Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Conservative Party’ Category

Damian Green to Bring Successful Management of Universal Credit to New Job as First Secretary of State.

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Damian Green

Damian: Knows How to Hold a Racket. 

Our old friend Damian Green is on the up.

As Work and Pensions secretary Damian (as mates, like ourselves call him) was distinguished by his ability to iron out the problems of Universal Credit and his dedication to raising the role of Charities in the welfare sector.

His outstanding legacy is not just celebrated in Food Banks and the Wye Tennis Club.

He is now destined for higher things.

The Financial Times reports,

Mr Green’s appointment as first secretary of state puts a trusted colleague at the heart of Mrs May’s new administration. He will work in the Cabinet Office, helping to fill a void left by the departure of the prime minister’s controversial co-chiefs of staff, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy.

The former work and pensions secretary is a popular figure in the Conservative party and was a senior figure in last year’s Remain campaign. He is expected to be a powerful advocate for a “softer” Brexit, with a focus on securing a good deal for business and jobs.

The promotion of Mr Green, a contemporary of Mrs May at Oxford and a long-term ally at the Home Office, was the most eye-catching move in a limited post-election reshuffle that was constrained by Mrs May’s evaporating political authority.

This charmer is his replacement as Work and Pensions Secretary:

David Gauke, who has been appointed Works and Pensions Secretary, leaves 10 Downing Street in London. Picture: DAVID MIRZOEFF/PA Wire

Ipswich-born Conservative minister David Gauke appointed as work and pensions secretary

Reports the EADT,

 David Gauke, who was chief secretary to the treasury, has been appointed the new work and pensions secretary by Theresa May this afternoon.

Mr Gauke, who is widely regarded as one of the Government’s most effective performers, was called in to 10 Downing Street along with many other Tory MPs.

Following the news of his promotion, Mr Gauke smiled and thanked reporters as he left Number 10.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 12, 2017 at 10:10 am

Welfare Reform, “not only cruel but chaotic.”

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Image result for Theresa May

Social Injustice Warrior. 

Despite the fact that none of the main political debate has been about the future of work, unemployment, the dole, and the central issue of Universal Credit, which affects millions, stories keep cropping up

These are a number of articles that have caught people’s attention  in the last few days.

Ken highlights this one:  Universal credit doesn’t reward hard work. It makes the most vulnerable pay.  

Universal credit is, for example, already proving transformative for the claimants forced into new and desperate levels of poverty as a result of its six-week in-built delay before the administration of a first payment. Last week anti-poverty charity the Trussell Trust reported a 6.4% annual increase in administration of emergency food bundles at their food banks, with areas where universal credit has been fully rolled out showing referral rates at double the national average. In response, the trust has called explicitly for a reduction in waiting times.

This payment delay is only one feature built into the design and administration of universal credit that is already having a dangerous impact on claimants, particularly those already marginalised in myriad other ways. Take, for example, the stipulation that the benefit must be paid to a single head of household rather than to individual claimants. While this may reduce administration efforts and complications for the DWP, whose IT systems have already been dogged by universal credit-related glitches, it is also effective in disempowering women.

Enigma has brought up the issue of ‘self-employment’, which a Radio Four documentary, amongst other sources, has looked into (The Self-Employment Paradox).

Self-employment and the gig economy.

Conclusions and recommendations

The welfare safety net

2.Companies relying on self-employed workforces frequently promote the idea that flexible employment is contingent on self-employed status. But this is a fiction. Self-employment is genuinely flexible and rewarding for many, but people on employment contracts can and do work flexibly; flexibility is not the preserve of poorly paid, unstable contractors. Profit, not flexibility, is the motive for using self-employed labour in these cases. Businesses should of course be expected to seek out opportunities and exploit them. It is incumbent on government to close loopholes that incentivise exploitative behaviour by a minority of companies, not least because bogus self-employment passes the burden of safety net support to the welfare state at the same time as reducing tax revenue. (Paragraph 19)

https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmworpen/847/84708.htm#_idTextAnchor015

Today the Guardian publishes this: which indicates that Theresa May could not give a toss about welfare.

Welfare reform is not only cruel but chaotic. Theresa May must address this

The most charitable interpretation of Theresa May’s evasive responses to questioning on the impact of the government’s social security policy during TV appearances at the weekend is that on this topic she is clueless. She appears to have no idea what is happening in the chaotic new world of universal credit and the lower benefit cap. One might advise a little more prime ministerial curiosity: as the gruesome details emerge it is clear that the George Osborne-Iain Duncan Smith-era welfare reform, largely left untouched by May so far, is shaping up to be one of the great Conservative policy catastrophes.

