One item which should be top of the election agenda is the failure of Universal Credit.
Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.
One item which should be top of the election agenda is the failure of Universal Credit.
People contributing to this Blog have noted this (thanks Enigma) – we hope many more electors will take it seriously…not to mention politicians.
Food banks report record demand amid universal credit chaos
The Guardian reports.
Charity calls for immediate reduction in six-week wait for first benefit payment after handing out 1,182,954 emergency parcels.
Food banks handed out a record number of meals last year after the chaotic introduction of universal credit, the government’s flagship welfare overhaul, left claimants unable to afford meals when their benefits were delayed.
The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank network, announced that it provided 1,182,954 three-day emergency food parcels to people in crisis in 2016-17, up 6.4% on the previous year’s total of 1,109,000.
The trust said the standard six-week-plus waiting time for a first benefit payment faced by new universal credit claimants was behind the rise in demand for charity food. As well as reliance on food banks, benefit delays had also led to common adverse effects such as debt, mental illness, rent arrears and eviction, the trust said.
The trust called for an immediate reduction in the minimum six-week wait for a first payment, saying debt and uncertainty caused by being without income was a source of stress and anxiety for many clients, and had led some to lose their homes.
The problems were exacerbated by the lack of official support for both clients and charities encountering universal credit for the first time, the trust said. The move to a full digital approach to benefits administration made it difficult for claimants without internet access to easily make, adjust or follow up claims.
This is the Report:
25 Apr 17
UK foodbank use continues to rise
UK foodbank use continues to rise as new report highlights growing impact of Universal Credit rollout on foodbanks.
- Over 1,182,000 three day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in past year – 436,000 to children
- New report on Universal Credit reveals adverse side effects on people claiming and foodbanks providing help
- The Trussell Trust welcomes Damian Green’s willingness to work with frontline charities and calls for more flexibility and support to help people moving to Universal Credit
UK foodbank use continues to rise according to new data from anti-poverty charity, The Trussell Trust. Between 1st April 2016 and 31st March 2017, The Trussell Trust’s Foodbank Network provided 1,182,954 three day emergency food supplies to people in crisis compared to 1,109,309 in 2015-16. Of this number, 436,938went to children. This is a measure of volume rather than unique users, and on average, people needed two foodbank referrals in the last year.* [see notes to editor]
The charity’s new report, Early Warnings: Universal Credit and Foodbanks, highlights that although the rollout of the new Universal Credit system for administering benefits has been piecemeal so far, foodbanks in areas of partial or full rollout are reporting significant problems with its impact.
Key findings from the report reveal:
- Foodbanks in areas of full Universal Credit rollout to single people, couples and families, have seen a 16.85% average increase in referrals for emergency food, more than double the national average of 6.64%.
- The effect of a 6+ week waiting period for a first Universal Credit payment can be serious, leading to foodbank referrals, debt, mental health issues, rent arrears and eviction. These effects can last even after people receive their Universal Credit payments, as bills and debts pile up.
- People in insecure or seasonal work are particularly affected, suggesting the work incentives in Universal Credit are not yet helping everyone.
- Navigating the online system can be difficult for people struggling with computers or unable to afford telephone helplines. In some cases, the system does not register people’s claims correctly, invalidating it.
- Foodbanks are working hard to stop people going hungry in areas of rollout, by providing food and support for more than two visits to the foodbank and working closely with other charities to provide holistic support. However, foodbanks have concerns about the extra pressure this puts on food donation stocks and volunteers’ time and emotional welfare.
Trussell Trust data also reveals that benefit delays and changes remain the biggest cause of referral to a foodbank, accounting for 43 percent of all referrals (26 percent benefit delay; 17 percent benefit change), a slight rise on last year’s 42 percent. Low income has also risen as a referral cause from 23 percent to 26 percent.
The Full Report can be accessed here: Early Warnings: Universal Credit and Foodbanks.
Key recommendations from the report:
Above: Mid-Suffolk and Babergh South Suffolk (Tory) Council Video……
Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Damian Green sometimes spends time away from his taxing life in the bijou town of Ashford answering questions about ‘reforms’ to Personal Independence Payments.
