Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Sanctions’ Category

35 Hours a Week Job Search. The Nightmare Continues.

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Image result for ian duncan smith

Iain Duncan Smith’s 35 Hour Job Search: “The evil that men do lives after them….”

 

35 hours a week jobsearch tool-2

35 Hours a Week Job Search.

A few years ago we published the above.

This obligation was introduced by Iain Duncan Smith in 2013, as his mates in the far-right Daily Express gloatingly reported.

In revolutionary changes to the way people receive benefits, those out of work and in receipt of state handouts will be made to put their name to a binding agreement.

The document will make it “abundantly clear” that if an individual fails to spend 35-hours-a-week looking for work they will have their allowance stopped under a “three strikes and out” rule.

The radical plan is the idea of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith who said a job search should be a full-time occupation in itself.

The unemployed will be expected to fill their “working” weeks searching for work, attending interviews, training, assessments and workshops.

If they deviate from their signed commitment, their benefits will be stopped for 13 weeks for a first offence, then 26 weeks and then three years.

This week I heard a Coachy telling a young woman to follow the above regulation by keeping a ‘log’ of all her activities.

Some people have posted comments saying the same.

The new Find a Job site has this section – so if you agree to let them see it this is what this will focus on.

Your activity.

It is not clear if the sanctions regimes is still as tough as the above but as Boycott Workfare rightly predicted before Find a Job and Universal Credit were introduced this is creating new worries.

There are fears that the new system will be used to police claimants when Universal Credit is introduced next year. Under the new benefits regime, claimants will be expected to spend 35 hours looking for work each week. The DWP, or even Work Programme contractors like A4e, could use the new system to force claimants to spend hours clicking through the site or pointlessly applying for unsuitable vacancies just to meet this 35 hour a week condition. Part-time workers, sick or disabled claimants and single parents will face similar conditions.

It is possible that there may be some attempt to bully claimants to sign up via a Jobseekers Direction. This is a formal order which means a claimant can be forced to take any reasonable steps dictated by Jobcentre advisors to find work or face a benefit sanction. People should also be advised that Jobseekers Directions can now be given verbally. We suggest if you are unclear on anything your Jobcentre advisor says to you that you should ask them to clarify whether it is a direction, and take notes of what is said to you.

Should this happen then claimants could sign up but refuse to grant the DWP access to their online account. Claimants are also advised to set up anonymised email accounts with providers like yahoo and hotmail. Don’t tell them anything you don’t have to.

We hope this helps clarify the situation by reference to past enquires into what obligations you have under the 35 a week rule

Following enquiries by What do they Know published this response to the 35 Hours a Job Search obligation,

 

Dear M Imran,
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request dated 29 October 2015. You
asked:
“Could the Department please clarify if it is a mandatory requirement and stated in
legislation for claimants of Jobseekers Allowance to spend there time job searching
for 35 hours a week or 5 hours a day.
Jobcentre advisors are telling claimants to spend 35 hours a week for job searching
but this is not mentioned or stated in the signed Claimant Commitment.
Could the Department please clarify this”?

The response includes this:

To be helpful you may find the following explanation useful about the entitlement
condition for JSA claimants to actively seek work. This has however been provided
outside our obligations under the Freedom of Information regime.
There is no `set’ time that a person must be engaged in looking for work whilst
claiming JSA, rather it is a legal requirement for them to do all that is reasonable for
them to do each week
In order to qualify for JSA, a person must be actively seeking work in each week of
their claim. This means they are generally expected to do all they reasonably can
each week to give them the best prospects of securing employment. The actions that
it would be reasonable for the claimant to take will be personalised and tailored to
the individual and will be specified on their JSA Claimant Commitment. The
expectation is that for most JSA claimants, looking for work will be a full time job in
itself, taking into account any restrictions applied to their availability.
If you have any queries about this letter please contact us quoting the reference
number above.

Yours sincerely,
DWP Central FoI Team

In this response the DWP is seeking to suggest that Jobsearch activity is a full-time activity for people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, when in fact this is not the case. CPAG outlines the situation more accurately:

“If you have carried out all or most of the steps in your claimant committment, this should be sufficient to show that you are actively seeking work. However, a failure to carry out all, or some, steps should not mean you are automatically treated as not actively seeking work. This is particularly relevant where your claimant commitment includes many more steps than the legal test of ‘more than two’.

