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Esther McVey: Universal Credit, an “agile, adaptable system, fit for the 21st century.”

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Esther McVey hails universal credit scheme as ‘great British innovation’, days after scathing watchdog report.

Independent.

Since it is exceptional that the  The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  Ms Esther McVey  takes time off from her busy schedule to do her Ministerial job trather than the press reports  it is worth looking at the full statement she made today in the House of Commons in Hansard.

Universal Credit and Welfare Changes

It includes this:

Today, I am updating the House on the changes we have made to UC as a result of this iterative approach we are taking. That is why last autumn we abolished the seven waiting days from the application process; we put in place the two-week housing benefit run-on to smooth the transition for an applicant moving to UC from the previous system; we ensured that advance payments could be applied for from day one of the application process, for up to 100% of a person’s indicative total claim; and we extended the recovery period for these advances to 12 months. Extra training was given to our work coaches to embed these changes.

Prior to that, we also changed the UC telephone lines to a freephone number to ensure ease of access for claimants enquiring about their claim. Earlier this year we reinstated housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds, and ensured that kinship carers are exempt from tax credits changes. Just last week, we announced changes to support the severely disabled when they transition on to UC; within our reforms, we want to ensure that the most vulnerable get the support they need. These proactive changes were made to enhance our new benefits system.

….

Let me turn to the report on universal credit published last week by the National Audit Office, which did not take into account the impact of our recent changes. Our analysis shows that universal credit is working. We already know that it helps more people into work, and to stay in work, than the legacy system. Universal credit has brought together six main benefits, which were administered by different local and national Government agencies. Once fully rolled out, it will be a single, streamlined system, reducing administration costs and providing value for money for all our citizens. The cost per claim has already reduced by 7% since March 2018 and is due to reduce to £173 by 2024-25—around £50 less per claim than legacy cases currently cost us to process.

Beyond the timespan of the NAO report, we have greatly improved our payment timeliness: around 80% of claimants are paid on time, after their initial assessment period. Where new claims have not been paid in full and on time, two thirds have been found to have some form of verification outstanding. Verification is a necessary part of any benefits system and citizens expect such measures to be in place. We need to ensure that we pay the right people the right amount of money.

As opposed to the wrong people the wrong money…..

Turning her face resolutely to the gales The Rt Hon MInister  ends on a note of defiance:

In conclusion, we are building an agile, adaptable system, fit for the 21st century. We want people to reach their potential, regardless of their circumstances or background, and we will make changes, when required, to achieve that ambition. I commend this statement to the House.

Labour’s Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) replied saying notably,

The Secretary of State says that universal credit is based on leading-edge technology and agile working practices. However, the National Audit Office report says that 38% of claimants were unable to verify their identity online and had to go to a jobcentre to do so. It makes no sense to accelerate the roll-out of universal credit at the same time as rapidly closing jobcentres. The NAO report reveals that a significant number of people struggle to make and manage their claim online. The Department for Work and Pensions’ own survey found that nearly half of claimants are unable to make a claim online unassisted, and that a fifth of claims are failing at an early stage because claimants are not able to navigate the online system.

The Government claim that the introduction of universal credit will result in 200,000 more people finding long-term work than under legacy benefits. They repeatedly cite evidence from 2014-15, but that was before the cuts to work allowances were introduced and covers only single unemployed people without children. If one looks at the range of claimants in areas where universal credit has been rolled out, there is no evidence that it is helping more people find long-term work. Delays in payments are pushing people into debt and rent arrears on such a scale that private and even social landlords are becoming increasingly reluctant to rent to universal credit claimants.

The NAO report also points out that 20% of claimants are not being paid in full and on time, and more than one in 10 are not receiving any payment on time. The people who are most at need from the social security system are the ones most likely to have to wait for payments. A quarter of carers, over 30% of families who need support with childcare and, most shockingly of all, two thirds of disabled people are not being paid in full and on time. The report points out that the Department does not expect the time limits of the payments to improve over the course of this year, and that it believes that it is unreasonable for all claimants to expect that they will be paid on time because of the need to verify each claim. Does the Secretary of State find the expectations of her own Department acceptable? She has made some claims that things have improved greatly since the closure of the report, so will she substantiate that by putting that information in the Library?

The impact of universal credit on some of our most vulnerable people is clear. Universal support is supposed to help people, but funding is severely limited and provision is patchy. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of it? Is she satisfied that her Department is doing enough to support people who are struggling?

