Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Housing Benefit’ Category

Rent Arrears Soar in Universal Credit Pilot Scheme.

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Rise in Homeless Numbers Threat from Universal Credit.

This morning the BBC news had a story about homeless people.

It covered the case, a happy case, of a man who’d been helped into accommodation.

The idea that getting somewhere to live is the first step to getting back on your feet is not, perhaps, original, but this may help many people in a desperate situation.

But as it is, and as the report noted, the number of rough sleepers has not stopped growing.

I only have to walk a few metres from the library in Ipswich to see those affected.

One reason?

The broadcaster did not fail to mention that people blamed the tough conditions imposed on Jobseekers, the Claimant Commitment, proof of looking for work, and all the rest that we know all too well.

Not always easy to fulfil for many people, they become extremely hard for anybody with the kind of problems associated with those on the streets.

If they could get JSA under any conditions.

With the menace of sanctions to deal with as well.

Now the threat of living without a roof over your head hovers over a whole new set of people, as the Scottish paper, the Herald reports.

You can guess where this one comes from.

Warning as rent arrears soar after Universal Credit pilot is rolled out in Scotland

A LEADING Scots housing body has warned that increasing numbers of people on benefits are at greater risk of homelessness as rent arrears soar under a controversial new benefits pilot scheme being rolled out across Scotland.

The Chartered Institute of Housing in Scotland (CIH Scotland) has warned that the new Universal Credit to date has led to tenants finding it increasingly difficult to pay their rent.

And the organisation has also raised fears of a return to the old ‘No DSS’ culture that restricted access to the private rented sector for many benefit claimants during the 1980’s.

Welfare Reform Impact, a recent report published by the HouseMark consultancy group showed the average rent arrear debt of a Universal Credit claimant was £618 compared to average non-UC arrears of £131.

MPs have already launched an official inquiry into Universal Credit amid growing concerns that design flaws in the new benefits system are leaving thousands of low-income claimants facing eviction and reliant on food banks.

Holyrood’s Social Security Committee has already met with administrative staff and claimants in the Musselburgh pilot area and heard about unacceptable delays of eight or nine weeks in being paid benefits, pushing people into rent arrears. Committee members also heard local jobcentres are ill-equipped to effectively support claimants.

The single payment replaces six benefits – income support, jobseeker’s allowance, employment support allowance, housing benefit, child tax credit and working tax credit – and is paid directly to claimants.

I doubt if this has escaped our Newshounds either:

Landlords are more likely to accept potential renters who own pets than people claiming benefits, a BBC investigation has found.

Analysis of some 11,000 online listings for spare rooms found all but a few hundred stated benefit claimants were not welcome.

Campaign groups say it is “naked discrimination” and are calling for a change in the law.

Landlords say more social housing needs to be built.

The BBC England data unit analysed listings on the website SpareRoom, looking at London and 18 other towns and cities across England.

  • Out of 11,806 adverts for rooms to let, just 2% were open to people on benefits.
  • The website’s listings showed not a single vacancy for a benefit claimant in Bournemouth, Exeter, Leicester, Liverpool, Norwich, Oxford or Reading.
  • Plymouth had the highest rate of acceptance, but even that was just 10% of rooms, 15 out of 144.
  • Across the 19 areas with the most available rooms, there were twice as many lets that accepted pets as accepted housing benefit claimants.

It is a similar pattern on a letting agent website.

On OpenRent.co.uk, just 580 out of 3,342 listings accepted people on benefits.

The websites specify “No to DSS” in flatmate preferences. DSS is the acronym for the Department of Social Security, which was replaced in 2001 by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Important Update:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2017 at 12:19 pm

Life on Benefits and Television Poverty Porn.

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Like many people here I watch serious documentaries (such as last night’s Channel Four documentary, Undercover: Britain’s Homeless Scandal: Channel 4 Dispatches).

I do not watch the endless series of entertainment programmes about people on the Dole.

Such as this one, The Great British Benefits Handout, described by the Mirror, “Channel 5 is still baiting the unemployed with yet another show about benefits. The show’s ‘experiment’, which gives three jobless families £26,000 to change their lives, is a smokescreen for inviting ridicule and vitriol”.

That is, from “the channel that brought us The Big Benefits Row Live , The Great Big Benefits Wedding Live, My Big Benefits Family, Celebs on Benefits: Fame to Claim, Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole, Benefits: The Millionaire Shoplifter and Benefits: Can’t Work, Won’t Work.”

So whatever goes on during their latest,  BENEFITS BRITAIN: LIFE ON THE DOLE, has passed me by.

Not that it’s only Channel Five.

