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Archive for the ‘Cuts’ Category

Sanctions and Homelessness: Universal Credit in Action.

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The Threat Looming Over Universal Credit Claimants.

As the juggernaut of Universal Credit continues, and millions are caught up under its wheels, it’s sometimes best to illustrate its effects through individual cases:

This is one:

“I was sanctioned after missing a Universal Credit appointment due to seizures. The DWP should help job-seekers like me, not penalise them.”

By Luke O’Donnell in today’s ‘I’.

They said Universal Credit would make things more simple. Having fallen foul of the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) trigger-happy use of sanctions, I can say that this is not the case. I have epilepsy and missed a Job Centre appointment in November after having seizures.

I missed a second meeting in January after being in a status epilepticus, which left me in a hospital bed, connected to a drip. While I had evidence for this, I could not provide anything to prove why I missed my previous appointment. The DWP stated I had “failed without good reason to comply with a work-related requirement to attend a work-focused interview”. I was sanctioned for three of my four weeks’ benefits.

Sanctions demotivated me This showed me there was no common sense or discretion being applied by the DWP. In bundling all benefits into one system they appear to have lost the ability to use reasoning or any sense of fair play.

O’Donnel continues:

Their sanctions only served to demotivate me further than my health had already. Quite the opposite of the intended effect. It just augmented my worries about finding an employer who’d take my health seriously because if a Government agency doesn’t consider it worth taking into account, what would employers think when they find out about my brain damage?

My case was so outrageous that when I tweeted the letter upholding my sanctions after I’d navigated the DWP’s arbitrary “mandatory reconsideration” process, it quickly gathered momentum on social media and was picked up by i and BBC News. As a result of the widespread negative attention the DWP’s flagship new benefit service received, my case was given a “second reconsideration”. My benefits were hastily reinstated and I heard no more. I was lucky. But I still wanted the DWP to acknowledge it was aware of the effects Universal Credit was having on people. I got in contact with Esther McVey, Minister for Work and Pensions, but received no response. So I tried again, to no avail.

My case is just a drop in the ocean. A simple search on Twitter will reveal thousands of people with disabilities and serious health conditions are being penalised instead of helped. I personally believe there is now a culture of “sanction by default, for as much as possible” within the DWP. We are being treated as though we’ve done something wrong because of the effect our health has on our ability to work. What use is a social security system that works against those very people it was initially set up to help?

Background: 

DWP says sanction review of epileptic man who missed benefits appointment was due to press coverage Luke O’Donnell said it was ‘satisfying’ to read a letter from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Serina Sandhu Wednesday August the 8th.

In March, i reported that Luke O’Donnell, who has epilepsy, was penalised after missing a work-related appointment for Job Seeker’s Allowance because he could not prove his seizures had prevented him from attending. At the time, the 24-year-old said the system was “cold-hearted”.

The story was widely shared and less than two weeks later, the Universal Credit department at the DWP informed him his sanctions would be reversed, saying “not enough consideration was placed on Mr O’Donnell’s health following three days of epileptic episodes”.

Even though his case was resolved and benefits fully reinstated, Mr O’Donnell wrote to Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey in June because he wanted acknowledgement that she was aware of the effects Universal Credit was having on claimants. “I wanted to see what she had to say. How does she justify these problems she’s causing people?”

A response from her office read: “The Department for Work and Pensions are committed to ensuring people with disabilities and health conditions get the right support they need, and we are sorry that we have not met this standard during a period of time when you were in ill health.” But it was also confirmed that the move to review Mr O’Donnell’s case was triggered by the press coverage. The decision to revoke the sanctions, however, was a result of a “full review of all evidence and information.”

It’s good that Luke O’Donnell found a way out of his problems.

But sanctions can have even more devastating effects.

The system cannot deal with the most “difficult” cases.

Welfare conditionality, benefit sanctions and homelessness in the UK: ending the ‘something for nothing culture’ or punishing the poor?

We have here a ‘multiple-miscreant’ population (homeless, unemployed, poor, many dependent on drugs or alcohol) but a policy (benefit sanctions) virtually impossible for them to comply with. It is, therefore, difficult to see how any moral rectification can flow from such a policy. It can, however, discipline or punish. Rather than producing a compliant working class, then, it pushes people out of the very system (social security) initially designed to protect them

The impact of Universal Credit and sanctions can be seen in this area, the news story that’s hit the headlines today.

Rough sleeping: £100m government plan to tackle homelessness unveiled

The Guardian  publishes this commentary:

Homelessness is caused by policies: decisions on how many houses to build, and in which price range. Universal credit, sanctions, the child benefit cap – these are political decisions that have contributed to people being unable to afford their rent. Up to a third of universal credit claimants are having their payments deducted because they are in rent or council tax arrears. The government is acting like its own incompetent opposition, decrying a situation of its own making, offering solutions that are nowhere near the source of the crisis.

Homelessness is back on the Tories’ agenda, yet it’s they who made this crisis worse

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Written by Andrew Coates

August 14, 2018 at 11:28 am

Basic Income: An Alternative to Universal Credit?

