Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘DWP’ Category

Coronavirus and Benefits: Low Income Families Hit.

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Employment and benefits support - Understanding Universal Credit

System Already Starting to Fail.

As the pandemic continues, and furtive Dominic Cummings is trying to brazen out his lock-down breaking, this story may get passed over.

Upper limit on benefits remains static, and research shows thousands of families are losing out on £185 a month

Tens of thousands of poor households are being denied extra support designed to ease the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, after being hit by the government’s benefit cap.

The number of low-income households affected by the cap in London has doubled since the crisis started, according to analysis seen by the Observer. Households already at the cap when the crisis hit have been missing out on £320 a month in additional support. For private renters with children, this is £532 a month. A further 22,000 households are now at the cap and are missing out on an average of £185 a month.

It has led to an outcry that there is now a two-tier system, in which workers on the government’s furlough scheme have access to far more support than some of those reliant on welfare. Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, is calling for the cap to be increased during the pandemic.

The government introduced new help for those claiming universal credit, however, the cap was not increased or suspended.

New research by the Policy in Practice consultancy, commissioned by City Hall, found that there were 44,300 households affected by the cap in April. This could rise to 63,700 by next year as more people are forced to make a claim.

This from the research paper by Policy In Practice.

Policy in Practice has been commissioned by the Greater London Authority to analyse the interaction between the COVID-19 increase in benefits introduced in April 2020 as part of the COVID-19 response and the benefit cap. Our findings show that benefit capped households are set to double.

Read The interaction of COVID-19 measures and the Benefit Cap on low-income Londoners

In March 2020, the government announced a series of financial measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and increased the level of support available to households receiving means-tested state benefits. The government increased support for those in receipt of Universal Credit or Tax Credits by increasing the personal allowances by £20 per week. It also raised the maximum support available to private renters by aligning Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to the cheapest 30% of market rents.

This is worth looking at:

One could add, as our contributors have underlined, the failure to upgrade all benefits, that is, from JSA onwards, to the £20 increase offered to Universal Credit claimants, is another injustice.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 24, 2020 at 12:03 pm

Huge rise in claims for “unfit for purpose” Universal Credit.

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Universal Credit: Thérèse Coffey confident in system during ...

Thérèse Coffey: Defends Universal Credit by Crook and by Hook.

“Heaps of entangled weeds that slowly float….”

Ancient prophecy foretelling Universal Credit.

Peter Grimes. George Crabbe – national poet of Suffolk Coastal, Therese Coffey’s constituency.

Yesterday, if you watched the BBC, television heard the radio, or glanced at other media outlets,  you could hardly avoid the Work and Pensions Secretary.

Therese Coffey talked about the glories of Universal Credit and how well the benefit system is dealing with the avalanche of new claims.

And a lot more.

She made this gaff,

Thérèse Coffey has suggested “wrong” scientific advice could have led to blunders in the Government’s response to the pandemic.

The Suffolk Coastal MP did not get an easy ride from Piers Morgan on GMB on the assertions about her mates’ response to the pandemic.

The  TV presenter, ungentlemanly, said she had come our with a “pack of lies”.

 

 

Her ‘it’s everybody’s fault but ours” burbling was quickly repudiated by the government.

No 10 distances itself from Therese Coffey after she suggested any Govt mistakes down to ‘wrong’ scientific advice

But what of the Suffolk Coastal MP’s tangled weed, Universal Credit?

This is what this Blog is concerned about – after all!

The New Statesman publishes an excellent article on the sea wrack dragging many people down below water.

Coronavirus is introducing the pitfalls of Universal Credit to many new claimants

 

Universal Credit is a reformed benefits system introduced under the coalition government, designed to mimic salaried employment via monthly payments into one household bank account, with the stated aim to “make work pay”.

This design jars with a period of rising unemployment, when it is even harder to transition back into work after a brief stint on benefits during a blip in your working life. The jobs and hours just aren’t there. In the last two weeks of March, the total number of weekly hours worked saw the largest drop in a decade, and a quarter fewer hours were worked in the last week of that month than in any other weeks in the same quarter.

Plus, the new welfare system is already beset with problems. A five-week wait for the first payment is built into the system – a design that has caused rising foodbank use, and now leaves people for over a month

There’s another point.

Coffey talked, on one of her many, many, respectful interviews, of an extra £20 for Universal Credit claimants.

This is what she was referring to:

The Government has introduced another increase in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced more people to apply for Universal Credit. From April, for 12 months, the Universal Credit standard allowance is increasing by £20 a week.

The ‘I’.

 

Some Benefit Claimants (UC) get the extra money; others don’t.

