Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘Esther McVey

Esther McVey: Universal Credit, an “agile, adaptable system, fit for the 21st century.”

with 20 comments

Image result for esther mcvey cartoon universal credit

Esther McVey hails universal credit scheme as ‘great British innovation’, days after scathing watchdog report.

Independent.

Since it is exceptional that the  The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions  Ms Esther McVey  takes time off from her busy schedule to do her Ministerial job trather than the press reports  it is worth looking at the full statement she made today in the House of Commons in Hansard.

Universal Credit and Welfare Changes

It includes this:

Today, I am updating the House on the changes we have made to UC as a result of this iterative approach we are taking. That is why last autumn we abolished the seven waiting days from the application process; we put in place the two-week housing benefit run-on to smooth the transition for an applicant moving to UC from the previous system; we ensured that advance payments could be applied for from day one of the application process, for up to 100% of a person’s indicative total claim; and we extended the recovery period for these advances to 12 months. Extra training was given to our work coaches to embed these changes.

Prior to that, we also changed the UC telephone lines to a freephone number to ensure ease of access for claimants enquiring about their claim. Earlier this year we reinstated housing benefit for 18 to 21-year-olds, and ensured that kinship carers are exempt from tax credits changes. Just last week, we announced changes to support the severely disabled when they transition on to UC; within our reforms, we want to ensure that the most vulnerable get the support they need. These proactive changes were made to enhance our new benefits system.

….

Let me turn to the report on universal credit published last week by the National Audit Office, which did not take into account the impact of our recent changes. Our analysis shows that universal credit is working. We already know that it helps more people into work, and to stay in work, than the legacy system. Universal credit has brought together six main benefits, which were administered by different local and national Government agencies. Once fully rolled out, it will be a single, streamlined system, reducing administration costs and providing value for money for all our citizens. The cost per claim has already reduced by 7% since March 2018 and is due to reduce to £173 by 2024-25—around £50 less per claim than legacy cases currently cost us to process.

Beyond the timespan of the NAO report, we have greatly improved our payment timeliness: around 80% of claimants are paid on time, after their initial assessment period. Where new claims have not been paid in full and on time, two thirds have been found to have some form of verification outstanding. Verification is a necessary part of any benefits system and citizens expect such measures to be in place. We need to ensure that we pay the right people the right amount of money.

As opposed to the wrong people the wrong money…..

Turning her face resolutely to the gales The Rt Hon MInister  ends on a note of defiance:

In conclusion, we are building an agile, adaptable system, fit for the 21st century. We want people to reach their potential, regardless of their circumstances or background, and we will make changes, when required, to achieve that ambition. I commend this statement to the House.

Labour’s Margaret Greenwood (Wirral West) (Lab) replied saying notably,

The Secretary of State says that universal credit is based on leading-edge technology and agile working practices. However, the National Audit Office report says that 38% of claimants were unable to verify their identity online and had to go to a jobcentre to do so. It makes no sense to accelerate the roll-out of universal credit at the same time as rapidly closing jobcentres. The NAO report reveals that a significant number of people struggle to make and manage their claim online. The Department for Work and Pensions’ own survey found that nearly half of claimants are unable to make a claim online unassisted, and that a fifth of claims are failing at an early stage because claimants are not able to navigate the online system.

The Government claim that the introduction of universal credit will result in 200,000 more people finding long-term work than under legacy benefits. They repeatedly cite evidence from 2014-15, but that was before the cuts to work allowances were introduced and covers only single unemployed people without children. If one looks at the range of claimants in areas where universal credit has been rolled out, there is no evidence that it is helping more people find long-term work. Delays in payments are pushing people into debt and rent arrears on such a scale that private and even social landlords are becoming increasingly reluctant to rent to universal credit claimants.

The NAO report also points out that 20% of claimants are not being paid in full and on time, and more than one in 10 are not receiving any payment on time. The people who are most at need from the social security system are the ones most likely to have to wait for payments. A quarter of carers, over 30% of families who need support with childcare and, most shockingly of all, two thirds of disabled people are not being paid in full and on time. The report points out that the Department does not expect the time limits of the payments to improve over the course of this year, and that it believes that it is unreasonable for all claimants to expect that they will be paid on time because of the need to verify each claim. Does the Secretary of State find the expectations of her own Department acceptable? She has made some claims that things have improved greatly since the closure of the report, so will she substantiate that by putting that information in the Library?