Universal credit was supposed to offer personalised support to claimants, but stressed and overloaded staff are often failing to identify vulnerable claimants. The DWP is aiming to increase the workloads of work coaches fourfold and of case managers nearly sixfold as the Government try to cut the cost of universal credit still further.

The NAO is very clear that the DWP should not expand universal credit until it is able to cope with business as usual. The Government must now listen to the NAO, stop the roll-out of universal credit, and fix the flaws before any more people are pushed into poverty by a benefit that is meant to protect them from it. Universal credit is having a devastating impact on many people and will reach 8.5 million by 2024-25. The Secretary of State must now wake up to the misery being caused by her policy.

In her response McVey relied on the DWP alternative facts service,

Please allow me, Mr Deputy Speaker, to mention some of the real people I have met and spoken to and what they are saying about universal credit. Shafeeq, who was homeless, got an advance that got him temporary accommodation and put him in a better place to look for work. He said it

“helped me out a great deal and I’d have been lost without it”.

He is now in a job. Lisa said an advance payment helped her to secure a place with a childcare provider. She is paying it back over 12 months, which she says means a great deal to her. Gemma, a lone parent, said,

“it’s amazing being able to claim nearly all my childcare costs back, it’s a real incentive to go out to work – I’m going to be better off each week”.

Ben in Devon had a work coach, who helped him to progress in work from day one. Ryan from Essex had a lack of work experience and confidence, and his work coach helped him through universal credit. I will end it there—with the people receiving the benefit.

This gem should not go unnoticed,

I thank my right hon. Friend for her statement. The NAO report is, to be frank, a shoddy piece of work. It has simply failed—[Interruption.] Genuinely; anyone who reads it—I do not know if anyone on the Opposition Benches has bothered—will realise that it fails to take account of a series of issues, not the least of which are that the Treasury signed off annual recurring savings of £8 billion and, more importantly, that the changes last November and December have made a huge difference to people’s lives. I urge her to carry on and to tell the Public Accounts Committee to ask the question: who polices this policeman? This piece of work does it no credit at all. Will she now apply her efforts to universal support to make sure that every council area delivers the extra bit that is supposed to go alongside universal credit?

Obvious a well-shoddy copper, these uncreditworthy types behind the NAO.

Esther smiles, smirks and simpers,

My right hon. Friend has done more than most people in the House to support people into work, and I thank him for his question. He emphasises the point about universal support—the £200 million for local councils—to help people with debt management and IT. That is one thing we are definitely doing. Equally, he raises an important point about the NAO report. I am sure that Opposition Members have not read it. It does not say stop the roll-out; it says continue with the roll-out and do it faster. Please read about stuff before talking about it!

Wise advice!

To further Parliamentary questions  the Rt Hon continues in this vein (various McVey replies).

“We have said quite clearly that this report is out of date and does not take into account the significant changes that we have made.”

“Genuine people who get support from work coaches are saying, “It has transformed our lives.””

“I invite the hon. Lady to visit a jobcentre and meet the coaches in her area to see how revolutionary this process is.”

“The hon. Lady should stop scaremongering. “

 “Darren from Wales, who was put on a confidence course—we were utilising our flexible support fund—said:“My…work coach was fantastic…helped me turn my life around…fulfilling a lifelong dream”.”

 If anybody has been made homeless through this, I will meet them.

“Think about technology, automation and people online—the world has changed. We have to deal with the gig economy, with flexible working hours, with part-time and multiple jobs, and with the difference in working life for people who have caring responsibilities for children and adults. That is what this system takes into account; the legacy system could not do that.”

Please look sometimes at the positive news and help your constituents a little bit more by focusing them on that additional support.

“It was lovely listening to my hon. Friend—my learned friend, who knows so much about technology—because those words needed to be heard. As I said, this is at the leading edge of technology. Great Britain is leading the way. Countries that are coming to see us range from Sweden to the United States, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Canada, Cyprus, France and Denmark. They all want to know how it works to take it back home to their countries.”

“I thank the right hon. Gentleman for mentioning work coaches in such a positive way, because they are doing a significant amount of work, and I hear only praise wherever I go. “

we have provided significantly more money for the most vulnerable, particularly for those with disability and health conditions. We want to support people into work and reduce poverty.”

If you are too exhausted after this long bout of stout denial just look at this:

We have said that the NAO report sadly was out of date and therefore has not taken into account all the changes that have been made. That is unfortunate, because it means that the report is not a true reflection of what is happening. It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman was not here for the statement, but if he reads it in Hansard tomorrow, he will have his answers on how well the system is working.

