Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Unemployment’ Category

Artificial Intelligence and the DWP: Synths to Replace Job Coaches?

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Your New Job Coach?

Thanks to Newshound Superted.

DWP to increase role of AI. Mel Poluck

Monday 18 June 2018

Department’s head of data strategy highlights potential for machine learning, natural language processing and image processing plans

The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) head of data strategy has said the use of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques will play an increasing role in improving service delivery, providing a fuller picture of customers’ situations so they no longer need to explain their circumstances repeatedly.

Pause for breath:

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While DWP has already been using some machine learning in its fraud detection and cyber security work, and while it uses “to some extent most of the cutting edge techniques,” the department is now looking to use natural language processing and image processing.

Among the uses for the techniques would be to route incoming letters or understand the sentiment of a question put to the DWP more effectively.

“What we’re keen to do is to make sure we fully understand our customers’ situations,” Pavey said. “For the typical citizen of Britain, they’d expect that if they’re dealing with government they shouldn’t be asking them the same questions over and over again.

“We try to make our services as relevant as possible. Better use of data analytics is really the key to that. We see that machine learning will play an increasing role in the way we operate.”

“Through a combination of transparency and trust and being guided by a strong ethical framework, we’ll demonstrate the uses of data, we’ll demonstrate that sharing of data can push forward public good and through the ethical use of machine learning we’ll be able to deliver more relevant services in a more efficient manner.

“The rise of data and the rise of new techniques can only be good for us.”

Challenges outlined

He also highlighted some of the hurdles that lie ahead, including understanding citizen behaviours and using it to provide services that produce the outcomes government wants.

“We’re delivering a service that’s incredibly important to people and is also highly regulated, so we want to be very clear on any decisions we’ve made when it comes to the outcome people receive. We need to be mindful of being transparent in everything we do,” he said.

To this end, DWP plans to publish its data strategy online later this year, which will include a charter of the department’s data use.

For other future developments, Pavey said he was very keen to work with academia, start-ups or any UK company interested in using data for public good. “We’d never be so arrogant to think we have a monopoly on these things and we’re very keen to learn from outside.”

Listen to the full podcast.

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It follows this: (Telegraph, 31st december 2017)

Criminal gangs committing tens of millions of pounds worth of benefit fraud are being tracked down using newly-developed artificial intelligence, ministers have disclosed.

Experts at the Department for Work and Pensions have produced computer algorithms that have been gradually rolled-out over the course of the year to identify large-scale abuse of the welfare system.

The system, which is being trialed across the country, detects fraudulent claims by searching for patterns such as applications that use the same phone number or are written in a similar style. It then flags up any suspicious cases to specialist investigators.

It comes as part of a drive by ministers to make more use of artificial intelligence…

Earlier experiments in the use of AI by the DWP were not a success.
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Written by Andrew Coates

June 19, 2018 at 10:40 am

NHS Mental Health Recruiting 300 Employment Coaches as “Work as a Clinical Outcome” returns.

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Yuk!

The NHS is set to roll out mental health employment specialists across the country, as a new analysis of services shows that 2,300 patients have been helped into work in the last year.

NHS mental health job coaches help thousands of people into work.

Investment in improving employment prospects via health services like IPS can increase productivity and reduce demand for employment and disability support payments like Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.

NHS England. 12 of June.

The NHS really ought to get up to date about the Vale of Tears that is Universal Credit.

Not to mention the stress of work outlined in books like James Bloodworth’s Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain.

This move is part of a broader picture.

It seems that with 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”),   the DWP, Job Centres and the NHS are getting even closer.

Recently in Ipswich I was asked by Coachey if I’d like to have a health check up – NHS – at the Job Centre.

The below marks another step in the merging of services, in a much more contestable area.

The NHS is to hire 300 employment coaches to find patients jobs to “keep them out of hospital.”

 

It is essential to read the full article but here are some important points made by ‘Kitty’.

There has already been an attempt to provide mental health services for people who claim social security support, which includes a heavily resisted pilot to put therapists into job centres. Another heavily opposed government proposal was announced as part of the  health and work pilot programme to put job coaches in GP surgeries. The proposals have been widely held to be profoundly anti-therapeutic, potentially very damaging and professionally unethical.

….