The impact of universal credit on some of our most vulnerable people is clear. Universal support is supposed to help people, but funding is severely limited and provision is patchy. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of it? Is she satisfied that her Department is doing enough to support people who are struggling?

Universal credit was supposed to offer personalised support to claimants, but stressed and overloaded staff are often failing to identify vulnerable claimants. The DWP is aiming to increase the workloads of work coaches fourfold and of case managers nearly sixfold as the Government try to cut the cost of universal credit still further.

The NAO is very clear that the DWP should not expand universal credit until it is able to cope with business as usual. The Government must now listen to the NAO, stop the roll-out of universal credit, and fix the flaws before any more people are pushed into poverty by a benefit that is meant to protect them from it. Universal credit is having a devastating impact on many people and will reach 8.5 million by 2024-25. The Secretary of State must now wake up to the misery being caused by her policy.

In her response McVey relied on the DWP alternative facts service,

Please allow me, Mr Deputy Speaker, to mention some of the real people I have met and spoken to and what they are saying about universal credit. Shafeeq, who was homeless, got an advance that got him temporary accommodation and put him in a better place to look for work. He said it

“helped me out a great deal and I’d have been lost without it”.

He is now in a job. Lisa said an advance payment helped her to secure a place with a childcare provider. She is paying it back over 12 months, which she says means a great deal to her. Gemma, a lone parent, said,

“it’s amazing being able to claim nearly all my childcare costs back, it’s a real incentive to go out to work – I’m going to be better off each week”.

Ben in Devon had a work coach, who helped him to progress in work from day one. Ryan from Essex had a lack of work experience and confidence, and his work coach helped him through universal credit. I will end it there—with the people receiving the benefit.

This gem should not go unnoticed,

I thank my right hon. Friend for her statement. The NAO report is, to be frank, a shoddy piece of work. It has simply failed—[Interruption.] Genuinely; anyone who reads it—I do not know if anyone on the Opposition Benches has bothered—will realise that it fails to take account of a series of issues, not the least of which are that the Treasury signed off annual recurring savings of £8 billion and, more importantly, that the changes last November and December have made a huge difference to people’s lives. I urge her to carry on and to tell the Public Accounts Committee to ask the question: who polices this policeman? This piece of work does it no credit at all. Will she now apply her efforts to universal support to make sure that every council area delivers the extra bit that is supposed to go alongside universal credit?

Obvious a well-shoddy copper, these uncreditworthy types behind the NAO.

Esther smiles, smirks and simpers,

My right hon. Friend has done more than most people in the House to support people into work, and I thank him for his question. He emphasises the point about universal support—the £200 million for local councils—to help people with debt management and IT. That is one thing we are definitely doing. Equally, he raises an important point about the NAO report. I am sure that Opposition Members have not read it. It does not say stop the roll-out; it says continue with the roll-out and do it faster. Please read about stuff before talking about it!

Wise advice!

To further Parliamentary questions  the Rt Hon continues in this vein (various McVey replies).

“We have said quite clearly that this report is out of date and does not take into account the significant changes that we have made.”

“Genuine people who get support from work coaches are saying, “It has transformed our lives.””

“I invite the hon. Lady to visit a jobcentre and meet the coaches in her area to see how revolutionary this process is.”

“The hon. Lady should stop scaremongering. “

 “Darren from Wales, who was put on a confidence course—we were utilising our flexible support fund—said:“My…work coach was fantastic…helped me turn my life around…fulfilling a lifelong dream”.”

 If anybody has been made homeless through this, I will meet them.

“Think about technology, automation and people online—the world has changed. We have to deal with the gig economy, with flexible working hours, with part-time and multiple jobs, and with the difference in working life for people who have caring responsibilities for children and adults. That is what this system takes into account; the legacy system could not do that.”

Please look sometimes at the positive news and help your constituents a little bit more by focusing them on that additional support.

“It was lovely listening to my hon. Friend—my learned friend, who knows so much about technology—because those words needed to be heard. As I said, this is at the leading edge of technology. Great Britain is leading the way. Countries that are coming to see us range from Sweden to the United States, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Canada, Cyprus, France and Denmark. They all want to know how it works to take it back home to their countries.”

