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Archive for the ‘Stephen Crabb’ Category

Sacked Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb: “Plan to Slash Benefits Offends Everyone’s Sense of Social Justice”.

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Crabb: Offended.

Former minister Stephen Crabb: Government plan to slash welfare offends everyone’s sense of social justice.

Reports the Independent, just now. 

Former Conservative cabinet minister has said a plan to slash welfare “offends everyone’s sense of social justice” and called on the Government to help those affected.

Stephen Crabb said Chancellor Philip Hammond should introduce measures to “soften the blow” of cuts to Universal Credit, when he makes his Autumn Statement speech this week.

The former Work and Pensions Secretary also said the Government will have to review the pensions triple lock introduced by David Cameron, which guarantees payments rise each year, if it wants to do more to help working families.

Mr Crabb, who himself presided over cuts to some benefits while pensions secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour there was a “problem” with plans to reduce the Universal Credit.

He said: “When you look at the distributional impact for the changes from the Budget in March, there is an S-curve on the graph which basically shows that people on the lowest incomes effectively lose money from the changes, people on the highest incomes effectively gain. I think the Chancellor is going to have to have something to say about that.

“I think looking at that graph to see that people on lower incomes will be losing money offends everyone’s sense of social justice. But it doesn’t mean he needs to ‘reverse ferret’ on those proposed cuts. There are other things he can do to soften the impact of that.”

The Huffington Post adds,

Just what, if anything, Hammond will do about welfare cuts this week is a pressing issue. On Radio 4’s Westminster Hour last night, former Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb pointed out the Chancellor will already have to explain where he’s going to find the £4bn lost (but not forgotten) in his own personal independence payment reforms axed after IDS’s departure.

On the vexed topic of Universal Credit cuts – cuts that critics say will hit many ‘just managing’ people in low-income work – Crabb said ‘I think that offends everyone’s sense of justice”. But he suggested Hammond would address it with broader help for people on low incomes rather than by reversing another welfare cut.

Continuing his rational approach to policy, Crabb also became the latest senior Tory politician to suggest that the state pension ‘triple lock’ could end after the next election. It has “served its purpose” and “there will be a case after 2020 to look again at that”. Damian Green has Work and Pensions Questions today – will he offer up similar thoughts?

One Tory MP leading calls for welfare cuts to be eased is Heidi Allen. But on Pienaar’s Politics she went perhaps a step too far for her colleagues. Asked if she’d ‘snog, marry or avoid’ Ed Balls, she replied “Maybe snog…I like a man who can move to music.” Viewers’ votes meant the former Shadow Chancellor survived again on Strictly last night despite the judges’ disdain. Popular with the people, unsupported by the experts…how very 2016.

Former DWP minister Stephen Crabb admits disability benefit test is ‘traumatic’.

Reported the Independent on the 8th of November. 

Ex-Work and Pensions Secretary urges the Government to ‘fix’ the assessment process for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs).

A former Cabinet minister who was responsible for a controversial disability benefit test has admitted it is “traumatic” for applicants.

Stephen Crabb, who was sacked as Work and Pensions Secretary in July, said the Government needed to “fix” the assessment process for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs).

In a TV interview, the former Conservative leadership contender said there had to be system of benefit tests “when you’re giving out taxpayers’ money”.

But he added: “The way it has been done – I see this in my surgeries, every single MP in their surgery sees this – people who felt that the assessment procedure has been traumatic, intrusive, hasn’t been a comfortable experience at all. And that’s what we’ve got to fix.

Stephen Crabb on October the 5th.


Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2016 at 3:58 pm

No More Welfare Cuts?

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And there’s this:

 Now there’s this….

No more welfare cuts to come under Theresa May, says minister

Damian Green, the work and pensions secretary, hints at end to austerity agenda, promising no further raids on benefits

There will be no more welfare cuts under Theresa May’s government after those have already been announced, the work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, has announced.

Strongly hinting that the government’s austerity agenda was over, Green told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show planned cuts would continue but there would be no further raids on benefits.

