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Archive for the ‘Universal Credit’ Category

Gawd Bless you Ma’am ! Theresa May scraps universal credit helpline charges.

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Theresa May scraps universal credit helpline charges.

People will be able to call the government’s universal credit helpline without being charged, within weeks.

Prime Minister Theresa May said she had listened to criticism of the charges, which can be up to 55p a minute, and decided it was “right” to drop them.

But she again rejected calls by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to “pause” the roll-out of the controversial benefit amid fears it is causing hardship.

MPs are currently debating Labour’s call for a rethink.

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Written by Andrew Coates

October 18, 2017 at 3:44 pm

Prime Minister’s Questions: May and Corbyn Clash on Universal Credit.

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Image result for flying saucer

Happy Universal Credit Claimants on Job Search.

The Tories seem to have decided on a policy of Stout Defence of Universal Credit.

On the World at One today some Tory MP claimed she was besieged by constituents queuing up to praise the new benefits system.

I can’t recall who it was but a Labour chap said that was surprisingly far from his experience.

Unfortunately the exchange was cut short before said Tory could tell us about the gifts of flowers and chocolate she”d had from over-the-moon claimants on Universal Credit.

Correction: that should have read, claimants, from the moon and well further afield.

Which neatly answers Corbyn today,

Jeremy Corbyn questioned “I wonder which planet the Prime Minister is on?” when she failed to see the problems with Universal Credit.

Guardian.

Jeremy Corbyn has called on Theresa May to rethink the troubled universal credit benefits system and abolish the charge for its helpline, which costs frustrated claimants up to 55p a minute to call from a mobile phone

The call happened during Prime Minister’s Question Time.

BBC

Theresa May has defended the expansion of the government’s flagship welfare reform as Jeremy Corbyn said it was increasing poverty and homelessness.

The PM said the government was listening to concerns about universal credit and said it was getting more people into work.

During Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Corbyn urged her to “wake up to reality” and pause the rollout.

And he called it “absurd” that calls to the helpline cost up to 55p a minute.

Universal credit, which merges six working-age benefits into a single payment, is being introduced in 50 job centres across the UK every month.

It is paid in arrears, and there have been complaints about the six-week wait for payments, with almost a quarter of claimants waiting for longer because of delays in the system.

In the leaders’ first clash since Parliament returned from party conference season, Mr Corbyn said the reform was “driving up poverty, debt and homelessness”, with people facing eviction due to a shortage of cash.

It was “irresponsible to press on regardless”, he said, also urging the PM to “show some humanity” and make the helpline – which costs between 3p and 55p a minute from a mobile phone – free of charge.

The Department for Work and Pensions said the hotline was charged at standard local rates so was free for many people as part of their phone contracts. It added that people could request a free call back from the department.

Mrs May said the government was building a welfare system that provided a safety net for those who need it and which also helps people to get into the workplace and earn more.

Responding to questions about payment delays, she said more people were receiving advances which are available to those in need, adding that the government would continue to monitor the roll-out.

The previous system put in place by the Labour government of 1997 to 2010 was “far too complicated” and left many people better off on benefits, she added.

Conservative MP Heidi Allen also quizzed the PM on universal credit, saying the six-week delay “just doesn’t work”.

Mrs May agreed to have a meeting with Ms Allen.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 11, 2017 at 3:11 pm

John Major Joins in Chorus Against Universal Credit.

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Image result for John major cartoon Steve bell

Major to the Rescue!

Back in the old days we all used to laugh at John Major.

Rory Bremner did a great impersonation.

There was also his affair with Edwina Currie, (BBC)

Former Prime Minister John Major has admitted he had a four-year affair with the former Conservative minister Edwina Currie.

Mr Major described it as the most shameful event of his life, but said his wife Norma had long known of the relationship and had forgiven him.

Mrs Currie made the disclosure in her diaries, which are being serialised in the Times newspaper.

