Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Tories’ Category

Universal Credit Five-Week Wait Pushed Women into Sex Work, Government admits.

with 105 comments

Image result for universal credit sex work

Government Admits Truth of Story.

Contributors to this Blog have talked about the Work and Health programme .

The Work and Health Programme helps you find and keep a job if you’re out of work.

It’s voluntary – unless you’ve been out of work and claiming unemployment benefits for 24 months.

So says the DWP, but people have lots of criticisms…

It would be important to continue this in more detail, any information and opinions welcome.

In the meantime, the Universal Credit Sage continues.

First, the attention grabbing.

Back in April there was this from the Work and Pensions Committee.

Universal Credit and Survival Sex: sex in exchange for meeting survival needs inquiry

Then in May Committee hears first evidence on Universal Credit and “survival sex”

 This week there was this: DWP Minister questioned on Universal Credit and survival sex

The Committee stated.

Two key points immediately stand out:

“Dismissive” attitude of DWP

The first, which was strongly echoed in the public evidence that followed but was first articulated by Witness M in private, was the “dismissive” attitude of the Department for Work and Pensions toward the inquiry. As M put it, describing the DWP’s first written evidence submission (“memorandum”):

“M: I really felt that the memorandum was an attempt to kind of cover the DWP’s back and be like, “Oh well, you can’t prove that it is us or you can’t prove that it is Universal Credit that is the issue”, like it tried to blame sex workers for being here and it kind of like proved the point that it is poverty and it is this horrible system that is making us be in the sex industry…

It is the five-week waits. The other thing is [the single household payment of Universal Credit] in domestic violence relationships, apparently I have heard the man will get the money and then can control like that. I think that is one…”

The Committee had a similar impression of DWP’s first response and wrote back  “inviting” it to reconsider its stance : the Department’s s revised submission, received last Thursday, will be considered at the evidence hearing with the Minister tomorrow.

Too daunting to apply

A second clear point reinforced the impression of the first: despite the four women’s very different stories, most had found it too daunting or prohibitive to even attempt to apply for Universal Credit, even though some had experience of successfully claiming “legacy” benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance.

The story reached the media again yesterday

Woman Tells MPs Selling Sex Is ‘Easiest Way To Survive’ After Struggling With Universal Credit

Nicola Slawson Huffington Post.

A  woman has told MPs how selling her body for sex became the “easiest thing to do” to make ends meet, after Universal Credit left her with just £52 a month to live on.

The 21-year-old, who was not identified, told a parliamentary hearing how she would have to see “five or six” clients just to get the money for a day’s rent.

The hearing is part of an inquiry into the possible link between the controversial new benefit and claimants resorting to exchanging sex for money, food or shelter, known as “survival sex”.

The testimony was part of evidence by four women dubbed T, K, B and M to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee.

T told the committee she had previously worked 12-hour shifts as a care worker while struggling under the old benefit system resulting in her losing her housing benefit.

She applied for Universal Credit and had to visit foodbanks three times while waiting for her first payment – and ended up homeless as she tried to scrape together enough money for food and tampons.

This was the result:

 

Universal credit delays a factor in sex work, government accepts

Patrick Butler. Guardian.

The government has dropped its hardline refusal to accept that destitution caused by five-week waits for universal credit payments has been a major factor in forcing some women to turn to sex work.

Giving evidence to the work and pensions select committee, the minister for family support, Will Quince, apologised for a memo his department sent to the committee last month and said it “did not very well reflect my views on this issue”.

The memo dismissed evidence that universal credit was a cause of increased numbers of women turning to sex work as anecdotal. It said the phenomenon was influenced by a range of factors, from drug addiction and the rise of AirBnB to EU immigration

Quince told the committee he had changed his views after hearing accounts from four women who gave evidence of how impoverishment related to universal credit issues had led them to take up escort and brothel work.

“Those very brave testimonies of the young women who have gone through the most horrific of experiences gave me a better understanding through their lived experiences. What it showed me more than anything is we need to better understand this area,” he said.