Legacy Benefits (such as JSA) remain at this kind of rate: JSA, single person basic rate:  £74.35 a week

UC single person basic rate:  £ 409.89 a month.

Do the maths…

We assume that JSA and other non-UC claimants don’t need the money and are happy as they are…

Or not, as a top IUA contributor , Sire Sedley, says:

Hath not a Legacy JSA Claimant hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Universal Credit claimant is ? If you prick us, do we not bleed ? If you tickle us, do we not laugh ?

Therefore Mistress Coffey I prithee, renounce this cruel delay and make haste to right the great wrong that hath been performed unto the legacy claimants. Revoke this intemperate withdrawal of twenty English pounds and give it in all justice to claimants, each alike unto another.

These demands should be pushed and pushed!

Written by Andrew Coates

May 20, 2020 at 5:40 am

The New Universal Credit Claimants.

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Coronavirus (COVID-19) & Universal Credit Important Announcement ...

DWP Picture with Tasteless Cartoon Images of the Virus.

Our contributors, campaigners, including this Blog, have been critical of Universal Credit from its creation.

However careful and sensitive we wish to be it’s impossible not to see ways in which UC has created difficulties for the enormous numbers of people now having to claim the benefit.

It’s no good trying to cover this up.

The BBC reports,

 

 

Some people applying for universal credit for the first time have found themselves worse off after losing their existing benefit payments.

The system means legacy benefits such as tax credits are stopped at the point of application, even if the claim proves to be unsuccessful.
One applicant said his family was worse off “at the click of a button”.

Universal credit claims have soared amid the coronavirus outbreak, with the next figures published on Tuesday.

 

It is obvious that these kind of difficulties are the tip of a giant iceberg of problems facing the new Universal Credit claimants.

The numbers claiming are set to rise and rise.

 

 

Faced with the crisis the DWP Minister, Therese Coffey, seems, on her twitter feed, to be more concerned with scoring political points against Keir Starmer and Sadiq Khan, and a “nice weekend on Suffolk Coast” than doing her job sorting out these kind of problems.

This, suitably grim Opera, based on an even grimmer poem about a cruel fisherman, a miserable tale located in a hamlet just next to Suffolk seaside town, Aldburgh, is our Minister’s night-time entertainment.

She re-tweeted this…

 

Peter Grimes.    George Crabbe.

“Peter Grimes is part of a collection of rural poems published by George Crabbe in 1810 called ‘The Borough’. This poem explores the criminal psyche.”

Old Peter Grimes made fishing his employ,
His wife he cabin’d with him and his boy,
And seem’d that life laborious to enjoy:
To town came quiet Peter with his fish,
And had of all a civil word and wish.
He left his trade upon the sabbath-day,
And took young Peter in his hand to pray:
But soon the stubborn boy from care broke loose,
At first refused, then added his abuse:
His father’s love he scorn’d, his power defied,
But being drunk, wept sorely when he died.

I did this poem for ‘O’ level English literature…..

Written by Andrew Coates

May 18, 2020 at 6:37 am

Coronavirus Ireland: emergency unemployment payment of €203.

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Image

Bold Measures in Ireland. 

Irish Mirror. 

The Government has introduced an unemployment payment of €203 per week for anyone whose employer can’t pay them during the coronavirus pandemic.

Any employees who have lost their jobs or any self-employed people will be eligible to get the payment for up to six weeks.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection said: “COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment has been introduced for anyone whose employer is unable to continue to pay them.

“The payment is available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost employment due to the pandemic.

“You will get a payment of €203 per work for up to six weeks (as applicable).”

I am pretty aware that the Irish welfare system is far from perfect, and the health service is part privatised and requires, expensive,  individual insurance.

But this is a good move.

Here:

This is what our boss is tweeting about:

The DWP could at least start by ending the sanctions regime.

Ireland: 

COVID-19 (coronavirus) and social welfare payments

COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. Ireland is trying to reduce transmission of the virus by implementing a range of measures.

The following measures are in effect until Sunday 29 March 2020:

  • Schools, colleges and childcare facilities are closed from the evening of 12 March
  • Indoor mass gatherings of 100 people or more and outdoor mass gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled
  • All State-run cultural institutions are closed
  • All pubs have been advised to close from midnight on 15 March
  • People have also been asked not to have house parties.

Back in the UK:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 16, 2020 at 11:34 am

Budget Fails to offer anything to Fix Universal Credit Mess Facing New Coronavirus Strains.

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Image result for cornovarius universal credit twitter

Response to Government “Hype and Hot Air”.

Before the Budget there were calls, from no less a figure than Ian Duncan Smith, for more money to be put into Universal Credit, to clean up the mess he’d helped create.

