Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Archive for the ‘Welfare Reform’ Category

As Tories Campaign Against the Welfare State Tory MP Flounces Out of Hustings after saying Foodbank Users smoke and own 58 inch tellies.

with 119 comments

Image result for tories attack welfare state

Vox Political carries this story:

Life imitates ‘fake’ as more Tory candidates go into meltdown and accuse the poor.

Well, now we have more evidence that Conservatives – and especially Conservative Parliamentary candidates – really do feel that way because Mark Pritchard, Tory candidate for the Wrekin in Shropshire, walked out of a hustings after causing outrage with comments about food bank users owning 58-inch TVs.

Locals said the Wrekin MP had made inflammatory comments about people using food banks having ’58 inch TVs’ and ‘smoking £10 packs of cigarettes’, which sparked fury from the room.

Mr Pritchard was filmed berating his constituents, telling them “some of you have let yourselves down tonight”, which prompted the audience to slow clap him until he left.

According to several people who attended the debate, hosted by Telford Trades Union Congress, Mr Pritchard was answering a question on Tory cuts to disability benefits from a member of the audience when he made the comments.

 

Tory MP walks out of hustings after sparking furious row about foodbank users smoking and owning ’58 inch TVs’.

Reports the Mirror.

Mark Pritchard, who is defending his seat in The Wrekin, is alleged to have complained people who use foodbanks also have 58 inch TVs and smoke cigarettes

Labour candidate Dylan Harrison told the Mirror: “Mark decided to turn it into a quite outrageous attack on people who use foodbanks.”And he started going on about a programme he’d watched on television and how this woman had been complaining about the fact that the baked beans she’d got from a foodbank weren’t Heinz, and she had a 58 inch television and was smoking cigarettes.”And he said she was “weight challenged”, as if she didn’t need the food.”

He added: “It was a nasty thing to say and it didn’t answer the question. It was deeply unpleasant and irrelevant.”Mr Pritchard berated the audience for their furious response, saying “I think some of you have let yourselves down tonight. It’s really sad.”Some of the audience then began to slow-clap him, as he said “if you want to resort to personal abuse, it weakens you all.”He went on: “I predicted what you would do. It was predictable. Enjoy your evening, God bless you all. I still believe in Unions, I just wish some of you would be a bit more courteous.”

Some in the audience began to complain as Mr Pritchard was leaving, but one voter shouted “If he wants to p*** off, let him p*** off.”As he was saying he would be happy to stay if the crowd calmed down, there was a further furious outburst from the floor, and Mr Pritchard started to leave the room, waving as he walked to the door.

The Mirror continues,

Lucy Allan, the other Tory MP for the region, was invited to the debate, but did not attend.The Mirror contacted Mr Pritchard by phone, text and email, but he had not responded at the time of publication.

In a later statement to the Shropshire Star, he said: “I raised the issue following constituents raising the issue with me. Food banks meet a real need and offer a valuable community service.

Meanwhile on the excellent Welfare Weekly. 

Killed by the state: how Tory policies have cost countless lives

There is a reason why the government refuse to publish the updated benefit-related death totals of Employment and Support Allowance claimants, writes Mo Stewart.

(This caught my attention immediately…)

Written by Andrew Coates

June 3, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Welfare Reform, “not only cruel but chaotic.”

with 167 comments

Image result for Theresa May

Social Injustice Warrior. 

Despite the fact that none of the main political debate has been about the future of work, unemployment, the dole, and the central issue of Universal Credit, which affects millions, stories keep cropping up

These are a number of articles that have caught people’s attention  in the last few days.

Ken highlights this one:  Universal credit doesn’t reward hard work. It makes the most vulnerable pay.  

Universal credit is, for example, already proving transformative for the claimants forced into new and desperate levels of poverty as a result of its six-week in-built delay before the administration of a first payment. Last week anti-poverty charity the Trussell Trust reported a 6.4% annual increase in administration of emergency food bundles at their food banks, with areas where universal credit has been fully rolled out showing referral rates at double the national average. In response, the trust has called explicitly for a reduction in waiting times.

This payment delay is only one feature built into the design and administration of universal credit that is already having a dangerous impact on claimants, particularly those already marginalised in myriad other ways. Take, for example, the stipulation that the benefit must be paid to a single head of household rather than to individual claimants. While this may reduce administration efforts and complications for the DWP, whose IT systems have already been dogged by universal credit-related glitches, it is also effective in disempowering women.