The affair began in 1984 when Mrs Currie was a backbencher and Mr Major a whip in Margaret Thatcher’s government.

Mrs Currie – who later became a health minister – said the affair ended in early 1988 after his swift promotion to the Cabinet as chief secretary to the Treasury.

What the wags of the Internet could make of that today is …a happy thought.

Now Major is an elder statesman.

With Boris and Rees Mogg around – preceded stage right by Iain Duncan Smith, not to mention David Gauke – you could feel a big nostalgic for those days.

Major obviously has more than a grain of sense left.

John Major calls for Tory review of ‘unfair’ universal credit

reports the Guardian.

Former PM says party needs to ‘show its heart again’ or it risks opening door to ’return of a nightmare’.

Sir John Major has called for an urgent change of tone from the Conservative government, including a review of universal credit, which he described as “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving”.

The former prime minister said his party needed to “show its heart again, which is all too often concealed by its financial prudence”, if it hoped to fight off a Labour resurgence in the next general election.

“We are not living in normal times and must challenge innate Conservative caution,” he said.

However, he suggested the implementation of the policy, which has led some claimants to turn to foodbanks as they wait up to six weeks for payments, required a rethink.

To rub this in we learn the following today,

More than 25 Tory MPs  prepared to rebel over Universal Credit roll-out

More than 25 Tory MPs are now prepared to rebel over the Government’s flagship welfare reforms amid mounting calls for a “pause” in the roll-out of Universal Credit.

David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, last week tried to broker a truce with MPs by insisting that a system of advance payments was already in place to help those struggling when they change systems.

Despite the move, Sir John Major, the former Tory Prime Minister, described the system on Sunday as “operationally messy, socially unfair and unforgiving”.

The Guardian outlines the mammoth task before the government.

Universal credit: why is it a problem and can the system be fixed?

What are the design flaws?

There are manifold problems, but the political focus centres on the minimum 42-day wait for a first payment endured by new claimants when they move to universal credit (in practice this is often up to 60 days). For many low-income claimants, who lack savings, this in effect leaves them without cash for six weeks. The well-documented consequences for claimants of this are rent arrears (leading in some cases to eviction), hunger (food banks in universal credit areas report striking increases in referrals), use of expensive credit, and mental distress.

What have ministers proposed to do about the six-week wait?

The work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, recognised the widely held concerns about the long payment wait (including 12 of his own party’s backbenchers) in his speech to the Tory party conference on Monday. He said he was overhauling the system of advance payments available to claimants to enable them to access cash up front to see them through the six-week waiting period. Payments would be available within five days, and in extreme cases within hours.

Will this solve the problem?

The payments are loans that must be repaid. Claimants can only get an advance for a proportion of the amount they are owed as a first payment, and must repay it within six months. Normally, claimants must prove to officials that an advance is needed to pay bills, afford food or prevent illness. Official figures show about half of new universal credit claimants apply for an advance payment. Ministers say this is good news as it shows they are getting help. Critics say the high demand proves the wait is too onerous for too many people.

What other options do ministers have?

Charities and landlords could reduce the long wait marginally by cutting the seven-day “waiting period” introduced in 2013 (an arbitrary period during which new claimants are prevented from lodging a claim after being made redundant). They could introduce more flexible repayment terms for advance loans. And they could speed up the payment process (currently slower than the supposedly cumbersome “legacy” benefits they replace).

So it is all about ironing out a few technical glitches?

Not quite. Multibillion-pound cuts to work allowances imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne mean universal credit is far less generous than originally envisaged. According to the Resolution Foundation thinktank, about 2.5m low-income working households will be more than £1,000 a year worse off when they move on to universal credit. Reversing those cuts requires a political decision, not a technical fix.

What is the future for universal credit?

Gauke confirmed today that the current rollout will continue to the planned timetable (which will see, in theory, universal credit extended to about 7 million people by 2022). However, the problems of universal credit are unlikely to go away, and it has some powerful critics, including the Treasury, which has always opposed the project. It would be possible to cancel the project, or overhaul it substantially. However, some argue the billions pumped into universal credit – and the huge amount of political capital and credibility invested in it – mean it is too big to fail.

