Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Food Banks’ Category

While DWP Minister Celebrates Universal Credit Success Emergency Food and Fuel Vouchers are Ready.

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With Rev Richard Lowson at Carpenders Park and South Oxhey Methodist Church

Gauke Celebrates Universal Credit Tidings of Good Joy.

Super Ted reminds us how people on benefits can be left on dire straits by the workings of the system.

That system is still getting worse, despite a few sticking plasters.

This story from Wales shows the low point we have reached under Gauke, who is no doubt enjoying some mince pies and mulled wine while his minions are busy.

Emergency food and fuel vouchers handed out as the latest Universal Credit rollout takes place

WalesonLine.

Swansea is the latest place in Wales where Universal Credit is being rolled out.

Emergency packages have been drawn up in Swansea to prepare for hundreds of families being left hard-up over Christmas by the controversial roll-out of Universal Credit.

Bosses at Coastal Housing are preparing their staff to hand out emergency food and fuel vouchers to help people through the crunch time.

Work and pensions secretary David Gauke previously said the system had been stress-tested and added latest figures seemed to suggest it was a success as 50% of new claimants were taking up an advanced loan.

Following a pilot scheme of the new system, Coastal Housing tenants have run up arrears of £73,000 an average of £830 each.

A Coastal Housing spokesman said emergency packages were fully in place ahead of Universal Credit coming into force.

He said: “The introduction of the Full Universal Credit service, which started in Neath Port Talbot on October 4 and will be followed by Swansea on December 13, will mean some Coastal tenants will not receive a full payment this side of Christmas.

“While we welcome moves taken by the UK Government in the recent budget to abolish the waiting week, for many claimants these changes will be too late.

“Therefore Coastal has created a package for those tenants we know will not have access to all their money in time for Christmas and the New Year, including individual support packages, the issuing of emergency food and fuel vouchers, and supporting the Evening Post’s Christmas campaign which donates to food banks.

“We’ve been able to do this with the backing of our business partners who have donated money to support our tenants and the wider community.”

..

Grandmother Geraldine Hill, 56, who lives in Coastal Housing accommodation, managed to get by for more than two decades on benefits without falling into debt despite bringing up three children after being unable to work as a result of a combination of anxiety, depression and lung disease.

But the switch to Universal Credit had proved to be life-changing and she previously said: “It’s been a struggle, I have to rely on a food bank and I’m living in the living room.

“All my housing, rent and DLA (Disability Living Allowance) was stopped, I ended up accumulating arrears through no fault of my own.

Pause for another pie and sip of heated plonk for Gauke,

‘Scrooge’ DWP bosses warned Universal Credit roll out will cost lives this Christmas.

The Courier.

The introduction of the new system, which replaces six existing means-tested benefits, has prompted fears thousands of Scots could be plunged into poverty as they endure a six-week wait for payments to come through.

David Alexander, co-leader of Fife Council, said officials are already “preparing for disaster” this winter and warned many people could face a “really tough time” under the new rules.

Dundee City Council’s finance spokesman, Baillie Willie Sawers, warned the payment delay is placing a “great strain” on some of the city’s most vulnerable people and admitted the roll out has been a “huge concern” for the authority.

As Gauke nibbles some more hors d’oeuvres before a good lunch we hear the peasants in Brum are not going too well either.

Birmingham Mail.

Foodbank fear Universal Credit will wipe them out – this is why

Volunteers at one of the city’s biggest foodbanks fear their shelves will be emptied by a sharp increase in the need for emergency food if the roll-out of Universal Credit continues.

Bosses at B30 Foodbank – which has seen a staggering 200 tons of donations since it launched four years ago – are concerned their warehouse will be emptied by a huge increase in demand.

The facility, based at Cotteridge Church, has fed almost 7500 adults and children in the B30 postcode and surrounding areas over the past year.

Ministers have claimed evictions, homelessness and debt will all rise if the government’s Universal Credit roll-out continues across Birmingham.

The Trussell Trust, a charity which provides foodbanks, said demand had risen in areas where Universal Credit was introduced.

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

December 13, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Stop and FIX Universal Credit Day of Action. Some Images.

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Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action Saturday 2nd of December: Ipswich, Giles Corner.

There was a really good atmosphere, and people came to give support.