Enigma has brought up the issue of ‘self-employment’, which a Radio Four documentary, amongst other sources, has looked into (The Self-Employment Paradox).

Self-employment and the gig economy.

Conclusions and recommendations

The welfare safety net

2.Companies relying on self-employed workforces frequently promote the idea that flexible employment is contingent on self-employed status. But this is a fiction. Self-employment is genuinely flexible and rewarding for many, but people on employment contracts can and do work flexibly; flexibility is not the preserve of poorly paid, unstable contractors. Profit, not flexibility, is the motive for using self-employed labour in these cases. Businesses should of course be expected to seek out opportunities and exploit them. It is incumbent on government to close loopholes that incentivise exploitative behaviour by a minority of companies, not least because bogus self-employment passes the burden of safety net support to the welfare state at the same time as reducing tax revenue. (Paragraph 19)

https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmworpen/847/84708.htm#_idTextAnchor015

Today the Guardian publishes this: which indicates that Theresa May could not give a toss about welfare.

Welfare reform is not only cruel but chaotic. Theresa May must address this

The most charitable interpretation of Theresa May’s evasive responses to questioning on the impact of the government’s social security policy during TV appearances at the weekend is that on this topic she is clueless. She appears to have no idea what is happening in the chaotic new world of universal credit and the lower benefit cap. One might advise a little more prime ministerial curiosity: as the gruesome details emerge it is clear that the George Osborne-Iain Duncan Smith-era welfare reform, largely left untouched by May so far, is shaping up to be one of the great Conservative policy catastrophes.

It is a shame the imminent general election has forced the Commons work and pensions select committee to curtail its inquiries into the impact of these two policies before reaching a formal conclusion. But May could still read the evidence submitted to the committee from claimants, welfare advisers, housing associations and councils, which is brutally clear: the benefit cap is not just strikingly cruel but, predictably, an abject failure on its own terms of getting people into work; and that universal credit continues to be as expensively dysfunctional, poorly designed and complicated as many feared it would be.

Unsuprisingly, the committee heard that benefit-capped claimants were experiencing “drastic and abrupt” cuts to their income as a result of the new lower benefit cap limit of £20,000 a year (£23,000 in London). No surprise there. Instant impoverishment is supposed to be a cunning “incentive” to force people to move into work (freeing them from the cap) or into cheaper housing. Yet in the real world, too often claimants can’t work even if they want to – they have small children and no accessible childcare; they are ill (and in many cases have been found unfit to work); or there is nowhere cheaper to move to.

For these people, like the capped mentally ill woman in Dorset cited by Shelter in its evidence, the only practical options are debt and starvation. “In order to make rent repayments,” Shelter writes, “[our client] stopped eating and had lost so much weight that she was down to six stone.”

It will not surprise anyone familiar with universal credit that the 150-plus evidence submissions to the committee about the government’s flagship benefit reform programme raised a “near unanimous set of concerns” about its day-to-day operation. Briefly, these are: design flaws that make universal credit a turbo-generator of claimant debt and rent arrears; and profound problems of access caused by its digital-only nature, both for claimants trying to sign on or report changes, and for advisers and landlords trying to rectify its numerous faults and glitches. Cuts have stripped universal credit of the financial incentives that were originally meant to get people into work or work more hours, while design hubris has created an unresponsive system that, far from simplifying the benefits system, appears to have added fresh layers of complexity and delay.

Surveying the mess, committee chair Frank Field MP noted acidly: “Changes that actually did save money and help the strivers get into proper, gainful employment would be very welcome, but that is not what we are seeing.” Ministers might also note that the inquiry evidence suggests these policies actively undermine their aspirations to reduce homelessness.

To be credible as a social justice warrior, May needs to offer more than weary cliches about work being “the best route out of poverty”. The reality is much more complex, and as a start requires a measure of acceptance that, in its current manifestation, welfare reform – costly and largely ineffectual – isn’t working very well.

There is a simple answer to that one: she is a social injustice warrior!

The regional press has some proof on that one: Rugby & Lutterworth Observer.

Demand for emergency food in Rugby rises again (today)

ANOTHER huge rise in demand for emergency food supplies in Rugby has been blamed on government benefit reforms by volunteers at the town’s Foodbank.