Green said his tenure in the department would be different from Iain Duncan Smith, his predecessor before Stephen Crabb, who quit over his distaste for disability benefit cuts. “I am different from Iain – I will use different language,” he said.

“But I know we both share the desire for increasing social justice, by which we mean … that you don’t just measure it by the benefits bill, you measure it by the help you are giving those individuals.

“The commitment that the prime minister has made since she took office has been that obviously we will meet the previous commitments we’ve made,” he said. “But there will be no new search for cuts in individual welfare benefits.”

Green added: “You’re right that the period of austerity meant that tough decisions had to be taken across the board, not just in the welfare system. There are things that have been announced that haven’t yet been introduced but people know that they are coming. But no new cuts.”

Lady Tanni Grey-Thompson, an 11-time Paralympic gold medallist, was among those who spoke out in the House of Lords against the controversial welfare reform bill, which proposes to cut disability benefits by £30 a week.

The work and pensions secretary said the government’s overall attitude to welfare had not changed but appeared to acknowledge there had been some mistakes, including people being wrongly assessed as fit for work. “The simple thrust is making sure work always pays,” Green said.


Disabled activists have been promised a seat “at the heart of government” if Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected as Labour leader and the party wins power at the next election.

The pledge was made by shadow chancellor John McDonnell at an international disability rights conference hosted by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), the final event in its Rights Not Games week of action.

McDonnell, who made repeated references to the need to co-produce policies with disabled people during his speech, told the conference in London that it would be vital to ensure that disabled people were represented “at every level of decision-making”.

He added: “That will mean bringing organisations like DPAC and others into government to advise us on the development of policy so you will be at the heart of government, sitting alongside ministers and others, advising them on how to implement these policies.”

And he promised that DPAC would also have “a fundamental role in advising us on the policies that need to be developed” by Labour in preparation for government.

He added: “You will be advising us on what priorities there are when we go back into government… for those people who say that this country can’t afford a decent living for disabled people we have got to challenge that as well.”

Written by Andrew Coates

September 18, 2016 at 12:33 pm

One in Six Young People not in Employment, Education or Training (Neets) for more than 6 Months.

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Long-term analysis says official statistics underplay larger proportion of young people shut out of work, education and training.

One in six young people in the UK are spending six months out of work, education or training, according to new research that suggests government figures are underplaying youth unemployment.

Official figures have shown a drop in the proportion of Neets – young people not in education, employment or training – as the economy has recovered from recession since mid-2011.

But the new analysis tracks young people for longer than the official snapshot figures and suggests a large proportion are still shut out of the jobs market and education for extended periods.

The researchers, who released their report ahead of the latest official Neet figures on Thursday, warned that such long spells out of education or work can scar young people’s prospects for the rest of their lives.

The analysis, published by the youth employment and education charity Impetus-PEF, found an average of 1.3 million 16- to 24-year-olds, or 17% of the age group, spend six months Neet. That contrasts with official figures showing that in the final three months of 2015, 11.8% of young people were Neets.

This is the study the Guardian report is based on:

Quantifying the uncounted  

Can you solve a problem if you can’t quantify it? That was the question we were pondering when we first came up with the idea for the Youth Jobs Index, published today. As an organisation that works to ensure disadvantaged young people succeed in education and employment, we know that there are many young people failing to get on the career ladder. Many of the young people that our partner charities work with have never worked, or have been out of work or education for a long time.

And yet they don’t show up in the quarterly NEET statistics released by the government. We can all celebrate the fact that this number has fallen from its mid-recession peak of over 1 million to around 850,000 today. But what our research – using the same Labour Force Survey data as the government’s quarterly statistics – shows is that those who have been left behind are much more likely to be low qualified and that they are not just taking a few months off, or swapping between jobs; 1.3 million young people are spending six months or more NEET, and 700,000 are out of work or education for over a year.

