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Posts Tagged ‘Poverty

UN Poverty Envoy Slams Universal Credit and Sanctions Regime.

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Image result for Jaywick meeting UN rapporteur

UN Rapporteur on Human Rights and Poverty in Jaywick, Essex (Ipswich delegation in Second Row….)

While Esther McVey snuggles up with a wheel-barrow full of her leaving prezzies:

Unicorn Poo

The UN envoy has issued this initial report on his visit to the UK.

UK austerity has inflicted ‘great misery’ on citizens, UN says

Poverty envoy says callous policies driven by political desire for social re-engineering

Guardian.

 ‘I’m scared to eat sometimes’

 Women reveal impact of cuts

 Children tell UN: ‘It’s unfair’

The UK government has inflicted “great misery” on its people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies driven by a political desire to undertake social re-engineering rather than economic necessity, the United Nations poverty envoy has found.

Philip Alston, the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, ended a two-week fact-finding mission to the UK with a stinging declaration that despite being the world’s fifth largest economy, levels of child poverty are “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster”.

About 14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty, and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials, he said, citing figures from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. He highlighted predictions that child poverty could rise by 7% between 2015 and 2022, possibly up to a rate of 40%.

“It is patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty,” he said, adding that compassion had been abandoned during almost a decade of austerity policies that had been so profound that key elements of the post-war social contract, devised by William Beveridge more than 70 years ago, had been swept away.

Pause.

Although the various media stories just breaking underline the general issue of the poverty the UN envoy found one thing stands out: i the thread running through the report’s initial findings is the central role of Universal Credit in creating poverty and misery. 

Statement on Visit to the United Kingdom, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations  Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights London, 16 November 2018

The UK is the world’s fifth largest economy, it contains many areas of immense wealth, its capital is a leading centre of global finance, its entrepreneurs are innovative and agile, and despite the current political turmoil, it has a system of government that rightly remains the envy of much of the world.  It thus seems patently unjust and contrary to British values that so many people are living in poverty. This is obvious to anyone who opens their eyes to see the immense growth in foodbanks and the queues waiting outside them, the people sleeping rough in the streets, the growth of homelessness, the sense of deep despair that leads even the Government to appoint a Minister for suicide prevention and civil society to report in depth on unheard of levels of loneliness and isolation.  And local authorities, especially in England, which perform vital roles in providing a real social safety net have been gutted by a series of government policies.  Libraries have closed in record numbers, community and youth centers have been shrunk and underfunded, public spaces and buildings including parks and recreation centers have been sold off.  While the labour and housing markets provide the crucial backdrop, the focus of this report is on the contribution made by social security and related policies.

 

Key extracts from the report:

14 million people, a fifth of the population, live in poverty. Four million of these are more than 50% below the poverty line,1 and 1.5 million are destitute, unable to afford basic essentials. The widely respected Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts a 7% rise in child poverty between 2015 and 2022, and various sources predict child poverty rates of as high as 40%. For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.

But the full picture of low-income well-being in the UK cannot be captured by statistics alone. Its manifestations are clear for all to see. The country’s most respected charitable groups, its leading think tanks, its parliamentary committees, independent authorities like the National Audit Office, and many others, have all drawn attention to the dramatic decline in the fortunes of the least well off in this country. But through it all, one actor has stubbornly resisted seeing the situation for what it is.

The Government has remained determinedly in a state of denial. Even while devolved authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland are frantically trying to devise ways to ‘mitigate’, or in other words counteract, at least the worst features of the  government’s benefits policy, Ministers insisted to me that all is well and running according to plan. Some tweaks to basic policy have reluctantly been made, but there has been a determined resistance to change in response to the many problems which so many people at all levels have brought to my attention.

…..

UNIVERSAL CREDIT.

Universal Credit and the other far-reaching changes to the role of government in supporting people in distress are almost always ‘sold’ as being part of an unavoidable program of fiscal ‘austerity’, needed to save the country from bankruptcy. In fact, however, the reforms have almost certainly cost the country far more than their proponents will admit.

No single programme embodies the combination of the benefits reforms and the promotion of austerity programs more than Universal Credit. Although in its initial conception it represented a potentially major improvement in the system, it is fast falling into Universal Discredit.

Social support should be a route out of poverty, and Universal Credit should be a key part of that process. Consolidating six different benefits into one makes good sense, in principle. But many aspects of the design and rollout of the programme have suggested that the Department for Work and Pensions is more concerned with making economic savings and sending messages about lifestyles than responding to the multiple needs of those living with a disability, job loss, housing insecurity, illness, and the demands of parenting. While some surveys suggest certain claimants do have positive experiences with Universal Credit, an increasing body of research makes clear that there are far too many instances in which Universal Credit is being implemented in ways that negatively impact many claimants’ mental health, finances, and work prospects.

Hardship.

In addition to all of the negative publicity about Universal Credit in the UK media and among politicians of all parties, I have heard countless stories from people who told me of the severe hardships they have suffered under Universal Credit. When asked about these problems, Government ministers were almost entirely dismissive, blaming political opponents for wanting to sabotage their work, or suggesting that the media didn’t really understand the system and that Universal Credit was unfairly blamed for problems rooted in the old legacy system of benefits.

The Universal Credit system is designed with a five week delay between when people successfully file a claim and when they receive benefits. Research suggests that this “waiting period,” which actually often takes up to 12 weeks, pushes many who may already be in crisis into debt, rent arrears, and serious hardship, requiring them to sacrifice food or heat.10 Given the delay, which will only be partially mitigated by a recent concession, it is no surprise that the majority of claimants seek “advance payments,” which in turn must be repaid to DWP in relatively short order.

Additionally, debts to DWP and to third-parties can be deducted from already meager Universal Credit payments at a rate much higher than is the case with the older benefit system. While supposedly deductions are capped at a maximum rate of 40% of the standard allowance portion of the payment (which will change to 30% in a year’s time), the Government told me that in fact additional clawbacks can occur. These so-called “Last Resort Deductions” are for matters such as rent, gas, and electricity arrears, if it is judged to be in the best interest of a claimant or their household..