The former welfare slasher said despite years of compromises, the six-in-one benefit still needs more money – and the five-week wait for payment should be cut.

In case you’d thought he’d gone soft the Mirror report adds,

Defending his system overall, he told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee: “There is no question in my mind that Universal Credit is better than the benefits that went before.”

And he condemned political rivals for “using the most vulnerable” to “stir up an argument”.

But he added: “I resigned over the fact that the government withdrew money at the time we were trying to roll it out, which was a big mistake.

“Now the government has sought to put most of that money back – there’s still some more to go.”

The central Budget measure affecting Claimants is this.

Make of it what you will.

Rishi Sunak Announces People Can Get Benefits A Week Sooner Amid Coronavirus Outbreak.

Huff Post.

But what is this?

It’s the following,

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced people on contributory employment and support allowance will be able to claim from day one instead of day eight, in anticipation of workers having to self-isolate as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

..

Unveiling his Budget in the Commons on Wednesday, Sunak announced a series of “temporary, timely and targeted” measures including a “strengthened safety net”.

In total the chancellor announced a £30bn fiscal stimulus to “support British people”.

The government has already said people will be able to claim statutory sick pay from day one instead of day four.

“But of course, not everyone is eligible for statutory sick pay. There are millions of people working hard, who are self-employed or in the gig economy,” Sunak said today.

“They will need our help too. So to support them, during this period, we’ll make it quicker and easier to get benefits.”

Sunak also announced statutory sick pay will also be available for all those who are advised to self-isolate – even if they haven’t yet presented with symptoms.

And he said rather than having to go to the doctors, people would soon be able to obtain a sick note by contacting 111.

In fact there’s a complete failure to deal with the crisis of Universal Credit.

Johnsonism’s first budget is floating on hype and hot air

Homing into two issues the Guardian commentator writes.

Johnson declared last week that workers who isolate themselves to protect others from the virus should not be “penalised for doing the right thing”. But the grand sum of £94.25 sick pay a week is just not enough to live on, and the coverage for workers in the gig economy looks very patchy.

..

Yet Johnson’s first budget was devoid of either redistribution or predistribution. There was nothing to fix the debacle that is universal credit, nor a single extra penny for social care.

There are reports that Food Banks have new problems getting donations, with supplies down because of panic buying.

Charities struggling for supplies urge people to think before coronavirus stockpiling.

Food banks in Britain are running out of staples including milk and cereal as a result of panic-buying and are urging shoppers to think twice before hoarding as donations fall in the coronavirus outbreak.

Donations from shoppers at branches of Sainsbury’s and Waitrose slumped to 25% of their normal volume at one food bank in London, while they have fallen by a third at a Kirkcaldy food bank – where UHT milk has run out. Some facilities have warned they may close because of concerns about cross-infection, and a food bank in Stonebridge, a deprived area of north-west London, will cut the size of its food parcels by a third from Wednesday, with larger families facing the biggest reductions.

Then there is this:

Others note the problems:

The Minister for Work and Pensions gets her priorities right!

Other Tories have reasons to be cheerful:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 12, 2020 at 11:33 am

DWP Statement on Coronavirus as Inquiry into Universal Credit Begins.

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Image result for coronavirus uk

The seriousness of the Coronavirus pandemic is beginning to hit home.

Coronavirus: UK tactics defended as cases expected to rise

The decision to delay closing schools and introduce other strict measures to combat coronavirus has been defended by England’s deputy chief medical officer.

Dr Jenny Harries said experts are assessing new cases on an hourly basis to achieve a “balanced response”.

She told BBC Breakfast new measures could follow as UK cases begin to rise rapidly over the next two weeks.

In the UK, five people with the virus have died. There were 319 confirmed cases as of 09:00 GMT on Monday.

Dr Harries said the vast majority of those diagnosed with coronavirus in Britain are “pretty well” but that they may “feel a bit rough for a few days”.

She added: “Within 10-14 days we will be likely to advise people with symptoms to self-isolate and we are expecting that start of the peak [of coronavirus cases] to come during that period.”

Dr Harries said cancelling big outdoor events like football matches would not necessarily be a decision supported by science.

“The virus will not survive very long outside,” she said. “Many outdoor events, particularly, are relatively safe.”

Statement from DWP on coronavirus (COVID-19)

Thérèse Coffey, the Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions, has made an oral statement to Parliament about the coronavirus (COVID-19).

 

The department is fully prepared for all eventualities and has conducted extensive planning against reasonable worst case scenarios. I have been in discussions with the chancellor and will continue to work across government to prepare.

