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Archive for the ‘Universal Jobmatch’ Category

Local Impact of £20 a Week Universal Credit Cut: Ipswich Onwards…

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No Cuts To Universal Credit | Megaphone UK

Yesterday East Anglia Bylines carried this story:

Universal Credit cuts threaten Tory MPs in the East

Stephen McNair

Extracts.

The government’s planned cuts to Universal Credit will hit one family in five in East Anglia. Will the region’s Conservative MPs dare to back the Chancellor’s plan?

What about East Anglia?

In East Anglia 320,000 families receive Universal Credit, more than half of them with children. Forty percent of these claimants are in work, but not earning enough to meet the minimum needs for basic living. In every constituency more than 10% of families are on Universal Credit, and that percentage rises to over 25% in five of them (see table below). So the blow is going to be felt right across the region.

Will our region’s Conservative MP’s back the cut?

Thirty nine of the region’s 41 MPs are Conservatives, and the Party has traditionally been opposed to generous welfare benefits of any kind. However twelve of the region’s Conservative MPs have majorities smaller than the number of Credit claimants.  At the extreme, in Peterborough Paul Bristow MP has a majority of only 2,580, but 18,360 voters on Universal Credit.

So the Universal Credit cut is a real threat to at least ten of the region’s MPs, especially in Peterborough, Ipswich and Norwich North, where the Conservatives hold the seat with narrow majorities.  

Note, one would hope so, but people in working class Peterborough have already voted for those opposed to their own interests.

In Waveney, Peter Aldous has already written to the Prime Minister calling for the cut to be cancelled.  It will be interesting to see how large a rebellion there will be on the government benches when the issue comes to Parliament. Will our MPs be prepared to inflict cuts on such a large proportion of their own constituents, or will they swallow their traditional principles, and vote to block this cut?

Note, it is to be very much doubted that (many?) others will follow, though some might. The hard right Ipswich Tory MP Tom Hunt is more obsessed with fighting ‘cultural Marxism’ than standing up for constituents on Universal Credit.

One can hardly avoid mentioning that the MP for Suffolk Coastal, which adjoins Ipswich is this figure is the DWP Minister carrying out the brutal cuts…

Where will the cuts bite hardest?

The constituencies most affected are listed here. All are held by Conservatives (we highlight one..)

ConstituencyCountyMP2019 MajorityFamilies on universal credit or working tax creditsPercentage of families on universal credit or working tax credits
IpswichSuffolkTom Hunt5,47912,20024.3%

Yesterday the Ipswich Star published this:

‘Massive impact’ as 58,000 people to lose £20 a week in benefits

Citizens Advice has found itself helping many more younger people during the pandemic, with Mrs Harrison saying the “jobs they were in are no longer there”.

She has argued that a “delay would be ideal – especially to try to get over the winter period”.

Waveney (Note, this includes Lowestoft which has a large working class and some very poor areas) MP Peter Aldous is one of those calling for the £20 a week uplift to be made permanent.

Today, local press is doing its job.

‘Forced to live off £8.30 a day’ – man’s fear at impending benefit cut.

The princely sum of £8.30 might buy you a cinema ticket, a meal for one at a restaurant or a couple of ready meals from the supermarket.

But one Universal Credit claimant from Suffolk is facing up to the harsh reality of a life where that will be his daily budget – as he braces himself for a £20 a week cut to his benefits.

The claimant, a young autistic adult with chronic fatigue syndrome, was an electrician before the pandemic and lost his job in a kitchen as the Covid crisis started.

Since then, the man – who has asked us not to use his name – said he has been “struggling on the benefit system”.

This is a familiar story to our readers,

He says this is “barely enough as it is” – but with the government set to remove the uplift on October 6, the claimant is now asking: “How do they expect everyone to survive?”

“It will cause devastation to so many families across the UK,” said the man, who is one of 58,069 people in the county claiming Universal Credit.

“I can barely afford the things I need with the £20 uplift.

The details makes it worse.