……..

Sanctions.

One of the key features of Universal Credit involves the imposition of draconian sanctions, even for infringements that seem minor. Endless anecdotal evidence was presented to the Special Rapporteur to illustrate the harsh and arbitrary nature of some of the sanctions, as well as the devastating effects that resulted from being completely shut out of the benefits system for weeks or months at a time. As the system grows older, some penalties will soon be measured in years.

….

As I spoke with local authorities and the voluntary sector about their preparations for the future rollout of Universal Credit, I was struck by how much their mobilization resembled the sort of activity one might expect for an impending natural disaster or health epidemic.

Universal Credit has built a digital barrier that effectively obstructs many individuals’ access to their entitlements. Women, older people, people who do not speak English and the disabled are re likely to be unable to overcome this hurdle.

Artificial Intelligence and Threats to Freedom.

The merging of six legacy benefits into one new Universal Credit system aimed at reaching millions of UK citizens is in fact a major automation project. The collection of data via the online application process and interactions with the online journal provide a clear stepping stone for further automation within DWP.

The new institutions currently being set up by the UK government in the area of big data and AI focus heavily on ethics. While their establishment is certainly a positive development, we should not lose sight of the limits of an ethics frame. Ethical concepts such as fairness are without agreed upon definitions, unlike human rights which are law. Government use of automation, with its potential to severely restrict the rights of individuals, needs to be bound by the rule of law and not just an ethical code.

*****
This is also worth taking notice of,

“The United Kingdom’s impending exit from the European Union poses particular risks for people in poverty, but the government appears to be treating this as an afterthought,” said the UN’s expert on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, at the end of a 12-day visit to the country.

Independent.  UN condemns UK government’s ‘mean-spirited and callous approach’ to poorest, in damning report

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Written by Andrew Coates

November 16, 2018 at 4:16 pm

Poverty Crisis Worsened by Universal Credit.

with 20 comments

Image result for poverty Social Metrics Commission

” total number of people living in poverty is 14.2 million.”

Poverty, anybody could see with their own eyes, is growing.

I was struck, visiting my old homeland, Haringey, by this recently.

It was not so much that seeing the homeless people on the streets was a surprise – we have plenty in Ipswich. Though I must admit that, coming out of Wood Green Tube station, the sight of a geezer with a sleeping bag sprawled out in front of the ‘Spoons on Spouters’ Corner was unexpected.

It was that walking from there to Turnpike Lane most people looked, well, not well off.

Same pound shops, charity shops, though a Mall looked a bit more prosperous than ours.

This is the real London, not Made In Chelsea.

Bounds Green, where I grew up, is (wrote the Guardian in 2013 and it’s still true), is “ordinary north London, like wot even Muswell Hill used to be: an endangered species these days.”, was another destination on this tour.

On a  round circuit from the Tube to my old gaff (a short 15 minutes)  I came across at least 10 off-licences and newsagents/food stores selling cheap booze.

Encouraging to see that people still appreciate white cider and 9% lager, no “shops selling single-estate, organic, truffle-dusted flat whites”.

But then………..

This report, then, does not come out of the blue.

More than two million Brits at risk of falling into poverty, report warns

The UK Government has been urged to take action at the Budget in order to tackle Britain’s growing poverty crisis, in response to the publication of a new report which shows that 2.5million people are at risk of falling into poverty.

The Social Metrics Commission has published a new framework for measuring poverty in the UK, which takes into account a wider range of interplaying factors which cause people to fall into poverty – including material resources, the cost of disability, and the cost of childcare.

Sam Royston, director of policy and research at The Children’s Society, said: “While we would welcome these changes to how poverty is measured being included in official statistics, concrete action is needed to tackle the shameful scale of poverty among our children, with all the damage it can do to their wellbeing, education and life chances.”

The Commission found that more than one in ten (12.1%) of the total UK population (7.7million people) live in persistent poverty. While a further 2.5million people in the UK are less than 10% above the poverty line – meaning relatively small changes in their circumstances could see them fall below it.

Philippa Stroud, the commission’s chair, said: “We want to put poverty at the heart of government policymaking and ensure that the decisions that are made are genuinely made with the long term interests of those in poverty in mind.”

The UK Government abolished child poverty targets under the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016 – a moved condemned by the SNP who have reintroduced them in Scotland and have called for their reintroduction across the UK.

These are the conclusions of the above report:

The SMC report, available here,  reveals numerous key findings and challenges. The total number of people living in poverty is 14.2 million with the composition of poverty moving towards a better identification of children (4.5 million) and working-age adults (8.4 million). The good news is the shift away from pensioner poverty with far fewer pensioners living in poverty following a significant reduction of poverty amongst pension age couples, over the last 15 years.

The report reveals that people with a disability are much more likely to be living in poverty than previously thought, with around half of the 14.2 million people in poverty living in families with a disabled person.

The report also reveals the persistence and depth of UK poverty. More than one in ten (12.1%) of the total UK population are in poverty now and have been in poverty for at least two of the previous three years. A further 2.5 million people live less than 10% above the poverty line and are close to falling below it with relatively small changes to their circumstances; and around 2.7 million people live less than 10% below it.

 SMC KEY FINDINGS

  1. 2 million people in the UK population live in poverty: 8.4 million working-age adults; 4.5 million children; and 1.4 million pension age adults.
  2. Over half of those in poverty (58.2%) also live in persistent poverty. This means that more than one in ten (7.7 million) of the total UK population are in poverty now and have been in poverty for at least two of the previous three years. Persistent poverty is highest in families more than 10% below the poverty line, in workless families and families where someone is disabled.
  3. People with a disability are much more likely to be living in poverty. Nearly half of the 14.2 million people in poverty live in families with a disabled person (6.9 million people equal to 48.3% of those in poverty). The SMC metric recognises the inescapable costs of disability, accounting for them alongside the value of disability benefits, to reflect the lived experience of living with a disability.
  4. Far fewer pensioners are living in poverty than previously thought, with a significant fall in pensioner poverty over the last 15 years. Poverty rates amongst pension-age adults have nearly halved since 2001, and have fallen to one in ten, a drop from 17% of the total population in poverty in 2001 to 11% in 2017. There are, however some pensioner groups still experiencing high levels of poverty. For example, the poverty rate for pensioners who do not own their own home is 34.2%.

