Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘Cuts

Millions Face Income Cut with Welfare Reform.

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Tories Welfare ‘Reform’. 

I thought a lot about this yesterday.

First of all, let’s not forget that the Benefits Freeze means we are no longer able to keep up with every rising prices in the shops, utility charges and higher Community Charge.

Next, the report highlights the fact that many people on Local Housing Benefit,  are no longer getting their rents fully paid.

FInally you can guess the DWP’s response without even reading the article.

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “This report assumes that people won’t make any attempt to change and to improve their lives. But our welfare reforms incentivise work and, for the first time, universal credit helps working people progress and earn more, so they can eventually stop claiming benefits altogether.

“Under universal credit people are finding a job faster and staying in it longer than under the old system, and since the benefit cap was introduced, 34,000 households have moved off the cap and into work.”

In other words, ‘improve your lives” by getting out of the claws of the DWP and its so-called Universal Credit.

As Gauke would say, “I have made myself perfectly clear.”

Two million UK families face £50-a-week cut in income

Guardian.

Households with children make up more than 80% of those set to lose out as pressure grows for end to austerity

In a bleak assessment of the plight of the poorest families in Britain, the study commissioned by the Local Government Association found that more than 84% of those set to lose £50 a week or more are households with children, either lone parents or couples. Almost two-thirds of them are working households, despite claims from ministers that they wish to create a welfare system that encourages work.

The analysis, by the Policy in Practice consultancy, also undermines claims from ministers that moves to cut taxes and increase the wages of the poorest are compensating them for years of austerity and the rising cost of living.

While some of the seven million low-income households in Britain will be better off by 2020, the group as a whole faces an average loss of £40.62 a week by 2020 compared with the end of last year, once benefit and tax changes, wages, housing costs and inflation are all taken into account.

….

The study finds that the introduction of the government’s flagship policy of universal credit, which combines a series of benefits into a single payment, will lead to an average income loss of £11.18 per week. It coincides with new warnings from Citizens Advice that the rollout of the system should be halted, amid claims that some of those already receiving it have found themselves in serious debt.

With charities and councils warning of rising homelessness, increasing housing costs are identified as a main cause of falling income. More than 2 million low-paid private renters face an average real-terms loss of £38.49 a week by 2020.

For low-income private renters with three or more children, the average income loss that they face by 2020 in real terms is £67.21 a week. This compares with £30.67 for private renters without children.

The authors also say rents are rising faster in some areas than others, with housing benefit not rising to match it. The study found rents are set to rise by 20.7% in the south-west by 2020, but by just 3.5% in the north-east. The report warns that there is now a looming “affordability crisis” because cuts to housing benefit, known as local housing allowance (LHA) for private renters, mean it is no longer linked to real rents, pushing people into poverty or even homelessness.

This is the Report:

The Cumulative Impact of Welfare Reform: A National Picture

Extracts,

The combined effects of the major reforms implemented before 2017, namely the underoccupation charge (NOTE by Ipswich Unemployment Action, the Bedroom Tax) , the localisation of CTRS, the LHA shortfall and both benefit caps, result in an average nominal income loss of just over £23 per week for each working-age household.

The transition to Universal Credit will lead to a further average income loss of £11.18 per week.

This is largely due to cuts in work allowances which will hit households, often with children and previously in receipt of tax credits, particularly hard. The introduction of the National Living Wage and increases to the personal tax allowance will generate almost £3.2 billion for working, low-income households, reducing the average nominal income loss by 2020 to £7.62 per week.

However, these mitigating measures will only benefit 2.5 million of the 7.1 million affected working-age households, half of whom are not affected by welfare reform to begin with. Critically, the continued impact of reforms implemented before 2017 will increase the cumulative loss from welfare reform to an average of £40.62 per week by 2020. This is a consequence of expected inflation and private rent growth, combined with the freezing of benefits rates for working-age people through to 2020 and means that many households see
falls in real income. Private renters will be particularly hit because the link between the Local Housing Allowance rate and market prices has been broken.

