stella has got a good heart. Being verbally abused in parliament by her own side as much as others and threatened online with murder, rape and Christ knows what I can understand why she would try to curb misogyny any way she can. She isn’t in the shadow cabinet and is just a constituency MP with no power to steer Labour’s position on Universal Credit or anything else so she does what she can independently; if Labour isn’t discussing or prioritising Universal Credit, which it isn’t, the fault lies wholly with Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow cabinet, special advisors and policy makers not Dr Creasy.

      Neil Milbourne

      September 4, 2018 at 6:34 pm

      • Unfortunately just accidentally tuned into the ‘Victoria Derbyshire’ rubbish on the BBC giving a platform to this Stella Creasy woman and her misandrist viewpoints. It was absolutely outrageous the way she off-handedly dismissed female harassment of men by women: “I would like to see the data on that one. . I don’t believe that Rammy Rascal is their real name.” Speaking as the mother of a teenage son who was almost harassed to death by a gang of women in a fish factory he was sent to work in by the bloody jobcentre I was absolutely outraged. My son was suicidal, but as if Stella Creasy cares. In fact in her warped mind she would probably think this was a good thing. Stella wants to criminalise men and effectively make them unemployable for “horrific” ‘crimes’ such as “wolf-whistling’ and ‘unwanted sexual advances’. Why does Stella hate men so much? Has she ever considered therapy? This is meant in a nice way.

        Anyway. Victoria announced that she would soon be discussing anti-Semitism within Labour. What a surprise. So switched off. Got better things to do like vacuuming.

        Finished with that blooming BBC. Don’t pay their licence fee. Never have. Never will. Why pay for your own propaganda?

        Also finished with the damned Labour party. Would rather vote for Sir Christopher Chope now. Stella Creasy, Jeremy Corbyn or any of other red rosetted clowns can take a hike.

        Jane from Christchurch

        September 5, 2018 at 9:02 am

      • Is female sexual harassment of men a common occurrence? Do women threaten to rape men in real life or online? Have many men been stalked and even attacked by obsessive women? Are men bullied and belittled by women, on their own, or in groups, privately and at work simply because they are men? Have many men been pursued by women and pressured to offer sexual favours in order to get on occupationally? And is the appearance of men commonly attacked in an abusive belittling manner by women because they are too old, too fat, too thin, too ugly, not dressed properly or whatever?

        I could go on but would ask you not to be silly and compare the situation of women with that of men when women and girls are almost wholly the people who suffer simply because of their gender in what is, still, a largely patriarchal society.

        Neil Milbourne

        September 5, 2018 at 4:50 pm

      • The director even treated us to an aerial shot so we could clearly see what Stella was wearing, how she was sat directly opposite Sir Christopher and what she was up to.

        Thought the BBC was going to do away with that Victoria Derbyshire and repalce it with re-runs of Homes Under the Hammer. Victoria Derbyshire is so bad it makes Loose Women appear watchable. And that is saying something!

        The Couch Potatoes

        September 6, 2018 at 9:25 am

    • Well, according to the film director Ken Loach the IRA are freedom fighters as portrayed in his film the Wind that Shakes the Barley. Whatever your take its a bloody good film and well worth a watch especially if you like sudden unexpected outbursts of violence. The execution scene towards the end is particularly heart-wrenching.

      https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0460989/
      Against the backdrop of the Irish War of Independence, two brothers fight a guerrilla war against British forces.

      Irish Rose

      September 5, 2018 at 6:47 am

    • At a time when we have a weak and divided Conservative government, how do you explain the lacklustre performance of Jeremy Corbyn and his team of ministers and their failure to land any punches on their political opponents?

      John Costello

      September 5, 2018 at 2:02 pm

      • Jeremy Corbyn is not known as an “intellectual” for nowt like innit?

        Flapperjack

        September 6, 2018 at 7:26 am

      • I’m afraid that Labour backed the wrong leadership candidate just as they did when the picked Ed Miliband.

        Neil Milbourne

        September 6, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      • How about we enact a law ourselves ? This law would make behaving with hatred driven intent towards any living being a n offence “punished” with education.

        Jane

        September 9, 2018 at 1:52 pm

  6. Four million UK children too poor to have a healthy diet, study finds

    Food Foundation finds poorest families cannot meet healthy food guidelines of government


    Greengrocer’s shop in Cambridge, England. For the poorest half of the population a healthy balanced diet will account, on average, for nearly a third of disposable income. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

    Almost four million children in the UK live in households that would struggle to afford to buy enough fruit, vegetables, fish and other healthy foods to meet the official nutrition guidelines, a groundbreaking food poverty study reveals.