Sample, 15th of March, Parliament, “I am happy to confirm that to my hon. Friend. I think that he and I would agree that that was a significant step forward when it was introduced, and I am determined that we maintain progress in that direction so that people who have a disability—whether a physical or mental impairment—can lead as full a life as possible.”
We note that in reply to one question he said, “In his long and distinguished career, the hon. Gentleman has been shadow Leader of the House, so he knows perfectly well that such things are a matter for the usual channels. It is therefore somewhat above my pay grade.”
You wonder if the turmoil in his department’s botched scheme Universal Credit is ‘above’ both his ‘pay grade’ and ability to deal with…
These are some of the latest difficulties.
Finance chief warns people are being forced into new debts
DESPERATE tenants faced with long delays in accessing new Universal Credit benefits are beginning to steal food to survive, the Town Hall has warned a parliamentary committee.
Camden Council told the Work and Pensions Select Committee that the new system – a single monthly, means-tested benefit – was backfiring due to delays in the system. This meant people were racking up debts and rent arrears before they had received any help. In some cases, people are waiting up to six weeks before claims are processed.
The Town Hall’s official submission to MPs said: “One tenant has confessed to a rent officer that they were stealing food to eat. It is common to hear that Universal Credit claimants are borrowing heavily from family and friends. The Department for Work and Pensions’ Universal Credit helpline set up to advise claimants on the progress of their claim is providing an unacceptable service. Telephone calls can cost up to 55p a minute from pay-as-you-go mobile phones, which are commonly used by people with lower incomes. Wait times to speak with an adviser can be very long – one claimant in Camden has reported that their phone bill for a month was over £140, used almost entirely on calls to the DWP.”
The council is one of a number of local authorities, volunteer groups and charities giving evidence to the committee investigating the effectiveness of the new benefit system, first devised by former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
The reforms were meant to make the process of claiming benefits simpler through a single account, but the monthly cycle has left many struggling as they wait for a first payment. The council, meanwhile, fears that landlords will stop letting to those affected, particularly as many do not have savings to fall back on.
Around 230 people currently claim Universal Credit in Camden, but this figure could jump to 10,000 when the system is rolled out across the country this year.
Camden’s submission to the committee added: “While we recognise there is much to support in a benefit system that encourages claimants to take responsibility for a personal budget and outgoings, we feel strongly that a system should not be set up in a way that potentially adds to the risk of vulnerable people losing their home.”
The ‘very long’ wait on the phone struck home.
This is more and more people’s experience of anything to do with the DWP, and all the rest, particularly the infamous ‘outsourced’ bits of the state, run by private racketeers.
In sum the next story comes as no surprise:
Pressure mounts on UK government to halt universal credit. Third Force News.
Pressure is mounting on the UK government to ditch universal credit until its catalogue of problems are resolved.
Scotland’s social security secretary Angela Constance warned the Westminster-imposed system was no longer feasible in Scotland and is demanding UK ministers halt its introduction.
The minister’s demand comes after a Westminster committee launched an inquiry into universal credit amid concerns over delays in payments.
The new system – where people use an online account to manage their claim or apply for a benefit – is fully operational only in certain parts of the country.
Three Scottish councils, East Lothian, Highland and East Dunbartonshire, have it in place, with other areas piloting aspects of the full system.
Constance has written to Damian Green, UK work and pensions secretary, to ask for a “complete halt to full service roll-out of universal credit in Scotland with immediate effect”, stating it is “no longer feasible”.
She said people who are moved on to full service have to wait six weeks before receiving their first payment, resulting in tenants building up rent arrears.
As a result,
Delays in payments have seen landlords, including housing associations, reporting financial difficulties, with councils reporting record rent arrears, Constance said.
“It is clear that the system simply isn’t working and the UK government is not prepared to make the necessary changes,” she said.
“The six-week delay in receiving a payment – with longer delays for some being experienced – is a completely unacceptable situation and one which has the potential to push low-income households into further hardship and homelessness.
“I was also shocked to hear reports that, in some areas, landlords are advertising properties as ‘No UC’ due to their experience with the system.
