Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Food Banks’ Category

Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State. Hats off to the BBC!

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The BBC documentary on Universal Credit showed a side of life a lot people know about, and yet some do not.

I thought it was a fine investigation.

The investigation showed ordinary people, people you could know, grappling with a system that, for many, makes their lives worse.

Debt, on the pitiful level of benefits, is a major problem.

They programme makers could have showed a lot worse…..

They did run the smug, no doubt richly rewarded,  git at the DWP head office who thinks that UC is the shining future…

Hats off to the BBC for Universal Credit: Inside The Welfare State

The thread in the programme last night that struck me was how hard it is to juggle working on a zero hour contract and any kind of decent life.

Universal Credit clearly did not help.

This is how some people saw it,

Bolton News.

Viewers hit out at Universal Credit ‘vultures’ after BBC show centres on Bolton

VIEWERS of a BBC show have hit out at the government after an episode set in Bolton showed people struggling to deal with the Universal Credit system.

The final episode of Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State was aired last night and showed two struggling women, Jenny and Paula, who are trying to navigate the new rules around benefits.

20 year-old Jenny finds a waitressing job which appeals to her. However, she quickly realises that the zero-hour contract makes her shift pattern unpredictable.

As Universal Credit is paid a month in arrears it can leave her with very little to live off and confused about how much money she will get on a monthly basis.

Paula takes advantage of an advanced payment system to get her money earlier. But, she is not used to receiving this amount of money in one payment, and spends much of it quickly leaving her struggling to survive on what’s left.

The show drew a strong reaction from viewers and many were angry at the way the system works.

Twitter user MidBoss wrote: “Saw trending, was reminded that the vultures at DWP once tried to sanction me for attending a doctor’s appointment to alleviate a serious health concern.

“Meanwhile, the landed gentry sleep in the House of Lords and get paid to do so.”

Others had even more difficult battles with the system.

One Twitter user wrote: “I was unemployed for 5 years on JSA under the job centre’s boot, do you have any idea how it feels to be rejected for every single job interview for 5 years without feedback?

“I was close to suicide before I got into university, lucky really.”

Another Twitter user Sean Michael said: “A huge portion of people on UC are hard working people who want to do the most they can.”


People were disgusted at the problems in Universal Credit where claimants end up in debt, in the last episode of BBC show Inside the Welfare State.

Twitter user Martyn G said: “Just watching the BBC programme on Universal Credit and these Middle Class Morons who have been running the DWP have been hiding their fat heads in the sand with regards to the Delay in payments having a direct effect on hardship and foodbank use!”

Amongst many comments this stands out:

Twitter user Thomas Hemingford said: “With Universal Credit and work, the system leaves people constantly chasing their tails, not knowing if they’ll have money for bills. It’s no way to live, you can’t plan, and you can’t build a life like that.”

And then later: “Universal Credit crushes people. It causes severe anxiety and mental health problems. Not just amongst adults, but children, too. It pushes people into a debt spiral. That does not help anyone.”

One viewer tweeted that they had worked in finance and analysis for 21 years before they “became unable to work” and went onto Universal Credit after moving towns.

They said they “keep meticulous budgeting spreadsheets for myself and even I came unstuck during the 5-week wait”.

This is Coffey’s latest Tweet..


Written by Andrew Coates

February 19, 2020 at 4:46 pm

The ‘Claimant Commitment’ Minefield.

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Image result for universal credit journal

Keeping Track of Your Life for Work Coach Nosey Parkers.

For reasons that escape this Blog the far-right Express has been publishing about the ‘Claimant Commitment’.

You’d get a better idea of how this operates by watching the 3 part BBC documentary on Universal Credit.

But here it is their story,

Universal Credit: What is a ‘claimant commitment’ and how can it affect payments?

Universal Credit applicants will need to submit their claim within 28 days of creating an account. From here, most interactions with the Universal Credit system will take place through a local Jobcentre Plus. At these Jobcentre sites, applicants will be paired with a work coach. This work coach will support applicants throughout their Universal Credit tenure, providing support, information on various job search programmes and answering any questions regarding the system. It will be the work coach who creates the claimant commitment, usually in the first meeting with the applicant.


