Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Iain Duncan Smith’ Category

John Major Joins in Chorus Against Universal Credit.

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Image result for John major cartoon Steve bell

Major to the Rescue!

Back in the old days we all used to laugh at John Major.

Rory Bremner did a great impersonation.

There was also his affair with Edwina Currie, (BBC)

Former Prime Minister John Major has admitted he had a four-year affair with the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie.

Mr Major described it as the most shameful event of his life, but said his wife Norma had long known of the relationship and had forgiven him.

Mrs Currie made the disclosure in her diaries, which are being serialised in the Times newspaper.

The affair began in 1984 when Mrs Currie was a backbencher and Mr Major a whip in Margaret Thatcher’s government.

Mrs Currie – who later became a health minister – said the affair ended in early 1988 after his swift promotion to the Cabinet as chief secretary to the Treasury.

What the wags of the Internet could make of that today is …a happy thought.

Now Major is an elder statesman.

With Boris and Rees Mogg around – preceded stage right by Iain Duncan Smith, not to mention David Gauke – you could feel a big nostalgic for those days.

Major obviously has more than a grain of sense left.

John Major calls for Tory review of ‘unfair’ universal credit

reports the Guardian.

Former PM says party needs to ‘show its heart again’ or it risks opening door to ’return of a nightmare’.

Sir John Major has called for an urgent change of tone from the Conservative government, including a review of universal credit, which he described as “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving”.

The former prime minister said his party needed to “show its heart again, which is all too often concealed by its financial prudence”, if it hoped to fight off a Labour resurgence in the next general election.

“We are not living in normal times and must challenge innate Conservative caution,” he said.

However, he suggested the implementation of the policy, which has led some claimants to turn to foodbanks as they wait up to six weeks for payments, required a rethink.

To rub this in we learn the following today,

More than 25 Tory MPs  prepared to rebel over Universal Credit roll-out

More than 25 Tory MPs are now prepared to rebel over the Government’s flagship welfare reforms amid mounting calls for a “pause” in the roll-out of Universal Credit.

David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, last week tried to broker a truce with MPs by insisting that a system of advance payments was already in place to help those struggling when they change systems.

Despite the move, Sir John Major, the former Tory Prime Minister, described the system on Sunday as “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving”.

The Guardian outlines the mammoth task before the government.

Universal credit: why is it a problem and can the system be fixed?

What are the design flaws?

There are manifold problems, but the political focus centres on the minimum 42-day wait for a first payment endured by new claimants when they move to universal credit (in practice this is often up to 60 days). For many low-income claimants, who lack savings, this in effect leaves them without cash for six weeks. The well-documented consequences for claimants of this are rent arrears (leading in some cases to eviction), hunger (food banks in universal credit areas report striking increases in referrals), use of expensive credit, and mental distress.

What have ministers proposed to do about the six-week wait?

The work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, recognised the widely held concerns about the long payment wait (including 12 of his own party’s backbenchers) in his speech to the Tory party conference on Monday. He said he was overhauling the system of advance payments available to claimants to enable them to access cash up front to see them through the six-week waiting period. Payments would be available within five days, and in extreme cases within hours.

Will this solve the problem?

The payments are loans that must be repaid. Claimants can only get an advance for a proportion of the amount they are owed as a first payment, and must repay it within six months. Normally, claimants must prove to officials that an advance is needed to pay bills, afford food or prevent illness. Official figures show about half of new universal credit claimants apply for an advance payment. Ministers say this is good news as it shows they are getting help. Critics say the high demand proves the wait is too onerous for too many people.

What other options do ministers have?

Charities and landlords could reduce the long wait marginally by cutting the seven-day “waiting period” introduced in 2013 (an arbitrary period during which new claimants are prevented from lodging a claim after being made redundant). They could introduce more flexible repayment terms for advance loans. And they could speed up the payment process (currently slower than the supposedly cumbersome “legacy” benefits they replace).

So it is all about ironing out a few technical glitches?

Not quite. Multibillion-pound cuts to work allowances imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne mean universal credit is far less generous than originally envisaged. According to the Resolution Foundation thinktank, about 2.5m low-income working households will be more than £1,000 a year worse off when they move on to universal credit. Reversing those cuts requires a political decision, not a technical fix.

