Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Housing Benefit’ Category

“Thousands of people will face a miserable Christmas” – UNITE Survey of Universal Credit Claimants.

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The Mirror reports,

Thousands of are facing a “very bleak Christmas” after a new survey found three quarters of people on botched benefits system Universal Credit said they had been left saddled with debt.

Three in five claimants said they had been pushed into struggling with housing costs because of the new welfare system.The survey of over 1,000 Universal Credit claimants was carried out by Unite the Union.

Other respondents raised the fear of eviction, and many reported problems with monthly budgeting on a low income.

The Department for Work and Pensions blasted the study as “completely unscientific” and said some of those questioned might not even be on UC.

Yet the DWP’s own research shows three quarters of those who moved onto UC struggle with bills constantly or “from time to time.”

Here is the UNITE Press Release:

Universal Credit pushing people into debt and housing problems reveals survey

More than three quarters of respondents in a survey of over 1,000 Universal Credit (UC) claimants said they had been put into debt, or pushed further into debt by UC with some forced to use foodbanks to survive as well as borrowing from friends and family. Shockingly 60 per cent of respondents said that they had been pushed into housing cost problems.

Thousands of people will face a miserable Christmas as a result of having to claim UC according to the new survey by Unite the Union published to coincide with a national day of action against UC on 1 December 2018 (see notes to editors).

During six weeks of October and November 1,141 people responded to the survey. The findings make grim reading and identify a number of issues facing a significant number of people claiming the benefit.

Rent arrears were raised by a number of people and the fear of eviction was evident in the responses. Many claimants reported the problems of monthly budgeting on a low income. Disabled people and those who are sick reported a huge drop in income as a result of moving on to UC.

The vast majority (82 per cent) have a negative view of the new benefit and a significant number had problems either claiming the benefit on-line or maintaining their claim through an on-line journal.

Unite is using the evidence collected from the survey to lobby politicians and is calling for a stop to the controversial new UC system.

Unite has called for Universal Credit to be scrapped before more damage is done.

Unite head of Community, Liane Groves said: “Universal Credit is causing misery and suffering as the survey results clearly show. Despite knowing this, the government is still intent on ploughing ahead regardless, while claimants are descending into debt, relying on food banks and getting into rent arrears and in some cases being evicted from their homes.

“Evidence from voluntary and community organisations as well as unions and local authorities seems to be ignored as the government presses on with the implementation of Universal Credit.

“Access to the benefit has been devised for the benefit of administrators not the recipients of Universal Credit. The damage done by forcing people into debt, far from helping people into work, as the government claims, is driving people away from the job market as spiralling debt impacts on people’s mental and physical wellbeing.

“As we head into winter, many claimants cannot afford warm clothing for themselves or their children and don’t have enough money to heat their homes. It will be a very bleak Christmas for thousands of families who are being abandoned by this government.”

“The survey was conducted outside job centres by volunteers and was also completed on-line. Unite will be submitting the raw data from the survey to independent academic researchers with a view to further analysis of the responses.”

 

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Written by Andrew Coates

November 30, 2018 at 11:29 am

As Rents Rise and People Risk Homelessness: End the Freeze on Local Housing Allowance!

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Housing benefit freeze leaving poorest private renters with shortfall of up to £140 a week

Low-income tenants in the private rented sector face a “heat, eat or pay rent” problem because housing benefit rates have failed to keep up with the soaring cost of accommodation, a study has found.

The benefit freeze is not just affecting people’s ability to pay bill, or to buy food in the shops (where massive price rises are predicted on basics)

Welfare Weekly reports,

Research from the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) reveals that more than 90% of Local Housing Allowance (the equivalent of housing benefit for private renters) rates across Great Britain are insufficient to cover even the cheapest rents, as they were originally designed to do.

LHA rates were frozen for four years in 2016 and CIH is warning that they have fallen so far behind even the cheapest rents that private renting has become unaffordable for most low income tenants – putting them at risk of homelessness as they are forced to choose between basic living expenses and paying the shortfall. The organisation is calling on the government to review the policy and to end the freeze immediately.

LHA rates are meant to cover the cheapest 30%t of homes in any given area. But they haven’t been increased in line with local rents since April 2013 and they remain frozen until April 2020.