The British television programme The Hardest Grafter illustrates this as it portrays 25 of Britain’s “poorest workers”, all having the shared ultimate objective of winning £15,000 through the completion of various tasks. In this case, the contestants’ poverty attracts a television audience, which was, before the show even started, contested as various petitions were made in order to stop what was believed to be a “perverted audience and profit making operation”. It is considered to not only be perverted, but also discriminatory as the contestants can only be poor.

BBC Two replied to these accusations by affirming that it would be a “serious social experiment to show just how hard those part of the low-wage economy work” as well as “tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time: why is British productivity low?”.

A spokesman from the show’s production company, Twenty Twenty stated that: “the show will challenge and shatter all sorts of myths surrounding the low-paid and unemployed sector”.

Broome, a reality TV show creator, states that it exposes the hardship of some families and their ability to keep on going through values, love and communication. He assures that he would much prefer create these shows rather than those like Jersey Shore which depicts “a group of strangers from New Jersey as they party throughout six seasons”.

Wikipedia. Poverty Porn. 

I sometimes wonder not just about the effect these gruesome shows have on people with well paid jobs, to bait and hate the poor, but on those on benefits.

In letter to the Guardian Ruth Patrick covers that angle.

Zoe Williams asks – somewhat rhetorically – what might be the impact of the endless growth of “poverty porn” on those who rely on benefits for all or most of their income (TV’s fixation with people on benefits breeds suspicion, 9 February). What my research with out-of-work benefit claimants shows – see policypress.co.uk/for-whose-benefit – is the ways in which the stereotypical, demeaning and one-dimensional characterisations that such shows so often feature contribute to a climate in which claimants feel that their behaviours and actions are being endlessly critiqued and found wanting.

The individuals I spoke to had often internalised negative descriptors – self-describing as a “scrounger” or “a bum” – even where they were hard at work caring for children, looking for employment or adapting to independent life after a childhood in care.

Living with poverty and benefits stigma had detrimental consequences for individuals’ self-esteem, mental health and citizenship status. “Poverty porn” and shows like The Moorside may be successfully recasting poverty as light entertainment, but their impact on those struggling to get by on benefits is anything but.
Dr Ruth Patrick
Postdoctoral researcher, School of Law and Social Justice, University of Liverpool

Guardian

This is what Ruth Patrick wrote in 2015.

The realities of living on welfare are significantly different from government and media characterisations

What is often missing from these characterisations is the lived experiences of those who rely on benefits for all or most of their income. Admittedly, the explosion of ‘Poverty Porn’ does purport to provide such firsthand accounts. However, these are mediated by editing processes aimed at generating watchable, controversial content; processes which perhaps do not lend themselves to detailed pictures of the lived realities of ‘getting by’ on benefits during times of welfare reform.

Since 2010, I’ve been conducting small-scale research which has sought to explore these lived realities, with an explicit aim of considering the extent of (mis)match between Government and media rhetoric and lived experiences for those directly affected by welfare reform. By speaking to single parents and young jobseekers affected by the extended welfare conditionality and sanctions regime, as well as disabled people being moved off Incapacity Benefit and onto Employment and Support Allowance, I have been able to explore experiences of both welfare reform and the day-to-day realities of reliance on benefits in Britain today. Over a two year period, I interviewed participants three times, enabling me to explore both the absence and presence of change in people’s accounts as the welfare reforms took effect and individuals negotiated complex relationships with benefits and paid employment.

What this research has demonstrated is the very hard ‘work’ which ‘getting by’ on benefits entails, ‘work’ which is not represented in government and media characterisations of claimants as passive and inactive. This ‘work’ includes very tight budgeting practices, frequently having to make tough choices (such as to heat or eat), as well as creative ways of trying to eke out a little extra income, for example by scavenging for scrap in nearby streets. People repeatedly spoke of shopping daily so as to take advantage of the reduced shelves, and going to several shops in order to get the best deals. Parents often went without in order to ensure their children were well looked after. As single parent Chloe explained:

“I go without my meals sometimes.  I have to save meals for me kids. So I’ll have a slice of toast and they’ll have a full meal.”

There was also substantial evidence of participants engaging in other forms of socially valuable contribution such as volunteering and caring.  Adrian, a young Jobseeker, described why he valued the voluntary work he did at the homeless hostel where he used to live:

“I proper love it. You feel satisfaction as well if someone’s coming in really hungry. Give them some food, at least they’ve eaten for the night.”

With the Government’s endless emphasis on paid work as the primary responsibility of the dutiful citizen, these important forms of contribution often go unrecognised and under-valued. Importantly, too, the whole thrust of the Government’s welfare reform approach, like New Labour’s before it, places policy emphasis on moving people from ‘welfare dependency’ into paid employment, which can cause significant problems for those who want to prioritise these other forms of contribution.

