Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘DWP’ Category

Universal Credit Lies Slammed But DWP Misinformation Continues.

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Resting Place for DWP Fake Information Campaign on Universal Credit.

The Ministry  of Truth still says,

It’s come to a sorry pass when even Bunga Bunga Boris’s daily points to the reality behind this porky,

Universal Credit claimants keep less of their pay than millionaires

The Sun.

Those on million pound salaries get to keep 54p from every £1- but if you’re on Universal Credit you are just 37p better off.

That’s because of the way the benefit works. If you’re on Universal Credit you have 53p from every £1 you earn – known as the taper rate – over the work allowance deduced from your benefits payment.

The work allowance you get is based on if you have children, are in a couple or get help with housing costs.

It means that hard-working people on Universal Credit have their payments slashed, effectively paying a tax on earnings, as we’ve highlighted in our Make Universal Credit Work campaign.

We want the government to increase the work allowance and lower the taper rate.

The benefit is leaving hard-working Brits penniless, like Roxy Thobald, who despite working 20 hours a week, fed her seven-year-old daughter Bella leftover party food because she had no cash due to Universal Credit’s harsh taper rate.

Or single mum Gemma Hickman who is studying to be a physiologist and works 20 hours a week but can’t afford present for her kids this Christmas.

Sara Willcocks, from poverty charity Turn2us, said: “Universal credit just isn’t working for low income families. How can it be when people earning low wages have more deducted from their incomes than millionaires?

The same story appears in the Mirror, suggesting that the Currant Bun has not gone further than a keyboard and the net to write their article.

Universal Credit claimants keep less of their pay than millionaires

People with jobs but still claiming Universal Credit see a bigger chunk of their incomes vanish than those on seven-figure salaries thanks to the way the benefit works.

The merry tale about the fake Universal Credit ads (Universal credit adverts banned as ‘misleading’) continues,

Hotspur has already noticed these letters in the Guardian.

Aditya Chakrabortty’s article (The government uses your money to gaslight poor people, 6 November) revealed the depth that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will go to defend its failing flagship universal credit programme, which has pushed thousands of people into poverty. It is important people are able to make decisions that impact on their finances based on factual information.

The anti-poverty charity Z2K (Zacchaeus 2000 Trust) that I lead was the first to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about this series of ads, and we are named in the ASA’s final ruling. We were compelled to make this complaint because we simply could not understand why the DWP would make assertions without clear evidence to back up their claims.

We were really pleased to see such wide coverage of the ASA ruling, and to know that thousands of Guardian readers share our concerns. We are, however, very disappointed that the DWP is neither able to satisfactorily explain its actions or apologise for the harm they will have caused to the people who may have moved on to universal credit as a result.

The ruling comes too late as the now discredited campaign has already ended. That’s why Z2K has launched a public campaign calling for an apology from the DWP and an independent investigation into how and why these adverts came to be authorised. It is vital that we the public can trust government departments to be telling us the truth, particularly in being clear about their strategies to ensure that the social security system works as a safety net to reduce the numbers of people now living in poverty in the UK. Instead of using taxpayers’ money on a failed PR campaign, the DWP must now start engaging meaningfully with the widespread evidence of the impact of welfare reform on pushing people into poverty. Join our campaign to tell the DWP to #StopMisleading today.
Raji Hunjan
CEO, Z2K (Zacchaeus 2000 Trust)

The ASA found that government claim “people move into work faster” under universal credit breached the advertising code under the rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.9 (Qualification) and 3.11 (Exaggeration). That exact phrase has been used by government MPs 67 times in parliament to defend universal credit, as well as in countless media interviews. It is the key plank of the government’s claim that universal credit is making lives better – yet it fails to meet the basic standards of truthfulness and honesty that we demand of soap powder commercials. It is time that it is removed from the mouths of government ministers.
Paul Morrison
London

 Huge credit to Aditya Chakrabortty. Credit also to cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill, for ruling that the government cannot publish a Treasury analysis of Labour’s spending plans. While both developments are clearly embarrassing to the Conservatives, I think they also reveal a worrying failure by the civil service to adhere to its “core values” of integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality.