The growing disconnect between rents and LHA rates means that the gap between housing support and housing costs will increase disproportionately for private sector renters. Nominally, private renters will be £2.75 per week better off by 2020, as they are more likely to be in work and so benefit from the increase in the National Living Wage and Personal Tax Allowance. However, once expected inflation and private rent growth is factored in, private renters will face average real terms losses of £38.49 per week, with higher losses for larger families.

Squeeze on living standards is down to welfare cuts, not the fall in the pound

Guardian

..for millions of low- and middle-income Britons, living standards looked under threat even when Brexit was nothing more than a twinkle in Boris Johnson’s eye. The key moment came when, fresh from the Conservatives’ 2015 general election victory, the chancellor George Osborne delivered a budget that promised to “reward work and back aspiration”.

True to his word, he presented some very good news by introducing the national living wage – a sizeable and welcome supplement to the minimum wage for employees aged 25 and over. But the good news was eclipsed by the bad. The estimated £4bn boost from the national living wage was dwarfed by savings of £14bn from cuts to working-age welfare. What’s more, the welfare cuts are concentrated among poorer households. In the coming years, Britain faces the prospect of the first significant rise in inequality in three decades.

There is plenty to add: as people have already noted they’ve found the cash for the Police and the Prison Officers.

End the Benefit Freeze!

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Written by Andrew Coates

September 11, 2017 at 10:36 am

Vote Labour, Vote Sandy Martin for Ipswich.

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This is not just a general appeal for vote Labour but a specific call to back Sandy Martin in Ipswich.

Sandy worked in the Ipswich Community Resource Centre, affiliated to the TUC Centres for the Unemployed, when it was in Old Foundry Road.

He has been a tireless campaigner for the rights of the unemployed, and for all those on benefits.

Sandy has joined the national days of action against Benefit Sanctions and participated in TUC events for welfare rights.

This is a picture of him in Ipswich, outside the JobCentre in Silent Street.

 

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Sandy Martin Joins Protest Against ATOS and Benefit Sanctions.

The Labour candidate for Ipswich has backed many other causes, from the campaign against Tory austerity, to the defence of the NHS, which have wide support.

 

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Demo for the NHS 2017.

This is after his candidacy was announced:

For many people their 60th birthday is time to look forward to new challenges – but for Sandy Martin the challenge is more daunting than most.

Because on the day he celebrated his landmark birthday he was formally chosen as his party’s candidate in the marginal Ipswich seat at the 2017 General Election.

He will be trying to overturn Conservative Ben Gummer’s 3,733 majority from 2015.

Mr Martin is leader of the Labour group on Suffolk County Council – and was also celebrating 20 years as a member of that authority on the same day. May 2 is clearly a significant date for him!

He has lived in Suffolk most of his life and moved to Ipswich from Halesworth in 1993 – and said he felt it was important that someone who really knew the town could represent it in Westminster.

He said: “Ipswich people want to be represented by someone who lives in Ipswich and is able to give all their attention to the issues that affect Ipswich. Partly because of my age I would not go to parliament with an ambition for ministerial office.”

Mr Martin is a regular campaigner with his Labour Party colleagues – and is seen as coming from the party’s mainstream tradition.

From his discussions on the doorsteps he said people in the town were most concerned about the everyday issues that directly affected them – especially health, education and housing.

He said: “The major concerns that people want to talk about have not changed much from last time.”

Mr Martin said the role of an MP was not just to support their party in Westminster – it was also to act as an ambassador for their constituency.

And he felt that Ipswich was in a very strong position: “When you look at the port and the Waterfront and the proximity of the town to London, we are in a very fortunate position.

“And compared with many other places Ipswich is still relatively affordable. It is a great place to live but it needs to be even better.”

He is unconvinced by the arguments for a new large bridge linking the east and west banks of the River Orwell – but backs proposals for new bridges to allow the development of the island site at the Waterfront.

And he feels the best way of easing traffic in the town centre would be to build the long-awaited northern by-pass.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 7, 2017 at 9:04 am

Theresa May, from “no” more Welfare Cuts, to…..Cuts.