It is a shame the imminent general election has forced the Commons work and pensions select committee to curtail its inquiries into the impact of these two policies before reaching a formal conclusion. But May could still read the evidence submitted to the committee from claimants, welfare advisers, housing associations and councils, which is brutally clear: the benefit cap is not just strikingly cruel but, predictably, an abject failure on its own terms of getting people into work; and that universal credit continues to be as expensively dysfunctional, poorly designed and complicated as many feared it would be.

Unsuprisingly, the committee heard that benefit-capped claimants were experiencing “drastic and abrupt” cuts to their income as a result of the new lower benefit cap limit of £20,000 a year (£23,000 in London). No surprise there. Instant impoverishment is supposed to be a cunning “incentive” to force people to move into work (freeing them from the cap) or into cheaper housing. Yet in the real world, too often claimants can’t work even if they want to – they have small children and no accessible childcare; they are ill (and in many cases have been found unfit to work); or there is nowhere cheaper to move to.

For these people, like the capped mentally ill woman in Dorset cited by Shelter in its evidence, the only practical options are debt and starvation. “In order to make rent repayments,” Shelter writes, “[our client] stopped eating and had lost so much weight that she was down to six stone.”

It will not surprise anyone familiar with universal credit that the 150-plus evidence submissions to the committee about the government’s flagship benefit reform programme raised a “near unanimous set of concerns” about its day-to-day operation. Briefly, these are: design flaws that make universal credit a turbo-generator of claimant debt and rent arrears; and profound problems of access caused by its digital-only nature, both for claimants trying to sign on or report changes, and for advisers and landlords trying to rectify its numerous faults and glitches. Cuts have stripped universal credit of the financial incentives that were originally meant to get people into work or work more hours, while design hubris has created an unresponsive system that, far from simplifying the benefits system, appears to have added fresh layers of complexity and delay.

Surveying the mess, committee chair Frank Field MP noted acidly: “Changes that actually did save money and help the strivers get into proper, gainful employment would be very welcome, but that is not what we are seeing.” Ministers might also note that the inquiry evidence suggests these policies actively undermine their aspirations to reduce homelessness.

To be credible as a social justice warrior, May needs to offer more than weary cliches about work being “the best route out of poverty”. The reality is much more complex, and as a start requires a measure of acceptance that, in its current manifestation, welfare reform – costly and largely ineffectual – isn’t working very well.

There is a simple answer to that one: she is a social injustice warrior!

The regional press has some proof on that one: Rugby & Lutterworth Observer.

Demand for emergency food in Rugby rises again (today)

ANOTHER huge rise in demand for emergency food supplies in Rugby has been blamed on government benefit reforms by volunteers at the town’s Foodbank.

The Foodbank says demand has rocketed by more than 60 per cent this year – and cites the rollout of Universal Credit as a major factor.

More than 4,000 emergency food parcels were distributed in 2016 – 30 per cent more than the previous year – with a third going to children.

But a further increase was recorded in the last six months, meaning foodbank use has increased by 61 per cent over the last 12 months.

Issues with benefits were the primary reason for getting help in 42 per cent of all cases in the last year, up from 36 per cent.

Foodbank manager Diana Mansell said: “It is deeply concerning we are still seeing an increase in the number of three-day emergency food supplies provided to local people in crisis in Rugby over the last year. The trend over the last six months has been particularly concerning – a 61 per cent increase compared to that of the previous financial year is very worrying.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Computer Experts Cast Doubt on Universal Credit Targets as DWP Hides Behind “Agile Development”.

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Image result for universal credit cartoon

Mark Steel writes today in the favourite daily of the unemployed, the ‘I’ – that is apart from the Mirror .

The Government’s record of strength and stability

Mark talks of this, which we all know all too well,

I expect they’ll also refer every day to their universal credit scheme, which is five years behind schedule and cost £16bn. You have to be strong to lose that amount and not care. Weak people would get to £3-4bn and think “Oh dear, maybe we should stop”, but not if you’re strong and stable.

How we laughed….

Not only is Universal Credit a failure, a cause of misery, and a huge waste of money, but it looks unlikely to get going on time.