If claimants cannot attend their jobcentre appointment in person because of self-isolation, work coaches can exercise discretion, so claimants should engage with them and they will not be sanctioned – as long they let us know before the appointment.

And as my Rt Hon Friend the Prime Minister set out last week ‘nobody should be penalised for doing the right thing’.

That’s why the government’s safety net also extends to those who are self-employed or who work in the gig-economy. They can apply for Universal Credit or new-style ESA. Advances are available for Universal Credit immediately.

Madame Deputy Speaker, these are exceptional circumstances and we will support workers to do the right thing for their health and the protection of public health.

Published 9 March 2020

The DWP statement leaves open some important issues.
  • If people are self-isolating, and they are able to contact their Work Coaches in time, (an ‘if’), what kind of “discretion” can they rely on?
  • If people working in the “gig economy” or are self-employed, have to apply for Universal Credit will be able to manage on the meagre “advance loan” they will be eligible for?
  • Will they have to undergo constant “Job Search”?
  • What sanctions regime will they face?
  • What are the plans for Job Centres to avoid people catching the virus?
On the second issue this has also taken place to less publicity.

Universal Credit has a “baked in” wait for the first payment. After completing all of the stages of their application, claimants must then wait for at least five weeks to receive their award. They can ask for an Advance payment if they need money more urgently, which they then pay back out of their future Universal Credit payments.

Many organisations have concluded that the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment must be reduced or eliminated entirely. There is, however, a lack of agreement about how this might be most effectively—and affordably—achieved. Some of the options suggested include:

  • Scrapping the five week wait for all claimants: for example, by making the Advance non-repayable;
  • Offering non-repayable Advances to some claimants: for example, those considered vulnerable;
  • Allowing more flexibility for the start of a claim to be backdated;
  • Extending run on payments to cover all legacy benefits;
  • Substantially reducing the rate at which Advance Payments—the main existing mitigation measure—are paid back, to help claimants better manage their money;
  • Paying UC two-weekly, like many legacy benefits, rather than monthly.

The Committee wants to help the Government to better understand the upsides and downsides of these options, and explore other possible solutions.

What does the Committee want to hear about?

The Committee would like to hear your views on the following questions about the wait for a first payment of Universal Credit.

You can respond as an individual, a group or an organisation. You don’t need to answer all of the questions. The deadline for sending your views is Friday 17 April 2020.

  1. To what extent have the mitigations the Government has introduced so far (e.g. Advance payments) helped to reduce the negative impact of the five week wait for UC claimants?
    1. What problems do claimants still experience during the five week wait?
  2. What is the best way of offsetting the impact of the five week wait?
    1. Is it possible to estimate how much this would cost the Department?
    2. Is it possible to estimate any costs or savings to third parties (for example, support organisations)?
  3. Are different mitigating options needed for different groups of claimants?
  4. Are there barriers or potential unintended consequences to removing the five week wait—either for claimants or the Department? How can they be overcome?

This inquiry is currently accepting evidence

The committee wants to hear your views. We welcome submissions from anyone with answers to the questions in the call for evidence. You can submit evidence until Friday 17 April 2020.

Read the call for evidence before submitting

Written by Andrew Coates

March 10, 2020 at 10:33 am

DWP Minister, “no doubt that Universal Credit has contributed to the increased use of food banks”.

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Image result for food banks universal credit

DWP to Recognise Facts?

DWP minister says there’s ‘no doubt’ Universal Credit has driven people to foodbanks

The Mirror.

This is worth noting just in its own right.

How long ago (29th of January 2020) this seems!

The Tory Minister made the controversial comment replying to a question from Labour MP Zarah Sultana.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey has described food banks as the “perfect way” to help the poor.

Now….

Tory minister Baroness Stedman-Scott, who led a youth unemployment charity, said the six-in-one benefit has “contributed” to a rise in people seeking help

There is “no doubt” Universal Credit has driven people to food banks, a DWP minister said today.

Tory minister Baroness Stedman-Scott admitted the six-in-one benefit “has contributed” to the soaring numbers of people turning to charities for help.

The peer, who worked for 30 years at a youth unemployment charity, stressed the benefit was “not everything” and people were not sanctioned without reason.

She told the House of Lords: “I’ve got no doubt, and I’ve agreed with this before, that Universal Credit has contributed to the increased use in food banks. But it’s not everything.

“However, I would say to you that claimants will only ever be sanctioned where without good reason they’ve failed to meet the reasonable requirements agreed in their claimant commitment.”

She was asked: “Does the minister understand the correlation between new attendants at foodbanks and sanctions of Universal Credit?