You can only note that all this is about to get a lot lot worse:

The Universal Credit Rollout Will Cause Liverpool Untold Harm – The Government Must Pause And Rethink. 

Joe Anderson Mayor of Liverpool

Huffington Post.

In a city described by the Joseph Rowntree Trust as having the second worst affected in the country when it comes to ‘destitution,’ Liverpool needs Universal Credit like a hole in the head.

Nevertheless, from this week, the remaining parts of my city not already covered by UC will start being migrated across to the new benefit.

The dread I feel is because we know what happens next.

Already, we can see a spike in hardship and a rise in council tax arrears from those who have already transitioned to UC. Not to mention the snaking queues at foodbanks and the families struggling with things like school uniform costs.

Around 55,000 Liverpool households will eventually see their claim move to Universal Credit. So far, we estimate that up to 2,800 people in Liverpool are affected by changes in work allowances in Universal Credit, resulting in a loss of income to families of between £40 and £200 each month.

The Council’s various discretionary schemes, set up to protect people in hardship, made 13,700 awards last year at a cost of just under £2.7million. 71% of all Discretionary Housing Payments made in Liverpool are to help people who have been hit by the ‘under occupation penalty’ – or as we know it, the bedroom tax.

It’s so frustrating because as a council, we have one of the best records in the country when it comes to maintaining discretionary benefits for the poorest and most vulnerable in our city. We are left picking up the pieces from failed central government changes.

Despite losing two-thirds of our government funding since 2010 (£444million), we have stretched our finances as far as we can in order to preserve basic human dignity, but also because it makes sense to address problems upstream before they swim downstream and cost even more to fix.

This is often down to the scandalous time lag between applying for Universal Credit and receiving a first payment. This is often as long as twelve weeks, with the National Audit Office recently reporting that four in ten applicants had experienced financial difficulties while transitioning across to UC, while one in five were not paid on time.

So my message to ministers is simple: pause this roll-out and listen to those of us on the frontline. It’s possible to reform Universal Credit to keep the original intention of simplifying the benefits system without deliberately causing misery for tens of thousands of people in my city and millions more across the country.

Drop the ideology for a start. There is no good reason to make desperate people wait for their benefits, simply because eight years ago Iain Duncan-Smith wanted to teach them budgeting skills. Pay up straightaway and take that terrible burden off the backs of some of the poorest people in our society.

Unnecessary delay simply throws vulnerably families into the clutches of payday lenders and loan sharks. This is a simple concession that Esther McVey could make that would transform the lives of millions of people for the better and show that the Department for Work and Pensions is listening to evidence about the ill-effects of UC.

I would also urge her to work with councils rather than ignoring us. Along with the voluntary sector, we are working to pick up the pieces of botched welfare changes. But give us the tools to do it. Provide ring-fenced funding so councils can create a local welfare scheme to address acute hardship.

But it’s also about practical steps, like understanding the system simply isn’t flexible enough for people on zero hours contracts and have no guarantees about their work situation from week to week. Also, the DWP could dramatically reduce the waiting time for connection to the DWP advice and information lines.

Before people in Liverpool are exposed to these poorly-conceived and badly implemented changes, I am asking Esther McVey to pause and #RethinkUC.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

September 18, 2018 at 9:23 am

The Feckless Poor, The Stigma of Welfare. Mary O’Hara

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Image result for feckless poor

Tory Pick-Pockets Idea of Poverty.

There is a theory, a well-attested theory, that the key to the  government ‘welfare reform’ is that they intend to make life for claimants as unpleasant as possible. This will not only reduce the number of people willing to apply for benefits, it will compel them to take whatever work they can get. Over the years they have tried to a variety of schemes, The Work Programme, and now (for a more limited group), the Work and Health Programme, that are intended to guide people into employment.

Over the years ‘nudges’ (this is not a joke, they tried at one point with this daft plan, “Jobcentres try ‘nudging’ the workless” 2013), were replaced with pushes, sanctions.

Some would say that the massive increase in rough-sleeper numbers, a result of housing crisis and the fact that these days the down and out get not benefits  is – for the more hard-line Tories – a welcome ‘nudge’, a constant reminder of where you could fall if you do not pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get work.

Now Universal Credit looks set to cause a lot more misery for a much wider group of people.

Not to mention this:

A lot has to do with the cock-ups of those who created the system, and the way its run.

But the message about the feckless poor keeps on and on.

Mary O’Hara is the author of Austerity Bites,

After coming to power in May 2010, the Coalition government in the United Kingdom embarked on a drastic programme of cuts to public spending and introduced a raft of austerity measures that had profoundly damaging effects on much of the population. This bestselling book by award-winning journalist Mary O’Hara chronicles the true impact of austerity on people at the sharp end, based on her ‘real-time’ 12-month journey around the country just as the most radical reforms were being rolled out in 2012 and 2013. Drawing on hundreds of hours of compelling first-person interviews, with a broad spectrum of people ranging from homeless teenagers, older job-seekers, pensioners, charity workers, employment advisers and youth workers, as well as an extensive body of research and reports, the book explores the grim reality of living under the biggest shakeup of the welfare state in 60 years. with a new Foreword by Mark Blyth, Professor of International Political economy and International Studies at Brown University, USA, Austerity Bites dispels any notion that “we are all in this together” and offers an alternative to the dominant and simplistic narrative that we inhabit a country of “skivers versus strivers”.

