Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Cuts’ Category

Tax Giveaway to Wealthy as Benefit changes ‘could push 200,000 children into poverty’.

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Osborne’s Help the Rich Punish the Poor Policies Set to Get Worse.

Two stories, two worlds.

Sunday, the Observer.

Wealthy get 80% of rewards from tax and welfare changes introduced by George Osborne that begin to come into effect this week.

The richest will reap 80% of the rewards from the tax and benefit changes that start to come into effect this week, while the poorest will become worse off, according to detailed analysis by the Resolution Foundation.

The independent thinktank’s research shows that the effect of £2bn of income tax cuts and more than £1bn of welfare cuts will add up to a huge transfer of wealth from low- and middle-income households to richer ones.

The reforms, set in train by former chancellor George Osborne, run directly contrary to the political mantra of Theresa May, who has said she wants to govern in the interests of everyone and “not just the privileged few”.

The changes include raising the personal tax allowance from £11,000 to £11,500; lifting the threshold for higher-rate tax from £43,000 to £45,000; freezing all working-age benefits; removing the family element (£545) from tax credits and universal credit for new claims or births; and applying a two-child limit to new claims or births in the tax credit system.

David Finch, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “The overall package amounts to a £1bn net giveaway from the public purse. But the skewed nature of this generosity means that better-off households will receive four-fifths of the gains, while the poorest third of households will be worse off overall.”

Finch said that reductions in the generosity of universal credit, which will have the effect of reducing work incentives, would affect relatively few families this year. But as millions more move on to the new system, the effects on the living standards of those on low incomes would become much clearer.

Today, from the BBC,

Benefit changes ‘could push 200,000 children into poverty’

Changes to benefit rules coming into force this week could push 200,000 more children into poverty, say campaigners.

From Thursday, payments for some benefits will be limited to the first two children in a family.

The Child Poverty Action Group and Institute for Public Policy Research say some families will be almost £3,000 a year worse off under the new rules.

Ministers say they are determined to tackle the root causes of disadvantage and make work pay.

The changes affect families who claim tax credits and Universal Credit – which is in the process of being rolled out and is due to replace tax credits completely by 2022.

The new rules mean that children born after Thursday 6 April into families where there are already two or more children will no longer be counted in benefit payments to their parents, under either tax credits or Universal Credit.

And from autumn 2018, families making new claims under Universal Credit will only receive payments for their first two children even if they were born before Thursday.

However, children already receiving Universal Credit or tax credit payments will not lose them for as long as their family’s existing claim continues.

And Child Benefit, which is separate, will be unaffected.

The latest official figures show that 872,000 families with more than two children were claiming tax credits in 2014-15.

And a similar number of families are likely to lose out under the changes, the researchers suggest.

In 2014-15, two thirds (65%) were working families and 68% had no more than three children, say the researchers.

Based on those figures, the researchers calculate that once the new policy is fully implemented an additional 100,000 adults and 200,000 children could face poverty.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 3, 2017 at 10:51 am

Rent Arrears Soar in Universal Credit Pilot Scheme.

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Rise in Homeless Numbers Threat from Universal Credit.

This morning the BBC news had a story about homeless people.

It covered the case, a happy case, of a man who’d been helped into accommodation.

The idea that getting somewhere to live is the first step to getting back on your feet is not, perhaps, original, but this may help many people in a desperate situation.

But as it is, and as the report noted, the number of rough sleepers has not stopped growing.

I only have to walk a few metres from the library in Ipswich to see those affected.

One reason?

The broadcaster did not fail to mention that people blamed the tough conditions imposed on Jobseekers, the Claimant Commitment, proof of looking for work, and all the rest that we know all too well.

Not always easy to fulfil for many people, they become extremely hard for anybody with the kind of problems associated with those on the streets.

If they could get JSA under any conditions.

With the menace of sanctions to deal with as well.

Now the threat of living without a roof over your head hovers over a whole new set of people, as the Scottish paper, the Herald reports.

You can guess where this one comes from.

Warning as rent arrears soar after Universal Credit pilot is rolled out in Scotland

A LEADING Scots housing body has warned that increasing numbers of people on benefits are at greater risk of homelessness as rent arrears soar under a controversial new benefits pilot scheme being rolled out across Scotland.

The Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland (CIH Scotland) has warned that the new Universal Credit to date has led to tenants finding it increasingly difficult to pay their rent.

And the organisation has also raised fears of a return to the old ‘No DSS’ culture that restricted access to the private rented sector for many benefit claimants during the 1980’s.

Welfare Reform Impact, a recent report published by the HouseMark consultancy group showed the average rent arrear debt of a Universal Credit claimant was £618 compared to average non-UC arrears of £131.

MPs have already launched an official inquiry into Universal Credit amid growing concerns that design flaws in the new benefits system are leaving thousands of low-income claimants facing eviction and reliant on food banks.

Holyrood’s Social Security Committee has already met with administrative staff and claimants in the Musselburgh pilot area and heard about unacceptable delays of eight or nine weeks in being paid benefits, pushing people into rent arrears. Committee members also heard local jobcentres are ill-equipped to effectively support claimants.

The single payment replaces six benefits – income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit – and is paid directly to claimants.

I doubt if this has escaped our Newshounds either:

Landlords are more likely to accept potential renters who own pets than people claiming benefits, a BBC investigation has found.

Analysis of some 11,000 online listings for spare rooms found all but a few hundred stated benefit claimants were not welcome.

Campaign groups say it is “naked discrimination” and are calling for a change in the law.

Landlords say more social housing needs to be built.

The BBC England data unit analysed listings on the website SpareRoom, looking at London and 18 other towns and cities across England.

  • Out of 11,806 adverts for rooms to let, just 2% were open to people on benefits.
  • The website’s listings showed not a single vacancy for a benefit claimant in Bournemouth, Exeter, Leicester, Liverpool, Norwich, Oxford or Reading.
  • Plymouth had the highest rate of acceptance, but even that was just 10% of rooms, 15 out of 144.
  • Across the 19 areas with the most available rooms, there were twice as many lets that accepted pets as accepted housing benefit claimants.

It is a similar pattern on a letting agent website.

On OpenRent.co.uk, just 580 out of 3,342 listings accepted people on benefits.

The websites specify “No to DSS” in flatmate preferences. DSS is the acronym for the Department of Social Security, which was replaced in 2001 by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Important Update:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Welfare Cuts as Universal Credit Founders.

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“No Spending Spree…..”

There was a flicker of a chart on Channel Four News last night about the effects of the Welfare cuts on people.

I suspect that’s about the most, a very brief most, that most people – unlike us lot – will register about the issue.

The so-called Minister, Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green, has been quieter than the quietest mouse recently.

He did find time for this, “Our Man – Advice and Supports Services

Thursday, 23 February, 2017 (Latest Web site date).

On the whole by any reasonable measure Ashford is a prosperous town set in the middle of a generally prosperous county. But we should all be aware that even in the middle of this generally comfortable existence live people with real problems.

And he did, very curtly, respond to this.

Billions of pounds of PIP cuts ‘will put lives at risk.

The announcement of billions of pounds of cuts to the government’s new disability benefit is a discriminatory attack on people with mental health problems, will push many of them further into poverty and isolation, and will put lives at risk, say disabled activists.

Protests about the cuts to personal independence payment (PIP) have already been announced, with one due to take place outside parliament on Tuesday (7 March), the day before the spring budget.

Disability News Service is also aware of discussions among at least two groups about possible legal action over the cuts.

Work and pensions secretary Damian Green said he had made the decision to amend regulations to tighten eligibility for PIP because of two tribunal decisions that ruled against the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

But nothing, as yet, on the Budget...

This is how the New Statesman’s admirable Anoosh Chakelian  sums up the post-Budget position on Welfare,

What welfare changes did Philip Hammond make in his Budget 2017?

The welfare cap is still there. The four-year freeze of working-age benefits continues. This means those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, income support, housing benefit, Universal Credit, child tax credits, working tax credits and child benefit will be worse off, as inflation increases but their benefits remain flat. Child tax credits and child benefit through Universal Credit will be limited to two children, and the government recently announced its plan to remove the entitlement to housing benefit for some 18-21 year olds. Hammond’s only offer to those depending on the state to boost their income is to reduce the taper rate at which your benefits through Universal Credit are withdrawn as you begin to earn more – from 65 per cent to 63 per cent.Hammond’s only offer to those depending on the state to boost their income is to reduce the taper rate at which your benefits through Universal Credit are withdrawn as you begin to earn more – from 65 per cent to 63 per cent. The Chancellor announced this in his Autumn Statement last November and has made no new announcements about benefits since. In fact, his only reference to welfare in his Spring Budget speech was to repeat his softening of the taper rate.