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Those with memories as long as fruit flies, that is pre-Brexit honest healthy fruit-flies fed on EU straight bananas, not the cheap and nasty type now breeding on rotten apples in the Tory-Trump Brexit land and driven to work till they are 92 years old, may remember this:

No more welfare cuts to come under Theresa May, says minister. Independent. 18th of September 2016.

Damian Green, the work and pensions secretary, hints at end to austerity agenda, promising no further raids on benefits.There will be no more welfare cuts under Theresa May’s government after those have already been announced, the work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, has announced.

Strongly hinting that the government’s austerity agenda was over, Green told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show planned cuts would continue but there would be no further raids on benefits.

Today we have this,

A recent report from the left-leaning Resolution Foundation think tank warned Tory policies are causing “the biggest increase in inequality since Thatcher”. Their research found that the rollout of more than £12bn of welfare cuts, coupled with poor wage growth, means household incomes after housing costs are set to grow by just 0.5% a year between now and 2020.

The Resolution Foundation also warned that the incomes of the poorest half of households are set to fall by an average 3%, while the richest look set to see income gains of around 4% over the remainder of this parliament.”

Then,

Commenting on the research, Torsten Bell, Director of the Resolution Foundation, said at the time: “Britain has enjoyed a welcome mini-boom in living standards in recent years. But that boom is slowing rapidly as inflation rises, productivity flatlines and employment growth slows.

“The squeeze in the wake of the financial crisis tended to hit richer households the most. But this time around it’s low and middle income families with kids who are set to be worst affected.

“This could leave Britain with the worst of both worlds on living standards – the weak income growth of the last parliament and rising inequality from the time Margaret Thatcher was in Downing Street.”

And a couple of days ago this:

£3.7bn in cuts to disability benefits needed to help cut the deficit, says cabinet minister

Despite cuts Conservative chairman Patrick McLoughlin claimed ‘we do very proudly in this country’ at helping disabled people

A cabinet minister has rebuffed calls to cancel more than £3.7bn worth of cuts to a disability benefit, setting the scene for a showdown in Parliament.

Patrick McLoughlin said ministers had to view the funding, which would go to people with conditions including epilepsy, diabetes and dementia, in the context of a wider need to reduce the UK’s budget deficit.

Ministers have said the Government will introduce emergency legislation to tighten the criteria of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) after they were ordered at tribunal to cover a broader spectrum of claimants, leading to the £3.7bn in extra spending by 2022.

While charities have warned of the impacts of the cuts, Tory party chairman Mr McLoughlin told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are spending as a country over £50bn a year supporting people who have got disabilities in this country.

“I think we give, overall, very generous schemes. There are changes that come about as a result of tribunals and we have to look at that.

“But as far as supporting disabled people, I think overall we do very proudly in this country.”

Asked again about the changes, Mr McLoughlin said: “We will obviously listen to what people say and look at the proposals that come forward, but overall we are still spending as a country over £60bn more each year than we are getting in as a country and we have got to look at trying to balance that budget and reduce that deficit.”

Disability benefit change shows Tories are still ‘nasty party’, says Corbyn Guardian.

Labour leader accuses government of ‘sneaking out’ news that it was overturning tribunal rulings on personal independence payments

Jeremy Corbyn has accused Theresa May of turning the Conservatives back into “the nasty party” by quietly announcing a change to rules on disability benefits.

The Labour leader told prime minister’s questions that the government had “sneaked” out the announcement that it was overturning two tribunal rulings on personal independence payments, including one that found people with extreme anxiety should be given the same status as those who are blind.

May responded by saying the pensions secretary, Damian Green, had made a written statement to parliament, briefed officials and called the office of his Labour shadow, Debbie Abrahams, only to get no answer or any response for four days.

Corbyn responded by disputing that anyone had tried to contact Abrahams’ office, and called the decision over the personal independence payments, known as PIPs, “shameful”.

Recalling May’s speech to the 2002 Conservative conference, when she warned it must shed its reputation as “the nasty party”, Corbyn noted comments over the weekend by George Freeman, the Tory MP who heads May’s policy unit.

