Posts Tagged ‘Welfare cuts’
“No Spending Spree…..”
There was a flicker of a chart on Channel Four News last night about the effects of the Welfare cuts on people.
I suspect that’s about the most, a very brief most, that most people – unlike us lot – will register about the issue.
The so-called Minister, Work and Pensions Secretary, Damian Green, has been quieter than the quietest mouse recently.
He did find time for this, “Our Man – Advice and Supports Services
The welfare cap is still there. The four-year freeze of working-age benefits continues. This means those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, income support, housing benefit, Universal Credit, child tax credits, working tax credits and child benefit will be worse off, as inflation increases but their benefits remain flat. Child tax credits and child benefit through Universal Credit will be limited to two children, and the government recently announced its plan to remove the entitlement to housing benefit for some 18-21 year olds. Hammond’s only offer to those depending on the state to boost their income is to reduce the taper rate at which your benefits through Universal Credit are withdrawn as you begin to earn more – from 65 per cent to 63 per cent.Hammond’s only offer to those depending on the state to boost their income is to reduce the taper rate at which your benefits through Universal Credit are withdrawn as you begin to earn more – from 65 per cent to 63 per cent. The Chancellor announced this in his Autumn Statement last November and has made no new announcements about benefits since. In fact, his only reference to welfare in his Spring Budget speech was to repeat his softening of the taper rate.
“…remember, this isn’t giving more money to claimants .
It’s very slightly reducing the amount Universal Credit is being cut.
According to the Independent, the planned £3bn-a-year reduction in the work allowance..
People in Liverpool are not happy,
Iain Duncan Smith admits the Tories have not worked out where their £12bn welfare cuts will come from.
The Guardian today carries this excellent investigation,
“The government is three years into a savage programmme of welfare cuts. Coalition ministers say they aim to save billions on benefits and help ‘hard-working people’ while ending a culture of dependency. But what does this mean for people who need support?”
People contributing to Ipswich Unemployed Action have their own stories, but these are worth looking at (extracts).
Just before Christmas two years ago McPhillips received a letter that declared in angry red block capitals: “Your benefits are being cut.” Two days later he took an overdose and would have died if his brother hadn’t discovered him in time, and rushed him to hospital.
McPhillips, 59, has serious mental-health problems, which forced him, several years ago, to leave the job as an industrial saw sharpener he had held for 25 years. He depends on a handful of benefit payments – disability living allowance (DLA), employment and support allowance, and housing benefit. News of the looming wholesale benefit changes unsettled him so profoundly that he has since tried three times to take his life.
Antonia McKnight’s experience demonstrates the massive disconnect between the picture painted by the government of benefits claimants and the reality experienced by some of those who are seeing their payments cut.
No one could suggest that she is living in luxury or enjoying a lifestyle that could inspire envy in others. The small flat where she lives with her four-year-old daughter has views on to brick walls, the wiring has gone, so there is no light in the bathroom or her bedroom, and the furniture is secondhand and broken. The rent is £500 a week.
Since August, McKnight, 38, has seen her benefits capped at £500 a week, under the coalition’s new £26,000 benefit cap – introduced with the aim of bringing “fairness into the benefits system”. Since her weekly rent is exactly equal in size to her benefits, she is already in serious financial trouble.
Whether McKnight’s flat represents a dream is questionable, but it is clearly very expensive. For anyone unfamiliar with the extraordinary, unfaltering rise of the London property market, a rent of £500 a week will seem unthinkable, but soaring rents are the reason that the housing benefit bill has become so huge. Council accommodation would be far cheaper, but there is a huge shortage of it in central London, and McKnight is still waiting.
If you look at her flat you will see just how exploitative landlords are today.
This story relates to a lot of us.
In the past few years, Tony Marcola, 46, has experienced the dual pressures of the downturn and welfare reform. Having worked all his life, he lost his job as a van driver for a fruit-and-vegetable wholesale firm in 2008, when fuel prices went up, and the company’s owner decided he could no longer afford to offer a delivery service. Not long after, companies started closing offices in Burnley.
“First the jobcentre was empty and then suddenly it was packed full. People were losing jobs left, right and centre,” he says.
He attended courses, learned how to use a computer and write a CV, and continued to apply for jobs but without success. “Burnley was going down a black hole. At the time I was expected to get a job, there were a lot of places shutting down,” he says.
DWP figures show that there was a 24% increase in the number of sanctions from July 2012 to July 2013. Although the principle of getting people to show that they are seriously looking for work in order to qualify for benefits payments is one that Citizens Advice supports, they are concerned that very harsh sanctions are being applied; the charity has seen a 46% increase in problems related to sanctions in the past year, and Guy says problems such as those experienced by Marcola are “systemic”. “The system is all stick and no carrot.”