Case law [1] confirms that whether you are actively seeking work is a test of what you do, rather than what you do not do. The test is whether you take such steps as you are reasonably required to take to secure the best prospects of obtaining employment, and not whether you take all the steps set out in your claimant commitment. The DWP should consider whether you have taken at least three steps in a week, or whether fewer steps are reasonable; what steps are taken; and whether those steps are reasonable. If you satisfy the test, it is irrelevant that you fail to take other steps, whether or not they are in your commitment.”
http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/ask-cpag-…

[1] – CJSA/1814/2007
https://docs.google.com/gview?url=http:/…

Another  request asked,

UNDER NEW RULES UNIVERSAL CREDIT A JOB SEEKER HAS TO DO 35
HOURS A WEEK JOB SEARCH PLEASE DETAIL WHAT THIS MUST
CONSIST OF HOW MUCH TIME MUST BE SPENT ON LINE HOW MUCH
MUST BE PHONEING WRITING OR LOOKING IN PAPERS OR VISITING
FIRMS ALSO IF YOU ARE DOING AFTER WORK PROGRAM SIX MONTHS
COMMUNITY TYPE WORK DURING BUSINESS OPENING HOURS HOW DO
SUPPOSE A CLAIMANT FITS IN 35 HOURS A WEEK JOB SEARCH AS HE OR
SHE WILL BE HAMPERD IF HE OR SHE IS DOING COMMUNITY BASED
WORK DURING BUSINESS HOURS AND WILL BE AT MERCY IF A BIAS
DWP ADVISOR WHO WILL SANCTION THEM FOR SOMETHING THAT DWP
HAVE GOT THEM DOING HAVE YOU SET UP CLAIMANTS TO FAIL IN THIS
WAY AND WILL IT MAKE THEM AT A DISADVANTAGE TO REST OF
CLAIMANTS AS THEY WON’T BE ABLE TO JOBSEACH IN BUSINESS
HOURS ALSO IF YOU DOING COMMUNITY WORK AFTER THE WORK
PROGRAM AND YOU GOT JOB INTERVIEWS ON MOST DAYS WILL YOU
BE ALLOWED TO ATTEND THESE WITHOUT IT AFFECTING ONES CLAIM
ALSO IF YOU ARE SUBJECT TO HAVING TI ATTEND DWP WEEKLY HOW
FAR DOSE A CLAIMANT HAVE TO LIVE BEFORE THE DWP HAVE TO PAY
FOR A CLAIMANT TO ATTEND DWP WHAT HELP DOSE A HOMELESS
PERSON RECEIVE TAKING IN TO ACCOUNT THEY ARE AT A
DISADVANTAGE TO REST OF CLAIMANTS IE NO HOME NO ACCESS TO
INTERNET OR PHONE OR PAPERS HOW IS A HOMELESS PERSON DEALT
WITH TO A NORMAL CLAIMANT.

This was the response.

Claimants in the “all work-related requirements” group have a responsibility to
find work. Claimants should treat this responsibility as their “job” and our
intention is that claimants should aim to spend as many hours looking for work
as we would expect them to spend in work.
Work search expectations will differ for each claimant depending on their
individual circumstances and job goals and advisers will tailor requirements
for each claimant, setting activities which will give each claimant the best
prospects of finding work.
If an adviser sets any work preparation activity, such as attending a training
course or any such relevant community work, it will effectively be offset
against the time a claimant is expected to spend looking for work. We will
also take into account any voluntary or paid work the claimant is engaged in.
Our regulations allow that where a claimant has done all that could
reasonably be expected of them – for example they have applied for all
suitable jobs and undertaken all the activities set out in their work search and
work preparation plan – this may be considered sufficient even where the time
taken was less than the hours expected.
It should also be noted that not all work search has to be conducted within
usual business hours, for example online work search is not limited to
business hours. As long as claimants meet their work search requirements,
they are free to plan the hours they undertake this to suit their circumstances.
Claims will not be affected where an individual has notified their adviser that
they are attending a verifiable job interview.
Travelling expenses may be refunded for pre-arranged interviews in
connection with benefit claims, where the claimant is asked to attend more
frequently than the minimum fortnightly schedule.
The Universal Credit regulations allow the adviser the flexibility to make
decisions based on the claimant’s individual circumstances. The term
homelessness covers a broad range of situations – including rough sleeping,
living in a hostel, and bedding-down on the floors or sofas of family and
friends. So a one-size-fits-all conditionality easement would be wrong.
Advisers will set tailored work search and work preparation requirements,
dependent on claimants’ personal circumstances. In some instances it may be
appropriate to temporarily lift work search and availability requirements while
a claimant secures a place to stay, or moves to new or temporary
accommodation.