    The research, by the Food Foundation thinktank, says the diminishing ability of low-income families to pay for healthy food is consigning the least well-off to a greater risk of diet related illness, such as obesity and diabetes, as well as widening health inequalities across society.

    The poorest fifth of families would have to set aside more than 40% of their total weekly income after housing costs to satisfy the requirements of the government’s Eatwell guide, the study finds.

    The authors of the report have called on ministers to increase welfare benefit payments and ensure healthy foods are made more widely available and affordable to low-income households, for instance through maternity food vouchers and universal free school meals.

    Food spending

    “The government’s measurement of household income highlights the fact that millions of families in the UK cannot afford to eat in line with the government’s own dietary guidance,” said Anna Taylor, the executive director of the Food Foundation. “It’s crucial that a coordinated cross-government effort develops policy that accounts for the cost of its recommended diet and creates a food system that does not consign those on lower incomes to the risk of diet related illness.”

    The Eatwell guide, drawn up by Public Health England, defines the advised proportion of a diet relating to five categories: fruit and vegetables; carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice and pasta; proteins including beans, fish, eggs and meat; dairy; and oils and spreads.

    The Food Foundation says its study is the first investigation into the extent to which typical UK households can afford to follow the guidelines. On official cost estimates, it calculates that a family of two adults and two children aged 10 and 15 would need to spend £103.17 a week on the food.

    The official cost per adult of meeting the Eatwell guidelines is £41.93 a week. A household with two adults would need to spend £68.74 per week, the study calculates. A family of two adults and three children, aged two, five and eight, would need a weekly food budget of £111.35.

    The study estimates that 47% of all UK households with children do not spend enough on food to meet the Eatwell cost targets, a proportion that rises to 60% for single parent families. Just 20% of households where the main earner is unemployed spends the recommended amount, it estimates.

    The costs of healthy eating fall disproportionately on the poorest half of the population, for whom a healthy balanced diet would account for nearly a third of disposable income on average, the study finds. This compares with an average 12% of disposable income for the wealthiest half of households.

    Households in the lowest two income deciles – earning less than £15,860 a year – would need to spend 42% of their income after rent, while those in the top 10% of incomes would need to spend just 6% of their disposable income, the researchers estimate.

    Although the foundation is concerned about some households lacking cookery skills or access to shops selling fresh produce, it believes lack of money is the main driver of unhealthy eating. “Most people know what to do for a healthy diet, but they don’t do it because the healthy options are not the cheap options,” a spokesperson said.

    The study comes as concerns rise about food insecurity (defined as an inability to afford to eat regularly or healthily) among the poorest households.

    Eatwell guidelines

    A parliamentary bill requiring the government to measure food insecurity, drawn up by Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck, will get its second reading in October.

    Income in poor households decreased by 7.1% between 2002 and 2016, the study says, while food prices rose by 7.7%. It says further price rises, triggered for example by Brexit-related fluctuations in the value of the pound, could leave a family of four needing an extra £158 a year to meet Eatwell standards.

    “For households in the lowest income deciles who are already struggling to afford a healthy diet, this level of price increase will move the government’s official dietary recommendations further out of reach,” it says.

    Last year, a Food Standards Agency survey revealed that four million UK adults said that they had experienced low or very low food security, meaning they had struggled to afford to eat healthily and, as a consequence, had skipped meals or reduced the quality of their diet.

    Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “This report suggests £6 per day for an adult; we are currently spending about the same amount eating poorly. Our food choices are affected by other factors such as the volume of fast-food outlets on our streets and promotions of unhealthy foods in our shops, highlighting why our work to improve the nation’s diet is so important.”

    The Labour MP Sharon Hodgson, who chairs an parliamentary inquiry into child food poverty, said: “It cannot be right that 50% of households in the UK currently have insufficient food budgets to meet the government’s recommended Eatwell Guide.”

    The independent Food Foundation thinktank was set up by the former Conservative MP Laura Sandys and counts the public health expert Sir Michael Marmot and the mayor of London’s food adviser, Rosie Boycott, among its trustees and advisors.

    Case study

    “I really try, and my kids eat well, but how we are eating is not how I would really like them to eat,” says Elaine, 41, a married mother of four children aged four to 15 living in Thanet, Kent.

    Elaine’s weekly household food budget is £50 to £60 a week but, according to the Food Foundation, to meet the government guidelines on healthy eating she should be spending £131.28.

