Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Housing Benefit’ Category

Universal Credit: What Fine Mess the Government is Ignoring.

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Universal Credit Still Surviving.

If you are of working age and in receipt of the following benefits, you will be moving to Universal Credit very soon.

  • JSA
  • ESA
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Housing Benefit
  • Income Support

When you claim Universal Credit, you could be waiting several weeks before you receive any money.

Use this Survival Guide to make sure you are ready to survive the first few months on Universal Credit.

Universal Credit Survival-kit

We understand that the government would prefer to ignore the mess it’s created with Universal Credit.

But the problems it’s caused, adding to their pile of woes, will not go away.

This is the latest.

We note that after the Grenfell Tragedy housing is top of the news:

Director General Neil Couling answers questions on Universal Credit APA Scheme 

Published on 20/06/2017

Many landlords are experiencing issues with Universal Credit. The communication is poor, landlords are putting in APAs, but unable to communicate with DWP to find out the process of the APA.

As a result many landlords have tenants with high rent arrears – the system needs changing as landlords seem to be punished for providing a much needed service to the social sector.

Bill Irvine has penned a very accurate letter to Neil Couling DWP, please read the interesting letter and feel free to tweet and forward to your peers.

Open letter to:

Mr Neil Couling
Director General
Universal Credit Implementation

Dear Mr Couling

Landlords, throughout Great Britain, are experiencing unsustainable rental loss as a direct result of Universal Credit, particularly, in relation to the way in which the “housing element” is being administered. Despite phoning, e-mailing and complaining to Jobcentre Plus and regional Complaints & Resolution teams, our collective efforts have proved fruitless, frustrating and disheartening. The situation is getting worse, especially in areas, like e.g. London, Great Yarmouth, Inverness and East Lothian, where “Full Service” Universal Credit is now operating and arrears are running at 90%. Landlords understandably fear that as Full Service expands throughout GB so will these worrying problems.

Nearly every single tenant owes rent, either through the delay in first payment, which can take 6-12 weeks to process. In some cases, tenants are simply misspending the housing element, rather than using the funds to reduce or extinguish their rental liabilities. When that occurs, landlords make application for redirection of the funds. Many of those applications are mislaid, take months to process or are simply ignored. In the most alarming cases, DWP has simply ignored the red flags and pleas, raised by landlords and continued to make payments to delinquent tenants in the full knowledge £000’s of public funds was being used inappropriately.

Not surprisingly, the RLA and NLA are both reporting an increasing number of private sector landlords and letting agents refusing to accommodate Universal Credit reliant tenants. Lenders are also stipulating, that funds will not be provided where tenancies are intended for benefit tenants.

Was the Alternative Payment Arrangement scheme (APAs) not designed to safeguard landlords from these very problems; avoid the problem of vulnerable tenants mismanaging their finances; and prevent delinquent tenants from misusing public funds, putting at jeopardy their tenancy and exposing them to the vagaries of homelessness?

As Director General, you must be acutely aware and surely worried by what’s happening?

Evidence of repeated misuse of public funds is building as “Full Service” roll out starts to bite. Landlords like Caridon Property Solutions have been copying you into exchanges with your staff, over many months, and, in the past week, have drawn your attention to two cases involving nearly £12, 000 in rent arrears, caused by your staff failing to respond appropriately to multiple APA requests by landlords and their agents.

DWP’s excuses to date have Included: “We can’t speak to Landlords or agents without the consent of the tenant.” ……………A “Special Payment” (as compensation for rental loss) is not merited in such cases as the tenant is the primary cause of the problem”…………..“This is essentially a civil dispute between tenant & landlord”

Frankly, none of these statements reflect the true cause of the problem. It’s unquestionably, DWP maladministration of its own scheme, accompanied by complete ambivalence to the predicament of landlords’ reliance on these funds for their livelihood and ability to pay lenders. Had your staff acted in accordance with the scheme you created, most of these substantial losses could have been avoided.

The APA scheme was designed specifically for landlords. It requires our members to apply using a Non-secure UC 47 form which can either be sent by e-mail or FREEPOST. This version of the form was designed to “start a dialogue with landlords and agents”. It’s supposed to prompt a call from your staff, during which, the landlords’ bank details and the merits of the application can be discussed. You also provide a telephone number for landlords to call when they’re seeking an update on the progress of their application. Given the above, its’ absurd to suggest you can’t speak to landlords, without the tenant’s consent.

Landlords, having complied with the scheme’s requirements, in all respects, are surely entitled to be able to ask for progress updates; reasons for refusal; reasons for later redirection back to tenants, without discussion. Your colleague Mike Baker, Operations Director, in August 2015 acknowledged the landlords’ rights in this respect and confirmed to me, in writing, that on receipt of an APA request the “housing element” would be immediately suspended, pending a decision on the question of to whom the payment should be made. His commitment has not been honoured.

Members have repeatedly raised with your staff, concerns over the lack of independence, impartiality and objectivity during the internal stages of your “Complaints Process”. In your responses to members, you claim that cases are considered on their individual merits. However, if you examine the common thread of each response, it’s really nothing other than a standard reply, crafted by someone in your Policy Unit. It was your Policy Unit who prescribed “Special Payments” were NOT to be used in landlord APA applications for compensation. Interference of this type completely undermines the notion of cases being considered on their individual merits and suggests more of a sham complaints process.

The third stage of the Complaints Process (Independent Case Examiner) is truly the first time the complaint is looked at independently. Past reports from ICE suggest 50% of complaints are fully supported with a further 25% partially supported. At first, this looked a promising way to prosecute a complaint but we’ve since found it takes 15 months, on average, from referral to conclusion stage. A classic case of justice delayed, justice denied!

As an ex COSLA advisor to the Housing Benefit Standing Committee, Westminster I’ve spent 20 years dealing with DWP hierarchy, including the Policy Unit team in the Adelphi, London. My colleagues and I had a very fruitful relationship with this team who demonstrated a high level of knowledge and commitment to tackling and resolving problems. I’ve yet to see anything like that from you and your support team with maybe 1 or 2 exceptions.

Five years ago, I wrote an article “Hitting the DWP brick wall” which was published by the SFHA and private sector magazines, predicting the biggest problem with Universal Credit would be your department’s remote and ambivalent administration of the scheme. If anything, I underestimated just how problematic it would be.

In my opinion, something drastic is needed to overhaul the current APA and associated Complaints Processes as both are currently unfit for purpose. Apart from traveling the country, speaking to staff in the new Full Service areas, what are you doing to address the legitimate concerns of landlords?

Bill Irvine.

Note this:

After weeks  of waiting for a response Neil Couling has finally responded to Bills comments.

Please Click Here to download letter of response from Neil Couling

In Neil’s response it appears that he fails to address many  of the points raised by Bill and acknowledge the issues raised. Interestingly, the House of Commons library produced a report this week, “Housing Costs in Universal Credit” – http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN06547#fullreport  referring the rent arrears increasing under Universal Credit.

The topic on communication was addressed briefly and advised that landlords should visit the DWP Frequently asked questions under Universal Credit.

In my opinion there still needs to be more done to on the whole process on APA and current reports and findings should be taken into account.

So, what is Gaukey doing about this?

Written by Andrew Coates

June 20, 2017 at 10:37 am

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