As far as I know these guidelines have not changed as this mad list of tips indicates.

The Daily Job Seeker.

2018. “Tips and advice to help give your job search a boost.”

Undertaking 35 hours each week of job searching activity can at first appear hard to achieve. However, there are lots of ways to look for work and to keep your job search productive and you can find tips and advice on this site. It is also important to fully record what you have done so that this can easily be discussed with your work coach. Here is an example of some job searching activity and how to record it.

1. What I did:

I checked the job pages of the Barnet and Finchley Echo when it came out on 21 and 28 February. I made a note of one job as a part-time admin assistant in the finance department at Barnet Council.

I rang up and asked them to send me an application form and I completed the form when it came and sent it back on 4 March.

What this involved: I asked a friend to check the form before I sent it off and added some information as a result. I amended my CV to make sure it was relevant for this job.

What was the result? I completed the application form and sent them my revised CV.

I did this on: 21/2/18, 28/2/18, 4/3/18

Total time taken: 1 hour – checking paper and 2 hours – completing form and amending CV

What I’ll do next: The closing date is 15 March. If I haven’t heard anything by 26 March, I’ll ring the personnel section.

2. What I did:

Looked on job websites – Total Jobs, Indeed, In Retail – for retail jobs.

What this involved: Took bus into town and went to the library to use the internet. Found websites through Google and searched for retail jobs.

What was the result? Found two possible jobs at

1) Sports Direct – closing date 29 March

2) New Look – closing date 5 April

Completed online application form for both jobs and attached my CV.

I also did this type of search on: 22/2/18, 24/2/18, 26/2/18, 4/3/18, 8/3/18

Total time taken: 22 hours

What I’ll do next: Will contact both employers a week after closing date if I haven’t heard anything.

3. What I did:

I registered on Universal Jobmatch on 11 March.

What this involved: I used one of the computers in the Jobcentre after I’d seen my work coach.

What was the result? I applied for two jobs at

1) Subway – closing date 14 March

2) Greggs – closing date 18 March

Completed online application form for the Subway job and attached my CV.

Phoned Greggs to ask for an application form. Job included bakery duties as well as serving customers, so I updated my CV to include my experience doing this. Completed form, included my CV and posted to Greggs.

I repeated this type of search on: 11/3/18, 12/3/18, 13/3/18

Total time taken: 10 hours

What I’ll do next: Will contact both employers a week after closing date if I haven’t heard anything.

This is just an example of some ideas for your job search and how to record it. Take a look at more jobseeking advice to help with your 35 hours a week total. 

As can be seen the 35 hours target  is just that, a target.

Until the get round to 24 hours a day surveillance of claimants (including those in part time work subjected to this regime by Universal Credit, which makes it even madder), they cannot note how you spend every minute of the day. 

This is funnier.

Click here to find out how Universal Credit can make sure you’re better off in work.

Though this is wise advice.

Image result for viz top tips

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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

Find a Job to Create Bureaucratic Nightmare.

with 168 comments

 

 

 

Image result for replacing universal JObmatch

 

Bureaucratic Nightmare. 

 

Find a Job service to replace Universal Jobmatch

The Government has announced that Universal Jobmatch will be replaced by the Find a Job service on 14 May 2018. Your existing Universal Jobmatch account will not move to the new service.

 

I really do not like this bit:

Save any information you want to keep, like CVs, cover letters and application history by 17 June 2018.

