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Food Bank Need Rockets as Universal Credit Hits Benefit Claimants.

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Food bank chart

Thanks to Who Knew.

Food bank charity gives record level of supplies.

BBC.

The biggest network of food banks in the UK says it provided record levels of “emergency food supplies” last year.

The annual figures from the Trussell Trust charity show a 13% increase, providing 1.3 million three-day food packages for “people in crisis”.

It warns the increase has been driven by those on benefits not being able to afford basic essentials.

The Department for Work and Pensions says: “The reasons why people use food banks are complex.”

A department spokeswoman, who rejected linking the increasing use of food banks with changes to benefits or to the introduction of Universal Credit, added: “It’s wrong to link a rise to any one cause.”

At this point the Mirror helpfully points this out.

Benefit delays accounted for 24% of the network’s referrals in 2017-18, with benefit changes cited in 18% of cases.

And the Trussell Trust itself says,

Between 1st April 2017 and 31st March 2018, The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network distributed 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, a 13% increase on the previous year. 484,026 of these went to children. This is a higher increase than the previous financial year, when foodbank use was up by 6.64%.

For the first time, new national data highlights the growing proportion of foodbank referrals due to benefit levels not covering the costs of essentials, driving the increase in foodbank use overall. ‘Low income – benefits, not earning’ is the biggest single, and fastest growing, reason for referral to a foodbank, with ‘low income’ accounting for 28% of referrals UK-wide compared to 26% in the previous year. Analysis of trends over time demonstrates it has significantly increased since April 2016, suggesting an urgent need to look at the adequacy of current benefit levels.

Debt accounted for an increasing percentage of referrals – 9% up from 8% of referrals in the past year – and the statistics show the essential costs of housing and utility bills are increasingly driving foodbank referrals for this reason, with the proportion of referrals due to housing debt and utility bill debt increasing significantly since April 2016.

The other main primary referral reasons in 2017-18 were benefit delays (24%) and benefit changes (18%). New data about the types of benefit change driving foodbank use is clear: whilst referrals due to ‘benefit sanction’ have declined over the last year, those due to ‘reduction in benefit value’ have the fastest growth rate of all referrals made due to a benefit change, and those due to ‘moving to a different benefit’ have also grown significantly.

Universal Credit is not the only benefit people at foodbanks are experiencing issues with, but it is a significant factor in many areas. New analysis of foodbanks that have been in full UC rollout areas for a year or more shows that these projects experienced an average increase of 52% in the twelve months after the full rollout date in their area. Analysis of foodbanks either not in full UC areas, or only in full rollout areas for up to three months, showed an average increase of 13%.*

The Trust continues,

The release of the figures is accompanied by the publication of Left Behind: Is Universal Credit Truly Universal? , a new report into Universal Credit and foodbank use published today. The findings, from a survey of 284 people on UC referred to foodbanks, show the adverse impact of the initial wait, the lack of available statutory support, the inability of UC payments to cover the cost of living for people who most need it, and poor administration.

 The charity is consequently calling for benefit levels to be uprated in line with inflation to ensure payments keep pace with the cost of living, particularly for disabled people and families with dependent children who are particularly at risk of needing a foodbank, and for a requirement to be placed upon Local Authorities to deliver a true Universal Support service to everyone who starts a Universal Credit claim. It is also asking for an urgent inquiry into poor administration within Universal Credit, so errors such as incorrect payments along with poor communication issues can be tackled.

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Written by Andrew Coates

April 24, 2018 at 10:38 am

New Benefits Sanctions Inquiry.

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With Universal Credit the Sanctions Regime will apply to people in work getting the benefits which they used to have as of right as Tax Credits

Universal Credit Sanctions

The rules about sanctions under Universal Credit mean that there will be more people who will be sanctioned than the previous benefits system. In fact evidence is suggesting that the rate of sanctions under Universal Credit is three times that of JSA. It is possible to be sanctioned even if you are in paid work.

