Ipswich Unemployed Action.

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Posts Tagged ‘Grenfell Tower

Universal Credit Faces New Criticisms as Northern Ireland to Suffer Roll-Out.

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Flagship Benefit Reform Limps from Crisis to Crisis.

This was reported a week ago: Universal credit rollout in North Kensington halted after tower fire.

The Guardian.

New benefit system will not be introduced in full in July so jobcentre staff can focus on claimants affected by Grenfell blaze.

Officials have halted the planned rollout of universal credit into North Kensington, west London, next month, saying they want jobcentre staff to focus on supporting claimants affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.

Universal credit, which pulls together six separate benefits into one monthly payment, has been dogged by criticism that design flaws and payment delays were causing low-income claimants to run up rent arrears and rely on food banks.

 

We have still to find out the details of how those affected by mass evacuations of Tower Blocks will be treated by Universal Credit.

The prospect is not looking good.

This appears now:

Universal Credit’s planed roll out in Northern Ireland:

Universal Credit (UC), which has caused social havoc in people’s lives in other parts of the UK, is on its way to Northern Ireland.

MPs recently launched an official inquiry into Universal Credit amid growing concerns that design flaws in the new benefits system are leaving thousands of low-income claimants facing eviction and reliant on food banks.

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee said it was compelled to launch a full investigation after mounting evidence that built-in payment delays and administrative blockages were creating severe problems for claimants and landlords.

It has been stated by a number of Conservative Party ministers that one of the key aims of universal credit is to simplify the benefits system but also to reduce the overall cost of the welfare benefits system.

We  are also repeatedly told that spending on “welfare” for disabled people is out of control, yet the Department for Work and Pensions has gone nearly £200m over budget, paying two private firms to run the personal independence payments (PIP) assessment system.

The Conservatives have now spent £700m in taxpayers’ money on these contracts alone, despite the fact the process is so flawed that one charity reported that four out of five rejections that they appealed against were overturned.

Journalist Frances Ryan in a recent newspaper article (http://bit.ly/2sQ8NZz) said: “The government’s flagship benefit reform, universal credit (UC): is five years behind schedule, with delays announced seven times and a price tag rising to a staggering £16bn. And yet, with all that public money, it’s still plagued by administrative chaos and design flaws – to the extent that it’s not only failing in its purpose of improving the benefits system but is actively creating more social and economic problems.

“The Trussell Trust found that universal credit’s much-criticised six-week waiting period has led to mass emergency food parcels. In areas where the full universal credit rollout has taken place, food bank referral rates are now more than double the national average. This is on top of the debt, rent arrears and evictions it is also causing.

There are many bodies in Northern Ireland who have voiced their concerns over the planned introduction of universal credit, including Advice NI (http://bit.ly/2t5VhDj) and PPR (http://bit.ly/2sFBslk), but it is obvious that a more co-ordinated approach of opposition is needed, including the involvement of the community and voluntary sector and the trade union movement, if this ‘welfare tsunami’ is to be halted.

Then there is this:

Landlords could see the number of their tenants claiming Universal Credit multiply by up to nine times when their area moves to full digital roll-out, according to a Chartered Institute of Housing expert..

This wider view of ‘welfare reform’, of which Universal Credit is a pillar, is worth looking at:

Four reasons why welfare reform is a delusion Richard Machin

Welfare reform is regressive

There is clear evidence that welfare reform has a disproportionately negative impact on some groups in society and some areas of the UK. The Sheffield Hallam research found that those particularly hit by welfare reform are working-age tenants in the social rented sector, families with dependent children (particularly lone-parent families and families with large numbers of children) and areas with a high percentage of minority ethnic households. Geographically, the impact of welfare reform is stark with the greatest financial losses being imposed on the most deprived local authorities. As a general rule, older industrial areas and some London Boroughs are hardest hit, with southern local authorities the least affected.

The mainstream media often fails to report the true impact of welfare reform that this research highlights. A more accurate account of the human costs can be found in ‘For whose benefit? The everyday realities of welfare reform’ in which Ruth Patrick documents her research on the impact of sustained benefit reductions. Dominant themes include the stigma felt by benefit claimants, the negative impacts of a punitive sanctions regime, and living with persistent poverty.

Welfare reform does not produce the behaviour changes sought by the government

Although welfare reform is a values-laden policy underpinned by a strong, but flawed, ideology (only those who fail ‘to do the right thing’ are affected) there is little evidence that the retrenchment of the welfare state has been accompanied by the change in claimant behaviour that politicians desire. The ‘bedroom tax’ was supposed to ‘provide an economic incentive’ to move to smaller accommodation. The evaluation indicates that more than 7 in 10 claimants affected had never considered moving, with an estimate that no more than 8% of those affected having downsized within the social sector.

The Benefit Cap places a limit on the total amount of certain working age benefits available to claimants. One of the government’s main intentions was for this to improve work incentives. There is no common consensus on the extent to which this aim has been achieved: the Institute for Fiscal Studies have suggested that the majority of those affected will not respond by moving into work, however, government ministers rarely waste an opportunity to tell us that low levels of unemployment are partly due to the benefit changes introduced.