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Are a few Basic Income Pilot Schemes an Alternative to Universal Credit? 

Could a basic income replace Universal Credit? 

The BBC reports today.

A survey has found support for local experiments to explore paying people a basic income as an alternative to Universal Credit.

The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) found 40% of people questioned backed local tests to see how such payments would work.

Only 15% would oppose the idea, a Populus survey of 2,070 people found.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions questioned the idea.

It said a basic income “would not work for those who need more support”.

The RSA describes a basic income as “a regular, unconditional payment made to every adult and child. It is not dependent on other earned or unearned income, is not means-tested and is not withdrawn as earnings rise”.

The article gives some discouraging  examples .

Some countries have tested paying a basic income to citizens.

In western Kenya, the government is paying every adult in one village $22 a month for 12 years to see if a regular payment can help lift them out of poverty.

The Netherlands and Italy have also launched trials, while Scotland is considering piloting basic income schemes in four cities, including Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell recently said that Labour would include a plan for universal basic income in its next general election manifesto.

However, a two-year trial in Finland, where a sample of 2,000 unemployed adults were given €560 a month, will not be extended.

And in Canada, Ontario’s newly elected centre-right government said it was scrapping a three-year basic income pilot project that hoped to discover whether it was better than existing welfare schemes.

The RSA survey found the cost of funding basic income was a concern for the public, with 45% of those questioned fearing it was “unaffordable”.

The examples could have been extended to Italy where the 5 Star Movement’s proposals never got beyond voter-bait and France, where a watered down version proposed by failed Socialist Party Presidential candidate Benoît Hamon last year was basically laughed out by trade unionists.

They conclude:

Anthony Painter, director of the RSA’s action and research centre, said: “Basic income is no magic bullet, but with HM Opposition exploring the idea and the Scottish government looking to pilot it with four Scottish councils, basic income is increasingly seen as one plausible response to modern economic insecurity.”

A DWP spokesman said: “A universal basic income would not work for those who need more support, such as disabled people and those with caring responsibilities.

“It’s reasonable for people to meet certain requirements to receive their Universal Credit payment and these are agreed with people in advance – sanctions are only used in the minority of cases when someone doesn’t meet these requirements without a good reason.”

Not to mention the details of the above Canadian trial:

Canada’s Ontario government cuts basic income project short

The Independent adds,

The findings emerge after the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, told The Independent that Labour is set to include a pilot of the scheme in the party’s next manifesto for a general election.
Mr McDonnell revealed to The Independent earlier this week that he had recently discussed the idea with former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who was “really keen” on getting a pilot of the scheme in the next manifesto.

Asked whether he could envisage a pilot of basic income forming part of Labour’s next blueprint for government, he replied: “It’s one of those things I think we can get into the next manifesto and see, it’s worth a try. There have been pilots elsewhere. I’m trying to wait for the feedback.”

He continued: “If you look at what’s happened elsewhere in other countries – and I think Scotland is looking at it as well – they are doing it on a small geographical basis in particular towns. Guy is looking at that now and coming forward with proposals.

“It will be thrown into the discussions about the next manifesto – that’s one of the ideas that a lot of people are pressing for.”

Most people are pressing for a replacement to Universal Credit, not Basic Income.

An opinion survey, to stir up interest in a report issued in February this year (to resounding indifference)  proves little.

But it’s is no secret that the key McDonnell’s adviser, the pro-Brexit James Meadway, who worked for the  New Economics Foundation, has long been favourable to this idea.

No doubt others in this small circle are as well.

The reasons why Meadway and the Shadow Chancellor  imagine amid the chaos of a post-Brexit economy a Labour government is going to be the time and place for the plan are open to imaginative speculation.

It would be a better idea if Labour were to concentrate on preparing a Universal Replacement for Universal Credit rather than speculating on the merits of “pilot schemes” for Basic Income.

And as for the principles of Basic Income….

Extreme Caution is recommended.

For a start, would it mean enough income for all to live on, including rent, bills and all the rest?

Next, setting it up would be a mammoth task, which governments have shown, with Universal Credit, frankly not up to the job, not to mention all their private contracting friends who keep getting shown up as incompetent bunglers.

Is the Civil Service, its New Public Management, and all the chancers making a profit out them, up to the task?

This is also unlikely to mean “luxury communism” as some of its enthusiasts, and detractors,  claim.

It’s hard to see more than a minimum being offered.

The ‘basic’ would be pretty basic, and the luxury remain in the hands of those with the best jobs and, above all, the ownership to keep themsleves in the style to which they are accustomed.

We should look at the background as well.

Love the idea of a universal basic income? Be careful what you wish for

Given that UBI necessarily promotes universalism and is being pursued by liberal governments rather than overtly rightwing ones, it’s tempting to view it as an inherently leftwing conceit. In January, MEPs voted to consider UBI as a solution to the mass unemployment that might result from robots taking over manual jobs.