It should also be noted that Hardship Payments are paid as loans and will have to be repaid at the end of the sanction.

The rules for the level of Universal Credit sanctions are based on the rules for JSA and ESA sanctions. Anyone who receives Universal Credit can be sanctioned and the level of the sanction depends upon the conditionality group that you are placed in. More information about the conditionality groups can be found in the article Your Responsibilities if you get Universal Credit

The Work and Pensions Committee launches an inquiry into benefit sanctions: how they operate, recent developments, and what the evidence is that they work – either to deter non-compliant behaviour or to help achieve the policy objectives of getting people off benefits and into work.

Absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions

Sanctions, which take the form of docking a portion of benefit payments for a set period of time, can be imposed for breaching benefit conditions like attending a work placement, or for being minutes late for a Job Centre appointment.

This has not received the attention it deserves.

If I were the Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions I would be shouting about the fact that people in work are now going to be affected.

Benefit sanctions inquiry launched

Media reports of the Committee’s last inquiry into benefit sanctions in 2015 Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review, described “copious evidence of claimants being docked hundreds of pounds and pitched into financial crisis for often absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions, or for administrative errors beyond their control.”

There have also been serial reports in the media of extreme instances of the use and effects of sanctions – people hospitalised for life threatening conditions or premature labour being sanctioned for weeks or months for consequently missing a benefits appointment, or being unable to afford the transport to a distant job placement and being sanctioned for failing to attend it – and speculation over the degree of discretion Job Centre Plus staff have in these instances.

Recent policy developments

The  inquiry will look at recent sanctions policy developments, like the “yellow card” system which gives claimants 14 days to challenge a decision to impose a sanction before it is put into effect. The system was announced in late 2015 although there is still no date for introducing it.

The inquiry will also consider the evidence base for the impact of sanctions, both that emerging from newly published statistics, and the robustness of the evidence base for the current use of sanctions as a means of achieving policy objectives.  Previously published in the Department’s quarterly statistical summaries, the Benefit Sanctions Statistics will now be a separate quarterly publication.

In 2016 the NAO released a report on the subject; and in February 2017 the Public Accounts Committee published its report “Benefit sanctions“. The Government accepted the recommendations of that PAC report and described progress on implementation in the January 2018 Treasury Minutes Progress Report:

  • The Government initially agreed to undertake a trial of warnings for a first sanctionable offence. This recommendation has not been implemented.
  • The Government agreed to monitor variation in sanction referrals and to assess the reasons for such variation. The Department’s research on variation is due to be completed in March.
  • The Government agreed to monitor the use and take-up of protections for vulnerable groups. The Department is “still considering the best way to qualitatively assess the use and effectiveness of protections for vulnerable claimants”.
  • The Government agreed to improve data systems, including on linking information e.g. earnings and sanctions
  • The Government initially agreed to work with the rest of Government to estimate the impacts of sanctions on claimants and their wider costs to government. This recommendation has not been implemented.

Send us your views

The Committee invites evidence on any or all of the following questions, from benefit recipients with experience of the system, or experts in the field:

  1. To what extent is the current sanctions regime achieving its policy objectives?
  2. Is the current evidence base adequate and if not, what further information, data and research are required?
  3. What improvements to sanctions policy could be made to achieve its objectives better?
  4. Could a challenge period and/or a system of warnings for a first sanctionable offence be beneficial? If so, how should they be implemented?
  5. Are levels of discretion afforded to jobcentre staff appropriate?
  6. Are adequate protections in place for vulnerable claimants?
  7. What effects does sanctions policy have on other aspects of the benefits system and public services more widely? Are consequential policy changes required?
  8. To what extent have the recommendations of the Oakley review of Jobseekers’ Allowance sanctions improved the sanctions regime? Are there recommendations that have not been implemented that should be?

The deadline for written submissions is 25 May 2018.

Sanctions need to be proportional and fair

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

“Sanctions are an important part of any benefits system but they need to be applied proportionately and fairly and to account for individual circumstances.