“Despite the UK government having these issues highlighted in the pilots for universal credit and by councils, charities, housing associations and parliamentarians, absolutely no meaningful reassurance has been received.
“I therefore cannot be confident that these issues are even close to being fully resolved and it is my view that it is simply not credible for the UK government to continue with the further roll-out of full service universal credit until these problems are fully resolved.”
Leading charities have backed the call.
As should we all.
Meanwhile the Rt Hon Damian finds time for this jaunty event on the 17th of March.
Ashford MP, Damian Green, has shown his support WWF’s tenth Earth Hour by making a special pledge to help protect the planet. The world is changing fast, and it’s never been more important to show support for action on climate change.
Damian Green joined the WWF at the House of Commons this week to show they care about the future of our planet, ahead of the global lights out event, taking place on Saturday 25 March at 8:30pm.
Damian Green said: “I am delighted to support WWF’s Earth Hour this year to demonstrate how important it is that we take climate change seriously. I am proud to be a member of a parliament which has set ambitious targets to reduce our carbon emissions over the coming decades. The Government has outlined clear plans in order to live up to these ambitions.”
Each year, millions of people around the world come together to call to support Earth Hour. Last year a record 178 countries took part and iconic landmarks across the UK switched out their lights, from Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, to Brighton Pier, Edinburgh Castle and Caerphilly Castle. This year is set to be the biggest yet as it’s the 10 year anniversary of Earth Hour. With 2016 breaking temperature records for the third consecutive year, it’s never been more important to tackle climate change.
Stop benefit sanctions!
More and more people are facing benefit sanctions. Half a million people have had their benefits suddenly stopped by sanctions in the last 12 months.That’s half a million people, many of whom have been plunged into poverty, unable to heat their homes or even eat. How is this meant to help prepare people for work?
Benefit sanctions must be fought against
Please join an event near you on Thursday 30 March to stop benefit sanctions in your community.
We will continue to add new actions on a regular basis, so please check back.
For further information please email your Unite community coordinator (see here).
You often wish that politicians, that is Westminster politicians, took these issues as seriously as they do in Scotland.
Morning Star (today)
SCOTTISH Labour unveiled plans yesterday to “kick the private sector out of our social security system,” branding the treatment of disabled and long term-ill benefit claimants under the Tory welfare regime “inhumane.”
The party will table amendments to the forthcoming Social Security Bill to use the Scottish Parliament’s new powers to rule out the involvement of the private sector and has urged the SNP to support its proposals.
Labour says that thousands of disabled people have experienced punitive assessments for the Tories’ personal independence payments (PIP), adding that the SNP’s decision to delay the devolution of welfare powers will mean that 140,000 Scots will still be assessed under the current system.
Last month, a Scottish government consultation on social security revealed a “strong consensus that services should not be delivered through the private sector or profit-making agencies, with the majority of respondents in agreement that social security should be delivered through existing public-sector or thirdsector organisations.”
Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin said his party will seek to “use the new social security powers of the Scottish Parliament to kick the private sector out of our social security system.”
He laid into “these cruel and inhumane [PIP] assessments that have piled misery on vulnerable Scots.”
“Nicola Sturgeon failed to mention poverty once in her speech to the SNP conference. That tells you everything you need to know about her priorities,” he said.
He urged the First Minister to “work with Labour to use the new powers of our parliament” and abandon her preoccupation with Scottish independence.
Welfare Weekly (March the 17th) reports,
SNP Conference: Calls to scrap ‘draconian’ benefit sanctions regime
“The SNP does not believe we should be attacking the most disadvantaged in our society and completely rejects this benefits sanctions regime.
“The Tories need to realise this is the devastating consequences that removing the only source of income available has on real people and their families.
“It is extremely concerning that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society, including those at risk of homelessness, those with caring responsibilities and those with mental ill health issues, are the most likely to be punished by the draconian regime.
“The UK government must urgently scrap this punitive sanctions regime. The shocking findings of the National Audit Office illustrate the sheer unfairness and ineffectiveness of sanctions.
“The SNP has consistently done everything it can to mitigate the worst impacts of Tory welfare cuts spending £100m on protecting people – money we would rather invest in pulling people out of poverty.
