Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Sanctions’ Category

New Help to Claim Service to “offer that little Bit of extra help” adds to the “best things” about Universal Credit, Amber Rudd (April the First).

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Amber Rudd’s DWP Universal Credit Help Service.

New ‘Help to Claim’ service provides extra Universal Credit support

DWP invests £39 million into new ‘Help to Claim’ service provided by Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland for Universal Credit claimants.

Published 1 April 2019

Amber Rudd has been happy for days and days and days!

 

 

 

Sunday’s Mail, a byword for accuracy, reports that the Tories are up in arms against anybody saying otherwise!

Tories blast BBC’s ‘poverty bias’ as ministers say Panorama report which claimed Universal Credit causes hunger and suffering is ‘fake news’ and left out details on huge payouts for ‘victims’

Ministers are at war with the BBC over a ‘fake news’ campaign against the Government’s Universal Credit system.

Officials working for Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd have submitted a dossier to the Corporation of what they describe as ‘biased and inaccurate’ reporting about people’s ability to survive on the benefits, received by 1.3 million claimants.

It comes as a Mail on Sunday investigation has also uncovered a number of glaring inconsistencies in reports about the system by the BBC and other media outlets.

Officials began compiling the alleged catalogue of errors and half-truths following an edition of the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Panorama on the ‘Universal Credit Crisis’ in Flintshire, North Wales, in November.

Yet, strangely, all the advice and all the bleating by poor put-upon Tories in the world is not going to change this:

Universal Credit increasing debt for Solihull social housing tenants

DWP: Almost 3,000 ‘sanctions’ for Teesside’s 10,000 Universal Credit claimants

New figures reveal that payments had been stopped or reduced on Teesside almost 3,000 times, as of October

And so it goes….

Written by Andrew Coates

April 1, 2019 at 3:28 pm

Sanctions Threat Set to Grow in Understaffed Universal Credit.

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Benefit Sanctions Encourage Goodthink.

Lots of posters on this site are rightly concerned about benefit sanctions.

Benefit sanctions, that is people losing money, right up to getting nothing whatsoever,  can happen for many reasons and leave people in dire poverty.

These are the official reasons for sanctions.

You may get a lower level sanction (four or 13 weeks) if:

  • you lose an employment scheme place through misconduct or without good reason
  • you don’t go to meetings on time with your adviser or work coach, or take part in interviews
  • you don’t do what your adviser or work coach tells you to do to find work, such as attend a training course or update your CV
  • you don’t take part in employment schemes (for example, Steps 2 Success) when your adviser or work coach tells you to
  • you don’t meet your employment scheme adviser on time or take actions they tell you to
  • you give up a place on a scheme voluntarily

Intermediate level sanctions

  • if you aren’t available for or actively seeking work, your claim may be ended.
  • if you make a new claim you may get an intermediate level sanction up to either four or 13 weeks.

Higher level sanctions

You may get a higher level sanction (13, 26 or 78 weeks) if:

  • you were dismissed for misconduct from your last job or without good reason
  • you left your last job
  • you don’t apply for suitable jobs your adviser, work coach or employment scheme adviser tells you about
  • you don’t take a job you are offered that your adviser, work coach or employment scheme adviser had told you about.

By in large it’s the “actively seeking work” area that’s the most of a problem.

With the so-called “34 Hours a Week” job search, part of your ‘agreement’ with the Job Centre, there’s plenty of leeway for abuse.

In fact, as Ted points out, if you can prove you’ve taken  real steps to try to get work , you should, in principle be fine.

In October last year the justification for this punishment system was undermined:

No evidence that benefit sanctions work, finds secret DWP report

The report, published with no ministerial announcement on 12 September, shows docking benefits as a punishment for alleged failures to comply with Jobcentre Plus rules does not encourage claimants to apply for additional work, and in some cases “damages the relationship between the work coach and the claimant”.

A specific area of concern has led to this call:

BPS signs consensus statement calling for removal of benefit sanctions

22 March 2019

The British Psychological Society has joined eight other leading mental health organisations in calling for the removal of benefit sanctions for people with mental health difficulties.

Yet the fault-ridden system has stayed in place and now looks set to get worse.

The report below is based on a National Audit Office Report primarily about Supporting disabled people to work.

Full report here

Coverage of this, DWP rapped for ‘disappointing’ lack of insight on helping disabled people find jobs  Civil Service World.

But there are wider implications which The Independent’s May Bulman reports on:

More universal credit claimants could face sanctions as workload of DWP staff doubles, campaigners warn

The NAO report highlights concerns with the DWP’s approach to helping disabled people into work, saying ministers were yet to make a “significant dent” in the number of unemployed disabled people.