I’ve seen deeply troubling cases in my constituency that suggest these objectives are not always being achieved. We will be reviewing the evidence to see if sanctions policy is working properly and if not, we will recommend improvements.”

 

Scope of the inquiry

The  inquiry will look at recent sanctions policy developments, like the “yellow card” system which gives claimants 14 days to challenge a decision to impose a sanction before it is put into effect. The system was announced in late 2015 although there is still no date for introducing it.

The inquiry will also consider the evidence base for the impact of sanctions, both that emerging from newly published statistics, and the robustness of the evidence base for the current use of sanctions as a means of achieving policy objectives.  Previously published in the Department’s quarterly statistical summaries, the Benefit Sanctions Statistics will now be a separate quarterly publication.

Terms of reference: Benefit sanctions

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Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2018 at 9:29 am

Universal Credit Misery Comes to Suffolk.

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Universal Credit Full Service is expected to be introduced at Ipswich Jobcentre on the 25th of April 2018.

Already people are talking about what this will mean for them.

One group seriously affected are the self-employed and others reliant on tax credits.

Friends who work for a number of jobs over the year are particularly worried as they reckon they will lose up to a couple of thousand pounds annually.

They have been good girls and boys, getting into the “gig economy” (that is, the only employment on offer for many),  doing jobs like taxi driving,  a host of other things which are now down by the ‘self-employed’ , short-term posts for particularly events.

Now they face losing cash in a big way.

Not to mention the way it will bear down on them in other ways as pictured above.

There are plenty of reports on how this will attack them in the pocket.

The TUC goes into some detail.

The complexity and hardship with which Universal Credit (UC) threatens to engulf self-employed workers is one of the underreported stories of the design of UC.

In UC, they will face in-work benefit cuts if they do not meet the ‘Minimum Income Floor’ (MIF), which requires them to earn the equivalent of 35 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage. There is no such requirement for employees.  In addition, the monthly income assessments in UC are expected to be problematic for the self-employed, as they are more likely to have unpredictable and fluctuating earnings.

The new self-employed

Self-employment has grown significantly since the recession. There are now almost an extra million self-employed workers, increasing the self–employed workforce to just under five million and 15 per cent of the total workforce.  Part time self-employment has seen the biggest expansion, rising by 55 per cent to reach around 1.5 million people.

Earnings data for the self-employed indicate that they are more likely to be on lower earnings compared to employees. The Family Resources Survey shows that median earnings for the self-employed are around 60 per cent of those of employees. The Social Market Foundation (SMF) estimates that in 2016 there were 1.7 million self-employed workers paid below the National Living Wage. This group accounts for 45 per cent of the self-employed in the UK.

The SMF also estimates that around a fifth (19 per cent) of families with an individual whose main job is self-employment are claiming in-work benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit that will be replaced by Universal Credit.

This makes the results clear.

UNIVERSAL CREDIT WILL BE A DISASTER FOR THE SELF-EMPLOYED. WHO IS LISTENING?

As the table below shows, two people can earn the same amount over the course of the year yet end up with very different UC payments because one has lumpier income patterns than the other. The MIF may also be triggered when claimants have a large expense in one month, such as an investment in tools or a hefty energy bill.

And there is this:

40,000 Universal Credit claimants will see 40% of their benefits clawed back. Mirror. 8th of April.

As the Department of Work and Pensions says it has a ‘duty’ to recover outstanding overpayments, Labour claims the move will force some into debt

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants are having 40% of their benefits deducted to claw back outstanding cash owed.

Labour MP Ruth George said the move “will see more people with no option but to go into debt”.

The Department for Work and Pensions can directly collect debts from Universal Credit including for previous benefit and tax credits overpayments.

Remember!

Help is at hand from Ipswich Citizens Advice as Universal Credit roll out continues

Ipswich Citizens Advice is encouraging people to turn to them for help if they have questions about Universal Credit and how it affects them, as new government figures reveal 50 people across Ipswich are now on the benefit and with all single, non-home owning people claiming an out of work benefit being moved on to this benefit, the numbers will grow exponentially.

