Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Fraud’ Category

DWP Tweets Boosting Universal Credit, “playing People like Fools.”

with 51 comments

Frankie may have faults but he sums it up.

For some very fathomable reasons Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest, are the favourite playgrounds of charlatans, cranks, nutters, and….the DWP.

This Blog is no great fan of Frank Field.

Or indeed close.

Few are, outside of his pet tarantula and his hair shirt.

But he is still there, ferreting away at the Tory Mess that is Universal Credit.

The Mirror reports today,

DWP blasted over ‘misleading’ Universal Credit advert ‘that is playing people for fools’

The Tory government has been accused of “playing people for fools” with a “misleading” advert about Universal Credit .

The image on Twitter last week boasted the six-in-one benefit “mirrors the world of work” because it is paid monthly and “paid to you like wages”.

But Frank Field, chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, claimed these statements were misleading.

That is because many low-paid workers are given their wages weekly, not monthly, Mr Field said.

UC is also paid to one representative of the household – not each person. Activists have warned this policy worsens domestic abuse.

Mr Field has now written to complain about the letter to UC programme director Neil Couling in the Department for Work and Pensions.

His letter demands to know “how misleading advertising such as this is compatible with, and supportive of, the Department’s commitment to transparent and open communication with claimants and stakeholders over Universal Credit.”

Mr Field claimed: “These so-called “facts” about Universal Credit are nothing of the kind.

We are waiting for the DWP to repeat this one in a campaign to publicise the successes of Universal Credit.:

DWP admits inventing quotes from fake ‘benefits claimants’ for sanctions leaflet

DWP

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 22, 2018 at 3:11 pm

Benefit Sanctions Rate Under Universal Credit Twice The Rate Under Jobseeker’s Allowance.

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Image result for benefit sanctions

Benefit Sanctions Rise Under Universal Credit.

People may have thought that benefit sanctions had gone away.

Not only have they not disappeared into a new more liberal system but the numbers have got worse under Universal Credit.

Benefit sanctions may do more harm than good

The ultra-liberal Economist this week says,

Reforms to Britain’s welfare system are not nearly as helpful as their supporters claim

MORE than half Britain’s jobcentres now offer “universal credit”, which merges six working-age benefits into one. Most discussion of universal credit, which will eventually offer payments to one in four households, has been about its botched rollout. Less attention has been paid to its tough sanctions regime. Those who fail to comply with requirements that include spending 35 hours a week job-hunting may see their benefits docked. In America, where there is talk of tightening conditions for receiving food stamps, reformers are looking at the British experiment with interest.

From 2010 the coalition government enforced sanctions more vigorously still. Under universal credit, claimants who have received several sanctions are often made to serve them one after the other, rather than concurrently, as under the old system. Research by David Webster of Glasgow University suggests that the sanction rate for jobless universal-credit claimants is twice the rate for jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), the old unemployment benefit.

….

…the government has published little research on the impact of the tightening since 2010, despite sitting on a mound of data.

A new paper in the Cambridge Journal of Economics offers a pessimistic assessment. Focusing on the period from 2001 to 2014, it finds that sanctions under JSA increase the flow of people into work—but only in the short run. It may be that claimants, fearful of having their money cut off, take the first job they find, which turns out not to suit them. This also suggests that they may be taking jobs which do not pay as well as they might. In a speech last year Michael Saunders of the Bank of England drew a link between tough welfare rules and recent low wage growth.

As the evidence builds, the government may at some point have to tweak its approach. A recent study by Rachel Loopstra of King’s College, London, and colleagues, finds some correlation between tougher benefit sanctions and a rise in the use of food banks. A government that tones down sanctions would doubtless be accused of going soft. But it would have the evidence on its side.

This is the source:

BRIEFING 

David Webster (Glasgow University)

Benefit Sanctions Statistics 24 July 2018

Of the 920,000 claimants on Universal Credit at May 2018, two-thirds (67.3%) were subject to conditionality. For the first time, a majority (50.7%) of all unemployed claimants were on UC rather than JSA. UC is now significantly boosting the number of people recorded as claimant unemployed, by making people look for work who would previously not have done.

In the 12 months ended January 2018 there were a total of approximately 355,000 sanctions before challenges on all the four benefits subject to conditionality (UC, JSA, ESA and IS). This compares to 383,000 in the 12 months to October 2017. Of the 355,000 sanctions, approximately 264,000 or almost three-quarters (74.4%) were on UC.

The overall rate of sanction under UC is typically around 5% per month, and the unemployed sanction rate within UC will be considerably higher. Only for relatively short periods in 2010-11 and 2012-14 has the JSA rate ever been as high as 5%.

