Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Posts Tagged ‘Amber Rudd

Universal Credit, 50% of Claimants Face Deductions from their Benefits.

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Amber Rudd Faces 50% of UC Claimants Misery.

On the things that ‘Think Tanks’ like Bright Blue seem unable, er, to think about, is the way Universal Credit has led to many people having deductions taken from their benefits.

Plain as the wart on their noses – causes being, amongst others, the long wait for money, and the problems with paying rent, and utility bills, the scale of this practice, as well as the immediate causes, astonishes even this Site.

The story is all over the media today so even the Rotters Club and the ERG might deign to notice it.

Over half of Universal Credit claimants have money deducted from payments, new figures show

Independent.

Deductions made when claimants have outstanding debts with their utility companies or landlord

More than half of Universal Credit claimants have money deducted from benefit payments

Chronicle Live.

Deductions are automatically taken from benefits when a claimant has a debt to pay, but an MP argues they’re cruel and force a reliance on foodbanks.

More than 50% of Universal Credit claimants have their benefits deducted – which an MP says is the ‘main supply route to food banks’.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures released yesterday reveal 53% of Universal Credit claimants had some cash taken out of their payments in October 2018.

Deductions – which differ from sanctions – are made when claimants owe money to utility companies or landlords. The automatic deductions are used to pay the outstanding debts.

But MP Frank Field, the chairman of the Work and Pensions Select Committee who requested the figures, says the deductions leave families unable to afford essentials and are “a main supply route to foodbanks “. He has called on energy companies to write-off debts for customers who genuinely cannot afford to pay.

The figures show that 532,000 Universal Credit claimants had some of their payments deducted in October 2018.

Six thousand claimants had reductions of 40% of their allowance or more, while 129,000 claimants had deductions of between 31 and 40%.

October’s statistics show a sharp rise in deductions compared to figures obtained by FOI in August 2018 by The Guardian newspaper, which showed one-third of claimants at that time saw money deducted from their payments.

In May 2017, just one in 10 claimants had their payments deducted, the figures said.

Here is the actual reply: Department for Work and Pensions.

Asked by Frank Field (Birkenhead)
Asked on: 07 February 2019
Department for Work and Pensions
Universal Credit
Answered by: Alok Sharma
Answered on: 20 March 2019
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, how many and what proportion of universal credit claims had a deduction applied in the most recent month for which data is available.

The Government recognises the importance of safeguarding the welfare of claimants who have incurred debt. Under Universal Credit there is a co-ordinated approach to deductions from benefit, which simplifies the current complex arrangements.

The aim of the deductions policy in Universal Credit is to protect vulnerable claimants from eviction and/or having their gas, electricity and water cut off, by providing a last resort repayment method for arrears of these essential services.

Work has been done to increase awareness of advances and access to them for claimants, and to support this, new guidance has been issued to staff.

This guidance makes it clear that claimants should be made aware of advances, made aware of their maximum entitlement and informed that their entitlement will be adjusted over the relevant recovery period to take this into account. This increased awareness has resulted in around 60% of eligible new claims to Universal Credit receiving an advance in October 2018, providing further financial support until their first payment.

Of all eligible claims* to Universal Credit Full Service due a payment in October 2018, 53% (532,000 claims) had a deduction to their standard allowance.

Of these 532,000 claims with a deduction:

a) 53% (284,000 claims) had deductions up to 20% of the Standard Allowance (28% of all eligible claims).

b) 21% (113,000 claims) had deductions between 21% and 30% of the Standard Allowance (11% of all eligible claims).

c) 24% (129,000 claims) had deductions between 31% and 40% of their Standard Allowance (13% of all eligible claims).

d) 1% (6,000 claims) had deductions above 40% of their Standard Allowance (0.6% of all eligible claims).

Notes:

*Eligible claimants are claimants that have satisfied all the requirements of claiming Universal Credit; they have provided the necessary evidence, signed their claimant commitment and are eligible and have recieved their first payment.

These figures do not include sanctions or fraud penalties which are reductions of benefit rather than deductions.

Claim numbers may not match official statistics caseloads due to small methodological differences.

Claim numbers are rounded to the nearest 1,000.