The claimant commitment will be updated as individual situations evolve. The specifics of how it will change will vary from person to person. However, the government has provided some examples of circumstances which will have a corresponding effect on claimant commitments:

  • If the claimant is earning as much can be expected – financial support will be given without any other conditions to increase earnings
  • If the claimant is able and available for work – the individual will need to do everything they reasonably can to give themselves the best chance of finding work. Preparing for and getting a job must be the full time focus
  • If the claimant has limited capability for work, related to a disability or health condition, but this is expected to change over time – support will be given until the circumstanced improve and they claimant can work. The individual will be expected to prepare for work so far as they are able
  • If the claimant has a disability or health condition which prevents them from working – the applicant will not be asked to work, they will be supported fully through Universal Credit.

This is the sting,

The assigned work coach will focus entirely on helping applicants ensure they meet their commitments.

They will keep track of certain targets such as job goals and regular work search activity levels.

The government details that, for those able to work, job seeking should be viewed as a full-time job. Looking or preparing for work is expected to take up a minimum of 35 hours a week of the applicants time.

People on Universal Credit get a ‘journal’.

Some people – I have just asked one who does – fill in their journal every day.

Universal Credit: Your Online Journal

In your journal, you’ll:
• Complete To Do’s
• Record your job search
• Keep in touch with your work coach
• Report any changes


To Do’s.

  • A To Do is a task left for you by your work coach. You’ll need to complete these as soon as possible to continue to get Universal Credit.
  • Top Tip: Log in to your Universal Credit account every day to check for To Do’s.
  • Recording your job search If you’re expected to look for a job you will need to record your work related activity. Record every job that you apply for in your Online Journal. It’s a useful
    record of what you’ve applied for.
  • Examples of work related activity to record in your journal:
    o Accept your commitments in your claimant commitments
    o Attend your work search review
    o Prepare for you claimant commitment meeting

Examples of work related activity to record in your journal:

  •  Accept your commitments in your claimant commitments
  •  Attend your work search review
  •  Prepare for you claimant commitment meeting

Yet more:
Examples of a To Do:

  • Writing a CV, or spending time adapting your CV for a particular job
  • Completing a job application form
  • Contacting employers to follow up from applications.
  • Travelling to job interviews

A pretty complete record of your daily life!

It takes no imagination whatsoever to see the problems this can create for these people:

Exclusive: Salvation Army calls on government to make it easier for people to access the benefit

Thousands of vulnerable people on low incomes – particularly those with mental illness – are at risk of destitution because they do not have the skills or support to apply for and maintain a universal credit benefit claim, the Salvation Army has warned.

The Christian church and charity said there was “overwhelming evidence” that many people found it a struggle to engage with the mainly digital benefit, leaving them unable to pay rent or buy food and effectively locking them out of employment support.

It called on the government to increase the level of support to make it simpler for vulnerable people to make a claim before the next phase of the universal credit programme later this year, when about 750,000 ill and disabled benefit claimants start to be moved on to the benefit.

“Rolling out universal credit in its current form will steamroll vulnerable people into poverty, but the government has time to turn this around by accepting our recommendations and making it easier to apply,” said Rebecca Keating, the Salvation Army’s employment director said.

Still these people are well-chuffed with their jobs:




Written by Andrew Coates

February 16, 2020 at 10:57 am

Thérèse Coffey Rewarded for Failure – Stays as Secretary of State for DWP.

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Thérèse Coffey Stays as Chief of DWP.

Our hope for Coffey’s exile in a Hermitage on this desolate marsland are dashed:



Here is the News  nobody else was waiting for.

Just to rub it in:

And again,

Latest Failure, retching….

Newshounds Report Celebrations by Suffolk Coastal Pub Owners.


Written by Andrew Coates

February 13, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Benefit Freeze Ends: Spend Your £1·25 pence a Week Wisely!

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End of the Benefit Freeze Still Leaves Us in the Cold.

Like the rest of us I am on tenterhooks waiting for the Benefit raise this year.

For standard benefits it’s  1.7 per cent.

I shall be counting the days waiting for the happy event.

Some extra cuppas of Rosey Lea, a pack of (4) apples and a tin of baked beans a week will make all the difference to my life.

Hold on !