Yet…

“…remember, this isn’t giving more money to claimants .

It’s very slightly reducing the amount Universal Credit is being cut.

According to the Independent, the planned £3bn-a-year reduction in the work allowance..

has only really been reduced by about £700m by Hammond.”

People in Liverpool are not happy,

New research published today reveals the government’s flagship Universal Credit scheme is causing significant anxiety…..

and leaving many claimants reliant on the generosity of food banks to get by.

Sometimes you wish politicians and the media would concentrate more on these stories….

Written by Andrew Coates

March 10, 2017 at 12:10 pm

Budget’s Expected Impact on Welfare.

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Budget 2017 for benefits: what welfare changes is Philip Hammond planning? Everything we know so far about the Chancellor’s plans for the benefits system. ANOOSH CHAKELIAN New Statesman.

This timely article outline some very bad news:

The Chancellor Philip Hammond will announce changes to welfare when he delivers his Budget. What do we know?

How has Theresa May’s government approached welfare so far?

Outside No 10 on 13 July 2016, Theresa May put equality at the heart of her first statement as Prime Minister. She claimed that she would put herself, “squarely at the service of ordinary working-class people”. She dedicated her speech to those who, “can just about manage but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school”, telling the nation: “If you’re just managing, I want to address you directly.”

This meant that progressives looked to the first Autumn Statement from her Chancellor Philip Hammond last year to see if she would turn her rhetoric into action.

There wasn’t much, however, for the “just about managing” (nicknamed “Jams”) when the new government announced its first plan for Britain’s finances. The Chancellor eased the planned cuts to Universal Credit slightly, by slowing the pace at which your benefits are reduced the higher above the allowance you earn. He said the welfare cap would remain, but promised there would be no more welfare cuts this parliament.

A four-year freeze on tax credits and benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance and income support has been in place since April 2016 last year, and £12bn worth of cuts to the welfare budget were planned for this parliament in the 2015 Tory manifesto pledge. The government wants to stick to making these savings. A £3bn-a-year reduction in the work allowance – the amount benefit claimants can earn before their benefits start being withdrawn – has only really been reduced by about £700m by Hammond.

Hammond inherited harsh welfare policies from George Osborne’s regime, whose austerity programme hit low-income households the hardest – cutting working-age benefits to add to the burden of wage stagnation and rising living costs. He’s not done much so far to ease this pain.

So what are they planning for the Budget?

We can’t expect a huge amount of easing up on benefit freezes in the coming Budget. Here’s what we’re likely to see:

Jobseeker’s Allowance freeze

This is an Osborne legacy, but the unemployment benefit will continue to be frozen at £57.90 a week for under-25s, and £73.10 for those who are 25 and older. Since April 2013, this went up 1 per cent a year. The freeze was announced in the 2015 budget, and came into force last year. Remember, the rate of inflation is increasing, so this could be a big squeeze in the next year.

(Note: This is beginning to really bite.)

No automatic entitlement to housing benefit

The government recently announced its plan to remove the entitlement to housing benefit for some 18-21 year olds. Centrepoint warns that this could lead to 9,000 young people being unable to access accommodation and at risk of homelessness. The Guardian suggests Hammond might u-turn on this.

(Note: Mean-spirited is the least of it. Expect more rough sleepers everywhere)

Child benefit freeze

Another continued freeze, at the existing rate of £20.70 a week for the first child and £13.70 for ensuing children. Again, inflation going up means this will feel increasingly tighter. Another part of the Osborne plan.

(Note: the plan to hit ordinary people.)

Child tax credit limited to two children

If you want to claim child tax credits for children born on or after 6 April 2017, you can only do so for two children. If you already claim them, your claims won’t be affected. You also won’t receive what’s known as the “family element” (around £40.40 a month) if your children are born after that date. This is another Osborne policy, announced in 2015 to start this year.