Amber has other things on her mind:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2019 at 11:32 am

New Outsourcing Scandal Hits Universal Credit.

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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

Benefit Sanctions on Universal Credit Misery.

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Sanctions, a subject this Blog and our contributors have often raised, are in the news today.

The awful number of Universal Credit sanctions forcing Hull families into poverty

Hull Daily Mail.

Shocking new figures have revealed the number of people in Hull who have had their Universal Creditpayments stopped or cut since the scheme was rolled out.

…. 1,547 of the people in Hull claiming Universal Credit saw their payments stopped or reduced at least once since the scheme began, according to official figures as of October 2018.

Payments are either reduced or stopped completely depending on the severity of the sanction.

The lowest levels sanctions are those where a person has failed to attend a work-focused interview whereas the highest level of sanctions, which can last for up to three months, could be given for refusing a job offer.

If people are sanctioned more than once they can have their payments halted or reduced for extra weeks as a penalty.The findings have been condemned by critics with many agreeing that the sanctions are casting the most vulnerable people in society into “destitution.”

These are known as “sanctions,” and happen when a person is judged to have failed to meet the terms of their Universal Credit commitment.

And Cambridgeshire Live (also today),

This is how many people have had their Universal Credit stopped in Cambridgeshire

Payments are reduced or stopped, depending on the severity of the sanction given to that person

More than a thousand people who get Universal Credit in Cambridgeshire have seen their payments stopped or cut since the scheme started.

Warnings from experts have been issued as they think it means more people are having to use food banks, are being pushed into debt, and are forced to “struggle against the tide of poverty”.

The controversial “six-in-one” benefits system replaces “legacy”benefits, including tax credits, housing benefit and unemployment benefit.

But 1,362 people in Cambridgeshire have seen their payments stopped or reduced at least once since the scheme rolled out, according to official figures as of October 2018.

Some background:

Nine times more people sanctioned under Universal Credit

(2018. Mind)

The Government has released statistics detailing how many people who need support from benefits are being sanctioned – having their financial support cut or stopped entirely because they’re not able to do the things that are being asked of them, such as attend appointments with a work coach or Jobcentre Plus advisor.

Universal Credit (UC) is gradually replacing a combination of other benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), provided to those who aren’t currently able to work due to a mental and/or physical health problems, and Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) provided to people looking for paid work.

The figures from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) show:

  • Sanctions under Universal Credit are at least nine times higher than the benefits it is replacing. In the last period for which data is available 2.8 per cent of people saw their benefits drop due to a UC sanction compared to 0.3 per cent of people on JSA and 0.1 per cent of people on ESA.
  • Disabled people receiving ESA are over three times more likely than people in receipt of JSA to still be receiving benefits six months after a sanction – 85 per cent of people receiving ESA compared to 27 per cent people receiving JSA.

Meanwhile Amber Rudd has grub on her mind:

Written by Andrew Coates

March 10, 2019 at 3:32 pm

End the Benefit Freeze, “predicted to increase poverty more than any other policy”.

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I imagine many of us have the same routine.

Look in B&M for cheap food offers (tins of tomatoes to start with), and walk around to all the other places where stuff is good value – Aldi, Lidl, near the top of the list.

Every time – and I’m not talking about Bills, this is everyday, you notice that prices are slowly, but surely, going up.

Unlike benefits.

The Benefit Freeze started, believe it or not, in 2014.

The horror began where so many do – at Conservative party conference. In September 2014, then Chancellor George Osborne announced to the audience in Birmingham that benefits for people of working age would be frozen for two years.

New Statesman.

In the last few days there’s been a number of stories about this injustice.

Welfare Weekly,

Tory benefit freeze ‘predicted to increase poverty more than any other policy’

Chancellor Philip Hammond urged to end the freeze to working-age benefits a year earlier than originally planned.

It has been predicted that prolonging the four-year freeze to working-age benefits will “increase poverty more than any other policy” introduced by the Tory Government since 2015.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee (WPSC), a cross-party group of MPs, has received evidence showing that a family of four receiving Universal Credit will be over £800 a year worse off by 2020, when the controversial freeze is set to end, “even if both parents are working full-time on the National Living Wage”.

