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Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action, Saturday 2nd of December.

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Like many people I buy the ‘I’ Newspaper.

This story today gives lots of reasons – if we needed them – why everybody should be protesting against Universal Credit this Saturday.

Evictions, poverty and stress: Life for single parent families on universal credit

Hunger, anxiety, shame: the universal credit ‘catastrophe’ is hitting lone parents hardest of all. Emily Goddard meets mothers facing a grim Christmas. ‘I have to borrow from my child’s paper round money to top up the meter,’ one tells her.

Lily can smell the cigarette smoke from the next room along the corridor seeping through the crack under the door of her Croydon bed-and-breakfast room that she shares with her seven-year-old daughter. They have spent nearly a month here already after becoming homeless when they were evicted from their privately rented home in another part of the town because Lily couldn’t make the rent payments while waiting for her first universal credit payment.

Every day the 39-year-old returns from working her two low-pay, part-time jobs with her daughter to this room, which contains two single beds. The pair uses a potty in the room to go to the toilet because they don’t have a bathroom of their own – nor a shower, kitchen or washing facilities – and all the communal rooms that are shared by the other 40 to 50 residents are filthy.

Sometimes the noise is overwhelming, with doors banging, arguments raging on and “sex sounds”. And, as if the smell of cigarette smoke hanging heavy in the air was not bad enough, there have been people rolling and smoking joints in the kitchen that every resident in this wholly inadequate emergency accommodation has to share.

If you need more reasons the Mirror has them.

Universal Credit claimants face ‘disaster’ as helpline shuts for most of Christmas

MP Frank Field, who leads the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, has written to the Prime Minister as he warned there’ll be further ‘guerilla war’.

Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action

Saturday 02 December 2017 at 08:00-20:00

Fix universal credit ident

This Christmas will be cancelled for thousands of families claiming the new benefit Universal Credit. Despite knowing Universal Credit causes serious problems for claimants, Theresa May’s Tory government is pressing ahead and rolling it out to thousands of people who will have to wait weeks to receive any money.

Claimants are descending into debt, relying on food banks, getting into rent arrears and in many cases getting evicted from their homes because of in- built problems with Universal Credit.

Take action NOW against Universal Credit

On Saturday 2 December 2017 Unite Community will be staging a national day of action against Universal Credit to send a message to the Tory government that they must STOP & FIX Universal Credit before rolling it out and further or thousands of families face a cold a hungry Christmas and the threat of losing their homes.

Who gets Universal Credit

Universal Credit replaces five benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit.

Seven million households will be affected, including over one million low paid part-time workers. For the first time ever people in work could face being sanctioned (having their benefits stopped) if they don’t prove to the job centre that they’re searching for better paid work or more hours.

What needs fixing

Unite is calling on the government to:

  • Abandon the long waits for claimants to receive money
  • Allow people to apply for Universal Credit in a jobcentre, not just online
  • Provide people with better help when the system fails them
  • Pay landlords directly to stop people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes
  • End benefit sanctions for in-work and out-of-work claimants
  • Stop payments going to one named member of a household
  • Make work pay – Universal Credit takes 63p in every £1 people earn

Tell us your story

Get in touch and tell us about your Universal Credit stories. Send your stories to Liane.groves@unitetheunion.org

Sat 11:00 · The Giles Statue · Ipswich
All welcome, this is an activity for everyone who is concerned about the impact of Universal Credit, not just union members.

Contacts and actions in your area

Contact your local community coordinator and get involved on Saturday 2 December.