As a result, renters are facing gaps ranging from £25 a month on a single room in a shared home outside London to more than £260 a month on one to four-bedroom homes in some areas of London.

Over 12 months, those gaps rise to £300 and £3,120 – making it increasingly likely that renters will be forced to choose between paying for basic necessities like food and heating or their rent.

The government introduced targeted affordability funding in 2014 to bridge the biggest gaps but CIH’s new report has found that its impact has been negligible, covering only a handful of the shortfalls completely.

CIH chief executive Terrie Alafat CBE said: “Our research makes it clear just how far housing benefit for private renters has failed to keep pace with even the cheapest private rents.

“We fear this policy is putting thousands of private renters on low incomes at risk of poverty and homelessness.

“We are calling on the government to conduct an immediate review and to look at ending the freeze on Local Housing Allowance.”

Matt Downie, director of policy and external affairs at Crisis, said: “This report highlights just how much housing benefits for private renters are falling short of the levels needed, leaving many homeless people stuck in a desperate situation and putting yet more people at risk of homelessness.

“There are 236,000 people across Britain experiencing the worst forms of homelessness – this includes those sleeping on the streets, living in unsuitable hostels, and sofa-surfing. In many of these cases, people simply can’t find a home because there isn’t enough social housing and housing benefits are too low to cover private rents.

“Homelessness is not inevitable – there is clear evidence that it can be ended with the right policies in place. The government must urgently reform housing benefits for private renters, so they not only match the true cost of renting but also keep pace with future rent changes.”

There is some serious research behind this: MISSING THE TARGET? Is targeted affordability funding doing its job?

What are the consequences of the uprating freeze for private renters?

• Tenants are expected to make up any gap out of their jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) (or other basic benefits) even though basic benefits don’t include an allowance for rent. Basic working age benefits are also subject to the uprating freeze and are now only worth 93 per cent of their 2012 value.

• Single people aged under 25 only get the shared accommodation rate and a lower rate of JSA (£57.90). On average they are expected to contribute 10 per cent of their JSA on the gap (equivalent to a 17 per cent contribution in real terms).

• Young jobseekers’ resilience is severely limited because the basic benefit allowance for this group

 

Background: the local housing allowance and uprating policy (2008-2020)

How LHA rates become misaligned with local rents

• In April 2008 the government introduced the local housing allowance (LHA) which set a maximum rent that housing benefit can cover for private tenants. The LHA is the rent figure which a set percentage (currently 30) of all of the rents in that market fall below (‘the 30th percentile’) – ensuring that same percentage of homes is affordable to low income households.
• For each of the 192 distinct local housing markets across Great Britain there are five LHA rates, one for each category of dwelling (e.g. shared accommodation, one bedroom, two bedrooms etc.). Each LHA rate is calculated using a database of rental market evidence compiled by rent officers (professional valuers who work for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in England or the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales).
• In April 2013 the link with local market evidence was broken and henceforth (for an unspecified period of time) existing LHA rates were uprated by the consumer prices index (CPI) or a lower figure set by the government. From April 2014 for two years the uprating index was capped at one per cent, and from April 2016 LHA rates were frozen for four years.
• Over the medium to long term rents tend to rise faster than prices (i.e. CPI), so that from April 2013 when the link with local rents was broken, the LHA’s purchasing power receded and this has accelerated during the one per cent cap and the current freeze.
• From April 2014, to ensure that LHA rates remain reasonably well aligned with local rents, the government introduced targeted affordability funding (TAF). Under this policy a proportion of the savings that accrue from uprating by one per cent or zero instead of CPI is awarded to those LHA rates that have the lowest percentile value (i.e. cover the smallest proportion of the whole range of rents that are paid in that market).

Written by Andrew Coates

August 30, 2018 at 11:38 am

Universal Credit is Creating Debt – Citizens’ Advice.

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Universal credit forces people into debt because application process is so complicated, says charity reports Jessica Morgan in the Independent.

Many claimants have fallen into debt after not receiving their first full payment on time.

Universal credit is forcing people into debt because the applications process is so complex, a new study has found.

Citizens Advice has revealed more than a third of people supported by the charity were left struggling to provide the evidence needed to complete their claim.

And as a result, a quarter of claimants fall into debt because they haven’t received their first full payment on time.