The welfare reform policy agenda, with its sustained emphasis on welfare conditions and sanctions also suggests that people need the threat of sanctions to encourage – even compel them – to make the transition from benefits reliance to paid employment. The emphasis is placed firmly on the supply-side of the labour market, on the steps individual claimants need to be compelled to take to become employable, and to move into paid work. Repeatedly, a contrast is drawn between ‘hard working families’ and ‘welfare dependents’, with the latter needing these tough interventions to be ‘responsibilized’ into hard working citizens.

But, this research, like so much of the literature in this field (see, for example, recent articles on this blog) questioned the salience of such static groupings, instead finding participants with strong aspirations to work, where this was a realistic goal. It also found individuals who typically had worked in the past, with several moving in and out of work, during the time of the research, characteristic of the low-pay, no-pay cycle. Those who were not currently in paid employment had often internalised negative characterisations of claimants, with inevitable consequences for their self-confidence, self-esteem, and ironically future job prospects. Sam, a young jobseeker and recent care leaver explained why she wanted a job:

“I need a job; because I’m sick of scrounging. That’s how I think of it anyway, I’m sick of scrounging.”

When asked about the idea of benefits as a lifestyle choice, participants in this study were angry, even disbelieving, of the notion that they would ‘choose’ to rely on out-of-work benefits, instead emphasising the various factors, often linked to impairments, caring responsibilities and demand-side barriers to paid employment, which had led to their current situation. As single parent, Sophie put it:

“People don’t choose to live on benefits – it’s not our choice. It’s just the way that things have happened. We don’t choose to live on benefits, we don’t want to live on benefits.”

Young jobseeker James described why, for him, being on benefits would never be a choice

“[benefits] is enough for you to live off o’, but you haven’t got one bit of luxury left in your life. You’re not living, you’re existing. And that’s how it feels.”

Attending to the lived experiences of welfare reform is critical in helping us to understand the day-to-day realities of ‘getting by’ in contemporary Britain. These realities are significantly different from the government and media characterisations, with inevitable consequences for the likely success of the ongoing programme of welfare reforms. In particular, these realities undermine the logic for a pervasive emphasis on welfare conditionality, while also hinting at the very real financial hardship, and emotional and relational damage caused by welfare reform. If we want to understand more about benefits, and how processes of welfare reform are impacting on people, it is essential that we place far more emphasis on listening to what those directly affected have to say.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 14, 2017 at 11:15 am

Universal Credit Puts Vulnerable Homeless into Debt.

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DWP News HQ: “claimants are comfortably managing”.

If people scroll through to the end of this article they will see that the Factory for Alternative Facts has been hard at work offering a reply.

How do you get a job with this flourishing branch of the DWP?

Suspension is growing that the work is outsourced to a busy team circling the earth in rebooted Roswell Flying Saucers.

EVERY tenant of homeless accommodation in the Highlands has been plunged into debt by the roll out of a controversial new benefits system.

Reports the excellent Ross-shire Journal.

The “terrifying” situation, which has been blamed on universal credit, means Highland Council is now owed £704,347 from claimants of the new benefit alone. This has increased by 82 per cent from £317,000 since September last year.

More than half of this comes from Inverness, where £473,227 is owed.

The local authority is owed around £1.3 million for all unpaid rent.

Universal credit is a single benefit to replace job seeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit.

It has been widely criticised for leaving people worse off, as well as implementing a benefits freeze of a minimum six weeks while applications are processed.

Any new application or change of circumstances, including a new job, change of address or birth of a baby will result in the freeze, leaving people unable to pay rent.

“Live service” universal credit is applicable all over the Highlands and only applies to new claims but “full service” is currently being trialled in Inverness, where claimants have reported benefits freezes of four months, leaving them penniless and unable to pay rent or buy food.

Council leader Margaret Davidson said the missed payments have a knock on impact on the council’s ability to provide housing and predicts the situation getting worse.

“In Highland all of the people in homeless accommodation are in rent arrears, that is just awful,” she said.

“They don’t get any money for at least six weeks so they are always starting on a negative and a lot of them never get enough to be able to pay it back.

“It is already a major problem and it is going to get worse.

“We have to deal with not getting that rent income and bear that financial burden which then impacts on the rest of our housing stock because we don’t have enough money for repairs and new builds.”

The full service system is due to be rolled out to the rest of the Highlands in the summer but Inverness MP Drew Hendry has called for an immediate halt until the system can be managed more efficiently.

“These benefit cuts are lining the pockets of the UK Treasury while people living in temporary accommodation, along with working families, lone parents, those in receipt of disability benefits and job seekers are left without enough to make ends meet,” he said.