Please ensure that you have a screenshot of the job advertisement on file taken on the first day of placement showing:

  • full and legible contents of the advert
  • location of the role
  • job title, duties and responsibilities
  • required skillset and experience
  • an indication of salary or a salary range, “competitive” or “competitive rates apply” is suitable if this an industry norm
  • vacancy reference number
  • date of placement
  • URL
  • closing date for applications (the advert must appear live for at least 28 days)

You will also need to download the following documents:

  • All applications shortlisted for final interview in the medium they were received – emails, CV, application form – each should include the applicant’s details such as name, address, date of birth
  • The names and total number of applicants shortlisted for final interview
  • For each settled worker rejected from the process (British or EEA national, holder of Indefinite Leave to Remain or Permanent Residence under the EEA regs, UK ancestry visa holder), you must retain interview notes which show reasons why they have not been employed
  • Details of any applicants who applied and the reasons they were rejected (applicable to new sponsor licence applications only).

Basic account information will be migrated to the new service. An email with further information about this will be sent to users.

New employer registrations on Universal Jobmatch will close on 10 May 2018 and open on Find a Job on 14 May 2018.

Doug comments,

Important points of findajob to take note on

Findajobs programme  and operation can and will if applicable share data that could be personal and this transaction may or may not legally require a person lawful consent.

Also it has the capability to monitor and record all transactions that take place off its site and can detail dates,times and keystrokes,etc.
Apart from having findajob list all existing third parties, you also need to know the following,

1: Are they asking for lawful consent to future third parties that as yet they have not entered into an arrangement with or any unknown thirdparties they may do in the future. By granting lawful consent, your be be giving findajob lawful permission the moment you register to give some or all of your personal data as per applicable with need and applicable laws (via those domains) that wont require any further announcement to you asking for permission.

2: What cookies and especially supercookies they are or intend to use. Whether or not they again are also trying to secure lawful consent at registration with a view should they add further unannounced cookies/supercookies in the future that they may do so without seeking any further lawful consent.

Doug.

Still somebody seems to be happy.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 16, 2018 at 12:19 pm

Universal Credit Behavioural Change Scandal to Follow Windrush.

with 65 comments

Image result for Behavioural change universal credit

Claimants forced into Experiment in Behavioural Change.

A commentator writes,

Based on the Windrush and Universal Credit scandals one might think that the government didn’t know what it was doing.

Many will no doubt be impressed by the sheer scale of the misery inflicted by Windrush, brought to people’s attention, let it be noted, first through a drip drip of petitions on FB, then newspaper articles, and last, but not least by the efforts of Diane Abbott and David Lamey.

The more you read about Universal Credit the angrier you get.

As people here show.

The intellectual journal Prospect obviously read our contributors’ minds when it writes today,

A landmark legal challenge shows the cruel reality of Universal Credit for disabled people

The Windrush scandal currently engulfing the government is evidence not only of the great damage ministers can inflict on marginalised people’s lives—but the revolt that can occur when it goes too far. Yet look to the High Court this week and you’ll see the same damage being inflicted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), right at the centre of a flagship ‘welfare’ policy.

Two disabled people—aided by the law firm Leigh Day—have launched a landmark legal challenge against the government, arguing Universal Credit (UC) “unlawfully discriminates” against disabled benefit claimants.

It’s well established now that UC is creating financial misery, with those witnessing the fallout of the new benefit system describing it as “hell on earth.” Just last month, research by the Trussell Trust found food bank use is, on average, 52 per cent higher in areas where the full universal credit service has been in place for 12 months or more.

But like the Conservative’s ‘welfare reform’ generally, it’s disabled people who are taking the brunt. This is because two key disability benefits—the severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP)—are being abolished under the new system. The move will see claimants lose as much as £395 a month, according to the disability charity Scope.

It’s estimated a staggering 230,000 disabled people will be affected 

…..

Universal Credit has been hailed as the biggest transformation of the welfare state in sixty years—which would be laudable if it were not taking place at a time in which the government was simultaneously undertaking unprecedented cuts to the ‘welfare’ budget. Disabled people alone will collectively lose £2 billion in disability premium payments by the time UC fully rolls out (a particularly galling fact considering delays mean it is estimated to be costing taxpayers £16 billion by 2020).

‘Behavioural change’ is at the centre of these UC cuts. This is insulting enough for anyone—a single mum doesn’t need to be left hungry to ‘motivate’ her to look for work; she needs affordable childcare and flexible work opportunities. But with disabled people it’s particularly egregious; as if their disability will suddenly improve the moment they transfer to Universal Credit.