“I thank the right hon. Gentleman for mentioning work coaches in such a positive way, because they are doing a significant amount of work, and I hear only praise wherever I go. “

we have provided significantly more money for the most vulnerable, particularly for those with disability and health conditions. We want to support people into work and reduce poverty.”

If you are too exhausted after this long bout of stout denial just look at this:

We have said that the NAO report sadly was out of date and therefore has not taken into account all the changes that have been made. That is unfortunate, because it means that the report is not a true reflection of what is happening. It is unfortunate that the hon. Gentleman was not here for the statement, but if he reads it in Hansard tomorrow, he will have his answers on how well the system is working.

Reactions are now pouring in:
Frank Field, the chair of the Commons work and pensions committee, said: “Rather than that banal offering, which did nothing for our poorest constituents, a more realistic statement from the secretary of state would have acknowledged that universal credit is helping to transform the welfare state from one which protects people from poverty, to one that drives them into destitution.”

Advertisements

Written by Andrew Coates

June 21, 2018 at 3:34 pm

Universal Credit – Rubbish (Official). National Audit Office Report.

with 34 comments

Image result for universal credit unite community universal credit

This morning on the BBC Breakfast carried a report on this “The National Audit Office said the £1.9bn Universal Credit system could end up costing more to administer than the benefits system it is replacing.”

Key findings in the National Audit Office included:

  • Eight years after work began on UC, only 10% (815,000) of the expected eventual number of claimants are on the system
  • Some 20% of those paid late – usually the more needy and complicated cases – were waiting five months or more to be paid
  • Ministers would never know if their aim of putting 200,000 extra people in employment, or saving £2.1bn in fraud and error, would work
  • Government expectations that UC would deliver £8bn of net benefits annually depended on “unproven assumptions”
  • UC currently costs £699 per claim – four times as much as the government intends to spend when the systems are fully developed
  • So many changes had been made to job centres and working practices that there is no “alternative but to continue”

To discuss it they had a woman from the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and some ponce from  the Centre for Social Justice (set up by… Iain Duncan Smith, yes really…).

The CAB spokesperson said a few home truths about what a mess UC has been for many people.

The Mr Ponceworth admitted a few spots on the Sun of Universal Credit but said it has proved its worth as a way of helping people back to work.

Since us Bloggers and our contributors have been going on about the mess from the origins of UC it would have been good to have somebody form our side on.

But the report is devastating enough.

Summary – Rolling out Universal Credit.

Key facts £1.9bn spend to date on Universal Credit, comprising £1.3bn on investment and £0.6bn on running costs £8.0bn

Department for Work & Pensions’ expectation of the annual net benefi tof Universal Credit, which remains unproven

Number of late payments of new claims in 2017,113,000.

Other elements:

  • One in five claimants do not receive their full payment on time.
  • Universal Credit is creating additional costs for local organisations that help administer Universal Credit and support claimants.
  • Some claimants have struggled to adjust to Universal Credit. We spoke to local and national bodies that, together, work with a significant minority of claimants. They showed us evidence that many of these people have suffered difficulties and hardship during the rollout of the full service. These have resulted from a combination of issues with the design of Universal Credit and its implementation. The Department has found it difficult to identify and track those who it deems vulnerable. It has not measured how many Universal Credit claimants are having difficulties because it does not have systematic means of gathering intelligence from delivery partners. The Department does not accept that Universal Credit has caused hardship among claimants, because it makes advances available, and it said that if claimants take up these opportunities hardship should not occur. However in its survey of full service claimants, published in June 2018, the Department found that four in ten claimants that were surveyed were experiencing financial difficulties.

This is a good newspaper report.

NAO says core claims about flagship welfare programme are based on unproven assumptions

  Guardian.

The government’s ambitious change to the benefits system, universal credit, fails to deliver promised financial savings or employment benefits and leaves thousands of vulnerable claimants in hardship, according to the public spending watchdog.

The National Audit Office effectively demolishes ministerial claims for universal credit, concluding that the much-delayed flagship welfare programme may end up costing more than the benefit system it replaces, cannot prove it helps more claimants into work and is unlikely to ever deliver value for money.