Many claimants, who must wait at least five weeks for the first payment, struggle to provide evidence for health conditions, childcare and housing and are stumped by multiple deadlines.

The charity is now calling on the government to simplify the process.

….

The Citizens Advice’s study comes after service centre workers lifted the lid on the “fundamentally broken” universal credit IT system, which was causing a surge in delayed payments.

Whistle-blowers have spoken out about the glitches and errors that the system has, which repeatedly leads to benefits being delayed for weeks, or wrongly slashed, The Guardian reported.

One said: “The IT system on which universal credit is built is so fundamentally broken and poorly designed that it guarantees severe problems with claims.”

They claimed the systems were overly complex, prone to breaking, and any errors were slow to fix.

“In practical terms, it is not working the way it was intended and it is having an actively harmful effect on a huge number of claimants,” they added.

This their Press Release:

Universal Credit claims falter due to complicated application process and lack of support

More than a third of people helped by Citizens Advice struggle to provide the evidence needed to complete their Universal Credit claim, new research from the charity finds.

With government data showing late Universal Credit payments are usually due to challenges submitting evidence, Citizens Advice asked people who came to the charity for help how difficult it was to meet these requirements. Of the people helped who qualify for extra costs under Universal Credit:

  • 48% found it difficult to provide evidence for health conditions

  • 40% found found it difficult to provide evidence for housing

  • 35% found it difficult to provide evidence for childcare

The charity also found that people receiving their first full payment late stood a higher chance of getting into greater debt, or falling into it. When people didn’t receive their first Universal Credit payment on time, their chances of being in debt increased by a quarter (23%). They were also 60% more likely to borrow money from a lender to help tide them over.

One mum-of-two had to wait an extra three weeks for her first full Universal Credit payment, which covered her rent. She was not told to bring her tenancy agreement to her Jobcentre appointment and struggled to get another appointment quickly. In the meantime, she went to a foodbank and borrowed money from friends and family members to tide her over.

As people must wait 5 weeks before receiving their first Universal Credit payment, their finances are often already stretched. This is particularly problematic if they have no income beyond an Advance Payment, which they are required to apply for. Any delays to this mandatory wait can then be more acute.

In total there are 10 stages to making a Universal Credit claim, many of which are time sensitive. If a deadline is missed, a claim may have to be started again. Some people are finding the process so complex that 1 in 4 people who were helped by Citizens Advice spent more than a week completing their claim.

Despite the demands of making a claim for Universal Credit, there is inconsistent support available with many not even aware it exists. Of those who took part in the research, 45% said they did not know about the support on offer but would have taken it up if they had been.

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to simplify the claims process, make it easier to provide evidence for extras costs and make sure adequate support is on offer. The charity says these improvements must be urgently put in place as roll out of the new benefit continues to increase.

Citizens Advice is calling on the government to:

  • Introduce an automatic payment for those who don’t get paid on time to help cover their immediate costs

  • Extend the support on offer so people can get help when making and completing a claim

  • Make it easier for people to provide evidence online at the start of making a claim

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:

“While Universal Credit is working for the majority of people, our evidence shows a significant minority are struggling to navigate the system. With people already having to wait 5 weeks as a matter of course for their first payment, any further delays risk jeopardising people’s financial security.

“Last year the government showed it was listening by taking important steps to improve Universal Credit. Those measures are starting to have an impact, but more needs to be done. Top of the government’s list should be simplifying the process and making sure adequate support is in place so that claims can be completed as quickly as possible.”

Citizens’ Advice relies on this research:

Making a Universal Credit Claim

23 July 2018

● DWP evidence shows currently 1 in 6 new claimants aren’t paid in full on time, and for many this is because they are struggling to provide the
right evidence.
● 40% of people Citizens Advice helps find it difficult to evidence their housing costs.
● 43% of Universal Credit claimants surveyed by DWP said they needed more help setting up their claim.
● 45% of Universal Credit claimants we help didn’t know support was available when applying for the benefit, but would have used it if they had.
● 1 in 4 of the people Citizens Advice helps take more than a week to make their claim, while DWP information for claimants says it should take up
to an hour.
●Universal Credit claimants we help who are paid late are 23% more likely to get into debt than claimants who aren’t.

