Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Cuts’ Category

Council Tax Benefit (Support/Reduction) Messed up by Universal Credit.

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Eric Pickles has a Laugh at Claimants.

Pre-dating the mess of Universal Credit was the decision by Blubber Guts Eric Pickles to make all benefit claimants pay a proportion of Council Tax.

In 2013 we had, this “the benefit is being replaced by a new system, council tax support, that will be run by English local authorities but with 10% less funding.

It began like this,

 

Council tax benefit cuts: the expense of getting people with no money to pay up

2013.

Unlike the “bedroom tax“, which only affects tenants of councils and housing associations, changes to council tax benefits from April will also affect owner-occupiers and private tenants. It is currently claimed by 5.9 million recipients and is the most widely claimed means-tested benefit. Local authorities have been asked by the government to replace council tax benefit with new local schemes that reduce the amount of council tax relief councils can pay out.

 

Some have opted to protect the 100% council tax benefit that poorer residents who live in property in a low council tax band currently receive. Instead they are reducing the amount of benefit for people living in higher council tax band properties. Other councils have chosen to spread the cuts equally, opting for a maximum 90% rebate for everyone. In this case, people on the minimum income possible to survive will from April have to use their meagre income to pay 10% of their total council tax.

This was the result,

Eric Pickles and David Cameron handed local authorities the power to administer council tax benefit, then cut the budget by 10%, resulting in the number of households in council tax arrears to increase by 45%.

It soon developed: – and it is rare to find anywhere which has a 100% reduction today as the name “Council Tax Reduction (sometimes called Council Tax Support)”  indicates.

Though there is this example (July 2019):

Some low income residents in South Ribble might not have to make a minimum contribution towards their council tax bills from next year.

South Ribble Borough Council is set to launch a public consultation on a proposal to scrap the so-called council tax support scheme, which means all working-age households pay a flat rate of £3.50 per week – even if their income level entitles them to help to cover the rest of the bill.

Now we have this, proving that if there’s one thing Universal Credit is good for, it’s making things worse.

DWP: Why Universal Credit is causing ‘one big headache’ over changes to council tax

Teesside Live.

Residents are being hit with different levels of bills due to complications caused by Universal Credit

Universal Credit is increasing the burden on struggling staff at a Teesside authority and leaving residents confused, due to its effect on council tax, a meeting heard.

Stockton Council has launched a six-month review into its council tax support scheme.

It does not take much to see that this must be happening across the country.

About 11,000 people receive council tax support in the borough and everyone of working age gets at least 20% of their bills.

But Julie Auffret, the council’s revenues and benefit services manager, has revealed how Universal Credit had hit both customers and council staff in how they dealt with council tax.

She told a meeting of the council’s place select committee that the introduction of Universal Credit was leasing to confusion and stress.

She said: “What it creates for us is complications which perhaps didn’t exist when we were dealing with housing benefit and council tax benefit ourselves.

“It meant we could calculate benefits at the same time – now that has been split, it has complicated it and makes it a slightly lengthier calculation than it used to be.”

Universal Credit rolled six benefits into one and was introduced in Stockton a year ago.

But the benefits manager explained month-on-month adjustments to Universal Credit had meant the council had to keep recalculating its own council tax support.

Ms Auffret said: “For us that’s becoming quite a significant administrative burden – and for customers it’s becoming difficult for them to understand why their council tax support is being recalculated repeatedly and why they’re getting lots of bills.

“We’d really like to explore a different way of doing things to make it simpler.”

Changes were made to the council tax system in 2013 when the Government abolished council tax benefit and told local authorities to form their own support schemes.

Stockton runs a “work incentive” programme designed to offer those on low incomes a boost from their wages.

But a review is being considered given the impacts of Universal Credit.

This was all so obvious…

Plus, the fact that we have had to pay this tax, without any corresponding increase in benefits, was another part of the great reduction in our basic living standard this lot of thieves introduced.