This is a review of the book,

Mary O’Hara, Austerity Bites: A journey to the sharp end of cuts in the UK, Policy Press, 2014, xiv + 320 pp, 1 4473 1560 5, hbk, £19.99

During 2012 and 2013 Mary O’Hara travelled the UK to find out what effects the Coalition Government’s public sector cuts were having by interviewing some of the people affected by them: both those suffering directly from the austerity measures and those working with them to try to mitigate the measures’ effects.

The introduction describes in broad terms the ways in which wages have fallen, poverty and debt have increased, new sanctions have been imposed on jobseekers, and public services have been cut – and all this in the cause of an austerity that further damages the economy.

O’Hara’s visits and interviews reveal the depth of the crisis: increasing food poverty (and hence the rise in the number of food banks); mounting pressure on household budgets as costs rise but incomes – both in and out of work – stagnate; the disruptive effects of the bedroom tax; and the rise of personal debt and of high-street high-interest lenders. They also reveal the increasing stigma imposed on people who cannot find employment, and on people with disabilities and long-term health problems; declining wages and job security; cuts in local authority services on which some of our most vulnerable citizens depend; and rising rents and homelessness.

This is in many ways a familiar story, but what gives this particular telling of it an added authenticity are the excerpts from the interviews. Here we find the voices not of statisticians, journalists, or politicians, but of those suffering the effects of cuts in services. In the concluding chapter, we hear the voices of those voluntary sector workers who are coping with increasing demand, disappearing grants, and staff redundancies. The concluding chapter ends with a description of the way in which the Government and the tabloid press have succeeded in persuading us that the previous Labour Government and the poor are responsible for the country’s financial problems, and therefore for austerity; and with a description of small-scale resistance to that austerity – as if local pressure groups can defeat the Government- and media-driven prejudice to which we have been submitted for the past four years. They can’t.

Perhaps for our readership the most significant finding from O’Hara’s visits and interviews is that ‘the social security system that had protected much of the population from the worst vagaries of inequality was being ripped from its foundations’. She goes on:

I saw at first hand how destabilised and fearful it was leaving people. What I observed during my travels was a society in deep existential as well as economic and political flux. It seemed to me that austerity was generating social and economic schisms faster than they could be tracked, never mind adequately countered. There was a sense of an expanding segregation of the rich and poor, the entrenchment of a ‘them and us’ view of the world that produced not only a lack of social contract but also a political gap so wide as to seem unbridgeable. (p.15)

As a society we need to take to heart what is being said here, and determine to build a new social security system that will protect everyone from ‘the worst vagaries of inequality’ and will heal our ‘social and economic schisms’.

Today she writes in the Guardian.

Let’s tell the truth about poverty – and stop this assault on welfare

When the Department for Work and Pensions last week decided to issue a Valentine’s message to people on benefits – clearly implying that recipients lie about their “living arrangements” to fleece the state – it was the latest attack designed to blame and shame. It is a well-worn pattern, especially for people who qualify for benefits.

Since the emergence almost a decade ago of the poisonous rhetoric of “skivers and strivers” that has helped to prop up the fiasco that has been Tory austerity, a culture of dismissing poor people has become well and truly entrenched. The despicable idea that being poor is somehow the byproduct of personal flaws rather than bad policy, and that strong welfare systems should be rejected, is pervasive.

How else to explain the fact that food banks have become normalised or that the repeated denial of benefits – and dignity – to people with disabilities has failed to provoke a nationwide revolt? How else to compute that a homeless person dies on the doorstep of the Houses of Parliament and registers only as a temporary blip on the national consciousness?

The DWP’s Valentine’s message on Twitter to benefit recipients

 

In the early days of austerity Iain Duncan Smith’s DWP framed the slashing of the welfare state as welfare reform in order to sell it to the public as an improvement that would prevent the system being exploited. This tactic was straight out of the American playbook from the mid-1990s when Bill Clinton all but ended the welfare system under the guise of reform, only to exacerbate poverty.

This pernicious, repetitive narrative that has underpinned bad poverty policy for so long is a maliciously clever ruse. But if what it means to be poor can be framed one way, then it can be framed in another, more truthful way, too. In fact, it is already starting. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has launched an initiative called “talking about poverty”,to which I will be contributing, that explicitly aims to examine how to change the conversation. It is incumbent on us to make that happen.

I am not entirely convinced that O’Hara is right to refer exclusively to the USA.

In France there’s been political and media attacks on unemployed ‘spongers’ – if not on the UK scale (France has no Daily Mail, no Express and no Sun for a start)  – for some time.

Presidential Macron announced at the end of last year something that looks to me a ‘job seeker’s agreement’ for the out-of-work on benefits complete with a sanctions regime if you don’t look hard enough for employment (Le gouvernement va renforcer le contrôle des chômeurs.  27.12.17).

I could extend this to other European countries.

But her overall points are well taken.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 20, 2018 at 4:36 pm

Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action, Saturday 2nd of December.

with 86 comments

Like many people I buy the ‘I’ Newspaper.

This story today gives lots of reasons – if we needed them – why everybody should be protesting against Universal Credit this Saturday.

Evictions, poverty and stress: Life for single parent families on universal credit

Hunger, anxiety, shame: the universal credit ‘catastrophe’ is hitting lone parents hardest of all. Emily Goddard meets mothers facing a grim Christmas. ‘I have to borrow from my child’s paper round money to top up the meter,’ one tells her.

Lily can smell the cigarette smoke from the next room along the corridor seeping through the crack under the door of her Croydon bed-and-breakfast room that she shares with her seven-year-old daughter. They have spent nearly a month here already after becoming homeless when they were evicted from their privately rented home in another part of the town because Lily couldn’t make the rent payments while waiting for her first universal credit payment.

Every day the 39-year-old returns from working her two low-pay, part-time jobs with her daughter to this room, which contains two single beds. The pair uses a potty in the room to go to the toilet because they don’t have a bathroom of their own – nor a shower, kitchen or washing facilities – and all the communal rooms that are shared by the other 40 to 50 residents are filthy.