A transcript of the private committee hearing in May included a testimony from M, a brothel worker. She said the fact that drug and alcohol drove people into survival sex work did not mean that universal credit had not caused “a really big influx”

This is another committee at work whose findings and recommendations, out today, something tells, me won’t get the same publicity:

Scottish parliamentary committee calls for universal credit overhaul

Kerry Lorimer

The introduction of universal credit, and in particular the five-week delay before receipt of the first payment, has led to an “unacceptable” rise in rent arrears north of the border.

In a new report, members of the Scottish Parliament’s social security committee called for an overhaul of the benefit, which would see a review of the initial delay as well as the direct payment of the housing element to landlords in order to reduce arrears.

The MSPs also called for abolition of the “frankly discriminatory” shared accommodation rate, which limited the amount of housing benefit or universal credit that can be claimed by tenants under the age of 35, who rent a room in a shared house from a private landlord.

According to evidence heard by the committee, the shared accommodation rate created “significant financial difficulty, debt and hardship” among younger people, with separated parents particularly badly affected.

The report also draws attention to the widening gap between local housing allowances and the cost of renting in the private sector, especially in Edinburgh and other urban areas.

Originally uprated in line with market rent, local housing allowances have been frozen since 2016, meaning that in many parts of Scotland they do not serve their intended purpose and should be reviewed, the MSPs said.

The committee was also “extremely concerned” by the high cost of temporary accommodation and “troubled” by the poor quality of the accommodation some tenants had been offered. Although temporary accommodation is intended to be a short-term measure, people find themselves trapped there due to the shortage of affordable alternatives, they heard.

Bob Doris, convener of the social security committee, said the rapid increase in rent arrears since the introduction of universal credit was “unacceptable”, and that steps must be taken to address this issue, which was increasing the budgetary strain on both local authorities and social landlords.

“We want to see the housing element of universal credit paid directly to landlords and the Department for Work and Pensions must review the minimum five-week wait for new…claimants, both of which contribute to rising arrears,” he said.

“Our inquiry highlighted a number of issues, including the frankly discriminatory shared accommodation rate which should be abolished immediately.

“It is also clear that local housing allowance rates are not fit for purpose and are failing to help claimants meet the rising cost of the private rented sector.”

A UK government spokeswoman said that while rent arrears could not be linked to any one cause, many people joined universal credit with pre-existing arrears, and research showed that number fell by a third after four months.

“In Scotland we already pay rent directly to landlords where requested and can pay universal credit more frequently to help with budgeting,” she said.

“Meanwhile, Scotland has significant welfare powers, including flexibilities within universal credit and the power to top-up existing benefits, pay discretionary payments and create entirely new benefits altogether.”

Written by Andrew Coates

June 13, 2019 at 3:13 pm

UN Report on Poverty in Britain: Welfare to Workhouses.

with 58 comments

Image result for alston report poverty Jaywick

Special UN Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty Philip Alston in Jaywick, Essex.

A couple of days ago I heard a group of lads talking about Universal Credit.

They’d all got caught up in its clutches and they had many a merry tale to tell.

It does not take imagination to see that poverty, they mentioned the waits for money, the on-line gibberish, and Coachy.

The DWP, our Newshawks say, always responds with stout denial to any criticism.

This must have stung sharper than a serpent’s tooth..

The report begins,

The social safety net has been badly damaged by drastic cuts to local authorities’ budgets, which have eliminated many social services, reduced policing services, closed libraries in record numbers, shrunk community and youth centres and sold off public spaces and buildings. The bottom line is that much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos. A booming economy, high employment and a budget surplus have not reversed austerity, a policy pursued more as an ideological than an economic agenda.

The Guardian covered the story as following:

UN report compares Tory welfare policies to creation of workhouses

A leading United Nations poverty expert has compared Conservative welfare policies to the creation of 19th-century workhouses and warned that unless austerity is ended, the UK’s poorest people face lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”.