Specifically, officials in the DWP and Treasury seem to have been willing participants in attempts by the government to manipulate the evidence in order to support a predetermined policy (universal credit), rather than providing an objective analysis of its impact; and to devote resources to rubbishing opposition spending plans for party political purposes, while apparently not having sufficient resources to analyse the impact of the government’s Brexit deal.

I worked for 38 years as a government analyst and I know that the UK civil service, in particular its analytical professions, has a deserved reputation for observing high standards of professionalism and propriety. It saddens me to see this now under serious threat from the actions of current government ministers, combined with the pressures from austerity and the demands of Brexit. It will be important for the next government, and civil servants themselves, to take steps to restore this reputation before it is too late.
Alan Spence
Southport, Merseyside

Meanwhile Therese Coffey is preparing for the Great Flood that will hit Suffolk Coasts

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 9, 2019 at 11:29 am

Food Banks, The Tory Universal Credit’s Legacy.

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A few days ago a contributor pointed out that the planned rise in benefits is a joke.

And what will be the rise, 75 pence ? And the Tories think they can buy people’s votes with this.

Ipswich Unemployed Action team of seasoned  Newshounds has been looking around the local shops for ways to spend this king’s ransom.

A tin of baked beans? A few bananas? Some onions?

The choice is royal.

Food poverty  is one of the most visible legacies of Universal Credit and low incomes for those on benefits.

It’s not just the “freeze” in levels, it’s the wait, the sanctions, and the low level of money people get.

This leads them to go to get help from charity for basics- a great opportunity no doubt for giving and virtue, or as Rees Mogg might say ” “rather uplifting” and growth “shows what a compassionate country we are”.

No doubt go bothering electric shock dog collar hairshirt Coffey likes them too.

People don’t talk much about Food Banks much – in person, to friends.

I can’t think of anybody telling me the details face to face.

But Sky News did the job for us this morning.

UK households at food banks living on £50 a week, research shows

The State of Hunger report found that 94% of people at food banks are destitute, with one in five having no money coming in.

A charity is calling for benefit payments to cover the true cost of living after a report revealed people at food banks have an average weekly income of £50 after paying rent.

The Trussell Trust, a food bank charity, commissioned the State of Hunger 2019 report, which was conducted by Heriot-Watt University.

It found that over 94% of people at food banks are destitute, while three-quarters live in households affected by ill-health or disability.

Meanwhile, the average weekly income of people at food banks is only £50 after paying rent, and almost one in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food.

The report identified three reasons: issues with the benefits system, ill health and challenging life experiences, and a lack of local support.

Two-thirds of people at food banks were affected by problems with benefits in the last year.

The key issues include a reduction in the value of benefit payments, being turned down for disability benefits, having benefits stopped, and delays in payments such as the five-week wait for universal credit.

..

As a result, the Trussell Trust is calling for three key changes as a priority to protect people from hunger:

  • End the five-week wait for universal credit
  • Benefit payments must cover the true cost of living
  • Funding for councils to provide local crisis support should be ring-fenced and increased.

The Guardian covers the story:

Research says evidence ‘clear’ policies such as universal credit can cause destitution

You can download the full report.

This is how they present their findings,

Over the last five years, the number of emergency food parcels provided to people in crisis by food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network has increased by 73%. No charity can replace the dignity of buying your own food. To help end the need for food banks, the Trussell Trust commissioned State of Hunger – the most authoritative piece of independent research into hunger in the UK to date. Here’s what the research reveals…

This is worth noting:

Some features of the benefit system have been associated with increases in the incidence of ‘failures’ of claimants to qualify. This is illustrated by the remarkable swings over time (and space) in rates of JSA sanctions, by variations in the health/disability assessment outcomes associated with PIPs, and variations in the assignment of ESA claimants to different groups. This study of household food insecurity has revealed some of the severely adverse impacts of these processes, both on destitution and on mental health.