The research of David Webster into sanctions argues that ‘Sanctions are not an evidence-based system designed to promote the employment, wellbeing and development of the labour force’ and that this regressive system results in lower productivity, pointless job applications, and poverty-related problems.

In the last days of the previous administration we saw the introduction of the  2-child limit for child tax credit and universal credit. Child Poverty Action Group emphasise the contradiction in a policy which supposedly provides parity between those in work and those out of work, when 70% of those claiming tax credits are already working.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

June 28, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Grenfell Tower Victims, Tower Block Evacuees, and Benefits.

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As More People Evacuated from Tower Blocks, what will happen to their Benefits? 

Reports on the way the Grenfell Tower victims have, and will be, affected by the benefits system are beginning to appear.

Last Thursday there was this, in the Guardian,

Grenfell residents feared benefit sanctions – they are too used to being ignored

If you’ve followed the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire on social media, one disturbing revelation has stood out: the fear that victims could have their benefits sanctioned because they were not able to get to the jobcentre to sign on.

Incredibly, representatives of local residents who approached local Jobcentre Plus officials and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff in North Kensington report being told that it could “not be guaranteed” that people caught up in the fire and its aftermath would not be penalised if they were unable to sign on.

Last night, when the Guardian approached them for comment, the DWP confirmed that normal jobcentre rules – including financial sanctions routinely issued to claimants who miss appointments – had been suspended indefinitely for former Grenfell Tower tenants and other local residents who claim unemployment benefits.

A local resident who said he was acting on behalf of the community claimed that the DWP only later moved to clarify the position because of pressure on social media. “Once it became clear that there was media attention focused on them, they have finally done the right thing,” he said. “Why should it take shame for them to act? Where is their humanity?”

As anyone who has been put through the Tories’ benefit system knows, “humanity” and the DWP are two things that do not tend to go together. Rather, it’s a department that in recent years has become synonymous with cruelty.

Followed by this,

Former residents of Grenfell Tower will not be exempt from the bedroom tax and the benefit cap, the government has confirmed – although ministers have ordered that any tenants affected are prioritised for special payments to offset any losses.

Guidance from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) says councils should ensure Grenfell tenants hit by welfare reforms should be given so-called discretionary housing payments (DHPs) to protect them from potential housing benefit shortfalls of hundreds of pounds a month.

The government has promised that all Grenfell residents will be rehoused permanently as close as possible to their former home. This week it secured 68 social rented apartments in a new block in Kensington to provide permanent accommodation for those made homeless by the fire.

The guidance is the latest example of ministers moving to soften normal benefit rules for Grenfell residents. Earlier this week it said jobless tenants would not be sanctioned for failing to look for a job, and that a planned roll-out of universal credit in North Kensington next month would be put on hold.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “We have already relaxed benefit rules for anyone affected by the Grenfell Tower fire and our staff are handling people’s claims with sensitivity, understanding and flexibility.

“As part of this, our recent guidance to local authorities is that they should treat these residents as a priority for extra payments to help with their rent if they are rehoused in a larger property.”

But,

….experts said that providing DHP support was not always a permanent solution for tenants affected by welfare reform, especially if Grenfell tenants were allocated permanent homes that were too big and unaffordable under housing benefit rules.

Under the bedroom tax, residents in permanent social housing who are deemed to have more bedrooms than they require are docked housing benefit. In London, bedroom-taxed households typically have shortfalls of around £23 a week.

The benefit cap limits the total amount of benefits paid to out-of-work households to £442 a week in London. In Kensington and Chelsea,  latest figures show that in February 421 residents were capped. The majority suffered a benefit shortfall of £100 a week, though in some cases it was as much as £400 a week.

Discretionary housing payments, as the name implies, are normally given out at the discretion of the council and there is no guarantee that tenants – usually those at risk of homelessness as a result of rent arrears caused by welfare reform – will receive a DHP payment. The DWP guidance suggests councils should relax the usual rules for Grenfell tenants.

Each local authority sets its own criteria to assess DHP claims, with claimants normally having to produce extensive details of bank accounts, savings and loans to justify why they should qualify for financial help to stay in their home. Kensington and Chelsea’s standard five-page form asks claimants to justify why they “need to live at this address in this particular area” and “Are there any reasons preventing you from moving to other accommodation or another area?”.

Although the guidance states that there is no limit to the length of time a DHP award may be made, permanent awards are rare, and are often restricted to a few months.

This week a judge criticised DHPs in a ruling that declared it was unlawful for single parents with children under two to be subject to the benefit cap. Mr Justice Collins said that DHPs were a temporary solution that gave “no peace of mind” to capped tenants and provided an “unsatisfactory safeguard” against homelessness.

He added: “For those such as the claimants who are living on the edge of, if not within, poverty the [DHP] system is simply not working with any degree of fairness.”

Grenfell Tower victims could be hit by the Bedroom Tax in their new homes

The Mirror says: The DWP is scrambling to cover the cost of the hated levy for any victims who move into a bigger flat.

Written by Andrew Coates

June 26, 2017 at 10:33 am