But UBI also has some unlikely supporters, most prominent among them the neoliberal Adam Smith Institute – Sam Bowman, the thinktank’s executive director, wrote in 2013: “The ideal welfare system is a basic income, replacing the existing anti-poverty programmes the government carries out.” He added that UBI would result in a less “paternalistic” government.

From this perspective, UBI could be rolled out as a distinctly rightwing initiative. In fact it does bear some similarity to the government’s shambolic universal credit scheme, which replaces a number of benefits with a one-off, lower, monthly payment (though it goes only to people already on certain benefits, of course). In the hands of the right, UBI could easily be seen as a kind of universal credit for all, undermining the entire benefits system and providing justification for paying the poorest a poverty income.

In fact, can you imagine what UBI would be like if it were rolled out by this government, which only yesterday promised to fight a ruling describing the benefits cap as inflicting “real misery to no good purpose”?

Despite the fact that the families who brought a case against the government had children too young to qualify for free childcare, the Department for Work and Pensions still perversely insisted that “the benefit cap incentivises work”. It’s not hard to imagine UBI being administered by the likes of A4e(now sold and renamed PeoplePlus), which carried out back-to-work training for the government, and saw six of its employees receive jail sentences for defrauding the government of £300,000. UBI cannot be a progressive initiative as long as the people with the power to implement it are hostile to the welfare state as a whole.

So, with the present ‘agile’ IT in the DWP system it looks even less of a going proposal.

There are other reasons to reject the idea:

The respected Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) – who seem not to be part of the charmed Basic Income circle around the Shadow Chancellor- have made an extensive, very critical, examination of Basic Income.

Solution or illusion? – the implications of Universal Basic Income for Disabled people in Britain (June 2018)

These are their conclusions.

UBI is not the demand we should be making if we want an end to the suffering that welfare reform is causing. We urgently need the abolition of sanctions and conditionality, of benefit assessments designed to deny disability and Universal Credit. The social security system is now one that is intended to create an intolerable environment for benefit claimants. The social security system of the future must be one capable of providing adequate social protection and standard of living for all in need of safety net support. Achieving such a radical transformation is no small task, requiring wholesale scrapping of existing systems and a fundamental redesign. Given the history of disabled people’s exclusion and the marginalisation of our issues it is reasonable for disabled people to fear that attention and resources dedicated to the task of implementing a UBI will be at the expense of effecting the level of change needed to ensure disabled people receive adequate support.

Costs.

Proponents of UBI tell us that disabled people would not be worse off under UBI but there is a dearth of evidence to support this claim. On the contrary, simulations for the introduction of a UBI to the UK indicate that the only way to ensure this would be through a partial UBI system run in parallel to a continuation of disability benefits. Supporters for such a system are then silent on the detail of how this separate system would work for disabled people, how it would address the many and considerable failings of the current system and how it would be afforded. A recent paper from the University of Bath presents an idea for a UBI with additional disability and severe disability premiums which when micro-simulated produces strong reductions in inequality and poverty but would be very expensive and require significant increases in income tax. The report author concludes: “The unavoidable reality is that such schemes either have unacceptable distributional consequences or they simply cost too much.”

No Improvement on Low Benefit levels.

Financing even a modest UBI set at a Guaranteed Minimum Income level in the UK would require high tax rises, as demonstrated by an OECD study . The World Bank report, which promotes the idea of UBI as an international response to the changing nature of work, concludes that when it comes to the UK, “taxing cash benefits and eliminating tax allowances is not enough to cover for the UBI” . This is because the level at which current benefits are paid is so far below a Guaranteed Minimum Income level that it would require the raising of significant additional funds to afford. In the UK a monthly BI amount that would cost the same as existing benefits and tax free allowances would pay £230 yet the poverty line for a single person is £702. The fact that benefit levels in Britain are so far below the poverty line point back to issues with the current social security system that need urgently addressing.

While many disabled people would be in favour of tax rises to fund welfare provision – particularly corporation tax and a progressive rise in the higher rate of income tax – the use of this for a UBI rather than more traditional forms of disability and unemployment support would mean much of the benefit flowing back to employers rather than those in most need. In functioning as a wage subsidy UBI would act to significantly reduce employers NI contributions. It would be hard to make a case that this is a more progressive solution than simply reversing the damage that the Tories have done to current systems. For example measures such as restoring the Independent Living Fund, scrapping conditionality and sanctions, and re-establishing the principle of universal benefits payed for by progressive taxation where the rich pay a greater proportion.

Poorest households featuring as losers

The distributional impacts of a UBI mean that there are winners and losers with the poorest households featuring as losers under certain models and simulations . This has the potential to divide against each other groups of people who are currently united in our opposition to the rich elite who we see as responsible for growing inequality and poverty. Maintaining this unity is essential if we are to bring about society that is structured in the interests of the mass of ordinary people before the pursuit of profit by a tiny minority.

