Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Council Tax’ Category

Universal Credit in Great Yarmouth, ” Food Bank has seen a 90pc increase in use since Universal Credit was introduced.”

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“Please, Miss I want some more.” . “Oliver Twist has asked for more!”

Word reaches us the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux (CABs) across the country are being inundated with cases to do with Universal Credit.

One CAB worker  in particular spoke of how she had to deal with clear evidence of DWP staff unable to cope and making a mess of things.

It’s not hard to see why, given the paperwork they’ve handed us about the new system in Ipswich.

Hard to make head or tail of some of it.

Not to mention Find a Job….

This is an interesting properly researched article from Norfolk that has just appeared.

Disaster’ or making work pay? Lessons from Great Yarmouth in Universal Credit Tom Bristow

Great Yarmouth Food Bank has seen a 90pc increase in use since Universal Credit was introduced in April 2016. But the DWP said it was wrong to link the rise to the benefit changes. Picture: James Bass

 

Soaring demand at food banks, tenants being evicted and landlords left without rent.

These were the some of the problems when benefit system Universal Credit came to Great Yarmouth in April 2016.

The town was one of the first places in the country to test the Government’s flagship welfare reform, which replaced lots of different benefits with a single payment.

Universal Credit has been rolled out across the rest of the region, including King’s Lynn, Lowestoft and Dereham and is meant to be introduced to Norwich this October.

Claimants in Yarmouth still report problems of being overpaid some months and underpaid on others.

And one of the biggest headaches it has caused is for tenants and landlords.

Rent arrears have surged as tenants have to wait for the first payment, leaving them without money.

Landlords report some tenants leaving without paying rent when they got the first payment.

While under the previous housing benefit system the rent was paid directly to the landlord, it goes to the claimant under Universal Credit.

This is seriously not funny.

The DWP said “significant improvements” had been made to Universal Credit since it was introduced.

A spokesman said: “Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and under it people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer compared to the previous system.

The reality, as the New York Times writer  Peter S. Goodman said a couple of days ago,

Whatever the operative thinking, austerity’s manifestations are palpable and omnipresent. It has refashioned British society, making it less like the rest of Western Europe, with its generous social safety nets and egalitarian ethos, and more like the United States, where millions lack health care and job loss can set off a precipitous plunge in fortunes.

In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything

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Written by Andrew Coates

May 30, 2018 at 11:57 am

Government Claimant Survey and Universal Credit Review Attacked.

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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:

 

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

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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.

Universal Credit is Wonderful: Official!

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Gauke:  “I welcomed Universal Credit Full Service to my local Jobcentre yesterday.”

Ipswich Unemployed Action is sometimes accused of peddling negative stories  on Universal Credit.

Articles these:

Britain’s poor and vulnerable ‘living in fear’ of Universal Credit rollout

Single mum with Bipolar Disorder says she’s constantly “living in fear” of the next DWP letter posted through her letterbox – and she isn’t alone.

A Conservative MP wept in the House of Commons after hearing of the desperate situations of people affected by government welfare reforms. Heidi Allen’s voice cracked and she was visibly emotional following the speech by Labour’s Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

Misleading tales such as this:

True stories of human suffering can change MPs’ hearts. I’ve seen it happen  

False information from fringe publications.

DWP staff are volunteering to stuff foodbank Christmas hampers because they’re ‘unhappy’ with Universal Credit, MP reveals (Mirror).

Tories could be FORCED to publish reviews of Universal Credit they’ve kept secret for nearly two years  (Mirror)

Calamitous roll out of Universal Credit is being secretly delayed in Theresa May’s backyard  Mirror

Or this,

So we are happy to offer a platform for the Alternative View (with permission from comrade Dave S) from young David Gauke, (National Amalgamated Union for Grinding the Faces of the Poor Operatives and Allied Trades).

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Once Again, Labour Are Spreading Fake News About Universal Credit

Labour are once again putting out fake news about Universal Credit, this time alleging that the slowed rollout of Full Service is somehow skipping over prominent Government MPs’ constituencies. Towards the end of a week in which Labour have been passionately pushing out falsehoods – in Parliament, on social media and to the constituents.

What complete rubbish.

DWP have slowed the pace of rollout for Universal Credit so we can implement the improvements announced during the Budget. This is £1.5billion worth of help to ensure that anyone coming onto UC who needs it can get interest-free cash right away and paid back over a year, so that people can get their benefits sooner and so that people can get an extra two weeks of housing benefits.

I’d have thought that Labour would welcome these changes and welcome the slowed pace of rollout given their campaign to stop the rollout all together. But, instead we see Labour ignore the facts. To not only withhold valuable information from people, but then to mislead them into thinking there is no help available while they transition onto Universal Credit is a serious dereliction of duty.