At £1.25 pence a week (Jobseekers’ Allowance:  £74.35 (from £73.10) or Standard allowance, Universal Credit, single: (monthly,  £323.22 (from £317.82) )  it won’t stretch that far!

Citizens Advice, cold-hearted that they are, raise the point that this increase means even less for those in serious difficulties.

Making Ends Meet: The impact of the benefits freeze on people in debt [ 350 kb]

Since the benefits freeze began, we’ve seen an increase in the proportion of people we help with debt who have no money left at the end of the month once they’ve covered their living costs.  These households are deemed to have a negative budget.

Our new report, Making Ends Meet: The impact of the benefits freeze on people in debt, shows that from April to August 2019, 40% of people we helped with debt who claim income-related benefits had a negative budget.

We have developed a model that explores what the impact would be on people we help with debt through different benefit uprating scenarios over the next four years. We found that:

  • Ending the benefits freeze and uprating income-related benefits by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) would still leave 38% of households  with a negative budget by 2024.
  • Ending the benefits freeze and uprating income-related benefits by CPI +2%, as well as recalculating the Local Housing Allowance to the 30th percentile of local rents, would mean the proportion of households with a negative budget would fall to 28% by 2024.

That’s why Citizens Advice is calling for the Government to:

  • Uprate the value of frozen benefits by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) plus 2% for four years.
  • Recalculate the Local Housing Allowance to at least the 30th percentile of local rents to re-establish the link with rental prices.
  • Ensure Universal Credit provides people with enough to live on, by reviewing areas such as the amount of money retained by working claimants and deductions for those faced with debts

Our report Negative Budgets – A new perspective on poverty and household finances contains further information about the experiences of people we help with debt who have a negative budget.

Welfare Weekly runs the story.

Here is the story:

Ending the four-year freeze to working age social security benefits will do little to help households who are forced to choose between heating their homes and feeding their families, says Citizens Advice.

While the move to finally put an end to the benefits freeze has been welcomed, new analysis by Citizens Advice suggests suggests that four in ten households who approach the charity for help and advice would still struggle to make ends meet.

The charity warns that a growing number of people still do not have enough income to cover basic bills and household essentials, such as groceries and energy costs.


According to Citizens Advice, the number of people who are unable to cover basic living costs has increased since the benefits freeze came into force in 2016.

In the first five months of the current financial year, 40% of the people the charity helped with debt who claim income-related benefits didn’t have enough money to cover their living costs – an increase of 25% since the freeze came into effect.

However, the charity argues that ending the freeze won’t be enough to help people like Sheila and are calling for wider reforms to the benefits system to ensure that payments cover day-to-day living costs.

This includes ensuring Universal Credit gives people enough to live on by reviewing areas such as the amount of money retained by working claimants, and deductions for those dealing with debts or repaying advance payments.

Dame Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Our evidence shows that increasing numbers of people simply don’t have enough money to make ends meet.

“While a step in the right direction, increasing benefits by inflation will not go far enough to help solve this problem.

“The benefits system was created to support people in times of need.

“The government should show it’s serious about meeting this ambition by properly investing in working-age benefits, and making sure fewer families are left in a downward spiral with no way to pay their bills.”

Still, somebody’s doing nicely!

Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2020 at 10:56 am

Inside The Welfare State documentary on Universal Credit sparks anger.

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I watched the programme and the above is one of the strong messages I got from it.

That, and the geezer (who could be somebody I know, though his previous drug habit looked as if it had been worse than most)  sat in front of a computer for 8 days a Day doing ‘Job search’ – he finally ended up cleaning light railway trains for a pittance.

The Food Bank looked a horror, like the cheap end of B & M, and the handout was miserly.

Then there was the woman caught in the difficulties the Tweet above talks about.

And the homeless Irish bloke…

This is well true:


These are some of the reports and reviews.

Universal Credit system slammed by ‘heartbroken’ BBC benefits documentary viewers


Viewers have branded a new BBC documentary about the struggles of relying on Universal Credit as “heartbreaking” while slamming the “broken” system which allowed it to come about.

One launched a tirade at the perceived lack of empathy shown by some staff at a Job Centre, after it was suggested claimants need to budget better.

Three-part BBC Two series Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State launched on Tuesday evening, with episode one focusing on Peckham Jobcentre in London, visited by more than 1,000 people each day, including former NHS worker Rachel and homeless man Declan.

