Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Welfare Reform’ Category

Universal Credit System Breakdown, “Civil servants ‘ashamed’ to work for DWP”.

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A protester in a crime scene outfit crouches by a sign saying universal credit is a crime

This week there were people begging just near to Suffolk College.

They have moved from the Ipswich central shopping streets outwards.

I don’t want to see a country where people have to depend on the kindness of strangers but get decent benefits.

Generous strangers give £26k to Universal Credit mum with just 14p to her name

Mirror today

Hundreds of Britons have offered to help homeless mum Rachel Finn, from Grimsby, after she pulled 14p out of her pocket and said “that’s all our money”

The 39-year-old, who is staying in temporary accommodation with her 18-year-old son, Bradley, has been backed by the likes of pop star Lily Allen.

Her story captured the nation’s attention after she emptied her pockets and put down four 2p pieces and six 1p coins on a table – tearfully saying “that’s all our money” – for a BBC crew reporting on vulnerable and low-income voters in Grimsby.

This is the I today,

Jasmine Andersson

I’m a working single mother who receives Universal Credit, and I’ve had to take my daughter to friends’ houses so we can eat

Sporadic Universal Credit payments and nursery fees have landed her in thousands of pounds of debt.

A working single parent has been taking her daughter to friends’ houses to eat to because she can’t afford to meet the family’s living costs.

Ayo, 29, a communications worker, owes money to debtors, her family and friends because she cannot afford to cover nursery costs for her two-year-old daughter’s nursery bills.

Although Ayo returned to work after she gave birth to her daughter in 2017, her debt has been compounded by missed Universal Credit paymentsnursery fees and rent arrears, leaving her living pay-cheque to pay-cheque.

The young woman, who lives in Hammersmith, London, told i she fell into debt because of her childcare bills.

“When I fell pregnant, I was in a job for less than 26 weeks, so I was only entitled to statutory maternity pay. Because I was entitled to statutory maternity pay, I couldn’t receive any Universal Credit, so I couldn’t get a sure start grant to cover my childcare costs,” she said.

“I went back to work, so I had to find a nursery to look after my daughter. I had to pay a registration fee. I was lucky to pay just one nursery registration fee, because if there’s a waiting list, a lot of parents have to pay more. On top of that, I had to pay a month’s deposit, and a one month nursery fee in advance.

No wonder this is happening: (5th of December).

Civil servants described to colleagues how they were “ashamed” to work for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) because of the experiences of their own relatives when claiming universal credit, leaked documents have revealed.

The thoughts of DWP civil servants were shared with colleagues on the department’s intranet earlier this year, and they have now been passed to Disability News Service.

They appear to destroy DWP’s continuing insistence that UC “is a force for good” and that it has overwhelming support from its own staff.

In all, three separate civil servants used the DWP intranet in early May to criticise the way their own relatives had been treated while attempting to claim UC.

It comes as Labour has promised to scrap UC if it wins next week’s general election, as has the Green party, while the Conservatives have pledged to “continue the roll-out”, and the Liberal Democrats have said they would try to improve the system.

A DWP staff member who passed the comments to DNS said he wanted the public to know that many of his colleagues did not share the views of Conservative ministers like work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey, who insists that universal credit (UC) “provides a safeguard for the most vulnerable in our society”.

Instead, he said, many of his colleagues were concerned about the flaws in the system, which is gradually being rolled out by the government and has been described as “toxic” by disabled campaigners and linked to “soaring” rates of sanctions and foodbank use in areas where it has been introduced.

The comments were made on the DWP intranet, which is open to all staff members, in response to an update headlined “Universal Credit – the myth busters get to work”, which was posted by a senior member of staff on 2 May.

Soon after the discussion, a DWP memo was leaked to the media and led to widespread outrage when it revealed that the department was planning a national “myth-busting” campaign aimed at dealing with media “negativity and scaremongering” about UC.

The newly-leaked intranet comments appear to show what DWP members of staff really think about UC.

The update had explained how jobcentres had invited local reporters into their offices to “show the reality of the great service we provide within our community”.

But the post drew a scathing response from several staff members over the following week.

One civil servant told colleagues, less than an hour after the original post, that his brother’s experience on UC was “not made up or exaggerated”.