    The former nursery nurse spends £8 a week on fruit, mainly apples, oranges and bananas, and keeps a eye out for bargain vegetables in her local Aldi and Tesco shops. A tight budget means she is adept at improvising at mealtimes and she sometimes goes without meals so that her children can eat.

    Her food budget can easily be knocked off course by other essential costs, such as the purchase of new shoes or school uniforms or extra heating during a cold snap. In some weeks, she thinks her food budget drops to £30.

    When money is scarce, she buys items such as cheap sausages, bread and donuts, freezing them to make them last, even though she knows these are not healthy foods. “It’s lots of carbs and sugar and salt but it is filling and it’s cheap.”

    She hopes to return to work when her youngest goes to school this month but, for the moment, the family is benefit-capped – her husband had to give up work for health reasons – restricting her household income to £385 a week including rent, and reducing her disposable weekly income by £95.

    Ideally, she said she would spend a minimum of £120 a week on food for the family. She likes spinach, for example, and strawberries, but these are a rare treat. She would buy more salad and a wider variety of vegetables and “decent meat”, she said.

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/05/four-million-uk-children-too-poor-to-have-a-healthy-diet-study-finds

    The Guardian

    September 5, 2018 at 12:47 am

    • We almost chocked on our lobster thermidor 😀

      Iain & Betsy Duncan Smith

      September 5, 2018 at 1:04 am

  7. Uber to block low-rating riders in Australia and New Zealand

    “Uber is to block customers in Australia and New Zealand from its ride service if they have a low passenger rating.

    Riders rated four-out-of-five stars or lower will be banned for six months. Ratings are based on feedback left by drivers after each journey.

    The move is aimed at improving passenger behaviour, the company said.”

    This is straight out of the Black Mirror episode ‘Nosedive’ and akin to China’s ‘social credit’ system.

    “Using eye implants and mobile devices, people rate their online and in-person interactions on a five-star scale. This system cultivates insincere relationships, as a person’s rating significantly affects their socio-economic status. Lacie is a young woman currently rated at 4.2 and keen to achieve self-improvement, hoping to reach a 4.5 rating to qualify for a discount to a luxury apartment. Lacie tries to gain favour from highly-rated people, as they have larger impacts on scores, and sees a great chance to achieve her goal, when school friend Naomi asks her to be maid-of-honour at her upcoming wedding, with many highly-rated guests. After a series of mishaps on her way to the wedding that send her ratings plummeting, Naomi calls Lacie and tells her not to come. Enraged, Lacie manages to get to the celebratory dinner; she grabs the microphone and starts giving the speech she had written. The guests rate her negatively, causing her rating to drop to zero. She becomes dangerously upset and security removes her from the area. She is placed in a cell and has the technology supporting the rating system removed from her eyes. Feeling liberated, she gets into an argument with a man, without worrying about being rated.”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-45416404

    Black Mirror

    September 5, 2018 at 7:10 am

  8. Reblogged this on Britain Isn't Eating!.

    A6er

    September 5, 2018 at 8:26 am

  9. Andrew Coates

    September 5, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    • It was the Tory government doing this who recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables were needed to be healthy. Of course the rule doesn’t apply to the poor or the children of the poor, obviously.

      https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/why-5-a-day/

      Neil Milbourne

      September 5, 2018 at 4:53 pm

      • The figure was pulled out of a hat. Greece recommends a daily intake of ten fruit/veg portions a day. The healthy food still doesn’t exist by magic, no matter by how much

        Jane

        September 9, 2018 at 1:55 pm

  10. John McDonnell Attacks ‘Horrendous’ Tory Disability Cuts And Vows To Tackle Suicides Linked To Welfare Reforms

    ‘The sanctions often impact on people with mental health conditions hardest.’

    spot on JMC

    https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/john-mcdonnell-attacks-horrendous-tory-disability-cuts-and-pledges-new-bid-to-tackle-suicides-linked-to-welfare-reforms-interview-huffpost_uk_5b905106e4b0cf7b003c2175?ga&ncid=newsletter-ukThe%20Waugh%20Zone%20060918&guccounter=1

    whoknew

    September 6, 2018 at 10:47 am

  11. “Universal credit could be sunk by next stage of rollout, say experts”

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/06/universal-credit-next-stage-of-rollout-flaws-million-working-families

    Let’s hope so if not before.