It was helped by this, even without mince pies!

The Mirror notes:

The government has consistently refused to “pause and fix” the scheme which has seen families pushed in to debt and rent arrears – despite losing a vote called by the Labour Party to do so.

The document titled “Universal Credit Transition Rollout Schedule” was published on the DWP website the day after the budget, replacing a previous version.

It lists the point at which UC will be rolled out in each JobCentre.

However, an analysis of the new timetable for, comparing it to the previous rollout schedule, showed that Maidenhead, Ashford, Hemel Hempstead, Walthamstow and Redbridge Job Centres Plus will all now delay the roll out by three months.

These cover the bulk of the constituencies of Maidenhead, Ashford, South West Hertfordshire and Chingford and Woodford Green.

Last week the Government caved in to pressure to cut the waiting time for first payments from six to five weeks.

But it will be too late for struggling families at Christmas as the change will not come in until February.

The move means that all three Work and Pensions Secretaries who designed and implemented the Universal Credit across much of the country will all see it delayed for their own seats – until the reduced waiting time and other reforms are in place.

Only South Oxhey, a small, working class and generally Labour-voting area of David Gauke’s constituency will continue to have Universal Credit imposed on time.

The other Job Centre Plus in the London Borough of Waltham Forest, which serves Labour seats rather than Iain Duncan Smith’s seat, will implement UC earlier.

When questioned on the decision in parliament David Gauke told MPs: “We are rolling out Universal Credit in a way that is safe, we are making adjustments as and when we need to but I am pleased to say the date on which UC will be fully rolled out remains unchanged March 2022 if it could be earlier I would make it earlier but that is the safest point at which we can do it.”

Stephanie Peacock had asked the minister: “I note in his department’s recent statement last week the right honorable gentleman postponed the rollout of Universal Credit in his constituency and those of the prime minister and the first secretary of state.“As he’s in the mood to reconsider the policy, can he do the same and pause the rollout of Universal Credit for the people of Barnsley East

There are more reports on the protests  circulating. Here are some.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 3, 2017 at 10:28 am

Budget: Universal Credit Sticking Plaster Announced.

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Image result for universal credit unite community

 

As Ace Reporter, Breaking News, informs us, with the rest of our tip top team of Contributors, there are some changes to Universal Credit in the Budget.

I was initially confused with all this talk of 1,5 Billion, which it turns out, is not the Queen’s Billion,  a million million (i.e. 1,000,000,000,000),  but a miserable US thousand million (i.e. 1,000,000,000).

But here it is,

The Mirror, which is pretty good on these things, reports,

Chancellor Philip Hammond has bowed to pressure over Universal Credit with a £1.5 billion package to cut the waiting period for payments- by a week.

He has also removed the seven-day waiting period so entitlement starts on the day of the claim.

Changes announced today will also mean any household needing an advance can access a full month’s payment within five days of applying instead of half a month’s worth.

While the repayment period for advances will increase from six to 12 months.

He said that any new Universal Credit claimant in receipt of housing benefit will continue to receive that benefit for a further 2 weeks.

But Jeremy Corbyn slammed the U-turn as simply not good enough.

He told the House of Commons: “Wouldn’t it have been better to pause the whole thing and look at the problems it has caused?”

In response to Mr Hammond, Mr Corbyn said: “The Chancellor’s solution to a failing system causing more debt is to offer a loan,” referring to increased ‘advances’ for people in need.

It’s pretty clear what us lot think, but it’s good to hear somebody say it in a national paper,

The reaction from the Child Poverty Action Group, who have campaigned passionately for changes to Universal Credit, was mixed.

The charity’s Chief Executive Alison Garnham welcomed changes to the waiting days but said the chancellor had missed an opportunity to completely overhaul the flawed system.

She said: “We were the first to sound the alarm over the waiting days for universal credit, so we’re pleased the Chancellor has acted to remove them and put in place new arrangements for receiving advances as part of an emergency rescue package, but this should have been the budget that ushered in much needed structural reform of Universal Credit to revive the central promise to strengthen the rewards from work and that didn’t happen.”

The trusty lot at the Mirror put all this into place,

Hammond’s Budget is no game changer and tinkering with Universal Credit is a con when deep, painful welfare cuts for families in and out of work will plunge more kids into grinding poverty.