The truth is that Universal Credit is a better benefit and we are now improving it

On Tuesday, we had over three hours of debate on Universal Credit. I asked the Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Debbie Abrahams, to apologise to the House and to the public for Labour’s scaremongering about Universal Credit, and urged the Opposition to stop misleading people – not because I can’t take political fire, but because these falsehoods are causing real harm. Just last week a Labour leaning newspaper published a story about a family who feared they had to cancel Christmas only to learn that actually, they didn’t have to worry. They had seen the scare stories.

The truth is that Universal Credit is a better benefit and we are now improving it. That is slowing the pace of the rollout of the Full Service. 80% of all Jobcentres without Universal Credit Full Service will face some level of delay in getting it. Jobcentres are not arranged by constituency and some serve several constituencies. Of those Jobcentres who will have a delay in getting Full Service, half are in Conservative held seats and half are in Labour held or other seats.

So, who will see a delay in getting Universal Credit to their Job Centres? Not me, I welcomed Universal Credit Full Service to my local Jobcentre yesterday.

David Gauke is the work and pensions secretary and Conservative MP for South West Hertfordshire

Written by Andrew Coates

December 9, 2017 at 11:12 am

Universal Credit and Elaine Morrall who “Died Cold and Alone”.

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Mum-of-four dies cold and alone after missing Universal Credit meeting

Elaine “Died Cold and Alone”. “How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?’

 

This story makes everything else look small.

A mum-of-four died cold and alone after her benefits were cut because she was too ill to attend a Universal Credit meeting. Elaine Morrall was found dead in her home wearing a coat and scarf, her family claimed. Metro.

The 38-year-old had her benefits stopped because she failed to attend a meeting about Universal Credit while she was in a hospital intensive care unit, they said.

Elaine, who suffered from an eating disorder and mental health problems, was found dead earlier this month in Runcorn, Cheshire. Her family claims she wouldn’t put her heating on until her kids got home from school because of the cost. Her grieving mother Linda Morrall blamed the Department of Work and Pensions for her untimely death.

In an open letter on Facebook, she wrote: ‘How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?’ ‘My daughter lived in Boston ave. She died on the afternoon of 2 November 2017 at home on her own. She was 38yrs. ‘In the cold with her coat & scarf on. Because she wouldn’t put her heating on until her kids came home from school. Why?? Because she couldn’t afford it. ‘Because she was severely depressed. Suffered from eating disorder & many other problems for many years. ‘Mainly due to authoritarians of 1 form or another. I can give you details. Was in & out of hospital in recent months in intensive care. ‘But was deemed not ill enough for ESA. Had her benefits stopped numerous times, which in turn stopped her housing benefit. ‘No income but expected to be able to pay full rent. Was told being in intensive care was not sufficient reason for failing to attend a universal credit interview. ‘I went to the job centre to inform them that she couldn’t attend. But benefits stopped again. ‘Uncaring housing taking her to court. She’s due to go to court on monday. Is being dead now enough reason. Is that what’s had to happen to prove she was ill?? ‘How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?? ‘What are you and your fellow councillors going to do to protect your constituents??’

Background to the growing crisis.

Demand for Suffolk and Essex food banks continues to grow.

Ipswich Star. 7th of November. 

Changes in the benefit system and the rising cost of living are among the issues driving a surge in demand on Suffolk and Essex food banks, it has been claimed.

Ipswich charity Families in Need (FIND) has given out around 3,400 food parcels so far in 2017, and founder Maureen Reynel said more people were using the service every year.

Food bank bosses say the roll out of Universal Credit, which is replacing most means-tested benefits, is leaving local people struggling because new applicants have to wait around six weeks after a successful assessment to receive the cash.

Mrs Reynel said: “It means people are waiting for money, even though it’s back dated they have to eat in the meantime so any change in benefits, doesn’t matter what label they put on it, has an adverse affect on people using those benefit systems.

“It’s just a mess really. We just have to keep trying to plug a gaping hole to see these people through until something else good happens for them.”

Demand on FIND is “non-stop”, Mrs Reynel said, with the number of food parcels handed out hitting double figures most days.

The same evening there was a report on the effect of Universal Credit on people, driving them into utter poverty, on the BBC Look East.

Trussell Trust foodbanks report record surge in demand amid Universal Credit rollout

The statistics lay bare the link between the welfare reform and rising need for emergency handouts.

The controversial rollout of the Tories’ flagship welfare reform has triggered a 30% surge in hungry families, shock figures reveal today.

Foodbanks handed out 586,907 emergency rations between the start of April and end of September – a 13% rise on the same period last year, according to the Trussell Trust.

With each parcel having enough food for three meals a day for three days, volunteers handed out the equivalent of almost 5.3 million meals.

And foodbanks in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out for six months or more have seen an average 30% spike in the first six months after its launch compared to a year before.

Charity leaders fear the crisis will deepen in the run-up to Christmas when the number of foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit service will triple, and when demand for food traditionally rises.