Johnson, and his mates, have no plans to change this unjust council tax regime.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 12, 2019 at 5:07 pm

DWP Cuts Staff as Universal Credit Mess Gets Worse and Worse.

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Image result for universal credit protests

UNITE Community Protests, but where is Labour?

This got our attention today:

 

DWP blasted for ‘reckless’ staff cuts at same time as launching Universal Credit

The number of staff working in the welfare department has plummeted by a fifth since the benefit began life in 2013

Written by Andrew Coates

July 8, 2019 at 3:30 pm

Trussell Trust Takes on DWP Universal Credit Propaganda and Calls for Grants to Replace ‘Loans’.

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Trussell Trust.

 

This Wednesday, MPs will debate Universal Credit and debt – we want to make sure as many MPs as possible turn up and speak out.

Everyone who applies for Universal Credit has to wait at least five weeks for a full payment – some are left waiting longer. This is leaving many people without enough money to cover the basics, forcing them to food banks.

While you wait, you can apply for an ‘advance payment’ – a loan from the Government to see you through that five week period. But once your Universal Credit payments start, you pay that loan back automatically through deductions from your monthly payments.

This puts people between a rock and a hard place: hardship now or hardship later?

Ending the five week wait should be the Government’s first priority to help create a future without food banks.

Background:

Universal Credit advance payments should be ‘scrapped and replaced by grants’

Mirror.

New figures show these so-called ‘bridging loans’ – which come with fixed repayment plans – are only causing more debt. It’s time to scrap them

Government loans designed to tide people over until their first Universal Credit payments reach them are causing more harm than good, a new report has suggested.

Charities StepChange and the Trussell Trust said advance payments to help ‘people get by’ are only fuelling more hardship because of the repayment thresholds.

A new report detailing the front-line impact of the five-week wait said advance payments are not a solution for many households already at risk.

In many cases it said these payments should simply be written off as grants instead.

The Trussell Trust – which manages a network of 420 foodbanks across the UK – said the biggest reason for referrals last year was benefit payments failing to cover the cost of living.

It said going five weeks or more with no income can lead to debt and rent arrears, with those faced with “additional inescapable costs”, such as disabled people and families with children, the most likely to fall into the poverty bracket.

“Repayments don’t take into account people’s ability to afford them,” the report said.

“It’s vital that this is done in an affordable way.”

In the private sector, all loans must come with an affordability – and repayment – assessment.

However, Universal Credit advance payments are different. Deduction levels are fixed by the DWP and these can be hard to challenge, even if you fall into financial hardship while repaying.

“In some cases, you can have your repayment levels renegotiated, but this is rare,” the report added. “By that point, you’re likely already to be in financial difficulty, and may be in arrears on other bills.”

The DWP can deduct up to 40% of your Universal Credit allowance to repay debts. This will fall to 30% in October this year.

And the impact is worrying. StepChange said after three months, 44% of Universal Credit claimants are still struggling to pay their bills.

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile as our Newshawks have already noticed:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 5, 2019 at 12:08 pm

Universal Credit Staff in Two Day Strike.

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PCS Strike in Universal Credit Service Centres.

At a meeting held by the Trades Council some months ago we heard a speaker from the PCS tell us about the many faults of Unviersal cerdit.

He also underlined that many people employed by the DWP were unhappy at their working conditions and pay.

The number of phone calls they had to take was a particular gripe.

There had been walk outs.

Now there is an official strike.

Today:

Universal credit staff to launch two-day strike over workload and low recruitment

The Independent reports:

Union boss says members cannot stand by while ministers make their job ‘impossible’

Staff at two sites dealing with the universal credit benefits system will launch a two-day strike on Tuesday in a dispute over workloads and staff recruitment.

It will be the second stoppage by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union at Wolverhampton and Walsall.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members who work to support some of the most vulnerable members of society will not put up with DWP management ignoring their real concerns over staffing and underinvestment

“This strike will be part of sustained campaign of action which could spread to other parts of universal credit, if the government doesn’t meet union negotiators to discuss workers’ concerns.