(Too many people struggle to make a Universal Credit claim – summary [ 470 kb]

Making a Universal Credit Claim – full report [ 0.64 mb] )

In 2017 they stated:

Fixing Universal Credit.

We believe that roll-out should be paused while DWP addresses a number of signicant issues with Universal Credit. At the moment,  our research suggests that nearly a third of the people we help have to make more than 10 calls to the UC helpline to sort out their UC, over a third are waiting more than 6 weeks for their first payment of benefit and half are having to borrow money to cope with the initial wait for payment. The move to UC is causing significant financial challenges – our UC clients are nearly one and a half times as likely to seek advice on debt issues as those on other benefits.

Action is needed to reduce the waiting period for first payment, improve support for people receiving UC, and help people achieve financial stability once they are on the benefit.

Amongst the main recommendations was to call for a “pause” in the roll-out (ignored), reducing the waiting time (done: from 6 to 5 weeks…), and creating systems of “support” .

 

Written by Andrew Coates

July 25, 2018 at 10:46 am

Iain Duncan Smith Rumoured to Seek Cognitive Therapy as his Universal Credit System Worsens.

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Image result for iain duncan smith

Creator of Universal Credit Rumoured to be up for Cognitive Therapy.

Every day I walk past Major’s Corner in Ipswich.

Often there are people in a dire state.

Every day I walk round Ipswich town centre and get asked for money from people in a dire state.

I hear all the time from people with problems with finding work, pay, bills, and with benefits.

This is not remarkable: it’s the case for just about every town and city in the country.

What is is clear is that the more that the government’s welfare ‘reforms’ it’s getting worse.

From , Two-child policy’ cuts benefits of more than 70,000 families

Campaigners warn poverty will rise as low-income families lose financial support.

To this, which is typical of the hundreds of reports now filling local and regional papers,

Ex-serviceman facing eviction after receiving just £84 Universal Credit for one month

Grimsby live. 28th of June.

Brian Lister has fallen into rental arrears after receiving only £84 Universal Credit in one month.

An ex-serviceman is facing eviction from his home after receiving just £84 of Universal Credit to live on in one month.

Brian Lister, 61, of Hildyard Street, served for 15 years in the RAF as a telecommunication operator, where he toured in Northern Ireland during the height of the troubles, and is now being told that he faces eviction from his Lincolnshire Housing Partnership home after falling behind on his rent because of Universal Credit.

He owes his landlord £260, and has been threatened with court costs of £325, if he is not able to clear his debts.

He says that the problems all started because his Universal Credit payment was heavily deducted due to him having been working for an agency, and Universal Credit deducted 63p for every pound that he is meant to have earned.

It has come to a sorry pass when even Money Week, not a journal of the radical left, publishes this,

Universal credit and the Tories’ stumbling welfare reforms

What happened?

Two big problems. First, as part of his spending cuts, George Osborne (as chancellor in 2010-2016) cut the level that claimants could earn before their benefits were withdrawn, thus saving money but reducing the reform’s effectiveness in creating an incentive to work. The overall result is that the universal-credit system is expected to be about 3% less generous overall than the previous system, shaving £2bn off the total spend. That means that many claimants – in particular self-employed people – will be worse off than under the previous system. Meanwhile, the Office for Budget Responsibility argues that the reform may in practice not save as much as ministers hope, and that the uncertainty poses a “significant risk” to the public finances in coming years as the numbers grow. Only 660,000 people (around 10% of all claimants) were in receipt of universal credit by last November, but the rollout of the benefit is expected to gather pace this year, with two million people projected to be covered by March 2019 and about seven million by 2022-2023.

And the second big problem?

The rollout, costing £2bn to date, has been shambolic – due to multiple management and IT failures and to radical flaws in the overall design. For example, a key benefit of universal credit is supposed to be simplicity and a smoother claim system. But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) greatly overestimated the number of claimants who would be able to confirm their identity online using the government’s online interface Verify. The officials reckoned on 90%, but the reality is just 38% (according to the National Audit Office, or NAO), meaning the supposed savings are much lower amid administrative chaos. Additionally, under the new system claimants receive one monthly payment, but have to wait five weeks – and in many cases much longer – for their claim to be assessed.

Why is that such a problem?