The government announced the creation of the Joint Health and Work Unit and the Health and Work Service in 2015/16, both with a clear remit to cut benefits and “get people into work.” Given that mental health is a main cause for long-term sickness absence in the UK, a key aspect of this policy is to provide mental health services that get people back into work.

There has already been an attempt to provide mental health services for people who claim social security support, which includes a heavily resisted pilot to put therapists into job centres. Another heavily opposed government proposal was announced as part of the  health and work pilot programme to put job coaches in GP surgeries. The proposals have been widely held to be profoundly anti-therapeutic, potentially very damaging and professionally unethical.

The government have planned to merge health and employment services, and are now attempting to redefine work as a clinical outcome. Unemployment has been stigmatised and politically redefined as a psychological disorderthe government claims somewhat incoherently that the “cure” for unemployment due to illness and disability, and sickness absence from work, is work.

Pause.

Remember this? (BBC June 2015).

Unemployment is being “rebranded” by the government as a psychological disorder, a new study claims.

Those that do not exhibit a “positive” outlook must undergo “reprogramming” or face having their benefits cut, says the Wellcome Trust-backed report.

This can be “humiliating” for job seekers and does not help them find suitable work, the researchers say.

Here is the report:

 

 

Back to Kitty:

The latest strand of this ideological anti-welfare crusade was recently announced: the NHS is to hire 300 employment coaches who will find patients jobs to “keep them out of hospital.” The Individual Placement and Support services (IPS) is aimed at ‘supporting’ people with severe mental illness to seek work and ‘hold down a job’. Job coaches will offer assistance on CVs, interview techniques and are expected to work with 20,000 people by 2021. Pilot schemes running in Sussex, Bradford, Northampton and some London boroughs suggest that the coaches manage to find work for at least a quarter of users. The scheme is to be extended nationwide.

The roll out of mental health employment specialists across the country is based on  analysis of the pilots, which is claimed to show that 2,300 patients have been helped into work in the last year. However, the longer term consequences of the programme are not known, and it is uncertain if there will be any meaningful monitoring regarding efficacy, safeguarding and the uncovering of unintended consequences and risks to participants.

It is held that those in work tend to be in better health, visit their GP less and are less likely to need hospital treatment. The government has assumed that there is a causal relationship expressed in this common sense finding, and make an inferential leap with the claim that “work is a health outcome”.

However, support for this premise is not universal. Some concerns which have been reasonably raised are commonly about the extent to which people will be ‘pushed’ into work they are not able or ready to do, or into bad quality work that is harmful to them, under the misguided notion that any work will be good for them in the long run.

Of course it may equally be the case that people in better health work because they can, and have less need for healthcare services simply because they are relatively well, rather than because they work.

Undoubtedly there are some people who may be able to work and who want to, but struggle to find suitable employment without adequate support. This section of the population may also face the lack of knowledge, attitudes and prejudices of potential employers regarding their conditions as a further barrier to gaining appropriate employment. The scheme will be ideal for supporting this group. That is, however, only provided that engagement with the service is voluntary, and does not become mandatory.

It must also be acknowledged that there are some people who are simply too ill to work. Again, it’s a serious concern that this group may be pressured and coerced to find employment, which may prove to be detrimental to their wellbeing. Furthermore, placing them in work may present unacceptable risk to both themselves and others. How can we possibly know in advance about the longer term risks presented by the impact of an illness, and the potential effects of some medications in the workplace? If something goes catastrophically wrong as a consequence of someone taking up work when they are too unwell to work, who will hold the responsibility for the consequences?

In the current political context where the public are told “work is the route out of poverty” and “work is a health outcome”, people feel obliged to try to work, when they believe they can. But what happens when they are wrong in that belief? Who is responsible, for example, when someone has a loss of consciousness or an episode of altered awareness, caused by a condition or medication, while operating machinery, at the wheel of a taxi, bus or refuse waggon?

This is the key point: work as a “clinical outcome”.

As the Royal College of Psychiatrists says,

Work is a key clinical outcome

Employment is Nature’s physician, and is essential to human happiness’

Galen of Pergamon, Greek physician, surgeon and philosopher, 172 AD

As the quote from Galen, the Greek physician shows, it has long been recognised that work, be it paid or unpaid, plays a central role in the health and well-being of most people.  We know that work gives us material rewards, but it also gives people a sense of identity and connection with others in our society; it gives us a sense of personal achievement; it is a means of structuring and occupying our time and helps us to develop mental and physical skills.  Work also provides us with the financial and material resources necessary for our daily lives.