For those who’ve lost the will to live after this lot, Rory Bremner is still a laugh!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 9, 2017 at 10:22 am

Universal Credit is Working – DWP.

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Image result for universal credit cartoon david Gauke

Look Upon My Works Ye Mighty, and Tremble!

Latest on the sorry saga of Universal Credit.

Full extent of Universal Credit pain in East Lothian is revealed in shocking new reports.

East Lothian Courier,

THE full impact of Universal Credit in East Lothian has been laid bare in two new reports.

A survey carried out by East Lothian Council’s revenues and welfare support service shows the significant level of negative impact that Universal Credit (UC) is having on county recipients.

While new research carried out by the Citizens Advice Bureau in Musselburgh and Haddington has highlighted how the scheme is having a severe impact on residents.

A total of 209 people responded to the council’s survey, which showed only one quarter managed financially while waiting for their first payment.

Waiting time for that first payment was about six to eight weeks for 82 per cent of respondents, with a further 18 per cent having to hold on for longer than that.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, East Lothian Council deputy leader, said: “This research provides a shocking insight into the impact of Universal Credit on people in East Lothian. It shows that UC affects many people with ill health and disability and that almost half of all claimants need to be referred for money or debt advice.

“East Lothian Council continues to work with its partners to mitigate the impact of Universal Credit on local people and at the same time continue to campaign for improvements and changes with the Scottish and Westminster Governments.”

The survey also found that 53 per cent of respondents required a loan from their families to tide them over; 28 per cent had to get benefit advance; 10 per cent had to apply to the Scottish Welfare Fund and 14 per cent went to the foodbank.

Then there’s this:

Anyone who’s ever worked with the benefit system knows that the principle of amalgamating our overly bureaucratic social security system (where Housing Benefit is administered by your local council, tax credits by HMRC and Job Seekers Allowance by the DWP) is a good thing. Universal Credit – where benefits are combined – therefore sounds like a great idea.

But at Gingerbread, we’re seeing first-hand, through the calls to our helpline and our research, that Universal Credit is too ‘universal’ in practice. It is ignoring the needs of single parents bringing up children on their own. In the last few months I have travelled across England to interview single parents about their experience of Universal Credit and the impact it is having on them and their children.

According to the most recent DWP statistics, there are currently over 65,000 single parents receiving Universal Credit. This system is simply not ready to take on the complexity of their situations.

….

And this from the Guardian.

‘In a year, not one payment correct’: a council tenant on the misery of universal credit

The government has been warned by councils, charities and now even its own backbenchers that universal credit is a social policy disaster. But how does it feel to be on the receiving end of this controversial benefits overhaul?

In the video, visually impaired council tenant Jo King, who lives on Newcastle’s Newbiggin Hall Estate, talks about dealing with delays and miscalculations ever since she was moved on to universal credit over a year ago. She explains how she has twice been left without any benefits at all. In order to survive, she was forced to stop paying her carer and request emergency food parcels.

Let’s not forget this, if you have a problem: Phone them!

Contact Universal Credit

  1. It’s easiest to use your online journal.
  2. Or, you can call 0345 600 4272 Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm (closed on bank holidays).

Cost of calls

Calls to 03 numbers may be included in your contract. If not, calls cost up to 45p a minute from mobiles and up to 12p a minute from landlines. If you’re unsure, check with your provider.

If that’s too pricey adapt and update this top-tip from the reputable advisers of Viz.

Image result for Viz Top tip save money phone calls

If you have connection problems try this:

Image result for Viz Top tip save money phone calls

Meanwhile the Chronicle has the scoop of the year.

All of the above is Fake News!

A further Hat-tip to those douty chaps and chapettes in the DWP!

Universal Credit is working and, despite calls for the controversial policy to be put on hold, it’s roll out is to continue.