Many low earners are paid weekly, not monthly, and reams of research show that people on low incomes struggle to budget over long periods. And the five-week wait for money, in cases where people have no other savings or resources, has proved disastrous – leading to real hardship: a surge in the use of food banks in the areas where universal credit has been brought in; a spike in rent arrears and evictions; and widespread reports of private landlords now refusing to let to benefit claimants. The NAO report is harsh in its criticism of the DWP for failing to react to the mounting evidence of real hardship – from claimants and other stakeholders including landlords and welfare advisers – and instead being “defensive, insensitive,
and dismissive”.

Will it get more people into work?

No one knows, but there are reasons to be sceptical. The NAO says that the DWP will “never be able to measure” whether universal credit actually leads to 200,000 more people in work, because it cannot isolate the effect of the reform from other factors that raise employment. The way the DWP has rolled out the reform means it “lacks appropriate control groups” of legacy (old system) claimants, says the NAO, and “the larger claims for universal credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in the future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”

Wilson concludes,

 Despite evidence that it should pause the scheme, change course, or “risk doing real damage”, the government seems determined to plough ahead with this “giant, increasingly unpopular project”.

No wonder the creator of Universal Credit, Iain Duncan Smith is rumoured to be shortly bundled off for treatment by “nerve specialist” Sir Roderick Glossop with cognitive therapy in a special rest home.

Here is his cry for help:

Tory Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith links CBI to Nazi appeasement.

“Before World War II, as the historian Andrew Roberts has pointed out, the Federation of British Industries – the forerunner of the CBI – supported both the Gold Standard (which, in its constraints on a government’s ability to manage the economy is an instrument of jobs destruction), and the appeasement of Nazi Germany.

“Between 1937 and 1939, while the Nazis were opening their concentration camps, the FBI oversaw the creation of no fewer than 33 separate agreements between British and German business groups.”

Also citing CBI support for nationalisation, the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and the euro, as well as hostility to Margaret Thatcher’s policies, Mr Duncan Smith said the organisation has historically been “wrong” with “amazing consistency”.

“Yet the worry is, despite the CBI’s appalling track record, when it comes to Brexit, aggressive corporate campaigning could have a pivotal impact on government policy by forcing Britain to remain, in effect, under EU rules,” he added.

“There are already signs that this is happening, with key figures in the cabinet now acting as cheerleaders for the argument – made by BMW and Airbus – that Britain must remain as closely aligned to the single market and customs union as possible.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 1, 2018 at 11:51 am

Plans to Extend Universal Credit Misery to all Claimants.

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Image result for esther mcVey miserable

Esther McVey: Universal Credit Misery Loves Company.

The government is “considering” “to move existing claimants in receipt of a working age income-related benefit to Universal Credit. that is, they intend everybody on benefits to submit to the new system.

Why?

Eight years after implementation of Universal Credit began still only 10 per cent of the expected eventual number of claimants are on the system and significant numbers of those are not paid on time. Some 20 per cent of those paid late, usually the more needy and complicated cases, have waited a staggering five months or more to be paid. These aren’t early teething problems as now, eight years after the first introduction of the benefit one-fifth of new claimants in March 2018 did not receive their full entitlement on time.

Indeed homelessness and depression is likely to arrive more quickly than payment of the benefit. Without reliance on families and friends, foodbanks and other charities, Universal Credit claimants would be likely to lose their health and their housing. This is the very essence of the Dickensian Britain the Tory government presides over.

It looks like a lot more Dickens is about to hit Britain as plans are afloat to move all claimants onto Universal Credit.

Universal Credit next steps: have your say

The end of my time as Chair of SSAC is now rapidly approaching – I stand down at the end of July. But this week’s meeting (June 20) of the Committee saw us considering perhaps the most important set of legislative proposals – in the form of draft regulations – coming to us from the Government for scrutiny in the last few years. The rollout of Universal Credit (UC) is reaching a critical point as DWP plan for the launch next year of moving all recipients of the old “legacy” benefits – mainly employment support allowance, housing benefit and tax credits – to the new integrated UC system. This so-called “managed migration” will affect around three million people.

The implementation plan for UC has changed very considerably from when the Committee scrutinised the initial regulations for the new benefit back in 2012. Rollout is now, very sensibly, much more gradual and the Committee welcomes the stated intention to “test and learn”, as well as some of the detailed changes in the policy already announced. The challenges encountered so far, and the resulting mix of successes and setbacks, have been widely publicised. But the move to full national rollout unquestionably raises those challenges to an even higher, more demanding, level.