The watchdog said the rise in caseload for work coaches meant they may not be able to maintain the amount of time spent with disabled claimants, “let alone meet the department’s aim of increasing time with disabled people who are furthest away from working”.

More universal credit claimants could face cuts to their benefits when their caseworkers are handed bigger workloads to reduce costs, politicians and charities have warned.

Support for claimants could also worsen, said the National Audit Office (NAO). Their warning came after the government predicted work coaches – the frontline staff in job centres – would have to deal with more than twice the number of claimants as universal credit is rolled out.

Campaigners said the increased workload on “already struggling” staff would lead to more claimants being placed on sanctions – when benefits are docked because conditions are not met.

..

Figures published in a report by the NAO show the caseload for work coaches will rise from around 130 to more than 280 by 2024-25. Within this, the number of claimants per work coach in the “intensive work search group”, who require the most support, is expected to increase from 96 to 133 – an increase of 39 per cent.

Universal credit workers last month took two days of strike action in Walsall and Wolverhampton over workloads, demanding the recruitment of more staff, permanent contracts for fixed term staff and a decrease in workloads, and accusing ministers of “running the service into the ground”.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, said: “Universal credit workers are at breaking point and the latest rollout will only add to the chronic problems of this disastrous policy.

..

Amber Rudd, meanwhile, is tip top cheerful today:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2019 at 5:29 pm

The Moral Diseconomy of Universal Credit.

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How the Crowd Reacted to Injustice in the Past.

It is possible to detect in almost every eighteenth-century crowd action some legitimising notion. By the notion of legitimation I mean that the men and women in the crowd were informed by the belief that they were defending traditional rights or customs; and, in general, that they were supported by the wider consensus of the community. On occasion this popular consensus was endorsed by some measure of licence afforded by the authorities. More commonly, the consensus was so strong that it overrode motives of fear or deference.”

Libcom: The moral economy of the English crowd in the eighteenth century – E. P. Thompson

Last night I listed to this on the wireless (with a mug of Co-Op 99 Tea…): Polling Badly. Archive on 4.

“Bad policy or badly implemented? Sarah Smith explores what went wrong with the Poll Tax. Have lessons been learned or is Universal Credit a repeat of history?”

The first thing that struck me about the Poll Tax was that the “Community Charge” was so disliked, without going into the obvious details, what that is went against the “consensus” that by right the poor did not get taxed as much as the rich. The better off (who make their money from the rest) should pay their whack out of their accumulated dosh. The Duke and Dustman having to fork out the same cash to pay for local services ran up against everything that people traditionally thought.

The programme then went into the way the Poll Tax was implemented.

A lot simpler than Universal Credit (UC) you may say.

One mob, the Tory lot, thought it a grand idea, since who cared about the poor – not them! – and it would all mean less expense for their well off crowd.

That was not the view of local authorities who saw their revenues crash as people either (1) could not or (2) would not pay up. (3) Disappeared from the electoral register so they would not even get a payment demand.

As E.P.Thompson might have said, the “crowd”, that is, everybody affected badly, got so angry that people rioted against it.

When they got to UC the focus was all about the implementation, the principle, putting benefits all together, was apparently, fine.

They didn’t go into much detail but it was obvious, bleeding obvious, that a system based ‘on-line’ would first of all run into problems (1) The private chancers who designed the computer systems are not bright enough to design a way to make this work properly, and (2) Not everybody is ‘on line’, able to use computers, get access to them, and all the rest. (3) Putting Coachy in charge of the ‘journal’ you are meant to fill in, as a religious duty…..

Next comes the detail, the way that waiting for weeks before you get money, sanctions, and the way that rent cash in hand can easily be spent immediately on other things.

Then there is the thorny issue of “in work” benefits with “conditionality”. That means people having to prove they are looking for better wages, for more hours, and the famous ‘job search’.

We could continue, and our contributors have.

Poll Tax Defeat.

The Poll Tax, they said on Polling Badly, was defeated because everybody was concerned.

And non-payment cut its roots out.

Not everyone is snarled up in Universal Credit.

But a hell of a lot of us are.

We cannot refuse to get paid!

But there’s a crowd of us all the same.

Universal Credit goes against the “Moral economy” principle that people unable to work should be entitled to a decent minimum to survive on, and those in work who need benefits should get them without being spied on, made to fulfill demeaning job search requirements, and not getting the money they need to live on.