The Foodbank says demand has rocketed by more than 60 per cent this year – and cites the rollout of Universal Credit as a major factor.

More than 4,000 emergency food parcels were distributed in 2016 – 30 per cent more than the previous year – with a third going to children.

But a further increase was recorded in the last six months, meaning foodbank use has increased by 61 per cent over the last 12 months.

Issues with benefits were the primary reason for getting help in 42 per cent of all cases in the last year, up from 36 per cent.

Foodbank manager Diana Mansell said: “It is deeply concerning we are still seeing an increase in the number of three-day emergency food supplies provided to local people in crisis in Rugby over the last year. The trend over the last six months has been particularly concerning – a 61 per cent increase compared to that of the previous financial year is very worrying.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Computer Experts Cast Doubt on Universal Credit Targets as DWP Hides Behind “Agile Development”.

with 62 comments

Image result for universal credit cartoon

Mark Steel writes today in the favourite daily of the unemployed, the ‘I’ – that is apart from the Mirror .

The Government’s record of strength and stability

Mark talks of this, which we all know all too well,

I expect they’ll also refer every day to their universal credit scheme, which is five years behind schedule and cost £16bn. You have to be strong to lose that amount and not care. Weak people would get to £3-4bn and think “Oh dear, maybe we should stop”, but not if you’re strong and stable.

How we laughed….

Not only is Universal Credit a failure, a cause of misery, and a huge waste of money, but it looks unlikely to get going on time.

But there is this:

Can DWP meet its revised 2022 target for completion of Universal Credit?

In the run-up to the last UK general election in 2015, the Labour Party’s then shadow employment minister Stephen Timms pointed out that the target completion date for the Universal Credit welfare reform programme had “slipped four years in four years”.

They continue,

In July last year, the secretary of state for work and pensions, Damian Green, moved the completion date back to 2022five years later than the original 2017 target set at project launch in 2011. That makes about seven timescale slippages in all.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is still cautious when talking about future deadlines for the controversial benefits scheme – as shown by a recent freedom of information (FOI) request.

Independent IT programme manager and FOI campaigner John Slater has been a dogged thorn in the side of DWP for over five years, pushing the department through the courts to reveal unpublished documents in an effort to bring greater transparency to one of the highest-profile IT failures of the Coalition government.

Yet all seems to be going swimmingly – apart from those who’ve drowned in its snarl-ups that is,

 

Currently, Universal Credit seems to be going well – at least, compared to its troubled early stages. The “full service” version – formerly referred to as the “digital service” – is at last being rolled out country-wide. The previous version – the remnants of the system that was “reset” in 2013 at a cost of £130m – handled only the simplest of claims, whereas the full service covers the entire complexity of the scheme to replace six different in-work welfare benefits with a single payment.

Full-service roll-out is due to be completed by September 2018 – meaning that all new benefit claims will be handled through Universal Credit. A bigger challenge lies ahead – migrating about seven million claimants for the existing benefit schemes onto Universal Credit. The UK government – perhaps no government anywhere – has ever attempted such a large-scale data migration.

Yup.

 

But…

The DWP, however, claims that it no longer works with deadlines or targets, citing its use of agile development as the justification.

“The Universal Credit Programme deploys ‘agile’ techniques to ensure the system develops incrementally and this is how it is managed through its governance route. We work in short phases and, as explained before, ‘target dates’ are not features of agile programme management and are not how we run Universal Credit. We articulate the scale and structure of our delivery plans for Universal Credit in terms of phases of roll-out, to specific jobcentres and local authority areas,” said the DWP response to Slater’s FOI request.

Slater points out that this is perhaps stretching the definition of “agile” somewhat.

“The DWP is hiding behind this argument that agile means you don’t have a plan and this isn’t true,” he told Computer Weekly.

“At the programme level there should be some kind of high-level plan that sets expectations of when things need to be completed. Where agile has been applied to programmes rather than projects there is still a map/programme portfolio/goals/plan or whatever people want to call it that covers each of the projects or work-streams (depending on how the programme is structured) and when it needs to be completed.”

Given that the secretary of state has already told Parliament that Universal Credit has a 2022 target completion date, you can have some sympathy with Slater when he adds: “The response seems to confirm to me that the DWP is making it up as it goes along and doesn’t have any kind of credible plan showing how long it will take.”

