Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Archive for the ‘Welfare Reform’ Category

Scottish Unions call for end to Universal Credit and for a “radical welfare system to replace it.”

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Does Universal Credit Offer a Greater Joy!

Scottish TUC Conference (Morning Star) – thanks Ken.

Unions should campaign for a radical welfare system to replace universal credit, delegates hear

Note

There are a number of motions about replacing Universal Credit making their way through the Labour Party policy making structure and the TUC (Ipswich Labour Party and Ipswich Trades Council have submitted one).

UNIONS should campaign not just for the scrapping of universal credit (UC) but draw up a radical welfare system to replace it, Scottish TUC delegates heard today.

A motion proposed by Edinburgh Trades Union Council called for the STUC to campaign for the replacement of UC as soon as possible with a system free from sanctions, outsourcing and benefits caps.

Speaking in favour of the motion, Public & Commercial Services (PCS) union delegate Steve West described UC as “a conscious strategy to demonise benefits claimants.”

He condemned the increased foodbank use, “cruel” assessments and outsourcing to the private sector that results from the system.

But Mr West emphasised that a replacement should not simply constitute a return to old benefits, which he said had resulted in many of the same problems before they were combined to form UC.

“The people of Scotland deserve a far better social security system than we already have, and the trade union movement can play an important role in making sure that happens,” he said.

PCS acting president Fran Heathcote told congress that 40 per cent of those responsible for administering UC are also in receipt of the benefit.

She accused the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) of adopting a bunker mentality and refusing to address any of the problems raised by claimants and unions.

Ms Heathcote called for “a system that our members can take pride in delivering.”

Congress also heard from Unison delegate Helen Duddy, who gave a personal account of her granddaughter’s difficult experience with UC bureaucracy when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2017.

“We’re a very strong, close family with strong ties to Unison, who helped us,” said Ms Duddy. “I would not like any other family to go through this scenario.”

National Union of Journalists delegate Lorraine Mallinder described how UC has been “an unmitigated disaster,” describing it as “tantamount to a super-sanction on freelancers.”

Supporting the motion, Unite delegate Tam Kirby told congress that the support of “every single trade unionist in Scotland” was required to end the UC benefits system.

UC is “the latest weapon they’re using against us in the class war they’re waging against us,” Mr Kirby said.

Meanwhile in the DWP:

We ran this story a few days ago but it continues to develop.

Independent Wednesday.

Ministers have been accused of keeping “alarming” findings about their flagship universal credit scheme under wraps for a year and a half.

MPs say it was “deeply irresponsible” to delay the release of the report, which suggests nearly half of claimants were not aware their tax credits would stop when they claimed universal credit, and 56 per cent felt they received too little information from HMRC.

The document was produced in November 2017 but only released this month to MPs who, in the meantime, have had to make “pivotal” decisions based on “partial” information, according to the chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field.

In a letter to senior ministers, Mr Field said the “excessively long delay” had taken place during ongoing decisions about the flagship welfare benefit, which have affected the “lives and incomes of millions of people”.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has repeatedly argued that universal credit is more generous than the old benefit system and provides a “safety net” for those who need it.

Our old friend Amber Rudd is still at it!

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2019 at 10:07 am

Work and Pensions Committee treated “like dirt” for criticising Universal Credit.

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The Work and Pensions Committee site,

The Committee has today taken the exceptional step of publishing a follow up report to the Government’s response to its report on support for childcare as a barrier to work under Universal Credit.

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“We on the Committee are frankly sick of these disrespectful Government responses that treat us like dirt and fail to engage with our robust, evidence-based conclusions. It’s not clear they’ve even read this one. Worse, in responding this way, Government dismisses the experience and evidence of the individuals and organisations that have taken the time, and made the effort, and are working with us to try to fix the unholy mess that is Universal Credit.

“This response in particular is simply not acceptable, and that is why we are taking the unusual step of issuing this report, demanding that they go back, look at what we and our witnesses have said, and come up with a second, decent response. This will not do.”

Powerful witness evidence

Among those who gave evidence so powerfully to the original inquiry was Thuto Mali, a single mum who was forced to turn down a well-paid job offer because she could not at that moment find the obligatory upfront cost of childcare so that she could start work.  The multiple problems of Universal Credit also forced her to turn, with her young son, to a foodbank at the Christmas before last. Save the Children recently informed the Committee that Thuto just won The Sun’s ‘Supermum of the Year’.