Job Centre employee Karen, meanwhile, finds herself faced with similar difficulties to her clients, and has to take a second job to support herself.

Taking to Twitter during the initial broadcast at 9pm last night, viewers were shocked at the difficulty of accessing benefits and distressing backgrounds of the claimants featured, as well as the way they are treated.

Evening Standard.

A new BBC documentary series explores the benefits system


The true story of this benefits revolution is on the shop floor where the job centre staff must accommodate the demands of the claimants, many of whom are ill-equipped to understand the beautiful simplicity of the benefits revolution.

Rachel, a single mother who left her NHS job after 27 years to care for her parents, struggles with anxiety. Job centre worker Karen does a second job in a pound store after absorbing the anger of claimants all day. And there’s grumpy, articulate Phil, with track marks on his arm and a lost dream of becoming a photojournalist,  weighing up the value of a job cleaning trains for the minimum wage.


Written by Andrew Coates

February 5, 2020 at 1:53 pm

Thérèse Coffey “Food Banks” are the “perfect way” to help “vulnerable people”.

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Elizabeth Truss and Dr Therese Coffey, to |Spend more time at Blythburgh Pork in Suffolk?

This Blog sometimes wonder about the Work and Pensions Secretary.

Thérèse Coffey is the MP for the Constituency next to Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal.

She seems happiest when, like her predecessor in the place, John Gummer, she’s pottering around the quaint by-ways of rural life, or visiting the big town, Felixstowe, to bestow her airs and graces on a local event.

Coffey’s spent most of her time recently slavering over the prospect that Brexit offers to her mates to make a pretty penny.

You wonder if she likes the Blue Nun style white wine from  Bruisyard in the county.

Well -wishers hope that in the near future she will be spending more time in Suffolk.

Perhaps she could share some of that tasty pork an crackling with those fortunate than herself….

The East Anglian Daily Times reported on January the 27th (yesterday).

Work and Pensions Secretary and Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey and International Trade Secretary and South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss are both thought to be vulnerable in any reshuffle.

Dr Coffey would be particularly disappointed to lose her department only five months after being promoted to the cabinet after the sudden departure of Amber Rudd. She has been a loyal supporter of the Prime Minister, but is seen by some as an “accidental cabinet minister” who reached the top table unexpectedly.

Another accident waiting to happen just did:

Minister says food banks are a “perfect way” to meet challenges of “difficult times”

Left Foot Forward.

Food bank use has increased by around 2,800% since the Tories came to power.

McDonalds has just paid off its British boss with a £30m payout so Sultana asked: “Does the Minister accept that it is a gross injustice that nurses are forced to use food banks while fat-cat bosses receive obscene pay-outs?”

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey replied that food banks are a “perfect way to try and marry the challenges that people do face at difficult times in their lives”.

A  further report,

Tory minister called ‘totally out of touch’ after labelling food banks ‘perfect way’ to support vulnerable people

In 2017, then-backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg sparked uproar when he said “the real reason for the rise in numbers is that people know that they are there”.

Earlier this month, in a blog about food bank use, New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne said people who receive benefits need “help” with how to spend their money.

The Trussel Trust, who run a nationwide network of food banks, gave out a record number of food parcels in the last year.

The organisation recorded a 23% increase in the number of emergency food parcels given out compared to the previous year.

Here are few responses:



And more will come!

Written by Andrew Coates

January 28, 2020 at 5:58 pm

The Daily Misery of Universal Credit – Rent Short-Falls, Draconian Sanctions, Waits for already Miserly Payments.

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“If  they wanted  to set up something to defeat the objectives it was meant to deliver, Universal Credit couldn’t have done a better job…”


Every day there are people in Ipswich Library with problems about Universal Credit.

A major difficulty is rent.

Local Housing Allowance, set up under Labour in 2008, with a number of objectives, including ” inciting”  people to find cheaper accommodation, was never meant to cover the rent for all properties.

Now it’s created out of control problems.

I can’t imagine people I know in London, in work, paying £200 a week (this, believe me, in not made up)  for a room in a shared flat could if they became unemployed and reliant on Local Housing Allowance and Universal Credit.