Surely planning is socialist tyranny?

Prepare for some real obfuscation (word of the day) from the DWP:

DWP acknowledged to Slater that the 2021 target has been mentioned in documents supplied to the Universal Credit Programme Board, but stated the date has “yet to be confirmed”. It said:

“In line with agile methodology, the sooner the activity, the more detail there is.

These activity streams are called:

Governance and project management, which gives details of reviews and assessments that take place to review progress. This activity stream refers to a 2021 closure date, which is yet to be confirmed.

Transformation and planning, which looks at the interfaces and frameworks that need to be in place for Universal Credit to roll out. This looks at migration and refers to ESA/tax Credit claimant migration completed by 2021.

“UC product development, which describes the digital features Universal Credit will make use of. There is a reference to decommissioning legacy IT in 2021, which is yet to be confirmed.

We have not yet started to plan any activity around project closure or legacy decommissioning; nor have we started any significant planning for the ESA/tax credit stage of migration, which, as you may know, is now planned to complete in 2022.”

That’s answered him!

Still,

MPs have repeatedly criticised DWP for a “veil of secrecy” and lack of transparency over Universal Credit, and Slater’s experience suggests the department continues to take a highly cautious approach to what it reveals about project development and timescales.

Amazingly, given the programme has been going since 2011, the full business case for Universal Credit has still not been submitted or signed off by the Treasury – that’s due to take place in September this year.

At that time, perhaps DWP will finally reveal more detail about how it will avoid further delays during a three-year migration period that will present significant risks to Universal Credit roll-out.

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 28, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Tory Election News You Probably Will Not Hear.

with 32 comments

Image result for Tories and welfare Theresa May

Always Looking for New Targets to Reach.

Callous Tory government targeting the most vulnerable in society’.

Welfare Weekly. 20th of April

Conservatives accused of “targeting the most vulnerable in society” with “callous” cuts to Employment and Support Allowance.

Labour MP John Cruddas has accused the Tory government of “targeting the most vulnerable in society” with draconian welfare cuts, which he claims will have a big impact on his poorest Dagenham and Rainham constituents.

The “callous” Conservatives are cutting £30 a week in Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments for up to 500,000 sick and disabled people, reducing the amount they receive from £102.15 to just £73.10 – the same amount as Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) – despite those affected having been declared “unfit for work” following an assessment.

Bereaved families attend widowed parents’ allowance protest

Westminster demonstration takes place after change in rules dramatically reduces amount paid out after a death.

Widowed parents have attended a protest outside parliament after ministers pressed ahead with cuts that will leave some bereaved families more than £50,000 worse off.

One of the attendees said the decision, which came into place earlier this month, was equivalent to “punishing those who are living out most families’ worst nightmares”.

Scotland: Scottish Housing News.

Women ‘hardest hit’ by UK welfare cuts, says minister

Women are being unfairly impacted by recent UK government cuts to benefits and welfare eligibility, according to equalities secretary Angela Constance.

An estimated 20% of women’s income comes from benefits and child tax credits, compared to 10% of men’s. Meanwhile, of all in-work families receiving child tax credits, 87% of recipients were women. For in-work single parents, 94% of recipients were female.

By 2020-21 it is estimated around 50,000 Scottish households will be affected by the changes to child tax credits, which will be capped at two children. This means anyone with two children or more will no longer receive tax credits at the birth of their next child or subsequent children, unless an exception applies. The policy also affects those making a new Universal Credit claim.

In addition, new families will lose £545 a year from the removal of the ‘family element’ – an additional payment that applies to the birth of a first child.

Ms Constance said: “The latest welfare cuts are having a hugely damaging and disproportionate impact on women. It is, frankly, an appalling assault on the incomes of ordinary people already struggling to make ends meet.

“It is all the more concerning because in many households women are the primary, or even sole, carers of children – a massive step backwards for equality in our society.

“As usual we are seeing an alarming lack of understanding from the UK government about the impact of their ideologically-driven policies. This is most evident in the extremely ill-thought through ‘rape clause’, where – shockingly – women have to provide evidence they’ve been raped to access benefits.

“The UK government’s callous policies make our own efforts to eradicate child poverty even harder. We are spending some £100 million a year on welfare mitigation to protect the vulnerable and those on low incomes, which we would rather be investing in anti-poverty measures. The reality is we are tackling deep seated issues of inequality with one hand tied behind our back.