Correspondence published today between the Chair of the Committee and the Secretary of State on Universal Credit:

Today’s report says Government should now:

1)  review its response and provide a response which matches the consideration the Committee employed in an attempt to help parents to move into work, as the Government claims it is encouraging them to do. If the Government considers that the solutions the Committee recommended are not practicable, it should explain why and set out alternative means of addressing those problems.

2)  explain how, in the absence of plans to introduce direct payments, it intends to address the serious difficulties that both parents and childcare providers are experiencing with the current system

3)  explain the details of the pilots it is running to trial a more flexible approach to the provision of receipts for childcare costs, including where these pilots are being run, what options for providing evidence of childcare costs are being trialled, when the pilots started, how long they will run for and how they will be monitored;

4)  explain why it is so difficult to publish information about the use of the Flexible Support Fund, what analysis it has done of the additional administrative work that would be created, and if it will be published in full;

5)  explain its view on the recommendation that it should divert funding from the schemes aimed at wealthier parents (Tax Free Childcare and the 30 hours free childcare) towards Universal Credit childcare to help more people into work.

6)  commit to providing an analysis of the Government’s spending on the 30 free hours free childcare by income decile, to show which households are benefiting from this policy – in addition to the analysis on the impact of UC childcare cost caps it has already promised

By convention, the Government has two months from publication of a Committee report to respond.

MPs slam ‘dismissive’ and ‘disrespectful’ DWP over Universal Credit report

Work and Pensions Committee blasts “disrespectful Government responses that treat us like dirt”.

Furious MPs have today (Thursday) blasted the UK Government over its “dismissive” and “disrespectful” response to a report on Universal Credit (UC) from the Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee.

The Committee’s report concluded that, far from helping parents get into or back into work after having a child, the way the “support” is constructed under UC actually acts as a barrier to work.

In a hard-hitting second report sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) today, the Committee said the Government’s response to its original report was “simply dismissing the very serious problems that are plaguing parents who are trying to get into work”.

Benefit claimant left sarcastic suicide note ‘thanking’ the DWP before taking his own life

He was left unable to top up his electric meter due to problems with Universal Credit.

A man reportedly left a “sarcastic” note thanking the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for leaving him unable to afford electricity, shortly before taking his own life from a lethal overdose.

The Derby Telegraph reports that Brian Sycamore was experiencing difficulties with the new benefit, which merges six social security benefits into one single monthly payment.

The 62-year-old is said to have suffered with back pain for a number of years and was plunged into financial distress because of problems claiming Universal Credit.

The report concludes:

Coroner Pinder recorded the cause of death as “suicide”, but did not refer to the issues Mr Sycamore was having with Universal Credit in her report.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Suicide is a very complex issue, so it would be wrong to link it solely to someone’s benefit claim.

Amber Rudd meanwhile is bathing in flattery.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 13, 2019 at 10:17 am

Ministry Hid Report on Universal Credit Hardship.

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Image result for Universal credit transition from tax credits report

Damming 2017 Report only now Released. 

 

Universal Credit may not get the headlines it deserves these days, something else happening I hear on the wireless, but, while Parliament’s  leaking roof capture’s the world attention there is (finally) this very unleaky report.

Study for DWP reveals 78% of people moved to Universal Credit struggle with bills

Mirror.

The shocking report dated November 2017 was only slipped onto the government’s website today

Joint DWP and HMRC report was released on Thursday but dated November 2017

Ministers sat for nearly a year and a half on research that revealed that tax credit claimants experienced “real financial problems” after they signed on to universal credit, it has emerged.

The joint Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and HMRC study, which examined how tax credit claimants coped with the move, found 60% of those who said they struggled to pay bills said their difficulties began when they moved on to the new benefit.

More than half of claimants reported that the routine six-week wait for a first payment took them by surprise, and nearly half of those who were expecting a delay underestimated by a third how long the wait would be.

Strike us feather me down.

The study was slipped out on the DWP and HMRC websites on Thursday morning – even though the report itself is dated November 2017, and the research was carried out between October 2016 and July 2017.

Forgetfulness, understandable perhaps…

More than half of claimants reported that the routine six-week wait for a first payment took them by surprise, and nearly half of those who were expecting a delay underestimated by a third how long the wait would be.

About half of those surveyed did not have sufficient savings to tide them over the six weeks, the study found, and this group struggled especially. A few claimants endured “considerable stress” after payment delays meant they had to wait up to three months to get their money.