 

The problem is, unemployment is not a clinical problem to be solved by psychiatrists or Job Coaches.

 

35 Hours a Week Job Search. The Nightmare Continues.

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

 

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35 Hours a Week Job Search.

A few years ago we published the above.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some people have posted comments saying the same.

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

Your activity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The response includes this:

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

Yours sincerely,
DWP Central FoI Team

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

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

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

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

Another  request asked,

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

This was the response.

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

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

The Daily Job Seeker.

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

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

1. What I did:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. What I did:

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

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

What was the result? Found two possible jobs at

1) Sports Direct – closing date 29 March

2) New Look – closing date 5 April

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

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

Total time taken: 22 hours

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

3. What I did:

I registered on Universal Jobmatch on 11 March.

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

What was the result? I applied for two jobs at

1) Subway – closing date 14 March

2) Greggs – closing date 18 March

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

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

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

Total time taken: 10 hours

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

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

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

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

This is funnier.

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

Though this is wise advice.

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Destitution in the UK Set to Rise with Universal Credit.

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During the week this story hit the headlines:

1.5 million people are ‘destitute’ in the UK. The ‘I’ (the well-informed Claimant’s Daily read).

The figures are startling: an estimated 1.5 million people were destitute in the UK at some point in 2017, 365,000 of them children. This is the conclusion of a report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of the charity, said actions by the Government, local authorities and utility companies is leading to “destitution by design”. “Social security should be an anchor holding people steady against powerful currents such as rising costs, insecure housing and jobs, and low pay, but people are instead becoming destitute with no clear way out.”

..

The report blamed benefits sanctions, low benefit levels, delays in receiving benefit payments, high housing costs, pressures – financial and otherwise – facing people with poor health and disability, lack of eligibility for benefits for people such as migrants and “harsh and uncoordinated” debt recovery practices by authorities and utility companies.

Here is the full report: Destitution in the UK 2018

There is plenty to remind you of this walking around Ipswich, where people begging is a daily sight.

James Bloodworth’s book,  Hired. Six Months Undercover in Low-wage Britain (2018) comes to mind at the same time.

The author  worked for Amazon in Rugeley, for a Call centre in the South Wales Valleys, for Uber, and for a private care firm in Blackpool.

It was in this seaside resort that he found this,

Bloodworth comes across the homeless. He sees an old man “buried under a pile of corrugated cardboard and bin liners”. In Blackpool’s main library there are people “who had been sent like badly behaved children to ‘job club’. There were the down-and-outs there too, “holding filthy carrier bags”, some falling asleep to be thrown back onto the streets. At moments like this you realise that only a comparison with George Orwell’s best writing will do.

Much of this seems to fit the way we live all over the country.

People in short-term employment, with few rights, thrown in and out of the benefits system. The down-and-outs.

One of one of the reasons we have so many young homeless wandering around in Ipswich is the closure of the Foyer last year.

Campaigner ‘disappointed’ as Ipswich Foyer housing scheme for young people to close in March.

Centra has failed to win a new funding contract from Suffolk County Council (SCC) to keep the Foyer, in Star Lane, running.

From April YMCA Suffolk and Orwell Housing Association will deliver housing-related support services for young people across the county.

Becki Bunn, who started a petition to save the hostel, said she was “really disappointed” that SCC had not reinvested in the Foyer.

At the age of 17 Miss Bunn lived at the Foyer for six months, enabling her to stay in education and finish her A-Levels.

Walking past it a few days ago I saw that the building, eminently suitable for the homeless, is empty and beginning to look shabby.

Thankfully Ipswich Labour has made some steps towards helping some of those without a roof over their heads.

The £2.8m investment Ipswich Borough Council is making in new temporary accommodation for people who are made homeless caught the headlines, writes Labour Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, David Ellesmere.

Ipswich Council has also reduced the Council Tax for those on benefits.

But a Borough Council does not have the funds the remedy the problems.

Some of the reasons for the massive level of destitution  began with the tough conditions to get JSA, such as the 35 jobsearch, ‘courses’, workfare, the sanctions regime, all of which are designed to throw people off the dole and onto the streets.

One that is bound to get worse with Universal Credit.

The must-read Bloodworth book talks of harassing bosses, poor working conditions, low-pay, snarls up in getting wages, and grasping Landlords.