“These welfare cuts were also introduced at the same time the UK government reduced taxes for the most well off south of the border. In contrast, our approach to social security will be based on dignity and respect and listening to people’s views – that’s why we are recruiting 2,000 people to shape the new system through our Experience Panels.”

And just to cheer everybody up: from the Belfast Telegraph about our old friend, Universal Credit.

No Stormont deal could see welfare reform with hard edge

Without a deal to bring back devolution, the Assembly will be unable to bring in mitigation schemes to cushion the impact of the upheaval for vulnerable families and individuals.

Universal Credit, which replaces a number of major benefits, is to be rolled out across the province in just over four months.

If the Assembly is not restored in that time, Secretary of State James Brokenshire will be required to take unilateral action, that could bring the Government in for criticism from other parts of the UK if the mitigation measures are included.

Just over 18 months ago the DUP and Sinn Fein handed back responsibility for welfare to Westminster, after more than three years of deadlock over benefit reforms.

The result was the Northern Ireland Welfare Reform Act, which means the power to trigger Universal Credit changes is in place.

Around 300,000 households will be impacted, with official estimates that 126,000 will be worse off by an average of almost £40 a week.

A further 114,000 are expected to be an average of £29 better off a week, with 72,000 remaining unchanged.

The changes are to be phased in gradually across Northern Ireland staring with Limavady in September – if the current timetable can be adhered to – followed by Ballymoney, Magherafelt and Coleraine.

The full roll-out of the programme will take a year, finishing off with Cookstown, Ballynahinch and Newcastle by September of next year.

Universal Credit replaces a series of existing benefits including Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.

The Department for Communities, which is working with the Department for Work and Pensions in London following the handover of responsibilities, confirmed yesterday the Assembly had been expected to deal with legislation to extend mitigation payments central to the reforms here.

“Mitigation schemes are already in place for legacy benefits for example JSA and ESA. Further legislation will be required to extend these mitigation payments to Universal Credit,” a statement said.

“This legislation will be dealt with by the NI Assembly. If there was no return to devolved government then such legislation would be considered in line with whatever arrangements were put in place to deal with this and all other pending NI legislation.”

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph this month, benefits expert Professor Eileen Evason said more can be achieved through parties working together.

“What we have, limited as it is, is far in advance of what has been secured by other devolved governments and demonstrates what can be achieved through devolution when people work together,” she said.

Prof Evason, who chaired a Stormont working group charged with mitigating the impact of the reforms within the financial framework, added: “I am also very aware of the high level of social need that continues to scar so many households and communities and is most evident in the growing reliance on food banks.

“I have no doubt those working with the most vulnerable in our society are anxious to move forward, but here, as is the case on so many issues, it is difficult to see how progress can be made without resolution of the current political impasse.”

Belfast Telegraph

Written by Andrew Coates

April 21, 2017 at 12:13 pm

Calls to End Benefit Freeze.

with 61 comments

Image result for benefit freeze damian green

Furtive Looking Damian Green Under Pressure.

Chancellor Philip Hammond facing calls from own party to review four-year benefit freeze

reports the Independent.

This excellently researched report (which readers of the ‘I’ will have noted yesterday) is very welcome:

Exclusive: It comes after The Independent revealed earlier this month the Government had underestimated the severity of its four-year freeze on working-age benefits, with the cap now set to hit claimants by almost 50 per cent more than official estimates.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is facing calls from within his own party to review the four-year freeze on working-age benefits to alleviate the pressures on those with the lowest incomes in Britain.

It comes after The Independent revealed earlier this month the Government had grossly underestimated the severity of its four-year freeze on working-age benefits, with the cap now set to hit claimants by almost 50 per cent more than official estimates.

An analysis by the House of Commons Library showed that, due to rising inflation, the measure introduced last year is now expected to reduce support for those on low incomes by £13bn over the next four years, compared with the Government’s own forecast of £9bn.

Heidi Allen, a Conservative MP on the Work and Pensions Select Committee, told The Independent the Chancellor needed to look again at the policy.

“I see it principally because of Brexit that economically things were going to get turbulent, and that’s why we pushed so hard to get some money pumped back into universal credit, which as you’ll know we got a modest improvement on the taper rate – a couple of per cent,” she said.