That’s according to the Department for Work and Pensions in response to questions we put to it as increasing criticism of it leading 12 Conservative MPs to call for it to be put on hold.

The Tory flagship reform of the benefits system, rolling together six benefits (including unemployment benefit, tax credits and housing benefit) into one, online-only system, has been piloted in Newcastle .

However, due to late payments it has seen recipients needing to take out loans to feed themselves and also caused rent arrears.

Here is the DWP’s response to our questions in full.

1. Universal Credit has been characterised in many quarters as a failure so far. Do you think that’s fair?

A DWP spokesman said: “Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes. It provides additional, tailored support to help people move into work and stop claiming benefits altogether.

“And it’s working. With Universal Credit, people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.

“Universal Credit is already in every Jobcentre for single claimants, and we are rolling it out to a wider range of people in a safe and controlled way.”

2. The biggest issue is the delay in the first payment which is often six weeks while 10 and 12 week delays are not uncommon. What is being done about this?

The DWP spokesperson said that if someone cannot wait for a first payment because they are in financial need, we want to make sure they can claim an advance payment as quickly as possible. Once we know they are entitled to an advance it is paid within three working days. If someone is in urgent need a payment can be made on the same day.

3. And what about problems of late payments in general?

The DWP spokesperson said its latest research shows that around 80% of all new claims were paid in full and on time. In June 2017, 92% of all claimants received their full payment on time and the trend is improving.

The DWP said that when new claims are not paid on time, it is estimated that two-thirds have an outstanding verification issue, such as providing bank statements, evidence of childcare costs, or proof of rent. Other times it’s because a claimant has not signed their claimant commitment.

4. In Newcastle it has been reported that 80% of council tenants on Universal Credit are in arrears? Do you accept that figure. If not, what is your figure?

The DWP said it could not speak about specific centres.

However the spokesperson said Universal Credit gives people control over their finances, and paying their own rent is an important part of this – just like someone in work would do.

5. There were calls among even a number of Conservative MPs for the roll out to be delayed. Why is the roll out going ahead anyway?

The DWP spokesperson said this was a political question which it couldn’t address and referred us to the speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester.

At it Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke said he recognised concerns over prolonged waiting periods. He said people in hardship will now be able to have their payments ‘fast tracked’ – meaning they’d get a payment within five days – or on the same day in emergency cases.

But he said the system’s roll-out would go ahead as planned, despite calls for a delay until all issues – including problems with the Universal Credit helpline are addressed.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 6, 2017 at 10:37 am

Universal Credit Introduction to Continue as Gaucke Eyes Chancellor’s Jobs.

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Image result for david gauke caricature

From Springboard of  Universal Credit to Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Yesterday:

David Gauke Reveals He Wants To Be Chancellor Of The Exchequer

The Huffington Post continues:

But Tory cabinet minister plays down idea he could become prime minister.

It was expected that he is as deaf as doorpost to all the misery he’s left in his wake, so no surprise to see this:

Today:

Universal credit rollout will go ahead despite Tory MPs’ call for delay

Reports  the Guardian.

Work and pensions secretary David Gauke confirms introduction of controversial benefit will continue as planned.

The government is to press ahead with its rollout of universal credit, the work and pensions secretary has confirmed, despite a last-minute appeal from Tory backbenchers for a delay.

More than a dozen Conservative MPs had raised concerns with David Gauke’s department that claimants were being forced to use food banks because of the mandatory six-week wait to receive money.

On Monday, the MP who led the plea, Heidi Allen, appealed directly to Theresa May to intervene.

But in his speech to the Conservative party conference in Manchester, Gauke praised the controversial system, which is being gradually introduced around the country.

“Universal credit is working,” he said. “So I can confirm that the rollout will continue, and to the planned timetable.

“We’re not going to rush things; it is more important to get this right than to do this quickly, and this won’t be completed until 2022. But across the country, we will continue to transform our welfare system to further support those who aspire to work.”