What is the future for universal credit?

Gauke confirmed today that the current rollout will continue to the planned timetable (which will see, in theory, universal credit extended to about 7 million people by 2022). However, the problems of universal credit are unlikely to go away, and it has some powerful critics, including the Treasury, which has always opposed the project. It would be possible to cancel the project, or overhaul it substantially. However, some argue the billions pumped into universal credit – and the huge amount of political capital and credibility invested in it – mean it is too big to fail.

For those who’ve lost the will to live after this lot, Rory Bremner is still a laugh!

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 9, 2017 at 10:22 am

When will Universal Credit Fall off a Cliff?

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Image result for falling off a cliff

Warning: Universal Credit Ahead!

Sometimes you wonder when or where  it will all end.

Or Collapse, as the image above suggests.

Ken already notes on the comments that people are racking up debts because of Universal Credit,

Newcastle tenants on Universal Credit rack up £1.1 million in rent arrears

Housing managers say a new benefits system is leading people into debt and forcing some to use food banks.

Ken adds this to boot,

An automated system is leeching cash away from essentials like clothes and food to cover costs elsewhere

StepChange Debt Charity said the use of direct deductions from people’s benefits, by utility companies, housing providers, councils and others, to cover arrears payments is making it harder for families to pay for essentials forcing many to use credit to keep on top of bills.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/third-party-deductions-dwp-policy-11164892

That’s just a a sample of our contributors’ news from the media, their own experience and comments.

Is the Government worried?

Do they take account of the stream of criticism that’s levelled at the madcap scheme that’s causing widespread misery?

They and the DWP are in denial.

The Ghost of Iain Duncan Smith, in a rage at the fate of his love child,  speaks through one of his minions,

THIS BLOG IS A DISGRACE!! IT EXISTS ONLY TO DISCOVER LOOPHOLES IN DWP RULES AND REGULATIONS, AND TO FIND WAYS AND MEANS FOR SHYSTERS TO AVOID DWP JUSTICE. ITS OWNER – ANDREW COATES – WHO LIKES TO PRETEND HE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT IS HAPPENING ON HIS OWN BLOG AND ALL THE OTHERS WHO SOUGHT TO BRING ABOUT THIS PERVERSE DECISION WHICH ALLOWED A GUILTY MAN TO EVADE DWP JUSTICE SHOULD BE PROSECUTED FOR CONSPIRACY TO PERVERT THE COURSE OF JUSTICE AND CONSPIRACY TO DEFEAT THE ENDS OF JUSTICE. FUMING!

This is the news today, from the Independent,

Universal Credit delays leave claimants to ‘drop off a cliff’ in rent arrears, hear MPs

It comes after Citizens Advice warned the accelerated roll-out of the new regime was a ‘disaster waiting to happen’.

Claimants “drop off a cliff” and “remain in freefall” in rent arrears due to delays in receiving payments under the new Universal Credit regime, MPs have heard.

It comes as the Government plans to accelerate the delayed roll-out of Universal Credit – devised by the former welfare chief Iain Duncan Smith – to 50 new areas in the autumn despite warnings that it is a “disaster waiting to happen”.

Speaking to MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee in Westminster, council leaders, food banks and charities from across the country raised concerns about the system which intends to merge six existing benefits into one single monthly payment from claimants.

One councillor from the London council of Southwark – where Universal Credit is already up and running – said an additional £1.3m of rent arrears was attributable to the new regime since its introduction by the council two years ago.

Southwark Councillor Fiona Colley told the committee, chaired by the former Labour minister Frank Field, that the roll-out had a range of impacts on the council and its residents due to typical 12-13 weeks to administer the first payment.

“The most significant for us that I want to tell you about is how it has impacted rent arrears and on payment of rent,” she said. “That has very much dominated our experience.

“What we are particularly concerned about is the speed at which rent arrears are increasing after people claim Universal Credit. We see them drop off a cliff once the claim goes in and remain in free-fall for about three months thereafter until people start getting into payment.”

Pressed on whether the system had got any better in the two years the council had been administering Universal Credit, she replied: “I don’t think so.”

“We’re looking to make this work – we can’t afford for it not to.”