Universal Credit – something people in the ‘gig economy’ he deals with will rely on – makes all of this a lot worse.

If levels of destitution apparently fell 25% with a loosening of sanctions between 2015 to 2017 the report says,

JRF warns more people could be at risk of destitution after Universal Credit is rolled out across the country because of the sanction rate. Universal Credit is being phased in gradually throughout the year. The roll-out schedule is here.

Here are the report’s recommendations.

Solutions to destitution

In our society, no-one should be left to starve or live on the streets and everyone should have access to basic essentials and shelter.
• The Universal Credit system must ensure that benefit gaps, sanctions and freezes do not push working-age people to the brink and make them destitute by design.
• Uncoordinated debt recovery practices can leave people with practically nothing to live on. This is unacceptable, and the Department for Work and Pensions and other public authorities must
address this.
• People facing destitution need emergency relief and this should be provided through Local Welfare Assistance schemes across England, drawing on positive lessons from other UK
countries, operating to a national minimum standard.
• Social landlords must be encouraged to play a central role in preventing and alleviating destitution amongst their tenants.

This can be summarised that immediately:

The UK Government needs to:

  • End the freeze on working-age benefits so they at least keep up with the cost of essentials and do not create destitution.
  • Change the use of sanctions within Universal Credit so that people are not left destitute by design.
  • Review the total amount of debt that can be clawed back from people receiving benefits, so they can keep their heads above water.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 10, 2018 at 9:35 am

As Universal Credit is Rolled out: Crime scene-style body outlines on Jobcentres across Birmingham.

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Body outlines from murder crime scenes appear outside JobCentres in Birmingham

DWP Suggests This Might be a Protest!

No automatic alt text available.

Body outlines indicating murder crime scenes are being sprayed outside Birmingham Jobcentres along with the slogan ‘fit for work’. (Metro)

Police have been alerted after mysterious crime scene-style body outlines were daubed on Jobcentres across Birmingham reports Birmingham Live.

Sites in Kings Heath, Sparkhill, Selly Oak, Ladywood and Longbridge were all targeted.

Pictures from the scene showed a chalk body outline painted on the ground at the entrance of the centre, with a bloody trail to a foot detached from the body.

The windows of the centre were also targeted, but were quickly covered with paper to shield it from onlookers.

Scotland Yard’s Top Copper is already working on the case.

Image result for Inspector clouseau

Helped by MI5 The DWP quickly got to the possible cause of the incidents.

“The Department for Work and Pensions, which manages job centres, hinted that the graffiti might have been done for the purpose of protest.”

A spokesman said: “Everyone has a right to protest peacefully, however vandalism is completely unacceptable. We’re in contact with the police.”

In April, police appealed for help to help to catch vandals who were spray-painting cars in Sutton Coldfield town centre.

A spokesperson for Sutton Coldfield’s Trinity neighbourhood team said: “We have noticed an increasing amount of graffiti, appearing across Sutton Coldfield town centre and within surrounding areas.

“We are appealing for information if anyone knows who is responsible for the personalised graffiti – as per the photograph.

“If anyone has any further information that could be of assistance within this matter; please contact PCSO Deputy Dawg  by calling 109999999 and stating extension number: 792843  (Calls charged at 50 pence a minute).”

 

Meanwhile, in today’s Guardian.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation says cuts, debts and housing costs push poor over the edge.

More than 1.5 million people in the UK, including more than 350,000 children, experienced destitution last year, a study has found, meaning they regularly went without food, toiletries, adequate clothing or shelter.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says a “tangled combination” of benefit cuts, delays and sanctions, together with harsh debt-recovery practices and high housing rental costs pushed people already in poverty over the edge into extreme deprivation.

Nearly two-thirds reported that they ate fewer than two meals a day for two or more days over the previous month, nearly half lacked clothing appropriate for the weather, more than 40% went without heating, and 15% slept rough.

The Independent today.

Nearly 4 million UK adults forced to use food banks, figures reveal

Exclusive: One in 14 Britons has used a food bank amid ‘shocking’ levels of deprivation

Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2018 at 10:20 am

Universal credit changes will bar 2.6 million children from free school meals.

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No More Free Grub for the Nippers of 2,6 million UC Claimants.

Debbie Abrahams resigned from/temporarily stepped aside from her position as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary in March.