As part of the government’s drive to reform the system, much harsher conditions have been introduced to ensure that those who are receiving jobseekers’ allowance are seeking work. The use of sanctions – periods when benefits are stopped as punishment – has increased dramatically.
In July, Marcola was told that there would be new conditions attached to the benefits he received, and he was told that he had to prove that he was applying for 20 jobs a week. “I said: ‘Well, I’ll do my best.’ It jumped from four jobs a week to 20, it’s a quite a leap,” he says. He began by meeting that target, even if it meant applying for jobs that he was not qualified for, and stood little chance of being selected for, but one week in July he only managed to apply for 15 positions. He was struggling financially anyway, with increased gas and electricity costs, and a new £20 bedroom tax charge for the spare room in the house where he’d brought up a child, who was no longer living at home. After bills, he was left with about £13 a week for food. Applying for jobs involved finding places with free internet, because he couldn’t afford to have internet access, let alone a computer, at home.
There is more – you can see it through the link above.
The article ends with this,
An online campaign group, the WOW petition, which organises resistance to the “war on welfare”, has gathered over 100,000 signatures, calling for an end to the work capability assessment and a cumulative impact assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick and disabled people.
Already Food Banks are being touted as way to meet the needs of those in dire poverty, often caused the failure of the welfare system.
The situation will get a lot worse next April when Workfare, run by greedy private companies and ‘charities’ is introduced.
We need a complete change of policies:
- A Party that’s committed to end the war on welfare and create a just system for claimants.
- An end to the punitive sanctions regime.
- Get rid of the welfare-to-work parasites running the Work Programme and replace them with real training and real paid jobs.
- The Living Wage for all: so that when we are in work we do not have to rely on benefits.
- A solution to the housing crisis: build council homes, and introduce rent controls.
This Motion was passed at the TUC Conference this week.
The welfare state
Motions 37, 38 and 39
Congress is proud of the role trade unions played in founding the welfare state as a social insurance from each according to their means, to each according to their needs.
Congress notes, with concern, the clear rise in levels of deprivation since May 2010.
New inequalities having a deleterious impact upon the lives of vulnerable people are increasingly obvious to all those working in the public and voluntary sectors.
Services are becoming ever more fragmented, leading to wide variations in access across geographical areas of the UK.
Vulnerable groups are experiencing increased poverty and lack of support as a direct result of government policy specifically designed to promote this same fragmentation of services to susceptible groups including children, the elderly and the disabled.
Congress further notes several aspects of government policy that will lead to additional destruction of the security of vulnerable groups.
Proposed moves such as the regionalisation of pay will lead to further attacks on the support for those groups in society that have the fewest defences of their own.
Congress notes that around £30bn of welfare cuts have been announced by the government.
Congress condemns the campaign of vilification by this government and right-wing tabloids to denigrate the welfare state and to demonise those without work or unable to work, and young people, migrants and
Congress is appalled that disability hate crime has soared to record levels.
On behalf of these groups Congress calls for:
- a reiteration of the principle of fair and equal pay and the maintenance of equity in pay for all workers in the public sector, wherever they work
- a re-instatement of the services and resource snecessary to support vulnerable groups
- a determined and robust opposition to the threats being posed to those in society who have the fewest defences.
Congress re-iterates its commitment to the pursuance of equalities in society.
Congress further notes that millions of people are barely surviving on poverty-level benefits or need tax credits to subsidise low wages.
Congress believes we have a responsibility to support Unemployed Workers Centres which provide assistance for job searching and benefit advice.
Congress condemns ‘workfare’ policies that compel the unemployed to work for their benefits and calls on the government to make work experience schemes optional and paid.
Cut Your Benefits So I Can Keep This.
As Emma Harrison (still owner of A4E) and other Welfare-to-Work millionaires rake in profits, and get around 3,5% of their clients jobs, they demand the government take benefits away from the unemployed, the Observer reports,
Private firms awarded multimillion-pound contracts to run the Work Programme have advised that there should be many more cases where claimants have their benefits stripped as punishment for failing to seek work.
As part of its crackdown on welfare dependency, David Cameron’s government has more than tripled the number of punishments enforced against failing jobseekers across all its schemes. The number of cases has risen from 139,000 benefit cuts under Labour in 2009 to more than 500,000 in 2011.
Corporate Watch, publishing in tandem with the Observer, has the details behind the figures,
Sanctioning – stopping someone’s benefits after a perceived infringement of the terms of their claim for between one week and six months – was a favourite policy of the previous government but figures revealed by Corporate Watch and the Observer today show the coalition, together with sub-contracted private ‘provider’ companies, has massively increased the amount of sanctions imposed.
To download as a pdf click here.
Read a personal experience of being sanctioned here.