This is the crucial section of the research:

The rate of sanction under Universal Credit continues to be strikingly high. It is typically around 5% per month, far higher than the rate for JSA. In fact only for relatively short periods in 2010-11 and 2012-14 has the JSA rate ever been as high as this. It also needs to be remembered that this overall UC rate includes sanctions on groups with much lower sanction rates than the unemployed. The unemployed accounted for under three-quarters of the UC claimants subject to conditionality in the three months to January 2018. The unemployed sanction rate within UC will therefore be considerably higher than the overall rate shown in Figure 2.

Thus, “sanctions don’t just ‘appear’ higher in UC; they are higher.”

“Since summer 2017 about 8 % or 1 in 12 of all unemployed UC claimants has been serving a sanction at any one time, this proportion having reached a peak of over 10% in March 2017.  The proportion under sanction for unemployed claimants is now higher than it was when the statistics began in August 2015 – about 8% compared to about 6%, whereas for all other groups it is similar or lower. Evidently the administration of UC has become harsher towards unemployed claimants as the system has bedded in. Moreover it must be remembered that if 8% of claimants are under sanction at any one time, the proportion sanctioned at some point during, say, a year, will be much higher.

The second highest proportion under sanction is found among in-work claimants, running at around 2% except at the time of the backlog drive in early 2017. Rates for the other groups are around 1%.

A striking feature of the figures is that there are people serving sanctions who are in the groups which are not supposed to be subject to conditionality at all: ‘no working requirements’ and ‘working – no requirements’.

At January 2018 there were a total of 1,108 people in this position. This is  because they will have received a sanction when they were in a different group which was subject to conditionality.

One of the many problematic consequences of the ‘simplification’ of benefits by combining them into UC is that sanctions follow claimants into no-conditionality groups even though there is no longer any point to them. Previously the sanctions would have lapsed when people moved to another benefit. The number of people in this position will grow as UC expands.

Some other key findings from this survey of UC claimants relevant to issues of conditionality are:

  • Fewer than two-thirds (63%) of claimants thought their Claimant Commitment was achievable, and only 54% and 55% respectively thought that it took account of their personal circumstances and would help them to obtain or increase employment (p.41)
  • Around 40% of claimants found it difficult to complete the hours of work search or preparation required by their Claimant Commitment, and almost half (47%) had completed fewer hours. (p.59)
  • For around one third of those finding it difficult to meet the Claimant Commitment, the main reason was a lack of jobs available in their area. Suitability of the claimant’s skills, childcare responsibilities, and health problems were other common factors. (p.60)
  • Meetings with the Work Coach and the online Journal were generally favourably regarded, with around three-quarters taking a positive view (pp.50-51)
  • long-term health condition (55 per cent). This suggests a serious mismatch between requirements and capabilities. (p.28)
  • Claimants were asked to identify circumstances that could lead to a sanction. The circumstance which was least often correctly identified (by 80% of claimants) was failing to apply for a job when required by the Work Coach. This is serious as this carries the heaviest penalty, a ‘higher level’ sanction of three months for a first ‘failure’. (p.43)
  • Two thirds (64%) of those sanctioned considered their sanction to have been unfair (p.52)
  • 10% of those sanctioned did not know or understand the reason, while 7% believed that the sanction was due to an error made by the Jobcentre (p.52)

Observer May 2018.

Study concludes that punishing claimants triggers profoundly negative outcomes

Benefit sanctions are ineffective at getting jobless people into work and are more likely to reduce those affected to poverty, ill-health or even survival crime, the UK’s most extensive study of welfare conditionality has found.

The five-year exercise tracking hundreds of claimants concludes that the controversial policy of docking benefits as punishment for alleged failures to comply with jobcentre rules has been little short of disastrous.

“Benefit sanctions do little to enhance people’s motivation to prepare for, seek or enter paid work. They routinely trigger profoundly negative personal, financial, health and behavioural outcomes,” the study concludes.

Despite claims by ministers in recent years that rigorously enforced conditionality – including mandatory 35-hour job searches – incentivised claimants to move off benefits into work, the study found the positive impact was negligible.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 10, 2018 at 10:31 am

Compulsory Employment “Schemes” for Jobseeker’s Claiming Council Tax Support.

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Image result for workfare

Is Workfare For Council Tax Support part of the new Austerity Agenda?

Council Tax support is falling apart.

This affects people on Job Seeker’s Allowance, and now, Universal Credit,.

Hard.

You can expect a great deal of thieving from Tory Councils.

Barnet led the way:

Everyone of working age has to pay a minimum contribution of 20% from 01 April 2015 (the contribution for the period 01 April 2013 to 31 March 2015 will remain at 8.5% as agreed in January 2013) of their Council Tax liability unless they are in a protected group. (War pensioners, war widow(er)s and people who receive Armed Forces compensation scheme payments will not have to pay the minimum contribution).