Ministers in denial about impact of austerity since 2010, says poverty expert

The far-right Mail publishes the bleats and denials of the DWP and Amber Rudd.

Amber Rudd is to lodge a formal complaint over UN’s ‘barely believable’ poverty report accusing Britain of violating human rights obligations by creating ‘Dickensian’ conditions for the poor

  • UN report claims Britain is returning to ‘Dickensian’ conditions, where citizens lives are, quoting Hobbes, ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’
  • But government points out that UN research published just two months ago ranked Britain as the 15th happiest country to live in
  • DWP says Rapporteur paints ‘completely inaccurate picture’ after his whistle-stop two-week human rights fact-finding visit last November

Poverty in the UK is ‘systematic’ and ‘tragic’, says UN special rapporteur

The UK’s social safety net has been “deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos”, a report commissioned by the UN has said.

Special rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston said “ideological” cuts to public services since 2010 have led to “tragic consequences”.

The report comes after Prof Alston visited UK towns and cities and made preliminary findings last November.

The government said his final report was “barely believable”.

The £95bn spent on welfare and the maintenance of the state pension showed the government took tackling poverty “extremely seriously”, a spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.

Prof Alston is an independent expert in human rights law and was appointed to the unpaid role by the UN Human Rights Council in June 2014. He spent nearly two weeks travelling in Britain and Northern Ireland and received more than 300 written submissions for his report.

He went on to observe

Some observers might conclude that the DWP had been tasked with “designing a digital and sanitised version of the 19th Century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens”, he said.

The report cites independent experts saying that 14 million people in the UK – a fifth of the population – live in poverty, according to a new measure that takes into account costs such as housing and childcare.

In 2017, 1.5 million people experienced destitution, meaning they had less than £10 a day after housing costs, or they had to go without at least two essentials such as shelter, food, heat, light, clothing or toiletries during a one-month period.

Despite official denials, Prof Alston said he had heard accounts of people choosing between heating their homes or eating, children turning up to school with empty stomachs, increased homelessness and food bank use, and “story after story” of people who had considered or attempted suicide.

Now I’ve got a bit of respect for Human Rights. One of the greatest British radicals, Tom Paine, wrote the Rights of Man (1791), which was a founding book for our labour movement and left. My dad said they were still reading it in Glasgow in the 1930s.

Comrade Paine wrote this,

In the closing chapters of Rights of Man, Paine addresses the condition of the poor and outlines a detailed social welfare proposal predicated upon the redirection of government expenditure. From the onset, Paine asserts all citizens have an inherent claim to welfare. Paine declares welfare is not charity, but an irrevocable right.

One of the great founders of modern socialism, the Frenchman Jean Jaurès, (1859 – 1914)., did not just stand up for welfare, he defended social and human rights. Jaurès campaigned for the innocence of Dreyfus against the anti-Semites of his day. He mixed together workers’ and welfare right with socialism. He was murdered in 1914 by one of national populists of the Farrage ilk for opposing the start of the First World War.

When I read people disrespecting Professor Alston I think they are insulting our glorious forebears.

Apart from that, the present social security system, Universal Credit and all, stinks to high heaven.

This is the Report’s conclusion:

The philosophy underpinning the British welfare system has changed radically since 2010. The initial rationales for reform were to reduce overall expenditures and to promote employment as the principal “cure” for poverty.

But when large-scale poverty persisted despite a booming economy and very high levels of employment, the Government chose not to adjust course. Instead, it doubled down on a parallel agenda to reduce benefits by every means available, including constant reductions in benefit levels, ever-more-demanding conditions, harsher penalties, depersonalization, stigmatization, and virtually eliminating the option of using the legal system to vindicate rights.

The basic message, delivered in the language of managerial efficiency and automation, is that almost any alternative will be more tolerable than seeking to obtain government benefits.

This is a very far cry from any notion of a social contract, Beveridge model or otherwise, let alone of social human rights. As Thomas Hobbes observed long ago, such an approach condemns the least well off to lives that are “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. As the British social contract slowly evaporates, Hobbes’ prediction risks becoming the new reality.