And analysis of figures from the House of Commons Library shows that affected households will have incomes between £888 and £1,845 lower in 2019-20, in real-terms, than they would have had if the freeze wasn’t in place.

Evidence compiled by the WPSC found that ending the benefit freeze – for all frozen benefits other than child benefit – a year earlier than originally intended would lift 200,000 people out of poverty.

“Households have seen significant actual cuts to their real income because of the various caps and freezes since 2010: a single earner couple with two children’s income will fall by 0.7% in real terms, and an out-of-work lone parent with one child by 6.7% in real terms, between 2010/11 and 2019/20.”

Witnesses told the Committee that that the main issue driving poverty and destitution “is that working-age benefits are paid at far too low a level now and have been for a number of years”.

They added: “Obviously, that has been exacerbated by the benefit freeze, so they are losing value year on year.”

The UK’s largest food bank network Trussell Trust says the only way to alleviate poverty and ease demand on food banks is to “ensure incomes, from both work and benefits, can meet people’s living costs”.

The charity recommended that the benefits freeze be lifted and benefits uprated in line with inflation, “in particular, Child Tax Credits and the Child Element of Universal Credit should be uprated in line with inflation to reflect the additional, inescapable costs upon families.”

The demand for an end to the freeze came from the Work and Pensions Committee,

Benefit freeze “predicted to increase poverty more than any other policy”: Committee to question Amber Rudd on benefit levels “driving destitution and poverty” – ahead of Spring Statement next week, Committee makes costed case to end freeze year early.

During March the Committee is taking evidence on the effects of the – effective – cut in people’s living standards.

Ahead of the evidence hearing the Committee has written to Amber Rudd saying “the current freeze was originally designed to save £3bn… the Treasury would still make in-year savings of £2.5bn in 2019/20, even if the freeze was ended a year early. This, combined with the most recent monthly public borrowing figures showing a budget surplus of £14.9bn in January 2019—£5.6bn more than the surplus in January 2018, and the largest January budget surplus on record   – lead the Committee to encourage the Secretary of State to “urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider ending the benefit freeze a year early”.

This call fell on deaf ears:

The Mirror.

Benefit freeze from April APPROVED by MPs – costing families up to £1,800 a year

It means millions of people’s benefits will be frozen for the fourth year in a row – while MPs’ pay rises 2.7% to almost £80,000

MPs tonight approved another year of the cruel benefit freeze – meaning it is now costing some families £1,800 a year.

Millions of working-age people’s benefits will now be frozen for the fourth year in a row from April.

Amber Rudd in the meantime is dancing with unicorns.

https://twitter.com/AmberRuddHR/status/1102946279783624704

Written by Andrew Coates

March 6, 2019 at 11:08 am

Nightmare on Universal Credit.

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Universal Credit Money Management.

A few weeks ago we posted this:

The alleged simplicity of Universal Credit and the lived experience of benefit claimants Kate Summers and David Young 

It noted the following,

Moreover the earmarking tools and short-term orientations are sometimes seen as deficiencies to be fixed with money management education and training. Instead they should be recognised for what they are: astute responses to managing on a very low income.

All of this was blown sky high when the series Skint Britain was shown on Channel Four.

What struck this writer in the last episode  was the entirely predictable way that some claimants immediately spent their monthly payments and had nothing left for rent. Conveniently now directly paid out, instead of to the landlord, the result was huge debts, which the letting agencies were left with, and evictions.

The Hartlepool Mail notes,

6 minutes in: Sad scenes show a tenant being evicted from a property for failing to pay their rent.

Letting agent Billy says the tenant owes him more than £2,000 in rent arrears, so he has been forced to come down to the property to change the locks.

This  problem about Universal Credit ‘money management’ is unlikely to be sorted out by pious ‘education’.

Then there was this, from the excellent coverage in the Hartlepool Mail.

Skint Britain: Police vow to investigate latest episode of controversial documentary filmed in Hartlepool

The last episode of the three part series showed people on the benefit system using loan sharks as they struggle to cope – but repaying debts sees both those borrowing money and the loan sharks themselves resorting to violence.

Scenes show people on the streets with knives and guns and now Cleveland Police have confirmed that they will be investigating the latest episode.