This 20% rule is pretty widespread now.

A hefty sum, around £287.8 a year (National average, band D,  Band D property to £1,439).

In Labour run Ipswich, by contrast,

In Ipswich, all people of working age have to pay at least 8.5% of their Council Tax bill, regardless of their income. From 1st April 2018, this will reduce to 5%.

But now we learn Leeds Labour Council is running this compulsory scheme.

Personal work support programme

If you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and have been claiming Council Tax support for 26 weeks or more, you will be offered a place on the personal work support programme.

You will have to complete this programme to keep receiving Council Tax support unless you’re part of one of the exempt or protected groups (PDF 1.2MB)​​.

You will be required to complete five review appointments with one of our employment advisors who are able to support all aspects of looking for work which includes:

  • Help to update your CV
  • Advice and support for applying for vacancies online
  • Advice on how to find the type of work you are looking for
  • The latest job vacancy information
  • Free access to our computers
  • Help with any health, money, benefit or housing concerns that you may have

To book an appointment with an advisor, please call 0113 222 4404.

You can find further information on the package of support available in our Council Tax Support for Jobseekers leaflet (PDF 223KB)​​.

Ipswich Unemployed Action has been informed that there are other councils, some Tory, who have similar schemes.

Some, it is said, involve workfare.

In the opinion of a professional Welfare Adviser this is not legal

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits, failing to meet the Government’ s own quality standards.

with 26 comments

Government Responds to Critical Report by Wheeling out Lies.

Capita and Atos, the latter later replaced by Maximus, names that should be on every infant’s lips… as bogeymen.

The crooks contacted to run our public services have come a cropper again.

This time they have created misery for thousands and thousands of disabled people caught in the Benefit’s system.

Disability benefit assessors failing to meet Government’s quality standards

Independent.

Errors in assessment process lead to ‘pervasive lack of trust’ in system and ‘untenable human costs’ to claimants, MPs find

All three private firms contracted to assess people for disability benefits are failing to meet the Government’ s own quality standards, leading to decisions being made based on inaccurate or incomplete assessments, new research shows.

A report by the Work and Pensions Committee found failings in the assessment process have contributed to a “pervasive lack of trust” in the system and an “untenable human costs” to claimants, as well as financial costs to the public purse. They concluded that the process was in need of “urgent change”.

In one case flagged up by MPs, a person with Down’s syndrome was asked when they “caught” it, while in another, a woman reporting frequent suicidal thoughts was asked why she had not yet killed herself. In a third case, a claimant’s assessment stated that she walked a dog daily, when she could barely walk and didn’t own a dog.

Of the 170,000 appeals for personal independence payments (PIP) claims that have been taken to the Tribunal in the past five years, since 2013, claimants won in 63 per cent of cases. In the same period, there have been 53,000 employment support allowance (ESA) appeals, of which claimants won in 60 per cent of cases.

Both Atos and Capita – the companies contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’ to carry out the bulk of the assessments – saw a rise in the proportion of reports graded “unacceptable” last year.

The article concludes:

A DWP spokesperson said: “As the Work and Pensions Committee highlights, assessments work for the majority of people, with 83 per cent of ESA claimants and 76 per cent of PIP claimants telling us that they’re happy with their overall experience. However, our aim has to be that every person feels they are treated fairly, with respect and dignity.

“We are committed to continuously improving the experience of our claimants, that is why we’ve commissioned five independent reviews of the work capability assessment – accepting over 100 recommendations – and two independent reviews of PIP assessments.

“We continue to work closely with our providers to ensure people receive high quality assessments, and are exploring options around recordings to promote greater transparency and trust.”

We know what kind of ‘research’ they use to reach this conclusion:

As Kitty writes,  Summary of key problems with the DWP’s recent survey of claimant satisfaction

The Government says: “This research monitors claimants’ satisfaction with DWP services and ensures their views are considered in operational and policy planning.” 

Again, it doesn’t include those claimants whose benefit support has been disallowed. There is considerable controversy around disability benefit award decisions (and sanctioning) in particular, yet the survey does not address this important issue, since those experiencing negative outcomes are excluded from the survey sample. We know that there is a problem with the PIP and ESA benefits award decision-making processes, since a significant proportion of those people who go on to appeal DWP decisions are subsequently awarded their benefit.

The DWP, however, don’t seem to have any interest in genuine feedback from this group that may contribute to an improvement in both performance and decision-making processes, leading to improved outcomes for disabled people.