But there is this:

Can DWP meet its revised 2022 target for completion of Universal Credit?

In the run-up to the last UK general election in 2015, the Labour Party’s then shadow employment minister Stephen Timms pointed out that the target completion date for the Universal Credit welfare reform programme had “slipped four years in four years”.

They continue,

In July last year, the secretary of state for work and pensions, Damian Green, moved the completion date back to 2022five years later than the original 2017 target set at project launch in 2011. That makes about seven timescale slippages in all.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is still cautious when talking about future deadlines for the controversial benefits scheme – as shown by a recent freedom of information (FOI) request.

Independent IT programme manager and FOI campaigner John Slater has been a dogged thorn in the side of DWP for over five years, pushing the department through the courts to reveal unpublished documents in an effort to bring greater transparency to one of the highest-profile IT failures of the Coalition government.

Yet all seems to be going swimmingly – apart from those who’ve drowned in its snarl-ups that is,

 

Currently, Universal Credit seems to be going well – at least, compared to its troubled early stages. The “full service” version – formerly referred to as the “digital service” – is at last being rolled out country-wide. The previous version – the remnants of the system that was “reset” in 2013 at a cost of £130m – handled only the simplest of claims, whereas the full service covers the entire complexity of the scheme to replace six different in-work welfare benefits with a single payment.

Full-service roll-out is due to be completed by September 2018 – meaning that all new benefit claims will be handled through Universal Credit. A bigger challenge lies ahead – migrating about seven million claimants for the existing benefit schemes onto Universal Credit. The UK government – perhaps no government anywhere – has ever attempted such a large-scale data migration.

Yup.

 

But…

The DWP, however, claims that it no longer works with deadlines or targets, citing its use of agile development as the justification.

“The Universal Credit Programme deploys ‘agile’ techniques to ensure the system develops incrementally and this is how it is managed through its governance route. We work in short phases and, as explained before, ‘target dates’ are not features of agile programme management and are not how we run Universal Credit. We articulate the scale and structure of our delivery plans for Universal Credit in terms of phases of roll-out, to specific jobcentres and local authority areas,” said the DWP response to Slater’s FOI request.

Slater points out that this is perhaps stretching the definition of “agile” somewhat.

“The DWP is hiding behind this argument that agile means you don’t have a plan and this isn’t true,” he told Computer Weekly.

“At the programme level there should be some kind of high-level plan that sets expectations of when things need to be completed. Where agile has been applied to programmes rather than projects there is still a map/programme portfolio/goals/plan or whatever people want to call it that covers each of the projects or work-streams (depending on how the programme is structured) and when it needs to be completed.”

Given that the secretary of state has already told Parliament that Universal Credit has a 2022 target completion date, you can have some sympathy with Slater when he adds: “The response seems to confirm to me that the DWP is making it up as it goes along and doesn’t have any kind of credible plan showing how long it will take.”

Surely planning is socialist tyranny?

Prepare for some real obfuscation (word of the day) from the DWP:

DWP acknowledged to Slater that the 2021 target has been mentioned in documents supplied to the Universal Credit Programme Board, but stated the date has “yet to be confirmed”. It said:

“In line with agile methodology, the sooner the activity, the more detail there is.

These activity streams are called:

Governance and project management, which gives details of reviews and assessments that take place to review progress. This activity stream refers to a 2021 closure date, which is yet to be confirmed.

Transformation and planning, which looks at the interfaces and frameworks that need to be in place for Universal Credit to roll out. This looks at migration and refers to ESA/tax Credit claimant migration completed by 2021.

“UC product development, which describes the digital features Universal Credit will make use of. There is a reference to decommissioning legacy IT in 2021, which is yet to be confirmed.

We have not yet started to plan any activity around project closure or legacy decommissioning; nor have we started any significant planning for the ESA/tax credit stage of migration, which, as you may know, is now planned to complete in 2022.”

That’s answered him!

Still,

MPs have repeatedly criticised DWP for a “veil of secrecy” and lack of transparency over Universal Credit, and Slater’s experience suggests the department continues to take a highly cautious approach to what it reveals about project development and timescales.

Amazingly, given the programme has been going since 2011, the full business case for Universal Credit has still not been submitted or signed off by the Treasury – that’s due to take place in September this year.

At that time, perhaps DWP will finally reveal more detail about how it will avoid further delays during a three-year migration period that will present significant risks to Universal Credit roll-out.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 28, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Camden Council: “Claimants ‘stealing food’ to eat due to benefit delays.”