Overall, 25% said they were having real financial problems and falling behind with many bills and commitments, 13% said they were falling behind with some commitments, and 13% said they were keeping up but it felt a constant struggle to do so,” the report found

Here is the report: The transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: qualitative and quantitative research with claimants.

More from this:

Making a claim online

The UC system is designed to be administrated predominantly online, including the application process. It is therefore important that individuals can complete the application online on their own: ideally, claimants would not need assistance from DWP. Most survey participants reported that they were able to make their UC claim online (77 per cent). Over half (57 per cent) of all claimants interviewed completed the claim themselves, whilst a one in five (20 per cent) required help from someone else such as their partner, friend or relative. A further 19 per cent reported applying with help from an adviser at the Jobcentre. If it is assumed that the adviser would have assisted with an online claim, then the proportion of those claiming online overall is 96%. Claimants’ main reasons for not completing their application online were a lack of familiarity using computers (21 per cent) and a lack of access to computers or the internet (11 per cent).

Payment Gap.

Universal Credit claimants typically experience a payment gap22 of about six weeks from making their UC claim until their first UC payment is made. Once the UC claim is made, tax credits stop. Less than half (42 per cent) of claimants were aware that there would be a gap in payments. Awareness was particularly low amongst female claimants and claimants with children (57 per cent of female claimants, compared to 43 per cent of male claimants, and 55 per cent of claimants who had children included on their claim compared to 41 per cent who did not, were not aware of the gap). Of those that were aware of the payment gap, just over half found out through Jobcentre Plus (54 per cent).

Service.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of Universal Credit (UC) claimants were satisfied with the service they received during transition to Universal Credit (15 per cent were very satisfied and 30 per cent were fairly satisfied). Similar proportions reported being dissatisfied: 42 per centoverall (13 per cent fairly dissatisfied and 29 per cent very dissatisfied).

Where claimants were dissatisfied with the process, the survey explored why this was. The three main reasons for dissatisfaction were lack of clear information about the process The transition from tax credits to Universal Credit: qualitative and quantitative research with claimants of stopping tax credits and claiming UC (34 per cent), length of the payment gap (29 per cent) and poor organisation (29 per cent) (e.g. a lack of departmental knowledge of the process and timescales or the ability to advise claimants accordingly).

Reactions:

Ironically, Frank Field, chair of the commons work and pensions committee, accused the DWP at the time of “withholding bad news”, claiming that Gauke only gave the go-ahead to universal credit because officials “had withheld the true scale of the problems”.

Margaret Greenwood MP, the shadow work and pensions secretary, asked why the government was only now publishing the findings. She said: “Universal credit should be helping people out of poverty; instead it is pushing many people into debt and towards food banks. The government must take notice of its own research and stop universal credit as a matter of urgency.”

Yet all is not darkness.

The Currant Bun has this Good News!

Amber Rudd plans £2bn Universal Credit spending spree to help out struggling parents

The Work and Pensions Secretary wants to pump more cash into child benefits and housing allowances

AMBER RUDD is preparing a near £2billion spending spree on benefits for low-paid Brits to tackle a shock rise in child poverty.

The Sun can reveal the Work and Pensions Secretary is demanding a small fortune to top up child benefits and housing allowances.

With all this joy being spread it’s no wonder the DWP has the cash for this:

Written by Andrew Coates

April 5, 2019 at 11:58 am

New Help to Claim Service to “offer that little Bit of extra help” adds to the “best things” about Universal Credit, Amber Rudd (April the First).

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Image result for classical painting unicorns

Amber Rudd’s DWP Universal Credit Help Service.

New ‘Help to Claim’ service provides extra Universal Credit support

DWP invests £39 million into new ‘Help to Claim’ service provided by Citizens Advice and Citizens Advice Scotland for Universal Credit claimants.

Published 1 April 2019

Amber Rudd has been happy for days and days and days!

 

 

 

Sunday’s Mail, a byword for accuracy, reports that the Tories are up in arms against anybody saying otherwise!

Tories blast BBC’s ‘poverty bias’ as ministers say Panorama report which claimed Universal Credit causes hunger and suffering is ‘fake news’ and left out details on huge payouts for ‘victims’

Ministers are at war with the BBC over a ‘fake news’ campaign against the Government’s Universal Credit system.