These young people are not benefiting from the return to economic growth in the same way that graduates are. And maybe that’s not surprising – all through the ‘booming’ 2000s NEET numbers fluctuated between 650,000 and 850,000. This isn’t just an economic issue – and so it can’t be solved just by the economy. Those who are spending six months or more NEET need targeting with sustained, and expert, support to get the into job or education outcomes which last and lead to long-term progression.

From next year the Youth Obligation promises intensive support to all 18-21 year olds from day one of a benefit claim. It’s essential that the purpose of this support is not simply to get young people off the benefit roll, but to get them into a job or education outcome that they can keep, and move on from. Our Youth Jobs Index also shows that for those young people NEET who do get into work or education, sustainment rates are reasonably good – but the majority (70%) are not getting into these opportunities in the first place.

The Independent publishes this comment,

The chair of the Social Mobility Commission, Alan Milburn, said the new figures draw attention to young people at risk of being forgotten.

“This research places much-needed focus on a significant population of young people who are often overlooked and under-supported,” he said.

“Social mobility is not just about getting graduates into the professions but making sure that every child in the UK is given the chance to follow a path into education or employment for the long term.”


Written by Andrew Coates

May 25, 2016 at 3:50 pm

Benefit sanctions: ‘Britain’s secret penal system’.

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Britain’s Secret Penal System.

This is absolutely excellent – thanks Jim.

The Sanctions system is something hanging over all us.

A worry to us, a temptation for abuse for those in a position of power.

And mainly: a massive source of destitution and misery.

We already live on the absolute minimum.

People who count what a container of milk costs, who hang around for the cheap bread at the end of the day, who have to show evidence of our ‘job search’ at every turn, who have to put up with being lectured and patronised, who read the crap in the press about us loafers. Who  worry, and worry, about being penalised and losing benefits.

Who see the sisters and brothers living in the streets, sanctioned without resources, begging – every single bloody day!

Who are unable even to leave the country to go ‘abroad’  – like under some kind of Stalinist regime – without losing benefits.

Who  have to trudge to Liddle to buy our lumpfish caviar,  fresh lobster and Prosecco.

Okay….. I made the last bit up.

Anyway this bloke nails the whole thing.

From Bella Caledonia.

Stuart Rodger interviews Dr David Webster, the Glasgow-based academic who charts the full horror of Tory benefit sanctions – which fine more people for being poor than are fined in Magistrates courts

While the Tories like to prevaricate and evade on the causes for the dramatic rise in foodbank use in Britain over the past six years, the statistical evidence is unequivocal. 

The Trussell Trust – the leading provider of foodbanks in Britain – claim that the highest proportion of users, at 28%, cite benefit delays as their reasons for referral. Corresponding with the rise of physical hunger has been the level of psychological distress – with DWP staff now being given ‘suicide guidance’ when dealing with despairing claimants. 

The benefit-related problems in question are, in many cases, sanctions. These have long been part of the system, but the passing of the Welfare Reform Act 2012 brought in a much stricter regime, with some claimants being sanctioned for as long as three years. 

They soon became a common topic of discussion after the news of the death of David Clapson – a diabetic former soldier left with an empty stomach and a cut-off refrigerator where he left his insulin. With sanctions causing such widespread misery, no wonder the DWP issued fabricated personal stories promoting sanctions, in a Ministry-of-Truth like twist. 

One academic who has been taking sanctions to task, however, is Dr David Webster, of Glasgow University. He has memorably described benefit sanctions as ‘Britain’s secret penal’ system. 

His remarkable observation is that, once you crunch the numbers, the number of benefit sanctions being inflicted on claimants – at over 1 million – is now higher than the number of fines imposed by Magistrates and Sheriff courts throughout Britain, at around 850,000, and the amount of money is measurably greater. 