On UC, there is evidence from multiple sources that the ‘five-week wait’ is viewed as a delay in benefit payment rather than a system feature. We conclude from a range of evidence including the survey, modelling and qualitative interviews that the waiting period is one of the most critical drivers of food bank use, particularly in this period with the general roll-out of UC. Not everyone fails to cope with the five-week wait, but people who have experienced longer term poverty, those without family and friends able to help and particularly people with multiple deprivation – homelessness,offending, drug misuse and mental health issues – are particularly vulnerable.

Therefore, there is a strong case for shortening this or alleviating its effects in other ways, but not ways which simply pile up more problem debt on people at the very bottom of the income distribution.

There appear to be gaps in oversight of debt repayment, with many people paying significant proportions of their (already very low) benefits back to the DWP and third parties to cover debts. It is not quite clear how far this is about a lack of guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions about what is acceptable or a lack of oversight about what proportion of income is being taken. Even the amounts being recouped for the UC advance payment alone can be very large; an area where that one would expect the Department for Work and Pensions to be able to straightforwardly monitor. Ideally, however, there should be clear, shared protocols for acceptable levels of deduction covering all parties and purposes and these should be consistently implemented.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 5, 2019 at 10:28 am

New Help for Vulnerable People for Universal Credit “as a route into work”?

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Image result for therese coffey church

Thérèse Anne Coffey out on Election Trail.

Electric Shock Dog Collar Coffey has made this announcement, wholly unconnected to the General Election.

DWP announce £10million fund to help vulnerable people claim Universal Credit

Secretary of State Therese Coffey has today (1 November 2019) announced a £10 million Universal Credit Transition Fund for outreach programmes to help vulnerable people make Universal Credit claims.

The fund will be available to partner organisations across the UK, including charities, from April 2020.

It will aim to help vulnerable people, including disabled people, care leavers and those with mental health issues, claim Universal Credit as a route into work.

It will support innovative ideas for engaging with vulnerable people early, helping them to make timely claims to the new benefit.

Figures show that a fifth of claimants delayed making a claim for Universal Credit, largely because they didn’t know how to make a claim or because they thought they would find a job quickly.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Dr Therese Coffey MP said: “I am delighted to announce a £10 million challenge fund to support the most vulnerable in society with their Universal Credit claims.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this statement.

“Route to work”?

What about this case?

And this.

What about help to avoid this?

Perhaps the dosh will go to this:

And so it goes.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 2, 2019 at 11:14 am

Amber Rudd Bows Out.

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The chief whip's missive provoked a furious Twitter response from Ms Rudd

The former DWP Minister Amber Rudd is bowing out.

The BBC reports,

Former Home Secretary(NO mention of her DWP role!!!)  Amber Rudd has announced she will not be standing at the general election in December.

The Hastings and Rye MP said she was “not finished with politics” but would not be defending her seat.

Ms Rudd, who had a majority of 346 at the last election, resigned from the cabinet and surrendered the Tory whip over Brexit in September.

She was not among those Tories who had the party whip restored by the prime minister on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Evening Standard earlier, Ms Rudd said: “I will be leaving the House of Commons on perfectly good terms with the prime minister and I want him to succeed.

“I’m happy to leave the House of Commons as a Conservative MP.” Government Chief Whip Mark Spencer she would not be having the Tory whip restored.

Asked about her actions during the party row over Brexit, Ms Rudd said: “I felt I made the right steps at those critical points and I am pleased that the prime minister has now restored the whip to some of those colleagues.”

She did not rule out a return to Westminster in the future, but said there were “many other things I want to do”.

Ms Rudd is the latest high-ranking Conservative to announce they will not be standing at the general election.

This is when our paths, fleetingly, crossed,

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

On  16 November 2018, Rudd returned to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions following the resignation of Esther McVey over opposition to Theresa May’s Draft Withdrawal Agreement and the Brexit negotiations. As Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rudd had to take on Sarah Newton‘s responsibilities as Minister for Disabled People following her resignation.

Amber will be remembered on this Blog by our contributors as somebody who implemented, if briefly,  the cruel and hated Universal Credit scheme, dreamt up by arch-villain Iain Duncan Smith and administered at present – for how long? –  by “electronic shock Dog Collar” Thérèse Coffey.