Britain is currently home to the biggest socialist movement in Europe where demands for a living wage, for health and social care support services free at the point of need and a social security system that provides an adequate standard of living free from conditionality are all popular. These are what we need to fight for, not opening the door to policies that will be used to maintain existing power inequalities, facilitate greater job insecurity and low wages and risk further public service cuts.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 3, 2018 at 4:44 pm

After NAO Report on Universal Credit, Benefit Sanctions in Work and Pensions Committee’s Spotlight.

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The issue of Benefit Sanctions has not gone away.

Today (18th of July)  the Work and Pensions Committee, which has been conducting an inquiry into the issue, issued this statement.

DWP must give “facts behind the claims” on benefit sanctions

Work and Pensions Committee publish correspondence between the Chair and Alok Sharma

The Committee writes to employment minister Alok Sharma querying data on benefit sanctions supplied by the Department.

The Department’s published data consistently understate the number of sanctions applied for UC, JSA and ESA claimants by updating figures to reflect the post-appeal status. This means that every time a sanction decision is overturned at appeal, it no longer appears in the number of sanctions applied.

The pre-appeal figure for ESA sanctions was, in one month, as much as 57% higher than the post-appeal figure published by the Department. The Committee is asking for an explanation and for the Department to publish pre-appeal figures routinely so that the true picture can be understood.

The data also shows that in February 2018 1,108 Universal Credit claimants were still subject to a sanction despite having moved into in the “Working Enough” or “No Work-Related Requirement” conditionality group – usually because they are medically not fit for either work or to look for work.

The Committee is pushing for an answer on what possible purpose a sanction can serve for claimants whose circumstances mean there are no conditions attached to their benefits.

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

“What is the point of applying sanctions to people who cannot work and are not expected to look for jobs? The DWP have yet to make the case that benefit sanctions work to get people into employment and it’s difficult to see how they can have that effect for people who are ‘working enough’ or cannot work. Benefit sanctions are the only major welfare reform this decade to have never been evaluated, and the picture DWP paints of the policy doesn’t match the troubling stories we’ve heard. In the wake of the NAO’s damning assessment of Universal Credit, we more than ever need the facts behind the claims.”

Note the figures indeed show the above, “) According to the data published in Annex 1 to your letter, in February 2018 1,108 Universal Credit claimants were subject to a sanction despite being in the “Working Enough” or “No Work-Related Requirement” conditionality regimes..”

The letter also adds, “Overall the statistics understate the scale of sanctions, because they change each record to update to the latest status of the case, which means that the figures are showing you sanctions after any successful appeals, rather than before. That particularly affects ESA sanctions,
where there is a very high rate of appeal and a high success rate.

Background:

Following the NAO’s devastating report on DWP’s failure to assess Universal Credit’s impact on claimants, or prove the benefits it has claimed for the massive welfare reform , we’ll question minister Alok Sharma on benefit sanctions, the “only major welfare reform since 2010 that has not been evaluated” at all.

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

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

Earlier this year these stories showed the problems sanctions cause:

Groundbreaking Demos study reveals ‘culture of disbelief’ about disability among jobcentre staff leads to money being docked.

A comprehensive analysis of the treatment of unemployed disabled claimants has revealed that they are up to 53% more likely to be docked money than claimant who are not disabled. This raises serious concerns about how they and their conditions are treated.

The findings, from a four-year study by academic Ben Baumberg Geiger in collaboration with the Demos thinktank, will cause worry that a government drive to help a million more disabled people into work over the next 10 years could lead to more unfair treatment.

Sanctions – the cutting or withholding of benefits – are applied as a punishment when claimants infringe the conditions of their payments by, say, as missing appointments or failing to apply for enough jobs.

While the sanctions regime has been championed by the government as a means of encouraging people to take a job or boosting their chances of finding one, most experts consulted as part of the Demos project concluded that conditionality has little or no effect on improving employment for disabled people. There was also widespread anecdotal evidence that the threat of sanctions can lead to anxiety and broader ill health.

The study found that disabled claimants receiving jobseekers’ allowance – given to people who are out of work – were 26-53% more likely to be sanctioned than claimants who were not. Those hit by sanctions reported that the disparity arose because jobcentre staff failed to take sufficient account of their disabilities.

Less noticed amidst the chaos that is Universal Credit there are many harrowing tales of hardship (May 23rd 2018. My Disability Matters).

A disabled campaigner has told MPs how she was thrown out of a shelter and forced to sleep in her college library after she was unfairly sanctioned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Jen Fidai described yesterday (Wednesday)* how she spent nearly a year with no benefits after being wrongly sanctioned while studying for her A-levels in 2012, and was forced to leave the temporary accommodation where she had been staying.

She had to rely on friends for somewhere to sleep, or even the library at the sixth form college where she was studying, which also provided her with food during the day.

She had been sanctioned for failing to tell the jobcentre that she would not be attending a meeting, even though she was in full-time education at the time and had told them both in person and by phone that she would not be able to attend.

It later emerged that she had been placed on the wrong benefit and should not have been claiming jobseeker’s allowance.