Since its introduction in Ipswich in November 2015, Ipswich Citizens Advice has helped people with 17 issues relating to Universal Credit. This represents almost a third of claimants.

Most enquiries to Ipswich Citizens Advice are about who is eligible for the benefit and requests for help with the application process. ‘We are keen to help people through this new benefits roadmap and particularly to help them understand the major changes that claiming this benefit will mean for them in terms of payment periods and the necessary budgeting and money management that will be needed to avoid debts building up or threatening tenancies,’ says Nelleke van Helfteren, Deputy Manager at Ipswich Citizens Advice.

Data released by the Department for Work and Pensions on 17 February shows that nearly 200,000 people are now on Universal Credit.

Universal Credit rolls six working-age benefits into one single monthly payment, supporting people who are on a low income or out of work. It is being introduced in stages across the country, in the first instance to single people who are making new  claims. It will eventually be rolled out to couples, families and people who are sick or disabled.

As new Universal Credit figures are released, Ipswich Citizens Advice is sharing its five key things you need to know about Universal Credit:

  1. Universal Credit is a new benefit for people in and out of work, which will eventually merge six benefits into one: Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credit and Housing Benefit. Currently you can still apply for ESA separately from Universal Credit.
  2. Universal Credit does not include Council Tax Support – you will still need to apply for this locally.
  3. You apply for Universal Credit via a single application; you’re usually expected to do this online, but you can apply over the phone or in person if you need to.
  4. Universal Credit payments are made on a monthly basis, rather than weekly or fortnightly like previous benefit.
  5. You can ask for an advance payment of Universal Credit to help you get by while you’re waiting for your first payment. This is called a ‘short term advance’.

Just to help the thieving Tories who run Suffolk County Council have cut CAB funding.

Citizens Advice charities are facing a £20,000 funding cut from Suffolk County Council for 2018-19 – an average of just over £2,000 for each of the nine charities in Suffolk.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 11, 2018 at 10:20 am

Margaret Greenwood, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions: Speaking out on Universal Credit.

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Image result for Margaret Greenwood defeated esther mcvey

Margaret Greenwood Defeats Esther McVey (General Election. 2015)

In  March 2018 Greenwood began acting as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after Debbie Abrahams temporarily stepped aside.

In a very nice touch, “Greenwood will be shadowing Esther McVey, the previous MP for Wirral West

Last year as Shadow for Employment Greenwood showed she grasped the depths of the problems Universal Credit was causing,

Margaret Greenwood MP, Shadow Employment and Inequalities Minister, has given a cautious welcome to changes to Universal Credit announced in the Budget today, but warned that they go nothing like far enough to help families on low income struggling to pay bills, with inflation overall at nearly 3% and food prices rising at the highest rate for 4 years.

Margaret Greenwood MP said:

“Just a few weeks ago, the government was defeated in the House of Commons over their plans for Universal Credit.

“After strong pressure by Labour and a long list of voluntary organisations, it’s welcome that the government is at last listening to the widespread concern about the problems with Universal Credit.

“However, the changes announced today don’t go anything like far enough to fix it and they will not even start until the New Year, leaving tens of thousands of families with children facing a bleak Christmas.

“Food prices are rising at their highest rate for 4 years and the Trussell Trust recently reported that foodbanks in areas where the full service of UC has been rolled out have seen a 30% increase in requests for help in the first six months compared to last year.

“7 million households are expected to be claiming Universal Credit by 2022.

“The Chancellor failed again to reverse cuts to work incentives in Universal Credit which were meant to ensure that work always pays as people enter employment.

“The full service of Universal Credit is being introduced in Wirral this month and I will be keeping up the pressure on the government to try to ensure that people are not pushed into poverty by a benefit supposed to prevent it.”