“Our members care passionately about the work they do and the people they support.”

He added: “However, they cannot stand idly by while ministers make the job of supporting claimants impossible.”

PCS members are demanding the recruitment of 5,000 more staff, permanent contracts for fixed-term employees and a limit to the number of phone calls required per case manager.

Here is the Union statement:

PCS members in the UC Service Centres in Walsall and Wolverhampton will take two more days strike action on Tuesday 28 and Wednesday 29 May, in their campaign for more staff and improved working conditions

Despite two well supported days of action in March, which had a knock-on effect across the whole UC network, the DWP has refused to meet the demands of members.

A recent announcement that Wolverhampton will become a national telephony site has further inflamed the situation. DWP management have also refused PCS’s request to make staff on fixed term appointments permanent, review the decision on Wolverhampton and properly engage with PCS about improving the staffing situation in Universal Credit.

The 5 key demands from PCS members working in UC are:

  • 5,000 new staff, permanency for fixed term staff
  • Limit the number of phone calls per case manager
  • Limit the size of the national telephony hub
  • Improve consultation
  • A quality-focused approach – no more management by statistics.

Action may spread

PCS has held members’ meetings in other UC Service Centres, and members in affected jobcentres are also being consulted.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Our members who work to support some of the most vulnerable members of society will not put up with DWP management ignoring their real concerns over staffing and under investment.

“This strike will be part of sustained campaign of action which could spread to other parts of Universal Credit, if the government doesn’t meet union negotiators to discuss workers’ concerns.

“Our members care passionately about the work they do and the people they support. However, they cannot stand idly by while ministers make the job of supporting claimants impossible.”

PCS full-time official Ian Bartholomew said: “Unless DWP takes action to increase staffing in UC, and reduce the pressure that our members are working under, it is likely that we will see more sites calling for strike action.”

Please send messages of support to leeds@pcs.org.uk

Written by Andrew Coates

May 28, 2019 at 12:01 pm

UN Report on Poverty in Britain: Welfare to Workhouses.

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Special UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty Philip Alston in Jaywick, Essex.

A couple of days ago I heard a group of lads talking about Universal Credit.

They’d all got caught up in its clutches and they had many a merry tale to tell.

It does not take imagination to see that poverty, they mentioned the waits for money, the on-line gibberish, and Coachy.

The DWP, our Newshawks say, always responds with stout denial to any criticism.

This must have stung sharper than a serpent’s tooth..

The report begins,

The social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities’ budgets, which have eliminated many social services, reduced policing services, closed libraries in record numbers, shrunk community and youth centres and sold off public spaces and buildings. The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos. A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.

The Guardian covered the story as following:

UN report compares Tory welfare policies to creation of workhouses

A leading United Nations poverty expert has compared Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses and warned that unless austerity is ended, the UK’s poorest people face lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

Ministers in denial about impact of austerity since 2010, says poverty expert

The far-right Mail publishes the bleats and denials of the DWP and Amber Rudd.

Amber Rudd is to lodge a formal complaint over UN’s ‘barely believable’ poverty report accusing Britain of violating human rights obligations by creating ‘Dickensian’ conditions for the poor

  • UN report claims Britain is returning to ‘Dickensian’ conditions, where citizens lives are, quoting Hobbes, ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’
  • But government points out that UN research published just two months ago ranked Britain as the 15th happiest country to live in
  • DWP says Rapporteur paints ‘completely inaccurate picture’ after his whistle-stop two-week human rights fact-finding visit last November

Poverty in the UK is ‘systematic’ and ‘tragic’, says UN special rapporteur

The UK’s social safety net has been “deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos”, a report commissioned by the UN has said.

Special rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston said “ideological” cuts to public services since 2010 have led to “tragic consequences”.

The report comes after Prof Alston visited UK towns and cities and made preliminary findings last November.