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Above: Mid-Suffolk and Babergh South Suffolk (Tory) Council Video……

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Damian Green sometimes spends time away from his taxing life in the bijou town of Ashford answering questions about ‘reforms’ to Personal Independence Payments.

Sample, 15th of March, Parliament, “I  am happy to confirm that to my hon. Friend. I think that he and I would agree that that was a significant step forward when it was introduced, and I am determined that we maintain progress in that direction so that people who have a disability—whether a physical or mental impairment—can lead as full a life as possible.”

We note that in reply to one question he said, “In his long and distinguished career, the hon. Gentleman has been shadow Leader of the House, so he knows perfectly well that such things are a matter for the usual channels. It is therefore somewhat above my pay grade.”

You wonder if the turmoil in his department’s botched scheme Universal Credit is ‘above’ both his ‘pay grade’ and ability to deal with…

These are some of the latest difficulties.

Universal Credit: Claimants ‘stealing food’ to eat due to benefit delays

Finance chief warns people are being forced into new debts

DESPERATE tenants faced with long delays in accessing new Universal Credit benefits are beginning to steal food to survive, the Town Hall has warned a parliamentary committee.

Camden Council told the Work and Pensions Select Committee that the new system – a single monthly, means-tested benefit – was backfiring due to delays in the system. This meant people were racking up debts and rent arrears before they had received any help. In some cases, people are waiting up to six weeks before claims are processed.

The Town Hall’s official submission to MPs said: “One tenant has confessed to a rent officer that they were stealing food to eat. It is common to hear that Universal Credit claimants are borrowing heavily from family and friends. The Department for Work and Pensions’ Universal Credit helpline set up to advise claimants on the progress of their claim is providing an unacceptable service. Telephone calls can cost up to 55p a minute from pay-as-you-go mobile phones, which are commonly used by people with lower incomes. Wait times to speak with an adviser can be very long – one claimant in Camden has reported that their phone bill for a month was over £140, used almost entirely on calls to the DWP.”

The council is one of a number of local authorities, volunteer groups and charities giving evidence to the committee investigating the effectiveness of the new benefit system, first devised by former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

The reforms were meant to make the process of claiming benefits simpler through a single account, but the monthly cycle has left many struggling as they wait for a first payment. The council, meanwhile, fears that landlords will stop letting to those affected, particularly as many do not have savings to fall back on.

Around 230 people currently claim Universal Credit in Camden, but this figure could jump to 10,000 when the system is rolled out across the country this year.

Camden’s submission to the committee added: “While we recognise there is much to support in a benefit system that encourages claimants to take responsibility for a personal budget and outgoings, we feel strongly that a system should not be set up in a way that potentially adds to the risk of vulnerable people losing their home.”

The ‘very long’ wait on the phone struck home.

This is more and more people’s experience of anything to do with the DWP, and all the rest, particularly the infamous ‘outsourced’ bits of the state, run by private racketeers. 

In sum the next story comes as no surprise:

Pressure mounts on UK government to halt universal credit. Third Force News.

Pressure is mounting on the UK government to ditch universal credit until its catalogue of problems are resolved.

Scotland’s social security secretary Angela Constance warned the Westminster-imposed system was no longer feasible in Scotland and is demanding UK ministers halt its introduction.

The minister’s demand comes after a Westminster committee launched an inquiry into universal credit amid concerns over delays in payments.

The new system – where people use an online account to manage their claim or apply for a benefit – is fully operational only in certain parts of the country.

Three Scottish councils, East Lothian, Highland and East Dunbartonshire, have it in place, with other areas piloting aspects of the full system.

Constance has written to Damian Green, UK work and pensions secretary, to ask for a “complete halt to full service roll-out of universal credit in Scotland with immediate effect”, stating it is “no longer feasible”.

She said people who are moved on to full service have to wait six weeks before receiving their first payment, resulting in tenants building up rent arrears.

As a result,

Delays in payments have seen landlords, including housing associations, reporting financial difficulties, with councils reporting record rent arrears,  Constance said.

“It is clear that the system simply isn’t working and the UK government is not prepared to make the necessary changes,” she said.

“The six-week delay in receiving a payment – with longer delays for some being experienced – is a completely unacceptable situation and one which has the potential to push low-income households into further hardship and homelessness.