He added: “I was and still am ashamed to work for [a] department that could treat my Brother so poorly. I am sorry to say ‘myth busting’ is another name for propaganda when it comes to Universal Credit

Meanwhile the extreme-right pro-Brexit Express carries this story:

Universal Credit claimants could get £1,200 bonus money – how to get the tax-free cash

UNIVERSAL CREDIT recipients may be able to get additional help with savings under a government scheme. How does the Help to Save scheme work, and who is eligible for this bonus money?

This is what the Tories really think of those less fortunate than themselves:

Here’s what Labour thinks:

Written by Andrew Coates

December 6, 2019 at 12:22 pm

Why isn’t this a Universal Credit Election?

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There are over 2,300,000 (latest figures, July 2019) people on Universal Credit.

There were 20 million people claiming DWP benefits at August 2018 alone (most recent full figures).

Benefits and Universal Credit should be key election issues.

To take two examples:

Housing benefit no longer enough for struggling families to afford any Ipswich rental properties

Ipswich Star, today,

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism could not find a single two bed property in Ipswich that was affordable on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) during a recent snapshot search.

The TBIJ research found that only one in 20 of the two-bed properties advertised for rent nationally were affordable on LHA. Across most Suffolk and Essex just a fraction of the properties advertised for rent would be affordable on LHA.

It means many families are having to make tough decisions to cope.

LHA is supposed to cover the cheapest 30% of properties in that area. But it was frozen in 2016 as a cost-cutting measure, intended to save £1.3 billion a year, rising to about £1.7 billion by 2020-21.

Although the number of affordable rent homes created in Suffolk has risen over recent years – reaching 500 for the first time in 2017/18 – councils still rely on private landlords to provide much of the housing for benefit recipients.

The article goes into the problems of renting and Local Housing Allowance  – which affects the whole country – in depth.

Read it.

Then there is, something that’s hardly a secret.

Why isn’t this the food bank election?

In the world’s sixth richest country, a record number of people will be starving at Christmas.

A record number of people will use food banks this Christmas. The busiest month for food banks last year was December, and there has been a general rise in food bank use since then (April to September this year saw a 23 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2018). We’re heading for a record high this winter, according to the Trussell Trust food bank charity.

There will also be people who go without income over the Christmas period. Universal Credit, the new welfare system, has a five-week waiting time for the first payment. This delay has not been reduced by the government, despite it driving up food bank use. People applying for Universal Credit now will go without money over the Christmas period, unless they meet tight criteria for an emergency loan.

Chakelian says that this issue – we could add Benefits as such – have not been talked about in the election.

Why?

Perhaps it’s because the Labour party, which is more sympathetic to these things and has tried to come up with answers, is distracted. Perhaps it’s because the Conservatives don’t accept their manifesto is forecasted to bring about record child poverty, or don’t believe they play a part at all. Perhaps it’s because charities that usually campaign on these things have to submit to extra-strict impartiality rules around election time. Perhaps it’s because media outlets decided this would be the “Brexit election”, once and for all.

Perhaps it’s also because many people, that is many amongst those who vote, are not going to be swayed by talking about the real world of Universal Credit, benefits, and poverty.

Let’s follow this example and bring these unwelcome, difficult, subjects, into the election.

Our contributors have plenty of ideas!

A photo highlighting the huge imbalance between Britain’s richest and poorest people has gone viral on Facebook – and generated awareness of homelessness at Christmas.

Posted in the Facebook group ‘Sh*t London’, Cliff Judson’s breathtaking snapshot shows the plush and extravagant display outside House of Fraser’s flagship store on London’s Oxford Street – while homelessness in is on the increase.

The 43-year-old Londoner was aiming to highlight poverty at Christmas time, when there are more visible signs of inequality.

Over a million households on Universal Credit having benefits cut to repay debts and loans.

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How much can be taken from Universal Credit payments? There is an overall maximum percentage rate for all debts and deductions that can be taken from a Universal Credit payment. The maximum amount that can be deducted is an amount equivalent to 30% of the claimant’s Universal Credit standard allowance.

It’s, odd as it seems, an improvement on the previous rate which was 40%.

The new rate came in this October,

The changes mean, from this month, the maximum amount that can be taken out of Universal Credit payments will fall from 40% to 30%.

This means if you’re currently affected by the 40% rate, you will start to see more money coming in every month.

Deductions can be taken out of a person’s Universal Credit entitlement for various reasons, including sanctions and for recovering debts such as arrears on rent and fuel bills.

Universal Credit changes coming into force this month – how they will affect you (Mirror)

But thirty percent is still very stiff, when you realise that the full rate of payment is already the bare minimum to live on.