Not to mention this:

Universal Credit roll-out a ‘ticking timebomb’, say private landlords

Welfare Weekly.

The Government’s flagship Universal Credit (UC) system is pushing a growing number of private sector tenants into rent arrears, with the number falling behind on payments rising by 10% over the last year.

A survey of almost 3,000 landlords by the Residential Landlords Association (RLA), who represent landlords in the private sector across England and Wales, found that 38% of tenants in receipt of UC experienced rent arrears in the last year – up from 27% in February 2016.

The average amount of rent arrears owed by private tenants to their landlords is now £1,150, with the RLA blaming the long wait before UC claimants receive their first payment.

Then there was this:  Homelessness rise ‘likely to have been driven by welfare reforms’

The number of homeless families in the UK has risen by more than 60% and is “likely to have been driven” by the government’s welfare reforms, the public spending watchdog has said.

Homelessness of all kinds has increased “significantly” over the last six years, said the National Audit Office.

It accused the government of having a “light touch approach” to tackling the problem.

The government said it was investing £550m by 2020 to address the issue.

There has been a 60% rise in households living in temporary accommodation – which includes 120,540 children – since 2010/11, the NAO said.

A snapshot overnight count last autumn found there were 4,134 rough sleepers – an increase of 134% since the Conservatives came into government, it added.

A report by the watchdog found rents in England have risen at the same time as households have seen a cut to some benefits.

Homelessness cost more than £1bn a year to deal with, it said.

Reforms to the local housing allowance are “likely to have contributed” to making it more expensive for claimants to rent privately and “are an element of the increase in homelessness,” the report added.

Homelessness rise

England, 2010-2017

134% rise in rough sleepers

60% rise in households living in temporary accommodation

  • 77,000 families in temporary accommodation, March 2017, including…
  • 120,000 children
  • £1.15bn council spending on homelessness 2015-16

Welfare reforms announced by the government in 2015 included a four-year freeze to housing benefit – which was implemented in April 2016.

Auditor General Sir Amyas Morse said the Department for Work and Pensions had failed to evaluate the impact of the benefit changes on homelessness.

“It is difficult to understand why the department persisted with its light touch approach in the face of such a visibly growing problem.

“Its recent performance in reducing homelessness therefore cannot be considered value for money.”

The ending of private sector tenancies – rather than a change in personal circumstances – has become the main cause of homelessness in England, with numbers tripling since 2010/11, said the NAO.

Its analysis found private sector rents in England have gone up by three times as much as wages since 2010 – apart from in the north and East Midlands.

While in London, costs have risen by 24% – eight times the average wage increase.

I saw people sleeping in doorways in Ipswich last night.

Not at all unusual.

Anywhere.

Update: still somebody’s happy:

Written by Andrew Coates

September 14, 2017 at 11:14 am

Labour needs to develop an alternative to Universal Credit and the Benefit Freeze.

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Image result for universal Credit

The Labyrinth:  Claiming Universal Credit.

Labour has finally spoken about Universal Credit.

But, as quoted,  Debbie Abrahams, shadow Work and Pensions secretary, leaves many things unsaid.

Labour warning amid growing number of working people claiming universal credit

Labour has warned that low pay and insecure work “are endemic in our economy” after new figures showed 210,000 people claiming universal credit are in work.

Some 540,000 are now claiming universal credit, a flagship policy in the Government’s welfare reform programme which is being gradually rolled out across the country.

Around 39% of those are in employment but on low incomes, with the benefit paid to those in employment as well as those out of work.

Ministers say universal credit makes work pay by supplementing incomes and simplifies the benefit system.

Debbie Abrahams, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “The Tories’ principle that work will always pay under universal credit has failed.

“The increasing numbers of working people in receipt of universal credit show just how many workers are forced to rely on the social security system to make ends meet.

“Low pay and insecure work are endemic in our economy.”

Comment.

  • What about the Benefits’ Freeze which affects those on Universal Credit?
  • What about the chaos caused by the waiting time to get Universal Credit?
  • What about the misery caused by Housing Benefit delays on Universal Credit?
  • What about the Sanctions Regime for those on Universal Credit, which touches not just the unemployed but also those working?