REGION AREA TIME ADDRESS
North East Yorkshire & Humber Ashington 10.00-11.30 Argos, Wansbeck Square, Station Road, Ashington, NE63 9XL
John Coan Barnsley 12.00-13.30 May Day Green, Outside Barnsley Town Hall, Barnsley, S70 1RH
0113 236 4830 Consett  10.00-12.00 Unit 4, 26 Newmarket Street, Consett, County Durham, DH8 5LQ
07711 375536 Grimsby 10.00  1 DEC Freshney Place Shopping Centre, Grimsby, DN31 1ED
John.coan@unitetheunion.org Huddersfield 14.00-15.00 Huddersfield bus station, Upperhead Row, HD1 2JL
Leeds 11.00-13.00 Outside Debenhams, 121 Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6LX
Middlesbrough 14.00-15.00 Middlesbrough Town Hall, Albert Road, Middlesbrough, TS1 2QJ
Newcastle 11.00-12.30 Sports Direct, 15/21 Northumberland Road, Newcastle NE1 7AL
Redcar 10.00-12.00 Redcar High Street, Redcar, TS10 3BZ
London & Eastern Central London from 14.00 Costa Coffee: Oxford Street and turn left on to Great Portland Street.
Dave Condliffe Barking, Dagenham & Havering 10.00-16.00 Chequer’s Corner to highlight how important Dagenham JobCentre
0208 800 4281 Brent 12.00-14.00 Neasden Parade Kilburn Unemployment WC
07791 113806 Cambridge All day Mill Road Winter Fair
David.condliffe@unitetheunion.org  Clacton-on-Sea 10.30-14.00 Brotherhood Hall
Colchester 16.00-18.00 Town Hall, Colchester High Street
Essex 11.00-14.00 Waltham Abbey
Herts & Beds 13.00- St Mary’ Square, leafleting in Watford High Street
Lambeth 11.00-13.00 Brixton tube station
Norfolk 11.00-14.00 Magdalen Street flyover, Anglia Square
Peterborough 11.45-14.00 Peterborough Bus station within central shopping area
Suffolk 11.00-14.00 Suffolk Unite Office
Tower Hamlets 10.00-13.00 Whitechapel Road by tube
West London TBC
South East Bracknell 12.30-14.30 Princess Square, by the War Memorial
Kelly Tomlinson Crawley 13.00-14.30 Crawley, Queens Square (by old bandstand site)
02392 824 514 Dover 10.00-12.00 Dover Biggin Street
07941 342835 Eastbourne 11.00-13.00 Bankers corner, Terminus Road, Cornfield Road
Kelly.tomlinson@unitetheunion.org Gillingham 11.00-13.00 Outside the Conservative club, 122-124 High Street
Hastings 12.00-14.00 Town centre opposite Lloyds, joint stall with the LP.
Herne Bay 10.00-12.00 Corner of Mortimer Street / Sea Street
Hove 13.00-15.00 Hove town hall, Church Rd/Tilsbury Place corner
Milton Keynes 12.00-14.00 Central MK, outside McDonalds
Oxford 11.00-13.00 Carfax tower, junction of Cornmarket Street, High Street, Queen Street and St. Aldgate’s
Portsmouth 14.00-16.00 Commercial Road, by the Fountain
Sittingbourne 10.00-12.00 High Street entrance to The Forum
Slough 10.30-13.00 Slough Square, outside the cinema
Southampton 12.00-14.00 Meet at The Bargate midday
South West Bath 11.00- Xmas Market, meeting point Bath Spa Station  BA1 1SU
Brett Sparkes Barnstaple TBC
01793 836480 Bridgwater 11.00-13.00 Cornhill, Bridgwater TA6 3BU
07718 666593 Bristol 11.00- Fountains (opposite the Hippodrome) St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol BS1 4UZ
brett.sparkes@unitetheunion.org  Bude 11.00-14.00 The Triangle, Belle Vue EX23 8JJ
Gloucester 11.00- Gloucester Eastgate St. GL1 1PA
Minehead 11.00- Iceland The Avenue, Minehead TA24 5AZ
Truro 11.00-14.00 Lemon Quay TR1 2PU
Yeovil 11.00-14.00 Middle Street, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 1LS
Ireland Belfast 13.00- DfC HQ, Causway Exchange, Bedford Street, Belfast
Albert Hewitt Derry TBC Derry Foyle Jobs and Benefits office
02890 020418
07711 375537
albert.hewitt2@unitetheunion.org
Scotland TBC
Jamie Caldwell
0845 604 4384
07711 376562
jamie.caldwell@unitetheunion.org
North West  Cumbria TBC TBC
Sheila Coleman Ellesmere Port 11.00-14.00 York Rd, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0DB
0151 203 1907 Lancashire TBC TBC
07711 375538 Liverpool 11.00-14.00 Williamson Square, Liverpool city centre
sheila.coleman@unitetheunion.org Manchester TBC TBC
Wirral 11.00-16.00 Open day for advice on Universal Credit, St Anne Street, Birkenhead, CH41 3SU
Midlands  Chesterfield TBC Chesterfield Unite Community, New Square
Shaun Pender East Staffs 10.00-11.45 Outside Primark in Burton town centre
01332 548400 Northampton 10.00-13.00 The entrance of the Grosvenor Centre Northampton town centre
07885 803449 Nottingham TBC Brian Clough Statue, Junction of Queen & King St, Off Market Sq, Nottingham, NG1 2BL
shaun.pender@unitetheunion.org Stoke/North Staffs 11.00-13.00 The Iron market, Newcastle-under Lyme town centre
Wolverhampton City centre
Wales  Aberystwyth 11.00-13.00 TBC
Ian Swan Cardiff 11.00-13.00 Cardiff central library
02920 394521 Merthyr 11.00-13.00 Merthyr town centre
ian.swan@unitetheunion.org Rhyl 11.00-13.00 TBC
Wrexham 11.00-13.00 Wrexham town centre
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Written by Andrew Coates

November 29, 2017 at 3:36 pm

Budget: Universal Credit Sticking Plaster Announced.