 

DWP Propaganda Campaign for Universal Credit gets off to a Rocky Start.

with 48 comments

Image result for universal credit dwp

DWP Propaganda Genius at Work.

This week this story came out:

Coming soon: the great universal credit deception

A leaked memo shows that the Department for Work and Pensions is about to embark on a PR campaign to defend its worst ever policy

How to sell the unsellable? How to pretend utter chaos is a plan coming together? How to persuade the public, who just refuse to buy it, to at least keep on paying for it? I believe I have found the answer.

It comes in the form of an internal memo from the Department for Work and Pensions that somehow floated past my desk. Published on the staff intranet just a few days ago, on 2 May, it is signed by three of the department’s most senior officials, including the DWP’s director of communications and Neil Couling, its head of universal credit. And it is that toxically controversial benefit which is its subject.

What follows is an elaborate media strategy to manufacture a Whitehall fantasy, one in which the benefits system is running like a dream while a Conservative government generously helps people on the escalator to prosperity. It begins at the end of this month with a giant advert wrapped around the cover of the Metro newspaper; inside will be a further four-page advertorial feature. This will “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”. What’s more, “the features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC – you won’t see our branding … We want to grab the readers’ attention and make them wonder who has done this ‘UC uncovered’ investigation.”

..

Then comes the letter’s grand reveal: BBC2 has commissioned a documentary series, which is “looking to intelligently explore UC” by filming inside three jobcentres. “This is a fantastic opportunity for us – we’ve been involved in the process from the outset, and we continue working closely with the BBC to ensure a balanced and insightful piece of television.” Wading through such adjectives, one remembers how the most important of the letter’s signatories, Neil Couling, told Holyrood parliamentarians that the rise of food banks was down to “poor people maximising their economic opportunities” and that “many benefit recipients welcome the jolt that … sanctions can give them”.

What follows is an elaborate media strategy to manufacture a Whitehall fantasy, one in which the benefits system is running like a dream while a Conservative government generously helps people on the escalator to prosperity. It begins at the end of this month with a giant advert wrapped around the cover of the Metro newspaper; inside will be a further four-page advertorial feature. This will “myth-bust the common inaccuracies reported on UC”. What’s more, “the features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC – you won’t see our branding … We want to grab the readers’ attention and make them wonder who has done this ‘UC uncovered’ investigation.”

No such danger with this three-part series, which is driven by access rather than led by a reporter. When the civil servants’ trade union, the PCS, found out about the filming, it asked if staff could talk frankly to the crew, only to be told no: they would still be subject to the civil service code, which demands complete impartiality. Perhaps this explains an internal PCS note on the BBC series I have seen, which remarks that staff are unhappy about being identified on screen. At one of the nominated jobcentres, in Toxteth in Liverpool, “It is our understanding that there have been no volunteers to take part in the filming.” The risk is that any staff who do participate toe the management line, making the film an advert for universal credit.

The PCS briefing also reports a senior universal credit manager telling union reps that “the DWP would have access to the film before transmission”. The BBC confirms that is the case, although it says it has “editorial control”. When I contacted the DWP it refused to answer even the most basic of questions, advising me to submit them via a freedom of information request.

Here is the DWP’s wheedling away already:

This is Amber Rudd’s own retweet of the myth machine:

The Mirror followed up the story,

Universal Credit union blasts DWP ‘propaganda’ as staff announce two-day strike

A union chief accused the DWP of trying to “cover up” the very failures staff want addressed after a leaked memo revealed plans for a massive PR campaign.

Universal Credit staff have announced a two-day strike with a blast at DWP “propaganda” about the benefit.

Call handlers in Wolverhampton and Walsall will strike on May 28-29 in protest at workloads and staff shortages.

It is the second walkout in three months from the workers – who want 5,000 new staff, permanent contracts and limits on the number of phone calls per manager.