Freeman said PIP benefits should go to “really disabled people” rather than those with mental health problems. Corbyn asked: “Isn’t that proof the nasty party is still around?”

May stressed Freeman had apologised for his comments. And she argued repeatedly that the reversal of the tribunal decisions did not amount to any sort of cut.

Expect a cut in some people’s potential benefits.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Rise in Homeless Numbers set to Accelerate with Benefit Cuts.

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A Common Sight these Days.

The number of people sleeping rough is at a five year high – so how big is Ipswich’s homelessness problem? Ipswich Star (end of November).

The number of people sleeping rough in Ipswich has hit its highest level for at least five years.

Latest figures show there were 16 people regularly living on the streets, compared to just five in 2013.

And 19 vulnerable people with housing issues are believed to have died in the town in just 16 months.

We were saddened but not surprised to learn that,

Many of these 19 deaths were down to mental health concerns, or drug and alcohol issues, Miss Raychaudri said, but changes to the benefits system have also pushed people in Ipswich into crisis.

Note this for those who have difficulties:

In a bid to curb the growing problem, more than 40 agencies came to together four years ago to form the Ipswich Locality Homelessness Partnership. The aim is to work side by side to rid the town of rough sleeping and to prevent vulnerable people from losing their homes.

At the heart of this partnership is the Chapman Centre, based in Black Horse Lane.

I suspect, since I see people in the streets every day, that the figures in Ipswich the 16 people regularly sleeping rough, are the tip of a homeless iceberg, with much much greater numbers in shelters,  temporary accommodation, shifting from friend’s place to friend’s place,

London’s homelessness count continues to rise said the Guardian earlier this month.

However you cut the numbers, the capital’s struggle to house its vulnerable people is getting harder

London dominates estimates of national homelessness newly published by Shelter. This, of course, is no surprise. Neither are high levels of homelessness anything new in the capital. In his book London: The Heartless City, published in 1977, David Wilcox reported that “by the end of 1976, 15,000 families were recognised as homeless”. And that was 10 years after Cathy Come Home.

Has anything improved? Shelter calculates that 170,000 people are homeless in London today. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has told the Guardian it does not recognise Shelter’s figures and provided one of 52,820 homeless households in temporary accommodation in London as of the 30 June. However, as households frequently comprise more than one person and Shelter’s figures are mostly drawn from the DCLG’s own data on temporary accommodation and rough sleeping, the difference between the two might not be so great.

Now we have this: 

Thousands of families teetering on brink of homelessness this Christmas after benefit changes, reports the Mirror.

Labour MPs and town hall leaders say the savage Tory government cut will leave vulnerable families at breaking point just as they are most stretched.

Thousands of Britain’s poorest families could be left on the brink of homelessness this Christmas due to a ‘disgraceful’ new benefit cap.

Labour MPs and town hall leaders say the savage Tory government cut – introduced today – will leave vulnerable families at breaking point just as they are most stretched.

Under the new rules, the maximum benefits that can be claimed by couples and lone parents is set to drop by £6,000.
The article goes on to explain,
 While some will struggle this Christmas, the full impact is not expect to hit until the New Year. The cap will also hit affect full and part-time carers.It covers most benefits, including Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Jobseekers’ Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and Universal Credit.

The new rate will be £20,000 a year – £384.62 a week – for couples and families outside London, down from £26,000. Some families will lose up to £115 a week.

Department for Work and Pensions bosses say the measure will stop families getting huge payouts without working, but campaigners have dubbed it a ‘cruel’ attack on vulnerable people.

It is a cruel system that needs getting rid of, now!

Written by Andrew Coates

December 14, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Suffolk Libraries – a Key Resource for the Unemployed – Face Cuts.

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Libraries are a key resource for the unemployed.

We use them to do our Jobsearch (part of the 35 hours we have to carry out as part of our ‘Jobseekers Agreement’.

We use their Internet services (where they are available) to write CVs, to upload CVs, apply for jobs and look around the web for posts.