The Committee therefore quickly concluded that we should undertake a full public consultation exercise before completing our scrutiny process – at which point we will put our advice to Ministers which they are then obliged to publish before the draft regulations are debated in Parliament. We are launching that consultation process today.

The draft regulations now include some important further developments in the detailed design of the policy – notably the requirement for all existing benefit and tax credit recipients to make a claim for UC and ensure they do so within precise timescales, plus the detail and extent of the “transitional protection” arrangements for those claimants who might otherwise see a fall in their benefit entitlement. But there are also important proposals on the delivery logistics for the rollout, and the Committee is keen for the consultation to generate input on all aspects of this package.

We recognise that the timetable for this consultation – in the run up to the main holiday season – is a challenge in itself. But we hope that providing two months for responses will allow the opportunity for interested parties in all parts of the UK to participate in the exercise.

By the time this consultation finishes I will have taken my leave from SSAC. It’s been both a privilege and a pleasure to chair the Committee since late 2011, and I am most grateful to everyone who has engaged with SSAC and enriched our work during that time. I am delighted to be handing over the role to Ian Diamond, who I’m sure will find it as rewarding and enjoyable as I have. Do please ensure that the evidence and insights Ian and the rest of the Committee have at their disposal following this consultation is as full and rich as it can be, so that they can prepare a compelling, independent, evidence based and constructive report for Ministers and Parliament on the proposals for this important next stage in the evolution of the UK social security system for people of working age.

Amongst the comments (Leave a comment here) these stand out,

Universal Credit is based far too much on coercion through sanctions.

Making people on legacy benefits make a fresh claim is putting more pressure on disabled people. Many of whom have mental health problems.

Stop this inhumane and disastrous Universal Credit it has caused more harm than good and the people who instigated it should be deeply ashamed about it .It is savage and cruel and ill conceived and the sooner it is stopped the less casualties there will be.

The whole ethos of “Universal Credit” is to inflict hardship and destitution to the most vulnerable people in society.

Transferring the sick and disabled onto UC from legacy benefits is the worst idea possible. It means an immediate wait of up to 8 weeks before funds are received – for people that are already living on the breadline and have no savings to live on during the waiting period – people who rely on these funds for things like food, power, medicine and rent who will risk losing their homes, starvation and inability to pay carers or take their medication, in effect – condemning them to misery and fear – deliberately.

Government proposal to move claimants on ‘legacy’ benefits to Universal Credit: consultation announced.

.

Seeing as this document is not handed out in Job centres we give it in full.

The SSAC is consulting on proposals to move existing claimants in receipt of a working age income-related benefit to Universal Credit.

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has today launched a public consultation on proposals for moving all existing claimants of a working age income-related benefit to Universal Credit.

From next year DWP will begin the process of moving claimants in receipt of one or more of the following benefits to Universal Credit:

  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Income Support
  • Housing Benefit

The wide-ranging draft legislation, which was presented to the committee for scrutiny at its meeting on 20 June 2018, sets out the government’s proposals on:

  1. requirements for claimants on existing benefits to make a claim for Universal Credit (including the deadlines for doing so) and arrangements for ending their existing benefit
  2. the calculation, award and ongoing treatment of transitional protection

The task of safely moving around 3 million claimants (in around 2 million households) from legacy benefits to Universal Credit raises important questions about the delivery challenge facing the department and the potential impact on claimants.

SSAC has therefore decided to examine this draft legislation, and the impacts that flow from it, in more detail. To help inform this work, the committee would welcome evidence from a broad range of organisations and individuals who have good insight into and/or experience of the following aspects of these proposals:

  • the overall migration timetable
  • arrangements for contacting claimants and inviting claims from them
  • issues associated with making a claim, and ending legacy benefit claims
  • the calculation of transitional protection (including the treatment of earnings and capital)
  • the impact of proposed transitional protection (including how easily it will be delivered and the degree to which it will be understood by claimants)
  • the impact on workers, including the self-employed
  • equality impact (whether there will be particular effects for different groups and how these can best be addressed), for example are there any groups that will not be covered by transitional protection?
  • monitoring and evaluation

The committee would welcome responses to ensure that its advice to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is informed by a range of perspectives. The committee would welcome real or hypothetical case studies or specific examples as part of that evidence.