Last year, judges ruled 14,077 people should be given PIP against the government’s decision not to between April and June – 65 per cent of all cases.  The figure is higher still when it comes to ESA (68 per cent). Some 85 per cent of all benefit appeals were accounted for by PIP and ESA claimants.

Francis Ryan writes in the New Statesman.

The mass rollout of PIP and the out-of-work sickness benefit, the employment and support allowance (ESA) – first started by the coalition government – were in many ways the centre of the Conservatives’ anti-welfare drive, with ministers handing out hundreds of millions to private companies to run the assessments while claiming there are hordes of scrounging disabled people whose benefits should be withdrawn to get the “welfare” bill down.

It’s resulted in a system so inept that vast numbers of disabled people are having their support removed incorrectly: since 2013, of 170,000 PIP appeals taken to tribunal, 63 per cent won, while 60 per cent of the 53,000 ESA appeals succeeded.

Bear in mind this is at a time when legal aid cuts and the closure of welfare advice centres means many disabled people forced to appeal have no help to do so (imagine what the appeal rates would be if these were healthy people given legal support).

The impact of this is brutal. More than a third of those who have had their benefit cut say they’re struggling to pay for food, rent and bills, while 40 per cent say they’ve become more isolated as over 50,000 disabled people lost access to Motability vehicles.

The recent appointment of Esther McVey – famed in her role as Minister for Disabled People for her punitive attitude to benefit claimants – as the new Work and Pensions Secretary does not bode well for hopes to reform the system.

But the past month has shown with enough pressure, the government can be forced into a climb-down: in January, the Department for Work and Pensions announced every person receiving PIP – that’s 1.6 million people – will have their claim reviewed after a court challenge.

This week’s coming report could be another nail in the coffin in the Conservatives’ disability benefit agenda. In the meantime, cancer patients and people with severe depression are being left without the money they need to live.

Public Finance reports that the call is out for an end to the contracting-out scam:  MPs highlight breakdown in trust over disability benefit tests

Mark Smulian

Public contract failures have led to a loss of trust that risks undermining the operation of the Personal Independence Payment and Employment and Support Allowance disability benefits, MPs have said.

In a report published today, the Commons work and pensions committee called for urgent reforms to the system.

Chair Frank Field said: “For the majority of claimants the assessments work adequately, but a pervasive lack of trust is undermining its entire operation.

“In turn, this is translating into untenable human costs to claimants and financial costs to the public purse. No one should have any doubt the process needs urgent change.”

Field said the Department for Work & Pensions should immediately require recording of face-to-face assessments and provide these to claimants, adding “it beggars belief that this is not already a routine element of the process”.

He called the DWP’s resistance to this idea “bewildering”, noting that making recordings available could in itself reduce the incidence of disputes leading to costly appeals.

Assessments have been carried out by contractors Capita and Atos, the latter later replaced by Maximus.

Ministers should consider taking assessments in-house, Field said, as “the existing contractors have consistently failed to meet basic performance standards but other companies are hardly scrambling over each other to take over”.

PIP and ESA assessment work was outsourced in the name of efficiency and consistency but the committee said no provider had ever hit their quality performance targets while many claimants experience anxiety and other damage to their health over a process regarded as “opaque and unfriendly” throughout.

The committee also urged better understanding amongst health and social care professionals and claimants of what constitutes good evidence for PIP and ESA claims, improved accessibility at every stage and better quality control.

It said there had been an unprecedented response to its call for evidence from service users and a recurrent, core theme had been “that claimants do not believe assessors can be trusted to record what took place during the assessment accurately [which] has implications far beyond the minority of claimants who directly experience poor decision making”

Still there’s this: Happy Thought for the Day from the DWP..

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 14, 2018 at 11:30 am

Benefit Assessors Capita in Financial ‘Problems’.

with 38 comments

Image result for Capita PIP

 

Some well-dodgy companies and ‘charities’ are set to run the Work and Health Programme,

Central England Shaw Trust January 2018
2 North East England Reed in Partnership January 2018
3 North West England Ingeus November 2017
4 Southern England Pluss January 2018
5 Home Counties Shaw Trust January 2018
6 Wales Remploy December 2017

This is how one DWP ‘contractor’ (PIP and ‘ DWP partnered with Capita Document & Information Services and Capita’s 10 enquiry lines on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)) is faring, despite siphoning off tonnes of public money.

Capita: more than £1bn wiped off value of UK government contractor

Grim state of outsourcing firm’s financial position emerges two weeks after collapse of Carillion.

More than £1bn was wiped off the stock market value of the government contractor Capita on Wednesday, sparking fears of job losses and forcing Downing Street to play down the threat of a collapse echoing the demise of rival Carillion.