The new Minister is said to spend weekends in a hairshirt praying at the Atomic Weapons Research centre on Havergate Island, Orford Ness.

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How cruel her Amber’s friends have been!

Boris Johnson takes revenge on Amber Rudd by SNUBBING her plea to be let back into Tory fold amid fury at her Brexit disloyalty – but she claims he BEGGED her to stand again in Xmas election.

Daily Mail.

  • Former Cabinet minister Amber Rudd has announced she is quitting Commons
  • The Hastings & Rye MP will not be standing in the looming snap general election
  • Ms Rudd expected to be brought back into the Conservative fold this afternoon
  • But Tory chief whip Mark Spencer has dismissed her request in a brutal letter
  • Ms Rudd retorted that refusal was ‘funny’ as PM begged her to stand at election

In a moving tribute a contributor writes,

” Her honey-coloured hair fell in heavy waves below her shoulders and as she stared up at him her eyes, clear, speckled amber, seemed to tilt at the corners; her brows were black and swept up in arcs, and she had thick black lashes. There was about her a kind of warm luxuriance, something immediately suggestive to the men of pleasurable fulfillment- something for which she was not responsible but of which she was acutely conscious.”
― Kathleen Winsor, Forever Amber

Her legacy shall not be forgotten:

DWP: Just one scammer prosecuted so far for snaring people in Universal Credit fraud

EXCLUSIVE: 28 cases are being prepared directly against benefit claimants, but only one third-party scammer has been convicted so far

Just one scammer has been successfully prosecuted so far for ensnaring Universal Credit claimants in an “industrial-scale fraud”.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) chiefs confirm there has been “one successful third-party prosecution” since the con emerged earlier this year.

A second case against a suspected third-party scammer is due in court next month.

It comes despite the DWP assigning an army of 145 staff to comb through 85,000 suspected cases of advance payment fraud totalling £1.8m so far.

The BBC revealed in July how fraudsters had conned struggling families into applying for Universal Credit in order to get cash from the DWP.

Claimants split the money with con artists, only to find out it was an “advance payment” loan – which has to be paid back to the DWP in full over 12 months.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 30, 2019 at 4:37 pm

After “Survival Sex” Scandal Work and Pensions Committee Calls for End to 5 Week Waiting Period for Universal Credit.

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Our contributors have noticed this story:

Selling sex for £5 is the only way I can survive after Universal Credit chaos’
Sky
As the government faces calls to axe the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments, one ex-claimant describes her experience.

Women are being driven to carry out “survival sex” work because of the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments, MPs have warned.An inquiry by the Commons’ work and pensions committee has found the wait for payments is why some claimants said they had turned to prostitution.

The committee has urged the government to remove the five-week wait for the first Universal Credit payment, which it described as a “fundamental design flaw”.Here, a woman called Susie tells Sky News why her struggle with the Universal Credit system has left her selling sex for just £5.Within the next week if my situation doesn’t change I am going to have to go back on the streets.

Universal credit: MPs call for action on women driven to ‘survival sex’

BBC.

Evidence that women are being driven to sex work because of problems with universal credit must lead to government action, MPs have said.

A number of women told the work and pensions committee they turned to sex work because their benefits payments did not cover their basic needs.

The committee said the government had previously been “dismissive” of the issue but had now changed its position.

The government said it was taking the evidence “very seriously”.

The committee has been investigating a potential link between universal credit and “survival sex” – when people, overwhelmingly but not exclusively women, turn to sex work to meet their basic needs, including food, shelter and clean clothes.

Universal credit merges six benefits into one payment and was designed to simplify the benefits system and help people move into work.

However, the committee has heard evidence that problems with the new system, including a five-week wait for the first payment, are forcing some women to rely on sex work.

 

This is the report behind these articles.

Survival sex and Universal Credit: Remarkable reversal in Government’s “defensive, dismissive and trite” position welcome – but insufficient

This inquiry was driven initially by a Committee member’s direct experience in their constituency. Specialist support organisations told him, that problems with Universal Credit were pushing women into survival sex.