The government said his final report was “barely believable”.

The £95bn spent on welfare and the maintenance of the state pension showed the government took tackling poverty “extremely seriously”, a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.

Prof Alston is an independent expert in human rights law and was appointed to the unpaid role by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014. He spent nearly two weeks travelling in Britain and Northern Ireland and received more than 300 written submissions for his report.

He went on to observe

Some observers might conclude that the DWP had been tasked with “designing a digital and sanitised version of the 19th Century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens”, he said.

The report cites independent experts saying that 14 million people in the UK – a fifth of the population – live in poverty, according to a new measure that takes into account costs such as housing and childcare.

In 2017, 1.5 million people experienced destitution, meaning they had less than £10 a day after housing costs, or they had to go without at least two essentials such as shelter, food, heat, light, clothing or toiletries during a one-month period.

Despite official denials, Prof Alston said he had heard accounts of people choosing between heating their homes or eating, children turning up to school with empty stomachs, increased homelessness and food bank use, and “story after story” of people who had considered or attempted suicide.

Now I’ve got a bit of respect for Human Rights. One of the greatest British radicals, Tom Paine, wrote the Rights of Man (1791), which was a founding book for our labour movement and left. My dad said they were still reading it in Glasgow in the 1930s.

Comrade Paine wrote this,

In the closing chapters of Rights of Man, Paine addresses the condition of the poor and outlines a detailed social welfare proposal predicated upon the redirection of government expenditure. From the onset, Paine asserts all citizens have an inherent claim to welfare. Paine declares welfare is not charity, but an irrevocable right.

One of the great founders of modern socialism, the Frenchman Jean Jaurès, (1859 – 1914)., did not just stand up for welfare, he defended social and human rights. Jaurès campaigned for the innocence of Dreyfus against the anti-Semites of his day. He mixed together workers’ and welfare right with socialism. He was murdered in 1914 by one of national populists of the Farrage ilk for opposing the start of the First World War.

When I read people disrespecting Professor Alston I think they are insulting our glorious forebears.

Apart from that, the present social security system, Universal Credit and all, stinks to high heaven.

This is the Report’s conclusion:

The philosophy underpinning the British welfare system has changed radically since 2010. The initial rationales for reform were to reduce overall expenditures and to promote employment as the principal “cure” for poverty.

But when large-scale poverty persisted despite a booming economy and very high levels of employment, the Government chose not to adjust course. Instead, it doubled down on a parallel agenda to reduce benefits by every means available, including constant reductions in benefit levels, ever-more-demanding conditions, harsher penalties, depersonalization, stigmatization, and virtually eliminating the option of using the legal system to vindicate rights.

The basic message, delivered in the language of managerial efficiency and automation, is that almost any alternative will be more tolerable than seeking to obtain government benefits.

This is a very far cry from any notion of a social contract, Beveridge model or otherwise, let alone of social human rights. As Thomas Hobbes observed long ago, such an approach condemns the least well off to lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. As the British social contract slowly evaporates, Hobbes’ prediction risks becoming the new reality.

 

Pressure Grows and Grows for Changes to Universal Credit.

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Iain Duncan Smith: the Father of the Universal Credit Mess.

The labyrinth, or should that be maze?, of Universal Credit is leading to all kinds of difficulties, that is, for people who have to reply on it.

The Guardian carries this story,

Half of low-income families will lose thousands of pounds a year, warns new study
It continues,

Flagship welfare reforms will trigger a big increase in families unable to make ends meet, new analysis reveals.

The number of children living in families that have a monthly deficit will double in some areas, because of the combined impact of universal credit, a two-child limit on some welfare payments and the benefits cap.

The research, produced for the children’s commissioner, found that a quarter of children in its sample would be hit by the measures. Almost half of low-income households examined were affected, losing on average £3,441 a year.

Charities and researchers are already warning of rising child poverty. Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, has been attempting to soften the government’s reforms, putting more money into universal credit, limiting the two-child policy and sanctioning fewer claimants.