Capita, whose major contracts range from collecting the BBC licence fee to electronic tagging of prisoners, saw its share price nearly halve in a day following a grim financial update that reignited concerns over the outsourcing industry and the stability of public services.

This is a major part of Capita’s Welfare ‘Business’.

Personal Independence Payment Assessments

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a non means tested benefit for people aged between 16 and 64 who have a long term health condition or impairment.

It replaced Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for people aged between 16 and 64. DLA recipients can use the DWP PIP Checker to see if and when they will be affected.

Capita carries out PIP assessments on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Wales, the West Midlands and the East Midlands (Independent Assessment Services, delivered by Atos covers the other parts of Great Britain). Assessments are focused on how an individual’s health conditions may impact on their daily life, rather than the health conditions themselves. You can read about the DWP’s entitlement conditions and assessment criteria in detail on the DWP website.

DWP accused of ‘rewarding failure’ over ‘extortionate’ benefit assessors payouts. 

April 2017

Labour accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of “rewarding failure” by Atos and Capita, which appear set to be paid more than £700 million for their five-year contracts.

This compares with an original estimate of £512 million for the contracts to carry out assessments for personal independence payments (PIP). The DWP said the assessment process for PIP is key to supporting claimants, and it has to balance effective support for the most vulnerable with getting the best value for the taxpayer.

Analysis by the Press Association shows Atos and Capita have already been paid £578 million in relation to PIP since it launched in 2013. This includes £257 million in 2016, the highest year so far, according to the department’s monthly spending data.

But the three original call-off contracts for this work totalled £512 million. This figure was supposed to cover a five-year period, according to the original contract documents.

The contracts are due to run out in December. With DWP having paid Atos and Capita an average of £19 million a month over the past two years, the companies are set to be paid in excess of £700 million by the time the contracts hit the five-year mark.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams said:

“It is beyond belief that this Tory Government is rewarding failure. “The PIP process is in disarray and these private companies are receiving huge payouts in a time of extreme austerity.

“It is clear that these costs are spiralling out of control.

“The Government needs to get an urgent grip on these extortionate payments to private companies, especially at a time when they are getting more and more assessments overturned in the courts.”

Watchdog orders DWP to publish secret reports on Atos and Capita PIP failings

22nd January 2018.

The information commissioner has ordered the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to release documents that are likely to expose the widespread failings of two of its disability benefit assessment contractors.

DWP has been attempting to prevent the documents being released since receiving a Freedom of Information Act request from campaigner John Slater in December 2016.

He said the documents – if and when they are eventually released – will reveal the truth about what DWP knows about Atos and Capita.

Last month, the two outsourcing companies, which are paid hundreds of millions of pounds to carry out personal independence payment (PIP) assessments, told members of the Commons work and pensions committee that they had never met contractual quality standards on the reports their staff write for DWP.

The documents Slater has been seeking could provide further evidence of such failings, and fuel campaigners’ fears that Atos and Capita have been told by DWP to find a certain proportion of claimants ineligible for PIP.

Under the terms of their contracts to assess claimants across England, Wales and Scotland for their eligibility for PIP, Atos and Capita must provide monthly reports to DWP that cover “all aspects of quality, including performance and complaints”.

The reports include detailed “management information”, including the number of complaints made against assessors, what proportion of assessments led to claimants meeting the PIP criteria, and the average length of time taken for face-to-face assessments.

Slater, who works in programme and project management when he is not campaigning on issues around freedom of information, had asked DWP to provide copies of these reports for every month of 2016.

He told Disability News Service that the reports would provide “raw data” on the companies’ performance, before DWP “has had a chance to massage it”.

He said: “I suspect what they will show is not only that the contractors are struggling but also how bad DWP is at managing contracts.”

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.c

Latest news:

Capita PLC (LON:CPI) could be an “interesting recovery story” but it is too early to tell whether the new chief executive’s turnaround plan will bear fruit, according to analysts at Jefferies.

The outsourcing firm, which holds several contracts with the government, on Wednesday issued a profit warning and announced plans for a £700mln rights issue, to scrap its dividend and sell off non-core divisions.

The news sparked worries that it could face the same fate as collapsed contractor Carillion PLC (LON:CLLN).

Jonathan Lewis, who started as Capita’s chief executive two months ago, admitted that the company was “too complex” and “too widely spread across multiple markets and services”, making it challenging to maintain a competitive advantage in every business.

“Capita could be an interesting recovery story but it is too opaque to model with conviction, management guidance has been unreliable, and perpetual UK political turmoil continues to weigh on the revenue outlook,” said Jefferies.

The broker cut its rating on the stock to ‘hold’ from ‘buy’ and slashed its target price to 200p from 750p.