A spokeswoman for the force said: “Cleveland Police will be investigating the Skint Britain: Friends Without Benefits episode from Wednesday night.”

Today we have more on “money management” on Universal Credit.

‘Universal credit is a nightmare – the stress is overwhelming’Guardian.

Jacqueline Widick, 47, on how osteoarthritis has left her struggling to pay her bills.

I receive £732 a month through universal credit, with £400 of it going straight on my rent. Apparently I was overpaid my jobseeker’s allowance five years ago so they’re taking £75 a month from me. So I have about £235 left to pay for gas, electricity and any other bills. It’s left me suicidal. I tried killing myself in September and tried again when I found out how much I’d be receiving a month. Thankfully when I called my best friend he came over and stayed with me. People like me used to receive severe disability premiums on top of JSA but they took that away under universal credit. Now I receive about half as much as I used to.

I live in a bungalow owned by a housing association that costs £400 a month. If I’m working I have to pay this; I get no help with rent. My bills come to about £200 a month. I can’t really afford food. My friend drives me once a week to a supermarket and pays for my food bill which comes to £20. I limit how much I eat to just once or twice a day. I can’t afford days out or to go for a meal.

I’m caught in a perpetual cycle of having to do contract work because I’d lose my benefits if didn’t. The issue with universal credit or JSA is if you don’t take a temp role you get sanctioned; you lose your money for six weeks if you don’t take it. And they check everything, all the interviews and jobs applied for, and contact the agencies. My list of jobs is enormous because if don’t take a temp role I lose my benefits. Now I’m trying to find a permanent role and the potential employers question why I’ve had so many jobs – they’re worried I’ll leave.

This is also in the news, as flagged up by our contributors.

Universal Credit claimants lose High Court ‘discrimination’ case They argued they were worse off after being moved on to the new system from their previous benefits

Three Universal Credit claimants who said they were “unlawfully discriminated against” under the controversial welfare scheme have lost a High Court case against the Government. In a test case over Universal Credit, the claimants argued they were left worse off after being moved on to the new system from their previous benefits. Patricia Reynolds, 51, who is disabled and lives alone, said she lost £180 a month, while a 38-year-old woman identified only as TD and her severely disabled 12-year-old daughter received £140 less a month for 18 months. They argued that, having been transferred on to UC because of “errors” made by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), they were unable to return to their previous, higher level of welfare payments.

As always Amber Rudd is ahead of the curve.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 2, 2019 at 10:51 am

“Universal Credit is Affecting Everyone”.

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Don’t forget the Benefits Freeze as Brexit Hits Prices.

The Universal Credit disaster continues:

As our contributors write,

Not even students are spared the ravages of Universal Credit. Students are even more worse off than part-time workers who lose 63p from their UC for every pound earned. Students unfortunate to claim Universal Credit lose a whole £1.00 for every pound of their grant.

And now they’re coming for the pensioners:

The Mirror today:

Universal Credit leaves hundreds behind on council rent

The Scotsman,

HUNDREDS of students across Scotland have today joined together to sign an open letter to the government demanding a review of the impact of Universal Credit (UC) on their lives and ability to continue in higher education.

The group say UC has “fundamentally disregarded students” in the way it calculates their income, with lone parents, the disabled and students from low income families among the hardest hit.

Paloma Paige, president of the St Andrews University Students’ Association, is the main signatory of the letter and warns of the long-term impact on access to education.

The headline from Plymouth Live sums it all up:

Universal Credit is affecting everyone – the heartbreaking horror stories

No matter where you are in the country, you are guaranteed to find masses of people who have had problems with Universal Credit.

Last week, Plymouth Live ran a story detailing how you could change your payments if you were struggling – and dozens of people reached out to us to share their stories.

We have heard extensively from Plymouth families who have become increasingly worse off after the change-over.

One single mum who told Plymouth Live she had been stung by the benefit cap – brought in by the previous Coalition Government in 2010 – and faced legal eviction from her home because of her wrangle with the benefits system that forced her into rent arrears.

Disabled Plymouth man, Neil Wright, said he was utterly bamboozled with the new Universal Creditbenefit – after receiving a payment of just 1p and being left with 77p to live on for two weeks.

But now, people from all over the UK have shared their horror stories and they are truly heartbreaking.