This does not look like the end of the misery.

But Lo!

The “independent liberal conservative think tank”, “the modernising wing of the Tory party”,  Bright Blue has the answers……

Universal Credit proposal for ‘helping hand’ payout to end nightmare wait for cash (Birmingham Live).

Thinktank also suggests launch of Universal Credit phone app and live chat option

Among the problems associated with the Government’s new Universal Credit system are the nightmare five-week wait for the first payment and the online access that’s required.

These issues could be resolved if a series of new proposals are adopted, says thinktank and pressure group Bright Blue.

More  from the same ThinkTank: (TeesideLive)

DWP should pay compensation for late Universal Credit payments, report recommends

A think-tank has identified a number of issues, which could have helped hundreds of thousands of people

Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2019 at 11:25 am

Benefit Sanctions on Universal Credit Misery.

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Sanctions, a subject this Blog and our contributors have often raised, are in the news today.

The awful number of Universal Credit sanctions forcing Hull families into poverty

Hull Daily Mail.

Shocking new figures have revealed the number of people in Hull who have had their Universal Creditpayments stopped or cut since the scheme was rolled out.

…. 1,547 of the people in Hull claiming Universal Credit saw their payments stopped or reduced at least once since the scheme began, according to official figures as of October 2018.

Payments are either reduced or stopped completely depending on the severity of the sanction.

The lowest levels sanctions are those where a person has failed to attend a work-focused interview whereas the highest level of sanctions, which can last for up to three months, could be given for refusing a job offer.

If people are sanctioned more than once they can have their payments halted or reduced for extra weeks as a penalty.The findings have been condemned by critics with many agreeing that the sanctions are casting the most vulnerable people in society into “destitution.”

These are known as “sanctions,” and happen when a person is judged to have failed to meet the terms of their Universal Credit commitment.

And Cambridgeshire Live (also today),

This is how many people have had their Universal Credit stopped in Cambridgeshire

Payments are reduced or stopped, depending on the severity of the sanction given to that person

More than a thousand people who get Universal Credit in Cambridgeshire have seen their payments stopped or cut since the scheme started.

Warnings from experts have been issued as they think it means more people are having to use food banks, are being pushed into debt, and are forced to “struggle against the tide of poverty”.

The controversial “six-in-one” benefits system replaces “legacy”benefits, including tax credits, housing benefit and unemployment benefit.

But 1,362 people in Cambridgeshire have seen their payments stopped or reduced at least once since the scheme rolled out, according to official figures as of October 2018.

Some background:

Nine times more people sanctioned under Universal Credit

(2018. Mind)

The Government has released statistics detailing how many people who need support from benefits are being sanctioned – having their financial support cut or stopped entirely because they’re not able to do the things that are being asked of them, such as attend appointments with a work coach or Jobcentre Plus advisor.

Universal Credit (UC) is gradually replacing a combination of other benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), provided to those who aren’t currently able to work due to a mental and/or physical health problems, and Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) provided to people looking for paid work.

The figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show:

  • Sanctions under Universal Credit are at least nine times higher than the benefits it is replacing. In the last period for which data is available 2.8 per cent of people saw their benefits drop due to a UC sanction compared to 0.3 per cent of people on JSA and 0.1 per cent of people on ESA.
  • Disabled people receiving ESA are over three times more likely than people in receipt of JSA to still be receiving benefits six months after a sanction – 85 per cent of people receiving ESA compared to 27 per cent people receiving JSA.

Meanwhile Amber Rudd has grub on her mind:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 10, 2019 at 3:32 pm

“Universal Credit is Affecting Everyone”.

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Don’t forget the Benefits Freeze as Brexit Hits Prices.

The Universal Credit disaster continues:

As our contributors write,

Not even students are spared the ravages of Universal Credit. Students are even more worse off than part-time workers who lose 63p from their UC for every pound earned. Students unfortunate to claim Universal Credit lose a whole £1.00 for every pound of their grant.

And now they’re coming for the pensioners:

The Mirror today:

Universal Credit leaves hundreds behind on council rent

The Scotsman,

HUNDREDS of students across Scotland have today joined together to sign an open letter to the government demanding a review of the impact of Universal Credit (UC) on their lives and ability to continue in higher education.

The group say UC has “fundamentally disregarded students” in the way it calculates their income, with lone parents, the disabled and students from low income families among the hardest hit.

Paloma Paige, president of the St Andrews University Students’ Association, is the main signatory of the letter and warns of the long-term impact on access to education.