When it gets reduced, people will be forced to live off of £8.30 a day, roughly. This is disgusting and cannot be allowed to happen.”

The claimant also argues the the DWP’s removal of the uplift contradicts letters he has had from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), which warn of the continuing dangers of Covid-19.

“How on one side can the DWP cut off financial support to the most vulnerable people in our society, with the excuse of ‘this was only a temporary increase because of the coronavirus pandemic’, and then on the same day the DHSC can send me a letter saying that Covid-19 remains a threat?.

“So the DWP is saying we don’t need to provide you extra financial support, but the DHSC is saying that the virus remains a threat? It is so ignorantly stupid and a contradiction.

“The Covid-19 pandemic is very much still happening. Those who are vulnerable and disabled in our society still do not feel safe to return to normal.

“The DWP cannot be allowed to get away with this.”

Hats off to the Ipswich Star and the East Anglian Daily Times for the report.

This story can be reproduced across the country, and it is not hard to imagine our contributors having worse experiences of living on existing benefits. Not hard because many have written about it.

There are of course those on Legacy Benefits who never got the uplift.

UK Government urged to scrap plans to axe £20 Universal Credit increase.

ITV.

Ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have called on the UK Government to scrap plans to axe the £20 increase to Universal Credit and instead make the higher rate of payment permanent.

In a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey, they branded the change, which is due to come into effect in September, as the “biggest overnight reduction to a basic rate of social security since the modern welfare state began, more than 70 years ago.”

Ministers from Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont raised concerns about the impact the reduction would have on poverty.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 30, 2021 at 5:29 pm

“I need Loans for Basics” – Universal Credit in Action.

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Image

Thérèse Coffey Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The Eastern Daily Press reports (23rd of February),

‘I need loans for basics’ – number of people claiming Universal Credit nearly doubles

Universal Credit is ‘plunging people into debt’, campaign groups say, as figures show the number of claimants in the east has risen to 214,000.

Just 12 months ago 24,933 people in the region were claiming UC, showing an increase of 178pc year-on-year.

Will Quince, minister for welfare delivery, said this shows the scheme “is helping to support thousands of people across the east of England as they look for work”.

“The number of claimants has doubled, and food banks in the region have also seen twice as many people this year,” said Mark Harrison, chairman of Norfolk Against Universal Credit.

“UC plunges you into debt which you are forced to repay back at an unreasonable rate further compounding the debt.”

Launched in 2016, UC merged six benefits in a rework of the benefits system that sees payments reduced as you earn more.

The scheme was criticised after former chancellor George Osborne made it so those on the scheme and working would pay the government 63p of every £1 earned.

Mr Harrison said: “It’s indicative that we live in a region where wages are below the national average, people can’t live on slave wages.

“People have less to live on, and this has a knock on effect on the NHS and mental health services.”

The Mirror reports, (22nd of February),

Sheila Shepherd has been told by social housing provider Plymouth Community Homes she must pay more than £12,000 towards the renovation of her home in Plymouth

Shrinking value of Universal Credit payments

New figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal the shrinking value of social security benefits in the UK, as a leading charity calls for urgent improvements to the widely condemned Universal Credit system.

Figures published today (Tuesday) show that the value of Universal Credit payments have reduced in real-terms since the new benefit was introduced in 2013.

Data shows that the monthly payment for a single person in April 2019 was worth 88% of what it was in April 2013, according to the Retail Price Index (RPI).

In April 2013 the Universal Credit rate was £246.81 for under 25s and £311.55 for those aged 25 or over. By April 2019 the Universal Credit rate was £251.77 for under 25s and £317.82 for those aged 25 or over.

However, when considering RPI, the real value of Universal Credit has dropped since April 2013 from £285.09 for under 25s and from £359.87 for those aged 25.

Lords daily allowance more than monthly Universal Credit payment

The new daily allowance for the “unelected and unaccountable” House of Lords is set to rise to £323. The monthly allowance for a single person over 25 on Universal Credit is £317.82.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2020 at 10:39 am

Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State. Hats off to the BBC!