“The Scottish Government is also paying to mitigate bedroom tax in addition to other measures and now, thanks to this shambolic roll out, local authorities have to foot the bill for arrears. It is not on.

“The situation is now at crisis point and I have asked ministers to undertake an immediate consultation of the situation, with a pause on any further roll out in the meantime.”

Mr Hendry also described a constituent, who has been named only as Gavin, who receives just £60 per week for housing benefit on universal credit, despite his homeless accommodation costing £175 per week.

“Even if he gave up food, heat, light and everything else, if he spent every single penny on rent, he would still be short,” said Mr Hendry.

“It is Highland Council left carrying the debt of the money Gavin and others simply don’t have.”

Mr Hendry’s staff have been working with the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and the council’s welfare support team to help people who have been left without money.

He urged anyone who has been affected to contact one of these organisations for help.

But Inverness Ness-side councillor Alasdair Christie, who also manages the Inverness, Badenoch and Strathspey CAB, pointed out CAB grants are being slashed at a time when more people than ever before need help.

“More than half of the people who approach CAB do so because they need benefits advice,” he said.

“More and more people are coming to us with issues with universal credit. It is a complex system which is difficult to use and even once they get the money a lot of people are getting far less than before.

“It has been a really rapid increase for us because it is such a challenging system.

“We are seeing more vulnerable people through the door than ever before but at a time when we are facing funding cuts ourselves.”

Cllr Christie added that people often miss appointments or have to hitch hike because they can’t afford the travel cost.

“We have seen people come to us when they have lost money because they haven’t been able to keep job centre appointments because they haven’t even got the bus fare to get there,” he said.

“Others have had to hitch hike from Aviemore, it is a very unsympathetic system.

“It is putting a strain on everything – the council, CAB, local MPs.

“In terms of housing arrears, people get into arrears quickly because they have no income and it fast becomes unmanageable.

“The council then bears that burden and that is not sustainable.”

The Roswell News Satellite responds with some alternative facts.

But a spokesman for the UK Department for Work and Pensions said universal credit claimants are “comfortably managing”.

“The reasons for rent arrears are complex and to link it to welfare reform is misleading,” he said.

“In many cases tenants are already behind with their rent before they move onto universal credit.

“Our research shows that the majority of Universal Credit claimants are comfortable managing their budgets, and that after four months, the proportion of claimants we surveyed, who were in arrears at the start of their claim, fell by a third.”

Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2017 at 10:27 am

Rent Arrears Grow 5 Times under Universal Credit.

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Happy Christmas Message!

Some of our regulars have suggested that we will soon face a withered JobCentre, information technology supplied by Nintendo, outsourcing of Housing Benefit to Abbots Lettings, payments turned in loans run by BrightHouse, and ‘advice’ services provided by William Hill Racing Consultants.

Jest ye not….

Meanwhile,

The average rent arrears of a tenant receiving Universal Credit is almost five times the average of those not in receipt of the welfare payment, according to new research.

Data and insight provider HouseMark carried out a detailed analysis of benchmarking data submitted by its members to examine the impact of changes in welfare benefits on social landlords’ income, arrears and collection costs.

While rent collection rates have improved over the five-year period, the report also found that more money is being spent on collecting rent each year.

The Welfare Reform Impact Report collected data from a cross-section of members managing up to 2.5 million properties and includes figures from April 2011 up to March 2016.

In October 2016 HouseMark surveyed members of its Welfare Reform Impact Club on the effect of Universal Credit on arrears rates. It found that the average rent arrears debt of a Universal Credit claimant is £618, compared to average non-Universal Credit arrears of £131 per property.

With average social rents around £96 per week, this Universal Credit debt equates to six to seven weeks’ rent.

Across each quartile, rent collection rates have improved over the five years between 2011/2012 and 2015/2016. In spite of this overall improvement, performance in the years 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 worsened before picking up. These years coincide with the introduction of many welfare reforms that affected tenants’ ability to pay the rent.

Using estimates based on members’ data, HouseMark found that more money is being spent on collecting rent each year, and this expenditure is rising faster than inflation. It estimates that UK social landlords spent over £720 million collecting rent in 2015/2016, a real terms rise of over £100m from 2011/2012.

The data suggests that the rise in expenditure on managing rent arrears and collection is driven by an increase in human resources – i.e. more people being employed to collect rent and manage arrears rather an increase in average pay costs.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 17, 2016 at 11:10 am

Corbyn Tells PM May to See ‘I, Daniel Blake’.

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Corbyn Urges PM to See I, Daniel Blake.

During Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday this happened (BBC)

Jeremy Corbyn asked Theresa May why she was bringing in cuts to Universal Credit.