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Image result for universal credit unite community

 

As Ace Reporter, Breaking News, informs us, with the rest of our tip top team of Contributors, there are some changes to Universal Credit in the Budget.

I was initially confused with all this talk of 1,5 Billion, which it turns out, is not the Queen’s Billion,  a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000),  but a miserable US thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000).

But here it is,

The Mirror, which is pretty good on these things, reports,

Chancellor Philip Hammond has bowed to pressure over Universal Credit with a £1.5 billion package to cut the waiting period for payments- by a week.

He has also removed the seven-day waiting period so entitlement starts on the day of the claim.

Changes announced today will also mean any household needing an advance can access a full month’s payment within five days of applying instead of half a month’s worth.

While the repayment period for advances will increase from six to 12 months.

He said that any new Universal Credit claimant in receipt of housing benefit will continue to receive that benefit for a further 2 weeks.

But Jeremy Corbyn slammed the U-turn as simply not good enough.

He told the House of Commons: “Wouldn’t it have been better to pause the whole thing and look at the problems it has caused?”

In response to Mr Hammond, Mr Corbyn said: “The Chancellor’s solution to a failing system causing more debt is to offer a loan,” referring to increased ‘advances’ for people in need.

It’s pretty clear what us lot think, but it’s good to hear somebody say it in a national paper,

The reaction from the Child Poverty Action Group, who have campaigned passionately for changes to Universal Credit, was mixed.

The charity’s Chief Executive Alison Garnham welcomed changes to the waiting days but said the chancellor had missed an opportunity to completely overhaul the flawed system.

She said: “We were the first to sound the alarm over the waiting days for universal credit, so we’re pleased the Chancellor has acted to remove them and put in place new arrangements for receiving advances as part of an emergency rescue package, but this should have been the budget that ushered in much needed structural reform of Universal Credit to revive the central promise to strengthen the rewards from work and that didn’t happen.”

The trusty lot at the Mirror put all this into place,

Hammond’s Budget is no game changer and tinkering with Universal Credit is a con when deep, painful welfare cuts for families in and out of work will plunge more kids into grinding poverty.

Branding a £7.83 an hour minimum wage a “living wage” adds insult to injury when independent experts calculate the real rate would need to be £8.75 – or in expensive London, £10.20.

Sunny BBC reporters summarise this dream-package for those who wish to go a but further:

“For the average person claiming the benefit, they’ll have £73 extra in their pockets plus housing costs and any other elements they qualify for – like childcare support.”

More details:

People claiming universal credit will now wait, to be precise, 35 days rather than 42 before they get their first payment.

It’s helpful to think of the current waiting period before people can receive their first universal credit in three chunks:

  • Four weeks to assess how much someone has earned in the last month
  • An administrative week set aside to process the payment
  • A further seven “waiting days” during which claimants are not eligible for any benefit – this is what the chancellor is scrapping

The four weeks is more or less baked into the design of the system. Universal credit was designed to be paid in arrears once a person’s monthly income has been assessed. Changing this feature would have required a fairly significant change to the whole structure of the benefit.

So it was in the other 14 days that the government had some leeway.

The reduction in the waiting period announced in the Budget strips away seven of those extra days, leaving a full week to process the payment. Arguably, the chancellor could have shortened the payment processing time too.

It was the seven additional “waiting days” many took issue with, since it’s difficult to see what purpose those days served other than to save money.

David Finch, a senior policy analyst at think tank the Resolution Foundation, described them as a “completely unnecessary saving” which had a disproportionate negative impact on claimants.

And a report on the six week waiting period by a cross-party group of MPs, chaired by Labour MP Frank Field, described the motivation of those extra days as “primarily fiscal”.

But the motivation behind universal credit was not a cost-saving one – it was supposed to be all about getting more people into work.

The report’s authors added that they had been told by a wide range of charities, councils and housing associations that the seven waiting days did “nothing to further the stated objectives of Universal Credit but contribute to claimant hardship.”

Who will benefit?

Just over a third of people eligible for universal credit have always been exempt from having to go for seven “waiting days” with no benefits.

This group includes people who are moving on to universal credit from a relevant existing benefit, those who have claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance in the past three months, young people under the age of 22 leaving local authority care and victims of domestic abuse.

The other 64% of new claimants will benefit from this change.

The actual number of people will vary – there were 47,000 new people starting to receive universal credit in the most recent month we have data for (13 September to 12 October).

Still, while we pause,  this is a good larf..

But…..(leaving aside the rest of the unfit for purpose system stays in place),

Benefits are still frozen.

Food prices, to begin with, are rocketing.

Butter has gone up by 40%’: readers on rising UK food prices.

As inflation sticks at a five-year high of 3%, readers share their experiences of how they are coping with the squeeze.

It’s very generous of the Chancellor to extend rail cards for young people, to those who are under 30.