Sometimes the noise is overwhelming, with doors banging, arguments raging on and “sex sounds”. And, as if the smell of cigarette smoke hanging heavy in the air was not bad enough, there have been people rolling and smoking joints in the kitchen that every resident in this wholly inadequate emergency accommodation has to share.

If you need more reasons the Mirror has them.

Universal Credit claimants face ‘disaster’ as helpline shuts for most of Christmas

MP Frank Field, who leads the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, has written to the Prime Minister as he warned there’ll be further ‘guerilla war’.

Stop and FIX Universal Credit day of action

Saturday 02 December 2017 at 08:00-20:00

Fix universal credit ident

This Christmas will be cancelled for thousands of families claiming the new benefit Universal Credit. Despite knowing Universal Credit causes serious problems for claimants, Theresa May’s Tory government is pressing ahead and rolling it out to thousands of people who will have to wait weeks to receive any money.

Claimants are descending into debt, relying on food banks, getting into rent arrears and in many cases getting evicted from their homes because of in- built problems with Universal Credit.

Take action NOW against Universal Credit

On Saturday 2 December 2017 Unite Community will be staging a national day of action against Universal Credit to send a message to the Tory government that they must STOP & FIX Universal Credit before rolling it out and further or thousands of families face a cold a hungry Christmas and the threat of losing their homes.

Who gets Universal Credit

Universal Credit replaces five benefits – child tax credit, housing benefit, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance and working tax credit.

Seven million households will be affected, including over one million low paid part-time workers. For the first time ever people in work could face being sanctioned (having their benefits stopped) if they don’t prove to the job centre that they’re searching for better paid work or more hours.

What needs fixing

Unite is calling on the government to:

  • Abandon the long waits for claimants to receive money
  • Allow people to apply for Universal Credit in a jobcentre, not just online
  • Provide people with better help when the system fails them
  • Pay landlords directly to stop people getting into rent arrears and losing their homes
  • End benefit sanctions for in-work and out-of-work claimants
  • Stop payments going to one named member of a household
  • Make work pay – Universal Credit takes 63p in every £1 people earn

Tell us your story

Get in touch and tell us about your Universal Credit stories. Send your stories to Liane.groves@unitetheunion.org

Sat 11:00 · The Giles Statue · Ipswich
All welcome, this is an activity for everyone who is concerned about the impact of Universal Credit, not just union members.

Contacts and actions in your area

Contact your local community coordinator and get involved on Saturday 2 December.

REGION AREA TIME ADDRESS
North East Yorkshire & Humber Ashington 10.00-11.30 Argos, Wansbeck Square, Station Road, Ashington, NE63 9XL
John Coan Barnsley 12.00-13.30 May Day Green, Outside Barnsley Town Hall, Barnsley, S70 1RH
0113 236 4830 Consett  10.00-12.00 Unit 4, 26 Newmarket Street, Consett, County Durham, DH8 5LQ
07711 375536 Grimsby 10.00  1 DEC Freshney Place Shopping Centre, Grimsby, DN31 1ED
John.coan@unitetheunion.org Huddersfield 14.00-15.00 Huddersfield bus station, Upperhead Row, HD1 2JL
Leeds 11.00-13.00 Outside Debenhams, 121 Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6LX
Middlesbrough 14.00-15.00 Middlesbrough Town Hall, Albert Road, Middlesbrough, TS1 2QJ
Newcastle 11.00-12.30 Sports Direct, 15/21 Northumberland Road, Newcastle NE1 7AL
Redcar 10.00-12.00 Redcar High Street, Redcar, TS10 3BZ
London & Eastern Central London from 14.00 Costa Coffee: Oxford Street and turn left on to Great Portland Street.
Dave Condliffe Barking, Dagenham & Havering 10.00-16.00 Chequer’s Corner to highlight how important Dagenham JobCentre
0208 800 4281 Brent 12.00-14.00 Neasden Parade Kilburn Unemployment WC
07791 113806 Cambridge All day Mill Road Winter Fair
David.condliffe@unitetheunion.org  Clacton-on-Sea 10.30-14.00 Brotherhood Hall
Colchester 16.00-18.00 Town Hall, Colchester High Street
Essex 11.00-14.00 Waltham Abbey
Herts & Beds 13.00- St Mary’ Square, leafleting in Watford High Street
Lambeth 11.00-13.00 Brixton tube station
Norfolk 11.00-14.00 Magdalen Street flyover, Anglia Square
Peterborough 11.45-14.00 Peterborough Bus station within central shopping area
Suffolk 11.00-14.00 Suffolk Unite Office
Tower Hamlets 10.00-13.00 Whitechapel Road by tube
West London TBC
South East Bracknell 12.30-14.30 Princess Square, by the War Memorial
Kelly Tomlinson Crawley 13.00-14.30 Crawley, Queens Square (by old bandstand site)
02392 824 514 Dover 10.00-12.00 Dover Biggin Street
07941 342835 Eastbourne 11.00-13.00 Bankers corner, Terminus Road, Cornfield Road
Kelly.tomlinson@unitetheunion.org Gillingham 11.00-13.00 Outside the Conservative club, 122-124 High Street
Hastings 12.00-14.00 Town centre opposite Lloyds, joint stall with the LP.
Herne Bay 10.00-12.00 Corner of Mortimer Street / Sea Street
Hove 13.00-15.00 Hove town hall, Church Rd/Tilsbury Place corner
Milton Keynes 12.00-14.00 Central MK, outside McDonalds
Oxford 11.00-13.00 Carfax tower, junction of Cornmarket Street, High Street, Queen Street and St. Aldgate’s
Portsmouth 14.00-16.00 Commercial Road, by the Fountain
Sittingbourne 10.00-12.00 High Street entrance to The Forum
Slough 10.30-13.00 Slough Square, outside the cinema
Southampton 12.00-14.00 Meet at The Bargate midday
South West Bath 11.00- Xmas Market, meeting point Bath Spa Station  BA1 1SU
Brett Sparkes Barnstaple TBC
01793 836480 Bridgwater 11.00-13.00 Cornhill, Bridgwater TA6 3BU
07718 666593 Bristol 11.00- Fountains (opposite the Hippodrome) St Augustine’s Parade, Bristol BS1 4UZ
brett.sparkes@unitetheunion.org  Bude 11.00-14.00 The Triangle, Belle Vue EX23 8JJ
Gloucester 11.00- Gloucester Eastgate St. GL1 1PA
Minehead 11.00- Iceland The Avenue, Minehead TA24 5AZ
Truro 11.00-14.00 Lemon Quay TR1 2PU
Yeovil 11.00-14.00 Middle Street, Yeovil, Somerset, BA20 1LS
Ireland Belfast 13.00- DfC HQ, Causway Exchange, Bedford Street, Belfast
Albert Hewitt Derry TBC Derry Foyle Jobs and Benefits office
02890 020418
07711 375537
albert.hewitt2@unitetheunion.org
Scotland TBC
Jamie Caldwell
0845 604 4384
07711 376562
jamie.caldwell@unitetheunion.org
North West  Cumbria TBC TBC
Sheila Coleman Ellesmere Port 11.00-14.00 York Rd, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0DB
0151 203 1907 Lancashire TBC TBC
07711 375538 Liverpool 11.00-14.00 Williamson Square, Liverpool city centre
sheila.coleman@unitetheunion.org Manchester TBC TBC
Wirral 11.00-16.00 Open day for advice on Universal Credit, St Anne Street, Birkenhead, CH41 3SU
Midlands  Chesterfield TBC Chesterfield Unite Community, New Square
Shaun Pender East Staffs 10.00-11.45 Outside Primark in Burton town centre
01332 548400 Northampton 10.00-13.00 The entrance of the Grosvenor Centre Northampton town centre
07885 803449 Nottingham TBC Brian Clough Statue, Junction of Queen & King St, Off Market Sq, Nottingham, NG1 2BL
shaun.pender@unitetheunion.org Stoke/North Staffs 11.00-13.00 The Iron market, Newcastle-under Lyme town centre
Wolverhampton City centre
Wales  Aberystwyth 11.00-13.00 TBC
Ian Swan Cardiff 11.00-13.00 Cardiff central library
02920 394521 Merthyr 11.00-13.00 Merthyr town centre
ian.swan@unitetheunion.org Rhyl 11.00-13.00 TBC
Wrexham 11.00-13.00 Wrexham town centre