This travesty is a product of Conservative governments but opposition should come from all sides. By any political leaning, reform of the social security system that actively makes the lives of those experiencing illness and disability worse—rather than supporting them—is ultimately a failure. If this week’s court case goes in disabled people’s favour, the government could be forced to learn that lesson whether it likes it or not.

Let’s look at  aspects this programme of “behavioural change”.

One, dealt with in the previous post, is the “on-line Job search”.

It is part of this:

Digital challenge of Universal Credit. (Local Government)

Given that many residents’ main source of income will be via the UC method, the challenge for claimants, Government and all stakeholder is how to get people to engage digitally while avoiding significant delays in UC applications.

Our experience tells us that the first obstacle is getting people to actually attend a digital workshop. With lives, full of stress and concern, getting a resident to attend a workshop – which might be wrongly perceived as another way to criticise perceived inadequacies – can be a difficult sell. We utilise a variety of methods to combat this, from guerrilla marketing to ‘nudge’ behavioural change theory, to positively encourage this attendance. We talk to residents in ways that are clear and jargon-free, no blame is ever ascribed to their lack of knowledge and we use the communication channels that they use, such as text messaging or mobile phone calls. We also incentivise people, whether that’s free prizes from local businesses to using tempting food treats. Sounds simple, but it works.

These marketing and engagement devices encourage people to attend events, but the content of the workshop is, of course, crucial to maintain attendance. One area we’ve found particularly powerful is a successful replica UC portal for practicing and getting used to the online form – www.we-are-digital.co.uk/help. This warms residents to the structure, questions and information they need for when they fill in the actual form, answering many of their concerns ahead of time – a move we’d like to see replicated nationwide.

In addition, it is important to consider that, once claimants start filling in their forms, they will still need support and reassurance. For housing associations, we recommend promoting the toll-free UC telephone support claims line – which residents can call to get support over the phone to complete a real claim, regardless of which HA they are from. For the most difficult cases, in-home support is also an option, with a tutor taking them through a real claim, one-to-one. Ultimately, these methods will help to prevent sanctions and decrease arrears.

With a delay in UC rollout politically unpalatable, the emphasis is on increasing claimants’ skills base, and quickly. This urgency of this expediency is most pronounced on housing association tenants.

Isn’t it wonderful being part of a vast social experiment in “behavioural change”?

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2018 at 10:04 am

New Benefits Sanctions Inquiry.

with 37 comments

Related image

With Universal Credit the Sanctions Regime will apply to people in work getting the benefits which they used to have as of right as Tax Credits

Universal Credit Sanctions

The rules about sanctions under Universal Credit mean that there will be more people who will be sanctioned than the previous benefits system. In fact evidence is suggesting that the rate of sanctions under Universal Credit is three times that of JSA. It is possible to be sanctioned even if you are in paid work.

It should also be noted that Hardship Payments are paid as loans and will have to be repaid at the end of the sanction.

The rules for the level of Universal Credit sanctions are based on the rules for JSA and ESA sanctions. Anyone who receives Universal Credit can be sanctioned and the level of the sanction depends upon the conditionality group that you are placed in. More information about the conditionality groups can be found in the article Your Responsibilities if you get Universal Credit

The Work and Pensions Committee launches an inquiry into benefit sanctions: how they operate, recent developments, and what the evidence is that they work – either to deter non-compliant behaviour or to help achieve the policy objectives of getting people off benefits and into work.

Absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions

Sanctions, which take the form of docking a portion of benefit payments for a set period of time, can be imposed for breaching benefit conditions like attending a work placement, or for being minutes late for a Job Centre appointment.

This has not received the attention it deserves.

If I were the Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions I would be shouting about the fact that people in work are now going to be affected.

Benefit sanctions inquiry launched

Media reports of the Committee’s last inquiry into benefit sanctions in 2015 Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review, described “copious evidence of claimants being docked hundreds of pounds and pitched into financial crisis for often absurdly trivial breaches of benefit conditions, or for administrative errors beyond their control.”

There have also been serial reports in the media of extreme instances of the use and effects of sanctions – people hospitalised for life threatening conditions or premature labour being sanctioned for weeks or months for consequently missing a benefits appointment, or being unable to afford the transport to a distant job placement and being sanctioned for failing to attend it – and speculation over the degree of discretion Job Centre Plus staff have in these instances.