23 Nov 2017

At the end of December she said,

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow minister for employment, said: “Universal credit is causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces. This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll out of universal credit so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Fri 29 Dec 2017  Councils forced to fund emergency help for universal credit claimants

And (Morning Star)

COUNCILS are having to use their own cash to fix the damage caused by the introduction of universal credit (UC), Labour’s shadow employment minister Margaret Greenwood charged yesterday.

She said that local authorities are diverting funds to plug gaps in the government’s flagship benefit reform scheme.

Measures taken by councils include providing funds for tenants in rent arrears, hiring extra staff, as well as working with foodbanks and Citizens Advice to “offset the impact” of UC, according to responses to Freedom of Information requests submitted by the party.

Ms Greenwood says in a statement published today: “UC has been causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces.

“It’s clear councils are committing their own valuable resources from already stretched budgets to offset the impact of UC and to prepare for the damage its roll-out could cause.

“This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll-out of UC so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Some authorities are having to spend sums over and above the usual discretionary housing payments provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), according to Ms Greenwood.

The London borough of Tower Hamlets has set aside £5 million over three years to help those affected by UC.

Gateshead Housing Company, which manages Gateshead Council’s housing stock, is planning to spend an estimated £90,000 in 2017/18 and £270,000 in 2018/19 on extra staff to support UC claimants and help prevent rent arrears, Labour said.

And Newcastle City Council is spending nearly £400,000 of its own cash to support UC claimants, with non-collection of rent as a result of the new scheme, in which all benefit payments are rolled into one lump sum, is more than £1.2 million from among its 27,000 tenants.

Claimants who fall under the new scheme now receive housing benefit in their bank accounts rather than the amount being paid directly to landlords as previously.

A DWP spokesman said: “Councils have been providing welfare advice and housing payment top-ups as standard since long before the introduction of universal credit.

“Universal credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes.

“It provides additional tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.

“The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money, but advances are available for anyone who needs extra help and arrangements can be made to pay rent direct to landlords if needed.”

So far we have this.

But we hope that Greenwood keeps up her work and goes for the jugular on Universal Credit.

Government Claimant Survey and Universal Credit Review Attacked.

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Image result for universal credit cartoon

Happy Shiny People Like Universal Credit!

Here is a brilliant look at how the government gets its sense of self-statisfaction,

A critique of the recent government survey of peoples’ “satisfaction” with the DWP. Conservatives have been eager to cite this survey but it is flawed. The biggest flaw is that only people with an open claim who had interacted within a 3 month timescale with the DWP were included in the sample. Those whose claim had been disallowed were excluded. Yet those were the people most likely to register dissatisfaction. Because of sampling bias, which was intentional – no generalisations or inferences may be taken from the survey results. In other words, it serves only as a PR exercise for the DWP.

A critique of the government’s claimant satisfaction survey. Written by Kitty S Jones.

The Department for Work and Pensions Claimant Service and Experience Survey (CSES) is described as “an ongoing cross-sectional study with quarterly bursts of interviewing. The survey is designed to monitor customers’ satisfaction with the service offered by DWP and enable customer views to be fed into operational and policy development.”

The survey measures levels of satisfaction in a defined group of “customers” who have had contact with the Department for Work and Pensions within a three-month period prior to the survey. One problem is that satisfaction is an elusive concept, not easily definable, accessible or open to quantitative measurement.

Who carried out this well-rewarded task?

The research was commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions and conducted by Kantar Public UK – who undertake marketing research, social surveys, and also specialise in consultancy, public opinion data, policy and also economy polling, with, it seems, multi-tasking fingers in several other lucrative pies.

I won’t give all Kitty’s post, which should be read in full, but this strikes the eye,

The Government says: “This research monitors claimants’ satisfaction with DWP services and ensures their views are considered in operational and policy planning.”