Officials working for Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd have submitted a dossier to the Corporation of what they describe as ‘biased and inaccurate’ reporting about people’s ability to survive on the benefits, received by 1.3 million claimants.

It comes as a Mail on Sunday investigation has also uncovered a number of glaring inconsistencies in reports about the system by the BBC and other media outlets.

Officials began compiling the alleged catalogue of errors and half-truths following an edition of the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Panorama on the ‘Universal Credit Crisis’ in Flintshire, North Wales, in November.

Yet, strangely, all the advice and all the bleating by poor put-upon Tories in the world is not going to change this:

Universal Credit increasing debt for Solihull social housing tenants

DWP: Almost 3,000 ‘sanctions’ for Teesside’s 10,000 Universal Credit claimants

New figures reveal that payments had been stopped or reduced on Teesside almost 3,000 times, as of October

And so it goes….

Written by Andrew Coates

April 1, 2019 at 3:28 pm

The Moral Diseconomy of Universal Credit.

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Image result for moral economy of the crowd

How the Crowd Reacted to Injustice in the Past.

It is possible to detect in almost every eighteenth-century crowd action some legitimising notion. By the notion of legitimation I mean that the men and women in the crowd were informed by the belief that they were defending traditional rights or customs; and, in general, that they were supported by the wider consensus of the community. On occasion this popular consensus was endorsed by some measure of licence afforded by the authorities. More commonly, the consensus was so strong that it overrode motives of fear or deference.”

Libcom: The moral economy of the English crowd in the eighteenth century – E. P. Thompson

Last night I listed to this on the wireless (with a mug of Co-Op 99 Tea…): Polling Badly. Archive on 4.

“Bad policy or badly implemented? Sarah Smith explores what went wrong with the Poll Tax. Have lessons been learned or is Universal Credit a repeat of history?”

The first thing that struck me about the Poll Tax was that the “Community Charge” was so disliked, without going into the obvious details, what that is went against the “consensus” that by right the poor did not get taxed as much as the rich. The better off (who make their money from the rest) should pay their whack out of their accumulated dosh. The Duke and Dustman having to fork out the same cash to pay for local services ran up against everything that people traditionally thought.

The programme then went into the way the Poll Tax was implemented.

A lot simpler than Universal Credit (UC) you may say.

One mob, the Tory lot, thought it a grand idea, since who cared about the poor – not them! – and it would all mean less expense for their well off crowd.

That was not the view of local authorities who saw their revenues crash as people either (1) could not or (2) would not pay up. (3) Disappeared from the electoral register so they would not even get a payment demand.

As E.P.Thompson might have said, the “crowd”, that is, everybody affected badly, got so angry that people rioted against it.

When they got to UC the focus was all about the implementation, the principle, putting benefits all together, was apparently, fine.

They didn’t go into much detail but it was obvious, bleeding obvious, that a system based ‘on-line’ would first of all run into problems (1) The private chancers who designed the computer systems are not bright enough to design a way to make this work properly, and (2) Not everybody is ‘on line’, able to use computers, get access to them, and all the rest. (3) Putting Coachy in charge of the ‘journal’ you are meant to fill in, as a religious duty…..

Next comes the detail, the way that waiting for weeks before you get money, sanctions, and the way that rent cash in hand can easily be spent immediately on other things.

Then there is the thorny issue of “in work” benefits with “conditionality”. That means people having to prove they are looking for better wages, for more hours, and the famous ‘job search’.

We could continue, and our contributors have.

Poll Tax Defeat.

The Poll Tax, they said on Polling Badly, was defeated because everybody was concerned.

And non-payment cut its roots out.

Not everyone is snarled up in Universal Credit.

But a hell of a lot of us are.

We cannot refuse to get paid!

But there’s a crowd of us all the same.

Universal Credit goes against the “Moral economy” principle that people unable to work should be entitled to a decent minimum to survive on, and those in work who need benefits should get them without being spied on, made to fulfill demeaning job search requirements, and not getting the money they need to live on.

This does not look like the end of the misery.

But Lo!

The “independent liberal conservative think tank”, “the modernising wing of the Tory party”,  Bright Blue has the answers……

Universal Credit proposal for ‘helping hand’ payout to end nightmare wait for cash (Birmingham Live).

Thinktank also suggests launch of Universal Credit phone app and live chat option

Among the problems associated with the Government’s new Universal Credit system are the nightmare five-week wait for the first payment and the online access that’s required.