Recent policy developments

The  inquiry will look at recent sanctions policy developments, like the “yellow card” system which gives claimants 14 days to challenge a decision to impose a sanction before it is put into effect. The system was announced in late 2015 although there is still no date for introducing it.

The inquiry will also consider the evidence base for the impact of sanctions, both that emerging from newly published statistics, and the robustness of the evidence base for the current use of sanctions as a means of achieving policy objectives.  Previously published in the Department’s quarterly statistical summaries, the Benefit Sanctions Statistics will now be a separate quarterly publication.

In 2016 the NAO released a report on the subject; and in February 2017 the Public Accounts Committee published its report “Benefit sanctions“. The Government accepted the recommendations of that PAC report and described progress on implementation in the January 2018 Treasury Minutes Progress Report:

  • The Government initially agreed to undertake a trial of warnings for a first sanctionable offence. This recommendation has not been implemented.
  • The Government agreed to monitor variation in sanction referrals and to assess the reasons for such variation. The Department’s research on variation is due to be completed in March.
  • The Government agreed to monitor the use and take-up of protections for vulnerable groups. The Department is “still considering the best way to qualitatively assess the use and effectiveness of protections for vulnerable claimants”.
  • The Government agreed to improve data systems, including on linking information e.g. earnings and sanctions
  • The Government initially agreed to work with the rest of Government to estimate the impacts of sanctions on claimants and their wider costs to government. This recommendation has not been implemented.

Send us your views

The Committee invites evidence on any or all of the following questions, from benefit recipients with experience of the system, or experts in the field:

  1. To what extent is the current sanctions regime achieving its policy objectives?
  2. Is the current evidence base adequate and if not, what further information, data and research are required?
  3. What improvements to sanctions policy could be made to achieve its objectives better?
  4. Could a challenge period and/or a system of warnings for a first sanctionable offence be beneficial? If so, how should they be implemented?
  5. Are levels of discretion afforded to jobcentre staff appropriate?
  6. Are adequate protections in place for vulnerable claimants?
  7. What effects does sanctions policy have on other aspects of the benefits system and public services more widely? Are consequential policy changes required?
  8. To what extent have the recommendations of the Oakley review of Jobseekers’ Allowance sanctions improved the sanctions regime? Are there recommendations that have not been implemented that should be?

The deadline for written submissions is 25 May 2018.

Sanctions need to be proportional and fair

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“Sanctions are an important part of any benefits system but they need to be applied proportionately and fairly and to account for individual circumstances.

I’ve seen deeply troubling cases in my constituency that suggest these objectives are not always being achieved. We will be reviewing the evidence to see if sanctions policy is working properly and if not, we will recommend improvements.”

 

Scope of the inquiry

The  inquiry will look at recent sanctions policy developments, like the “yellow card” system which gives claimants 14 days to challenge a decision to impose a sanction before it is put into effect. The system was announced in late 2015 although there is still no date for introducing it.

The inquiry will also consider the evidence base for the impact of sanctions, both that emerging from newly published statistics, and the robustness of the evidence base for the current use of sanctions as a means of achieving policy objectives.  Previously published in the Department’s quarterly statistical summaries, the Benefit Sanctions Statistics will now be a separate quarterly publication.

Terms of reference: Benefit sanctions

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Written by Andrew Coates

April 15, 2018 at 9:29 am

Margaret Greenwood, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions: Speaking out on Universal Credit.

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Image result for Margaret Greenwood defeated esther mcvey

Margaret Greenwood Defeats Esther McVey (General Election. 2015)

In  March 2018 Greenwood began acting as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions after Debbie Abrahams temporarily stepped aside.

In a very nice touch, “Greenwood will be shadowing Esther McVey, the previous MP for Wirral West

Last year as Shadow for Employment Greenwood showed she grasped the depths of the problems Universal Credit was causing,

Margaret Greenwood MP, Shadow Employment and Inequalities Minister, has given a cautious welcome to changes to Universal Credit announced in the Budget today, but warned that they go nothing like far enough to help families on low income struggling to pay bills, with inflation overall at nearly 3% and food prices rising at the highest rate for 4 years.