“Discount railcard extended for people aged up to 30”.

I shall bear that in mind the next time I am under 30.

But duty on high-strength “white ciders” to be increased in 2019 via new legislation.

Like the kind of po-faced Scottish nationalists who do not want the poor to drink the devil’s buttermilk, and who have introduced ‘Minimum Pricing’ for alcohol, you can see here an attempt to stop the really hard up getting pissed up on the cheap with White Lightening.

One to watch out for, as there are  temperance lobbyist in other parties in the UK who’d  like to do the same here.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 22, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Government to Cut Universal Credit Wait to…..5 Weeks!

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Image result for universal credit campaign

I Week off the Wait, to meet Universal Credit Crisis.

Our best mate and Mentor, Tutor and Guide,  Google informs us of this,

Government preparing to trim wait for new benefit after Tory backbenchers raised concerns about impact on constituents.

The government is preparing to confirm that it will cut the six-week waiting time for universal credit, caving in to Conservative backbench rebels.

After being promised concessions by ministers, a group of Tory MPs concerned about the impact of the delay on their constituents were persuaded not to vote against the government in a Labour-led debate on universal credit last month.

The six-week wait was the central concern of the group, which includes Heidi Allen and Johnny Mercer, and the government is expected to reduce it, most likely by eliminating the seven-day mandatory waiting time at the start of any new claim.

The move comes as MPs prepare to vote on a cross-party motion to cut the wait for a first payment from 42 days to a month. The backbench business debate in the House of Commons on Thursday will focus on the recommendations of the recent work and pensions committee inquiry report on universal credit.

The committee chair, Frank Field, warned that a government defeat would send a clear message to ministers that the long wait had to go: “Universal credit’s design and implementation have been beset with difficulties that knock claimants into hunger, debt and homelessness, but the most glaring of these in the first instance is the six-week wait for payment.

“I doubt many households in this country could get by for six weeks, and for many, much longer, with no income, never mind those striving close to the breadline. The baked-in wait for payment is cruel and unrealistic and government has not been able to offer any proper justification for it.”

But wait, hark, what is this we hear?

The massive concession turns out to be a lonely 5 week wait.

Government backs down on Universal Credit wait.

Sky News understands the concession will be made in the coming days as Theresa May tries to see off a Tory rebellion.

The Government is to cut the controversial six-week wait for Universal Credit payments in the comings days in a bid to see off a Conservative rebellion.

A Government source familiar with the plans told Sky News there would be “some movement [on the wait time] in the early part of next week” after intensive behind-the-scenes discussions with a group of up to two dozen rebel MPs.

The source said ministers were working on plans to cut the wait to five weeks or less in a significant concession to backbench MPs.

And Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke is also said to be looking to do more on advance payments for claimants as the roll-out of Universal Credit is expanded from five to 50 job centres a month.

Universal Credit combines six benefits into one single benefit and is designed to simplify the welfare system and to “make work pay”.

It was the flagship welfare reform of David Cameron’s coalition government, but has been plagued with delays since its inception and by criticism over its design.

One flaw is the six-week wait time which has been criticised across the political divide amid concerns it is pushing claimants into arrears on rent and council tax, and forcing some to use food banks.

The 5 week wait and “more” to get people into debt with advance payments is miserable, miserable, penny-pinching, Scrooge’s idea of a Christmas present.

As Julia Rampen says in the New Statesman says,

The government is set to cut the six week initial waiting time for Universal Credit, Sky News reports. If this retreat on welfare is true, it’s welcome. The expectation that people forced to rely on this country’s meagre safety net would somehow have the cash to tide themselves over for six weeks was always fantasy.

As increasingly panicked reports from the areas where the new “streamlined” benefit is being rolled out attest, six weeks is a long time when you have no money in your pocket, and rent and bills to pay. Claimants can get an advance payment, but this can easily turn into yet another debt to pay. Evictions are mounting, and stories from frontline workers are harrowing – such as the one from a foodbank manager, who met a young boy picking through the bins while his mother waited for her first Universal Credit payment.

All the same, there is not much to celebrate. Commuting the waiting time from six weeks to five, as the report suggests will happen, still means a very long wait for access to food or heating, or the resources to pay your rent and other bills. It suggests that Universal Credit will still be structured around a monthly payment, and allocated based on monthly income – even though Resolution Foundation research found the majority of claimants had previously been paid weekly or fortnightly, and many in-work recipients have different hours from month to month. Nor does there seem to be any movement on the fact that Universal Credit is paid to only one member of the household – a structure ripe for abuse. And then there’s the whole question of whether the benefit designed to “make work pay” is actually penalising workers, since any increases in payment under the new system are minimal.