Finally, amongt other injustices we have the ludicrous obligation of all claimants to pay a percentage of Council Tax.

This scheme was introduced in 2013, “people on the minimum income possible to survive will from April have to use their meager income to pay 10% of their total council tax.”

The immediate result?

“Thousands in court for council tax arrears as benefit cuts hit home” (2014).

“Record numbers of people in council tax arrears, say charities” (2016)

And now, “English Council Tax arrears now top £2.8 billion ”

And…

Benefits were not raised at the time so effectively claimants suffered a cut in their income.

The freeze on welfare payments means they lose out more and more.

What has Labour said on these issues?

Nobody has yet to talk seriously of of getting rid of this scheme, designed to grind the faces of the poor.

In Labour’s Manifesto we had a commitment to “ a redesign and reform of Universal Credit (UC)” .  This apparently applied mostly to the technology involved, as the source (Government Computing) indicates.

What are the details?

And, of far greater importance, what of the issues listed above which have led to poverty level incomes for people on benefits, sanctions, and all the rest….

All we have so far in the public domain (and I am informed there is not much elsewhere, unless there are some hidden Labour Policy Commission types  busy burrowing away on the Work, Pensions and Equality Commission whose work has yet to see the light of day..)  are broad brush ideas on “Tackling poverty and inequality” and “making work pay” .

There is this, (Labour List)

“The benefit cap is something that Labour would look to ending, Debbie Abrahams has said.

The idea, which has not yet been costed, would stop the household cap of £20,000 per household outside of London. The cap in London is £23,000. Parents must work for at least 16 hours a week to avoid the cap.

Getting rid of the benefit cap was not in Labour’s general election manifesto.

The shadow work and pensions secretary brought up the impact on child poverty that the cap has. Last week a judicial review brought by four families said that the cap brought “real misery” for families with young children, in comments reported by the BBC.

The Abrahams statement today adds little to the one she made in 2016.

Universal Credit as it now stands has fatally undermined incentives to work – Debbie Abrahams

Debbie Abrahams, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, commenting on the ministerial statement on the roll-out of Universal Credit, said:

“Yet again the Tory Government has been forced to extend the Universal Credit rollout. This is the seventh time that the timetable has been altered since March 2013 and the implementation of Universal Credit is beset by problems. For example, UNISON has made me aware of a worker who has fallen foul of the strict DWP monthly assessment period, meaning she’s losing nearly £700 a year in Universal Credit on a £11,600 salary, purely because her monthly pay date varies.  This simply isn’t acceptable.

“The Government claims to want to support working people but. The new Secretary of State should get a grip of roll-out, look at the myriad problems in implementation and immediately u-turn on the Tories’ cuts to the work allowance.“

Between 2016 and 2017 it’s become clearer that  we need a root-and-branch approach to replace Universal Credit in its present form.

As the story we began with continues:

Universal credit combines benefits such as jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance, as well as housing benefit and tax credits, into a single monthly payment.

A report by charity Citizens Advice last week called for the universal credit rollout to be paused, citing “significant problems” with the system.

 Research by the charity suggested many claimants fell into debt waiting for their first payment, which takes six weeks to process, while Citizens Advice also raised concerns over universal credit’s administration.

The charity believes that by 2022 more than seven million households will receive universal credit, 54% of which will have someone in work.

We look forward to seeing some detail relevant  to these points in this, though not being a wealthy toff who reads far-right papers like the Times I do not have access to the article.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 13, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Campaign to Get Rid of Ex-DWP Minister Iain Duncan Smith.

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It was my privilege over the weekend to meet some Labour Party members from the constituency of our old friend, Iain Duncan Smith.

They told me of this (in reality rather more vividly),

THE CONSERVATIVES are calling for “help” as over 500 Labour supporters prepare to launch their campaign to ‘Unseat Iain Duncan Smith’.

According to a letter, believed to be from the local Tory association, the Conservative MP is preparing himself for a fight from the “hordes of Momentum”.

While the Chingford and Woodford Green MP increased his vote share by 1.2 per cent at last month’s general election, his 2015 majority fell from 8,386 to 2,438.

For 47 years the area has remained Tory, but Labour now has its sights set on turning the whole of Waltham Forest red.