Now this is a step forward, but the Sanctions regime is still there.

Suffering without money for a year is still there.

The ‘I’ also covers the Policy in Practice report,

There will be a huge increase in the number of families living in poverty because of reforms to the welfare system, it has been claimed.

The benefits cap, the impact of universal credit and the two-child limit on some welfare payments will see the number of children in poverty double, new analysis has found.

The research, carried out on behalf of the children’s commissioner, has found that half of low-income families will lose, on average, £3,441 a year.

Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has been making efforts to put more money into universal credit as well as ditch plans to extend benefits caps for families with more than two children.

Ms Rudd also announced in January this year that she would relax the two-child limit for families who had a third child before the policy came into effect on 6 April 2017.

But the Policy in Practice consultancy found that a quarter of children in its study were still in families who would be unable to make ends meet because of the effects of the welfare reforms.

This is relevant to everybody,

Transparency issues with Universal Credit are leaving claimants confused about how much money they should be receiving and one of the big problems with the system is the lengthy wait for the first payment for those claiming benefits.

Those finding themselves in that situation can apply for an advance payment – but they are forced to pay it back, starting from out of their first payment and they must pay it back within 12 months – a practice that, the study found, would plunge 1 in 10 low-income households into deficit.

It also found that while universal credit made 56 per cent of households better off by £172 a month, 40 per cent are worse off and lose £181 on average. But if the two-child limit was abolished, a fifth of low-pay households would be £366 a month better off on average.

This is from their report THE IMPACT OF WELFARE REFORM ON CHILD VULNERABILITY which can be read here.

Our analysis finds that:
● Universal Credit broadly benefits families with children, with 56% of households better off by £172 per month, though 40% are worse off and lose £181 per month on average
● The five week wait for the first UC payment would push 70% of families currently facing a cash surplus into cash shortfall, 73% of families with savings would see them completely exhausted at some point during those first five weeks
● The Universal Credit advance payment provides a short-term boost to cashflow but also increases the percentage of households who would face a cash shortfall from 11.6% under Universal Credit, to 18.9% once the advance payment is deducted from UC awards
● Under the two child limit (applied to all families) 32.1% of children living in a cash shortfall would find their families in surplus were the policy removed. The policy is placing 15.6% of children who are already facing a cash shortfall further at risk
● The Benefit Cap affects 2.9% of households, who lose £2,832 per annum on average

● The cumulative impact of welfare reforms are considerably greater than the impact of each reform in isolation, affecting 48% of households losing £3,441 per annum on average
● When the effects of Universal Credit, the two child limit and the Benefit Cap are combined, 25% of children in low income families would be unable to make ends meet, doubling the number from 13% if these reforms were not in place

Meanwhile Amber Rudd gives this advice:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 13, 2019 at 10:56 am

Fourth Anniversary of the Benefit Freeze Plunges More and More People into Deep Poverty.

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George Osborne Introduced Benefit Freeze (2015 Budget).

The 2015 Budget introduced a four-year freeze on most working-age benefits and tax credits. This meant that in 2016 and onwards their value remained as it had been in 2015 rather than rising with inflation.

Everybody knows the Benefits Freeze its biting.

On this issue the Government is not split between those who’d like to make Britain a US-style free-market economy, allied with Trump, and with a minimal post-Brexit Welfare state, and those who want to a decent standard of living for all, including those on benefits.

The free-market chancers in the Hard Brexit camp may be the worst in the long term, but each side at the moment is keep the disaster that is Universal Credit, and the linked Benefit Freeze going.

Just how mad and detached from reality they are can be seen from – potential leadership candidate, and present DWP Minister Amber Rudd’s recent tweet:

It’s good to know that the Currant Bun has gone back to the Tory fold, and has dropped its grating efforts to be the Universal Credit claimants best mate.

Perhaps they’ll run this “story”,

Cheery old Woolfy!