Most worryingly, though, a climbdown on the waiting period does nothing to address the cause of much Universal Credit misery – the glitches. As an anonymous Universal Credit manager wrote for the New Statesman, benefits case managers are overwhelmed, with 300 cases on the go at once. A rigid, automised priority list means that many claims with fall through the cracks. With Jobcentres closing, claimants are set to be even more reliant on communicating with these overworked staff through online messaging or crowded phonelines.

CAN YOU CREDIT IT?

 

Brits spend £6.5million ringing Universal Credit helpline between April and September

 

Shocking figures reveal there were 4.2million calls to the helpline over the five months with an average landline fee of up to 12p

Pile it on against the bastards!

More from Sky just now,

The Prime Minister has been warned thousands of families are being put through the “trauma” of fearing eviction over Christmas due to flagship benefit changes.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn tackled Theresa May over the roll-out of Universal Credit, as he revealed a letting agency’s warning to tenants that they could be asked to leave their properties.

In a letter from Lincolnshire-based GAP Property, tenants are told the company cannot sustain arrears “at the potential levels Universal Credit could create” when the new benefits system is introduced in the area next month.

Highlighting a six-week wait claimants will face for their first benefit payments under Universal Credit, the agency adds: “IF YOU DO NOT PAY YOUR RENT WE WILL HAVE NO OPTION BUT TO LEAVE AND RECOVER LOSSES FROM YOUR GUARANTOR”.

GAP Property insists to tenants the letter is “not intended to cause you alarm, rather to inform you of the problems that could very well occur during the roll-out of Universal Credit”.

Challenging Mrs May over the letter at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Corbyn asked: “Will the Prime Minister pause Universal Credit so it can be fixed or does she think it is right to put thousands of families through Christmas in the trauma of knowing they’re about to be evicted because they’re in rent arrears because of Universal Credit?”

In response, Mrs May acknowledged concerns about people managing their budgets to pay rent during the Universal Credit roll-out, but added: “What we see is after four months the number of people on Universal Credit in arrears has fallen by a third.”

The Labour leader told the Prime Minister he suspects “it’s not the only letting agency that’s sending out that kind of letter” and highlighted increased food bank usage and child poverty fears as he demanded the Government pause the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Mrs May countered the new benefits system “is ensuring that we are seeing more people in work and able to keep what they earn”.

And,

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams repeated Labour’s demand for a pause to Universal Credit while “these issues are fixed”.

She said: “The Government is reportedly planning to reduce the six week wait for Universal Credit payments.

“I hope they have now listened to Labour’s repeated calls to significantly reduce the waiting time, which has driven many into debt, arrears and evictions.

“Much more needs to be done.

“The Government must confirm that alternative payment arrangements will be offered to all recipients, including fortnightly payments, and bring forward plans to restore the principle that work always pays under the programme.”

Before I forget (and after seeing the rise in Food Prices today): End the Benefits Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

November 15, 2017 at 4:19 pm

Stop the Roll Out of Universal Credit! Protests on December the 2nd.

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Image may contain: one or more people and text

Stop the rollout of Universal Credit

 

Organising  has  begun.

 Unite Community Day of Action for Universal Credit on December 2nd.

Contact: community@unitetheunion.org to find out where your local action is or to offer your help.

Please do your bit and share the articles to your networks. Get the word out so we can maintain the pressure on this Tory Govt.

Solidarity comrades.

Latest news stories, BBC.

The Scottish government is calling on the chancellor to stop the rollout of Universal Credit to enable “fundamental flaws” to be fixed.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has written to Philip Hammond asking for improvements to be made to the payments system in his autumn Budget.

He said a delay in payments had caused hardship to families across Scotland.

The UK government said the vast majority of people were paid their Universal Credit in full and on time.

The controversial measure, which is being rolled out across the UK, brings six existing benefit payments into one – but critics have claimed the six-week wait some people have for their first payment is contributing to a rise in debt, rent arrears and evictions.

In his letter to the chancellor, Mr Mackay said the announcement by the work and pensions secretary to offer Universal Credit advances upfront would “do nothing to fix the fundamental design flaws with Universal Credit”.

He said: “The Universal Credit system is fundamentally flawed and causing unnecessary hardship and suffering to families across Scotland.

“It is vital that the UK government addresses these failings and that the roll-out is halted until the problems are fixed.

“I strongly urge the chancellor to use the autumn Budget to pause the roll-out, reduce the first payment wait time to a maximum of four weeks, move to a twice-monthly payment system and reverse cuts to work allowances.

“These measures would help ease financial pressures and stop pushing more families into poverty.”

Telegraph,

Theresa May faces revolt over Universal Credit as MPs prepare to vote on reducing wait times

Theresa May is facing a second revolt over the roll-out of one of the Government’s key welfare reforms after ordering her MPs to abstain on an earlier vote.

The Sunday Telegraph understands that more than a dozen Conservative MPs are intending to back a cross-party motion this week demanding that ministers reduce the waiting period for Universal Credit payments.