Here is the Minister’s Response:

Written by Andrew Coates

February 25, 2019 at 11:28 am

“Deflection script’ used to get Universal Credit claimants off the phone (Sky News).

with 67 comments

 

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All week our contributors have been talking about the Digital Disgrace of Universal Credit.

Harpo commented,

With Universal Credit’s full digital service you don’t actually physically sign your CC. You accept what is recorded on it by clicking a button later on a page in your UC online account or, as poor Violet has discovered, the automatic system doesn’t pay you by direct transfer into your bank account.

Ken suggested,

Get rid of that online account.The situation can rapidly go down hill you don’t know who’s looking I there and what could be going on, these could be a dozen heads looking in there hence a dozen opinions and none of them lawful.

How can a claimant commitment be agreed online it must be done face to face,simply someone putting anything on there is like giving some an ultimatum.Try to avoid using family for support as this could put a strain on relationships long term.The whole idea of the welfare state is to provide the support not the family.

I’ve had horrendous experiences with these Claimant Commitments with no doubt many more people,all well mentioned.

There are so many other comments – they all deserve a serious read – that it would be hard to keep up.

One thing that comes out is the way “online” is meant to be the way everything gets done – E-Mails from job application to the UC Journal.

You get the feeling that there’s some gleaming Web World out there where everything goes on with a few taps on the keyboard.

In the meantime where most of us live ordinary people, and the poor, wander around, looking, er, not well off, popping into Poundland and B&M to look out for cheap stuff.

This story, which I saw on the telly this morning, just about sums it all up.

The issue emerged last year:

A Labour MP has described the practice, which sees claimants urged to head online instead of speak on the phone, as “outrageous”

Sky News has obtained a “deflection script” which confirms Universal Credit call agents were officially told to refer claimants online instead of addressing their concerns on the phone.

The claims had been dismissed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as “completely false” after our initial report in October, when a former Universal Credit case manager, Bayard Tarpley, came forward to lift the lid on the controversial practice.

The documents reveal that the “deflection scripts” were introduced in November 2016 to “support staff during telephone calls”.

The guidance was designed to cut down on the thousands of claimants contacting call centres by getting callers to log on to access their benefit.

According to the document, five call centres took place in a two-week pilot last year – including in Blackpool, Canterbury, Middlesbrough, Belfast and Bristol.

call centre hub in Grimsby, where Mr Tarpley worked as a case manager, used the deflection scripts for a longer period of time.”

Managers listened in on calls between handlers and claimants to see if the scripts were effective in “encouraging claimants to use their online account”.

Watch it: it shows a woman whose dad was plunged into misery because of this ‘script’.

The poor bloke was so stressed out that he took his own life.

Leanne Bailey’s father Brian was put on Universal Credit at the beginning of 2018. In July, he took his own life. He was 59.

She said: “He couldn’t understand the system from the very start. He was told to go online and access his journal but he didn’t have a clue about the internet. He was constantly ringing up and asking for advice but was told to go online. It really got him down.”

Sky News concludes,

A National Audit Office report concluded that Universal Credit has been too slow in its introduction, causes unnecessary hardship and is not providing value for money.

It has also been claimed that funding cuts have meant there was not enough support for those trying to access their claim.

The criticism follows warnings from several non-governmental organisations. Last year, the UK’s biggest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, reported that demand for food parcels in areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out increased by an average of 30%.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary at the Public and Commercial Services (PSC) Union, said: “It is breathtaking that ministers have been caught lying to the public about the existence of a so-called ‘deflection script’ for Universal Credit claimants.

“Our members would prefer to be given the resources and time to give a first class service to help claimants. However they are instructed to use this deflection script as a means to get people off the phones.

“It is another example of a government who has failed to invest in staff and support claimants. This is why Universal Credit must be scrapped and replaced with a system that supports those in need.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “There has never been a policy to hurry callers off the phone and accusations that this is the case are completely false. Call handlers are encouraged to spend as much time as necessary on the phone and remind claimants that they are able to complete certain activities online where appropriate.”

Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, has promised to make changes to Universal Credit admitting it lacks compassion towards those accessing it.

Update:

Written by Andrew Coates

February 1, 2019 at 9:49 am