Paul Gray, the committee’s Chair, said:

The planned rollout of Universal Credit is now reaching its most critical and challenging stage. The government’s draft proposals involve major issues on both detailed entitlement rules and delivery logistics, and are due to be debated in Parliament later this year. SSAC is keen to ensure that the scrutiny report it submits to ministers and Parliament is as well informed as possible, and we therefore strongly encourage all organisations and individuals with relevant evidence to take part in this consultation process.

Please note that we are not consulting on the government’s overarching Universal Credit policy, which is enshrined in primary legislation following Parliamentary scrutiny during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. Comments on this will not be considered.

Responses should be submitted to the Committee Secretary by no later than 10am on Monday 20 August:

The Committee Secretary
Social Security Advisory Committee
5th Floor
Caxton House
Tothill Street
London
SW1H 9NA

Written by Andrew Coates

June 27, 2018 at 4:20 pm

Destitution in the UK Set to Rise with Universal Credit.

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Image result for destitution in the uk

During the week this story hit the headlines:

1.5 million people are ‘destitute’ in the UK. The ‘I’ (the well-informed Claimant’s Daily read).

The figures are startling: an estimated 1.5 million people were destitute in the UK at some point in 2017, 365,000 of them children. This is the conclusion of a report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of the charity, said actions by the Government, local authorities and utility companies is leading to “destitution by design”. “Social security should be an anchor holding people steady against powerful currents such as rising costs, insecure housing and jobs, and low pay, but people are instead becoming destitute with no clear way out.”

..

The report blamed benefits sanctions, low benefit levels, delays in receiving benefit payments, high housing costs, pressures – financial and otherwise – facing people with poor health and disability, lack of eligibility for benefits for people such as migrants and “harsh and uncoordinated” debt recovery practices by authorities and utility companies.

Here is the full report: Destitution in the UK 2018

There is plenty to remind you of this walking around Ipswich, where people begging is a daily sight.

James Bloodworth’s book,  Hired. Six Months Undercover in Low-wage Britain (2018) comes to mind at the same time.

The author  worked for Amazon in Rugeley, for a Call centre in the South Wales Valleys, for Uber, and for a private care firm in Blackpool.

It was in this seaside resort that he found this,

Bloodworth comes across the homeless. He sees an old man “buried under a pile of corrugated cardboard and bin liners”. In Blackpool’s main library there are people “who had been sent like badly behaved children to ‘job club’. There were the down-and-outs there too, “holding filthy carrier bags”, some falling asleep to be thrown back onto the streets. At moments like this you realise that only a comparison with George Orwell’s best writing will do.

Much of this seems to fit the way we live all over the country.

People in short-term employment, with few rights, thrown in and out of the benefits system. The down-and-outs.

One of one of the reasons we have so many young homeless wandering around in Ipswich is the closure of the Foyer last year.

Campaigner ‘disappointed’ as Ipswich Foyer housing scheme for young people to close in March.

Centra has failed to win a new funding contract from Suffolk County Council (SCC) to keep the Foyer, in Star Lane, running.

From April YMCA Suffolk and Orwell Housing Association will deliver housing-related support services for young people across the county.

Becki Bunn, who started a petition to save the hostel, said she was “really disappointed” that SCC had not reinvested in the Foyer.

At the age of 17 Miss Bunn lived at the Foyer for six months, enabling her to stay in education and finish her A-Levels.

Walking past it a few days ago I saw that the building, eminently suitable for the homeless, is empty and beginning to look shabby.

Thankfully Ipswich Labour has made some steps towards helping some of those without a roof over their heads.

The £2.8m investment Ipswich Borough Council is making in new temporary accommodation for people who are made homeless caught the headlines, writes Labour Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, David Ellesmere.

Ipswich Council has also reduced the Council Tax for those on benefits.

But a Borough Council does not have the funds the remedy the problems.

Some of the reasons for the massive level of destitution  began with the tough conditions to get JSA, such as the 35 jobsearch, ‘courses’, workfare, the sanctions regime, all of which are designed to throw people off the dole and onto the streets.