Branding a £7.83 an hour minimum wage a “living wage” adds insult to injury when independent experts calculate the real rate would need to be £8.75 – or in expensive London, £10.20.

Sunny BBC reporters summarise this dream-package for those who wish to go a but further:

“For the average person claiming the benefit, they’ll have £73 extra in their pockets plus housing costs and any other elements they qualify for – like childcare support.”

More details:

People claiming universal credit will now wait, to be precise, 35 days rather than 42 before they get their first payment.

It’s helpful to think of the current waiting period before people can receive their first universal credit in three chunks:

  • Four weeks to assess how much someone has earned in the last month
  • An administrative week set aside to process the payment
  • A further seven “waiting days” during which claimants are not eligible for any benefit – this is what the chancellor is scrapping

The four weeks is more or less baked into the design of the system. Universal credit was designed to be paid in arrears once a person’s monthly income has been assessed. Changing this feature would have required a fairly significant change to the whole structure of the benefit.

So it was in the other 14 days that the government had some leeway.

The reduction in the waiting period announced in the Budget strips away seven of those extra days, leaving a full week to process the payment. Arguably, the chancellor could have shortened the payment processing time too.

It was the seven additional “waiting days” many took issue with, since it’s difficult to see what purpose those days served other than to save money.

David Finch, a senior policy analyst at think tank the Resolution Foundation, described them as a “completely unnecessary saving” which had a disproportionate negative impact on claimants.

And a report on the six week waiting period by a cross-party group of MPs, chaired by Labour MP Frank Field, described the motivation of those extra days as “primarily fiscal”.

But the motivation behind universal credit was not a cost-saving one – it was supposed to be all about getting more people into work.

The report’s authors added that they had been told by a wide range of charities, councils and housing associations that the seven waiting days did “nothing to further the stated objectives of Universal Credit but contribute to claimant hardship.”

Who will benefit?

Just over a third of people eligible for universal credit have always been exempt from having to go for seven “waiting days” with no benefits.

This group includes people who are moving on to universal credit from a relevant existing benefit, those who have claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment Support Allowance in the past three months, young people under the age of 22 leaving local authority care and victims of domestic abuse.

The other 64% of new claimants will benefit from this change.

The actual number of people will vary – there were 47,000 new people starting to receive universal credit in the most recent month we have data for (13 September to 12 October).

Still, while we pause,  this is a good larf..

But…..(leaving aside the rest of the unfit for purpose system stays in place),

Benefits are still frozen.

Food prices, to begin with, are rocketing.

Butter has gone up by 40%’: readers on rising UK food prices.

As inflation sticks at a five-year high of 3%, readers share their experiences of how they are coping with the squeeze.

It’s very generous of the Chancellor to extend rail cards for young people, to those who are under 30.

“Discount railcard extended for people aged up to 30”.

I shall bear that in mind the next time I am under 30.

But duty on high-strength “white ciders” to be increased in 2019 via new legislation.

Like the kind of po-faced Scottish nationalists who do not want the poor to drink the devil’s buttermilk, and who have introduced ‘Minimum Pricing’ for alcohol, you can see here an attempt to stop the really hard up getting pissed up on the cheap with White Lightening.

One to watch out for, as there are  temperance lobbyist in other parties in the UK who’d  like to do the same here.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 22, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Universal Credit and Elaine Morrall who “Died Cold and Alone”.

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Mum-of-four dies cold and alone after missing Universal Credit meeting

Elaine “Died Cold and Alone”. “How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?’

 

This story makes everything else look small.

A mum-of-four died cold and alone after her benefits were cut because she was too ill to attend a Universal Credit meeting. Elaine Morrall was found dead in her home wearing a coat and scarf, her family claimed. Metro.

The 38-year-old had her benefits stopped because she failed to attend a meeting about Universal Credit while she was in a hospital intensive care unit, they said.

Elaine, who suffered from an eating disorder and mental health problems, was found dead earlier this month in Runcorn, Cheshire. Her family claims she wouldn’t put her heating on until her kids got home from school because of the cost. Her grieving mother Linda Morrall blamed the Department of Work and Pensions for her untimely death.