We all know that people end up cutting back on food and heating to pay for a place to live in – if they can manage that.

Or end up homeless.

Now the triumphant Tories intend to make things worse.

if you wade through the details of this announcement you’ll find that one layer of -meagre – support is about to end.

Apparently it’s because a 1,7% increase means it’s no longer needed.

Targeted Affordability Funding ends as LHA freeze thaws


DWP Minister says the 1.7% increase to the LHA rate negated the need for the funding scheme.

Targeted Affordability Funding (TAF) is over – ending with thehawing of the LHA (Local Housing Allowance) freeze to be replaced by Discretionary Housing Payments.

DWP Minister Will Quince confirmed the end in responding to a written Commons question from Shadow Housing Secretary John Healey.

TAF was introduced in 2014 to shore up LHA rates that had shifted furthest from real local market rents.

Four years on, a report from CIH said TAF had a negligible impact in reducing the number of LHA rates with a gap – being capped at 3% of current rate regardless of the size of the gap.

Healey asked if the DWP was going to maintain TAF for local housing allowance from April this year, when the LHA freeze ends.

Quince said the 1.7% increase to the LHA rate negated the need for TAF.

“For individuals who may require more support, Discretionary Housing Payments are available,” he said.

TAF typically covered 10% – 30% of the gap with the 30th percentile rent before the award was made.

The replacement rates were higher for the shared rate and slightly higher for the four-bed rate – intended to partly reflect the fact that the 30th percentile for both was more volatile in being likely to fall back in years subsequent to an award.

To the CIH, the low replacement rates meant that, on its own, TAF was incapable of keeping LHA rates reasonably well aligned to local (30th percentile) rents.

Last year, a report from Shelter said that as the freeze thawed additional TAF must be made available – with changes made to the way it is administered to ensure those most at risk of homelessness received adequate amounts.

That’s just one part of the welfare regime under Universal Credit.

 Aasma Day in the Huffington  Post does a brilliant job in looking at it on the ground.

Oldham Piloted Universal Credit 7 Years Ago. Here’s The Grim Reality Of What Happened Since.

“If they wanted  to set up something to defeat the objectives it was meant to deliver, Universal Credit couldn’t have done a better job,” says the chair of a housing association in Oldham.

Oldham was one of the areas that volunteered to be a pilot site for Universal Credit in 2013 in the hope it would simplify the benefits system and encourage more people back into work.

But seven years on, those hit by the benefits change tell a different story.

One housing association told HuffPost UK that it lost in the region of £400,000 in rent during the first year of Universal Credit  – money which it won’t recover.  Unlike housing benefit, which was paid direct to the association, Universal Credit is handed direct to the claimant. Currently, 41% of the housing association’s tenants are in arrears.

The social landlord says some of its customers are struggling so much due to the wait for Universal Credit and the problems they experience applying for it, in the last 12 months, they referred an unprecedented 199 people to food banks.

Speaking to  Vinny Roche, chief executive of First Choice Homes, we find,

 “The safety net for the most vulnerable in society has been completely eroded.” he said: “If they wanted to set up something to defeat the objectives it was meant to deliver, Universal Credit couldn’t have done a better job.”

His major criticism of Universal Credit is the five-week wait when people are having to borrow to survive. “You have some of the poorest people in the country having to wait weeks for their money.

“When they finally get their payment, they already owe a fortune to other people, or worse still, to loan sharks.

“The people in real need are now on less money, receive less welfare payments and the  support mechanisms that once helped them have gone. Then the systems for applying for benefits and the sanctions are a lot more draconian.

“A combination of all these things is driving people into abject poverty.”


“The current system doesn’t work. We really need radical change if we are serious about fixing the safety net, reducing poverty and inequality and making sure there is a support network in place for the most vulnerable.”

Read the article in full through the link above.

Michel Says,

“Universal Credit stinks.” he said. “It definitely does not make life better for people. I was depressed all the time when I was on it and didn’t have any money and couldn’t do anything.

The ‘I’ has this story today,

Universal Credit: Seven years after the roll-out of the benefit, the prescription forms for free medication are finally updated

A charity for patients said the updated forms were ‘better late than never’


Written by Andrew Coates

January 25, 2020 at 10:08 am