Yet hours before it was announced, a leaked DWP memo revealed chiefs plan to “bust myths” about the benefit with an advertising campaign – at a major cost to taxpayers.

The PCS union, which represents the workers, accused the DWP of trying to “cover up” the very failures its strike is focused on.

General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: “Instead of trying to solve this ongoing dispute over workloads and recruitment, Ministers are spending thousands on a propaganda campaign to promote a failed Universal Credit system.

Critics were quick off the mark.

Followed by this news today.

Liverpool Job Centre staff ‘refuse’ to take part in Universal Credit publicity BBC programme

Liverpool Echo.

DWP planning documentary series and advertising campaign to ‘tackle misconceptions and improve the reputation of UC’Liverpool job centre staff have reportedly refused to take part in a TV show promoting the reputation of Universal Credit.

Details of the leaked memo first emerged in a Guardian column and were verified by Mirror Online.

The memo explains the DWP is working with BBC2 on a new documentary series, which will be filmed inside three jobcentres.

But according to The Guardian, the programme has already run into problems.

At one of the nominated job centres, in Toxteth , the PCS note explains that: “It is our understanding that there have been no volunteers to take part in the filming.”

The newspaper reports that an internal note from the Public and Commercial Services Union explains that staff are unhappy about being identified on screen.

A DWP spokesman refused to comment directly on the memo, but said: “It’s important people know about the benefits available to them, and we regularly advertise Universal Credit.

 

 

 

Pressure Grows and Grows for Changes to Universal Credit.

with 37 comments

Image result for universal credit sanctions cartoon

Iain Duncan Smith: the Father of the Universal Credit Mess.

The labyrinth, or should that be maze?, of Universal Credit is leading to all kinds of difficulties, that is, for people who have to reply on it.

The Guardian carries this story,

Half of low-income families will lose thousands of pounds a year, warns new study
It continues,

Flagship welfare reforms will trigger a big increase in families unable to make ends meet, new analysis reveals.

The number of children living in families that have a monthly deficit will double in some areas, because of the combined impact of universal credit, a two-child limit on some welfare payments and the benefits cap.

The research, produced for the children’s commissioner, found that a quarter of children in its sample would be hit by the measures. Almost half of low-income households examined were affected, losing on average £3,441 a year.

Charities and researchers are already warning of rising child poverty. Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, has been attempting to soften the government’s reforms, putting more money into universal credit, limiting the two-child policy and sanctioning fewer claimants.

Now this is a step forward, but the Sanctions regime is still there.

Suffering without money for a year is still there.

The ‘I’ also covers the Policy in Practice report,

There will be a huge increase in the number of families living in poverty because of reforms to the welfare system, it has been claimed.

The benefits cap, the impact of universal credit and the two-child limit on some welfare payments will see the number of children in poverty double, new analysis has found.

The research, carried out on behalf of the children’s commissioner, has found that half of low-income families will lose, on average, £3,441 a year.

Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, has been making efforts to put more money into universal credit as well as ditch plans to extend benefits caps for families with more than two children.

Ms Rudd also announced in January this year that she would relax the two-child limit for families who had a third child before the policy came into effect on 6 April 2017.

But the Policy in Practice consultancy found that a quarter of children in its study were still in families who would be unable to make ends meet because of the effects of the welfare reforms.

This is relevant to everybody,

Transparency issues with Universal Credit are leaving claimants confused about how much money they should be receiving and one of the big problems with the system is the lengthy wait for the first payment for those claiming benefits.

Those finding themselves in that situation can apply for an advance payment – but they are forced to pay it back, starting from out of their first payment and they must pay it back within 12 months – a practice that, the study found, would plunge 1 in 10 low-income households into deficit.

It also found that while universal credit made 56 per cent of households better off by £172 a month, 40 per cent are worse off and lose £181 on average. But if the two-child limit was abolished, a fifth of low-pay households would be £366 a month better off on average.

This is from their report THE IMPACT OF WELFARE REFORM ON CHILD VULNERABILITY which can be read here.