Fidai, who is now chief executive of the LGBT mental health charity Rainbow Head, told the Commons work and pensions select committee that she had tried to explain the situation to the jobcentre “but they wouldn’t listen”.

This is a reaction from the legal profession:

The current system of benefit sanctions is failing to treat claimants with dignity and respect and causing severe hardship for some of the most vulnerable people in society, according to the Law Society of Scotland.

In its response to the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into benefit sanctions, the Law Society has also highlighted that the system is not meeting the UK Government’s policy objectives.

The professional body for Scottish solicitors has said there is an urgent need for effective monitoring and a review of training provided for Department of Work and Pensions staff.

Richard Henderson, convener of the Law Society of Scotland’s Administrative Justice committee, said: “Reviewing decisions around sanctions, through mandatory reconsideration and through appeal to the First-tier Tribunal, is not sufficiently effective or speedy enough to be regarded as satisfactory means of redress – resulting in real hardship for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The DWP urgently needs to put in place an effective mechanism for monitoring the quality of decision-making across all of its operations and should also undertake a review of the decision making training it provides to its staff.

“While we accept that there may well need to be power to make reasonable directions to claimants, and for some sanctions to be available if these directions are not followed, evidence shows that the UK Government’s policy objectives in this area – namely that benefit sanctions are there to positively assist claimants and that there is appropriate support available to help people return to work – are not being achieved.

“Claimants are not being treated with dignity and respect. Best practice is not being developed through learning from appeal decisions and, in some individual cases, human rights may well have been breached. It has long been apparent that there are some very serious issues to be examined in this area, and this inquiry offers a real opportunity to create a better benefit system across the UK and also provide much needed insight as a new benefit system is developed in Scotland.”

The terms of the benefit sanctions inquiry of the UK Parliament’s Work and Pensions Committee can be read online: Benefit Sanctions Inquiry

“Welfare” in the USA under Trump: An Ipswich Unemployed Action Special.

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US Food Bank Queue.

Trump is in the news today.

The orange ‘orror is not just loathed for all the usual things, or for having ordered the UK to follow his Brexit line after having shat after a good Feed at Blenheim, including a turd directed at his host.

He has been busy destroying the already feeble level of social security in the USA.

Trump wants to slash welfare with stricter work requirements. Tara Golshan 

Vox. 10th of April 2018.

Trump calls on his Cabinet to propose stronger work requirements for welfare across the board.

President Donald Trump is making a big push to expand work requirements in the nation’s social safety net, calling on his administration to propose tougher rules for America’s most vulnerable population to benefit from welfare programs.

Trump signed the Reducing Poverty in America by Promoting Opportunity and Economic Mobility executive order privately Tuesday, ordering secretaries across the government to review their welfare programs — from food stamps to Medicaid to housing programs — and propose new regulations, like work requirements.

The executive order calls on federal agencies to enforce current work requirements, propose additional, stronger requirements, and find savings (in other words, make cuts), and to give states more flexibility to run welfare programs.

Background:

United States Welfare Programs: Myths Versus Facts.

The Balance.June 26th 2018.

There are six major U.S. welfare programs. They are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Supplemental Security Income, Earned Income Tax Credit, and Housing Assistance. The federal government provides the funding; the states administer them and provide additional funds.

Welfare programs are not entitlement programs; those base eligibility upon prior contributions from payroll taxes. The four major U.S. entitlement programs in the United States are Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and worker’s compensation.

On April 10, 2018, President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to review work requirements for many welfare programs. The programs include TANF, Medicaid, food stamps, and housing assistance. Trump wants agencies to standardize work requirements between programs and states.

For example, food stamp recipients must find a job within three months or lose their benefits. They must work at least 80 hours a month or participate in job training. But several states, such as Alaska, California, and Nevada, have opted out of the work requirement. They say unemployment rates are too high. The executive order encourages agencies to make sure all states follow the same rules.

The Six Major U.S. Welfare Programs Myths Versus Facts

TANF is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. Most people refer to this program as welfare. On average, TANF provided income to 2.5 million recipients in 2017. Of these, 1.9 million were children.

In 2015, TANF assisted only 23 percent of the families living in poverty. On average, a three-person family received $429 a month. Despite this help, they still live below the poverty line of $1,702 a month.

Welfare received a bad reputation due to President Reagan’s 1976 presidential campaign. He portrayed the welfare queen who cheated the system to get enough benefits to drive a Cadillac. He also warned of how welfare created a cycle of poverty. As a result, 61 percent of Americans believe the government should provide jobs instead of welfare payments.

Fraud like Reagan described has been cut since 1996. That’s when President Clinton created TANF out of the ashes of Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The number of families “on the dole” dropped from 10 million before welfare reform to 1.9 million in 2017.

The new requirements were the reason for this decrease. Families who receive TANF must get a job within two years. They might not get more money if they have another child. They can own no more than $2,000 in total assets. They can only receive TANF for five years or less in some states.

Rest on site.