The headline from Plymouth Live sums it all up:

Universal Credit is affecting everyone – the heartbreaking horror stories

No matter where you are in the country, you are guaranteed to find masses of people who have had problems with Universal Credit.

Last week, Plymouth Live ran a story detailing how you could change your payments if you were struggling – and dozens of people reached out to us to share their stories.

We have heard extensively from Plymouth families who have become increasingly worse off after the change-over.

One single mum who told Plymouth Live she had been stung by the benefit cap – brought in by the previous Coalition Government in 2010 – and faced legal eviction from her home because of her wrangle with the benefits system that forced her into rent arrears.

Disabled Plymouth man, Neil Wright, said he was utterly bamboozled with the new Universal Creditbenefit – after receiving a payment of just 1p and being left with 77p to live on for two weeks.

But now, people from all over the UK have shared their horror stories and they are truly heartbreaking.

Here is the Minister’s Response:

Written by Andrew Coates

February 25, 2019 at 11:28 am

As Universal Credit “on-line Journals” Crash, End the Surveillance Regime!

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Private Eye this week outlines some of the results of ‘on-line by default’ Universal Credit.

People have problems enough with Universal Credit.

One major difficulty is the above ‘on-line Journal’.

It goes beyond just ‘getting in touch’.

Yesterday somebody showed me his: Nosey Parky Coachy has to be kept informed of your every move.

It reminded me of the Panopticon system

The basic setup of Bentham’s panopticon is this: there is a central tower surrounded by cells. In the central tower is the watchman. In the cells are prisoners – or workers, or children, depending on the use of the building. The tower shines bright light so that the watchman is able to see everyone in the cells. The people in the cells, however, aren’t able to see the watchman, and therefore have to assume that they are always under observation.

As this article goes on to say,

The looming interconnectivity between objects in our homes, cars and cities, generally referred to as the internet of things, will change digital surveillance substantially.

What does the panopticon mean in the age of digital surveillance?

In the case of the UC ‘journal’ Coachey is watching you!

Our contributors have suggested that it is not clear if we all have to sign up to this surveillance.

Surely, some say, if we can prove we are looking for jobs do we need a roach peering over your shoulder every time you look on the Internet for work?

More responses welcome.

Last night’s Friends Without Benefits had this:

Darren and Donna, were sanctioned for failing to comply with the job search requirements and Darren turned to robbing drug dealers to bring in cash, a move which left him fearing for his life after receiving threats of retaliation.

Perhaps he should have shown these jobsearch efforts to Coachy.

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2019 at 11:52 am

Government Rejects Benefit Sanctions Inquiry report call to change “inhuman” Sanctions Regime.

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Our contributors could have already have said the following: “Benefit sanctions found to be ineffective and damaging. Study concludes that punishing claimants triggers profoundly negative outcomes”. (Guardian May 2018)

In fact some people who write here  are in dire straits because of this regime.

But the Government is still turning its face against facts’

Today:

Margaret Greenwood MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responding to the Work and Pensions Select Committee’s publication of the government’s response to its benefit sanctions inquiry, said:

“The government appears to be in complete denial about the impact of its sanctions regime on people’s lives. It is damaging people’s health and well-being and leaving many at risk of destitution.

“There is no evidence that sanctions lead to people finding work that lasts and lifts them out of poverty. This government is so extreme that it has rejected reducing the length of sanctions and is even prepared to consider making them longer.

“The real way to help people into work is through an industrial strategy to deliver jobs and growth and employment support tailored to each person’s needs. Labour will end this government’s cruel and counter-productive sanctions regime.”

11 February 2019 Work and Pensions Committee.

No respite for “victims of a sanctions regime that is at times so counter-productive it just seems pointlessly cruel” in Government’s response

The Committee is today publishing the Government’s response to its report on benefit sanctions. While the Government has finally agreed to evaluate one aspect of the impact of its reforms to conditionality and sanctions – the “only major welfare reform this decade to have never been evaluated”  – it is looking only at their effectiveness in getting people into work. While this is clearly key, as it is the supposed objective of the policy, the Government is still not even considering the impact of sanctions on claimants’ financial and personal wellbeing. The widely reported detrimental impact of sanctions on claimants’ welfare formed the basis of the Committee’s report, when the Chair noted “We have heard stories of terrible and unnecessary hardship from people who’ve been sanctioned. They were left bewildered and driven to despair at becoming, often with their children, the victims of a sanctions regime that is at times so counter-productive it just seems pointlessly cruel”.