The campaign will see left-wing columnist Owen Jones and Labour’s losing candidate Bilal Mahmood head to Hatch Lane, in Chingford, this Sunday – and 500 people are set to join them.

Another 2,400 people said they are ‘interested’ in attending the event called ‘Unseat Iain Duncan Smith – Campaign for Labour’.

I informed them of how we lot feel about our former Boss.

His crimes are too numerous to list, though his legacy, for the disabled, and for anybody caught up in Universal Credit, ensures they are far from forgotten.

Our Ace Reporters have covered Duncy’s attempts to wriggle out of his past,and call to “revisit the whole idea of work and sickness benefit”.

Though this has been in the news not too long ago, still banging on about ‘low value people’.

This time it’s European migrant workers,

 

Meanwhile Doug points out that “50 new areas are marked for UC to begin in October.”

Written by Andrew Coates

July 10, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Iain Duncan Smith: “I was a Cruel and Heartless Bastard as Work and Pensions Minister.”

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Iain Duncan Smith 

Iain Duncan Smith: Covering Himself Against Regime Collapse.

This caught my eye, and doubtless plenty of others, this morning when I bought my copy of the claimants’ favourite daily, The ‘I’.

After a recent  flop as a Radio 2 Presenter Iain Duncan Smith is flaying around looking for a new role and purpose in life.

Iain Duncan Smith says work capability assessments don’t work and are ‘too harsh’

Former minister for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith has admitted that work capability assessments given to sick people are “too harsh” and offer a “cliff edge” choice between work and no work.

He added that this “cliff edge” view of work and illness adds stress to the process and encourages people to misrepresent their conditions to assessors.

Speaking at an event held by the Spectator magazine and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on The Conservative Route to Fighting Poverty, Duncan Smith said that these issues prompted the DWP to review the Work Capability Assessments (WCA) system of assessments a total of five times.

It was quite obvious to us that the system was far too narrow, was acting in a far too harsh manner and was making judgements about people,” he said. He added that despite these reviews, which helped “soften” these effects slightly, the system remains flawed: “The whole process of having a benefit that says you are either too sick to work or you can work, actually works against the nature of how people think of themselves,” he said.

Mr Duncan Smith, like Secret Police Chief  Lavrentiy Pavlovich Beria, after the death of Stalin, now claims that he was secretly planning to change the whole system all along:

Towards the end of his time as minister, before his departure from the department in May 2016, Duncan Smith had started to formulate plans to totally reshape the way these assessments were done.

“I came to the conclusion that it was time to review the whole way we do this and remove the cliff edge,” he said. “The cliff edge tempts people to make wrong declarations. And it means that whatever assessment you’re making becomes very critical, which adds extra stress.” He argued a system where someone could be deemed fit for some work, or a certain number of hours a week, would remove much of this strain. The current system, he added, works “directly against” getting people into work: “If you’re in work you’re likely to be healthier. Given all of that, the benefit we have works directly against that. It forces people out of the work environment rather than keeping them in.”

On a roll ‘Beria’ Duncan Smith is now going all out for radical reform in a last-ditch bid to save the ‘system’.

Speaking to a newspaper close to the crumbling ruling regime, The Sun, he said yesterday:

BAN THE BLOCKS

Iain Duncan Smith calls for an end to tower blocks in Britain and demands higher taxes on empty luxury homes

The ex-minister said that tower blocks should be replaced by ‘low-rise buildings’ in the wake of Grenfell Tower disaster

Written by Andrew Coates

June 30, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Universal Credit: The Epic Failure Continues.

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Image result for universal credit critics

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

I have heard from people who have done temporary jobs over Christmas and into the New Year that it is all too easy to get in difficulties with Universal Credit when you sign back on – the money you have earned in one part of a month means that you lose out in reduced  benefits for the rest of the month.

So, the government  advice seems to be, don’t do the right thing and sign off for a short while to work.

Oh, and don’t, really don’t get involved in trying to sort things out, that only bothers the people running the system who have far more important things to do.