The initial response from the Department for Work and Pensions, when asked in Parliament about the problem, was wholly inadequate. The former Secretary of State, Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, suggested that the Department’s Work Coaches (frontline Jobcentre staff) might tell “these ladies” that there are “record” numbers of job vacancies in the UK and “perhaps there are other jobs on offer”. This response suggested that the Department had little understanding or insight into the issue – to put it mildly. The Committee subsequently launched a full inquiry. The evidence that we received was, in many cases, alarming and distressing.

“The manager said if I gave him [oral sex] he’d let me off [shoplifting food, due to Universal Credit delays]. What could I do? It was that or have the police called. I just did it. I just kept thinking “please don’t call the police”. Anyway, he said afterwards that if I did the same next week he’d let me have forty quid’s worth of stock. It seemed like a fortune. […]

“In the end, I held out for two weeks. I got my [UC] money, and again it was short, and again it was gone on bills before I’d even thought of food. So, I left the baby with next door and went down to the shop […] It’s been like that for months now.”

The Committee expected the Department to respond in full to the Terms of Reference for its inquiry, by submitting written evidence. But the Department’s first attempt at a written response was “defensive, dismissive and trite”. People with personal, first-hand experience told the Committee—and similar evidence was widely available in media sources – that Universal Credit was a factor in their decisions to turn to, or return to, sex work. DWP’s written evidence largely ignored these personal, frontline testimonies, and instead presented what appeared to be its own internet research on whether there is a “direct causal link” between Universal Credit and survival sex.

Chair’s comments

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

“The women who gave evidence to us were courageous enough to share some enormously difficult and distressing experiences, in the hope of helping us and the Department to better understand this issue. We are grateful for the Minister’s intervention, which helped to ensure that we, and more importantly the people who bravely gave their evidence to us, got a more meaningful response. Welcome though that was, that cannot be the end of it. The Department, having belatedly acknowledged that there is a problem, must take the steps to resolve it.”

The response echoed DWP’s argument when the Committee raised concerns that UC’s single household payment was playing into the hands of domestic abusers, by giving them control of the entire family budget. DWP’s argument then was essentially that domestic abuse had also gone on under legacy benefits and so Universal Credit could not be blamed. One of the Committee’s witnesses – M, a student and a sex worker – said that the DWP’s response “wilfully misrepresented” the issue.

I am about to be moved on to Universal Credit. I will lose £200 a month, approximately […] The thought of going into debt and having no money is really frightening. I have children. I can’t do that. I will sell my body. – K

The report sets out and draws on the private and public witness testimony that the Committee heard in May and June this year. Given its concerns about the Department’s grasp of the problem, the Minister for Family Support, Housing and Child Maintenance (Will Quince MP) was invited to sit in on a private session with witnesses B, K, M and T: four women who are, or have, engaged in sex work due in part to problems with Universal Credit and the wider benefit system. The women themselves were highly critical of the Department’s initial response.

I was really upset with this sensationalist media quote [DWP] had about someone earning £450 a night and they are kind of implying, “Oh well, sex workers make loads of money in the industry”. My last brothel shift, I was there for three days and I earnt £158, so it just does not reflect the actual reality of survival sex work […] it just seemed to be kind of ridiculing us. – M

The Minister’s subsequent, public acknowledgement that DWP got it wrong was welcome, of course, but the Committee notes that this is not an isolated incident. DWP has shown a “pattern of unwillingness to engage with frontline evidence about the impact of its reforms”. The Committee says DWP’s responses to urgent evidence from the frontline of UK poverty should not be dependent on whether a topic catches the eye of a given minister – and should not depend on evidence being provided by organisations with the resources to lobby Parliament.

The inquiry once again highlights the deep, structural and administrative problems with Universal Credit, including the five week wait for a first payment. These problems are exacerbated by DWP’s continued failure to systematically gather, use, and respond to frontline evidence, and claimants’ lived experience of Universal Credit.