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The BBC documentary on Universal Credit showed a side of life a lot people know about, and yet some do not.

I thought it was a fine investigation.

The investigation showed ordinary people, people you could know, grappling with a system that, for many, makes their lives worse.

Debt, on the pitiful level of benefits, is a major problem.

They programme makers could have showed a lot worse…..

They did run the smug, no doubt richly rewarded,  git at the DWP head office who thinks that UC is the shining future…

Hats off to the BBC for Universal Credit: Inside The Welfare State

The thread in the programme last night that struck me was how hard it is to juggle working on a zero hour contract and any kind of decent life.

Universal Credit clearly did not help.

This is how some people saw it,

Bolton News.

Viewers hit out at Universal Credit ‘vultures’ after BBC show centres on Bolton

VIEWERS of a BBC show have hit out at the government after an episode set in Bolton showed people struggling to deal with the Universal Credit system.

The final episode of Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State was aired last night and showed two struggling women, Jenny and Paula, who are trying to navigate the new rules around benefits.

20 year-old Jenny finds a waitressing job which appeals to her. However, she quickly realises that the zero-hour contract makes her shift pattern unpredictable.

As Universal Credit is paid a month in arrears it can leave her with very little to live off and confused about how much money she will get on a monthly basis.

Paula takes advantage of an advanced payment system to get her money earlier. But, she is not used to receiving this amount of money in one payment, and spends much of it quickly leaving her struggling to survive on what’s left.

The show drew a strong reaction from viewers and many were angry at the way the system works.

Twitter user MidBoss wrote: “Saw trending, was reminded that the vultures at DWP once tried to sanction me for attending a doctor’s appointment to alleviate a serious health concern.

“Meanwhile, the landed gentry sleep in the House of Lords and get paid to do so.”

Others had even more difficult battles with the system.

One Twitter user wrote: “I was unemployed for 5 years on JSA under the job centre’s boot, do you have any idea how it feels to be rejected for every single job interview for 5 years without feedback?

“I was close to suicide before I got into university, lucky really.”

Another Twitter user Sean Michael said: “A huge portion of people on UC are hard working people who want to do the most they can.”

Mirror:

People were disgusted at the problems in Universal Credit where claimants end up in debt, in the last episode of BBC show Inside the Welfare State.

Twitter user Martyn G said: “Just watching the BBC programme on Universal Credit and these Middle Class Morons who have been running the DWP have been hiding their fat heads in the sand with regards to the Delay in payments having a direct effect on hardship and foodbank use!”

Amongst many comments this stands out:

Twitter user Thomas Hemingford said: “With Universal Credit and work, the system leaves people constantly chasing their tails, not knowing if they’ll have money for bills. It’s no way to live, you can’t plan, and you can’t build a life like that.”

And then later: “Universal Credit crushes people. It causes severe anxiety and mental health problems. Not just amongst adults, but children, too. It pushes people into a debt spiral. That does not help anyone.”

One viewer tweeted that they had worked in finance and analysis for 21 years before they “became unable to work” and went onto Universal Credit after moving towns.

They said they “keep meticulous budgeting spreadsheets for myself and even I came unstuck during the 5-week wait”.

This is Coffey’s latest Tweet..

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 19, 2020 at 4:46 pm

House of Lords Launch Inquiry, Headed by Thatcherite Lord Forsyth, into Universal Credit.

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This Blog, and contributors, have lost count of the inquiries into Universal Credit.

About the only time I took any interest in a House of Lords debate was when this one happened,

 

Now we have this:

Peers to probe Universal Credit

Lords committee launches inquiry on how the ‘reform’ might be reformed.

Bill Tanner

Peers are probing Universal Credit, with a key Lords committee calling for evidence on how the ‘reform’ might be reformed.

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee will make recommendations to government on its findings.

But the inquiry is reserved to England and Wales with Universal Credit a partially devolved matter in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Our Committee will consider if the original objectives of Universal Credit are still fit for purpose and able to provide adequate and fair social security – we will then make our recommendations to Government in due course,” said committee chair Lord Forsyth.