Since then we have heard little from Labour on the important issues surrounding Universal Credit, not least the hint of a serious worked out alternative to the shambles we can now see.

All you can find is a campaign to “fix Universal Credit’

Our campaign to fix Universal Credit

The Tories’ failing Universal Credit programme is plunging millions of people into poverty, leaving them unable to pay rent or put dinner on the table, and facing debt and eviction as a result.

So far, our campaigning has made major steps towards fixing the programme. The Tories were forced to scrap the up to 55p per minute helpline charge and the waiting time to receive the first Universal Credit payment was cut from six weeks to five weeks.

This is a great achievement, but there’s work still to do. Families are still going hungry, relying on food banks and unable to make ends meet.

Frankly, this is not much.

We need a full alternative worked-out policy.

However today this speech will flag up a very worrying area and state that, “Labour’s plan involves providing free school meals for all primary school children.”

Universal credit changes will bar 2.6 million children from free school meals, warns Labour.

Independent.

Eligibility changes mean 1.1 million children receive free school meals but 2.6 million would be entitled by 2022 if they had been kept the same.

Up to 2.6 million children whose parents are on benefits could be missing out on free school meals by 2022, the shadow education minister will warn.

Angela Rayner will tell a GMB union conference on Sunday that the Government’s claims on school meals are “falling apart” after changes to eligibility under Universal Credit (UC).

When the system was first introduced in 2013, all children of recipients – who were all unemployed – were eligible for free school meals (FSM), as they would have been under the old system.

But in April the criteria was tightened based on income. In England, the net earnings threshold will be £7,400 whereas in Northern Ireland it will be £14,000.

A government technical note published in May said that if the change had not been made, “around half of all (state school) children would become eligible for FSM and the meals would no longer be targeted at those who need them the most”.

Nursery World backs this claim up.

DfE admits millions of children at risk of losing free school meals

Up to 2.6 million children could lose out on free school meals by 2022, reveal newly published DfE figures.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 3, 2018 at 10:33 am

Universal Credit in Great Yarmouth, ” Food Bank has seen a 90pc increase in use since Universal Credit was introduced.”

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“Please, Miss I want some more.” . “Oliver Twist has asked for more!”

Word reaches us the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux (CABs) across the country are being inundated with cases to do with Universal Credit.

One CAB worker  in particular spoke of how she had to deal with clear evidence of DWP staff unable to cope and making a mess of things.

It’s not hard to see why, given the paperwork they’ve handed us about the new system in Ipswich.

Hard to make head or tail of some of it.

Not to mention Find a Job….

This is an interesting properly researched article from Norfolk that has just appeared.

Disaster’ or making work pay? Lessons from Great Yarmouth in Universal Credit Tom Bristow

Great Yarmouth Food Bank has seen a 90pc increase in use since Universal Credit was introduced in April 2016. But the DWP said it was wrong to link the rise to the benefit changes. Picture: James Bass

 

Soaring demand at food banks, tenants being evicted and landlords left without rent.

These were the some of the problems when benefit system Universal Credit came to Great Yarmouth in April 2016.

The town was one of the first places in the country to test the Government’s flagship welfare reform, which replaced lots of different benefits with a single payment.

Universal Credit has been rolled out across the rest of the region, including King’s Lynn, Lowestoft and Dereham and is meant to be introduced to Norwich this October.

Claimants in Yarmouth still report problems of being overpaid some months and underpaid on others.

And one of the biggest headaches it has caused is for tenants and landlords.

Rent arrears have surged as tenants have to wait for the first payment, leaving them without money.

Landlords report some tenants leaving without paying rent when they got the first payment.

While under the previous housing benefit system the rent was paid directly to the landlord, it goes to the claimant under Universal Credit.

This is seriously not funny.

The DWP said “significant improvements” had been made to Universal Credit since it was introduced.

A spokesman said: “Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and under it people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer compared to the previous system.

The reality, as the New York Times writer  Peter S. Goodman said a couple of days ago,

Whatever the operative thinking, austerity’s manifestations are palpable and omnipresent. It has refashioned British society, making it less like the rest of Western Europe, with its generous social safety nets and egalitarian ethos, and more like the United States, where millions lack health care and job loss can set off a precipitous plunge in fortunes.

In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything

Written by Andrew Coates

May 30, 2018 at 11:57 am