We use them for books on how to do this, and for help from staff about the best way to do it.

This resource is under threat.

Libraries lose a quarter of staff as hundreds close. BBC.

Almost 8,000 jobs in UK libraries have disappeared in six years, about a quarter of the overall total, an investigation by the BBC has revealed.

Over the same period, some 15,500 volunteers have been recruited and 343 libraries have closed, leading to fears over the future of the profession.

Children’s author Alan Gibbons said the public library service faced the “greatest crisis in its history”.

The government said it funded the roll-out of wi-fi to help libraries adapt.

The BBC has compiled data from 207 authorities responsible for running libraries through the Freedom of Information Act. Our analysis shows:

  • Some 343 libraries closed. Of those, 132 were mobile services, while 207 were based in buildings (and there were four others, such as home delivery services)
  • The number of closures in England is higher than the government’s official estimate of 110 buildings shut
  • A further 111 closures are planned this year
  • The number of paid staff in libraries fell from 31,977 in 2010 to 24,044 now, a drop of 7,933 (25%) for the 182 library authorities that provided comparable data
  • A further 174 libraries have been transferred to community groups, while 50 have been handed to external organisations to run. In some areas, such as Lincolnshire and Surrey, the move has led to legal challenges and protests from residents.

Now we have this in Suffolk.

Suffolk Libraries face £230,000 budget cut as bosses call for more public support to save all 44 branches

Anybody who uses Ipswich central Library knows the strain they are already under.

To say the least there are ‘problems’ about the Net service.

How people who rely on smaller libraries manage is hard to tell, it must be hard.

Tory-run Suffolk County Council seems determined to make our lives worse:

Suffolk County Council’s Scrutiny Committee will be discussing the council’s budget proposals on 30 November.

These proposals include a further reduction to the Suffolk Libraries budget of £230,000 for 2017-18. This follows a cut of £350,000 for the current year (2016-2017) which Suffolk Libraries accepted with reluctance.

Alison Wheeler, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said: “We recognise that public-sector funding is decreasing, and in response Suffolk Libraries has since 2011, with stringencies and economies, saved more than 30% of the original library budget without affecting local services.”

“In terms of relative cost – for every £1 spent by the Council, less than 1 penny is spent on the library service. The library service actively contributes to several of the county’s key priorities which include support for vulnerable people, raising educational attainment, supporting small businesses and empowering communities.”

“Suffolk Libraries is now in its fifth year of operation and each year it has lived within its means and saved increasing amounts of council tax. This has only been done with the sustained hard work of library staff, help from community groups, local volunteers and support from library customers.”

“With this extraordinary support, we have together ensured that all Suffolk libraries are still open, local library opening hours have been sustained and the services people enjoy, and which we know make a difference to people’s lives, have continued to flourish.”

Tony Brown, Chair of Suffolk Libraries Board added “Over the past year we have made it clear that it would be impossible to make further cuts without having an effect on services. We pledged to work constructively with the council on the longer-term future of the county’s library service and offered them a plan in June in which we suggested ways we could save money over a longer period, and which would allow us to keep library opening hours intact.”

“Five months later, it’s disappointing to see that the council’s budget proposals do not reflect the alternative plans we presented. The larger sums required will almost certainly mean we can’t carry on providing the library service in the same way.”

“However, we are still in discussion about the final sum. People will be consulted on any changes and we will strive to minimise the impact on customers, and ensure that people will still have access to the same wide range of services and activities in their community.”

“Suffolk Libraries’ Board is committed to keeping libraries open and for local services to flourish. The Suffolk community has shown a huge amount of support for local libraries over the past few years, and this has never been more needed, or valued.”

Want to show your support for your library service? Email us at help@suffolklibraries.co.uk, tweet @suffolklibrary or comment on our Facebook page. You can also contact Suffolk County Council.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 23, 2016 at 11:44 am

Sacked Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb: “Plan to Slash Benefits Offends Everyone’s Sense of Social Justice”.

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Crabb: Offended.

Former minister Stephen Crabb: Government plan to slash welfare offends everyone’s sense of social justice.