Reactions are now pouring in:
Frank Field, the chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, said: “Rather than that banal offering, which did nothing for our poorest constituents, a more realistic statement from the secretary of state would have acknowledged that universal credit is helping to transform the welfare state from one which protects people from poverty, to one that drives them into destitution.”

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Written by Andrew Coates

June 21, 2018 at 3:34 pm

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.

 

Universal Credit – Rubbish (Official). National Audit Office Report.

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This morning on the BBC Breakfast carried a report on this “The National Audit Office said the £1.9bn Universal Credit system could end up costing more to administer than the benefits system it is replacing.”

Key findings in the National Audit Office included:

  • Eight years after work began on UC, only 10% (815,000) of the expected eventual number of claimants are on the system
  • Some 20% of those paid late – usually the more needy and complicated cases – were waiting five months or more to be paid
  • Ministers would never know if their aim of putting 200,000 extra people in employment, or saving £2.1bn in fraud and error, would work
  • Government expectations that UC would deliver £8bn of net benefits annually depended on “unproven assumptions”
  • UC currently costs £699 per claim – four times as much as the government intends to spend when the systems are fully developed
  • So many changes had been made to job centres and working practices that there is no “alternative but to continue”

To discuss it they had a woman from the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and some ponce from  the Centre for Social Justice (set up by… Iain Duncan Smith, yes really…).

The CAB spokesperson said a few home truths about what a mess UC has been for many people.

The Mr Ponceworth admitted a few spots on the Sun of Universal Credit but said it has proved its worth as a way of helping people back to work.

Since us Bloggers and our contributors have been going on about the mess from the origins of UC it would have been good to have somebody form our side on.

But the report is devastating enough.

Summary – Rolling out Universal Credit.

Key facts £1.9bn spend to date on Universal Credit, comprising £1.3bn on investment and £0.6bn on running costs £8.0bn

Department for Work & Pensions’ expectation of the annual net benefi tof Universal Credit, which remains unproven

Number of late payments of new claims in 2017,113,000.

Other elements:

  • One in five claimants do not receive their full payment on time.
  • Universal Credit is creating additional costs for local organisations that help administer Universal Credit and support claimants.
  • Some claimants have struggled to adjust to Universal Credit. We spoke to local and national bodies that, together, work with a significant minority of claimants. They showed us evidence that many of these people have suffered difficulties and hardship during the rollout of the full service. These have resulted from a combination of issues with the design of Universal Credit and its implementation. The Department has found it difficult to identify and track those who it deems vulnerable. It has not measured how many Universal Credit claimants are having difficulties because it does not have systematic means of gathering intelligence from delivery partners. The Department does not accept that Universal Credit has caused hardship among claimants, because it makes advances available, and it said that if claimants take up these opportunities hardship should not occur. However in its survey of full service claimants, published in June 2018, the Department found that four in ten claimants that were surveyed were experiencing financial difficulties.

This is a good newspaper report.

NAO says core claims about flagship welfare programme are based on unproven assumptions

  Guardian.

The government’s ambitious change to the benefits system, universal credit, fails to deliver promised financial savings or employment benefits and leaves thousands of vulnerable claimants in hardship, according to the public spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office effectively demolishes ministerial claims for universal credit, concluding that the much-delayed flagship welfare programme may end up costing more than the benefit system it replaces, cannot prove it helps more claimants into work and is unlikely to ever deliver value for money.

The NAO report paints a damning picture of a system that despite more than £1bn in investment, eight years in development and a much hyped digital-only approach to transforming welfare, is still in many respects unwieldy, inefficient and reliant on basic, manual processes.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “We think the larger claims for universal credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”

Opposition politicians and campaigners seized on the report to renew calls for universal credit to be delayed and its multiple design flaws fixed before the government continues its rollout to millions more claimants over the next four years.

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow secretary for work and pensions, said: “This report shows just how disastrously wrong the government has got the rollout of universal credit. It has shamelessly ignored warning after warning about the devastating impact its flagship welfare reform has had on people’s lives.

“The government is accelerating the rollout in the face of all of the evidence, using human beings as guinea pigs. It must fix the fundamental flaws in universal credit and make sure that vulnerable people are not pushed into poverty because of its policies.”

Our friends in the Mirror– who have covered the story with great verve for a long time –  noted this,

 …campaigners have used the report to call for reform of the benefit, which has already cost the state £1.9bn to date.

There are many, many, other news articles on the National Audit Office report….

This is another BBC report.

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!

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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.

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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