“Our Government in Scotland continue to fight against the regime, for instance the Scottish Government have already secured agreement from the UK Government that the Scottish employment programme will not facilitate their benefits sanctions system.
“Scottish Ministers have been crystal clear that our services in Scotland must be seen as an opportunity, not a threat.”
The full text of the resolution reads:
“Conference rejects the punitive Tory benefit sanction regime; commends the creators of I, Daniel Blake for bringing the public’s attention to the cruel and callous reality facing tens of thousands of disadvantaged people across the UK; further notes with the concern the shocking findings of the National Audit Office of the scale and ineffectiveness of the sanctions regime; is concerned that the most vulnerable including those at risk of homelessness, those with caring responsibilities and those with mental ill health are the most likely to be punished by the draconian regime, welcomes the decision of the Scottish Government to make sure that the new Employment Programme, effective from April 2017, does not facilitate the UK Government’s sanctions system, and calls for the UKG to move urgently to scrap the unfair sanctions regime.”
This in an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP).
“No Spending Spree…..”
There was a flicker of a chart on Channel Four News last night about the effects of the Welfare cuts on people.
I suspect that’s about the most, a very brief most, that most people – unlike us lot – will register about the issue.
The so-called Minister, Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green, has been quieter than the quietest mouse recently.
He did find time for this, “Our Man – Advice and Supports Services
The welfare cap is still there. The four-year freeze of working-age benefits continues. This means those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, income support, housing benefit, Universal Credit, child tax credits, working tax credits and child benefit will be worse off, as inflation increases but their benefits remain flat. Child tax credits and child benefit through Universal Credit will be limited to two children, and the government recently announced its plan to remove the entitlement to housing benefit for some 18-21 year olds. Hammond’s only offer to those depending on the state to boost their income is to reduce the taper rate at which your benefits through Universal Credit are withdrawn as you begin to earn more – from 65 per cent to 63 per cent.Hammond’s only offer to those depending on the state to boost their income is to reduce the taper rate at which your benefits through Universal Credit are withdrawn as you begin to earn more – from 65 per cent to 63 per cent. The Chancellor announced this in his Autumn Statement last November and has made no new announcements about benefits since. In fact, his only reference to welfare in his Spring Budget speech was to repeat his softening of the taper rate.
“…remember, this isn’t giving more money to claimants .
It’s very slightly reducing the amount Universal Credit is being cut.
According to the Independent, the planned £3bn-a-year reduction in the work allowance..
People in Liverpool are not happy,
Talking to somebody in the library I learnt that some people round here are already on Universal Credit (and the horrors of ‘Job Search’ at the notorious SEETEC).
Writing posts about the failings of Universal Credit has become a duty.
But not a hard one since a story emerges every couple of days.
This is the latest (Daily Mirror)
People who move onto the Tories’ flagship welfare scheme are waiting nearly three months for payments to roll in – putting them at risk of eviction, a town hall boss has said.
The stark warning came tonight from Croydon Council in south London, a key pilot area for the “full digital service” of Universal Credit.
The system rolls six benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and Child Tax Credit into one payment and is slowly being phased in across the UK after several delays.
But analysts have claimed millions will face overall cuts due to changes in “work allowances” under the new system.
Mark Fowler, Croydon Council’s director of welfare, said some single people under 35 had their payments cut from £155 a week to just £72 in the new scheme.
He told MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Committee: “We have seen in Croydon, on average, it’s about 12 weeks before any form of payment is awarded, which is creating considerable pressures as you can understand.
“Then even when this customer cohort are awarded money, that’s still a difference [between] £72 [and] £155 a week.
“So that’s an immediate pressure and immediate potential for eviction as well.”
MPs pointed out the time lag was so long that landlords could begin evictions for unpaid rent.
Mr Fowler agreed, adding: “You have got people moving from one system to another. Most people pay their rent in advance, not in arrears.
“What we have also found is people in emergency accommodation – so people who are incredibly vulnerable, fleeing domestic violence, mental health issues, single parents, English isn’t their first language – are particularly hit by the approach to Universal Credit.”