Trumps’ ‘reforms’ are widely admired by ‘hard-Brexit Tories, indeed all Tories like the US punitive and miserly US ‘welfare’ system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 13, 2018 at 10:23 am

Esther ‘Poor Law’ McVey Clings on like a Limpet.

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Esther McVey Tries to Weather Cabinet and DWP Storm.

Fun and games at Chequers,

It seems that Esther McVey did not need the taxi.

Unlike David Davis she has not resigned in the wake of the Brexit Bust-up.

She did not sound off about “polishing turds”, no doubt little concerned about the quality of her regular stool production:

A bungled Universal Credit roll-out is forcing some Ashford claimants to travel more than two hours on public transport to sign on – in Folkestone.

With the issue affecting some 6,000 properties, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says it is “working to resolve it as quickly as possible”.

Kent on-Line. 8th of July.

Like a limpet she is clinging to office, making these sounds…

Some, such as Esther McVey, sounded off about Brexit compromise.

So let us pause and have a look at her.

This, which appeared yesterday,  is a harsh, but essentially kind hearted, summary of our Boss’s politics,

Will Hutton.

 For Brexiters, truth is what you believe – even if it’s a lie

Esther McVey is a passionate Thatcherite believer and fully paid-up Eurosceptic – crucial attributes for success in today’s Conservative party. But her faith is a closed, druidic belief system that, whatever its dubious merits 40 years ago, now has no relationship with today’s economic and social realities.

She is work and pensions secretary, charged with delivering the biggest change in the welfare system for more than half a century – consolidating six income-based benefits and tax credits into one: the universal credit.

There were good arguments for trying to simplify the system – one means test rather than many – but the reality is that it was complex because the lives and circumstances of Britain’s tens of millions of very poor people are also complex. But the belief of the Thatcherite architects of universal credit, notably Iain Duncan Smith, was that the complexity was encouraging claimants to game the system, creating a dependency culture and making poverty worse not better. Best consolidate the six benefits into one in the name of simplicity – making it available only to those in desperate and obvious need who cannot pass the tough availability-to-work tests – save billions in welfare payments and end the dependency culture.

In his and now McVey’s mind the intent was what mattered – even if it is obvious that reality means that universal credit is de facto a regression to the Victorian poor laws, offering a mean, inflexible payment to the “deserving” poor and varying degrees of destitution for the rest.

Last week reality closed in on McVey. The independent National Audit Office (NAO), beleaguered custodian of reality, has a responsibility to tell the truth. Its report last month was damning. Not only was the system operationally faulty, but pilots showed that many claimants were worse off, with a significant minority not receiving any benefit at all. It should not be extended until these faults were remedied. What’s more, it did not promote employment and was not value for money.

Amazingly, McVey told the House of Commons, under questioning, that the NAO, notwithstanding its criticisms, wanted the rollout of universal credit to be accelerated. Last week Sir Amyas Morse, auditor general, published an open letter to her. The NAO had decidedly not said that. Rather, it had suggested the opposite: a pause while the issues it raised were addressed. He wanted the record set straight. Two hours later, McVey apologised to the Commons for misleading it. But she made no commitment to address the new system’s deep faults.

It was shameless, a degradation of our public life. But sealed in the bubble of her ideology, protected by a rightwing press locked in the same bubble, she was able to get away relatively unscathed – despite Labour calls for her resignation. She may have overtly lied: but the greater integrity, she will have told herself, was to be truthful to her beliefs.

We await Esther’s Resignation: Now!

Esther McVey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has lied to Parliament – her false claim that the National Audit Office was concerned about the slow pace of the Universal Credit Universal Credit rollout has been exposed as a fabrication by an open letter from Sir Amyas Morse of the National Audit Office clearly stating that this was “not correct”.

McVey’s lie is a deliberate one – intended to distract from the actual content of the National Audit Office’s report of Jun 15 which highlighted the hardship Universal Credit caused to claimants. 1 in 5 are not being payed in full on time, 40% are experiencing financial difficulties and 25% said they couldn’t make an online claim.

The report also stated that the Universal Credit system was “not value for money now, and that its future value for money is unproven”. This proves what Disabled People Against Cuts have always said – that Universal Credit is an expensive white elephant which undermines provision for disabled people, those without work and the low-paid. McVey has lied to throw dust in the eyes of Parliament and the public because our calls for this damaging policy to be stopped and scrapped are being proved to be well founded.

That McVey has given this false information knowingly is without doubt; in his letter to McVey on 27 June Sir Amyas Morse wrote: “Our report was fully agreed with senior officials in your Department. It is based on the most accurate and up-to-date information from your Department. Your Department confirmed this to me in writing on Wednesday June 6 and we then reached final agreement on the report on Friday June 8.”

The Cabinet office’s own standards state: “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister”. Other ministers who have misled Parliament such as Priti Patel have been expected to resign – there should be no exception made in the case of McVey.