Gauke said the government would be “refreshing the guidance” to staff at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over the possibility of giving advance payments to claimants in difficulty.

“Claimants who want an advance payment will not have to wait six weeks, they will receive this advance within five working days,” Gauke said. “And if someone is in immediate need, then we fast-track the payment, meaning they will receive it on the same day.”

Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary, condemned the confirmation of the rollout, saying Gauke “should immediately end the misery caused by the six-week wait for payment of universal credit”.

Charities and campaign groups also expressed concern. Child Poverty Action Group said it welcomed the government being more proactive on advance payments, but its chief executive, Alison Garnham, said: “Given the serious and wide-ranging concerns about nearly every aspect of universal credit, we had hoped for more on how the government plans to address the funding, policy design and administrative problems plaguing universal credit before it is rolled out to families.”

Meanwhile: Theresa May asked about woman who has 4p to her name due to Universal Credit.

Department for Work and Pensions data shows that 42 per cent of families in arrears under Universal Credit said it was due to the waiting time to receive payment, support being delayed or stopped, or administrative errors in the system.

From the Independent.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 2, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Speaking out on Universal Credit Disaster.

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Image result for universal credit

 

Well we did, finally find one Labour politician speaking about Universal Credit this week.

Newcastle was chosen for an experiment with Universal Credit and it was a disaster

Chronicle. 

Leader of Newcastle City Council says the rest of the country will be in for a shock when Universal Credit is rolled out

And he said the rest of the country would be “in for a shock” when Universal Credit is rolled out across the rest of the country.

Speaking at an event during Labour’s annual conference in Brighton, council leader Nick Forbes said most people on Universal Credit in Newcastle were behind on their rent payments.

And in some cases this put them at risk of becoming homeless.

Universal Credit is a new benefit created by the Government to replace a range of existing payments including housing benefit.

It has been introduced gradually, with some places moving onto the new system before others.

Mr Forbes, who is also leader of the Labour group in the Local Government Association, said: “We are the first whole city to be a pilot area for the rollout of Universal Credit.

“And if Universal Credit is rolled out in the same way as it’s affected my city, the country is in for a hell of a shock.

“Because we’ve found that the vast majority of people on Universal Credit in Newcastle are in rent arrears.

“And if the are in rent areas in the social rented sector then we can deal with that, because we can work with them and provide them with support.

“But if they are in rent arears of sometimes 16 to 18 weeks in the private rented sector, that is causing havoc with homelessness and making sure that people feel secure in their own homes.”

Your Homes Newcastle, which manages homes on behalf of Newcastle City Council, told an inquiry by MPs that it was helping struggling claimants to try to prevent them becoming homeless.

Donna Gallagher, Universal Credit Implementation Manager at Your Homes Newcastle, highlighted the difficulties as she gave evidence to the Commons Work and Pensions Committee at a hearing in Westminster.

She said: “In terms of rent arrears, we’ve got over £1.1m additional rent arrears as a result of the cohort, which is just shy of 3,000 that we know about, that is claiming Universal Credit full service.”

Newcastle City Council said delays in sending the first payment to claimants was “frequently referred to as a fundamental problem with Universal Credit”.

In a written submission to the inquiry, the council said: “We think that Universal Credit can place some vulnerable residents at risk of destitution and homelessness.”

Just out….Eastern Daily Press (Principally Norfolk).

The EDP says… Universal Credit must be fixed before roll-out continues

Universal Credit has led to people falling into debt as they wait weeks for their first payments. 

It is right for the government to slowly roll out dramatic changes such as universal credit.

But when problems with it are exposed in that gradual introduction the government must stop and listen.

The criticisms of this benefit change are not coming from one political party but from a range of MPs, tenants, landlords and charities.

Those affected by the reform are best placed to say whether it is working – not a civil servant in Whitehall.

It is unusual for Citizens Advice to take such a strong position on government welfare changes as it does in today’s article.