The Democratic Unionist Party, whose MPs are propping up Mrs May’s Government, is also believed to be considering supporting the motion.

The vote is likely to cause embarrassment to the Prime Minister in a week when she is attempting to reassert authority over her party after losing two Cabinet ministers in the space of a week.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Minister silent as desperate DWP launches helpline for landlords and Allegations about “massaged” Benefit Sanction Figures made.

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Image result for David Gauke DWP

Gauke, Taking it Easy as DWP Descends into Omnishambles.

Parliament briefly heard of Work and Pensions secretary David Gauke  when he announced in Parliament in July that the state pension age will rise to 68 .

Since that time this is his last known statement of the Man,  as key policies of his government, which his Department is in charge of, such as Universal Credit, are in a condition worse than omnishambles.

6th August 2017

After a busy year so far, the summer recess comes as a welcome slow-down for most MPs.  There has been no shortage of drama in politics for the past couple of years and recent months have been no exception.  General elections tend to be somewhat exhausting and, on this occasion, it resulted in a less than conclusive result.

The General Election was then followed by a reshuffle and, on a personal note, I moved on from the Treasury to the Department for Work & Pensions.

The summer recess is a good opportunity for ministers in new departments to get their heads round new issues and attempt to get on top of their brief.  In my case, I am spending some of the period when Parliament isn’t sitting visiting DWP offices around the country, meeting staff and understanding the breadth of work undertaken by the department.  I am also spending plenty of time reading into the various subjects covered by the department – employment, disability benefits, pensions and so on.

This should, I hope, be helpful for the autumn when Parliament returns and we have the party conferences.

Much of the work is quite technical in nature but my previous ministerial experience is helpful, whether it is experience of a big operational part of government (I previously worked closely with HMRC), pensions policy (I worked on pensions tax policy when at the Treasury) or just an understanding of large parts of public spending (which was key when I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury).

Meanwhile, the constituency work continues with the correspondence and regular constituency surgeries.

Parliamentary recess is not a long holiday (a point MPs often make, somewhat defensively!) but it should enable us to recharge our batteries for a busy few months.

We imagine he in some quiet holiday retreat away from the world, ready to re-assume his pressing duties here, “David is a Patron of the Hospice of St Francis, the Watford Peace Hospice and the Three Rivers Museum.  He writes regularly for the Croxley, Rickmansworth and Chorleywood editions of My Local News magazines and The Berkhamsted & Tring Gazette.”

Meanwhile while Gauke relaxes, the Residential Landlords Association announces,

 

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has introduced a new helpline for landlords whose Universal Credit tenants will not communicate with them.

The new number 0345 600 4272 can be used by landlords who are unable to obtain the tenant’s co-operation to get DWP to supply information when it comes to enquiries about major payments –  such as a direct payment to the landlord.

This is a significant change as, before now, landlords were totally dependent on the goodwill of the tenant when it came to accessing information.

The new number can only be used by landlords in areas where Universal Credit has been fully rolled out.

The official Universal Credit guidance says the landlord should:

  • In the first instance engage with their tenant about the issue.  The tenant has access to their own information via their online account and can share it with their landlord
  • If more assistance is required the claimant can ask to share their personal information with their landlord or other representative via their online journal, face to face or by calling the service centre and giving explicit consent
  • When contacting Universal Credit the claimant’s representative will be asked to confirm their identity so the case manager can speak to the landlord direct.

Earlier this summer DWP said it will address problems faced by landlords who house Universal Credit tenants following a meeting with the RLA.

RLA directors David Smith and Chris Town met with Caroline Dinenage MP, the new Minister responsible for housing cost support, to discuss issues including rent arrears and direct payments.

This came about after the RLA’s most recent quarterly survey showed 38% of landlords with tenants in receipt of UC had seen them fall into rent arrears in the past 12 months. With tenants owing an average of £1,600.

The RLA runs a course on Universal Credit, with dates currently available in Manchester and Leeds.

The other story the Gentleman of Leisure is avoiding is this:

The London Economic (TLE)

A freedom of Information request shows that new welfare reforms are allowing the government to distort the true figures of those sanctioned on welfare, disability and in receipt of pensions

The very latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) obtained by The London Economic in response to a freedom of information request I submitted show that new welfare reforms such as Universal Credit are allowing the true figures regarding people sanctioned to go grossly unreported.

Today 20 million people in the UK are claimants, 13.8 million are on a pension, and a further 6.8 million people are of working age.

The DWP has started, from August 2017, to publish a Quarterly Statistical Summary of information on the length of time over which a reduction in benefit due to a sanction lasts.

In this report, they say for the first time, the duration of sanctions to be implemented for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC), Jobseekers  Allowance (JSA) and Income Support (IS).