Hence this story in the Observer.

Million universal credit households ‘do not get full entitlement’

Deductions to cover loans are forcing many to turn to food banks.

More than a million households on universal credit – 60% of everyone receiving the payments –are having their benefits cut to repay debts and loans.

Data sourced under the Freedom of Information Act show that in May – the most recent month for which figures are available – 1,048,000 universal credit claimants had a deduction of their benefit payment out of 1,759,000 claimants who received any universal credit payment that month.

The figures exclude deductions for fraud and sanctions. Nearly a third of all people on the troubled welfare scheme are having more than a fifth of their payment cut, often to repay loans that some claimants received to tide them over during the five-week wait for their first payment to arrive.

Charlotte Hughes, an anti-austerity campaigner who provides support and advice to benefit recipients, said universal credit deductions come up as an issue in her work every day. “Everyone is being hit by deductions in one way, shape or form. I don’t know anybody that actually receives the full amount of money that they’re supposed to get.”

She added that many claimants were having to use food banks as a result. “Your health suffers, your housing situation suffers, you can’t eat properly, you worry, you stress. It’s just never-ending.”

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Our evidence shows many people on universal credit are struggling to make ends meet, and that deductions are contributing to this.” She said the government should introduce affordability tests when recouping debts from claimants.

The story continues,

A separate freedom of information request shows that universal credit claimants who are having their benefits deducted to repay debts and loans owe an average of £903. About 570,000 households owe more than £1,000, including 80,000 people owing more than £5,000.

The largest deductions are often due to overpaid tax credits, incurred when claimants earned more than expected under the existing tax credit system. Many of these debts date back many years.

Minutes of a meeting of welfare rights advisers in October 2018 show that Neil Couling, the head of the universal credit programme, “admitted that the government over the last 18 months has demanded a push to recover old debt and has provided UC with extra funds to do this”.

There is plenty of scope for the DWP’s famous ability to get things wrong.

Sarah, from Lancashire, is one claimant affected by this “push”. Unable to work for health reasons, she lives with her partner and daughter. The government has been deducting more than £100 a month from her universal credit payment, mostly to repay tax credit overpayments dating back to 2009. The level of the deduction changes each month, as does the amount of benefit she receives, making it impossible for her to budget.

“If I owe money I’ll pay it back,” she said. “I have no qualms about paying money back that I owe. But my argument is, ‘Why are they taking such a big chunk of my money?’ Over £150 some months – that’s a lot of money. That’s like two weeks’ worth of shopping, that they’re taking off me and we are running out of food.”

She started claiming universal credit in 2017 after leaving full-time work to become a part-time paid carer for her uncle. A car accident and subsequent diagnosis with osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia forced her out of paid work altogether.

The deductions are forcing her to borrow from her family. “We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul. We get our money today, we get our food shopping, we always make sure our bills and everything are paid first, and then we pay back whoever we owe. So we end up with no money left.”

On top of her tax credit debts, she is also having £50 a month deducted for a loan that she never borrowed. After the Observer spoke to the Department for Work and Pensions about Sarah’s case, it accepted that the loan deduction was a mistake and pledged a refund, while agreeing to discuss recovering the tax credit debts at a more affordable rate.

In the meantime DWP MInister  Thérèse Coffey re-tweeted this happy little note;

Written by Andrew Coates

November 25, 2019 at 10:27 am

“Social security allowances have hit their lowest relative levels since the creation of the welfare state.”

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Underlying Crisis is Big Drop in Payment Levels.

“This paper will argue that it is time to embrace a more progressive vision of social security in the 21st century. Fundamentally, it would recognise that, in the world’s fifth richest country, a basic minimum standard of living should be a foundation for citizenship. This idea must sit at the heart of the social security system.”

Universal Credit and social security payments have fallen to just 12.5% of average earnings, think tank says

The ‘I’, the paper that many of us buy.

Just out….

 

Universal Credit payments have fallen to just 12.5 per cent of average earnings, the think tank IPPR has reported.

Social security allowances have hit their lowest relative levels since the creation of the welfare state, according to the group’s report.

Universal Credit payments have fallen to just 12.5 per cent of average earnings, the think tank IPPR has reported.

Social security allowances have hit their lowest relative levels since the creation of the welfare state, according to the group’s report.

Real time spending its lowest since the system began, according to the “Social (in)security” report.