Meeting with Webster in his elegant, semi-detached Victorian house in Glasgow’s southside, he tells me that he regards this system as a ‘third-rate form of justice’. What stands out for him, he has written, is that the decisions are made in secret, without any open system of transparency or accountability: 

‘Decisions on guilt are made in secret by officials who have no independent responsibility to act lawfully – since the Social Security Act 1998 they have been mere agents of the Secretary of State. These officials are currently subject to constant management pressure to maximise penalties. And as in any secret system, there is a lot of error, misconduct, dishonesty and abuse. The claimant is not present when the decision on guilt is made and is not legally represented.’

Webster sees it as a basic violation of the principles of a liberal democracy: ‘The civil liberties alarm bells haven’t been triggered – because it’s been done step by step by step. But of course that’s what happens when liberties are taken away, they don’t all go at once.’ 

Talking about the historical development of welfare reform, he says ‘the biggest increase in penalties was the 2012 Act… That’s what created this anomaly where these secret administrators can impose penalties higher than the Magistrates courts.’ 

Read More here.

‘The trouble with the sanctions system is that it’s so vicious that it undermines people… It makes them ill, destroys their resilience in all sorts of ways, lose their self-confidence. It’s immensely damaging. So I feel very angry about it.’

Written by Andrew Coates

May 5, 2016 at 3:47 pm

Universal Credit: The Saga of Failure Continues.

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Old Norse Legends: Shorter, More Efficient, and Less Fraught than the Saga of Universal Credit. 

At the Jobcentre we are told that Universal credit will make everything better, working part-time, re-claims, many difficulties will vanish when it gets set up.

People have been given entire lectures on the subject.


Yet, this continues, as many of us saw on the telly this morning, or heard about from people we know.

The latest from a long, a very long saga – and not one many of us would care to listen to on a long frozen night.

Universal Credit veering off track, Resolution Foundation says

The BBC continues:

The government’s flagship benefit reform has “serious design flaws” and has “veered off track” because of cost-cutting, a think tank has warned.

The Resolution Foundation said Universal Credit could leave 2.5 million families worse off, some by more than £3,000 a year.

It comes as the government announces a further expansion of the scheme.

Welfare Secretary Stephen Crabb said the payment was “transforming welfare” and getting people into work faster.

Universal Credit, championed by Mr Crabb’s predecessor Iain Duncan Smith, aims to provide incentives for people to move off benefits and into work.

Universal Credit replaces six current benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance with a single payment.

After delays hit the original timetable, it is being gradually rolled out across the country and is now available to new single jobseekers in every job centre across the UK.

The latest target for a full roll-out is 2021.

The Resolution Foundation, chaired by former Conservative minister David Willetts, said it had long supported Universal Credit, which it said would simplify welfare and boost work incentives.

However, it said recent changes, “which have been driven by the government’s desire to secure further savings in the welfare budget… have taken it too far from its original purpose”.

Unless design flaws are eradicated, it said, Universal Credit “risks being reduced to little more than a very complicated vehicle for cutting the benefits bill”.

The hard men of the Public Finance journal are equally forthright,

Richard Johnstone writes,

The government’s Universal Credit benefit reform scheme must be “reclaimed” from the Treasury in order to achieve its aim of making work pay, the Resolution Foundation has warned today.

The think-tank called on the new work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb to make changes ahead of the full rollout of the benefit reform to ensure it incentivised both entry into the job market and progression in work.

Full implementation of UC, which combines six existing benefits into a single payment,has been delayed after a series of IT problems.

From today, all single jobseekers can now claim the benefit, with over 450,000 people having made a claim for the payment so far.

However, the government made a series of changes to the structure of UC in the last parliament, including reducing the amount of benefits that people can retain as their earnings rise.

Today’s Resolution Foundation report highlighted it had long supported the reform, but changes in the last parliament, driven by a desire from the Treasury to secure further savings in the welfare budget, meant the plan had “veered off track”.

The Independent Web Site highlights what concerns us most:

Their report found that while the new system does fulfil its goal of increasing incentives to work for around two million families, another 2.5 million working households could be worse of by an average of £41 a week. Recent cuts to work allowances – the amount of money benefit claimants are allowed to earn before their welfare payments are withdrawn – have deepened the problem, the Resolution Foundation said.