One that is bound to get worse with Universal Credit.

The must-read Bloodworth book talks of harassing bosses, poor working conditions, low-pay, snarls up in getting wages, and grasping Landlords.

Universal Credit – something people in the ‘gig economy’ he deals with will rely on – makes all of this a lot worse.

If levels of destitution apparently fell 25% with a loosening of sanctions between 2015 to 2017 the report says,

JRF warns more people could be at risk of destitution after Universal Credit is rolled out across the country because of the sanction rate. Universal Credit is being phased in gradually throughout the year. The roll-out schedule is here.

Here are the report’s recommendations.

Solutions to destitution

In our society, no-one should be left to starve or live on the streets and everyone should have access to basic essentials and shelter.
• The Universal Credit system must ensure that benefit gaps, sanctions and freezes do not push working-age people to the brink and make them destitute by design.
• Uncoordinated debt recovery practices can leave people with practically nothing to live on. This is unacceptable, and the Department for Work and Pensions and other public authorities must
address this.
• People facing destitution need emergency relief and this should be provided through Local Welfare Assistance schemes across England, drawing on positive lessons from other UK
countries, operating to a national minimum standard.
• Social landlords must be encouraged to play a central role in preventing and alleviating destitution amongst their tenants.

This can be summarised that immediately:

The UK Government needs to:

  • End the freeze on working-age benefits so they at least keep up with the cost of essentials and do not create destitution.
  • Change the use of sanctions within Universal Credit so that people are not left destitute by design.
  • Review the total amount of debt that can be clawed back from people receiving benefits, so they can keep their heads above water.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 10, 2018 at 9:35 am

As Universal Credit is Rolled out: Crime scene-style body outlines on Jobcentres across Birmingham.

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Body outlines from murder crime scenes appear outside JobCentres in Birmingham

DWP Suggests This Might be a Protest!

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Body outlines indicating murder crime scenes are being sprayed outside Birmingham Jobcentres along with the slogan ‘fit for work’. (Metro)

Police have been alerted after mysterious crime scene-style body outlines were daubed on Jobcentres across Birmingham reports Birmingham Live.

Sites in Kings Heath, Sparkhill, Selly Oak, Ladywood and Longbridge were all targeted.

Pictures from the scene showed a chalk body outline painted on the ground at the entrance of the centre, with a bloody trail to a foot detached from the body.

The windows of the centre were also targeted, but were quickly covered with paper to shield it from onlookers.

Scotland Yard’s Top Copper is already working on the case.

Image result for Inspector clouseau

Helped by MI5 The DWP quickly got to the possible cause of the incidents.

“The Department for Work and Pensions, which manages job centres, hinted that the graffiti might have been done for the purpose of protest.”

A spokesman said: “Everyone has a right to protest peacefully, however vandalism is completely unacceptable. We’re in contact with the police.”

In April, police appealed for help to help to catch vandals who were spray-painting cars in Sutton Coldfield town centre.

A spokesperson for Sutton Coldfield’s Trinity neighbourhood team said: “We have noticed an increasing amount of graffiti, appearing across Sutton Coldfield town centre and within surrounding areas.

“We are appealing for information if anyone knows who is responsible for the personalised graffiti – as per the photograph.

“If anyone has any further information that could be of assistance within this matter; please contact PCSO Deputy Dawg  by calling 109999999 and stating extension number: 792843  (Calls charged at 50 pence a minute).”

 

Meanwhile, in today’s Guardian.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation says cuts, debts and housing costs push poor over the edge.

More than 1.5 million people in the UK, including more than 350,000 children, experienced destitution last year, a study has found, meaning they regularly went without food, toiletries, adequate clothing or shelter.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says a “tangled combination” of benefit cuts, delays and sanctions, together with harsh debt-recovery practices and high housing rental costs pushed people already in poverty over the edge into extreme deprivation.

Nearly two-thirds reported that they ate fewer than two meals a day for two or more days over the previous month, nearly half lacked clothing appropriate for the weather, more than 40% went without heating, and 15% slept rough.

The Independent today.

Nearly 4 million UK adults forced to use food banks, figures reveal

Exclusive: One in 14 Britons has used a food bank amid ‘shocking’ levels of deprivation

Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2018 at 10:20 am