In an open letter on Facebook, she wrote: ‘How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?’ ‘My daughter lived in Boston ave. She died on the afternoon of 2 November 2017 at home on her own. She was 38yrs. ‘In the cold with her coat & scarf on. Because she wouldn’t put her heating on until her kids came home from school. Why?? Because she couldn’t afford it. ‘Because she was severely depressed. Suffered from eating disorder & many other problems for many years. ‘Mainly due to authoritarians of 1 form or another. I can give you details. Was in & out of hospital in recent months in intensive care. ‘But was deemed not ill enough for ESA. Had her benefits stopped numerous times, which in turn stopped her housing benefit. ‘No income but expected to be able to pay full rent. Was told being in intensive care was not sufficient reason for failing to attend a universal credit interview. ‘I went to the job centre to inform them that she couldn’t attend. But benefits stopped again. ‘Uncaring housing taking her to court. She’s due to go to court on monday. Is being dead now enough reason. Is that what’s had to happen to prove she was ill?? ‘How many people have got to die before this government realises they are killing vulnerable people?? ‘What are you and your fellow councillors going to do to protect your constituents??’

Background to the growing crisis.

Demand for Suffolk and Essex food banks continues to grow.

Ipswich Star. 7th of November. 

Changes in the benefit system and the rising cost of living are among the issues driving a surge in demand on Suffolk and Essex food banks, it has been claimed.

Ipswich charity Families in Need (FIND) has given out around 3,400 food parcels so far in 2017, and founder Maureen Reynel said more people were using the service every year.

Food bank bosses say the roll out of Universal Credit, which is replacing most means-tested benefits, is leaving local people struggling because new applicants have to wait around six weeks after a successful assessment to receive the cash.

Mrs Reynel said: “It means people are waiting for money, even though it’s back dated they have to eat in the meantime so any change in benefits, doesn’t matter what label they put on it, has an adverse affect on people using those benefit systems.

“It’s just a mess really. We just have to keep trying to plug a gaping hole to see these people through until something else good happens for them.”

Demand on FIND is “non-stop”, Mrs Reynel said, with the number of food parcels handed out hitting double figures most days.

The same evening there was a report on the effect of Universal Credit on people, driving them into utter poverty, on the BBC Look East.

Trussell Trust foodbanks report record surge in demand amid Universal Credit rollout

The statistics lay bare the link between the welfare reform and rising need for emergency handouts.

The controversial rollout of the Tories’ flagship welfare reform has triggered a 30% surge in hungry families, shock figures reveal today.

Foodbanks handed out 586,907 emergency rations between the start of April and end of September – a 13% rise on the same period last year, according to the Trussell Trust.

With each parcel having enough food for three meals a day for three days, volunteers handed out the equivalent of almost 5.3 million meals.

And foodbanks in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out for six months or more have seen an average 30% spike in the first six months after its launch compared to a year before.

Charity leaders fear the crisis will deepen in the run-up to Christmas when the number of foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit service will triple, and when demand for food traditionally rises.

Trussell Trust chief executive Mark Ward said: “We’re seeing soaring demand at foodbanks across the UK.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 8, 2017 at 4:28 pm

John Major Joins in Chorus Against Universal Credit.

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Image result for John major cartoon Steve bell

Major to the Rescue!

Back in the old days we all used to laugh at John Major.

Rory Bremner did a great impersonation.

There was also his affair with Edwina Currie, (BBC)

Former Prime Minister John Major has admitted he had a four-year affair with the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie.

Mr Major described it as the most shameful event of his life, but said his wife Norma had long known of the relationship and had forgiven him.

Mrs Currie made the disclosure in her diaries, which are being serialised in the Times newspaper.

The affair began in 1984 when Mrs Currie was a backbencher and Mr Major a whip in Margaret Thatcher’s government.

Mrs Currie – who later became a health minister – said the affair ended in early 1988 after his swift promotion to the Cabinet as chief secretary to the Treasury.

What the wags of the Internet could make of that today is …a happy thought.

Now Major is an elder statesman.

With Boris and Rees Mogg around – preceded stage right by Iain Duncan Smith, not to mention David Gauke – you could feel a big nostalgic for those days.

Major obviously has more than a grain of sense left.

John Major calls for Tory review of ‘unfair’ universal credit

reports the Guardian.

Former PM says party needs to ‘show its heart again’ or it risks opening door to ’return of a nightmare’.