He said the council had a duty to move some people out of emergency housing within six weeks – but benefit payments only start when they’ve been in place for six weeks.
Nick Atkin, chief executive of the Halton Housing Trust, urged the rollout to be slowed down and blamed poor communication within the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
He said Universal Credit claimants had just 9% of all Halton’s tenancies but 37% of all its arrears.
And they were four times as likely to have been served an eviction notice compared to other claimants.
He added: “There’s an increased risk for those people of losing their homes.”
Being fair chaps the Mirror then presents “alternative facts” from the DWP’s Macedonian News Factory.
A DWP spokesman said: “The best way to help people pay their rent is to help them into work, and under Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.
“Universal Credit is designed to mirror the world of work by giving people responsibility over their lives, and paying Housing Benefit directly to claimants is an important part of this process.
“Budgeting advice, direct rent payments to landlords and benefit advances can be provided for those who need them.”
As Teresa May speaks on Brexit today we will hear a lot about how the free movement of labour in Europe will be ended. That it is has helped create unemployment.
We will hear about ” building a “stronger” and a “fairer” country and creating a “truly Global Britain”.
This is the reality of what is what is happening and what they plan for the unemployed.
The Mirror reported this a couple of days ago.
Chancellor Philip Hammond said the UK could change its economic model towards a US-style low tax, low welfare one as a result of Brexit .
His comments came after Theresa May angered Remainers by pushing for a hard Brexit that will take us out of the single market and customs union.
This is already happening.
Shocking research reveals Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship benefit has left almost 9 in 10 claimants living in council housing in rent arrears.
Joint research from the NFA and ARCH reveals almost nine in ten Universal Credit (UC) claimants living in council housing are in rent arrears, two and a half years after Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship new benefit was introduced.
The research charted the impact of UC on the rent arrears of claimants living in council owned homes and found 86% are in arrears, up from 79% in March 2016, with 59% of these more than a month behind on their rent.
Although 63% of UC tenants in arrears had pre-existing arrears before their UC claim only 44% of them are on APAs (alternative payment arrangements with direct payment from DWP).
The average value of rent arrears owed by UC claimants living in council housing has almost doubled since 31 March 2016, from £321 to £615.
Some fairer society!
As James Bloodworth says:
This sticks in the craw.
Families and disabled people ‘hit worse by rising homelessness’ Welfare Weekly.
Theresa May’s claim to lead a government that protects the most vulnerable is undermined by figures showing that families and disabled people have been disproportionately hit by increasing homelessness, Labour has said.
John Healey, the shadow housing minister, said on Friday that while homelessness generally had gone up 41% since 2010, people who might expect extra care from the government were doing even worse.Healey based his claim on figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government showing that from 2010 to 2016 the overall number of households accepted as being homeless by local authorities in England went up from 42,390 to almost 60,000.
But the increase was disproportionately high for homeless households classed as vulnerable through mental illness, where homelessness went up 53%, and for those classed as vulnerable through physical disability, where it rose 49%.
And there was a particularly sharp increase in the number of homeless households with vulnerable children, up from 25,350 in 2010 to 41,010 – a rise of 62%.
Healey said the figures undermined the claim in the Conservative party 2015 manifesto that “we measure our success not just in how we show our strength abroad but in how we care for the weakest and most vulnerable at home”.
He added: “It’s a scandal that after six years of failure on housing, falling homelessness under Labour has turned into rising homelessness under the Tories.
“Since 2010, homelessness has risen dramatically on all fronts with almost 60,000 households becoming homeless last year. These figures show that some vulnerable groups have been particularly hard hit.
“Ministers urgently need to get a grip, back Labour’s plans to end rough sleeping and build thousands more affordable homes.”
Labour wants to revive the rough sleepers initiative, which it says was successful at tackling rough sleeping in the 1990s.
A spokesman for the communities department said the government was committed to supporting the most vulnerable.
“That’s why we’re investing over £550m to tackle and reduce homelessness, on top of supporting Bob Blackman’s homelessness reduction bill to prevent more people from becoming homeless in the first place,” he said.
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