These issues could be resolved if a series of new proposals are adopted, says thinktank and pressure group Bright Blue.

More  from the same ThinkTank: (TeesideLive)

DWP should pay compensation for late Universal Credit payments, report recommends

A think-tank has identified a number of issues, which could have helped hundreds of thousands of people

Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2019 at 11:25 am

New Outsourcing Scandal Hits Universal Credit.

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Image result for outsourcing critics DWP

DWP Plans Outsourcing Shenanigans with the Usual Chancers. 

As these things do they creep up on you and then…Pow!

Ho hum.

Then we got this, excellent Blog post: New Assessment System Could Lose You TWO Benefits At Once

Then this:

Exclusive: Government’s £1.4 Billion Universal Credit And Welfare Reform Outsourcing Bill Revealed

Huffington Post.  Emma Youle

The government has awarded at least £1.4billion of outsourcing contracts linked to the roll-out of Universal Credit and other welfare reforms since 2012, HuffPost UK can reveal.

As Universal Credit continues to be beset by criticism it is forcing the poorest into debt, food poverty and rent arrears, new data has shown the firms that have profited from implementing the government’s social security reforms.

The data, obtained exclusively by HuffPost UK, reveals the vast sums the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has spent carrying out health and disability assessments on benefit claimants.

It has prompted mental health and disability charities to call for DWP to urgently review the “failing” system of assessment checks.

Among the firms that have won contracts are global giants of the consultancy world.

A huge £595million contract was awarded to American consultancy group Maximus to provide health and disability assessments, the largest single DWP contract related to welfare reform since 2012 according to the data.

The firms Atos and Capita also won contracts totalling £634million to carry out assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), a disability benefit.

Consultancy firm Deloitte was awarded a £750,000 contract for work to support the Universal Credit programme and a £3million deal was signed with IT firm Q-Nomy to develop an appointment booking service for the social security payment, which is intended to simplify working-age benefits.

Another £60,000 contract was awarded for the purchase of MacBooks for Universal Credit to Software Box Limited.

(Read the full article via link above).

And to top it all off the first story is developing.

As the Blog Post by Universal Credit Sufferer says,

Another glaring point raised by Channel 4 was that the DWP are looking to again to outsource this to private contractors. This contract however would be the biggest private contract by the DWP since 2012. The single contract would be worth a staggering £3 billion and that’s before VAT.

That amount of money could be used to bring an end to the crippling benefits freeze. It could be used to tackle the rise in homelessness and so much more. Instead, in true Tory fashion it will go in the coffers of company directors and their shareholders.

At a time when inequality has never been so high in modern times, when people are dying waiting for benefit decisions, this is an incredibly ridiculous thing to do.

And it’s always worth reading the small print of government announcements, as in the Spring Statement:

Yuk!

Amber Rudd meanwhile ploughs on:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 13, 2019 at 5:17 pm

As Universal Credit “on-line Journals” Crash, End the Surveillance Regime!

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Private Eye this week outlines some of the results of ‘on-line by default’ Universal Credit.

People have problems enough with Universal Credit.

One major difficulty is the above ‘on-line Journal’.

It goes beyond just ‘getting in touch’.

Yesterday somebody showed me his: Nosey Parky Coachy has to be kept informed of your every move.

It reminded me of the Panopticon system

The basic setup of Bentham’s panopticon is this: there is a central tower surrounded by cells. In the central tower is the watchman. In the cells are prisoners – or workers, or children, depending on the use of the building. The tower shines bright light so that the watchman is able to see everyone in the cells. The people in the cells, however, aren’t able to see the watchman, and therefore have to assume that they are always under observation.

As this article goes on to say,

The looming interconnectivity between objects in our homes, cars and cities, generally referred to as the internet of things, will change digital surveillance substantially.

What does the panopticon mean in the age of digital surveillance?

In the case of the UC ‘journal’ Coachey is watching you!

Our contributors have suggested that it is not clear if we all have to sign up to this surveillance.

Surely, some say, if we can prove we are looking for jobs do we need a roach peering over your shoulder every time you look on the Internet for work?

More responses welcome.

Last night’s Friends Without Benefits had this:

Darren and Donna, were sanctioned for failing to comply with the job search requirements and Darren turned to robbing drug dealers to bring in cash, a move which left him fearing for his life after receiving threats of retaliation.

Perhaps he should have shown these jobsearch efforts to Coachy.

 

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 21, 2019 at 11:52 am