Sir John Major has called for an urgent change of tone from the Conservative government, including a review of universal credit, which he described as “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving”.

The former prime minister said his party needed to “show its heart again, which is all too often concealed by its financial prudence”, if it hoped to fight off a Labour resurgence in the next general election.

“We are not living in normal times and must challenge innate Conservative caution,” he said.

However, he suggested the implementation of the policy, which has led some claimants to turn to foodbanks as they wait up to six weeks for payments, required a rethink.

To rub this in we learn the following today,

More than 25 Tory MPs  prepared to rebel over Universal Credit roll-out

More than 25 Tory MPs are now prepared to rebel over the Government’s flagship welfare reforms amid mounting calls for a “pause” in the roll-out of Universal Credit.

David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, last week tried to broker a truce with MPs by insisting that a system of advance payments was already in place to help those struggling when they change systems.

Despite the move, Sir John Major, the former Tory Prime Minister, described the system on Sunday as “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving”.

The Guardian outlines the mammoth task before the government.

Universal credit: why is it a problem and can the system be fixed?

What are the design flaws?

There are manifold problems, but the political focus centres on the minimum 42-day wait for a first payment endured by new claimants when they move to universal credit (in practice this is often up to 60 days). For many low-income claimants, who lack savings, this in effect leaves them without cash for six weeks. The well-documented consequences for claimants of this are rent arrears (leading in some cases to eviction), hunger (food banks in universal credit areas report striking increases in referrals), use of expensive credit, and mental distress.

What have ministers proposed to do about the six-week wait?

The work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, recognised the widely held concerns about the long payment wait (including 12 of his own party’s backbenchers) in his speech to the Tory party conference on Monday. He said he was overhauling the system of advance payments available to claimants to enable them to access cash up front to see them through the six-week waiting period. Payments would be available within five days, and in extreme cases within hours.

Will this solve the problem?

The payments are loans that must be repaid. Claimants can only get an advance for a proportion of the amount they are owed as a first payment, and must repay it within six months. Normally, claimants must prove to officials that an advance is needed to pay bills, afford food or prevent illness. Official figures show about half of new universal credit claimants apply for an advance payment. Ministers say this is good news as it shows they are getting help. Critics say the high demand proves the wait is too onerous for too many people.

What other options do ministers have?

Charities and landlords could reduce the long wait marginally by cutting the seven-day “waiting period” introduced in 2013 (an arbitrary period during which new claimants are prevented from lodging a claim after being made redundant). They could introduce more flexible repayment terms for advance loans. And they could speed up the payment process (currently slower than the supposedly cumbersome “legacy” benefits they replace).

So it is all about ironing out a few technical glitches?

Not quite. Multibillion-pound cuts to work allowances imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne mean universal credit is far less generous than originally envisaged. According to the Resolution Foundation thinktank, about 2.5m low-income working households will be more than £1,000 a year worse off when they move on to universal credit. Reversing those cuts requires a political decision, not a technical fix.

What is the future for universal credit?

Gauke confirmed today that the current rollout will continue to the planned timetable (which will see, in theory, universal credit extended to about 7 million people by 2022). However, the problems of universal credit are unlikely to go away, and it has some powerful critics, including the Treasury, which has always opposed the project. It would be possible to cancel the project, or overhaul it substantially. However, some argue the billions pumped into universal credit – and the huge amount of political capital and credibility invested in it – mean it is too big to fail.

For those who’ve lost the will to live after this lot, Rory Bremner is still a laugh!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 9, 2017 at 10:22 am

Millions Face Income Cut with Welfare Reform.

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Tories Welfare ‘Reform’. 

I thought a lot about this yesterday.

First of all, let’s not forget that the Benefits Freeze means we are no longer able to keep up with every rising prices in the shops, utility charges and higher Community Charge.

Next, the report highlights the fact that many people on Local Housing Benefit,  are no longer getting their rents fully paid.

FInally you can guess the DWP’s response without even reading the article.

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “This report assumes that people won’t make any attempt to change and to improve their lives. But our welfare reforms incentivise work and, for the first time, universal credit helps working people progress and earn more, so they can eventually stop claiming benefits altogether.

“Under universal credit people are finding a job faster and staying in it longer than under the old system, and since the benefit cap was introduced, 34,000 households have moved off the cap and into work.”