“I was also shocked to hear reports that, in some areas, landlords are advertising properties as ‘No UC’ due to their experience with the system.

“Despite the UK government having these issues highlighted in the pilots for universal credit and by councils, charities, housing associations and parliamentarians, absolutely no meaningful reassurance has been received.

“I therefore cannot be confident that these issues are even close to being fully resolved and it is my view that it is simply not credible for the UK government to continue with the further roll-out of full service universal credit until these problems are fully resolved.”

Leading charities have backed the call.

As should we all.

Meanwhile the Rt Hon Damian finds time for this jaunty event on the 17th of March.

Damian Green MP

Ashford MP, Damian Green, has shown his support WWF’s tenth Earth Hour by making a special pledge to help protect the planet.  The world is changing fast, and it’s never been more important to show support for action on climate change.

Damian Green joined the WWF at the House of Commons this week to show they care about the future of our planet, ahead of the global lights out event, taking place on Saturday 25 March at 8:30pm.

Damian Green said: “I am delighted to support WWF’s Earth Hour this year to demonstrate how important it is that we take climate change seriously. I am proud to be a member of a parliament which has set ambitious targets to reduce our carbon emissions over the coming decades. The Government has outlined clear plans in order to live up to these ambitions.”

Each year, millions of people around the world come together to call to support Earth Hour. Last year a record 178 countries took part and iconic landmarks across the UK switched out their lights, from Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, to Brighton Pier, Edinburgh Castle and Caerphilly Castle. This year is set to be the biggest yet as it’s the 10 year anniversary of Earth Hour. With 2016 breaking temperature records for the third consecutive year, it’s never been more important to tackle climate change.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 24, 2017 at 3:57 pm

Theresa May, from “no” more Welfare Cuts, to…..Cuts.

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Image result for welfare cuts

Those with memories as long as fruit flies, that is pre-Brexit honest healthy fruit-flies fed on EU straight bananas, not the cheap and nasty type now breeding on rotten apples in the Tory-Trump Brexit land and driven to work till they are 92 years old, may remember this:

No more welfare cuts to come under Theresa May, says minister. Independent. 18th of September 2016.

Damian Green, the work and pensions secretary, hints at end to austerity agenda, promising no further raids on benefits.There will be no more welfare cuts under Theresa May’s government after those have already been announced, the work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, has announced.

Strongly hinting that the government’s austerity agenda was over, Green told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show planned cuts would continue but there would be no further raids on benefits.

Today we have this,

A recent report from the left-leaning Resolution Foundation think tank warned Tory policies are causing “the biggest increase in inequality since Thatcher”. Their research found that the rollout of more than £12bn of welfare cuts, coupled with poor wage growth, means household incomes after housing costs are set to grow by just 0.5% a year between now and 2020.

The Resolution Foundation also warned that the incomes of the poorest half of households are set to fall by an average 3%, while the richest look set to see income gains of around 4% over the remainder of this parliament.”

Then,

Commenting on the research, Torsten Bell, Director of the Resolution Foundation, said at the time: “Britain has enjoyed a welcome mini-boom in living standards in recent years. But that boom is slowing rapidly as inflation rises, productivity flatlines and employment growth slows.

“The squeeze in the wake of the financial crisis tended to hit richer households the most. But this time around it’s low and middle income families with kids who are set to be worst affected.

“This could leave Britain with the worst of both worlds on living standards – the weak income growth of the last parliament and rising inequality from the time Margaret Thatcher was in Downing Street.”

And a couple of days ago this:

£3.7bn in cuts to disability benefits needed to help cut the deficit, says cabinet minister

Despite cuts Conservative chairman Patrick McLoughlin claimed ‘we do very proudly in this country’ at helping disabled people

A cabinet minister has rebuffed calls to cancel more than £3.7bn worth of cuts to a disability benefit, setting the scene for a showdown in Parliament.

Patrick McLoughlin said ministers had to view the funding, which would go to people with conditions including epilepsy, diabetes and dementia, in the context of a wider need to reduce the UK’s budget deficit.

Ministers have said the Government will introduce emergency legislation to tighten the criteria of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) after they were ordered at tribunal to cover a broader spectrum of claimants, leading to the £3.7bn in extra spending by 2022.

While charities have warned of the impacts of the cuts, Tory party chairman Mr McLoughlin told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are spending as a country over £50bn a year supporting people who have got disabilities in this country.

“I think we give, overall, very generous schemes. There are changes that come about as a result of tribunals and we have to look at that.