“I remember saying it at the time: ‘We’re not through this yet’. If inflation picks up, people are going to be in trouble and that’s where we are.”

Asked whether she thought Mr Hammond should review the policy, Ms Allen replied: “I do.”

Ms Allen said the Chancellor has to look seriously at injecting money back either into the work allowances or the taper rates in universal credit in line with where inflation is heading. One possible solution would be redirecting the finances put into the raising of the tax threshold, she added.

“Otherwise while the raising of the tax threshold was great, it’s a bit of a headline because it affects absolutely everybody,” she said.

“It’s a pretty crude and blunt instrument in terms of having a positive impact on incomes because it doesn’t focus in on those who really need it.

We observe that inflation in the prices of basics is pretty visible, visit the supermarket for a start…

This is worth noting,

Debbie Abrahams, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said the four-year freeze in social security payments, coupled with the increase in inflation, will “feel like a cut to families who are already struggling”.

“Millions of people who rely on tax credits, universal credit, employment and support allowance and other forms of social security will see their living standards fall even further. Many more children and disabled people will face poverty,” she added.

Ms Abrahams also said Jeremy Corbyn’s party would reverse the cuts to in-work support that “will see 2.5 million families worse off by an average of £2,100 a year”.

A Government spokesperson said: “By cutting taxes for millions of people, giving the lowest earners a pay rise with the National Living Wage, doubling free childcare for nearly 400,000 parents and freezing fuel duty, we are helping people who need it most.”

Written by Andrew Coates

April 18, 2017 at 10:00 am

From Benefit Cap to Universal Credit: Theresa May Spreads Misery.

with 86 comments

Image result for benefit cap campaign against

Last Night the BBC showed this programme:  BemThousands on 50p-a-week housing benefit, Panorama finds.

More than 7,500 households have lost their housing benefit and instead receive a nominal 50p a week because of the welfare cap, the BBC has found.

A Panorama survey of hundreds of councils shows at least 67,600 homes in England, Scotland and Wales have lost some money due to the policy.

The cap is £23,000 in London and £20,000 in the rest of the country.

The nominal amount is paid so that those households can claim access to an emergency fund if they need to.

They have to be in receipt of some housing benefit in order to be eligible to apply for discretionary housing payments, a special government fund set up for those particularly affected by the cap.

The cap is part of the government’s drive to get unemployed people back into employment by cutting out-of-work benefits.

The amount of money above the limit is taken from either housing benefit or Universal Credit.

The Mirror, a paper which has consistently stood up for us lot, reports on this,

Tories’ benefit cap leaves thousands of families left with just 50p a week for rent

People have been made homeless and separated from their children as a result of the new welfare rules, according to a BBC Panorama probe

And in a further story,

Unemployed mother-of-four receives just 50p A WEEK to cover rent after Tory housing benefit cap changes

Desperate Kim Carmichael was threatened with eviction at the start of the year and says her life has altered dramatically as a result of the government’s adjustments

They used to get £500 a week in benefits to look after their four children but their payments were cut by £120 in November under the changes.

They say their rent used to be covered by housing benefit but that has since been cut to the minimum amount.

Steve said: “Now it’s only 50p a week – so that’s £2 a month, which they may as well keep. It costs more to send a letter out.”

The family was threatened with eviction at the end of January because of their rent arrears.

They then got a payment from a special government fund set up to help those who have been affected by the cap.

But this payment also ran out at the end of March and they will now have to apply for more money. If they don’t get it, they could lose their home.

The government says the benefit cap tries to level up “the playing field between families who are in work and who are reliant on benefits.”

The misery the government is inflicting specifically through Universal Credit is spread wider.

Serious stories are appearing in the better regional papers.

This is from the Chronicle, Newcastle.

How much money do people claiming Universal Credit benefits actually get?

We look at how people live on the benefit, which has now been rolled out across Newcastle

Last week, we reported on Newcastle City Council’s fears over the impact of a new benefits system on some vulnerable people in the city.

The city is one of the first in the country where the Universal Credit system has been rolled out in full — but what does that actually mean for the people who rely on it?

The whole article is worth reading, but the concluding bit stands out,

According to DWP figures, in Newcastle there were just over 5,000 people claiming Universal Credit as of February 9.

Of these, the majority, around 2,717 were looking for work.