Universal Credit, the five week wait, “advances”, and survival sex

The Department has put in place several measures to help offset the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment. All claimants can receive a repayable Advance Payment of their Universal Credit (a loan from the Department) when they start their Universal Credit claim, to tide them over while they wait for their first payment. Some claimants will also receive non-repayable “run on” payments of some of their current benefits.

Yes, they do give you an advance, they do give you that. I am not going to say they don’t, they do give you that, but you have to wait six weeks and £250 is not going to last anybody six weeks. Like I am only 21 and I only spend £20 on gas and electric a fortnight, do you know what I mean, and that is cheap. I am trying my best, £30 on shopping, not a penny over, because if I go a penny over I can’t get other stuff that I need, tampons and things, do you know what I mean? That Universal Credit Advance, by the time I got it I had spent it and then I was waiting another three to four weeks for my benefit. Even then when I got my benefit, they were taking £150 off my benefit and I was left with £50. – T

The Department would not tell the Committee how much these measures cost, but it is clear that they are sticking plasters over a fundamental design flaw in Universal Credit: the five week wait. The Committee has repeatedly called on the Government to eliminate the five week wait, and does so again in this Report. In the meantime, the Committee says that the Department should offer non-repayable Advances to claimants who would otherwise suffer hardship. This would include several of the women who gave evidence to the Committee.

This is also of great interest: 

The digital service

Universal Credit is “digital by default”: claimants are expected to make and manage their claims online. the digital service has the potential, in time, to reduce DWP’s operating and staffing costs, and offer claimants a convenient, modern way of managing their benefits. But some claimants will struggle with aspects of the digital service, or simply never be able to use it. People must not be excluded from benefits they need and are entitled to because they struggle with computers. Although DWP says alternatives are available (such as managing claims by telephone), the experiences of witnesses and Committee Members’ own constituents suggest there is a significant gap between what DWP says is available, and what claimants actually receive.

I have complex PTSD, from very early age child sex abuse, and over the years my mental health has deteriorated […] That, for me, is also partly another reason why I will not be going on Universal Credit because, again, it doesn’t allow supporting people who can’t both mentally and physically do that admin-based work, which it takes a lot of time and effort and it is online stuff. – B

The Committee recommends that DWP:

  • Scrap the (minimum) 5 week wait for first payment and, in the meantime, offer non-repayable Advances to vulnerable claimants who would otherwise suffer hardship.
  • Put in place a proper evaluation framework for UC which takes account of claimants’ “lived experience” of the benefit, and evidence from frontline organisations.
  • Change its guidance to Decision Makers to emphasise that payment of Universal Credit into a non-claimant bank account should be considered an absolute last resort. The Committee heard that people who cannot open bank accounts are allowed to nominate a non-claimant’s account (often belonging to a “friend” or “boyfriend”) to have their UC paid into. All too often, those payments never reach the claimant because they are stolen by the “friend”.
  • Prioritise allowing telephone applications for Universal Credit from people due for release from prison to help ensure that “day 1” of coincides with “day 1” of a Universal Credit claim.
  • Improve, publicise and monitor the non-digital means of applying for UC
  • commission and publish a review on improving services for this group of claimants: as for many other groups, the specialist support provided by Jobcentres is patchy and varies from JCP to JCP.

Electric Shock Dog Collar DWP MInister Coffey has been busy.

 

Benefits Freeze is “over” but cut of 6% stays – future halt to rises not ruled out.

with 95 comments

Working-age benefits are set to continue to their relative decline (Resolution Foundation).

Last week this news item marked Thérèse Coffey, first Parliamentary intervention in her “dream job” as Work and Pensions Secretary.

Freeze imposed in 2015 was planned to last until end of 2019-20 financial year.

The government has refused to commit to ending its freeze on benefits despite a promise to turn the page on a decade of austerity.

The work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, said she could not give a definitive answer about whether the freeze on most working-age benefits and tax credits would continue beyond its initial four-year term.

Imposed in 2015 by chancellor George Osborne, the benefit freeze was planned to last until the end of the 2019-20 financial year. However, Coffey said talks were ongoing about what the government would do next and she left the door open for a possible extension.