Margaret Greenwood MP said:

“Just a few weeks ago, the government was defeated in the House of Commons over their plans for Universal Credit.

“After strong pressure by Labour and a long list of voluntary organisations, it’s welcome that the government is at last listening to the widespread concern about the problems with Universal Credit.

“However, the changes announced today don’t go anything like far enough to fix it and they will not even start until the New Year, leaving tens of thousands of families with children facing a bleak Christmas.

“Food prices are rising at their highest rate for 4 years and the Trussell Trust recently reported that foodbanks in areas where the full service of UC has been rolled out have seen a 30% increase in requests for help in the first six months compared to last year.

“7 million households are expected to be claiming Universal Credit by 2022.

“The Chancellor failed again to reverse cuts to work incentives in Universal Credit which were meant to ensure that work always pays as people enter employment.

“The full service of Universal Credit is being introduced in Wirral this month and I will be keeping up the pressure on the government to try to ensure that people are not pushed into poverty by a benefit supposed to prevent it.”

23 Nov 2017

At the end of December she said,

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow minister for employment, said: “Universal credit is causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces. This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll out of universal credit so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Fri 29 Dec 2017  Councils forced to fund emergency help for universal credit claimants

And (Morning Star)

COUNCILS are having to use their own cash to fix the damage caused by the introduction of universal credit (UC), Labour’s shadow employment minister Margaret Greenwood charged yesterday.

She said that local authorities are diverting funds to plug gaps in the government’s flagship benefit reform scheme.

Measures taken by councils include providing funds for tenants in rent arrears, hiring extra staff, as well as working with foodbanks and Citizens Advice to “offset the impact” of UC, according to responses to Freedom of Information requests submitted by the party.

Ms Greenwood says in a statement published today: “UC has been causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces.

“It’s clear councils are committing their own valuable resources from already stretched budgets to offset the impact of UC and to prepare for the damage its roll-out could cause.

“This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll-out of UC so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Some authorities are having to spend sums over and above the usual discretionary housing payments provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), according to Ms Greenwood.

The London borough of Tower Hamlets has set aside £5 million over three years to help those affected by UC.

Gateshead Housing Company, which manages Gateshead Council’s housing stock, is planning to spend an estimated £90,000 in 2017/18 and £270,000 in 2018/19 on extra staff to support UC claimants and help prevent rent arrears, Labour said.

And Newcastle City Council is spending nearly £400,000 of its own cash to support UC claimants, with non-collection of rent as a result of the new scheme, in which all benefit payments are rolled into one lump sum, is more than £1.2 million from among its 27,000 tenants.

Claimants who fall under the new scheme now receive housing benefit in their bank accounts rather than the amount being paid directly to landlords as previously.

A DWP spokesman said: “Councils have been providing welfare advice and housing payment top-ups as standard since long before the introduction of universal credit.

“Universal credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes.

“It provides additional tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.

“The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money, but advances are available for anyone who needs extra help and arrangements can be made to pay rent direct to landlords if needed.”

So far we have this.

But we hope that Greenwood keeps up her work and goes for the jugular on Universal Credit.

DWP Lies about Universal Credit (Part 591) : Official.

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Image result for universal credit lies

Spot the lies!

Google “DWP and Lies” and the list you get is a long one.

Type in Universal Credit…

In 2017 there is:

Civil Service World.

The Department for Work and Pensions has been accused of inaccurately using research from the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies to justify the projected employment boost from the flagship Universal Credit benefit reform.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee today released emails from IFS director Paul Johnson stating that the think-tank could not support the DWP’s assessment that Universal Credit, which will merge six benefit payments into one, would result in 250,000 more people in employment.

However, the DWP said the committee’s statements were misleading and  that the committee had not taken up an offer to receive a list of published academic literature which supports the department’s estimates.

Dear Kitty Blogs on the story in the context of long-standing DWP porkies, fake testimonies from fake characters, malarky and skullduggery,  including, “only this month that the UK statistics watchdog censured the DWP for “understating the scale” of its sanctions regime”.

The DWP are being Conservative with the truth, yet again

This is the merry tale of the moment.

DWP’s ‘clumsy and ill-judged attempt to piggyback’ on IFS.