“And what is the government going to do about that, because almost all new signups to food banks are due to delays? Not only is it bad for your health, but it’s bad for your mental health.”

n earlier exchanges the Tory minister also said she would be “really upset” if people are sanctioned for missing appointments due to Coronavirus.

The Trussell Trust charity handed out a record 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels in the six months to September – a 23% rise on the previous year.

Low income was the primary reason for 36% of referrals followed by benefit delays (18%), benefit changes (16%) and debt (9%).

Here is the exchange between the Noble Lordships in Hansard.

 

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) the debt levels, (2) the mental health, and (3) the ability to work, of people in receipt of Universal Credit.

 

The noble Baroness’s Question recognises issues experienced by many people in our society. The department has made no official assessment of universal credit’s effect in these three specific areas. We often find that people experience debt and mental health issues that existed prior to claiming universal credit. We think that attempting to make an accurate assessment could be difficult—but not impossible.
I thank the Minister for her Answer. She is very straightforward, and I know she will want to get this right. I know too that the majority of people in this House agree that individuals are better in work—better for themselves, their families and the broader society—and benefits need to be simplified. However, we are spending billions of pounds of public money here. Theory is one thing, but practice is another. I ask the Minister to attempt again to persuade the Government to conduct an assessment, so that we can see whether there are any unintended consequences for mental health well-being, work mobility and indebtedness, and that we can properly debate this issue and recommend any changes and improvements where needed.
I am so glad that we agree on the principle that people should be, and in the majority of cases are, better off in work. I like the noble Baroness’s idea, and I am touched that she thinks my powers of persuasion are so good. In order that I can deploy them to the maximum, let us meet prior to me going back to work the magic. I would like to go with the best case possible to see if we can do this, to get the information that helps us help people more.
Are the Government aware that a number of the people sleeping rough on our streets at the moment have fallen through the universal credit net? Would the Minister like to comment on that?
Like all noble Lords in the House, I am only too well aware of the size of the problem of homelessness and people sleeping on the streets. I normally agree with the noble Lord, and I do agree that universal credit may have added to some people’s anxiety and their issues. Many of them have had issues for a long time that we have not done what we should have done to deal with—but I do not think they are 100% attributable to universal credit.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that a large body of evidence supports the case that benefits sanctions have a devastating effect on claimants’ mental health and could even result in suicides? In the light of last week’s report in the Lancet, when will the Government conduct a comprehensive assessment of the impact of benefits sanctions on claimants, as the DWP pledged to do in 2013?
My Lords, could the Minister update the House on what the Government are doing to support those with mental health issues in accessing universal credit seamlessly, so that those issues are not exacerbated, and to help them get into work, which, as we all know, can sometimes help with mental health and well-being?
I thank my noble friend for that question. Mental health is a major issue for people on universal credit, and in other walks of life. At present, we are introducing health model offices in 11 jobcentres. These focus on claimants with health conditions. Blackburn jobcentre has agreed a new initiative, “advance to ausome”, for people with autism. Another jobcentre, in north London, is running quiet sessions for people who cannot cope with coming in.This is what I would like noble Lords to go away with today. A young man came to the jobcentre who was working full-time, had mental health issues and did not know how he was going to keep his job. He was in a bad way. Our work coaches worked with him and, through the Access to Work mental health support programme, he is now back at work and working towards a promotion. None of that would have been possible without that support. We are doing everything we can—and there is more to be done—to help people with these issues.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister something quite specific? What plans does DWP have to deal with the outbreak of coronavirus? For example, can people on zero-hours contracts who cannot go to work get universal credit to support them if they have to isolate themselves at home and are unable to work? In a similar vein, can she guarantee that those on universal credit will not be sanctioned if they cannot go to a job interview, to the jobcentre or fulfil their commitments because they are isolating themselves at home? Will the Government suspend sanctions and advertise universal credit for those affected by isolation patterns?

I was not prepared for that one, that is for sure. I know that the Permanent Secretary has a plan to make sure that people get paid and get the help they need. However, I will be really upset if people are sanctioned because of this. I will go back to the department and write to the noble Baroness, to make sure that the issue is understood.
Does the Minister understand the correlation between new attendants at food banks and universal credit sanctions? What are the Government going to do about that? Almost all new sign-ups to food banks are caused by delays. Not only is that bad for your health, it is bad for your mental health.
The issue of food bank usage and the reasons for it came up during a Question I took recently. I have no doubt that, as I have agreed before, universal credit has contributed to the increased use of food banks, but that is not everything. However, claimants will only ever be sanctioned where, without good reason, they fail to meet the reasonable requirements agreed in their claimant commitment.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 3, 2020 at 10:22 am