It doesn’t include those claimants whose benefit support has been disallowed. There is considerable controversy around disability benefit award decisions (and sanctioning) in particular, yet the survey does not address this important issue, since those most impacted negatively are excluded from the survey sample. We know that there is a problem with the PIP and ESA benefits award decision-making processes, since a significant proportion of those people who go on to appeal DWP decisions are subsequently awarded their benefit.

You get the impression this is the same method behind this pile of cack – don’t include losers and critics.

Universal credit project review full of ‘gobbledegook’, says Commons committee

The Independent.

‘They have produced no evidence to back up the key, central economic assumption of the biggest reform to our welfare system in 50 years. William Beveridge will be rolling in his grave’

The universal credit project review is full of “management gobbledegook” with ministers failing to make a full business case for the rollout of the Government’s flagship welfare reform, an influential Commons committee has warned.

Frank Field, who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, said the architect of welfare state, William Beveridge, “will be rolling in his grave” at the failure to produce evidence to back up the key economic assumption of universal credit.

He said people are being expected to take it on good faith that the contentious overhaul of the welfare in Britain will deliver.

After examining internal project assessment reviews of the universal credit programme’s finances and delivery by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), the committee expressed concerns about the situation.

While MPs said it was to the department’s credit that it brought universal credit back from the “brink of complete failure” in 2013, they said it continues to face major challenges.

Mr Field said that perhaps the most damning point emerging from the assessment of the Government’s progress on universal credit is that in its eighth year of the programme, the department itself “is yet to produce the full business case for its own mega reform”.

The world is waiting for Esther McVey’s response…

Opps, another problem popped up today:

 

Work and Pensions Secretary makes a fool of herself as Sack Esther McVey Again Campaign takes off.

with 70 comments

SALFORD SONGWRITER CREATES NATIONAL SACK ESTHER MCVEY CAMPAIGN TRACK

In January, a campaign was launched, backed by Salford TUC, to Sack Esther McVey Again, building on a previous successful campaign to get her sacked as MP for the Wirral (see previous Salford Star article – click here). And this week she had to step down from the advisory board of The Samaritans after a similar outcry.

Today, McVey is set to face questions in Parliament about DWP benefit cruelty, and, to coincide, a new hard hitting but catchy track is being launched called No More (Sack Esther Now), written and sung by Salford’s Dominic Williams.

The track hits on issues like war on the poor and consequent benefit and sanction deaths, or ‘de-population by stealth’, with the chorus…

‘Take a look tell me can you see
She’s never ever going to let you be
The vitriol she’s aiming at the sick and at the poor…No more…’

The track is both a catalogue of McVey’s ‘crimes’ as a former Tory Employment Minister, and a call to arms for activists, or ‘She’ll finish what she’s started/Now her foot’s back in the door…’

“Yes, it is hard hitting, especially the second verse, but it’s not far off the truth” says Dominic “That’s what it seems to people and it’s how people have been treated in the system. The number of people who have been declared fit and then died in a matter of days; it’s like, ‘Hello‘…But you don’t choose to live in poverty, circumstances dictate that, and it’s wrong that we demonise them. It’s easier to go after the ones who can’t help themselves.

“I’m very passionate about things like the NHS and the way the DWP do these kind of things because I’ve seen what it does to people, and it’s wrong” he adds “What price do you put on a life?”

Meanwhile….

Tory welfare chief Esther McVey rebuked by House of Commons Speaker for attack on Labour’s use of statistics

The Mirror.

John Bercow slapped down Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey after she accused Labour of twisting statistics – instead of answering a question about pensions.

Tory welfare chief Esther McVey has been rebuked by the House of Commons speaker for an attack on Labour that was not “relevant”.

John Bercow slapped down the new Work and Pensions Secretary today after she accused Labour of twisting statistics – instead of answering a question about pensions.

In her first Commons Questions since she took office, Ms McVey repeatedly highlighted a letter from the UK Statistics Authority watchdog to her Labour rival Debbie Abrahams.

The watchdog has rebuked Ms Abrahams over Labour’s claim that “40,000 children will wake up in poverty on Christmas Day because the Tories refuse to pause and fix Universal Credit.”