Negative impact of sanctions worked against people getting into work

Even confined to the question of impact on employment, the Committee found that the negative impact of sanctions actually worked against people getting into work, to the extent that the Government’s approach appeared “arbitrarily punitive”. No evidence the Committee received was “more compelling than that against the imposition of conditionality and sanctions on people with a disability or health condition. It does not work. Worse, it is harmful and counterproductive.”

The Committee’s inquiry highlighted the distressing stories of claimants like Jen Fidai, a young disabled woman forced to sofa-surf and sleep in the Uni library for a year, and ultimately give up her studies, after she was sanctioned  – erroneously, as it turned out. It is these impacts on claimants’ lives, and the countless others which the Committee’s report and ongoing shocking news reports only scratch the surface of, which the Government is refusing to assess.

Forceful recommendation by Committee rejected

The Government rejected the recommendation that claimants already found to have limited capability for work should be exempt from sanctions, and also rejected the recommendation that claimants who are waiting for a Work Capability Assessment  – the medical assessments for disability benefits PIP and ESa which the Committee has previously denounced as “riddled with errors and omissions”, and also subject to lengthy delays  – should be exempt from sanctions if they had a “Fit Note” from a doctor saying they were unable to work. Government says it is looking into the possibility of a general policy that conditionality shouldn’t apply to those assessed as having limited work capability and people waiting for a WCA – although this decision would be in the hands of Work Coaches, ignoring the Committee’s wider concern that leaving too much to Work Coaches’ discretion in terms of sanctions more widely risked leading to inconsistent practice. The Government also rejected the recommendation to define “good reason” for failing to meet a requirement that led to a sanction – currently left to work coach discretion, leading to inconsistent practice – in legislation.

The Committee’s forceful recommendation – in the face of distressing evidence of the impact of sanctions on lone parents and their children – never to dock more than 20% of a lone parent’s benefit, was rejected, with the Government promising only to assess the employment impact of sanctions on this group as well. The Committee has reported elsewhere on the particular, deep difficulties lone parents are encountering under the major welfare reforms of the decade, including in its report on support for childcare costs under Universal Credit

Once again, the Government’s position on a key recommendation – that claimants is no longer subject to the requirement, the condition, that led to the sanction should also have the ongoing sanction lifted: the Government rejected this recommendation – is difficult to square with the supposed objective of the policy.  If sanctions are about incentivising, for example, looking for work, it is difficult to see the point of continuing to punish someone for not making sufficient efforts to find work when they are no longer in fact required to find work.

Chair’s Comment

Commenting on the response, Committee Chair Rt Hon Frank Field said:

“Our report laid bare the inhumanity of the Government’s sanctions regime, which it has pursued for years without ever stopping to check whether it works or what it is doing to the people it is meant to “support”.

In response, the Government has failed utterly to grasp the seriousness of the matter. It talks about reviews and “proof of concept”: it might want to take a look at the concept of not pushing disabled people and single parents—not to mention their children—into grinding poverty and hardship.”

Tories SNUB pleas to rein in ‘pointlessly cruel’ benefit sanctions

The Mirror.

New limits to the punishments were proposed in a damning report last year. But now DWP chiefs have rejected the plan – triggering a furious response.

Ministers have snubbed a series of recommendations designed to ease the burden of benefit sanctions on vulnerable claimants, it is revealed today.

A damning report from the Commons Work and Pensions Committee branded the system “pointlessly cruel” in November.

MPs warned the human cost of the sanctions regime was “simply too high” and called for new protections for single parents and people with disabilities and health conditions.

Committee chairman Frank Field today accuses ministers of “failing utterly to grasp the seriousness of the matter” after recommendations were rejected by Amber Rudd’s Department for Work and Pensions.

Under the current system, sanctions can be imposed for missing appointments or failure to show efforts to find work,.

Claimants face being stripped of up to 100% of their Jobseekers Allowance or Universal Credit standard allowance.

In some “higher level” cases – such as a failure to take up paid work – claimants can lose benefits for as long as three years.

The committee recommended that the maximum period for such sanctions should be limited to two months for the first failure to comply and four and six months for subsequent breaches.

But the DWP rejected the plan, along with recommendations to ensure lone parents with children aged under five are never subjected to the withdrawal of more than 20% of their welfare payments; limit sanctions on care-leavers below the age of 25 to 20% of their benefits; remove the threat of sanctions from claimants deemed to have “limited capability for work” and those with valid sickness notes from their doctors; and remove sanctions if a change in circumstances means the claimant is no longer subject to the requirement that led to benefits being withheld in the first place.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 11, 2019 at 11:31 am