The NAO report paints a damning picture of a system that despite more than £1bn in investment, eight years in development and a much hyped digital-only approach to transforming welfare, is still in many respects unwieldy, inefficient and reliant on basic, manual processes.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “We think the larger claims for universal credit, such as boosted employment, are unlikely to be demonstrable at any point in future. Nor for that matter will value for money.”

Opposition politicians and campaigners seized on the report to renew calls for universal credit to be delayed and its multiple design flaws fixed before the government continues its rollout to millions more claimants over the next four years.

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow secretary for work and pensions, said: “This report shows just how disastrously wrong the government has got the rollout of universal credit. It has shamelessly ignored warning after warning about the devastating impact its flagship welfare reform has had on people’s lives.

“The government is accelerating the rollout in the face of all of the evidence, using human beings as guinea pigs. It must fix the fundamental flaws in universal credit and make sure that vulnerable people are not pushed into poverty because of its policies.”

Our friends in the Mirror– who have covered the story with great verve for a long time –  noted this,

 …campaigners have used the report to call for reform of the benefit, which has already cost the state £1.9bn to date.

There are many, many, other news articles on the National Audit Office report….

This is another BBC report.

Channel Four Dispatches Lifts the Lid on Universal Credit.

with 104 comments

Image result for UNiversal credit

 

Last night’s Channel Four Dispatches on Universal Credit was a thorough dismantling of the last pretensions of  this failed system.

The Government is introducing the new Universal Credit in the biggest welfare reform in a generation. It is claimed the new benefit is helping people back into work, Dispatches investigates claims the new system is a shambles.

A mess is polite.

Some cases stuck out: the disabled single parent who ended up surviving on food banks, and who stands to lose £2,000 a year from the regime, the man who found that being self-employed lone parent of two children under Universal Credit was no longer financially possible, and the man who went from being a food bank volunteer to being a user.

It’s worth noting that Esther McVey did not appear, only one of her minions Alok Sharma Minister of State for Employment.

Sharma, somebody nobody’s heard of till now, apparently has responsibility for,

  • Universal Credit, including labour market aspects and overall programme management
  • employment strategy and labour market interventions, including:
    • conditionality and sanctions
    • youth employment
    • women’s employment
    • black, Asian and minority ethnic employment
    • Fuller Working Lives
    • New Enterprise Allowance
  • Jobcentre Plus, partnership working and employer engagement
  • EU and international affairs, including support to the Secretary of State on Brexit
  • support to the Secretary of State on devolution

“Prior to entering Parliament, Alok qualified as a chartered accountant with Coopers & Lybrand Deloitte, and then worked for 16 years within banking, first with the Japanese firm Nikko Securities and then Enskilda Securities (the investment banking arm of SE Banken), where he held senior roles based out of London, Stockholm and Frankfurt, including serving as a member of the bank’s Corporate Finance Global Management Committee.”

With this background it’s not surprising that he took the Bertie Wooster line of stout denial in the face of evidence of the misery he and his boss are inflicting.

Waits, muddles, mistakes, and…..

“Some 70% of DWP staff say the roll out of Universal Credit should be stopped”!

 

Civil servants’ concerns over Universal Credit roll out

The latest episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches series, aired last night, focused on the roll-out of Universal Credit.

Research for the programme found two in three staff working on the flagship welfare reform – which combines a number of working-age benefits into a single payment – think it should be paused.

The programme raised concerns about staff shortages and timeliness of payments. The Department for Work and Pensions described the survey, of 550 union members, as “small, self-selected and flawed”. Here is the Mirror’s report on the programme and research findings.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for housing and health to be more joined up. The i newspaper published a piece about this over the bank holiday weekend. Mr Burnham has also previously called for Manchester to get its own welfare budget.

Two-thirds of frontline Department for Work and Pensions staff have said the roll-out of crisis-hit Universal Credit should be stopped, a Channel 4 investigation reveals.

Most DWP Frontline Staff ‘Say Universal Credit Should Be Scrapped’

Shock poll suggests misgivings among benefits officials.

Some 70% of DWP staff say the roll out of Universal Credit should be stopped according to a survey carried out by a trade union.

The Public and Commercial Services Union poll found 79% of respondents felt there was not sufficient staff to meet demand from claimants.

The union, which represents frontline DWP staff, many of whom work in high street job centres, polled 550 of its members for a new Dispatches documentary.

A whistleblower who currently works for the DWP told the programme: “Sometimes we’ll have a couple of people on our team on leave or off sick and then the work really piles up at that point and these claims have not been given the due attention they deserve.

A lot of [claimants] can miss their payments… It could mean that they won’t be able to eat for another couple of days, it’s very tough on them.”

In response to the survey, a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We strongly dispute these claims entirely and this is an extremely small, self-selected and flawed survey that is unrepresentative of our staff delivering Universal Credit.”

Universal Credit is a flagship benefit reform which replaces six individual benefits with one monthly payment.

But it’s been beset by problems in its roll out amid claims it has led to a surge in foodbank use and poverty.

It was claimed last month that thousands of claimants were losing 40% of their benefit to pay back DWP debts.

The Dispatches documentary found that despite sweeping changes to the way Universal Credit works last year, many claimants continue to suffer hardship.

Mark Serwotka discussing Universal Credit on C4 Dispatches

Our general secretary Mark Serwotka will be appearing on the Dispatches programme “Britain’s Benefits Crisis” on Monday May 7th 7.30pm Channel 4.

The roll out of Universal Credit (UC) has been a disaster for people on benefits. It is driven by the government’s choice to cut public services and is inflicting misery on those who need a supportive benefits system.

We have consistently made representations to DWP about the level of stress existing across Universal Credit Service Centres and, increasingly now, in the jobcentres, where staff are also being used to clear UC tasks. Despite this, DWP has refused to work with PCS.

Our members in DWP are under huge pressure and are suffering due to the chaotic reforms taking place, job cuts and the closure of offices.

They are fully aware of the devastating effects of this policy on the most vulnerable members of society which is why our union is calling for the roll out to be suspended immediately.

Please tune into the programme and if you are on Twitter, follow our live updates during the programme at @pcs_union

 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 8, 2018 at 9:04 am

Judicial Review of Universal Credit’s “Hostile Environment”.

with 29 comments

Disabled people protesting against benefit cuts

Judicial Review of Universal Credit,

4 February 2018

Law firm Leigh Day has been given permission to take the first judicial review in the High Court over the controversial decision by the Government to implement Universal Credit, a single benefit which replaces a range of existing means-tested welfare benefits.

Following a successful application for permission, the judge ordered the full judicial review to be expedited and to take place at the High Court between May and July at a date yet to be confirmed.

It is being taken on behalf of a 52-year-old terminally ill man, who is suffering from non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and Castleman’s Disease, over the decision by the Government to remove disability benefits from people with severe disabilities leaving them in financial difficulties.

The man whose identity is protected, and is referred to as TP, is a Cambridge graduate who had worked in the City and around the World within the financial sector.

He became terminally ill in 2016 and was in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) and Enhanced Disability Premium (EDP), which were specifically aimed at meeting the additional care needs of severely disabled people living alone with no carer.

However, following the recent introduction by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions of Universal Credit, both EDP and SDP have been removed when a person makes a claim for Universal Credit with no replacement provision put in place.

How a terminally ill man is leading the fight against inhumane universal credit

a terminally ill man is set to take on the government – and with it, the disastrous universal credit (UC) policy. Known only as TP, a 52-year-old ex-City worker – who has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the lymph node condition Castleman disease – is launching a landmark challenge at the high court after becoming financially worse off under the new benefit system.

DPAC:

Join us today for the 2nd day of the vigil outside the high court  to support the first judicial review against the Government’s decision to bring in Universal Credit. The case will focus in particular on the removal of the Severe and Enhanced Disability Premiums which will have a devastating impact on Disabled people. When the Government introduced Universal credit they said no one will be worse off, but this simply isn’t true. Research in 2013 estimated that 450,000 households containing a Disabled person would lose essential income.

The case is being taken by Leigh Day solicitors on behalf of a man who is terminally ill and through the removal of SDP and EDP has lost £178 per month.

Vigil called by Disabled People Against Cuts and Winvisible.

In its latest report on the case the Mirror picks up the theme of the “hostile environment” created by Universal Credit.

Vulnerable, sick and hungry: these devastating testimonies of people on Universal Credit are being used to fight Esther McVey’s benefits department in Court

The Department for Work and Pensions is facing the first judicial review of the controversial new benefit system.

If there comes to be a watershed moment for the human disaster known as Universal Credit, it should be the testimonies of two severely disabled men heard this week in the High Court.

During the landmark legal challenge, one dying man, known as TP, told how he had moved to London on his cancer specialist’s advice to be near pioneering treatment.

Yet the move into a Universal Credit (UC) area led to him becoming so destitute he was unable to get to chemotherapy sessions and lived in levels of squalor that endangered his weakened immune system.

The other man, who is severely bipolar, had been forced to move by the bedroom tax from Middlesbrough to Hartlepool, a UC ‘full service’ area.

The discovery that he was even worse off because of hidden cuts inside the new controversial benefit and his new isolation left him suicidal.

I run out of food at least once a month and have to go without,” said the 36-year-old man, identified in court as ‘AR’. “I have twice had to use the food bank in ­Hartlepool.

“I just have one meal a day in the evening and that’s all… I cannot afford to buy clothes or shoes. My shoes have got holes in them… I cannot afford to run the heater.”

They continue,

After eight years of vicious welfare reform, the testimonies should be familiar by now. Yet they are freshly poignant. “My two dogs and two cats eat better than I do,” AR told the court. “I make sure they eat, as they are the only reason I have not committed suicide by now.”

‘TP’, a 52-year-old former City worker who has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the lymph node condition Castleman disease, told me how he was forced to live in “undignified, unhygienic conditions” while undergoing three types of gruelling chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. The Hickman Line fitted into his chest meant “it was dangerous for me to do many household chores”. He called his situation “a grave injustice”.

This is the ‘hostile environment’ faced by a different type of migrant – those undergoing “natural” or “managed migration”, in Government speak, into Universal Credit.

Together, the two men – backed by lawyers Leigh Day – are bringing the first judicial review of the Tories’ controversial Universal Credit.

The defendant is the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey.

 

This is a striking detail:

Both men’s ‘journals’ – the way claimants must now communicate with the Department for Work and Pensions – make for harrowing reading. TP’s entry for May 4, 2017 reads: “I completely lost my SDP which is greatly needed, struggling at home by myself, disabled and sick.

“I have terminal cancer and am receiving chemotherapy and other treatments to try and control the disease. I have submitted two DWP DS1500 terminal illness reports – one from my GP and one from the hospital consultant. Please advise…”

The bald reply, which took three weeks, stated: “Severe Disability premium is not an element B16 of Universal Credit and therefore not payable…”

As well as the deep cut to support, both men describe being plunged into a bureaucratic nightmare, spending hours a day on to the DWP.

Join the @Unite_Community Stop Universal Credit day of action on Thursday 24 May 2018

Unite community will be staging a STOP Universal Credit day of action. 

Written by Andrew Coates

May 5, 2018 at 3:16 pm

Universal Credit Behavioural Change Scandal to Follow Windrush.

with 65 comments

Image result for Behavioural change universal credit

Claimants forced into Experiment in Behavioural Change.

A commentator writes,

Based on the Windrush and Universal Credit scandals one might think that the government didn’t know what it was doing.

Many will no doubt be impressed by the sheer scale of the misery inflicted by Windrush, brought to people’s attention, let it be noted, first through a drip drip of petitions on FB, then newspaper articles, and last, but not least by the efforts of Diane Abbott and David Lamey.

The more you read about Universal Credit the angrier you get.

As people here show.

The intellectual journal Prospect obviously read our contributors’ minds when it writes today,

A landmark legal challenge shows the cruel reality of Universal Credit for disabled people

The Windrush scandal currently engulfing the government is evidence not only of the great damage ministers can inflict on marginalised people’s lives—but the revolt that can occur when it goes too far. Yet look to the High Court this week and you’ll see the same damage being inflicted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), right at the centre of a flagship ‘welfare’ policy.

Two disabled people—aided by the law firm Leigh Day—have launched a landmark legal challenge against the government, arguing Universal Credit (UC) “unlawfully discriminates” against disabled benefit claimants.

It’s well established now that UC is creating financial misery, with those witnessing the fallout of the new benefit system describing it as “hell on earth.” Just last month, research by the Trussell Trust found food bank use is, on average, 52 per cent higher in areas where the full universal credit service has been in place for 12 months or more.

But like the Conservative’s ‘welfare reform’ generally, it’s disabled people who are taking the brunt. This is because two key disability benefits—the severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP)—are being abolished under the new system. The move will see claimants lose as much as £395 a month, according to the disability charity Scope.

It’s estimated a staggering 230,000 disabled people will be affected 

…..

Universal Credit has been hailed as the biggest transformation of the welfare state in sixty years—which would be laudable if it were not taking place at a time in which the government was simultaneously undertaking unprecedented cuts to the ‘welfare’ budget. Disabled people alone will collectively lose £2 billion in disability premium payments by the time UC fully rolls out (a particularly galling fact considering delays mean it is estimated to be costing taxpayers £16 billion by 2020).

‘Behavioural change’ is at the centre of these UC cuts. This is insulting enough for anyone—a single mum doesn’t need to be left hungry to ‘motivate’ her to look for work; she needs affordable childcare and flexible work opportunities. But with disabled people it’s particularly egregious; as if their disability will suddenly improve the moment they transfer to Universal Credit.

This travesty is a product of Conservative governments but opposition should come from all sides. By any political leaning, reform of the social security system that actively makes the lives of those experiencing illness and disability worse—rather than supporting them—is ultimately a failure. If this week’s court case goes in disabled people’s favour, the government could be forced to learn that lesson whether it likes it or not.

Let’s look at  aspects this programme of “behavioural change”.

One, dealt with in the previous post, is the “on-line Job search”.

It is part of this:

Digital challenge of Universal Credit. (Local Government)

Given that many residents’ main source of income will be via the UC method, the challenge for claimants, Government and all stakeholder is how to get people to engage digitally while avoiding significant delays in UC applications.

Our experience tells us that the first obstacle is getting people to actually attend a digital workshop. With lives, full of stress and concern, getting a resident to attend a workshop – which might be wrongly perceived as another way to criticise perceived inadequacies – can be a difficult sell. We utilise a variety of methods to combat this, from guerrilla marketing to ‘nudge’ behavioural change theory, to positively encourage this attendance. We talk to residents in ways that are clear and jargon-free, no blame is ever ascribed to their lack of knowledge and we use the communication channels that they use, such as text messaging or mobile phone calls. We also incentivise people, whether that’s free prizes from local businesses to using tempting food treats. Sounds simple, but it works.

These marketing and engagement devices encourage people to attend events, but the content of the workshop is, of course, crucial to maintain attendance. One area we’ve found particularly powerful is a successful replica UC portal for practicing and getting used to the online form – www.we-are-digital.co.uk/help. This warms residents to the structure, questions and information they need for when they fill in the actual form, answering many of their concerns ahead of time – a move we’d like to see replicated nationwide.

In addition, it is important to consider that, once claimants start filling in their forms, they will still need support and reassurance. For housing associations, we recommend promoting the toll-free UC telephone support claims line – which residents can call to get support over the phone to complete a real claim, regardless of which HA they are from. For the most difficult cases, in-home support is also an option, with a tutor taking them through a real claim, one-to-one. Ultimately, these methods will help to prevent sanctions and decrease arrears.

With a delay in UC rollout politically unpalatable, the emphasis is on increasing claimants’ skills base, and quickly. This urgency of this expediency is most pronounced on housing association tenants.

Isn’t it wonderful being part of a vast social experiment in “behavioural change”?

Written by Andrew Coates

May 2, 2018 at 10:04 am

Charities Providing Work and Health Programme Face Gag on Criticising Esther McVey.

with 67 comments

Image result for Esther mcVey cartoon

Esther McVey on a Good Day.

Proof that disreputable Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has a thin skin  comes today from The Disability News Service.

 

Disability charities that sign up to help deliver the government’s new Work and Health Programme must promise to “pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of work and pensions secretary Esther McVey, official documents suggest.

The charities, and other organisations, must also promise never to do anything that harms the public’s confidence in McVey (pictured) or her Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Disability charities like RNIB, the Royal Association for Deaf People and Turning Point have agreed to act as key providers of services under the Work and Health Programme – which focuses on supporting disabled people and other disadvantaged groups into work – and so appear to be caught by the clause in the contract.

At least one of them – RNIB – has also signed contracts with one of the five main WHP contractors that contain a similar clause, which explicitly states that the charity must not “attract adverse publicity” to DWP and McVey.

The £398 million, seven-year Work and Health Programme is replacing the Work Programme and the specialist Work Choice disability employment scheme across England and Wales, with contractors paid mostly by results.

All the disability charities that have so far been contacted by Disability News Service (DNS) insist that the clause – which DWP says it has been using in such contracts since 2015 – will have no impact on their willingness to criticise DWP and work and pensions secretary Esther McVey or campaign on disability employment or benefits issues.

But the existence of the clause, and the first details to emerge of some of the charities that have agreed to work for DWP – which has been repeatedly attacked by disabled activists and academics for harassing and persecuting disabled people, and relying on a discriminatory benefit sanctions regime to try to force them into work – will raise questions about their ability and willingness to do so.

How does this work?

The contracts signed by the five organisations – the disability charity Shaw Trust, the disability employment company Remploy (now mostly owned by the discredited US company Maximus), Pluss, Reed in Partnership and Ingeus UK – all include a clause on “publicity, media and official enquiries”.

Part of that clause states that the contractor “shall pay the utmost regard to the standing and reputation” of DWP and ensure it does nothing to bring it “into disrepute, damages the reputation of the Contracting Body or harms the confidence of the public in the Contracting Body”.

The contract defines the “Contracting Body” as the work and pensions secretary, a position currently occupied by the much-criticised Esther McVey (see separate story).

And it warns that these promises apply whether or not the damaging actions relate to the Work and Health Programme, and it says they also apply to any of the contractor’s “Affiliates”.

This suggests that none of the organisations involved in providing services under the programme – and particularly those carrying out key elements of the contracts – will ever be allowed to criticise, or damage the reputation of, DWP or McVey during the course of the contract in connection with any area of the department’s work.

There is still considerable confusion over exactly how many disability charities will be paid to work for the five main contractors.

More details follow in the article including this:

The contractual documents include the names of scores of organisations, including charities, local authorities, education providers and companies.

But some of the disability charities named – including Mencap and the National Autistic Society – made it clear this week that they have not agreed to carry out services under the Work and Health Programme, despite being named as “stakeholders” in the documents.

Other disability charities, though, have confirmed that they will be providing services under the WHP.

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2018 at 10:24 am

McVey calls ‘rape clause’ an ‘opportunity’ for victims.

with 73 comments

Image result for sack esther mcvey

 

It is the opinion of many people, including this Blog, that Esther McVey is unsuited for the post of Work and Pensions Secretary.

That is putting things mildly.

Nicola Sturgeon blasts ‘out of touch’ Esther McVey over Tory rape clause claims.

Speaking after her speech at the STUC annual congress, Nicola Sturgeon said: “To me that just illustrates how out of touch Esther McVey and the Tory government are on these really sensitive issues of social security policy.

“I think most people think the rape clause is just abhorrent – the very notion of asking a woman or expecting a woman to prove she has been raped in order to access benefits for her children, no woman should even have to contemplate that, so to try to justify that by saying that it offers some benefits, I think, adds insult to injury.”

Labour said McVey’s presentation of the rape clause was “skin crawling”, the Lib Dems said it was “deluded” and the Greens said she tried to “defend the indefensible”.

As the latest scandal at her behaviour broke out she has made no public apology, no doubt finding more time for such pressing issues as this:

This is the scandal:

McVey calls ‘rape clause’ an ‘opportunity’ for victims.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has been criticised for describing the so-called “rape clause” as an opportunity for victims to get help.

The minister was giving evidence to the social security committee at Holyrood.

She told MSPs that sexual assault victims having to give DWP staff details of their ordeal was offering “potentially double support”.

The session was disrupted twice by heckling from members of the public.

Ms McVey was invited to the hearing to discuss the universal credit policy and the controversial “rape clause” changes to child tax credits.

Reforms of the welfare system, which came into force last April, mean child tax credits are now capped at two children.

A clause in the new rules means mothers who have a third child as a result of rape can be exempted – but would have to provide evidence to do so.

There has been a political row over the policy, which Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has called “disgusting”.

Tory welfare chief Esther McVey heckled in furious scenes after claiming rape clause ‘supports’ women

One audience member shouted “you can’t get into work if you’re dead” as the Work and Pensions Secretary was grilled in the Scottish Parliament

 

 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 17, 2018 at 10:11 am