Chair Sir David Norgrove said Labour’s claim was not “fully supported” by the statistics and sources it relied on.

But Ms Abrahams accused Ms McVey of using the letter to distract from the Tories’ dire record.

And Commons Speaker John Bercow repeatedly admonished the minister – and fellow Tory MPs – for bringing up the watchdog’s letter in a Commons session designed to look at her own record.

Esther McVey’s “disgraceful” answer to question on closing Job Centres in her “home town”

The controversial former Wirral MP has failed to impress in Parliament again.

Esther McVey was labelled a “disgrace” for dodging a question about the closure of Job Centres in Liverpool.

The new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions was quizzed in the Commons by Wavertree MP Luciana Berger about the Tories’ plan to shut down the only two Job Centres in the area – leaving local people with nowhere to go for employment support.

Ms Berger asked the former Wirral MP if she had looked at plans by Liverpool City Council to try and co-locate Job Centres in some of its other buildings as a means of still offering people a place to get advice, support and benefits – but she managed to completely avoid the question and suggest things have vastly improved in her “home town” of Liverpool.

Ms Berger asked: “Can I ask the Secretary of State if she’s had the opportunity to review the very helpful and generous offer made by Liverpool City Council to her predecessor to provide office space for closure threatened Job Centres.

“There are two Job Centres in my constituency – not one but two – that her government wishes to close, leaving my constituents with zero Job Centres – and they are due to close in a few weeks’ time.

In her response, Ms McVey elected not to deal with the subject of Job Centres closing or the offer made by the city council at all.

She said: “It is really important that everybody gets the support they need and actually a lot of the support that will be going forward will actually be outreach work, so that they don’t need to go to the Job Centre Plus.”

She added: “But obviously I am pleased that in the Liverpool City Area, which is my home town – employment is now far higher than it was in 2010 and when you look at the unemployment rates of the Labour Government – unemployment 2.8m in 2008, even before the banking crisis.

McVee still has one friend, a certain Quinten, and it would take two seconds to guess which paper publishes him,

When Theresa May today makes her speech marking the women’s suffrage centenary, and deplores the ‘intimidation and aggression’ prevalent on social media, she should pause to toot brief salute to Esther McVey.

Miss McVey, who was recently promoted to Work and Pensions Secretary, has had to endure horrible abuse over the years.

She has put on a front of cheerfulness but inside I bet she has been through the mangle.

Labour activists have called her all sorts of names, far worse than anything any parliamentary sketchwriter would use.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell even spoke about lynching her.

The (successful) campaign to oust Miss McVey from her marginal Merseyside seat at the 2015 general election was almost unhinged, it became so personal.

All that from the party that accuses Righties of being intolerant and anti-women!

In all that time, Miss McVey never lost her composure in public.

She had no husband or children to comfort her but she did have her old dad. I met him once. Good bloke.

The only other man in her life is Philip Davies (Con, Shipley), with whom she shares digs.

Miss McVey, who returned to the Commons as MP for Tatton (George Osborne’s neglected seat) in 2017, was at the despatch box yesterday for her first departmental Questions.

She  has this to muse over,

Thousands of Universal Credit decisions could be reviewed as terminally ill man takes government to court

A terminally ill man has won the right to launch a legal challenge against the introduction of the universal credit.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 7, 2018 at 11:30 am

Labour’s Policy on Universal Credit: from “Fix it” to Change the Whole System.

with 56 comments

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What Labour is up against.

Labour’s policy on Universal Credit, 

“The Tories’ Universal Credit programme is pushing thousands of families into poverty, debt and homelessness.

We’re demanding the Tories urgently pause and fix Universal Credit, before millions more are affected.

Say you’re with us.

Now some may say that calling on the Government to ‘fix’ Universal Credit is not much of a policy.
This is some more detail, (from November, Guardian).