Overall, the Committee will examine whether Universal Credit is meeting its original objectives and whether the policy assumptions reflected in its design are appropriate for different groups of claimants.

“To inform our work we want to hear from as broad a range of people as possible – we encourage anyone with experience or expertise on the issue under investigation to share their views,” said Lord Forsyth.

His Lordship is a close associate of the hard right Adam Smith Institute.

And,

Chairman of Secure Trust Bank, and a Director of J&J Denholm and of Denholm Logistics Ltd. He was a director and Chairman of Hyperion Insurance Group until its merger with RKH Group in 2015. A former Deputy Chairman of JPMorgan UK and Evercore Partners International, he was knighted in 1997 and appointed to the House of Lords in 1999. He is a member of the Privy Council and served on the Development Boards of the Royal Society and the National Portrait Gallery. He is also a past President of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland.

Michael Forsyth, Baron Forsyth of Drumlean

Wikipedia.

More background,

Lord Forsyth: Thatcherite who rose through the Tory ranks

The Montrose-born politician was one of the key right-wing members of the Tory governments of the late 1980s and early 1990s. No stranger to controversy, he once said that Margaret Thatcher was one of the most compassionate people he had ever met.

Before his election as MP for Stirling during the Tory landslide of 1983, he worked as a public relations executive in London. It was during this period that the then Mr Forsyth, an early, enthusiastic advocate of Thatcherism, was elected as a Tory member of the City of Westminster Council.

Economic Affairs Committee

The economics of Universal Credit inquiry

Scope of inquiry

This inquiry investigates the economic impacts of Universal Credit. The inquiry will investigate whether Universal Credit is meeting its original objectives, whether the policy assumptions reflected in its design are appropriate for different groups of claimants and the extent to which Universal Credit meets the needs of claimants in today’s labour market and changing world of work. The Committee will make recommendations to the Government.

Call for evidence

Send a written submission

Focus of the inquiry

The Committee will examine whether Universal Credit is meeting its original objectives and whether the policy assumptions reflected in its design are appropriate for different groups of claimants. It will also examine the extent to which Universal Credit meets the needs of claimants in today’s labour market and changing world of work.

The Committee is seeking answers to the following questions:

  • How well has Universal Credit met its original objectives?
  • Were the original objectives and assumptions the right ones? How should they change?
  • What have been the positive and negative economic effects of Universal Credit?
  • What effect has fiscal retrenchment had on the ability of Universal Credit to successfully deliver its objectives?
  • Which claimants have benefited most from the Universal Credit reforms and which have lost out?
  • How has the world of work changed since the introduction of Universal Credit? Does Universal Credit’s design adequately reflect the reality of low-paid work?
  • If Universal Credit does not adequately reflect the lived experiences of low-paid workers, how should it be reformed?

We are looking to hear from as diverse a range of views as possible because hearing from a range of different perspectives means Committees are better informed and can more effectively scrutinise public policy and legislation. We encourage anyone with experience or expertise on the issue under investigation to share their views with the Committee, with the full knowledge that their views have value and are welcome.

Chair’s comments

Lord Forsyth, Chairman of the Committee, comments:

“Our Committee will consider if the original objectives of Universal Credit are still fit for purpose and able to provide adequate and fair social security. We will then make our recommendations to Government in due course.

“To inform our work we want to hear from as broad a range of people as possible. If you have a view on Universal Credit, look at our call for evidence and let us know what you think.”

Here’s some evidence.

 

Meanwhile back from her latest UFO trip and safely landed in Rendlesham Forest Therese Coffey has time to tweet this (her latest in fact).

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 31, 2020 at 4:35 pm

Surveillance Capitalism Comes to the Dole.

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Image result for surveillance capitalism panopticon

New DWP HQ.

I, and many other people ,have got interested in Surveillance Capitalism recently.

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power Professor Shoshana Zuboff

It’s a book, a bloody long one,  about “the unprecedented form of power called “surveillance capitalism,” and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control us.”