In other words, ‘improve your lives” by getting out of the claws of the DWP and its so-called Universal Credit.

As Gauke would say, “I have made myself perfectly clear.”

Two million UK families face £50-a-week cut in income

Guardian.

Households with children make up more than 80% of those set to lose out as pressure grows for end to austerity

In a bleak assessment of the plight of the poorest families in Britain, the study commissioned by the Local Government Association found that more than 84% of those set to lose £50 a week or more are households with children, either lone parents or couples. Almost two-thirds of them are working households, despite claims from ministers that they wish to create a welfare system that encourages work.

The analysis, by the Policy in Practice consultancy, also undermines claims from ministers that moves to cut taxes and increase the wages of the poorest are compensating them for years of austerity and the rising cost of living.

While some of the seven million low-income households in Britain will be better off by 2020, the group as a whole faces an average loss of £40.62 a week by 2020 compared with the end of last year, once benefit and tax changes, wages, housing costs and inflation are all taken into account.

….

The study finds that the introduction of the government’s flagship policy of universal credit, which combines a series of benefits into a single payment, will lead to an average income loss of £11.18 per week. It coincides with new warnings from Citizens Advice that the rollout of the system should be halted, amid claims that some of those already receiving it have found themselves in serious debt.

With charities and councils warning of rising homelessness, increasing housing costs are identified as a main cause of falling income. More than 2 million low-paid private renters face an average real-terms loss of £38.49 a week by 2020.

For low-income private renters with three or more children, the average income loss that they face by 2020 in real terms is £67.21 a week. This compares with £30.67 for private renters without children.

The authors also say rents are rising faster in some areas than others, with housing benefit not rising to match it. The study found rents are set to rise by 20.7% in the south-west by 2020, but by just 3.5% in the north-east. The report warns that there is now a looming “affordability crisis” because cuts to housing benefit, known as local housing allowance (LHA) for private renters, mean it is no longer linked to real rents, pushing people into poverty or even homelessness.

This is the Report:

The Cumulative Impact of Welfare Reform: A National Picture

Extracts,

The combined effects of the major reforms implemented before 2017, namely the underoccupation charge (NOTE by Ipswich Unemployment Action, the Bedroom Tax) , the localisation of CTRS, the LHA shortfall and both benefit caps, result in an average nominal income loss of just over £23 per week for each working-age household.

The transition to Universal Credit will lead to a further average income loss of £11.18 per week.

This is largely due to cuts in work allowances which will hit households, often with children and previously in receipt of tax credits, particularly hard. The introduction of the National Living Wage and increases to the personal tax allowance will generate almost £3.2 billion for working, low-income households, reducing the average nominal income loss by 2020 to £7.62 per week.

However, these mitigating measures will only benefit 2.5 million of the 7.1 million affected working-age households, half of whom are not affected by welfare reform to begin with. Critically, the continued impact of reforms implemented before 2017 will increase the cumulative loss from welfare reform to an average of £40.62 per week by 2020. This is a consequence of expected inflation and private rent growth, combined with the freezing of benefits rates for working-age people through to 2020 and means that many households see
falls in real income. Private renters will be particularly hit because the link between the Local Housing Allowance rate and market prices has been broken.

The growing disconnect between rents and LHA rates means that the gap between housing support and housing costs will increase disproportionately for private sector renters. Nominally, private renters will be £2.75 per week better off by 2020, as they are more likely to be in work and so benefit from the increase in the National Living Wage and Personal Tax Allowance. However, once expected inflation and private rent growth is factored in, private renters will face average real terms losses of £38.49 per week, with higher losses for larger families.

Squeeze on living standards is down to welfare cuts, not the fall in the pound

Guardian

..for millions of low- and middle-income Britons, living standards looked under threat even when Brexit was nothing more than a twinkle in Boris Johnson’s eye. The key moment came when, fresh from the Conservatives’ 2015 general election victory, the chancellor George Osborne delivered a budget that promised to “reward work and back aspiration”.

True to his word, he presented some very good news by introducing the national living wage – a sizeable and welcome supplement to the minimum wage for employees aged 25 and over. But the good news was eclipsed by the bad. The estimated £4bn boost from the national living wage was dwarfed by savings of £14bn from cuts to working-age welfare. What’s more, the welfare cuts are concentrated among poorer households. In the coming years, Britain faces the prospect of the first significant rise in inequality in three decades.