Furthermore, they say they are working on the methodology used to calculate sanction durations.

Yet, when you look at the Government’s own headline figures, a staggering 4.4 million people have been sanctioned up to 31 March 2017 and these figures probably underestimate the true number by a further 2 million under-reported sanctions, as Government figures do not include people sanctioned more than once; people who are presently challenging their sanctions or the huge number of people who have been successful in winning their appeals.

Moreover, Universal Credit is also helping the Government to massage the sanction figures downwards.

Rest of Story here.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 24, 2017 at 4:12 pm

“Far from a welfare state which protects the weaker underbelly in society, it is attacking them.” Frank Field.

with 84 comments

 

Image result for food banks a conservative triumph

I had just bought my copy of the ‘I’ this morning and was glancing at the story below (it’s the basis of the Front Page) when I saw a group of Street People squatting on the Corner of Upper Brook Street and Tacket Street in Ipswich.

They did not look over supplied with wealth….

 

I immediately thought of this article, written by somebody with the ideas not too far from  Patrick Minford, the man who says, “Our economy will gain billions after Brexit”.

Minford was a pioneer in the “rational expectations revolution’. Not being an economist I have little idea of the details, but his premise was the unfettered free market. “Work by Minford’s team at Liverpool was also influential on unemployment policy, especially labour market liberalisation, where the Liverpool Model was the first model to develop a ‘supply side’ designed to explain the underlying trend or ‘natural’ unemployment rate.”

More recently, apart from his his promise of a rosy future under Brexit, he has said this, “New living wage will penalise the poor with unemployment, economist warns” “Cardiff University economics professor Patrick Minford says the new rate of £7.20 an hour prices people out of jobs” (March 2016)

Why food banks are a conservative triumph

By   (‘Senior fellow’ at the Adam Smith Institute)

We’re told, endlessly that this food network exists because of austerity – that the need is something new. But this doesn’t pass the laugh test for anyone rich in maturity. The British state has always been lousy at paying benefits on time and in full – even before Mrs Thatcher, I recall people waiting weeks and weeks for unemployment benefits, which is why we would chip in to keep them fed.

So, in one sense, we should be celebrating the rise of the food bank network. Here we’ve a long running and pernicious problem to which a solution has been found. Government’s not very good at the £10-here-and-£20-there problems, and the very bureaucracy of government seems to be the cause of many of them. We’re solving one of these problems.

But this leads us to question why this is a conservative (but not Conservative) movement and system of organisation. The clue to that being Edmund Burke’s “little platoons”. There has been no governmental nor societal mobilisation of the populace to achieve this, Simply a realisation that a problem, previously seemingly intractable, can now be solved.

….

So, it is being solved entirely through the voluntary action of individuals and groups and purely from the goodness of their hearts. And, again, note, in reaction to the incompetence of government and the state.

The alleviation of poverty is a good idea, the alleviation of hunger a great one. That it’s being done through entirely voluntary interaction of a free people is indeed a conservative moment and victory.

For a different point of view we turn back to the ‘I’.

Here is more about this Tory Triumph:

Vulnerable people ‘being forced to use foodbanks because of benefits system problems’

Vulnerable people are being driven into destitution and reliance on foodbanks because of major flaws in the benefits system, a former welfare minister has claimed. Frank Field has called for a review of the operation of benefits, including the new universal credit (UC), to prevent claimants being unintentionally forced into poverty. His intervention follows warnings that foodbank use continues to climb, with large numbers of families with young children asking for emergency help.

The Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest foodbank network, handed out a record number of emergency food parcels in 2016-17. It said foodbank referrals in areas where UC had been fully rolled out were running at twice the national average. Mr Field, the chairman of the work and pensions select committee, said: “Far from a welfare state which protects the weaker underbelly in society, it is attacking them.”

In a letter to the new Work and Pensions Secretary, David Gauke, he listed a series of complaints about the benefits system. Advance loans Mr Field said UC claimants only receive their first payments after six weeks, relying on advance loans to tide them over. Others faced problems because they cannot produce adequate paperwork – such as proof of tenancy – to back up claims for the housing costs element of universal credit, he added.

The Labour MP warned of disabled people being forced to use foodbanks as their benefits have been “wrongly withdrawn or drastically reduced” when they moved on to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) system. He backed an urgent review of the assessment system for evaluating PIP claims amid frequent complaints that it was too rigid to assess accurately claimants’ ability to work.

Mr Field said he had been told homeless people faced penury because they were unable to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance without a fixed address. Travel costs He added that he also had evidence from around the country that people who found jobs were relying on foodbanks in the gap between the final benefit payments and first pay cheque. He suggested they could be given special help with expenses such as travel costs over this period to make ends meet and stop them going hungry.