We have seen evidence from Great Yarmouth, where it was introduced last spring, that universal credit in its current form is causing huge problems.

People in need of benefits can not wait a minimum of six weeks for payment. Asking them to wait that length of time causes added misery for those already in a desperate situation.

Universal credit should be there to help them, not plunge them into rent arrears.

It is also very worrying that landlords are refusing to take tenants on universal credit. This again adds to the problems faced by those who have just lost jobs.

Before it is introduced anywhere else delays around paying it must be fixed.

When problems with a system have been exposed, it is irresponsible of the government to continue regardless.

End the Benefit Freeze!

Written by Andrew Coates

September 28, 2017 at 2:54 pm

The Labour Conference: When will the Party offer an Alternative to failed Universal Credit scheme?

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Image result for universal credit

Is Labour Ready to Mend this?

Anybody hoping for a serious debate on the major issue facing millions of people faced with Universal Credit will be looking to the Labour Party.

Well, while John McDonnell talks about plans to ” cap credit card interest payments” there are no signs of one at the Labour Conference.

Yesterday Nick Cohen wrote,

Universal credit is a shambles because the poor are ignored 

Poverty is a disease that silences its victims. It is impossible to imagine a government or institution designing a programme to combat racism without listening to members of ethnic minorities or a new road without consulting the home and business owners it would disturb. The poor, however, never have a say. Society infantilises them. It deems them no more worthy of an opinion on the welfare state that rules and increasingly wrecks their lives than it deems schoolchildren worthy of an opinion on the national curriculum.

We will see the doleful consequences as universal credit rolls out from being a niche benefit forced on a few hundred thousand claimants in pilot projects to the essential living allowance for eight million people. In theory, it’s a lovely idea. Even now, critics always begin by saying: “Of course, everyone agrees the benefit system must be simplified but…” Or: “Iain Duncan Smith had noble aims but…” It is as if the mere presence of good intentions is enough to dilute objections; as if, not only conservative commentators but liberals and leftists have never heard of the road to hell – and what paves it.

It is hard not to disagree with comrade Cohen’s conclusion:

The argument about poverty has become an argument between the left and right wings of the middle class. Universal credit is the malign result of the failure to listen to working-class voices or develop the imaginative sympathy to understand the constraints on their lives. In no other area of public policy would we accept it, but with the poor we nod it through without a blush of shame.

Bang on time the Guardian today follows the story up today, Priya Thethi, Universal credit is a social policy disaster in the making

Universal credit is the biggest change to our welfare system in 40 years. By the time it has been fully rolled out in 2022 it will potentially affect 8 million people across the UK. The rollout so far has been controversial, and fraught with difficulties. Social housing organisations, in which only around 2.6% of tenants (pdf) are currently claiming universal credit, have been hit particularly hard by the speed and scale of the change.

In August 2017 the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) released a guide for landlords, in a bid to to explain what the changes will mean and how they can support their tenants. Unfortunately, it made little to no mention of how to deal with the slew of administrative issues, faults and delays, which have already caused hardship for so many claimants.

Take note Labour Party!

Last week the BBC showed a documentary about the Manchester Police: The Detectives, Murder on the Streets.

There’s another, sadder story: a tale of two cities within one. Two Britains, even. Within sight of – but unnoticed from – smart downtown offices and yuppy flats, in a homeless camp under a railway arch, a man is murdered. An anonymous charred body, until he is identified from fingerprints from the one hand that remains unburned. Then he becomes someone, 23-year-old Daniel Smith, with friends and family who loved him and will miss him. “They are never going to get over it,” says Supt Chadwick, who now has a duty to make sure whoever killed Danny is brought to justice.

Viewers of the programme will know that vital CCTV evidence was lacking because the cameras were trained on the said offices and flats.

Something like that seems to be happening with Universal Credit.

For all the furore rightly stirred up by MPs and the media, key sections of the public have turned their backs.

End the Benefit Freeze. 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 25, 2017 at 9:59 am