Our analysis finds that:
● Universal Credit broadly benefits families with children, with 56% of households better off by £172 per month, though 40% are worse off and lose £181 per month on average
● The five week wait for the first UC payment would push 70% of families currently facing a cash surplus into cash shortfall, 73% of families with savings would see them completely exhausted at some point during those first five weeks
● The Universal Credit advance payment provides a short-term boost to cashflow but also increases the percentage of households who would face a cash shortfall from 11.6% under Universal Credit, to 18.9% once the advance payment is deducted from UC awards
● Under the two child limit (applied to all families) 32.1% of children living in a cash shortfall would find their families in surplus were the policy removed. The policy is placing 15.6% of children who are already facing a cash shortfall further at risk
● The Benefit Cap affects 2.9% of households, who lose £2,832 per annum on average

● The cumulative impact of welfare reforms are considerably greater than the impact of each reform in isolation, affecting 48% of households losing £3,441 per annum on average
● When the effects of Universal Credit, the two child limit and the Benefit Cap are combined, 25% of children in low income families would be unable to make ends meet, doubling the number from 13% if these reforms were not in place

Meanwhile Amber Rudd gives this advice:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 13, 2019 at 10:56 am

Universal Credit, More Disasters as Commons Select Committee Probes “in-work progression”.

with 84 comments

Image result for in work progression

Every day there’s more stories in the media about the disaster known as Universal Credit.

You could start the morning by listing the latest:

Universal Credit bosses branded ‘morally corrupt’ after forcing family to repay £6.5k DWP payments blunder

Birmingham Live.

“The real duty they have is to prevent overpayments in the first place rather than forcing taxpayers to clear up after their mess”

Errors made by the Department for Work and Pensions mean that Billy Pierce and his partner have been paid too much for the past 14 months

Mr Pierce said he and his partner had no idea they were being overpaid because they had never received the new benefit before and had given the DWP all the correct information to calculate Universal Credit payments.

DWP have ordered the money to be repaid at a rate of £100 a month – which means it will take over five years to clear the debt.

DWP officials took months to correct payment mistakes, says Tower Hamlets council.

Even the Currant Bun tries to get in on the act:

Five-week Universal Credit delay forced me into B&B where my baby got covered in cocaine – now I’m stuck in a caravan’

Mum-of-two Kylie Goodyear, from Ipswich, blasts Government for trapping her family in poverty.

I stop for now because it’s all too familiar to our contributors.

Who have recently signaled another area of burning concern:  so-called “In-work Progression”.

Jim commented,

When the DWP piloted “in-work conditionality” the average increase in pay after twelve months with “work coach assistance” was, get this, an absolutely piffling £5.25 per week! Which blows the “work is the best way out of poverty” crap out of the water.

Here’s a link to the DWP report that spills the beans: Universal Credit: In-Work Progression Randomised Controlled Trial 

The Work and Pensions Committee are now conducting an inquiry, holding a session this very day, on the issue.

In-work Progression: latest Universal Credit inquiry launched

In 2016, the Committee launched an inquiry on “in-work progression” for people claiming Universal Credit. This is the name for the Government’s policy plan to encourage and support people who are in already in work and claiming Universal Credit to increase their pay, through more hours, or getting a better paying job. The Committee has previously described the plans as “potentially the most significant welfare reform since 1948”.

The Committee identified particular concerns, however, about the conditions that could be attached to any new “support” to assist people trying to increase their income from work.

Conditions or “conditionality” are already of course attached to job-seeking benefits: the requirements on every claimant who can work, or at least look for work to do so, as a condition of getting the benefit.

The other side of that is the sanction, a cut to part of your benefit if you fail to meet a condition of the benefit, like meeting with your Work Coach or going on a course, or to a job interview.

The Committee reported on the deep problems of Benefit sanctions late last year, and called on the Government not to introduce sanctions for people in work until there was robust evidence to show that they helped people to progress.

In the context of in-work progression,  conditions might include being obliged to seek extra hours of work, or continue to look for higher paid work while in your existing job.