The Labour leader said her predecessor David Cameron had abandoned cuts to tax credits, but these changes were now being brought back via Universal Credit.

But the prime minister defended changes to benefits and she said it was “important to value work”, and that struggling families were struggling to pay for the benefits of others.

The Guardian summarises,

Today’s exchange was almost wholly around benefits. Jeremy Corbyn recommended that the prime minister should “support British cinema” by going to see Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake during a series of questions about benefit sanctions, universal credit cuts and cuts to the employment support allowance for disabled people. He accused Theresa May of “imposing poverty on people” under the guise of helping them find work. In response, May said Labour was in favour of no sanctions and no obligation on claimants to prove they were unfit for work, and that the benefits system needed to also be fair to the people who pay for it. She said Labour had lost touch with its working-class support and the Tories were now the true party of the working classes.

They add,

Memorable lines

It’s time we ended this institutional barbarity against the most vulnerable people in the system.

Jeremy Corbyn urges May to undo benefit sanctions.

The Labour party is drifting away from the views of working-class people. It is this party that knows how to support them.

May accuses Labour of abandoning its core supporters

The Mirror observes,

Prime Minister’s Questions. She got her knickers in a twist when she somehow called an MP Jeremy Corbyn’s son.

She then brazenly claimed the Tories were the party of the working class when she was told to end cruel benefit sanctions and watch hit film I, Daniel Blake.

The Guardian further reports,

Corbyn urges May to see I, Daniel Blake to gain insight to life on welfare.

Jeremy Corbyn is urging Labour members to attend a series of special screenings of the campaigning Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake, in the run-up to Philip Hammond’s autumn statement, in an effort to rally support against planned cuts to disability benefits.

The film, currently on release in cinemas, details Blake’s struggles with the complex bureaucracy of the benefits system, and was made after the director researched the lives of welfare claimants.

At Wednesday’s prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons, the Labour leader suggested May should “support British cinema” by watching the film, to give her an insight into the struggles faced by the “just managing” families she has pledged to help.

Corbyn will attend a special screening of the film on 17 November – less than a week before the autumn statement – as will a series of other frontbenchers, including shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, and shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

McDonnell said: “I, Daniel Blake was one of the most moving films I’ve ever seen so I’m very pleased we have teamed up with Ken Loach to urge people to go and watch it at these special screenings taking place before the autumn statement.

“We’re living in an I, Daniel Blake society as a result of having the Tories in power for six years. The government should be caring for sick and disabled people, not making their lives worse.

In particular, Labour is calling for Hammond to scrap cuts to the employment and support allowance. ESA, which goes to sick and disabled people, who either can’t work or are trying to find employment, is due to be reduced by £30 for some new claimants from April next year. Labour has said it would reverse the policy.

The ESA cut is one of a series of planned reductions in benefits for future years set out by George Osborne before he was removed as chancellor by May in June.

Damian Green, the new work and pensions secretary, has signalled that there will be no fresh cuts in the welfare budget; but his department have insisted they will go ahead with reductions set in train by Osborne, including £3bn a year due to be trimmed off the cost of universal credit.

Tory backbenchers have expressed concerns about the potential impact of some of the changes on poorer families, with backbencher Heidi Allen leading calls for the UC cuts to be reversed – a cause that has also won the support of Green’s predecessor, Iain Duncan Smith.

Duncan Smith has called on Hammond to use his autumn statement, which will reveal the first estimates from the independent office for budget responsibility of the economic impact of Brexit, to cancel planned tax cuts, and spend the money saved on making UC more generous.

Corbyn challenged the prime minister on the various benefits cuts in the House of Commons. She responded by claiming Labour would like to see “no assessments, no sanctions and unlimited welfare” – an assertion later denied by Corbyn’s spokesman

Fabian Alternative to Tory Social Security Plans Which Worsen Living Standards for Less Well-Off.

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Shows signs of serious research and thinking.

Published today by The Fabian Society,

Redesigning social security, for the 2020s

For six years of the Cameron government ‘austerity’ dominated all discussion of benefit policies. Now it is time to turn a page and start to consider the long-term future of social security, as part of a strategic agenda for raising British living standards following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Politicians need to find the confidence to argue that generous, well-designed benefits for non-pensioners are essential for a fairer, more prosperous future. Social security for pensioners is now on a strong and sustainable footing. But the system for non-pensioners will be worse in 2020 than it was in 2010 – and will carry on getting worse, unless policy changes. We can allow this to happen – or we can turn social security around, by applying the same strategic approach to policy making as the Turner Commission on pensions did in the 2000s.