Answering questions from MPs on the Commons work and pensions committee, she said: “I don’t think anybody should make any assumptions by default, but we’re looking very carefully right now on what we can do on benefits going forward from 2020. I can’t give you a definitive outcome on what we will do.”

The electronic dog collar disciplinarian did not taker account of this – as the article continues,

Inflation figures published earlier on Wednesday indicated that benefits could rise by 1.7% from April if the freeze is lifted. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said inflation remained unchanged in September, with the consumer price index (CPI) holding steady at 1.7%.

The inflation reading for September is used by the government to uprate the value of benefit payments each year, as well as state pensions and business rates.

The Resolution Foundation think tank said the welfare freeze had cut the value of benefits by 6% in real terms since 2015, leaving the average poor couple with children £580 a year worse off.

It said the social security safety net was continuing to be eroded as wages and pensions rose by more than double the rate of benefits.

This is the Resolution Foundation report, well worth reading.

The benefit freeze has ended, but erosion of the social security safety net continues

The major working-age benefits will rise in cash terms in April 2020, for the first time in five years. They will increase by 1.7 per cent, based on new figures released today – assuming no change in government policy. But while the benefit freeze has now ended, its effect of significantly weakening the social security safety net has not.

Further data, also released this week, means that the state pension will rise by a higher 3.9 per cent. The difference between the two increases highlights the fact that working-age benefits will continue to be eroded in value relative to earnings and pensions. This policy approach comes despite households with children typically having lower incomes than other groups, and higher poverty risks.

They continue,

The ‘benefit freeze’ is over.

We now know that CPI inflation was 1.7 per cent in the year to September. This figure is particularly important as it determines (among other things) how far many benefits will rise next April.

Remarkably, for a range of benefits – including Child Benefit, Universal Credit, (non-disability) Tax Credits, Housing Benefit limits, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, and Employment and Support Allowance (except the support group component) – this will be the first cash increase in basic entitlements since April 2015, thanks to the benefit freeze introduced by then Chancellor George Osborne.

After adjusting for price increases, this benefit freeze has cut the real level of those benefits by 6 per cent, and in many cases that has come on top of earlier real cuts.

It is of course a good thing that the freeze is coming to an end. (Though, to be clear, the freeze was always due to come an end in April 2020 – there has not been any recent policy change.)

But, while the direction of travel is no longer downwards, working-age benefits are clearly now stingier than they were pre-freeze, or indeed pre-austerity (even putting aside any wider considerations, such as sanctions or waiting periods). In fact, the real value of basic out-of-work support in 2019-20 is – at £73 a week (£3,800 a year) – lower than it was in 1991-92, despite GDP per capita having grown by more than 50 per cent since then. Even more starkly, child benefit for a second child or beyond is worth less in 2019-20 than when it was (fully) introduced in 1979. It seems a rising tide does not always lift all boats.

….

Although the benefit freeze and departmental austerity are ending, this is not the end of working-age welfare cuts

The question of whether we could and should do more to support household incomes through working-age benefits (the answer to both is yes) seems particularly pertinent when the age of austerity has come to an end for departmental spending, and when the likely upcoming election may feature some very expensive promises on other spending and tax cuts.

But despite the end of the benefit freeze, the turning point for departments, and the abandoning of previous fiscal rules, we shouldn’t forget that some benefit cuts continue to be rolled out. As Figure 4 shows, the two-child limit in particular has some way to go, as it applies only to those born after April 2017. The slow roll-out of Universal Credit, although a positive overall, will also create many losers as it continues over the next few years.

When it comes to working-age benefits, it is clear that austerity is not yet over.

Coffey’s stout denial of poverty continues.

And here.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 22, 2019 at 10:18 am

Surveillance Capitalism Comes to the Dole.

with 53 comments

Image result for surveillance capitalism panopticon

New DWP HQ.

I, and many other people ,have got interested in Surveillance Capitalism recently.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power Professor Shoshana Zuboff

It’s a book, a bloody long one,  about “the unprecedented form of power called “surveillance capitalism,” and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control us.”