How this would work in practice, and whether or how sanctions would apply if you couldn’t, for example, take on extra hours you were offered because of caring responsibilities, are among the questions the Committee will be looking at.

Among the concerns the Committee identified in its 2016 inquiry into In-work progression in Universal Credit were:

  • There is not yet comprehensive evidence on how to deliver an effective in-work service
  • JCP work coaches would have to develop new skills and become a new form of public servant
  • The case for in-work conditionality backed up by financial sanctions is untested so far

They state:

The Committee is now holding a follow-up inquiry, to look at the progress the Government is making, the readiness of Jobcentre Plus work coaches, and what more the Government could do to support people to progress in work.

This is happening today:

08 May 2019 9:30 am

Oral Evidence Session

Universal Credit: In-work progression

View details

Witness(es)

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive, Learning and Work Institute
Tony Wilson, Director, Institute for Employment Studies
Julia Waltham, Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Working Families
Laura Dewar, Policy Officer, Gingerbread
Amanda Faull, Partnerships and Development Manager, Timewise Foundation
Sharlene McGee, Policy and Research Manager, Leonard Cheshire Disability

Location

Room 16, Palace of Westminster

Written by Andrew Coates

May 8, 2019 at 9:23 am

Food Banks and Universal Credit. Go together like an ‘orse and carriage.

with 57 comments

In the last five years, food bank use in our network has increased by 73% (Trussell Trust).

To go to a Food Bank is not easy.

Last night on Channel Four the news carried a report on the food poverty that is driving people there.

Charity handed out 1.6m foodbank parcels in one year – rise of 20 per cent

A leading food bank charity says the number of three-day supplies it’s given out in the last five years has “soared” by 73 per cent.

According to figures released by the Trussell Trust, in the last year 1.6 million emergency food bank parcels were handed out – that’s a 19% increase on the year before. Of those, more than half a million went to children.

Our Social Affairs Editor Jackie Long has been to meet some of the young people who understand food poverty first hand, and are now determined to do something to tackle it.

The Guardian reported on the same day.

‘I’m at rock bottom’: food bank offers respite from universal credit

The food bank in St Simon’s church hall, in a quiet residential street off Shepherd’s Bush Green in west London is buzzing with activity. It’s open for three hours, offering a brief window of help and respite for scores of local people who have fallen on hard times.

Livia, 44, is a self-employed fitness trainer making her first visit to a food bank, accompanied by her daughter. Work is supposed to be the path out of poverty, but universal credit is stressing her out, an “absolute nightmare”, and causing her to run up rent arrears. “I put on a brave face but I’m at rock bottom.”

As with many self-employed claimants, the vagaries of universal credit have proved demoralising for Livia. Although her business is new – and she had to have time off after a family bereavement – she is required to meet demanding monthly income targets and, if she does not make them, universal credit will not make up the difference.

And this:

The Trussell Trust site can be accessed here:

 

Meanwhile Amber Rudd is still happy:

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 26, 2019 at 10:10 am

Ministry Hid Report on Universal Credit Hardship.

with 82 comments

Image result for Universal credit transition from tax credits report

Damming 2017 Report only now Released. 

 

Universal Credit may not get the headlines it deserves these days, something else happening I hear on the wireless, but, while Parliament’s  leaking roof capture’s the world attention there is (finally) this very unleaky report.

Study for DWP reveals 78% of people moved to Universal Credit struggle with bills

Mirror.

The shocking report dated November 2017 was only slipped onto the government’s website today

Joint DWP and HMRC report was released on Thursday but dated November 2017

Ministers sat for nearly a year and a half on research that revealed that tax credit claimants experienced “real financial problems” after they signed on to universal credit, it has emerged.

The joint Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HMRC study, which examined how tax credit claimants coped with the move, found 60% of those who said they struggled to pay bills said their difficulties began when they moved on to the new benefit.

More than half of claimants reported that the routine six-week wait for a first payment took them by surprise, and nearly half of those who were expecting a delay underestimated by a third how long the wait would be.