Labour List reports,

The UK is set to see a sharp rise in child poverty, worsening circumstances for low-income families and a crisis in homelessness unless there is significant change to the Tories’ social security plans, the Fabian Society has found.

The think tank calls for “root and branch” reform of Britain’s social security system, rather than tinkering with individual policies, to avoid it getting even worse throughout the 2020s

For Us All, published today, shows there will be almost no affordable housing for low income private tenants in most areas as a result of the Government’s housing benefit policies. The report also concludes the number of children living in poverty would return to the levels before Labour launched an assault on the issue in Government by 2030.

It goes to on show low income families are set to receive significantly less than the state than middle income families by 2020 due to tax-free allowances being significantly higher than the amount a family could receive on benefits. There will be a cliff edge at pensioner age, where the government supports couples three times more than those under pensionable age but without work.

The formation of a new cabinet gives an opportunity to change the direction of social security policy, according to the Society, who recommend a system resembling our successful pensions schemes.

Andrew Harrop, General Secretary of the Fabian Society, has called on politicians to consider the long-term health of the UK’s social security system.

“For six years of the Cameron government, ‘austerity’ dominated all discussion of benefit policies.

“But social security for non-pensioners will be worse in 2020 than it was in 2010 and will carry on getting worse in the decade that follows, unless action is taken.

“It is time to turn a page and start to consider the  long-term future of social security, as part of a strategic agenda for raising British living standards.

“Politicians need to find the confidence to argue that generous, well-designed benefits for non-pensioners are essential for a fairer, more prosperous future. Our political leaders can grasp the nettle and create a social security system for the next decade, designed for us all.”

For Us All calls for  Universal, Contributory, privately provided and means-tested elements to the security system, much of which should be increased to match the costs of living.

This would include increases to universal credit to match higher costs of living, reductions in student loan repayments according to a person’s contributions through national insurance and the creation of a basic income as a level from which other support is built up.

The report follows analysis from John Healey which shows that if homelessness from the Conservatives continues at the current rate, 80,000 families a year will become homeless by 2020 as a result of rising housing costs and cuts to housing benefits.

The Independent also carries the story:

Tax free allowances ‘must be axed to pay out modest basic income’, radical welfare blueprint suggests

The Fabian Society says a new ‘individual credit’ payment should be paid on top of other benefits.

Tax-free allowances should be scrapped and the money used to pay a flat-rate benefit to all adults, a radical new welfare reform blueprint has suggested.

The proposal, drawn up by the Fabian Society, is part of a proposed shake-up of the welfare system the think-tank says is required to stop tens of thousands of people falling into poverty over the next decade.

The report’s authors reject the idea of a “fully-fledged” universal basic income – the increasingly prominent idea of grouping all benefits spending into a single flat-rate payment for all adults. They warn such a plan would create too “many losers and not reduce poverty or improve the incomes of those with the least”.

But the Society’s researchers say a similar flat-rate “individual credit” for all adults that sat alongside the existing benefits system could “significantly reduce poverty and increase low and middle incomes”. They say child benefit could also be integrated into the same system, with a “child credit” paid to a child’s main carer.

“At this time there is not a good case for integrating universal credit, tax allowances and child benefit into a single flat-rate payment for each individual (ie a ‘basic income’),” the report’s authors write.

“There is growing interest in the idea, which has the merit of reducing the employment disincentives, complexity and intrusion associated with means-testing.

We leave it to readers to judge the proposed system based on this rather than a rejigged existing system.

Download here.

After considering a ” a more generous version of the status quo” the author moves to another possibility:

“The second option is to start to integrate taxes and benefits and build a tiered system of support which blends universal, contributory and means-tested entitlements, as well as private action. This option is closer to Beveridge’s original vision of social security, and to the pension system of today.”

This report has assessed means-testing, contributory benefits, personal accounts and universalism one-by-one, as alternative options. But the end-point might be a single system that unites them all. This new tiered system would itself sit in a broader context of activist government, with economic intervention and public services also playing their part in securing good living standards. No one part of the system would have to do all the heavy-lifting. The four tiers of social security could be:

1. Universal: An ‘individual credit’ for adults and a ‘child credit’ for children, in place of tax-free allowances

2. Contributory: National insurance and employment based benefits that match the generosity of the state pension, and the option of time-credits, paid for by a visible and accountable National Insurance Fund

3. Private provision: Opt-out, match-funded savings accounts for all, and the piloting of income protection insurance on an opt-out or employer-organised basis

4. Means-tested: A generous means-tested ‘household credit’ that tops-up the other tiers of support and is designed to be non-stigmatising, to make work pay, to support children, to protect people unable to work for a long time, and to reflect higher living costs.