She says,  “human experience is subjected to surveillance capitalism’s market mechanisms and reborn as ‘behaviour”.

It seems people are very willing to give up their private information in return for perceived benefits such as ease of use, navigation and access to friends and information. Zuboff recasts the conversation around privacy as one over “decision rights”: the agency we can actively assert over our own futures, which is fundamentally usurped by predictive, data-driven systems. Engaging with the systems of surveillance capitalism, and acquiescing to its demands for ever deeper incursions into everyday life, involves much more than the surrender of information: it is to place the entire track of one’s life, the determination of ones path, under the purview and control of the market.

Guardian.

Universal Credit, which we do not even ‘buy’ is a much more complex version.

It’s modelled on it.

We have to fill in all our details, and personal problems, not to mention physical difficulties if we want Disability Allowances.

In return they watch our search for work like hawks.

On-line journals and the rest.

Not to mention the threat of sanctions.

The next stage is coming.

The UK government is accelerating the development of robots in the benefits system in a digitisation drive that vulnerable claimants fear could plunge them further into hunger and debt, the Guardian has learned.

The Department for Work and Pensions has hired nearly 1,000 new IT staff in the past 18 months, and has increased spending to about £8m a year on a specialist “intelligent automation garage” where computer scientists are developing over 100 welfare robots, deep learning and intelligent automation for use in the welfare system.

As well as contracts with the outsourcing multinationals IBM, Tata Consultancy and CapGemini, it is also working with UiPath, a New York-based firm co-founded by Daniel Dines, the world’s first “bot billionaire” who last month said: “I want a robot for every person.” His software, used by Walmart and Toyota, is now being deployed in a bid to introduce machine learning into checking benefit claims.

Note this,

The DWP is also testing artificial intelligence to judge the likelihood that citizens’ claims about their childcare and housing costs are true when they apply for benefits.

It has deployed 16 bots to communicate with claimants and help process claims and is building a “virtual workforce” to take over some of the jobs of humans. One recent tender document requested help to build “systems that … can autonomously carry out tasks without human intervention”.

The developments emerged during a Guardian investigation into one of the most radical but least understood welfare reforms since the roll-out of universal credit that will apply to 7 million people.

And this,

But claimants have warned the existing automation in UC’s “digital by default” system has already driven some to hunger, breakdown and even attempted suicide. One described the online process as a “Kafka-like carousel”, another as “hostile” and yet another as a “form of torture”. Several said civil servants already appeared to be ruled by computer algorithms, unable to contradict their verdicts.

This,

Key details about the automation push remain secret. The DWP has refused freedom of information requests to explain how it gathers data on citizens. Simon McKinnon, the chief digital and information officer of DWP Digital, said this year it was developing a way to “build a holistic understanding of digital personas”, but refused to say what information was gathered to do this.

The ministry has previously told parliament it gathers data from private credit reference agencies, the police, the Valuation Office Agency, the Land Registry and the National Fraud Initiative, which gather information from public and private bodies. But it is now declining to update the list, claiming it would “compromise the usefulness of that data”.

“There are concerns that government is accelerating the automation of the welfare system without a proper evidence-based consultation about its impacts,” said Dr Lina Dencik, co-founder of the Data Justice Lab at Cardiff.

More,

Staff are using UiPath to develop machine learning to check claims for fraud, which suggests welfare computers will autonomously learn and alter the way they make decisions with minimum human intervention.

One recent staff member at Newcastle told the Guardian they already “have ways of creating a digital image of somebody”. He stressed much of the work was secret, but said this did not mean it was against citizens’ interests.

The digital transformation is costing hundreds of millions of pounds. The DWP Digital’s budget has risen 17% to £1.1bn in the past year and IT firms have been awarded huge contracts to help run the system. The DWP is also rapidly expanding its own private technology company Benefits and Pensions Digital Technology Services, which recruited more than 400 staff in the year to April, while DWP Digital recruited 520.

I bet this is just the beginning of an almighty row.

Then there is this:

Down with Machine Rule!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 14, 2019 at 12:16 pm