    Neil Milbourne

    September 6, 2018 at 3:26 pm

  12. A Lament to JSA

    I’ve been given my notice now.
    My transfer date to Universal Credit
    is in a month’s time.
    I come here to my former, now closed down Jobcentre and imagine
    that this is the spot
    where
    everything I’ve lost since
    my childhood has washed up.
    I tell myself
    if that were true,
    and I waited long enough,
    then a tiny bald-headed figure
    would appear on the horizon
    across the field next to where the Jobcentre car park once stood
    and gradually get larger
    until I’d see it was Iain Duncan Smith.
    He’d wave
    and maybe call.
    I don’t let the fantasy
    go beyond that.
    I can’t let it.
    I remind myself
    I was lucky to have had
    any time on JSA at all.
    What I’m not sure about
    is if our lives have been
    so different from the lives
    of the people who don’t sign on.
    We all complete.
    Maybe none of us
    really understand
    what we’ve lived through
    or feel we’ve had
    enough time.

    Kathy

    Kathy

    September 6, 2018 at 5:13 pm

  13. Andrew Coates

    September 7, 2018 at 3:28 pm

  14. Ashes to ashes: Britons follow David Bowie in choosing direct cremations

    Demand for simpler services grows as tastes change and cost of lavish funerals increases


    Floral tributes at the David Bowie mural in Brixton, south London. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

    The “cost of dying” is continuing to rise, figures out next week are expected to show. But the good news for those on a tight budget, or who simply don’t want a big fuss made, is that the cost of the very cheapest type of funeral is falling.

    “Direct cremation” is a low-cost, no-frills option where there is no funeral service and mourners aren’t present. In its most basic form it is – to put it bluntly – a disposal service. Prices start at less than £1,000, which is just a fraction of the £3,500 to £4,000-plus average funeral cost.

    But while this type of send-off will not be everyone’s cup of tea, demand for direct cremations appears to be growing rapidly as more people – including those who could afford to splash out on something more lavish – opt for this type of funeral.

    That certainly applied to pop star David Bowie, who died of liver cancer in January 2016 and was reportedly secretly cremated without any of his family or friends present after telling loved ones he did not want a funeral service. His ashes were scattered on the Indonesian island of Bali.

    Simplicity, the recently launched direct cremation arm of funeral giant Dignity, says it saw a 400% increase in people buying direct cremations in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year. Meanwhile, specialist firm Pure Cremation has reported a tenfold increase in sales, and says that as the middle classes embrace the concept, “it will become more mainstream”.

    So what’s the appeal? Partly it seems to be that by separating the actual cremation from the farewell, it means the family can organise a more personal memorial service, ash scattering or celebration of the deceased’s life in their own time.

    Insurer SunLife will next week publish its 2018 “Cost of Dying” report, which will reveal the latest rise in the cost of a standard funeral. However, ahead of the launch, the company has shared with Guardian Money details of its findings relating to direct cremations. It found that the average price has fallen by almost 7% in a year – from £1,835 to £1,712. London saw a 22% fall – from £2,463 to £1,911.

    According to SunLife, currently only about 2% of cremations are direct services – which suggests about 8,000 a year – while Simplicity says it is 2% of all funerals. But there is clearly a potentially huge appetite: SunLife’s research found that 98% of people did not want a lavish funeral, while 47% of those who had recently organised a funeral had not heard of a direct cremation. However, once this option was explained to them, 19% said they would have considered it for the deceased, and 44% said they would consider a direct cremation for their own funeral.Similarly, Simplicity’s research found that more than half of people (55%) would be willing to consider having a direct cremation. Men (59%) were slightly more likely to consider one than women (52%).

    As with standard funerals, there is a great deal of variation in price, and in what you get for your money. Simplicity and Pure Cremation charge from £1,095 and £1,195 respectively, while one of the cheapest providers we could find was BB Funerals in Barnet, north London, which charges £949.

    Anecdotal evidence suggests that those choosing direct cremations “tend to be in the higher socioeconomic groups”, according to a report from insurer Royal London published this week.

    Catherine Powell, co-founder of Pure Cremation, says people who are choosing direct cremation are seeking greater control over how they spend their money. She adds that when it comes to the business of saying goodbye, “they want to choose the how, the where and the when”.

    When her firm launched at the end of 2015, it was doing around 20 direct cremations a month. By the end of this year it expects that to have risen to about 200 a month. However, Powell says: “There will always be a demand for the traditional funeral.”Royal London says its research suggests direct cremation “is not an attractive option for all less affluent consumers, many of which would still prefer to give their loved ones a more traditional, full-service send-off”. But the firm points out that it is increasingly available via mainstream funeral providers.

    https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/sep/08/david-bowie-direct-cremations-cost-funeral

    The Guardian

    September 8, 2018 at 1:55 am


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