“But as far as supporting disabled people, I think overall we do very proudly in this country.”

Asked again about the changes, Mr McLoughlin said: “We will obviously listen to what people say and look at the proposals that come forward, but overall we are still spending as a country over £60bn more each year than we are getting in as a country and we have got to look at trying to balance that budget and reduce that deficit.”

Disability benefit change shows Tories are still ‘nasty party’, says Corbyn Guardian.

Labour leader accuses government of ‘sneaking out’ news that it was overturning tribunal rulings on personal independence payments

Jeremy Corbyn has accused Theresa May of turning the Conservatives back into “the nasty party” by quietly announcing a change to rules on disability benefits.

The Labour leader told prime minister’s questions that the government had “sneaked” out the announcement that it was overturning two tribunal rulings on personal independence payments, including one that found people with extreme anxiety should be given the same status as those who are blind.

May responded by saying the pensions secretary, Damian Green, had made a written statement to parliament, briefed officials and called the office of his Labour shadow, Debbie Abrahams, only to get no answer or any response for four days.

Corbyn responded by disputing that anyone had tried to contact Abrahams’ office, and called the decision over the personal independence payments, known as PIPs, “shameful”.

Recalling May’s speech to the 2002 Conservative conference, when she warned it must shed its reputation as “the nasty party”, Corbyn noted comments over the weekend by George Freeman, the Tory MP who heads May’s policy unit.

Freeman said PIP benefits should go to “really disabled people” rather than those with mental health problems. Corbyn asked: “Isn’t that proof the nasty party is still around?”

May stressed Freeman had apologised for his comments. And she argued repeatedly that the reversal of the tribunal decisions did not amount to any sort of cut.

Expect a cut in some people’s potential benefits.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Welfare ‘Reform’: More Misery, More Hardship, and More Deaths.

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More details: National day of action against benefit sanctions Thursday 30 March 2017 at 07:00-20:00.


Psychologists say sanctions regime is “undermining mental health and wellbeing” and causing destitution, hardship, and widespread anxiety. Reports Welfare Weekly.

The British Psychological Society (BPS) has joined forces with other psychological bodies to call on the UK Government to suspend its cruel and degrading benefit sanctions regime.

BPS says the benefit sanctions regime, where vulnerable people can have payments docked for weeks or months at a time for failing to adhere to often unreasonable requirements, does not help people back to work and damages their mental health.

The call comes in response to the Government’s ‘Improving Lives’ consultation and following a recent report from the National Audit Office, which found there is little evidence to prove sanctions encourage people to look for work or offer value for money to taxpayers.

Benefit sanctions can also result in destitution, hardship, widespread anxiety and feelings of disempowerment, the psychologists say.

Welfare Weekly also reports,

Welfare reform is killing people, but the Tory press don’t want you to know

Rising numbers of deaths all linked to the ongoing welfare reforms remain unreported.

The manipulation of the British public is not difficult to achieve when the entire national press and media resist alerting the nation to the realities behind the ongoing welfare reforms.

The future demolition of the UK welfare state was planned long ago by a previous Tory government, and the 2008 banking crisis was simply the excuse needed to permit the demolition of the welfare state to begin.

Introduced in the UK by Thatcher, toxic neoliberal politics has swept the world where cash, not care, is deemed to be a virtue and the driver of national success, regardless of human consequences.

What remains unreported are the rising numbers of deaths all linked to the ongoing welfare reforms, numbering in excess of 100,000 chronically sick and disabled people since January 2011, as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) once again refuse to publish the updated mortality totals.

One aspect of the sanctions regime that is extremely cruel is its use against disabled people, which comes as part of a ‘package’ of regressive measures.

This article from the Guardian is a timely reminder,

The truth behind rising disabled employment: cuts, death and zero-hour contracts

 The disability employment gap is narrowing, but this is against a backdrop of sanctions, funding cuts and insecure employment.

2016 figures showed that more than half of disabled people who appealed their “fit to work” assessment eventually got the decision overturned.

“We’re still seeing some really worrying things coming out of those assessments,” says Ayaz Manji from the mental health charity Mind. “There’s a lot of really poor decision-making. Lots of the people who make those assessments don’t understand mental health.

“We’ve seen people who’ve been denied the benefit because they’ve been described as ‘well-groomed’, or ‘able to look somebody in the eye’. But obviously those things aren’t a good indication of whether someone has a serious mental health problem that’s affecting their ability to work. Often the support that people get is quite generic and doesn’t really take their mental health into account.”