There is plenty to add: as people have already noted they’ve found the cash for the Police and the Prison Officers.

End the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 11, 2017 at 10:36 am

On Food Banks: Don’t Institutionalise Food Poverty.

with 87 comments

Image result for food banks

Institutionalised Food Poverty.

The will to feed people who are hungry is one of the most basic reasons to have some hope in human beings.

The ‘Better Angels of our Nature’, showing sympathy for others, still comes out, for all that we are pushed to hate and selfish ideas.

But…

Making concern for other people, or – let’s be honest –  a dose of pity,  a substitute for the right to social security is not a good idea.

We don’t have to be the philosopher Kant to see that if eating is made conditional on the generosity of others, we are making people dependent on the Good Will of Others. Whether it’s done out of true moral obligation or from a wish to seem good, we are still dependent on others.

A right is something we claim against an institution, and stands the same for all, not provided by a market of charitable initiatives.

Our contributors and the papers are full of stories about the rise in Food Bank demand.

The idea of the Welfare State as a “safe home” for people in difficulty is replaced by concerns about the voluntary  provision of something to eat is weakened.

At the foundation of the Welfare State, Beveridge talked of ending Want,

Poverty was seen as the key social problem which affected all others. In 1946 the National Insurance Act was passed which extended the Liberal Act of 1911 to include all adults. This provided comprehensive insurance against most eventualities.

It provided sickness and unemployment benefit, retirement pension and widow and maternity benefit. It was said that social provision was made for citizens from the ‘cradle to the grave’, catering for their needs from their time of birth to their death.

Beverdige did not talk of bringing back 1930s Soup Kitchens.

But in the US, as this article pointed  out a couple of years ago, they never got away from the 30s level of ‘welfare’.

In the U.S., we take it for granted that government help is not enough to live on, that private charities and philanthropic donations fill the holes in income, housing and health care that our welfare system leaves gaping. Disaster relief, meals on wheels, homeless shelters — for us they’re just part of the economic landscape, the extra stitches in our safety net.

But in Britain, the idea of a significant portion of the population being fed, clothed and housed by private charities is genuinely new, at least in the post-war era, and the British haven’t decided how they feel about it. Are privately run social services a scandal of government neglect, or simply a country taking responsibility for its runaway spending?

 

This piece, in 2012,  makes some of the points we need to think about again.

Guardian 2012.

David Cameron recently said he “welcomed” the work done by food banks and, for many in his party, their growing presence is a happy embodiment of the concept of the “big society”. In a debate on food poverty earlier this year, Caroline Spelman, secretary of state for environment and food, described them as an “excellent example” of this in action.

For others, the growth is a reflection of a new approach to providing assistance to people in real need. Whereas previously this was a service that the state would have provided, now feeding large numbers of people who are not able to feed themselves is being subcontracted out to charities. Those who have scrutinised the progress of the Welfare Reform Act, say this move from state to charity reflects the general direction of travel.

Once these services move beyond the realms of state provision, there are potential problems – they lose neutrality, some uncertainty comes with initiatives that are volunteer-run, the food on offer is (despite the best efforts of the Trussell Trust) idiosyncratic, the religious environment in which food is provided raises questions for some recipients. It becomes charity rather than basic state support, and for many this brings a degree of unease.

Stephen Timms, shadow work and pensions secretary, says it is a “pretty worrying reflection of what’s going on in the country, when people are dependent on these charitable handouts. My worry is that we are really just at the start of cutting back the benefits system and already a large number of people are not able to to buy food for their families. This shouldn’t be happening on the scale that it is now happening.”

Manchester Labour MP, and former head of the Child Poverty Action Group, Kate Green describes the growth of food banks as a disgrace. “I feel a real burning anger about them,” she says. “People are very distressed at having to ask for food; it’s humiliating and distressing.”

In fact what’s happened is that we have institutionalised food poverty. (Food banks don’t solve food poverty. The UK must not institutionalise them 2014).

Update:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

August 29, 2017 at 11:25 am

Posted in Cuts, DWP, Food Banks, Sanctions

Tagged with , ,