Written by Andrew Coates

November 29, 2017 at 3:36 pm

How the Budget will affect the Unemployed.

with 32 comments

Osborne Celebrates at Pushing People into Deeper Poverty.

 

Effects of the Budget on the out-of-work.

SINGLE

Single, no children. Unemployed

2015-16 He receives jobseeker’s allowance of £73.10 a week (£57.90 if aged 16-24). Housing benefit eligibility will depend on his property size and, if he rents, where he lives.

2016-17 Jobseeker’s allowance is frozen for the next four years, so remains at £3,801 a year. Any housing benefit he may receive is also frozen for that period.

Single, one child. Unemployed

2015­-16 Income support is £73.10 a week, child tax credit is £63.98, and child benefit is £20.70. This gives an annual household income of £8,205 disregarding any housing benefit.

2016-­17 Last summer the chancellor announced he was freezing all three of her benefits for the next four years. It leaves her income unchanged, disregarding housing benefit.

Guardian.

Put simply as the cost of living rises – note that this particularly affects rent – the amount of JSA and Income support will not go up.

This will mean that people already in poverty will be pushed further down.

Disabled:

Around 640,000 claimants could lose out as a result of changes to the assessment criteria for PIP, which is designed to help people with extra costs associated with disabilities and long-term illnesses.

Disabled people will be badly affected with an expected 200,000 individuals set to lose almost £3,000 a year according to Labour Party analysis.

Metro.

Summary of 2016 Benefit changes:

The following benefit changes are set to take place in 2016, some may be subject to change or approval.

Benefit and Tax Credit rates frozen

The main rates of working age benefits and tax credits will be frozen in cash terms for 4 years from April 2016. Pensioner benefits are excluded from the benefit freeze and will be protected by the ‘triple lock’.

Disability benefits, the disability-related elements of tax credits and statutory payments including Personal Independence Payment, Attendance Allowance, Disability Living Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance (Support Group only), Maternity Allowance, Statutory Maternity/Paternity Pay and Statutory Sick Pay, will be uprated in line with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI). The CPI was announced to have fallen in the year to September 2015 so this means that the benefits mentioned above will not be increased from April 2016.

Benefit cap reduced

There is currently a benefit cap in place in England, Scotland and Wales restricting the amount in certain benefits that a working age household can receive. Any household receiving more than the cap has their Housing Benefit reduced to bring them back within the limit. The benefit cap is to be introduced in Northern Ireland from 31 May.

The cap which is currently £26,000 per year is to be reduced to £23,000 for households living in London and to £20,000 for those outside London from Autumn 2016, when exactly you will be affected will depend on where you live. For further details see our Benefit cap reduction Autumn 2016 help page.

Housing Benefit changes

Unlike other reforms the Chancellor announced directly affecting child related payments, withdrawal of the family premium in Housing Benefit (£17.45 when a claimant has one or more dependant children) will take effect from 1 May 2016, a year earlier than the reductions for children within Child Tax Credit. Removal of the family premium will affect both new claims and new births from 1 May 2016. For further details see our Family premium abolished May 2016 help page.

Housing Benefit backdating will be reduced so that new claims from working age claimants will be backdated for a maximum of one month. Currently, if you are working age, your Housing Benefit claim can be backdated for up to six months if you can show good cause for making a late claim and you would have qualified for the benefit sooner.

Tax credit allowance and taper cut

On 25th November 2015 during the Chancellor’s combined Autumn Statement and Spending Review, he announced that the widely unpopular planned tax credit changes (reduced income threshold and increased taper rate), which would have meant that any working household receiving tax credits with an annual income of more than £3,850 a year would be worse off, would in fact not be going ahead.