Reports the Independent, just now. 

Former Conservative cabinet minister has said a plan to slash welfare “offends everyone’s sense of social justice” and called on the Government to help those affected.

Stephen Crabb said Chancellor Philip Hammond should introduce measures to “soften the blow” of cuts to Universal Credit, when he makes his Autumn Statement speech this week.

The former Work and Pensions Secretary also said the Government will have to review the pensions triple lock introduced by David Cameron, which guarantees payments rise each year, if it wants to do more to help working families.

Mr Crabb, who himself presided over cuts to some benefits while pensions secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour there was a “problem” with plans to reduce the Universal Credit.

He said: “When you look at the distributional impact for the changes from the Budget in March, there is an S-curve on the graph which basically shows that people on the lowest incomes effectively lose money from the changes, people on the highest incomes effectively gain. I think the Chancellor is going to have to have something to say about that.

“I think looking at that graph to see that people on lower incomes will be losing money offends everyone’s sense of social justice. But it doesn’t mean he needs to ‘reverse ferret’ on those proposed cuts. There are other things he can do to soften the impact of that.”

The Huffington Post adds,

Just what, if anything, Hammond will do about welfare cuts this week is a pressing issue. On Radio 4’s Westminster Hour last night, former Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb pointed out the Chancellor will already have to explain where he’s going to find the £4bn lost (but not forgotten) in his own personal independence payment reforms axed after IDS’s departure.

On the vexed topic of Universal Credit cuts – cuts that critics say will hit many ‘just managing’ people in low-income work – Crabb said ‘I think that offends everyone’s sense of justice”. But he suggested Hammond would address it with broader help for people on low incomes rather than by reversing another welfare cut.

Continuing his rational approach to policy, Crabb also became the latest senior Tory politician to suggest that the state pension ‘triple lock’ could end after the next election. It has “served its purpose” and “there will be a case after 2020 to look again at that”. Damian Green has Work and Pensions Questions today – will he offer up similar thoughts?

One Tory MP leading calls for welfare cuts to be eased is Heidi Allen. But on Pienaar’s Politics she went perhaps a step too far for her colleagues. Asked if she’d ‘snog, marry or avoid’ Ed Balls, she replied “Maybe snog…I like a man who can move to music.” Viewers’ votes meant the former Shadow Chancellor survived again on Strictly last night despite the judges’ disdain. Popular with the people, unsupported by the experts…how very 2016.

Former DWP minister Stephen Crabb admits disability benefit test is ‘traumatic’.

Reported the Independent on the 8th of November. 

Ex-Work and Pensions Secretary urges the Government to ‘fix’ the assessment process for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs).

A former Cabinet minister who was responsible for a controversial disability benefit test has admitted it is “traumatic” for applicants.

Stephen Crabb, who was sacked as Work and Pensions Secretary in July, said the Government needed to “fix” the assessment process for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs).

In a TV interview, the former Conservative leadership contender said there had to be system of benefit tests “when you’re giving out taxpayers’ money”.

But he added: “The way it has been done – I see this in my surgeries, every single MP in their surgery sees this – people who felt that the assessment procedure has been traumatic, intrusive, hasn’t been a comfortable experience at all. And that’s what we’ve got to fix.

Stephen Crabb on October the 5th.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 21, 2016 at 3:58 pm

Labour Shadow, Debbie Abrahams, urges the government to end its “shirker, scrounger rhetoric” but post-Brexit new Benefit shake up Looms.

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Hate Speech in Millionaires’ far-Right Press. 

Parliament today (BBC):

Shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams urges the government to end its “shirker, scrounger rhetoric”.

She calls for cuts to the Employment Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group to be reversed, arguing that they target sick and disabled people.

She tells the House that the country is becoming “more and more unequal” and attacks the government for giving tax breaks to the “highest earners”.

 Followed by:

Work and Pensions Minister Penny Mordaunt tells MPs that government is helping people to get out of their jobless situation “not just to endure it”.