Mr Field told i: “For the first time ever, we have now got a welfare state which is causing destitution and nobody, but nobody, set out for the welfare state to do that. “A number of benefit changes have stopped people getting help they need. “Those benefits are meant to knit together and give us a safety net. What we now have is far from a safety net – the welfare state is by accident being reshaped into an agent that causes destitution.” Mr Field was particularly critical of the six week gap before the first universal credit payments are received – and said the cash often did not arrive that quickly. “If you are down on your luck and you aren’t going to get benefit for six weeks, and they make it three months – and you have got kids, it’s the summer, then there’s the school uniform and electricity bills to pay and you have got to get the rent – then the whole thing is intolerable.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 21, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Homeless Levels to Double.

with 49 comments

The camp set up on Ipswich Waterfront by a group of rough sleepers. Pictures taken by Gregg Brown in January 2017.

Rough Sleeper Camp in Ipswich (January 2017). 

Enigma is the latest of our contributors to point out that this is a growing issue.

The Mirror.

Twice as many people are sleeping rough in Tory Britain as we thought, alarming new study reveals

Analysis by Heriot-Watt University found 9,100 people are currently sleeping on the streets across Britain – the previous estimate was 4,100

 

In January this was published,  Rough sleeping rockets across Suffolk: “It’s a sign that a lot of people are struggling”

 

Welfare Weekly reports,

The number of people forced into homelessness is expected to more than double to half a million by 2041 unless the government takes immediate action, a homelessness charity has warned.

Analysis by Heriot-Watt University for Crisis has found that the number of homeless people in Britain will reach 575,000, up from 236,000 in 2016. The number of people sleeping rough will more than quadruple from 9,100 in 2016 to 40,100 over the same period, the research found.

The forecast, released to mark the 50th anniversary of Crisis, comes as the number of homeless households has jumped by a third in the past five years. The majority of those affected are “sofa surfers”, with 68,300 people sleeping on other people’s couches.

The biggest rise will be for those placed by a council in unsuitable accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts, with the total expected to rise from 19,300 to 117,500.

Crisis has urged the government to build more affordable housing and launch a concerted effort to tackle rough sleeping.

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of Crisis, said: “With the right support at the right time, it doesn’t need to be inevitable … Together we can find the answers and make sure those in power listen to them.”

Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley, said that homelessness had become the bulk of her workload. “The government needs to wake up … The system is broken. Without more social housing, a flood of good temporary accommodation and investment in homelessness support the problem will get worse.”

This will help increase the numbers of homeless as well:

The Tory government has quietly axed a free benefit claimed by 124,000 people – here’s how it could hit you.   Mirror. 

The government will be transferring existing claimants onto the new loan system from 5 April 2018.

There will be a transition period where some people can continue claiming SMI as a free benefit for a while.

But this is simply to stop people falling through the cracks if there are “delays” to moving them onto the new scheme.

Outsourcing giant Serco is taking responsibility for telling people about the new system in the coming months through letters and a phone call.

….

A spokesman for welfare rights charity Turn2us added: “Support for Mortgage Interest has been an important source of help for those with a mortgage who have had an income shock.

“It has helped many stay in their homes.

“The increase in the waiting period to 39 weeks has already affected that.

“Now, turning Support for Mortgage Interest from a benefit into a loan adds to the pressure on homeowners who are already struggling.”

Can I take the time to flag up this article by one of the best activists in Britain, 

The first sentence is relevant to the above, “Outsourcing giant Serco”

Outsourcing is killing local democracy in Britain. Here’s how we can stop that

Residents at Grenfell Tower describe how, as the local council outsourced contracts to private companies to work on their estate, essential elements of local democracy became unavailable to them. Their voices weren’t heard, information they requested wasn’t granted, outcomes they were promised did not transpire, complaints they made were not answered. The outcome at Grenfell was unique in its scale but the background is a common enough story. Wherever regeneration of social housing has been outsourced to private developers, responsiveness, transparency, oversight and scrutiny – key elements of healthy democracy – are lessened for those most directly affected.

Outsourcing of public services began in the 1980s, a central feature of the drive to roll back what neoliberalism casts as a bureaucratic, inefficient state. Its proponents claimed the involvement of private providers would increase cost-savings and efficiency, and improve responsiveness to the “consumers” of public services. Thirty years later, the value of these contracts is enormous – more than £120bn worth of government business was awarded to private companies between 2011 and 2016, and their number is increasing rapidly. At least 30% of all public outsourcing contracts are with local authorities.

 

In Ipswich the Labour Borough Council does not outsource. – sadly this is not the case for many Labour authorities.

 

Cuts mean it’s hard to deal with problems like homelessness.

But the gang of Tories from the backwoods and chocolate box villages who run Suffolk County Council have hived off everything they possibly can and helped make things that but worse.

Result?

Read Pilgrim’s article.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 11, 2017 at 12:21 pm