But 1,484 claimants were working.

On top of that, 488 people had no requirement to look for work, while a handful more were classed as “preparing for work” or “planning for work”.

But it’s not quite that simple

According to Donna, some people may be struggling to claim everything they’re entitled to.

One of the big problems is for those who’ve been used to claiming housing benefit, which goes directly to their landlords, and now have to pay themselves out of their monthly claim.

They may not have the right documents to show what they’re paying in rent – someone who signed a tenancy agreement ten years ago is unlikely to be paying the same amount now, for example.

Donna said: “Some people are putting themselves in financial hardship because they don’t know what they can claim. If you’re unsure, talk to your landlord.

On top of that, one of the major issues some claimants face is the up to six week wait before payments start – for people who’ve lost work and don’t have an alternative source of cash, this wait could prove a very difficult time, with people claiming food parcels or even racking up debts to tide them over.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 6, 2017 at 11:38 am

Job Centre Closures: Lobby Today.

with 47 comments

Image result for jobcentre closures

The PCS Union announces.

Ahead of PCS’ lobby of parliament on Tuesday (28 March) opposing DWP office closures, MPs, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and others have been highlighting the negative impact that these closures will have on staff, users and the local community. Find out how you can join the lobby.

PCS has arranged the speaker meeting and lobby as part of our campaign to oppose office closures to over 100 DWP offices, including 74 jobcentres, representing more than 10% of the total. This will lead to at least 750 job losses. DWP plans to replace staff they make redundant with new staff, at further cost to the taxpayer.

The lobby will start with a speaker meeting in parliament at 1pm followed by a lobby from 2-4 pm in committee room 10, Houses of Parliament (St Stephen’s Gate Entrance) Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA.

And: 

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has said of the plans: “Jobcentres provide a lifeline for unemployed people and forcing them to travel further is not only unfair, it undermines support to get them back to work.”

Staff will face job losses, and in some cases, unreasonable travel journeys to and from work. Those with caring responsibilities, childcare commitments and access requirements will be particularly disadvantaged. Staff losses are coming at a time when Universal Credit is being rolled out, hampered by delays, IT failures and backlogs. DWP could redeploy staff to Universal Credit where resources are needed.

In Glasgow 50% of DWP offices are targeted for closure in an area where unemployment is higher than the national average.

Staff in Bishop Auckland, one of the offices targeted for closure, also contribute more than £100,000 a year to local businesses.

In Llanelli, £500,000 could be lost annually to local traders if the closure of the benefits office goes ahead.

We share many of the concerns raised by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is “extremely concerned” by the plans and manner of consultation. The mayor has raised concerns with the minister for employment, Damian Hinds, including the impact of the closures, the lack of adequate time for consultation, the increased travel time and costs for users, the impact on disabled people, BAME communities and young people from low income families. The mayor states that “plans to close job centres…will hit the disadvantaged hardest”.

“Now, more than ever, the government should be focusing its efforts on creating new jobs and helping those most in need of support to access employment,” he said.

The government has not consulted claimants who use these job centres on the closure plans. Many are in areas of high unemployment and social deprivation. Disability claimants, staff/users with caring responsibilities and vulnerable users must be given due regard in terms of the equality impact assessment and the disadvantage that they will face if offices close or are relocated. Having to travel further as a result of these proposals also means some users are unfairly out of pocket and run the risk of being sanctioned for lateness. Equality impact assessments have not been carried out to assess the disadvantaged groups that will be hit by this campaign.

What you can do

Concerns have been raised by MPs in parliament and your local MP can also play a powerful role in this campaign; they need to hear from you to raise awareness and about the impact that this will have in the local community.  If you have never been to a lobby of parliament before, PCS will be on hand to support you on the day.

Make your voice heard – contact your MP now and arrange a meeting for 28 March.

Background Mirror:, 26th of January.

Reckless” plans to slash millions from the welfare department’s bill by shutting Jobcentres across the country have been revealed.

The Department for Work and Pensions today announced it wants to merge staff and facilities from 78 smaller Jobcentre Plus offices into larger ones.

It wants to move another 50 into council or other similar offices to create “one-stop shops”, and shut 27 back offices.

The DWP insisted the move – carried out to slash its bills by £180m a year – would employ “under-used” buildings more efficiently.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2017 at 11:52 am