Capita now expects 2018 underlying pre-tax profits to be lower at around £270mln to £300mln, well below consensus forecasts of £380mln, due to contract delays, higher attrition, weak new sales and higher costs.

Revenue is expected to be flat compared to the previous year, which is ahead of consensus forecasts for a 204% decline.

“The new CEO may have kitchen-sinked expectations and front-end loaded investment costs but it’s difficult to prove at this juncture,” Jefferies said.

The view of RBC Capital Markets is that Lewis is “doing all the right things” but weaker trading and the “more precarious” balance sheet mean he has had to raise capital before completing a full strategic review.

…..

Shares in Capita fell 3.2% to 176.30p in morning trading.

It’s a pitiful state of affairs when our public services are dependent on “morning trading” in shares.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 1, 2018 at 11:45 am

Workfare Returns and Benefits Sanctions Shoot Up.

with 117 comments

Poundland has been criticised for employing jobseekers, without pay, for up to two months under a deal with the government.

Several of those who have worked on the scheme told the Guardian they had worked up to 30 hours a week for at least three weeks stacking shelves in Poundland. They were told that the work experience was voluntary but one said: “I had no say in it really.”

It’s not clear how many jobseekers have been used by Poundland under the scheme as the government said it did not collect information centrally and the work experience was managed locally by jobcentres across the country. However, one store in Bolton has taken on 21 placements since last August, according to information provided in response to a freedom of information request by the Boycott Workfare pressure group.

 

Origin of the story,

Is Poundland using unpaid workers again? Graduate says he’s stacking shelves for free on ‘demoralising’ Government work scheme

JOB CENTRE TOLD HIM AND NINE OTHERS TO COMPLETE SIX WEEK PLACEMENT IN BOLTON SHOP

* GRADUATE FOG EXCLUSIVE *

Poundland has denied using unpaid workers to stack shelves in its stores, directly contradicting a source who has told Graduate Fog that he and nine others are currently working for free in the chain’s Bolton store, in placements set up by his local job centre.

This website has spoken to Billy (not his real name), a recent graduate from the University of Central Lancashire, who says he has been told by his local job centre that he must work for free at the discount retailer for 30 hours a week for six weeks. Billy and nine others are required to wear black, unbranded polo shirts, black trousers and black shoes when working in Poundland’s stores, all provided by the job centre. 

familiar snip

Of 10 unpaid workers at that store, Billy says eight are under 25 years old. One of the older pair has 27 years’ experience as a teacher. All are on the DWP’s ‘Work Experience Programme’. Billy told us:

“I was so excited to graduate from university but, one month on, I’ve never felt so low. Having struggled to find paid work, three weeks ago I signed on to Universal Credit, and I’ve been told to do unpaid work experience stacking shelves at Poundland. There are 10 of us in our branch working 30 hours a week, and none of us is being paid a penny by Poundland. I hate it and have no idea what this is supposed to be teaching me. I’m not learning anything and I can’t work out why taxpayers are subsidising my unpaid work for a hugely profitable company.

“I don’t have a set schedule. They just literally tell me to come in. Monday 26th June was my first day, I worked from 2:30-8:30pm. There were five of us in total. Once we completed the day we were told to come in again on Wednesday from 2:30-8:30pm. It’s not set hours and days but we have to do 30 hours a week for 6 weeks. We have been given black polo shirts to wear during our shifts. They’re the exactly same as the uniform the regular Poundland staff wear, but without the Poundland logo.

“I am keen to get on and apply for a jobs in my chosen industry, but working for nothing is so demoralising that it’s hard to stay motivated. I can’t understand how the politicians think unpaid work is a solution to youth unemployment. The quality of these placements is poor and they lead nowhere. Those of us who do them end up exhausted and miserable, and I suspect we’ve probably replaced a few paid workers too, who will be missing out on the shifts we now cover. Meanwhile, Poundland must be laughing all the way to the bank. The scheme needs shutting down. The only people benefiting from it are Poundland.”

Since graduating this summer with a 2:1 in Film and Media Studies, Billy has been living at home with his dad, who has bipolar disorder, his mum, who is a carer, and his brother who is also looking for work. The whole family is struggling financially and Billy says: “We all feel trapped”.

Meanwhile….

Benefit Tales posts,

The number of benefit sanctions imposed on job seekers has shot up by 50% in the space of six months, Politics.co.uk can reveal.

The number of sanctions imposed on people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit rose from 18,994 last July to 33,860 in December, before falling back to the 30,000 mark by March this year.

In the six months to March, the most recent month for which data is available, the number of sanctions had risen by 50%.

“It is a matter of real concern that the number of people on Universal Credit being sanctioned is increasing,” shadow employment minister Margaret Greenwood said.