The cockles of your heart warmed you can turn to this:

Families likely to be ‘pulled into poverty’ by benefits freeze continuing for another year

The freeze – introduced in 2016 by the then chancellor George Osborne – entered into its fourth year on Monday.

Florence Snead continues in todays ‘I’

More families are likely to be “pulled into poverty” because of the benefits freeze continuing for another year, it has been claimed.

The decision to continue with the cap on working-age benefits and tax credits is “unjustifiable” and will leave families living in poverty on average £560 worse off over the next year, according to a charity.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said this was equivalent to three months of food shopping for an average low-income family.

In the midst of huge political and economic uncertainty, families who have already seen their support eroded know that the coming year will be hard to get through,” said the JRF chief executive, Campbell Robb.

“It’s not right that more parents will face impossible situations – trying to decide which essential bills to pay and what they can cut back on to make it through each week.

“Keeping benefits and tax credits frozen is unjustifiable: 4.1 million children are locked in poverty, nearly three-quarters of whom are in a working household.”

The organisation said ending the freeze would help working families to stay afloat.

“As the Government approaches its spending review, it needs to look at how best to protect people from harm who are otherwise left without an anchor in uncertain times,” Mr Robb added.

The JRF was among nine charities which wrote to the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, in February urging him to end the freeze this year.

It said continuing the freeze until April 2020 would result in 200,000 more people being locked into poverty.

Nigel Grey MP MP wrote on Monday on Politics Home:

Today marks the beginning of the fourth year of the benefit freeze. Like many of the UK government’s failures – the Windrush Scandal, the shambolic implementation and rollout of Universal Credit, the appalling neglect child refugees – if Brexit wasn’t happening, the disastrous impact of the benefit freeze would be plastered across the front-pages on an almost daily basis.

The benefit freeze was introduced by the Welfare Reform and Work Act in 2016, and freezes most working-age benefits at the same value as in 2015/16. In practice, what this means is that while Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 6.5% since the freeze was brought in, the benefits that many working-age people rely on have not increased at all.

This Tory government has implemented a massive real-terms cut to people’s income, and it’s having a catastrophic impact on people’s lives. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have said the benefit freeze will have affected more than 27 million people across the UK and will have pushed 400,000 people into poverty by 2020.

On top of this, with Brexit pushing up inflation, the benefit freeze will cut another £4.4 billion this year – nearly a billion more than intended out of the pockets of those least able to bear it.

Moral outrage

The freeze includes benefits for children, as well as support for disabled people looking for work. Targeting austerity at disadvantaged children and disabled people is nothing short of a moral outrage and this Tory government should hang their heads in shame.

Theresa May and her government have taken almost no action to boost support for people who rely on social security. In one year, the benefit freeze cut will more than wipe out the total investment in the Work Allowance boost up to 2022 that was announced in the 2018 Budget.

Advance payments of Universal Credit which are meant to help people during the five week wait are, in fact, just loans that have to be paid back to DWP. And the two-child cap on Child Tax Credit is taking thousands away from families with more than two children.

A tragedy and a farce

Moreover, the revolving office-door of the Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) is both a tragedy and a farce. The idea that the Department chiefly responsible for the wellbeing of poor, elderly and vulnerable people is being used as a platform from which Tory MPs can hop, skip or jump depending on which way the political wind blows is indicative of the contempt the UK government has for the disadvantaged and the marginalised.

The benefit freeze represents one of the biggest cuts to social security we have seen in recent times, yet Labour didn’t even bother to mention it in their last manifesto and the current DWP Secretary has shown nothing but apathy towards evidence of its terrible impact.

The cuts imposed by the UK government have and will further entrench poverty across the UK.

This is a political choice, not a necessity. One of the quickest ways this Government could put money back into people’s pockets would be to lift the freeze immediately and up-rate benefits with inflation.

 

Neil Gray is SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts and the SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 9, 2019 at 3:38 pm