Employment gap

The chaos surrounding the assessments comes amid a government drive to get more disabled people into work. But although charities and activists share that ambition, they accuse the government of acting counterproductively, with a punitive agenda of sanctions and funding cuts.

In 2015, the Treasury claimed: “increasing employment levels among people with disabilities and health conditions is a key part of the government’s aim to achieve full employment.” Specifically, the government aims to “halve the employment gap between disabled and non-disabled people”.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 25, 2017 at 10:39 am

Life on Benefits and Television Poverty Porn.

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Image result for poverty porn

Like many people here I watch serious documentaries (such as last night’s Channel Four documentary, Undercover: Britain’s Homeless Scandal: Channel 4 Dispatches).

I do not watch the endless series of entertainment programmes about people on the Dole.

Such as this one, The Great British Benefits Handout, described by the Mirror, “Channel 5 is still baiting the unemployed with yet another show about benefits. The show’s ‘experiment’, which gives three jobless families £26,000 to change their lives, is a smokescreen for inviting ridicule and vitriol”.

That is, from “the channel that brought us The Big Benefits Row Live , The Great Big Benefits Wedding Live, My Big Benefits Family, Celebs on Benefits: Fame to Claim, Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole, Benefits: The Millionaire Shoplifter and Benefits: Can’t Work, Won’t Work.”

So whatever goes on during their latest,  BENEFITS BRITAIN: LIFE ON THE DOLE, has passed me by.

Not that it’s only Channel Five.

The British television programme The Hardest Grafter illustrates this as it portrays 25 of Britain’s “poorest workers”, all having the shared ultimate objective of winning £15,000 through the completion of various tasks. In this case, the contestants’ poverty attracts a television audience, which was, before the show even started, contested as various petitions were made in order to stop what was believed to be a “perverted audience and profit making operation”. It is considered to not only be perverted, but also discriminatory as the contestants can only be poor.

BBC Two replied to these accusations by affirming that it would be a “serious social experiment to show just how hard those part of the low-wage economy work” as well as “tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time: why is British productivity low?”.

A spokesman from the show’s production company, Twenty Twenty stated that: “the show will challenge and shatter all sorts of myths surrounding the low-paid and unemployed sector”.

Broome, a reality TV show creator, states that it exposes the hardship of some families and their ability to keep on going through values, love and communication. He assures that he would much prefer create these shows rather than those like Jersey Shore which depicts “a group of strangers from New Jersey as they party throughout six seasons”.

Wikipedia. Poverty Porn. 

I sometimes wonder not just about the effect these gruesome shows have on people with well paid jobs, to bait and hate the poor, but on those on benefits.

In letter to the Guardian Ruth Patrick covers that angle.

Zoe Williams asks – somewhat rhetorically – what might be the impact of the endless growth of “poverty porn” on those who rely on benefits for all or most of their income (TV’s fixation with people on benefits breeds suspicion, 9 February). What my research with out-of-work benefit claimants shows – see policypress.co.uk/for-whose-benefit – is the ways in which the stereotypical, demeaning and one-dimensional characterisations that such shows so often feature contribute to a climate in which claimants feel that their behaviours and actions are being endlessly critiqued and found wanting.

The individuals I spoke to had often internalised negative descriptors – self-describing as a “scrounger” or “a bum” – even where they were hard at work caring for children, looking for employment or adapting to independent life after a childhood in care.

Living with poverty and benefits stigma had detrimental consequences for individuals’ self-esteem, mental health and citizenship status. “Poverty porn” and shows like The Moorside may be successfully recasting poverty as light entertainment, but their impact on those struggling to get by on benefits is anything but.
Dr Ruth Patrick
Postdoctoral researcher, School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool

Guardian

This is what Ruth Patrick wrote in 2015.

The realities of living on welfare are significantly different from government and media characterisations

What is often missing from these characterisations is the lived experiences of those who rely on benefits for all or most of their income. Admittedly, the explosion of ‘Poverty Porn’ does purport to provide such firsthand accounts. However, these are mediated by editing processes aimed at generating watchable, controversial content; processes which perhaps do not lend themselves to detailed pictures of the lived realities of ‘getting by’ on benefits during times of welfare reform.