“This data shows further evidence of the Tory government letting vulnerable groups down, fuelling poverty and even destitution in the UK.

“A recent Public Accounts Committee report suggested that sanctions are being ‘applied inconsistently’ and used as a ‘blunt instrument’.”

Politics.co.uk has combined both published and unpublished data from the Department for Work and Pensions. While figures for the old Jobseeker’s Allowance benefit are routinely published, recent data for the newer Universal Credit system is much harder to come by.

The true sanctions figures are actually likely to be higher, as the Universal Credit data excludes claimants in numerous parts of the country. (also, these figures don’t include sanctions on people with disability  benefits)

Originally on the Politics Co site: Benefit sanctions shoot up 50% in six months

Written by Andrew Coates

September 4, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Citizens Advice: Rollout of Universal Credit Should be Stalled.

with 50 comments

Image result for universal credit

As Threat Looms for More and More People Calls Grow for Halt to Madcap Misery Scheme. 

 

Briefly on the BBC News this morning this is a Bombshell from those with first-hand experience of helping people in difficulties with Universal Credit.

Our Newshounds on this site will no doubt find out the Government Response.

So far, silence, silence, silence.

I begin with the trustworthy and always acute source, Computer Weekly,

Citizens Advice calls for roll-out of Universal Credit to be paused

A report by the advisory charity highlights issued around making and managing claims online, lack of digital skills and problems with identity verification through Gov.uk Verify

 Citizens Advice has called for the Department for Work and Pension (DWP) to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) as people struggle to make claims successfully.
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One of the big changes under Universal Credit was the switch to a ‘digital’ benefit. For the first time with the full digital service, claimants both apply for and manage their UC claim online. The intention behind this change is to encourage UC claimants to develop their digital skills,” the report said.

Citizens Advice believes that being online could make it easier for people to find and secure work, and access information.

“A digitally-delivered benefit system also has the potential to become more efficient, allowing claimants to better manage their payments and any changes of circumstances,” it said, but added that rolling out a fully digital Universal Credit requires “significant support”.

One in five adults in the UK lack basic digital skills and one in seven don’t have access to the internet at home.  

“These people are disproportionately likely to be disabled or have a long-term health condition, and to be unemployed or on low incomes. These are also the groups most likely to be making a claim for UC,” the report said.

“A survey of our UC clients in full service areas found nearly half (45%) had difficulty accessing or using the internet – or both.”

This makes it difficult for citizens applying for benefits to do so online. In fact, 52% of the people surveyed by Citizens Advice said they found the online application difficult and felt that the support they needed was not available. Most people have also not been informed that there are other options than applying online.

“Without accessible facilities and support, there is a risk that the significant minority of claimants who lack digital literacy or internet access will experience additional delays and errors in their initial claim,” the report said.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said that while the charity supports the principles of Universal Credit, the system is failing “too many people, pushing them into debt and leaving them without the means to make ends meet”.

“The current flaws with the system also undermine the very reasons Universal Credit was introduced: to simplify the benefits system and make sure every hour of work pays. As things stand, too many people are finding Universal Credit very complicated, and problems such as long wait for payments or difficulties getting help with an application mean they are less able to focus on getting into work or increasing their hours,” Guy said.

“The government needs to pause plans to accelerate the roll out of full service Universal Credit this Autumn and devote the time and resource needed to tackle the key problems which mean the system is not working.”

The Mirror is good too:

‘Universal Credit is failing people’ – Charity calls for benefit roll-out to be stalled over six week waiting lists, headlines the paper.

A Citizens Advice report has warned that households are being forced into debt as a result of prolonged waiting times and is now calling on the government to suspend the roll-out while issues are resolved.

The roll-out of Universal Credit should be paused until significant problems with it are fixed, Citizens Advice has claimed.

In a new report titled ‘Delivering on Universal Credit’, the charity has highlighted the issues households are allegedly facing as a result of the new benefits roll-out, which it says is forcing thousands into debt.

It said that families are having to wait six weeks on average for initial payments, while a third of claimants are waiting more than two months – pushing three in five into the red cover their costs.

This is due to a ‘wide range of administrative challenges’ the study said, including problems with the online system and long waiting times, which it says the government needs to tackle before it can proceed.

It’s also argued a new ‘advance payment’ should be introduced to cover families while they wait for payments to be processed.

This is the Bureau’s statement,

The rollout of Universal Credit should be paused until significant problems with it are fixed, says Citizens Advice.

In a major new report – Delivering on Universal Credit – the charity reveals that the requirement to wait for six weeks to receive any payment means people face serious financial insecurity, with many being forced into debt.