She says,  “human experience is subjected to surveillance capitalism’s market mechanisms and reborn as ‘behaviour”.

It seems people are very willing to give up their private information in return for perceived benefits such as ease of use, navigation and access to friends and information. Zuboff recasts the conversation around privacy as one over “decision rights”: the agency we can actively assert over our own futures, which is fundamentally usurped by predictive, data-driven systems. Engaging with the systems of surveillance capitalism, and acquiescing to its demands for ever deeper incursions into everyday life, involves much more than the surrender of information: it is to place the entire track of one’s life, the determination of ones path, under the purview and control of the market.

Guardian.

Universal Credit, which we do not even ‘buy’ is a much more complex version.

It’s modelled on it.

We have to fill in all our details, and personal problems, not to mention physical difficulties if we want Disability Allowances.

In return they watch our search for work like hawks.

On-line journals and the rest.

Not to mention the threat of sanctions.

The next stage is coming.

The UK government is accelerating the development of robots in the benefits system in a digitisation drive that vulnerable claimants fear could plunge them further into hunger and debt, the Guardian has learned.

The Department for Work and Pensions has hired nearly 1,000 new IT staff in the past 18 months, and has increased spending to about £8m a year on a specialist “intelligent automation garage” where computer scientists are developing over 100 welfare robots, deep learning and intelligent automation for use in the welfare system.

As well as contracts with the outsourcing multinationals IBM, Tata Consultancy and CapGemini, it is also working with UiPath, a New York-based firm co-founded by Daniel Dines, the world’s first “bot billionaire” who last month said: “I want a robot for every person.” His software, used by Walmart and Toyota, is now being deployed in a bid to introduce machine learning into checking benefit claims.

Note this,

The DWP is also testing artificial intelligence to judge the likelihood that citizens’ claims about their childcare and housing costs are true when they apply for benefits.

It has deployed 16 bots to communicate with claimants and help process claims and is building a “virtual workforce” to take over some of the jobs of humans. One recent tender document requested help to build “systems that … can autonomously carry out tasks without human intervention”.

The developments emerged during a Guardian investigation into one of the most radical but least understood welfare reforms since the roll-out of universal credit that will apply to 7 million people.

And this,

But claimants have warned the existing automation in UC’s “digital by default” system has already driven some to hunger, breakdown and even attempted suicide. One described the online process as a “Kafka-like carousel”, another as “hostile” and yet another as a “form of torture”. Several said civil servants already appeared to be ruled by computer algorithms, unable to contradict their verdicts.

This,

Key details about the automation push remain secret. The DWP has refused freedom of information requests to explain how it gathers data on citizens. Simon McKinnon, the chief digital and information officer of DWP Digital, said this year it was developing a way to “build a holistic understanding of digital personas”, but refused to say what information was gathered to do this.

The ministry has previously told parliament it gathers data from private credit reference agencies, the police, the Valuation Office Agency, the Land Registry and the National Fraud Initiative, which gather information from public and private bodies. But it is now declining to update the list, claiming it would “compromise the usefulness of that data”.

“There are concerns that government is accelerating the automation of the welfare system without a proper evidence-based consultation about its impacts,” said Dr Lina Dencik, co-founder of the Data Justice Lab at Cardiff.

More,

Staff are using UiPath to develop machine learning to check claims for fraud, which suggests welfare computers will autonomously learn and alter the way they make decisions with minimum human intervention.

One recent staff member at Newcastle told the Guardian they already “have ways of creating a digital image of somebody”. He stressed much of the work was secret, but said this did not mean it was against citizens’ interests.

The digital transformation is costing hundreds of millions of pounds. The DWP Digital’s budget has risen 17% to £1.1bn in the past year and IT firms have been awarded huge contracts to help run the system. The DWP is also rapidly expanding its own private technology company Benefits and Pensions Digital Technology Services, which recruited more than 400 staff in the year to April, while DWP Digital recruited 520.

I bet this is just the beginning of an almighty row.

Then there is this:

Down with Machine Rule!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 14, 2019 at 12:16 pm