As a share of the gross domestic product (GDP) – the total value of goods produced and services provided in a country during one year – spending has fallen from 47 per cent to 40 per cent, and is set to be 3.9 per cent lower in real terms by 2021/22 than it was in 2010/11, amounting to £37bn less being spent on working-age social security.

The IPPR say the calculations issue a stark warning.

It believes the government needs to invest at least £8.4bn into the system to keep it afloat.

“Social security should offer a safety net, not a tightrope over poverty,” said Clare McNeil, the associate director of the IPPR.

“It is remarkable that in postwar Britain the support for those living in poverty was closer to average earnings than it is today. This is the very simple fact that lies behind the record levels of personal debt, rising use of food banks and increasing destitution that we see in the UK.”

These conclusions will come as no surprise to contributors to this Blog.

The Report from the IPPR.

Social (in)security: Reforming the UK’s social safety net

The UK has experienced a decade of austerity. While this has not resulted in a dramatic decrease in public spending in absolute terms, it does represent the longest pause in real-terms spending growth on record. Moreover, with the UK’s population continuing to grow, spending per head has fallen, and is set to be 3.9 per cent lower in real terms by 2021/22 than it was in 2010/11. Likewise, as a share of GDP, spending has fallen from 47 per cent to 40 per cent.

This reduction in spending on social security has occurred at the same time as fundamental reform to how working age benefits operate in the UK, with the introduction of universal credit, which aimed to encourage more people into work and simplify the system, thereby reducing fraud, error, confusion and administration costs.

However, it is far from clear that this has been the result. Moreover, across a whole host of other metrics, social indicators show that our welfare system is failing to deliver as we would expect it to. Having declined significantly during the first decade of the century, poverty is now growing again, particularly amongst pensioners, children and those in-work. 

This paper will argue that it is time to embrace a more progressive vision of social security in the 21st century. Fundamentally, it would recognise that, in the world’s fifth richest country, a basic minimum standard of living should be a foundation for citizenship. This idea must sit at the heart of the social security system.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 18, 2019 at 5:41 pm

New Help for Vulnerable People for Universal Credit “as a route into work”?

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Image result for therese coffey church

Thérèse Anne Coffey out on Election Trail.

Electric Shock Dog Collar Coffey has made this announcement, wholly unconnected to the General Election.

DWP announce £10million fund to help vulnerable people claim Universal Credit

Secretary of State Therese Coffey has today (1 November 2019) announced a £10 million Universal Credit Transition Fund for outreach programmes to help vulnerable people make Universal Credit claims.

The fund will be available to partner organisations across the UK, including charities, from April 2020.

It will aim to help vulnerable people, including disabled people, care leavers and those with mental health issues, claim Universal Credit as a route into work.

It will support innovative ideas for engaging with vulnerable people early, helping them to make timely claims to the new benefit.

Figures show that a fifth of claimants delayed making a claim for Universal Credit, largely because they didn’t know how to make a claim or because they thought they would find a job quickly.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Dr Therese Coffey MP said: “I am delighted to announce a £10 million challenge fund to support the most vulnerable in society with their Universal Credit claims.

It’s hard to know where to begin with this statement.

“Route to work”?

What about this case?

And this.

What about help to avoid this?

Perhaps the dosh will go to this:

And so it goes.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 2, 2019 at 11:14 am

Benefits Freeze is “over” but cut of 6% stays – future halt to rises not ruled out.

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Working-age benefits are set to continue to their relative decline (Resolution Foundation).

Last week this news item marked Thérèse Coffey, first Parliamentary intervention in her “dream job” as Work and Pensions Secretary.

Freeze imposed in 2015 was planned to last until end of 2019-20 financial year.

The government has refused to commit to ending its freeze on benefits despite a promise to turn the page on a decade of austerity.

The work and pensions secretary, Thérèse Coffey, said she could not give a definitive answer about whether the freeze on most working-age benefits and tax credits would continue beyond its initial four-year term.

Imposed in 2015 by chancellor George Osborne, the benefit freeze was planned to last until the end of the 2019-20 financial year. However, Coffey said talks were ongoing about what the government would do next and she left the door open for a possible extension.

Answering questions from MPs on the Commons work and pensions committee, she said: “I don’t think anybody should make any assumptions by default, but we’re looking very carefully right now on what we can do on benefits going forward from 2020. I can’t give you a definitive outcome on what we will do.”