The report concludes with a section on rent:

Rising housing costs are likely to be one of the most significant pressures of the 2020s, if rents increase faster than typical incomes or benefit entitlements. So any reform to social security that is designed to respond to the changing social context must include better direct support for housing costs. Indeed, current policies will be totally implausible, if rents outstrip inflation. In this sphere, there needs to be more means-testing not less – with a generous universal credit, which better reflects housing costs. In particular entitlement must grow in line with rising housing costs. There is also a case for reversing some of the recent cuts to housing benefit, and piloting an element in UC that supports mortgage interest..

..unaffordable housing costs cannot just be resolved by means-tested benefits. Spending on housing benefit will balloon if it is the only policy tool available to plug the gap between rising rents and stagnant incomes. Action to stabilise house prices and build more homes for social rent is therefore essential, even though it lies outside the remit of this report. Similarly, action to increase general incomes is needed, so that the gap which rent subsidies have to close is Conclusion 155 less. Higher employment and better pay can play a role, but this report has demonstrated that generous social security is also essential to boost household incomes, and it is here that universal and contributory tiers could be important. For this reason, almost all the ideas in this report have a bearing on housing, in that they increase disposable income overall. They hold out the prospect of better incomes for households with low earnings. But they also offer much better income replacement when people are without work on a temporary basis. This would leave many families in a better position to meet their usual housing costs, without the need for a specific benefit, which would hopefully reduce the number of people with mortgages who need means-tested support in future. Lastly proposals to help people to save automatically will make an important difference in meeting one-off housing costs in the short-term. The scheme may also enable people from all backgrounds to save enough money for their children to have a deposit to buy a home.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 31, 2016 at 9:29 am

Homeless Rise Linked to Benefit Changes.

with 81 comments

The Human Face of Austerity.

Government austerity to blame for 30% rise in homelessness, says parliamentary committee,

Reports the Independent.

MPs warn that the number of homeless people is rising because most housing benefit claimants have to pay rent out of their state payments, rather than it being straight to their landlords

The Government’s welfare reforms are driving up homelessness, according to MPs who conducted the first inquiry into the scale of the problem for 10 years.

In a report, the Communities and Local Government Select Committee found that official figures underestimate the risen in homelessness and demanded urgent action to tackle it. The estimated number of rough sleepers in England rose by 30 per cent to 3,569 between 2014 and last autumn – a quarter of them in London.

This will come as no surprise to anybody with eyes.

Walk around Ipswich and you can see the numbers of people begging in the streets: it is striking.

In London you can see people sleeping rough, right up such Tourist centres as Trafalgar Square, and by the West End theatres in Cambridge Circus – not coincidentally next to the site of one of Victorian London’s worst ‘rookeries’, that is, slums.

The MPs warned that the number of homeless people is rising because most housing benefit claimants have to pay rent out of their state payments. They said all claimants should have the option of their rent  being paid directly to landlords to reduce their chance of getting into arrears and to encourage landlords to rent to tenants at risk of becoming homeless. Many 18 to 21 year-olds are “at significant risk” of homelessness, and the MPs proposed that those losing their job should have a “grace period” of one or two months before losing the housing element of Universal Credit.

Calling for greater financial incentives to work, they said: “It cannot be right that someone must choose between the support they need and employment.”

The committee concluded: “The impact of the welfare reforms of recent years has increased pressure on levels of homelessness.” It added that  the annual cap on benefit payments to one family – £20,000 and £23,000 in London – could worsen the  problem.

The MPs called for women, single people and those with mental health problems to be given extra help. They heard evidence that women were driven into prostitution to avoid sleeping on the streets and said  victims of domestic violence were particularly at risk of becoming homeless.

The committee took the unusual step of endorsing a Private Member’s Bill to be debated in the Commons in October which would give councils new duties to prevent homelessness and help homeless people.

This was also entirely predictable, given the mean-spirited intention behind the ‘reform’.

In a separate report, the Tory modernisers’ think tank Policy Exchange said jobless people aged 25 and under are more likely to have their benefits stopped or reduced for not doing enough to find work than any other age group. It found that young adults account for more than a third of benefit sanctions but account for less than a fifth of claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance. Of the 101,640 young people claiming it last November, 5,812 received a sanction.

Policy Exchange called for a shake-up of benefits and support for 16 to 25 year-olds, including the creation of youth employment centres.

Homeless too often given ‘meaningless advice’ by councils – MPs.

Reports the BBC.

Homeless people are too often given meaningless and ineffectual advice by councils in England, MPs have said.

A Communities and Local Government Select Committee report found homeless people are too often “badly treated” by councils, saying they should have a legal duty to give meaningful support.

Homelessness is increasing and a new government plan is required, MPs added.