As we can see, as the epic disaster that is Universal Credit continues to chunder along,

Universal Credit: from benefits panacea to government blunder, Dan Finn

Problems piling up

Critics, however, quickly pointed to design flaws and the erroneous assumptions made about the circumstances, employment capacity and budgeting skills of vulnerable individuals, poor families and low-paid workers. Incremental reforms have been made to administrative processes but mounting evidence, gathered by MPs on the Work and Pensions Select Committee, illustrates the problems experienced in the transition to the new system.

Local authorities, welfare agencies and landlords highlight slow and inaccurate payments, administrative complexity and poor communications, increased rent arrears and risks of eviction. Claimants have been subject to inappropriate job search requirements and sanctions. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) acknowledges some problems but anticipates that most will be resolved through ameliorative measures, such as the provision of “money advice” and “alternative payment arrangements”. The select committee is unconvinced and, in February, submitted 20 detailed concerns and questions to the minister. And these problems have occurred before the DWP even starts to migrate millions of existing benefit households into the new system.

A series of reports from the Public Accounts Committee have catalogued problems that have beset the implementation of Universal Credit. These include over-optimistic and untested assumptions, weak management, ineffective project control and poor governance. In his valedictory evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee in February, Lord Freud, who for five years was responsible for implementation of Universal Credit, acknowledged it had been “harder than anticipated”, blaming the high turnover of senior civil servants and the loss of in-house expertise to design the IT system.

The practical result was a major “reset” of the project in 2013 with the DWP utilising a “twin track” approach. This presently comprises the national expansion of a more limited live service, where Universal Credit claims are made online, with other transactions managed by phone and post. Over time, there will be a gradual roll out of the more complex, full digital service, which has now been developed in-house. Freud asserted that this will allow for a more considered implementation. He also claimed that reported problems currently experienced by Universal Credit claimants are exaggerated, not directly caused by the new system (as with some rent arrears), and will be offset as minor adjustments are made, people settle in the system and increase their earned income.

More people will lose out

Whatever the merits of the original Universal Credit design, its capacity to deliver the outcomes promised has been further compromised by a plethora of other welfare reforms eroding the living standards of claimants. Universal Credit payment rates have been frozen for four years, and the full roll out will now be associated with benefit cuts and delayed tax credit related reductions. New claimants on Universal Credit have already been hit by some of these reductions, which have been incorporated into the design of the new system. Existing benefit claimants – not yet on Universal Credit – enjoy some transitional protection but will lose this if their circumstances change.

Note: see above….

The cumulative impact is that Universal Credit has become a tool for delivering welfare cuts rather than improving living standards. The new benefit now creates more losers than gainers and, when combined with the reduced value of work allowances, there are now fewer incentives for lone parents and second earners to work. Equally concerning, much of the increased employment secured by those who do gain will be in “mini-jobs” where families will combine work and welfare rather than move from welfare to work.

Early findings show that although, within nine months, the first wave of largely childless, single Universal Credit recipients worked 12 days more than comparable claimants, the primary change had simply been to make “it more worthwhile and easier for them to do small amounts of work”.

Note:  See above.

Always attentive to our needs this has been announced.

Universal credit recipients to get money advice James Richards 15 Feb 17

Universal credit claimants can now receive free support for their personal finances through an online money management tool.

The money manager has been launched by the Money Advice Service in collaboration with the Department for Work and Pensions.

It is an interactive tool that offers personalised advice for Universal Credit claimants on a range of money topics, such as opening a bank account, paying bills and dealing with debt.

The service has been designed to help people make the transition from Universal Credit to the world of work.

Damian Hinds, employment minister at DWP, said: “Universal Credit gives people back control of their own lives and finances, and makes the transition into work much smoother.

“Our work coaches offer budgeting support to all new claimants and this tool will help more people get all the skills they need to manage their money.”

Claimants will be able to find personalised information about bank accounts, help with setting up direct payments to landlords, budgeting, and saving money on regular bills.

 While we’re living to dream in this world of alternative facts….on which Benefit rates are frozen.

UK inflation hits two-year high of 1.6%

Air fares, imported raw materials, food and petrol price rises plus Brexit-fuelled fall in pound will squeeze family finances in 2017

Written by Andrew Coates

February 18, 2017 at 11:08 am

Life on Benefits and Television Poverty Porn.

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Image result for poverty porn

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