Disincentives to work under the new system are particularly strong for single parents, and the second earner in a household.

This is what the Resolution Foundation itself says:  Universal Challenge – making a success of Universal Credit.

Even when considered alongside policies designed to boost incomes, including the introduction of the National Living Wage and income tax cuts, relative to the current system without those measures in place, the latest version of UC implies:

  • 3 million working families entitled to support in the tax credit system will no longer be entitled to any in-work support, leaving them £42 a week worse off on average;
  • A further 1.2 million are set to receive UC, but be an average of £41 a week worse off;
  • 1.7 million still in receipt of UC will be better off by an average of £38 a week, in part due to the more generous treatment of housing costs; and
  • Only around 200,000 families – a mix of those without children and couple parents – who are no are longer entitled to UC at all will be overall better off following cuts to in-work support and boosts to income from the National Living Wage and income tax cuts.

This is a key point:

As currently designed, UC piles extra burdens on recipients, these could be eased. Making people’s lives more difficult may make them resistant to the change UC brings. Requiring recipients to provide complex information so the system can calculate entitlements risks creating errors and mistakes that could cause implementation to stumble.

Following his predecessor’s policy of stout denial – of everything, facts to start with – the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Stephen Crabb, has responded.

Mr Crabb said universal credit was working well and that the Government’s focus was on expanding it to all benefit claimants.

“Universal Credit is transforming welfare and is central to our vision for our society where people of all backgrounds can earn a decent wage and provide for their families, with claimants moving into work faster and earning more than under the old system,” he said.


Written by Andrew Coates

May 3, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Sanctions Appeal System: Time for a Change.

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Many of our contributors have been concerned with this story:

Callous DWP Officials Considered Charging Disabled People To Appeal Benefits Decisions Welfare Weekly.

DWP officials considered plans to begin charging sick and disabled to challenge benefit decisions, a secret internal document reveals.

Callous Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) officials considered plans to begin charging sick and disabled to challenge benefit decisions, a secret internal document reveals.

The document seen by Mirror Online reveals how officials believed the introduction of social security tribunal fees, mirroring those for employment tribunals, “could contribute a portion of the cost of running the tribunals system” – requiring claimants to pay to challenge potentially inaccurate benefit decisions.

 Only due to sheer incompetence has the document come to the attention of the media. Because bungling officials failed to redact it correctly, which would have protected the secrecy surrounding the proposals.

Officials also considered reducing appeal times from 12 to 6 months and draconian measures to cut the number of successful appeals, at a time when more than 50% of decisions are being over-turned in favour of the claimant at appeal.

They even planned to ‘remove payment of ESA (Employment Support Allowance) pending appeal’.

The Mirror where the story broke a few days ago said this,

The document appears to have been a response to the huge number of adverse benefit decisions which are overturned on appeal.

The DWP tried to stop the report being made public – but bungling officials failed to properly redact its contents.

Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith said: “This secret document shows the inner workings of a department that seems determined to make life harder for disabled people and low-wage working families.

The report concludes:

A DWP spokeswoman insisted the proposals were not taken forward by the Government as actual policies.

“These ideas were drafted by staff before the last election. They do not represent Government policy and have never been sent to Ministers,” she said.

The idea was not simply to make it harder for people to appeal – an obvious wish – but to reduce the very large number of cases going through the system.

Background  DWP appeals (August 2015):

Half of all sanctions taken against benefit claimants are wrongly imposed, new figures have shown.

Government statistics show 50% of sanctions imposed against those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) are overturned on appeal since the new sanctions regime was introduced in October 2012.

Some 575,901 sanctions were challenged with an astonishing 285,327 being overturned.

Questions over new benefit sanctions warning system. December 2015.

An SNP MP has raised questions over a new benefit sanctions warning system to be trialled in Scotland next year.