She says that new money from the Treasury will be used to extend a hardship fund and adds that the government will help jobseekers with “work related costs”.

The debate comes to an end and MPs vote on Labour’s motion.

The result is expected at approximately 4.20pm.

I think we know already what that will be…..

Debbie Adams MP has already written this:   No more “shirkers” or “scroungers” – let’s overhaul the culture of the benefits system (6th of October)

I’ve been campaigning to stop the Government’s punitive sanctions regime for nearly four years now, ever since the Coalition government introduced their new sanctions regime in 2012. I have quizzed the former secretary of state for work & pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, specifically on this issue, and have worked with people who have been affected by sanctions. These include Gill Thompson, whose brother, David Clapson, died after being sanctioned.

In January 2015, I managed to get the work and pensions select committee to agree to hold an inquiry on sanctions. The evidence was shocking. We heard of the sudden rise in sanctions, with 3.2m alone occurring between October 2012 and June 2014. Sanctions to people who were sick or disabled on Employment Support Allowance increased five-fold.

We heard from Jobcentre Plus advisers of sanction “targets” in order to get claimants “off-flow”, in benefits speak, which distorted the unemployment claimant count in the process. And we heard of the dramatic rise in foodbank use, with more than1m foodbank parcels in 2014, primarily as a result of sanctions. We heard in turn of the effects on the physical and mental health of claimants and their families.

The select committee made more than 20 recommendations, including stopping financial sanctions for people who were sick or disabled on ESA, or vulnerable in other ways, and setting up an independent body to investigate deaths associated with sanctions.

Unfortunately, the government refused to accept the select committee’s recommendations.

Since the inquiry, the government has been compelled to publish details of 49 claimants who died between 2012 and 2014, 10 of whom died following a sanction. It is still to publish reports on another nine claimant deaths since 2014. We have discovered that the government is watering down the guidance to jobcentre staff to identify and protect vulnerable claimants.

Meanwhile the following is worth thinking about.

Everything Theresa May planned for the benefits system needs to change because of what Brexit Britain will look like

 Reports Andrew Grice in the Independent this afternoon.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies calculates that 11.5 million families, who were originally due to lose an average of £260 a year, are now likely to lose £360 because of higher inflation. The Government will save £4.6bn instead of £3.6bn.

Damian Green, the One Nation Conservative appointed Work and Pensions Secretary by Theresa May, has started to smooth some of the rougher edges of what can be a tough benefits system – as anyone who has seen Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake knows.

People with the most severe health conditions on Employment and Support Allowance will no longer face reassessments. On Wednesday, Green announced that jobseekers who are homeless or have a mental health condition will have immediate access to hardship payments if they are hit by a benefit sanction.

(NOTE: this leaves everybody else still at risk from the arbitary “police of JobCentre Plus).

 While these are welcome steps, the big picture emerging under the May Government is less flattering. We will know more about its intentions towards those on benefits next week when Philip Hammond delivers his Autumn Statement, the first economic update since the Brexit vote.

May pressed the Chancellor to do something for the “just managing” classes she promised to champion on becoming Prime Minister. After some tense negotiations, measures such as a freeze in fuel duty, cuts to air passenger duty and more help with childcare costs seem to be on the agenda.

Green has promised no further welfare cuts before the next general election. But that is not as generous as it sounds because £12bn of cuts are already in the pipeline. They include almost £3bn from reducing work allowances under Universal Credit – the amount families can earn before their benefits are scaled back. About three million people will lose an average of £1,000 a year, reducing the incentive to work for those striving that May wants to help.

Regarding these people as “claimants” misses the point; about two in three children growing up in poverty have at least one parent in work. The biggest challenge on welfare is in-work poverty, not so-called scroungers.

Hammond should stop the cut to work allowances by switching some of the £8bn earmarked for income tax cuts for the middle classes, which are likely to go ahead because they were promised in last year’s Tory manifesto. By 2020, the threshold for the 40p higher rate will rise to £50,000 and the personal allowance to about £12,500.

Then this…

Written by Andrew Coates

November 16, 2016 at 4:29 pm