Strike us feather me down.

The study was slipped out on the DWP and HMRC websites on Thursday morning – even though the report itself is dated November 2017, and the research was carried out between October 2016 and July 2017.

Forgetfulness, understandable perhaps…

More than half of claimants reported that the routine six-week wait for a first payment took them by surprise, and nearly half of those who were expecting a delay underestimated by a third how long the wait would be.

About half of those surveyed did not have sufficient savings to tide them over the six weeks, the study found, and this group struggled especially. A few claimants endured “considerable stress” after payment delays meant they had to wait up to three months to get their money.

Overall, 25% said they were having real financial problems and falling behind with many bills and commitments, 13% said they were falling behind with some commitments, and 13% said they were keeping up but it felt a constant struggle to do so,” the report found

Here is the report: The transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: qualitative and quantitative research with claimants.

More from this:

Making a claim online

The UC system is designed to be administrated predominantly online, including the application process. It is therefore important that individuals can complete the application online on their own: ideally, claimants would not need assistance from DWP. Most survey participants reported that they were able to make their UC claim online (77 per cent). Over half (57 per cent) of all claimants interviewed completed the claim themselves, whilst a one in five (20 per cent) required help from someone else such as their partner, friend or relative. A further 19 per cent reported applying with help from an adviser at the Jobcentre. If it is assumed that the adviser would have assisted with an online claim, then the proportion of those claiming online overall is 96%. Claimants’ main reasons for not completing their application online were a lack of familiarity using computers (21 per cent) and a lack of access to computers or the internet (11 per cent).

Payment Gap.

Universal Credit claimants typically experience a payment gap22 of about six weeks from making their UC claim until their first UC payment is made. Once the UC claim is made, tax credits stop. Less than half (42 per cent) of claimants were aware that there would be a gap in payments. Awareness was particularly low amongst female claimants and claimants with children (57 per cent of female claimants, compared to 43 per cent of male claimants, and 55 per cent of claimants who had children included on their claim compared to 41 per cent who did not, were not aware of the gap). Of those that were aware of the payment gap, just over half found out through Jobcentre Plus (54 per cent).

Service.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of Universal Credit (UC) claimants were satisfied with the service they received during transition to Universal Credit (15 per cent were very satisfied and 30 per cent were fairly satisfied). Similar proportions reported being dissatisfied: 42 per centoverall (13 per cent fairly dissatisfied and 29 per cent very dissatisfied).

Where claimants were dissatisfied with the process, the survey explored why this was. The three main reasons for dissatisfaction were lack of clear information about the process The transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: qualitative and quantitative research with claimants of stopping tax credits and claiming UC (34 per cent), length of the payment gap (29 per cent) and poor organisation (29 per cent) (e.g. a lack of departmental knowledge of the process and timescales or the ability to advise claimants accordingly).

Reactions:

Ironically, Frank Field, chair of the commons work and pensions committee, accused the DWP at the time of “withholding bad news”, claiming that Gauke only gave the go-ahead to universal credit because officials “had withheld the true scale of the problems”.

Margaret Greenwood MP, the shadow work and pensions secretary, asked why the government was only now publishing the findings. She said: “Universal credit should be helping people out of poverty; instead it is pushing many people into debt and towards food banks. The government must take notice of its own research and stop universal credit as a matter of urgency.”

Yet all is not darkness.

The Currant Bun has this Good News!

Amber Rudd plans £2bn Universal Credit spending spree to help out struggling parents

The Work and Pensions Secretary wants to pump more cash into child benefits and housing allowances

AMBER RUDD is preparing a near £2billion spending spree on benefits for low-paid Brits to tackle a shock rise in child poverty.

The Sun can reveal the Work and Pensions Secretary is demanding a small fortune to top up child benefits and housing allowances.

With all this joy being spread it’s no wonder the DWP has the cash for this:

Written by Andrew Coates

April 5, 2019 at 11:58 am