Tax credit income disregard cut

At the moment, if your household income increases by up to £5,000 during the tax year this increase is ignored when calculating your entitlement for that year. From April 2016 this will be reduced so that any increase in income of more than £2,500 will be taken into account. According to the Treasury, it is estimated that 800,000 people will see their entitlement to tax credits reduced by an average of £200-£300 per year due to this cut which brings the ‘income rise disregard’ back to the same level it was when tax credits were first introduced.

New State Pension

For those reaching pension age from 6 April 2016 a new State Pension is being introduced to replace the basic State Pension and State Second Pension. This affects all women born on or after 6 April 1953 and all men born on or after 6 April 1951. The new pension is designed to be much simpler than the current system and will consist of a single amount to be awarded in full if you have 35 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions. If you don’t have the contributions required for the full pension, as long as you have a minimum number of qualifying years (between 7 and 10) you will receive a pro rata amount. If you don’t have the minimum number of qualifying years you will not qualify for the single tier pension. Any contributions made under the current pension system can be used toward the new State Pension.

If you qualify for the full amount you will receive £155.65 a week. For those who do gain in state pension income, for some this will be offset by reductions in means-tested benefit entitlements and if you fall under the new single tier pension system you will not be able to claim the Pension Credit savings credit. To find out more see Age UK’s ‘what the new pension reforms mean for you’

Universal Credit changes

The work allowance in Universal Credit, the amount you can earn without your benefit being affected, will be reduced from April 2016. For disabled people and people with children it will be reduced to £192 per month if you have housing costs and £397 per month if you don’t have housing costs. The work allowance will be abolished altogether from April 2016 for non-disabled, childless claimants meaning your benefit is reduced as soon as you start earning.

The Childcare Costs element of Universal Credit currently pays for 70% of your registered childcare costs up to a monthly limit of £532 for one child or £912 for two or more children. From 11 April 2016, this will increase so that you will be able to claim back up to 85% of your paid out childcare costs up to a monthly limit of £646 for one child or £1108 for two or more children.

Other changes

National Minimum Wage increased

The National Minimum Wage will be ‘rebranded’ as the National Living Wage and will be increased to £7.20 per hour for those 25 or over from April 2016. It will reach £9.00 per hour by 2020.

Personal tax allowance increased

The Personal Tax Allowance, the amount you can earn before paying income tax, will be increased from £10,600 to £11,000 from April 2016. It will be further increased to £12,500 by 2020 and thereafter it will automatically be set at the same level as 30 times the National Living Wage (National Minimum Wage).

Rent changes for social tenants

From April 2016 social housing rents will be reduced by 1%, or in some exceptions frozen, for four years.

The Void also asks:Does The End of Social Security Lie Behind Osborne’s Savings Hand Out?

The use of personal savings accounts as a replacement fot the social security system has long been an ambition of free-market extremists desperate to eradicate any form of social spending.  As the Think Tank Review website reminded us last year, the Adam Smith Institute proposed Fortune Accounts way back in 1995.  The suggestion was that individuals should pay into a pot of money to fund any future periods of sickness or unemployment.  More recently the right-wing Policy Exhange called for the establishment of MyFund accounts in an astonishing report that did not just call for these savings pots to replace unemployment benefits but also suggested that the money could pay for “access to private sector employment support services”.  They want us to pay for our own workfare.

Government ministers are already thinking along the lines of some sort of savings or insurance based social security system.  A public sector consultant recently blogged about a meeting – sponsored by health insurers BUPA just by the way – with comedy toff Lord Fraud held at the Reform think tank.   According to the report the Minister for Welfare Reform raised the question of “why do employers insure against sickness absence and why don’t individuals?” .

More on the Void.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 17, 2016 at 3:59 pm

Low Wage, High Welfare, Ipswich, Low Wage, ‘Low’ Welfare.

with 40 comments

Almost half of the UK’s biggest cities have low-wage, high-welfare economies, according to a healthcheck on urban Britain that underscores the challenges for the government’s benefit-cutting agenda.

George Osborne used his first budget of the Conservative government last summer to advocate a “higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare country”. But a report published on Monday warns that his vision will take several parliaments to create, given current shortfalls in education, a housing crisis and inefficient jobs programmes.

The Centre for Cities study also highlights a stark north-south divide between conurbations and urges the chancellor to deliver on promises to rebalance Britain’s economy with projects like the “northern powerhouse”.

The independent thinktank’s annual Cities Outlook, covering the UK’s 63 largest cities, classifies 29 as having low-wage, high-welfare economies. Nine of the worst performing city economies on the wages and welfare measure are in the north of England and Midlands, including Hull, Blackburn and Telford.

Guardian. 25th of January.

You will

Weekly pay in Norwich and Ipswich was among the lowest of 62 cities and large towns studied by the think-tank Centre for Cities.

Its 2016 outlook came in the wake of a vow by chancellor George Osborne to build a higher wage, low-welfare economy last year.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre of Cities said that while both Norwich and Ipswich had seen strong jobs growth in recent years, and had also had lower than average welfare spending, average wages had decreased significantly since 2010, so the challenge for both cities is to strengthen their local economies.

Weekly pay in Norwich and Ipswich was among the lowest of 62 cities and large towns studied by the think-tank Centre for Cities.

Its 2016 outlook came in the wake of a vow by chancellor George Osborne to build a higher wage, low-welfare economy last year.

Alexandra Jones, chief executive of Centre of Cities said that while both Norwich and Ipswich had seen strong jobs growth in recent years, and had also had lower than average welfare spending, average wages had decreased significantly since 2010, so the challenge for both cities is to strengthen their local economies.

Eastern Daily Press. 26th of January.

notice that Ipswich is a Low Wage, Low Welfare area.

This means that poverty is rife, and despite the “low welfare” label one can guarantee that many of the people on low wages round here are receive benefits of one kind of another.