26 March 2018

A central part of the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) case for the benefit of Universal Credit (UC) is their assertion of its effect on employment. In to a request for an estimate of the magnitude of that effect, DWP stated it has “determined” that UC will result in 250,000 more people in employment once it is fully implemented

How the Department arrived at these figures

In a follow up letter to Employment Minister Alok Sharma (PDF PDF 1.38 MB)Opens in a new window the Chair asked a set of specific questions about how the Department had arrived at each of the stated constituent parts of that figure:

  • 150,000 more due to “increased financial incentives to work”
  • 50,000 more due to “increased conditionality”
  • 60,000 due to “simplification of the benefit system”

The Department’s response (PDF PDF 800 KB)Opens in a new window did not answer any of the Chair’s specific questions, although it did supply an account of academic research papers that have informed the Department’s work on UC, and restated the principles underlying those three ostensible benefits of the reform.

DWP concluded by stating: “The approach to our analysis underpinning these estimates was reviewed by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.”

Accordingly, the Committee wrote to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) (PDF PDF 141 KB)Opens in a new window asking if, in that review, it had found those three estimates reasonable, and what the margin of statistical error might be on the numbers.

The IFS’ reply (PDF PDF 197 KB)Opens in a new window starts out “clarifying the role we had in reviewing DWP’s approach” in coming up with the numbers:

“Note that at no stage did we review their approach to estimating the impact of increased conditionality or simplification, to which they attribute 50,000 and 60,000 respectively of the overall 250,000 forecast effect on employment”.

The employment impact of Universal Credit is highly uncertain

The IFS goes on: “Neil Couling’s letter to Baroness Hollis on 16 November states that the 250,000 figure is based on the same methodology we reviewed in 2012. For the reasons given above, that can only be true of the element (150,000) which is a result of changes to financial incentives. And we are not in a position to confirm whether and to what extent DWP took on board our comments and implemented our recommended improvements before applying the methodology….”

“The employment impact of UC is highly uncertain. The move to UC involves a number of changes for which it is hard to find comparable precedents (especially UK precedents)” — casting doubt on DWP’s use of academic evidence to substantiate its estimates — “It is not even possible to produce statistical margins of error for estimates of the employment impact, as the nature of the uncertainty is not conducive to standard statistical analysis…”

“Sadly, it will be difficult even after the event to produce convincing estimates of the overall employment impact of UC. The early impact estimates that DWP have published – cited in the Minister’s letter of 12 March – apply only to a small group of claimants who are not affected by UC in the same way as most other claimants […]” and;

“We emphasise that the overall employment impact of UC will conceal very different effects for different groups in the population, with employment rates likely to rise for some and fall for others.”

The last point contradicts what DWP have previously told the Committee when asked about the impact on other groups:

“We remain committed to producing robust comparative analysis of the employment impacts of Universal Credit. As we informed the Committee we are planning to expand the analysis for single cases in the Live Service to couples and families in both services.

This analysis will estimate a labout market impact for these broader claimant groups. In this instance it is misleading to draw a distinction between two services. The underlying policy for both is the same so any comparative analysis will hold true for both systems”.

Lack of evidence

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“The ongoing lack of evidence to back up the much-vaunted employment impact of Universal Credit was already extremely disappointing. But to have our specific queries about basis of this claim answered with airy, irrelevant and, it appears, plainly inaccurate assertions adds insult to injury.

The IFS’ letter shows that Old Mother Hubbard hasn’t got much in the cupboard, despite the bragging of the Department. This clumsy and ill-judged attempt to piggyback on one of the most trusted, unimpugnable authorities on public policy and finance would be farcical if it was not so deeply worrying.”

In the interests of fairness this is the DWP’s reply,

 DWP spokeswoman told Civil Service World the committee’s claims were “false and misleading”, and highlighted that the IFS review of the 150,000 estimate for the number of people that would move into work found it to be reasonable, adding that the IFS had not questioned the DWP’s claim that simplifying the system and bringing more people into conditionality would have an even greater impact, which the department said represented “mainstream labour market theory”.

She added: “Research already shows that through Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system. And we have said we can supply further information that supports our estimate that 250,000 more people will be in employment once UC is fully rolled out.”

Written by Andrew Coates

March 27, 2018 at 3:02 pm