Labour has unveiled a list of demands to improve the rollout of universal credit, seeking to keep up the pressure on Philip Hammond over the issue before Wednesday’s budget.

The shadow pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams, has written to the chancellor demanding changes to UC, which Labour and other critics say is putting people in debt as it is rolled out into new parts of the country.

The main request is to reduce the initial six-week wait for a payment under the system, which is designed to replace a range of other benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit.

Charities working with claimants have said the six-week wait tends to put people into arrears, especially with their rent, and means they have to seek support from food banks. There has been speculation the government is planning to reduce this period.

Abrahams is also seeking an option of fortnightly rather than monthly payments, a change to the assessment period and modifications to ensure that the benefit always rewards people for finding more work.

In a separate article for the Guardian, Abrahams said there was increasing evidence that UC “is not fit for purpose – and Labour believes the budget is a chance to fix it”.

The original aims of the system – to simplify social security support, ensure people were always better off in work than on benefits and reduce child poverty – were laudable, and had been supported by Labour, Abrahams wrote.

“But UC is failing to deliver on its objectives, as we have heard from respected charities including Child Poverty Action Group, Trussell Trust, Citizens Advice and Gingerbread. Even former government advisers, civil servants and UC’s own architects are now critical of the scheme,” she added.

The system’s inherent problems were made worse by benefit cuts imposed in 2015, she added.

“As it is being rolled out, universal credit is pushing people into debt and rent arrears, with many people in social and private rented housing being served eviction notices.”

As well as the six-week initial wait, and obligatory monthly payment, Abrahams highlighted UC’s lack of responsiveness to the changes in income of self-employed people.

“The problem is that this is assessed on a monthly basis, with no discretion for the natural peaks and troughs of self-employed work, or indeed for the niceties of the occasional holiday,” she wrote.

“Should they take a Christmas break, many self-employed people may suddenly find they have not met the [Department for Work and Pensions] work requirements, and be sanctioned as a result.

“If you’re thinking this doesn’t affect you, I’m sorry to say that might change, with the government planning to roll out ‘in-work conditionality’. This would require people who are working to report to the jobcentre and demonstrate they are seeking more hours, or face their UC support being cut.”

Most serious, Abrahams warned, were cuts to benefit levels, citing a forecast from the Child Poverty Action Group that reductions to UC would put a million more children into poverty by 2022.

Hammond could begin to fix the situation in the budget, Abrahams said, by reducing the six-week wait, allowing rent to be paid directly to landlords, allowing payments to be split between partners, improving flexibility for self-employed claimants and restoring the cuts to work allowances.

“Anything less won’t make UC fit for today’s labour market,” she wrote. “Anything less will sentence a million more children to be brought up in poverty. Anything less will mean that this prime minister’s promise to tackle ‘burning injustices’ is no more than empty rhetoric.”

This is some good work Debbie Abrahams is doing now.

 But this Blog, being this Blog, would like to see more:

 

  • We need an end to the Benefit Freeze. Anybody going shopping knows prices are rising, as our bills also show.  Housing Benefit should meet costs. We need a Pay Rise!
  • We need an end to the way private chancers and ‘charities’, companies who run the ‘Unemployment Business”, of the likes of the Shaw Trust, Reed In Partnership, Ingeus, Remploy, are now going to take charge of the Work and Health Programme. Carillion indicates how these state contracted firms operate a poor service giant Ponzi schemes, pyramid  sub-contacting is the least of it – for the profits and salaries of their bosses.
  • We need an end to the system by which those on benefits have to pay a percentage of Council Tax. This obligation, introduced by Eric Pickles in 2013, means people pay different rates up and down the country, and was never compensated by a rise in out benefits. From this cut in our income there has come a rise in the numbers in Council Tax arrears.
  • We need an end to any form of Workfare, something people suggest may come up again in the Work and Health Programme.
  • The Sanctions Regime must be abolished.

Food Banks and homelessness should not be seen as permanent features of our society.

We want a decent standard of living, housing, and dignity, for all.