It is clear that in her fanatical pursuit of creating a hostile environment for disabled people and other claimants Esther McVey has breached this code, knowingly misleading Parliament over the position of the National Audit Office regarding Universal Credit.

We call on Esther McVey to resign now – if she refuses to do the right thing and go we call on The Prime Minister, Theresa May to sack her.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 9, 2018 at 10:35 am

Universal Credit Registering Online (Gov.Uk Verify) Causes Chaos.

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Image result for Gov uk verify

Certifiable Company Causes Benefit Misery.

GOV.UK Verify overview

GOV.UK Verify is a secure way to prove who you are online.

It makes it safe, quick and easy to access government services like filing your tax or checking the information on your driving licence.

When you use GOV.UK Verify, you don’t need to prove your identity in person or wait for something to arrive in the post.

Despite the easy-peasy, quick and safe assertion, this happened earlier this year,

“Hundreds of thousands of benefits claimants could be unable to register for the new Universal Credit (UC) digital service because of problems using the government’s online identity system Gov.uk Verify, according to new figures that show barely a third of UC users successfully use Verify.”

Computer Weekly.

And,

MPs point to Verify as one of universal credit problems

UKA.

Committee report says slow take-up of identity assurance mechanisms is hold back the digitisation element of the DWP’s flagship programme

The GOV.UK Verify service is not being used as widely as expected in claims for universal credit and is contributing to delays in the digitisation of the process, according to a new report by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

It has pointed to the problem in its latest project assessment review for universal credit, the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) flagship programme for the consolidation of state benefits.

Verify, the online identity assurance platform developed by the Government Digital Service (GDS), was identified as a possible mechanism for claimants to prove their identities in 2015 trials of the digital service. But the report says that by March of last year only 30% of claimants were able to complete the process for Verify, compared with an original projection of 80%.

DWP responded by developing an in-house system named Prove your Identity, and in July of last year said that this and Verify combined could achieve a verification success rate of 50%. A third option working to a lower assurance standard, Verify LOA 1, has also been developed with GDS, but there is still a perception that digitisation is moving too slowly.

Subsequently, the reliance on face-to-face processes to authenticate claimants’ identities is likely to continue, which in turn undermines the chances of DWP achieving its promised efficiency gains.

Additional issues

This has been one of handful of problems affecting the roll out of the digital service supporting universal credit: an assurance and action plan in March of last year also pointed to issues around automation, IT performance and management information, and said that operational targets were not being met. Subsequently, the digital service is now operating with more staff and fewer claimants than DWP had expected.

Overall, the report says there have been chronic delays and revisions in the implementation of universal credit since it was conceived in 2010, and that the digital service is being rolled out much more slowly than forecast: now at 10 Jobcentres per month rather than an earlier plan’s rate of 60.

Bryan Glick (Computer Weekly) wrote in March,

The government’s major project experts warned as early as 2015 that performance problems with the Gov.uk Verify identity assurance system would have a “material effect” on the business plan for Universal Credit.

This is on Friday: (BBC. 22nd of June)

Jenny Lewis has never owned a passport or a driving licence – and it meant she had to wait months to receive her benefit money.

The documents are needed to apply for Universal Credit online but Jenny said cars and holidays are luxuries she cannot afford.

Delays in her application left her “degraded” and looking for food.

The UK government said “arrangements are in place” to support people who cannot apply online.

“The system is terrible, it’s stupid – if you can’t afford to go abroad you’re not going to get a passport, if you can’t afford a car you’re not going to get a driving licence,” said Jenny, from Newport.

Staff at the Pobl Group, which provides care, support and housing in the Newport area, said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is wrong to believe most people will have a passport, driving licence or even access to the internet.

They believe only around a third of people are registering for Universal Credit online and it is causing a backlog for face-to-face appointments.

The article continues all too believably,

Kath Hopkins, Moneysaver Project Officer with the Pobl Group, said the “vast majority” cannot apply online.

“Most people on low incomes don’t have photographic identification,” she said.

“Why would you have a passport or driving licence – you can’t go on holiday, you can’t afford to buy a car.

“Without that you can’t go through the online process and we’re finding that as an advice organisation we haven’t been able to help one single person verify their identification online”.

She added: “Some people have been going to high cost lenders, and some people have been going to loan sharks because of this delay”.

There is concern that this delay is in addition to other delays in the Universal Credit system. It can take more than a month to receive your first payment after submitting an application.

The issue was raised recently in the House of Commons by Newport East MP Jessica Morden, who called on ministers to review and speed up the process for initial Universal Credit claims.

This is her question: Jessica Morden (Newport East) (Lab)

Constituents who cannot afford a driving licence or a passport cannot do an initial online verification of their universal credit claim, meaning that they have to wait up to two weeks in order to be seen for a personal appointment. That is driving people to see loan sharks in some cases, so will the Minister look at it?

This is the feeble reply,

Alok Sharma

I will look at it, but if the hon. Lady would come forward with specific cases, that would make it easier.

The DWP Alternative Facts Department (Artificial Intelligence Bureau)  gets space to issue a stout defence of their system.