139,000 sanctions were handed out to Jobseeker’s Allowance* claimants in 2009 but this more than tripled to 508,000 in 2011, the coalition’s first full calendar year in government.** There was little change in the number of people signing on in this period, meaning a much higher proportion of people have had their benefits cut.*** In February 2011 for example, 1.44 million people were claiming JSA compared to 1.42 million in 2009. 51,000 sanctions were imposed in the former month, compared to 9,000 in the latter.
Many of these sanctions are initially suggested, or ‘referred’, to the Department of Work and Pensions by the private companies the government has sub-contracted to run many of its welfare schemes, such as the flagship Work Programme, for people who have been signing on for a year or more. DWP statistics, obtained by a Corporate Watch freedom of information request (download the disclosure here), show companies such as Serco, Seetec, Working Links and A4E have been even more eager to sanction people than the government.
The article notes,
A spokesperson for claimants’ group Ipswich Unemployed Action said: “This shows that the Government is using the DWP to punish unemployed people instead of helping them get jobs.”
This is our (Work Programme’s) original investigation New Deal Sanctions Exposed.
Worth noting are some of the companies baying for punishing the out-of-work.
The public-private partnership giant, Working Links, which boasts a turn-over of £123m and whose shareholders include Capgemini, referred the most cases for sanctions (11,910) between June 2011 and January this year. The jobcentres accepted the argument for cuts in 6,210 of those cases.
A4e, which paid its former chairman Emma Harrison an £8.6m dividend in 2010, referred the second largest number of cases for punishment. The firm, which has been at the centre of a series of fraud allegations, requested sanctions in 10,120 cases. Jobcentres agreed to withhold benefits in 3,000 of those cases.
Other large contract holders leading the way in demanding punishment for benefit claimants included Serco, which has an annual turnover of £4bn a year. The outsourcing giant recommended punishment in 9,090 benefit claimant cases, but only 2,230 were approved.
Who are these people? Wikipedia is a good place to start.
Working LinksIn May 2011 a former auditor of Working Links claimed that the level of fraud at Working Links escalated to “a farcical situation” and was “endemic” but that he faced a “stonewall” from managers. Mr Hutchinson said he had encountered “a multi-billion-pound scandal”, after working for Working Links and A4e in the welfare-to-work industry. Working Links said: “We firmly reject any assertion of widespread fraud within our business.”
A4E needs no introduction.
SERCO is indeed a giant living of the public purse. Amongst its many activities are:
- Detention: Serco supplies electronic tagging devices for offenders and asylum seekers. In Britain, Serco runs four prisons, a Young Offenders Institution and a Secure Training Centre. It also operates two Immigration Removal Centres. Serco is also responsible for the contracted-out court escort services in the south-east area (formerly a role undertaken by HM Prison Service). In addition, Serco runs partly privatised Hünfeld Prison in Hesse, Germany. In Australia Serco runs Acacia Prison in Western Australia and Borallon Correctional Facility in Queensland as well as the national contract for immigration detention centres, including Christmas Island and the Villawood detention centre in Sydney. In Auckland, New Zealand Serco runs the Mt Eden remand prison  and in March 2012 was awarded the contract to build an operate a 960 bed prison at Wiri.
- Defence: Serco holds defence contracts worldwide including the UK Government’s first modern outsourced contract for the maintenance of the UK Ballistic Missile Early Warning System at RAF Fylingdales; contracts are also held for the operation and maintenance of RAF Brize Norton,RAF Halton and RAF Northolt in the UK and RAF Ascension Island in the mid-Atlantic. Serco also provides support services to garrisons in Australia. Serco also manages many aspects of operations at the Defence College of Management and Technology in Shrivenham. Serco is one of three partners in the consortium which manages the Atomic Weapons Establishment. Serco also has a 15 year contract worth £400 million to provide facilities management services to Dstl.
Nick Clegg today issued a staunch defence of radical benefit cuts as he geared up for potential clashes with Liberal Democrat activists at the party’s annual conference.
The deputy prime minister said welfare should not be there “to compensate the poor for their predicament” but act as “an engine of mobility”.
Billions of pounds are to be slashed from the welfare budget by the chancellor, George Osborne, when he unveils the results of his drastic public spending review next month.
So now we know that the poor are to receive no compensation for being poor.
Perhaps we shouldn’t get anything at all, unless we take it ourselves.
It would be interesting to know exactly how reducing the amount of money you have will make you more ‘mobile’.
Perhaps we should ask Clegg to take a pay cut and see if he gets a better job.
From the Daily Telegraph, (here)
Yesterday, the Treasury set out the framework for a review of all government spending. The official document stated it would “comprehensively examine areas such as social security, tax credits and public service pensions”.
Plans for “savings and reform in these areas” would be unveiled later this year.
It is the first time that the welfare system – such as child benefit, disability payments and unemployment benefits – has been identified as a target for cuts. Freezing all benefit payments would save more than £4 billion a year.
As Flexy has pointed out here the real levels of benefits are lower today than they were twenty years ago.