In June 2015 this appeared,

Public health report shows there are worrying levels of poverty and deprivation in Ipswich

That is the verdict of a new report which has revealed Ipswich is lagging behind the national average when it comes to child poverty, GCSE achievement, deprivation and violent crimes.

Public Health England yesterday released a health profile of all local authority areas in the country, providing a snapshot of the health of those areas.

Ipswich’s performance was labelled as “varied” when compared to the national average, with Suffolk as a whole being described as “generally better” than the average.

According to the data, 5,500 children are living in poverty in Ipswich and 250 Year 6 pupils have been classified as obese. Life expectancy at birth for both men and women is similar to the average, at 79.2 years and 83.3 years respectively.

In fact anybody walking round the streets here can see this every day.

For this reason this is important to us (Daily Mirror 25th January):

Tory plot to scrap child poverty targets dealt whopping defeat in the House of Lords

Iain Duncan Smith has been dealt a whopping defeat in the House of Lords over his plot to scrap child poverty targets.

Campaigners were celebrating tonight as peers voted 290 to 198 to force the Work and Pensions Secretary to keep the measures.

Mr Duncan Smith announced plans last summer to drop the official figures , which count the proportion of children in homes with less than 60% of median average income.

Instead the Tories wanted to define poverty by measuring the number of workless households and children’s performance at school.

But after Labour and a bishop teamed up for tonight’s vote, he will now be forced to file annual reports using the traditional measure to the Houses of Parliament.

It is another crushing defeat for the government in the Lords just weeks after peers’ opposition forced George Osborne to drop his plan to cut tax credits.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 26, 2016 at 10:41 am

Cameron’s Plans Mean Poverty Assaults More People.

with 35 comments

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David Cameron has vowed to devote much of his time in office to “an all-out assault on poverty”, in his speech to the Conservative Party conference.

The prime minister, who will stand down before the next election, said he wanted to tackle “deep social problems” and boost social mobility.

He also announced “dramatic” planning reforms to increase home ownership.

Reports the BBC. 

David Cameron’s assault on poverty doesn’t extend to the homeless.

13,850 households were accepted as homeless between April and June of this year.

Ryan Maynes.

It should be no surprise to anyone that the escalating issue of homelessness was barely mentioned during four days of rhetoric and self-congratulation at the Conservative party conference.

With the Tories having overseen the most savage cuts to the poorest in society in a generation, it was inevitable that homelessness would indeed be on the rise in Britain, and off the agenda of the Conservative Conference 2015.

….

The number of people sleeping rough in Britain has risen 55 per cent since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, with London seeing the highest increase.

….

Factor in the cuts to housing benefits for 18 to 21-year-olds, and the lack of a plan to tackle this crisis, and it may be a foregone conclusion that this increase is going to continue. Many more people will be sleeping rough in the capital and elsewhere over the course of this parliament.

Homelessness is clearly not high on the Conservative party’s agenda, and their attacks on welfare and housing have only confirmed this. Yesterday David Cameron promised an, ‘all out assault on poverty’, but his track record so far suggests that homelessness does not come under this remit.

Instead, Cameron launched his proposal to build 200,000 new starter homes, intended to ease the housing crisis. While this will help – insofar as there will be more homes in the country – it will have no impact on those in poverty.

The homelessness charity Shelter has suggested that only those households earning over £50,000, or £70,000 in London, will stand a chance of buying these houses. And of those on the new living wage in poorer areas? Only 2 per cent will find these new homes affordable.

Walking around Ipswich many people are struck by the number of people begging, saying they are homeless.

It is the same in many cities and towns, though I doubt if it’s the case in Cameron’s Constituency, Witney, Oxfordshire:

Tory conference: Cameron’s ‘assault on poverty’ pledge belied by new figures.

David Cameron’s promise during his address to the Conservative party conference that “an all-out assault on poverty” would be at the centre of his second term is undermined by a report that reveals planned welfare cuts will lead to an increase of 200,000 working households living in poverty by 2020.

The findings, published on Thursday by the Resolution Foundation, appear to contradict the prime minister’s vow to devote the second five years of his premiership to creating a “Greater Britain” marked by social reform, real equality and less racial discrimination.

In a speech that was clearly designed to respond to Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, Cameron sought to position his party as the dominant force on the centre ground of politics. The prime minister argued the best way to tackle the deep roots of poverty lay in getting people into better paid work.

The Conservatives, Cameron said, must live up to their great traditions of social reform and be the right party “for those who work hard, want to get on and want more money at the end of the month”. Insisting Britain was on the brink of something special, he claimed “hope is returning and we are moving into the light”, allowing the Conservatives to be seen as the “party of the fair chance, the party of the equal shot”.

But the new research by the Resolution Foundation – now chaired by former Conservative minister David Willetts – suggests the government’s welfare cuts introduced in the budget in a bid to cut the deficit will drive at least 200,000 working households into poverty under a definition that the government is abolishing.

These are the key points:

A further 200,000 children (predominantly from working households) will fall into poverty in 2016 simply as a result of the tax and benefit measures announced at the summer budget, including the increases in the national minimum wage.

The total number of working households in poverty will have reached 2 million in 2020.

The summer budget measures will lead to income falls of more than 4% in the bottom fifth of earners, contrasting with income rises of 4% for the top third.

The number of children in poverty in working and non-working households is estimated to reach up to 3.9 million by 2020. This is 1.2 million higher than the 2016-17 baseline and 600,000 higher than was projected for 2020 prior to the budget.

As the writer indicates:

Cameron made no direct mention of George Osborne’s controversial plans to cut tax credits, which will mean a loss of £1,000 for 3 million of the lowest-paid workers.

As for Iain Duncan Smith’s plans to get the disabled into work this is in the news today……

Too fat to work’ man has ‘collapsed with mini-stroke’ weeks after starting first job in four years.

Mirror. 

A man who claimed he was ‘too fat to work’ has collapsed just weeks after starting his first job in years, it has been claimed

Stephen Beer, who has high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, has suffered a mini stroke and is in hospital, according to The Sun.

Wife Michelle, 43, said he was “not well, but improving”.