The UK government has proposed telling benefit claimants two weeks in advance that payments are to be cut off, giving them more time to appeal.

SNP social justice spokeswoman Eilidh Whiteford said “tinkering around the edges” of the system would not resolve “the deep flaws at its core”.

The UK government said the new method would “strike the right balance”.

Under the current system, benefits are cut off immediately when a claimant fails to comply with rules set by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The system came under criticism when it emerged that 58% of people who lodged appeals in 2014 were successful in having sanctions overturned.

The new proposals, to be trialled in Scotland in 2016, would see claimants given a “yellow card” or warning when a sanction was triggered, giving them 14 days to appeal and provide evidence.

In October Iain Duncan Smith, the UK government’s work and pensions secretary, said: “During this time, claimants will have another opportunity to provide further evidence to explain their non-compliance.

“We will then review this information before deciding whether a sanction remains appropriate. We expect that this will strike the right balance between enforcing the claimant commitment and fairness.”

This is therefore a widespread problem – caused by the fact that sanctions have increased – beyond the problems faced by disabled people.

Sanctions overturned following challenge

An estimated 80,600 JSA sanctions and 10,000 ESA sanctions were overturned in the 12 months to March 2015 via reviews, reconsiderations or appeals. This is a total of 90,600 cases where the claimant’s payments will have been stopped for weeks or months only to be refunded later. This figure peaked at 153,500 in the year to March 2014.

People involved in the process say that it is not simple to follow or easy to carry through appeals.

It is often incredibly, incredibly, slow.

80,600 JSA claimants have gone through a lot of misery for unjust reasons.

This story – about making things worse for one group of claimants – should be a call for a change to the whole system.

JSA sanctions If you don’t follow the rules when you’re on job seekers allowance, you risk being sanctioned. Here’s how to avoid having your JSA stopped.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 23, 2016 at 10:57 am

Universal Credit to Create Homelessness.

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In my distant youth the DWP was called the DHSS, and the JobCentre was still known, though not officially, from an even earlier time, as the Labour Exchange.

Wood Green Dole office – also the place you went to get your National Insurance Number and your first job – had a special section where the homeless, often alcoholic, used to go every day to get their pittance.

They are talking about making – and in some cases are actually making – some of the out of work also sign on daily.

The 1970s lot were referred to as “down and outs”, probably a kinder expression than what the present government thinks of us.

There were not many openly homeless people in the 1970s.  I suppose the only places you could see the homeless in the streets in the 1970s was underneath the arches at Charing Cross where the Sally Army did a night kitchen. * There were hostels in the centre of London, including a well-known one by what is now the Saint Mungo’s Hostel in Endell Street. Hostels, B and Bs, it was not a pleasant life, but was it as bad as sleeping in skips or on the pavements?

That began with the arrival of Thatcher to power in 1979.

If it was bad then, now every time you visit London you see people in the streets begging, with all their belongings and sleeping bags on them,  and guarding their little encampments.

There is a new group in Ipswich, in Dog’s Head Street.

Report after report points out that tightening the claiming rules, making everybody prove their 35 Hour a week Job Search, increased the numbers.

As with sanctions swelling the ranks of people quietly queuing up in Food Banks, so the growth in homelessness continues.

* “Underneath the Arches” is a 1932 song words and music by Bud Flanagan, and additional lyrics by Reg Connelly.According to a television programme broadcast in 1957, Bud Flanagan said that he wrote the song in Derby in 1927, and first performed it a week later at the Pier Pavilion,Southport.] It refers to the arches of Derbys Friargate Railway Bridge and to the homeless men who slept there during the Great Depression. It was however taken by Londoners to refer to the Arches in Charing Cross, as can be seen from poster of the  adjacent Embankment above.

This is set to become even more of a problem.

‘Shambolic’ Universal Credit Scheme Will Lead To Rising Homelessness, Say Landlords

Universal Credit rent delays mean a growing number of private landlords are refusing to rent to low-income families.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2016 at 4:02 pm