A DWP official said it was working to ensure its Verify identity scheme is “an effective and secure means to confirm someone’s identity when they make a claim to full Universal Credit”.

They said it is expected that most people will use the Verify scheme it when they first make their online claim.

“In a minority of cases where it’s not possible for claimants to have their identity confirmed through Verify arrangements are in place to support those people,” said the DWP spokesperson.

The UK government department said a complimentary service called “Prove Your Identity” has been trialled in a number of sites, with a view to rolling out the service later in the year following a review.

The official added: “We are rolling Universal Credit out successfully across the country and we’ve made a number of improvements.

“We’ve introduced 100% advances to support people before their first payment, removed the seven waiting days and implemented two weeks’ extra housing support for claimants moving onto Universal Credit.”

Written by Andrew Coates

June 24, 2018 at 10:38 am

Universal Credit – Rubbish (Official). National Audit Office Report.

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Image result for universal credit unite community universal credit

This morning on the BBC Breakfast carried a report on this “The National Audit Office said the £1.9bn Universal Credit system could end up costing more to administer than the benefits system it is replacing.”

Key findings in the National Audit Office included:

  • Eight years after work began on UC, only 10% (815,000) of the expected eventual number of claimants are on the system
  • Some 20% of those paid late – usually the more needy and complicated cases – were waiting five months or more to be paid
  • Ministers would never know if their aim of putting 200,000 extra people in employment, or saving £2.1bn in fraud and error, would work
  • Government expectations that UC would deliver £8bn of net benefits annually depended on “unproven assumptions”
  • UC currently costs £699 per claim – four times as much as the government intends to spend when the systems are fully developed
  • So many changes had been made to job centres and working practices that there is no “alternative but to continue”

To discuss it they had a woman from the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and some ponce from  the Centre for Social Justice (set up by… Iain Duncan Smith, yes really…).

The CAB spokesperson said a few home truths about what a mess UC has been for many people.

The Mr Ponceworth admitted a few spots on the Sun of Universal Credit but said it has proved its worth as a way of helping people back to work.

Since us Bloggers and our contributors have been going on about the mess from the origins of UC it would have been good to have somebody form our side on.

But the report is devastating enough.

Summary – Rolling out Universal Credit.

Key facts £1.9bn spend to date on Universal Credit, comprising £1.3bn on investment and £0.6bn on running costs £8.0bn

Department for Work & Pensions’ expectation of the annual net benefi tof Universal Credit, which remains unproven

Number of late payments of new claims in 2017,113,000.

Other elements:

  • One in five claimants do not receive their full payment on time.
  • Universal Credit is creating additional costs for local organisations that help administer Universal Credit and support claimants.
  • Some claimants have struggled to adjust to Universal Credit. We spoke to local and national bodies that, together, work with a significant minority of claimants. They showed us evidence that many of these people have suffered difficulties and hardship during the rollout of the full service. These have resulted from a combination of issues with the design of Universal Credit and its implementation. The Department has found it difficult to identify and track those who it deems vulnerable. It has not measured how many Universal Credit claimants are having difficulties because it does not have systematic means of gathering intelligence from delivery partners. The Department does not accept that Universal Credit has caused hardship among claimants, because it makes advances available, and it said that if claimants take up these opportunities hardship should not occur. However in its survey of full service claimants, published in June 2018, the Department found that four in ten claimants that were surveyed were experiencing financial difficulties.

This is a good newspaper report.

NAO says core claims about flagship welfare programme are based on unproven assumptions

  Guardian.

The government’s ambitious change to the benefits system, universal credit, fails to deliver promised financial savings or employment benefits and leaves thousands of vulnerable claimants in hardship, according to the public spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office effectively demolishes ministerial claims for universal credit, concluding that the much-delayed flagship welfare programme may end up costing more than the benefit system it replaces, cannot prove it helps more claimants into work and is unlikely to ever deliver value for money.

The NAO report paints a damning picture of a system that despite more than £1bn in investment, eight years in development and a much hyped digital-only approach to transforming welfare, is still in many respects unwieldy, inefficient and reliant on basic, manual processes.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “We think the larger claims for universal credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”

Opposition politicians and campaigners seized on the report to renew calls for universal credit to be delayed and its multiple design flaws fixed before the government continues its rollout to millions more claimants over the next four years.

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow secretary for work and pensions, said: “This report shows just how disastrously wrong the government has got the rollout of universal credit. It has shamelessly ignored warning after warning about the devastating impact its flagship welfare reform has had on people’s lives.

“The government is accelerating the rollout in the face of all of the evidence, using human beings as guinea pigs. It must fix the fundamental flaws in universal credit and make sure that vulnerable people are not pushed into poverty because of its policies.”

Our friends in the Mirror– who have covered the story with great verve for a long time –  noted this,

 …campaigners have used the report to call for reform of the benefit, which has already cost the state £1.9bn to date.

There are many, many, other news articles on the National Audit Office report….

This is another BBC report.