However, councils said they needed more money and powers, saying they “cannot tackle this challenge alone”.

The report urged the government to support the Homelessness Reduction Bill – proposed by the Conservative MP Bob Blackman in June – to impose tougher conditions on councils and force them to offer emergency accommodation for up to two months.

Official figures published by the government show that local authorities approved 14,780 households’ applications for homelessness assistance between 1 January and 30 March 2016.

This was up 9% on the same quarter in 2015.

However, the report warned that the statistics did not capture the full scale of homelessness, for example many “hidden homeless” who may be staying with friends or not have sought help.

If they had any decency they would listen to people like Doug, commenting on this Blog.

2 months emergency housing, how did they come up with that exactly as what do they feel will happen after. Are these homeless people going to magically find a property to rent in that 2 months that they couldn’t find before. Do government or even the public believe that the homeless have never looked and tried to secure a property.

And what about DWP and conditionality on the homeless, their expected to look for work or face being sanctioned which is counter intuitive when you consider besides the big issue, no employer will hire a homeless person. DWP know this only to well unless they want to assert every single DWP worker right up to the appointed minister are complete and utter idiots ill placed in the position they are in.

We only have to look at the way UC was developed to sanction housing benefit to know tory government intent and how when even applying for unemployment benefit, your instantly faced with a screen demanding i quote, ” an address you reside at”, which if you haven’t one, you can’t proceed with the claim and its been this way since it was first released and has been mentioned numerous time to DWP not that really it isn’t glaringly obvious from the get go. For the record they don’t even confront homelessness till further into the application and if that wasn’t bad enough, later on it asks for a phone number and again wont allow the person to proceed with the application for benefits if they don’t own a phone and this one gets me, DWP staff have absolutely no answer to it and at best could only if they did and I’m not saying they do, incite the person to add a fraudulently number and then ring DWP to give a change of details.

Now according to the dictionary vulnerable means – exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally yet DWP and local council have their own definition and this has been going on for at least a decade, that somehow, if you’re a certain age and of a certain health that your be perfectly ok living on the streets. DWP even expanded this to instruct public service staff NOT to treat people with certain mental illnesses like schizophrenia for example as VULNERABLE.

I’ve witnessed up and down the country, many a homeless person deliberately breaking the law just so they can get a temporary roof over their head and food in the mouth, especially in the depths of winter around Christmas. The amount of mentally ill prisoners is also quite alarming.

Now i and others have said from day one of these welfare reforms that their would be a knock on as people simply don’t lie down and die and will lead to an increase in costs towards the NHS and law enforcement and criminal retention so oh what a surprize certain ministers are now using it to justify change. Constantly others and i have demonstrated how being in prison despite the violence (statistically your odds of being attacked on the street are higher) is easier than being under conditionality, where a murder, a rapist, even a terrorist gets food and a bed no matter the horrible details of their crime yet raise your voice at a DWP staff member, not fulfil your conditions by a mm and WHAM, all monies are suspended.

A week in prison costs the taxpayer £538 a week, a massive 7 times more than the £74 a person gets claiming unemployment. Malnutrition and the illnesses it causes aren’t any cheaper and the recent revelation that a lot of homeless people develop addictions after going onto the streets and not before as previously believed. Add to that being regularly attacked by the public at night and you can easily imagine the financial burden placed on the NHS.

Oh for the record its not strictly 2 months housing, its actually UPTO meaning it could well mean a week or even possibly less, who knows at this juncture. What’s being prescribed is clearly manufactured by people who don’t understand the problems of being homeless in today’s UK as they actually believe by giving a person a house for 2 months (said on ann derbyshire) that magically they will find another, so we are now back where i started and that’s my whole point,

When you’re homeless all you ever do is get the run around only to end up where you started.

And they would also listen to Enigma:

35.When we asked Giles Peaker, Chair of the Housing Law Practitioners Association, what the future of homelessness would be if no action was taken, he was unequivocal:

Will it get worse? Yes. Will it get worse faster? Yes. That is already happening, and is just going to continue … One thing that could be done is to stop making it worse. That is the simple answer. There are some immediate triggers facing us … The roll-out of the reduced benefit cap is going to have a fairly dramatic effect across the country, whereas the first £26,000 one basically affected London. £23,000 and £20,000 outside of London is going to have a dramatic national effect, really taking large swathes of public sector tenancies out of affordability for families in that situation. If the rents continue to increase whilst there is the LHA freeze, without wishing to be overly melodramatic, we are heading towards a serious crisis.48

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmcomloc/40/4006.htm#_idTextAnchor018

Any person with a shred of decency who  listened to the Dougs and the Enigmas of this world would be boiling with anger.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 18, 2016 at 3:19 pm