The electronic dog collar disciplinarian did not taker account of this – as the article continues,

Inflation figures published earlier on Wednesday indicated that benefits could rise by 1.7% from April if the freeze is lifted. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said inflation remained unchanged in September, with the consumer price index (CPI) holding steady at 1.7%.

The inflation reading for September is used by the government to uprate the value of benefit payments each year, as well as state pensions and business rates.

The Resolution Foundation think tank said the welfare freeze had cut the value of benefits by 6% in real terms since 2015, leaving the average poor couple with children £580 a year worse off.

It said the social security safety net was continuing to be eroded as wages and pensions rose by more than double the rate of benefits.

This is the Resolution Foundation report, well worth reading.

The benefit freeze has ended, but erosion of the social security safety net continues

The major working-age benefits will rise in cash terms in April 2020, for the first time in five years. They will increase by 1.7 per cent, based on new figures released today – assuming no change in government policy. But while the benefit freeze has now ended, its effect of significantly weakening the social security safety net has not.

Further data, also released this week, means that the state pension will rise by a higher 3.9 per cent. The difference between the two increases highlights the fact that working-age benefits will continue to be eroded in value relative to earnings and pensions. This policy approach comes despite households with children typically having lower incomes than other groups, and higher poverty risks.

They continue,

The ‘benefit freeze’ is over.

We now know that CPI inflation was 1.7 per cent in the year to September. This figure is particularly important as it determines (among other things) how far many benefits will rise next April.

Remarkably, for a range of benefits – including Child Benefit, Universal Credit, (non-disability) Tax Credits, Housing Benefit limits, Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, and Employment and Support Allowance (except the support group component) – this will be the first cash increase in basic entitlements since April 2015, thanks to the benefit freeze introduced by then Chancellor George Osborne.

After adjusting for price increases, this benefit freeze has cut the real level of those benefits by 6 per cent, and in many cases that has come on top of earlier real cuts.

It is of course a good thing that the freeze is coming to an end. (Though, to be clear, the freeze was always due to come an end in April 2020 – there has not been any recent policy change.)

But, while the direction of travel is no longer downwards, working-age benefits are clearly now stingier than they were pre-freeze, or indeed pre-austerity (even putting aside any wider considerations, such as sanctions or waiting periods). In fact, the real value of basic out-of-work support in 2019-20 is – at £73 a week (£3,800 a year) – lower than it was in 1991-92, despite GDP per capita having grown by more than 50 per cent since then. Even more starkly, child benefit for a second child or beyond is worth less in 2019-20 than when it was (fully) introduced in 1979. It seems a rising tide does not always lift all boats.

….

Although the benefit freeze and departmental austerity are ending, this is not the end of working-age welfare cuts

The question of whether we could and should do more to support household incomes through working-age benefits (the answer to both is yes) seems particularly pertinent when the age of austerity has come to an end for departmental spending, and when the likely upcoming election may feature some very expensive promises on other spending and tax cuts.

But despite the end of the benefit freeze, the turning point for departments, and the abandoning of previous fiscal rules, we shouldn’t forget that some benefit cuts continue to be rolled out. As Figure 4 shows, the two-child limit in particular has some way to go, as it applies only to those born after April 2017. The slow roll-out of Universal Credit, although a positive overall, will also create many losers as it continues over the next few years.

When it comes to working-age benefits, it is clear that austerity is not yet over.

Coffey’s stout denial of poverty continues.

And here.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

October 22, 2019 at 10:18 am

Digital Welfare Nightmares.

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“Claimants struggle with Universal Credit’s online portal…”

Following the post on Surveillance Welfare and sending out our newshawks to investigate the main thing they found was that for many people it is becoming bloody hard to to get to grips with a “online” benefits system.

The local facthounds confirm that this story, from the start of the year, is well the case in Ipswich and elsewhere.

As a librarian I spend most of my time helping benefits claimants work out the Universal Credit system

Georgia Grainger is happy to help but wishes library services were not cut so frequently because they do such important work

  • Librarian says some claimants have no idea how computers work
  • Says libraries forced to prop up services not provided by Jobcentres
  • Says benefits claimants feel ’embarrassed’ to ask for help with forms.

The reality of being a librarian at Charleston Community Library in Dundee, Scotland, couldn’t be more different. The 23-year-old, whose job title is library and information assistant, says she spends most of her time helping benefits claimants attempt to navigate the Universal Credit system from the library computers.