Since 2010, I’ve been conducting small-scale research which has sought to explore these lived realities, with an explicit aim of considering the extent of (mis)match between Government and media rhetoric and lived experiences for those directly affected by welfare reform. By speaking to single parents and young jobseekers affected by the extended welfare conditionality and sanctions regime, as well as disabled people being moved off Incapacity Benefit and onto Employment and Support Allowance, I have been able to explore experiences of both welfare reform and the day-to-day realities of reliance on benefits in Britain today. Over a two year period, I interviewed participants three times, enabling me to explore both the absence and presence of change in people’s accounts as the welfare reforms took effect and individuals negotiated complex relationships with benefits and paid employment.

What this research has demonstrated is the very hard ‘work’ which ‘getting by’ on benefits entails, ‘work’ which is not represented in government and media characterisations of claimants as passive and inactive. This ‘work’ includes very tight budgeting practices, frequently having to make tough choices (such as to heat or eat), as well as creative ways of trying to eke out a little extra income, for example by scavenging for scrap in nearby streets. People repeatedly spoke of shopping daily so as to take advantage of the reduced shelves, and going to several shops in order to get the best deals. Parents often went without in order to ensure their children were well looked after. As single parent Chloe explained:

“I go without my meals sometimes.  I have to save meals for me kids. So I’ll have a slice of toast and they’ll have a full meal.”

There was also substantial evidence of participants engaging in other forms of socially valuable contribution such as volunteering and caring.  Adrian, a young Jobseeker, described why he valued the voluntary work he did at the homeless hostel where he used to live:

“I proper love it. You feel satisfaction as well if someone’s coming in really hungry. Give them some food, at least they’ve eaten for the night.”

With the Government’s endless emphasis on paid work as the primary responsibility of the dutiful citizen, these important forms of contribution often go unrecognised and under-valued. Importantly, too, the whole thrust of the Government’s welfare reform approach, like New Labour’s before it, places policy emphasis on moving people from ‘welfare dependency’ into paid employment, which can cause significant problems for those who want to prioritise these other forms of contribution.

The welfare reform policy agenda, with its sustained emphasis on welfare conditions and sanctions also suggests that people need the threat of sanctions to encourage – even compel them – to make the transition from benefits reliance to paid employment. The emphasis is placed firmly on the supply-side of the labour market, on the steps individual claimants need to be compelled to take to become employable, and to move into paid work. Repeatedly, a contrast is drawn between ‘hard working families’ and ‘welfare dependents’, with the latter needing these tough interventions to be ‘responsibilized’ into hard working citizens.

But, this research, like so much of the literature in this field (see, for example, recent articles on this blog) questioned the salience of such static groupings, instead finding participants with strong aspirations to work, where this was a realistic goal. It also found individuals who typically had worked in the past, with several moving in and out of work, during the time of the research, characteristic of the low-pay, no-pay cycle. Those who were not currently in paid employment had often internalised negative characterisations of claimants, with inevitable consequences for their self-confidence, self-esteem, and ironically future job prospects. Sam, a young jobseeker and recent care leaver explained why she wanted a job:

“I need a job; because I’m sick of scrounging. That’s how I think of it anyway, I’m sick of scrounging.”

When asked about the idea of benefits as a lifestyle choice, participants in this study were angry, even disbelieving, of the notion that they would ‘choose’ to rely on out-of-work benefits, instead emphasising the various factors, often linked to impairments, caring responsibilities and demand-side barriers to paid employment, which had led to their current situation. As single parent, Sophie put it:

“People don’t choose to live on benefits – it’s not our choice. It’s just the way that things have happened. We don’t choose to live on benefits, we don’t want to live on benefits.”

Young jobseeker James described why, for him, being on benefits would never be a choice

“[benefits] is enough for you to live off o’, but you haven’t got one bit of luxury left in your life. You’re not living, you’re existing. And that’s how it feels.”

Attending to the lived experiences of welfare reform is critical in helping us to understand the day-to-day realities of ‘getting by’ in contemporary Britain. These realities are significantly different from the government and media characterisations, with inevitable consequences for the likely success of the ongoing programme of welfare reforms. In particular, these realities undermine the logic for a pervasive emphasis on welfare conditionality, while also hinting at the very real financial hardship, and emotional and relational damage caused by welfare reform. If we want to understand more about benefits, and how processes of welfare reform are impacting on people, it is essential that we place far more emphasis on listening to what those directly affected have to say.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 14, 2017 at 11:15 am