Universal Credit freeze

Universal Credit rates will be frozen for 2017-18. The Osborne plan was the cut the work allowance by £3bn each year – a plan Hammond slightly softened by reducing the taper rate in the Autumn Statement.

(Note: another kick in the face for the less well off, in work.)

So that’s a huge squeeze on living standards for May’s beloved “ordinary, working-class people” then?

As we already notice in our bills and shopping, this will hit us hard.

Hard up working families face a “double whammy” of benefits freezes and rising inflation to the tune of billions of pounds, a new study has warned. 

Analysis from thinktank the Resolution Foundation found that a total of £3.6bn will be taken from the worst off households by 2020 thanks to the freeze in tax credit and working age benefits.

Their calculations suggest a single earner family with two children could lose £680 a year once inflation is factored in.

The Foundation’s director, Torsten Bell, warned the Office for Budget Responsibility could revise up its inflation forecast to 2.6% for both this year and 2018.

That would see real pay falling by the end of this year as prices start to outstrip only modest wage growth.

“The effect of a renewed pay squeeze would be broadly felt across the population,” Mr Bell told the Guardian.

“But in many ways the worst affected group might be those ‘ordinary working families’ on lower incomes who will face a double whammy of lower pay growth and benefit cuts.”

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 7, 2017 at 11:11 am

More Spiteful Rules for Claimants Trying to Get Help with Benefit Problems from MPs.

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Always makes “decisions in the best interests of the claimant.”

New rules restricting MPs from intervening with officials directly to resolve benefit payment problems on behalf of constituents are a major barrier to justice, ministers have been warned. ( Guardian).

(Without detracting from the details what this means is that you will have to mount a quasi-legal case to involve a MP *and* let the DWP, who always have our best interests at heart, know what you are doing…”The DWP has told MPs it will not discuss individual cases with them unless they have the explicit online consent of claimants..”)

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has told MPs it will not discuss individual universal credit cases with them unless the claimant has given formal “explicit consent” by issuing detailed instructions via their online DWP account.

MPs said the restrictions will create a fresh layer of bureaucracy and pile extra pressure on vulnerable people who have approached their MP as a last resort to resolve problems such as non-payment of benefits.

Up to now, MPs have been able to contact the Department for Work and Pensions directly to deal with benefit problems on the basis that they had the “implicit consent” of the claimant who raised the issue with them.

“It [the restriction] makes the job more tiresome, slows it down, and creates more work for constituents. It’s barmy and unnecessary, and it’s a major barrier to justice,” said Frank Field, the chairman of the work and pensions select committee.

Welfare rights advisers have also raised the issue, warning the DWP last year that restrictions around “explicit consent” made it near-impossible for them to resolve benefit issues on behalf of some vulnerable clients, including for example those with learning disabilities, or those gravely ill in hospital beds who are unable to access their online DWP accounts.

Field said he had raised the issue in person recently with the work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, who Field said was sympathetic. However, this week, a caseworker in Field’s constituency office trying to resolve a benefits issue on behalf of a constituent was refused by the DWP.

The DWP’s alternative News Factory replied,

A DWP spokesman said: “This issue has been raised with the department and we are actively looking into it. The DWP always takes steps to protect personal data and make decisions in the best interests of the claimant.”

But….

Karen Buck MP said: “People come to me because we [MPs] are the only named people in the system they can find. If we have to turn people away, asking them to jump through hoops before we can help them, it is only going to make people feel disempowered.”

She added: “The more complex the demands we put on vulnerable people, the easier it should be for representatives to intervene on their behalf.”

The note to MPs, sent in February, says that before MPs become involved in a case constituents must provide the DWP “with the specific details of the issues they would like us to discuss with you” via their online journal, through which all their universal credit business is transacted.

The DWP’s director general of universal credit, Neil Couling wrote to welfare advisers in January arguing that explicit consent was necessary because of the risk of that disclosure of material to third parities would breach data protection rules.

He wrote: “I realise that as bona fide advisers this may seem unduly cautious, but we face regular attempts by unscrupulous organisations and individuals to access information from us and we need to take all reasonable steps to protect the position of claimants and their data which we hold.”

The explicit consent rule applies to claimants on the full service universal credit, of which there are around 450,000 in the UK. It does not apply to people claiming legacy benefits such as housing benefit.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 6, 2017 at 1:17 pm

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

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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