The research also identifies a wide range of administrative challenges, including problems with the online system and long waits to get help over the phone, which can make the initial six week wait even longer.

Universal Credit merges six existing benefits into one – including tax credits, housing benefit and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

By 2022 over 7 million households will receive Universal Credit and new Citizens Advice analysis reveals over half (54%) of these will be working households.

Universal Credit will be claimed by more than half (52%) of all families with children in the UK and 6 in 10 (58%) households where an adult is disabled or has a long term health condition.

As part of the new study, Citizens Advice surveyed 800 people who sought help with Universal Credit in areas where there is full service – meaning anyone who would have previously have claimed one of the old benefits has to apply for Universal Credit.

It finds:

  • Over a third (39%) of people are waiting more than the 6 weeks it should take to receive their first payment.

  • Just over 1 in 10 (11%) are waiting over 10 weeks without the benefit.

  • 3 in 5 (57%) are having to borrow money while waiting for their first payment.

In the last year Citizens Advice supported more than 30,000 people with Universal Credit issues, with a quarter (25%) also needing help with debt issues.

The report also reveals that people are having problems with the application process. These range from difficulties using a computer or with the online system, to issues getting hold of the right evidence to support their claim.

And when things go wrong the research shows people are not able to get the help they need: nearly a third (30%) of people said they had to make more than 10 calls to the Universal Credit helpline during their application process, often having to wait over 30 minutes to get through.

Full service Universal Credit has been rolling out gradually across England and Wales for over 2 years, to around 5 new areas each month. But in October this process is set to speed up significantly, to over 50 new areas every month.

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to pause this acceleration and use the time to fix key problems with Universal Credit, before thousands more people are brought into the system.

The national charity also highlights that, unless addressed, these challenges will undermine the goals of Universal Credit, to simplify the benefits system and offer people the security and support they need to move into and progress in work.

As it stands many people are facing uncertainty about how much money they will receive and when it will arrive. This insecurity filters through to other areas of their lives, for instance making it harder to focus on finding work while they worry about how to keep on top of bills or put food on the table.

One woman turned to Citizens Advice for help when her Universal Credit application was delayed because her childminder didn’t provide receipts on a type of letter headed paper which was required as evidence for her claim. Because of this delay she lost her childcare places and had to take time off work to care for her children. Further delays to her Universal Credit claim then meant she could still not afford childcare, and she has since lost her job for taking so much time off.

Citizens Advice Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

“Universal Credit is already failing too many people, pushing them into debt and leaving them without the means to make ends meet.

“Citizens Advice supports the principles of Universal Credit, but pushing ahead with roll out while the system remains beset with problems will put thousands more families at financial risk.

“The current flaws with the system also undermine the very reasons Universal Credit was introduced: to simplify the benefits system and make sure every hour of work pays. As things stand, too many people are finding Universal Credit very complicated, and problems such as long wait for payments or difficulties getting help with an application mean they are less able to focus on getting into work or increasing their hours.

“The government needs to pause plans to accelerate the roll out of full service Universal Credit this Autumn and devote the time and resource needed to tackle the key problems which mean the system is not working.”

In its new report Citizens Advice makes a range of recommendations to fix Universal Credit before it is rolled out more widely:

Reduce how long people have to wait for their first payment

  • Remove the 7 waiting days at the start of a claim, to reduce the amount of time people have to wait for their first payment.

  • Make sure everyone moving to Universal Credit is told they can get an Advance Payment to help them while they wait for their first payment.

Improve the support available to people so they can make ends meet

  • Introduce an online system so people can book their initial Jobcentre appointments online rather than having to call the Universal Credit helpline.

  • Make the Universal Credit helpline free of charge, at least until the roll out is complete.

  • Allow people to adjust to Universal Credit by offering everyone options in how they would like the benefit to be paid.

  • Put in place a comprehensive support package before Universal Credit roll-out accelerates, to make sure people get advice to manage their money and deal with any complications in the application process.

Notes to editors

  1. Survey of Citizens Advice clients asking for help with Universal Credit in full service areas running since August 2016 in 18 areas and as of May 2017 had a total sample of 792.
  2. Projection of number of families claiming UC in each constituency when full service rollout has completed uses national patterns of benefit claims from Family Resources Survey 2014-15 and constituency level administrative data from the DWP and HMRC from August 2015
  3. The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local Citizens Advice, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
  4. The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
  5. To get advice online or find your local Citizens Advice in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk
  6. You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.
  7. Local Citizens Advice in England and Wales advised 2.5 million clients on 6.2 million problems in 2014/15. For full service statistics see our publication Advice trends.
  8. Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 2,500 service outlets across England and Wales.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 7, 2017 at 3:35 pm