Trussell Trust chief executive Mark Ward said: “We’re seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 8, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Rent Arrears Swell with Universal Credit.

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Universal Credit: More and More Demands…

One of the ideas behind government welfare ‘reforms’ is to make people more “responsible”.

We now have to pay a percentage of our Council Tax, because that makes us “responsible”, or to put it more simply, it is thought to make us consider how Councils allocate money. In this case a right-wing idea, that poor people voting over public spending is a bad idea because we will use our power to tax our betters, is behind this. As ‘taxpayers’ ourselves we will think twice about forking out for the elderly, and public services more widely and, they hope, vote Tory to keep Council Budgets in order. Bad councils, that is Labour ones, will suffer electoral reverses if they do not follow the penny pinching and contracting out ways of the Conservative crooks who still run many councils.

The fact that this scheme costs money to collect, that poor people fall into arrears, and that not a single penny has gone to compensate benefit claimants for what is in reality a hefty cut in our income, is ignored.

Universal Credit operates with another kind of enforced “responsibility”.

People pay their rent themselves, rather than having it deducted and sent to the properties’ owners.

Common sense would have told the designers of this system that far from ‘teaching people how to budget’ it would be the occasion for many to fall into arrears.

And so it has come to pass…..

Almost 90 per cent of tenants in receipt of Universal Credit are in rent arrears Daily Record.

South Lanarkshire Council confirmed this week that 633, 87 per cent, of UC tenants owe £525,000.

Almost 90 per cent of council tenants in receipt of the controversial Universal Credit (UC) benefit are in rent arrears totalling £525,000.

South Lanarkshire Council confirmed this week that 633, 87 per cent, of UC tenants are struggling to pay for housing.

The local authority said it was doing everything possible to assist people to repay the debt and avoid losing their home, as Gerard Killen MP called on the government to halt the full roll out of the benefit.

Currently offered to a limited number of people, UC replaces six of the main means tested benefits including housing benefit and sees claimants receive all of their benefits in one single payment monthly in arrears.

It means tenants are, for the first time, responsible for paying their rent as opposed to their housing benefit being paid direct to their landlord.

The Residential Landlords Association quickly got a whiff of this and has set the following up,

In July Councils were already flagging up their concern.

Councils losing £6.7m in Universal Credit arrears

The saga of Universal credit looks far from over.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 18, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Universal Credit: Twelve Week Wait for Any Payment.

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Talking to somebody in the library I learnt that some people round here are already on Universal Credit (and the horrors of ‘Job Search’ at the notorious SEETEC).

Writing posts about the failings of Universal Credit has become a duty.

But not a hard one since a story emerges every couple of days.

This is the latest (Daily Mirror)

People who move onto the Tories’ flagship welfare scheme are waiting nearly three months for payments to roll in – putting them at risk of eviction, a town hall boss has said.

The stark warning came tonight from Croydon Council in south London, a key pilot area for the “full digital service” of Universal Credit.

The system rolls six benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and Child Tax Credit into one payment and is slowly being phased in across the UK after several delays.

But analysts have claimed millions will face overall cuts due to changes in “work allowances” under the new system.

Mark Fowler, Croydon Council’s director of welfare, said some single people under 35 had their payments cut from £155 a week to just £72 in the new scheme.

He told MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Committee: “We have seen in Croydon, on average, it’s about 12 weeks before any form of payment is awarded, which is creating considerable pressures as you can understand.

“Then even when this customer cohort are awarded money, that’s still a difference [between] £72 [and] £155 a week.

“So that’s an immediate pressure and immediate potential for eviction as well.”

MPs pointed out the time lag was so long that landlords could begin evictions for unpaid rent.

Mr Fowler agreed, adding: “You have got people moving from one system to another. Most people pay their rent in advance, not in arrears.

“What we have also found is people in emergency accommodation – so people who are incredibly vulnerable, fleeing domestic violence, mental health issues, single parents, English isn’t their first language – are particularly hit by the approach to Universal Credit.”

He said the council had a duty to move some people out of emergency housing within six weeks – but benefit payments only start when they’ve been in place for six weeks.

Nick Atkin, chief executive of the Halton Housing Trust, urged the rollout to be slowed down and blamed poor communication within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

He said Universal Credit claimants had just 9% of all Halton’s tenancies but 37% of all its arrears.

And they were four times as likely to have been served an eviction notice compared to other claimants.

He added: “There’s an increased risk for those people of losing their homes.”

Being fair chaps the Mirror then presents “alternative facts” from the DWP’s Macedonian News Factory.

 A DWP spokesman said: “The best way to help people pay their rent is to help them into work, and under Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

“Universal Credit is designed to mirror the world of work by giving people responsibility over their lives, and paying Housing Benefit directly to claimants is an important part of this process.

“Budgeting advice, direct rent payments to landlords and benefit advances can be provided for those who need them.”

Written by Andrew Coates

January 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm