Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘Food Banks

Universal Credit Is Not Working – House of Lords Report.

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After having posted about mass unemployment looming people have been speaking more and more about redundancies and the prospect of being out of work. You don’t have to have family or friends who are affected, just look on the Web, and here (one of our contributors excepted).

It is seriously worrying when secure jobs are under threat.

These things tend to work out in ever-expanding rings.

Now people face the prospect of joining the inner circle of hell, the dole, and specifically Universal Credit.

Their Lordships have produced this report which is making a splash.

The reason is obvious, as this Sky headline underlines,

Universal credit ‘harms the most vulnerable’, says major report amid surge in claims

Some 3.2 million people made new Universal Credit claims between the start of the lockdown in March and mid-June.

The BBC covers the story

Universal Credit ‘failing millions of people’, say peers

Universal Credit is “failing millions of people”, especially the vulnerable, according to a new report from peers.

The Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee said it agreed with the government’s aim for the scheme – to bring together multiple benefits into one payment.

But it criticised its design, blaming Universal Credit for “soaring rent arrears and the use of food banks”.

Welfare delivery minister Will Quince said the government was “committed to supporting the most vulnerable”.

But he said the scheme had “defied its critics in unprecedented and unforeseeable circumstances” during the coronavirus pandemic, adding: “The case for Universal Credit has never been stronger.”

Reactions are beginning to tumble in.

One poverty charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the report “reinforced the scale and urgency of reforms needed”.

And Labour said the system was “simply not working”, instead “pushing people further into poverty and debt”.

Note well this bit.

The Lords’ report said cuts to social security budgets over the last 10 years had caused “widespread poverty and hardship”.

As a result, the committee said Universal Credit needed “urgent investment just to catch up and provide claimants with adequate income”.

The peers called on the government to make the rise in payments due to the coronavirus crisis permanent.

They also called for a non-repayable two-week grant to be introduced to cut the current five-week wait for a claimant’s first payment.

The government said urgent payments were already available, but peers said the standard five weeks “entrenches debt, increases extreme poverty and harms vulnerable groups disproportionately”.

So, Universal Credit is a problem.

Let’s begin with the beginning, with the money you have to live on.

Coming up to my Pension I notice that even the increased UC payment is far below Pension Credit.

It would also perhaps be better if this report came from other people  than those who Daily Allowance (£150) alone (excluding their other revenues, paid in guineas or  gold sovereigns)  is nearly the JSA rate for a fortnight.

This is what their Lordlyships say,

Lords Select Committee.

 

The Economic Affairs Committee publishes its report ‘Universal Credit isn’t working: proposals for reform’, which calls on the Government to make substantial changes to universal credit in order to protect the most vulnerable.

“Most people, including our Committee, broadly agree with the original aims and objectives of Universal Credit. However, in its current form it fails to provide a dependable safety net. It has led to an unprecedented number of people relying on foodbanks and not being able to pay their rent.

“The mechanics of Universal Credit do not reflect the reality of people’s lives. It is designed around an idealised claimant and rigid, inflexible features of the system are harming a range of claimant groups, including women, disabled people and the vulnerable.

“Universal Credit needs more money to catch up after 10 years of cuts to the social security budget. It requires substantial reform to its design and implementation, the adequacy of its awards, and how it supports claimants to navigate the system and find work.

“The five-week wait for a first payment must be replaced by a non-repayable two-week grant to all claimants. The monthly payment calculations which can result in big fluctuations to claimants’ incomes should be fixed for three months. Historical tax credit debt needs to be written off.

“The punitive nature of Universal Credit has not worked. It punishes the poorest by taking away their sole source of income for minor infractions. It needs rebalancing, with more carrot and less stick, particularly as large numbers of claimants will have ended up on it because of events completely out of their control.”

Other findings

The Committee’s other key findings and recommendations include:

  • The Government must prioritise helping people into work, particularly with the increase in unemployment that the Covid-19 pandemic is causing. All claimants should have a work allowance, at a higher rate than now, to allow them to keep more of their award as they move into work.
  • The Government should consider reducing the taper rate to ensure that the poorest in society do not pay higher marginal effective tax rates compared to the richest in society.
  • The conditionality requirements on claimants who can look for, or prepare for work, has been increased significantly over recent years. Less emphasis should be placed on obligations and sanctions. Instead, there should be more support to help coach and train claimants to find jobs or to progress in their current roles. Conditionality should be adapted to accommodate changing labour market conditions, including at the local level, particularly in the light of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The UK has some of the most punitive sanctions in the world, but there is limited evidence that they have a positive effect. Removing people’s main source of support for extended periods risks pushing them further into poverty, indebtedness and reliance on food banks. There is a substantial body of evidence which shows that sanctions harm people’s mental health. The Government should evaluate the current length and level of sanctions. It should also expedite its work on introducing a written warning system before the application of a sanction. Sanctions must be a last resort.
  • The Government is doubling the number of work coaches in response to potential levels of high unemployment. This may not be enough to support people to find work in a stagnant labour market with high levels of competition for jobs. A cap should be introduced on the number of cases for which each work coach can be responsible.
  • Paying awards on a monthly basis does not reflect the way many claimants live. It causes unnecessary budget and cash flow problems. All claimants should be able to choose whether to have Universal Credit paid monthly or twice monthly.
  • Including childcare support in Universal Credit was a mistake. Paying costs in arrears has been a barrier to in-work progression and in some cases, it has been a disincentive to work. The Government should remove childcare support from Universal Credit and be made into a new standalone benefit paid in advance.

ITN carried this story a couple of days ago,

Food banks report ‘unprecedented demand’ during Covid crisis as unemployment predicted to rise to 10% by the end of 2020

Food banks experienced their “busiest month ever” during the coronavirus crisis as families faced a loss of income due to job losses or furlough schemes, the Trussell Trust has said.

The food bank network saw an 89% increase in demand for emergency food parcels in April compared to the same period in 2019.

The figures included a 107% increase in food parcels sent to children with the number of families seeking help almost doubling since last year.

The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) reported similar increases reporting 175% more emergency food parcels given out in the UK during April 2020 compared to last year.

Written by Andrew Coates

July 31, 2020 at 6:54 am

Budget Fails to offer anything to Fix Universal Credit Mess Facing New Coronavirus Strains.

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Image result for cornovarius universal credit twitter

Response to Government “Hype and Hot Air”.

Before the Budget there were calls, from no less a figure than Ian Duncan Smith, for more money to be put into Universal Credit, to clean up the mess he’d helped create.

The former welfare slasher said despite years of compromises, the six-in-one benefit still needs more money – and the five-week wait for payment should be cut.

In case you’d thought he’d gone soft the Mirror report adds,

Defending his system overall, he told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee: “There is no question in my mind that Universal Credit is better than the benefits that went before.”

And he condemned political rivals for “using the most vulnerable” to “stir up an argument”.

But he added: “I resigned over the fact that the government withdrew money at the time we were trying to roll it out, which was a big mistake.

“Now the government has sought to put most of that money back – there’s still some more to go.”

The central Budget measure affecting Claimants is this.

Make of it what you will.

Rishi Sunak Announces People Can Get Benefits A Week Sooner Amid Coronavirus Outbreak.

Huff Post.

But what is this?

It’s the following,

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced people on contributory employment and support allowance will be able to claim from day one instead of day eight, in anticipation of workers having to self-isolate as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

..

Unveiling his Budget in the Commons on Wednesday, Sunak announced a series of “temporary, timely and targeted” measures including a “strengthened safety net”.

In total the chancellor announced a £30bn fiscal stimulus to “support British people”.

The government has already said people will be able to claim statutory sick pay from day one instead of day four.

“But of course, not everyone is eligible for statutory sick pay. There are millions of people working hard, who are self-employed or in the gig economy,” Sunak said today.

“They will need our help too. So to support them, during this period, we’ll make it quicker and easier to get benefits.”

Sunak also announced statutory sick pay will also be available for all those who are advised to self-isolate – even if they haven’t yet presented with symptoms.

And he said rather than having to go to the doctors, people would soon be able to obtain a sick note by contacting 111.

In fact there’s a complete failure to deal with the crisis of Universal Credit.

Johnsonism’s first budget is floating on hype and hot air

Homing into two issues the Guardian commentator writes.

Johnson declared last week that workers who isolate themselves to protect others from the virus should not be “penalised for doing the right thing”. But the grand sum of £94.25 sick pay a week is just not enough to live on, and the coverage for workers in the gig economy looks very patchy.

..

Yet Johnson’s first budget was devoid of either redistribution or predistribution. There was nothing to fix the debacle that is universal credit, nor a single extra penny for social care.

There are reports that Food Banks have new problems getting donations, with supplies down because of panic buying.

Charities struggling for supplies urge people to think before coronavirus stockpiling.

Food banks in Britain are running out of staples including milk and cereal as a result of panic-buying and are urging shoppers to think twice before hoarding as donations fall in the coronavirus outbreak.

Donations from shoppers at branches of Sainsbury’s and Waitrose slumped to 25% of their normal volume at one food bank in London, while they have fallen by a third at a Kirkcaldy food bank – where UHT milk has run out. Some facilities have warned they may close because of concerns about cross-infection, and a food bank in Stonebridge, a deprived area of north-west London, will cut the size of its food parcels by a third from Wednesday, with larger families facing the biggest reductions.

Then there is this:

Others note the problems:

The Minister for Work and Pensions gets her priorities right!

Other Tories have reasons to be cheerful:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 12, 2020 at 11:33 am

DWP Bosses get over £1 Million in “Performance Bonuses.”

with 26 comments

Image result for universal credit depression

 

DWP bosses pocket over £1 million in ‘performance bonuses’ after slashing benefits for Britain’s poorest

Welfare Weekly.

“It beggars belief that DWP chiefs are taking big handouts while families across the country are struggling.”

Senior officials at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have been gifted with eye-watering bonuses despite rising poverty and record numbers of people turning to food banks to feed themselves and their families, it has been revealed.

Information published by the DWP reveals that DWP bosses were handed £595,392 in “end of year” bonuses in 2017/18 and further £544,745 in the following year.

The shocking revelation has sparked anger and disbelief at the bonanza of bonuses awarded to DWP officials, who together have helped to implement some of the harshest cuts to social security benefits in living memory.

This happened a a few days ago but, unfortunately, I did not notice much of this reaction:

Poverty has soared under the Tory Government but DWP civil servants have pocketed extra cash.

So it continues:

And,

Still she’d got time for a good feed while tackling the really important issues:

 

Written by Andrew Coates

March 1, 2020 at 2:44 pm

“I need Loans for Basics” – Universal Credit in Action.

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Image

Thérèse Coffey Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The Eastern Daily Press reports (23rd of February),

‘I need loans for basics’ – number of people claiming Universal Credit nearly doubles

Universal Credit is ‘plunging people into debt’, campaign groups say, as figures show the number of claimants in the east has risen to 214,000.

Just 12 months ago 24,933 people in the region were claiming UC, showing an increase of 178pc year-on-year.

Will Quince, minister for welfare delivery, said this shows the scheme “is helping to support thousands of people across the east of England as they look for work”.

“The number of claimants has doubled, and food banks in the region have also seen twice as many people this year,” said Mark Harrison, chairman of Norfolk Against Universal Credit.

“UC plunges you into debt which you are forced to repay back at an unreasonable rate further compounding the debt.”

Launched in 2016, UC merged six benefits in a rework of the benefits system that sees payments reduced as you earn more.

The scheme was criticised after former chancellor George Osborne made it so those on the scheme and working would pay the government 63p of every £1 earned.

Mr Harrison said: “It’s indicative that we live in a region where wages are below the national average, people can’t live on slave wages.

“People have less to live on, and this has a knock on effect on the NHS and mental health services.”

The Mirror reports, (22nd of February),

Sheila Shepherd has been told by social housing provider Plymouth Community Homes she must pay more than £12,000 towards the renovation of her home in Plymouth

Shrinking value of Universal Credit payments

New figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) reveal the shrinking value of social security benefits in the UK, as a leading charity calls for urgent improvements to the widely condemned Universal Credit system.

Figures published today (Tuesday) show that the value of Universal Credit payments have reduced in real-terms since the new benefit was introduced in 2013.

Data shows that the monthly payment for a single person in April 2019 was worth 88% of what it was in April 2013, according to the Retail Price Index (RPI).

In April 2013 the Universal Credit rate was £246.81 for under 25s and £311.55 for those aged 25 or over. By April 2019 the Universal Credit rate was £251.77 for under 25s and £317.82 for those aged 25 or over.

However, when considering RPI, the real value of Universal Credit has dropped since April 2013 from £285.09 for under 25s and from £359.87 for those aged 25.

Lords daily allowance more than monthly Universal Credit payment

The new daily allowance for the “unelected and unaccountable” House of Lords is set to rise to £323. The monthly allowance for a single person over 25 on Universal Credit is £317.82.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 23, 2020 at 10:39 am

Inside The Welfare State documentary on Universal Credit sparks anger.

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I watched the programme and the above is one of the strong messages I got from it.

That, and the geezer (who could be somebody I know, though his previous drug habit looked as if it had been worse than most)  sat in front of a computer for 8 days a Day doing ‘Job search’ – he finally ended up cleaning light railway trains for a pittance.

The Food Bank looked a horror, like the cheap end of B & M, and the handout was miserly.

Then there was the woman caught in the difficulties the Tweet above talks about.

And the homeless Irish bloke…

This is well true:

 

These are some of the reports and reviews.

Universal Credit system slammed by ‘heartbroken’ BBC benefits documentary viewers

Mirror.

Viewers have branded a new BBC documentary about the struggles of relying on Universal Credit as “heartbreaking” while slamming the “broken” system which allowed it to come about.

One launched a tirade at the perceived lack of empathy shown by some staff at a Job Centre, after it was suggested claimants need to budget better.

Three-part BBC Two series Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State launched on Tuesday evening, with episode one focusing on Peckham Jobcentre in London, visited by more than 1,000 people each day, including former NHS worker Rachel and homeless man Declan.

Job Centre employee Karen, meanwhile, finds herself faced with similar difficulties to her clients, and has to take a second job to support herself.

Taking to Twitter during the initial broadcast at 9pm last night, viewers were shocked at the difficulty of accessing benefits and distressing backgrounds of the claimants featured, as well as the way they are treated.

Evening Standard.

A new BBC documentary series explores the benefits system

ALASTAIR MCKAY

The true story of this benefits revolution is on the shop floor where the job centre staff must accommodate the demands of the claimants, many of whom are ill-equipped to understand the beautiful simplicity of the benefits revolution.

Rachel, a single mother who left her NHS job after 27 years to care for her parents, struggles with anxiety. Job centre worker Karen does a second job in a pound store after absorbing the anger of claimants all day. And there’s grumpy, articulate Phil, with track marks on his arm and a lost dream of becoming a photojournalist,  weighing up the value of a job cleaning trains for the minimum wage.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

February 5, 2020 at 1:53 pm