Hard pressed library staff across the country help people deal with a system designed to help the DWP and their private providers, not claimants.

Our contributors have unearthed many a merry tale as well but this latest news opens up a worse prospect.

What they could call the “digital divide” exists across the world.

It’s not just access to services online, which are not always available. Not everybody wants to, or can, use computers and the internet.

In French they even have an expression for those unable to use computers, L’illectronisme – illiteracy in electronic devices. 

There may not yet be any systematic studies to translate into figures the rate of “digital illiteracy” (or DI — we will use this term, pending an English equivalent to the French illectronisme) but we already have a feeling of how bad it may be. Again, the social consequences of DI and plain illiteracy are similar.

Digital illiteracy – a real handicap Jean-Claude Elias 

Now we have this report:

Universal Credit: UN report warns of ‘digital welfare dystopia’ around DWP benefits system

Ruchira Sharma The ‘I’.

The report said that many claimants struggle with Universal Credit’s online portal, stopping them from even understanding their own case.

The report, which will be presented to the to the General Assembly on Friday, cited the DWP’s Universal Credit system and how its use of online portals stops many claimants who lack digital skills from understanding their own case and having the ability to appeal.

..

The report highlighted that despite being a wealthy country, in 2019 in the UK there are 11.9 million people (22 per cent of the population) who do not have the essential digital skills needed for day-to-day life.

An additional 19 per cent cannot perform fundamental tasks such as turning on a device or opening an app, while 4.1 million adults (8 per cent) are offline because of fears that the internet is an insecure environment – proportionately almost half of those are from a low income household and more than half are over 60.

Welfare Weekly has the story.

World stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia’, warns UN report

A UN human rights expert has expressed concerns about the emergence of the “digital welfare state”, saying that all too often the real motives behind such programmes are to slash welfare spending, set up intrusive government surveillance systems and generate profits for private corporate interests.

“As humankind moves, perhaps inexorably, towards the digital welfare future it needs to alter course significantly and rapidly to avoid stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia,” the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, says in a report to be presented to the General Assembly on Friday.

The digital welfare state is commonly presented as an altruistic and noble enterprise designed to ensure that citizens benefit from new technologies, experience more efficient government, and enjoy higher levels of well-being.

But, Alston said, the digitization of welfare systems has very often been used to promote deep reductions in the overall welfare budget, a narrowing of the beneficiary pool, the elimination of some services, the introduction of demanding and intrusive forms of conditionality, the pursuit of behavioural modification goals, the imposition of stronger sanctions regimes, and a complete reversal of the traditional notion that the state should be accountable to the individual.

“Digital welfare states thereby risk becoming Trojan Horses for neoliberal hostility towards social protection and regulation,” said the UN Special Rapporteur.

“Moreover, empowering governments in countries with significant rule of law deficits by endowing them with the level of control and the potential for abuse provided by these biometric ID systems should send shudders down the spine of anyone even vaguely concerned to ensure that the digital age will be a human rights friendly one”.

It continues,

“Most Governments have stopped short of requiring Big Tech companies to abide by human rights standards, and because the companies themselves have steadfastly resisted any such efforts, the companies often operate in a virtually human rights free-zone,” said Alston.

The human rights community has thus far done a very poor job of persuading industry, government, or seemingly society at large, of the fact that a technologically-driven future will be disastrous if it is not guided by respect for human rights and grounded in hard law.

There is no shortage of analyses warning of the dangers for human rights of various manifestations of digital technology and especially artificial intelligence.

“But none has adequately captured the full array of threats represented by the emergence of the digital welfare state,” the UN expert said.

Here is the summary of the report,

Report of the Special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.

The digital welfare state is either already a reality or is emerging in many countries across the globe. In these states, systems of social protection and assistance are increasingly driven by digital data and technologies that are used to automate, predict, identify, surveil, detect, target and punish. This report acknowledges the irresistible attractions for governments to move in this direction, but warns that there is a grave risk of stumbling zombie-like into a digital welfare dystopia. It argues that Big Tech operates in an almost human rights free-zone, and that this is especially problematic when the private sector is taking a leading role in designing, constructing, and even operating significant parts of the digital welfare state. The report recommends that instead of obsessing about fraud, cost savings, sanctions, and market-driven definitions of efficiency, the starting point should be on how welfare budgets could be transformed through technology to ensure a higher standard of living for the vulnerable and disadvantaged.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 18, 2019 at 10:46 am