Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Posts Tagged ‘Welfare Reform

Job Centre Closures: Lobby Today.

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The PCS Union announces.

Ahead of PCS’ lobby of parliament on Tuesday (28 March) opposing DWP office closures, MPs, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and others have been highlighting the negative impact that these closures will have on staff, users and the local community. Find out how you can join the lobby.

PCS has arranged the speaker meeting and lobby as part of our campaign to oppose office closures to over 100 DWP offices, including 74 jobcentres, representing more than 10% of the total. This will lead to at least 750 job losses. DWP plans to replace staff they make redundant with new staff, at further cost to the taxpayer.

The lobby will start with a speaker meeting in parliament at 1pm followed by a lobby from 2-4 pm in committee room 10, Houses of Parliament (St Stephen’s Gate Entrance) Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA.

And: 

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has said of the plans: “Jobcentres provide a lifeline for unemployed people and forcing them to travel further is not only unfair, it undermines support to get them back to work.”

Staff will face job losses, and in some cases, unreasonable travel journeys to and from work. Those with caring responsibilities, childcare commitments and access requirements will be particularly disadvantaged. Staff losses are coming at a time when Universal Credit is being rolled out, hampered by delays, IT failures and backlogs. DWP could redeploy staff to Universal Credit where resources are needed.

In Glasgow 50% of DWP offices are targeted for closure in an area where unemployment is higher than the national average.

Staff in Bishop Auckland, one of the offices targeted for closure, also contribute more than £100,000 a year to local businesses.

In Llanelli, £500,000 could be lost annually to local traders if the closure of the benefits office goes ahead.

We share many of the concerns raised by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is “extremely concerned” by the plans and manner of consultation. The mayor has raised concerns with the minister for employment, Damian Hinds, including the impact of the closures, the lack of adequate time for consultation, the increased travel time and costs for users, the impact on disabled people, BAME communities and young people from low income families. The mayor states that “plans to close job centres…will hit the disadvantaged hardest”.

“Now, more than ever, the government should be focusing its efforts on creating new jobs and helping those most in need of support to access employment,” he said.

The government has not consulted claimants who use these job centres on the closure plans. Many are in areas of high unemployment and social deprivation. Disability claimants, staff/users with caring responsibilities and vulnerable users must be given due regard in terms of the equality impact assessment and the disadvantage that they will face if offices close or are relocated. Having to travel further as a result of these proposals also means some users are unfairly out of pocket and run the risk of being sanctioned for lateness. Equality impact assessments have not been carried out to assess the disadvantaged groups that will be hit by this campaign.

What you can do

Concerns have been raised by MPs in parliament and your local MP can also play a powerful role in this campaign; they need to hear from you to raise awareness and about the impact that this will have in the local community.  If you have never been to a lobby of parliament before, PCS will be on hand to support you on the day.

Make your voice heard – contact your MP now and arrange a meeting for 28 March.

Background Mirror:, 26th of January.

Reckless” plans to slash millions from the welfare department’s bill by shutting Jobcentres across the country have been revealed.

The Department for Work and Pensions today announced it wants to merge staff and facilities from 78 smaller Jobcentre Plus offices into larger ones.

It wants to move another 50 into council or other similar offices to create “one-stop shops”, and shut 27 back offices.

The DWP insisted the move – carried out to slash its bills by £180m a year – would employ “under-used” buildings more efficiently.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 28, 2017 at 11:52 am

Day of Action Against Benefit Sanctions (30 March) as Scottish Challenges to Tory Social Security Regime Grow.

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New Component

Thursday 30 March 2017  National Day of Action Against Sanctions (UNITE the Union).

JOIN US
More and more people are facing benefit sanctions. Half a million people have had their benefits suddenly stopped by sanctions in the last 12 months.
That’s half a million people, many of whom have been plunged into poverty, unable to heat their homes or even eat. How is this meant to help prepare people for work?

Benefit sanctions must be fought against

Please join an event near you on Thursday 30 March to stop benefit sanctions in your community.

We will continue to add new actions on a regular basis, so please check back.

For further information please email your Unite community coordinator (see here).

 

You often wish that politicians, that is Westminster politicians, took these issues as seriously as they do in Scotland.

Morning Star (today)

SCOTTISH Labour unveiled plans yesterday to “kick the private sector out of our social security system,” branding the treatment of disabled and long term-ill benefit claimants under the Tory welfare regime “inhumane.”

The party will table amendments to the forthcoming Social Security Bill to use the Scottish Parliament’s new powers to rule out the involvement of the private sector and has urged the SNP to support its proposals.

Labour says that thousands of disabled people have experienced punitive assessments for the Tories’ personal independence payments (PIP), adding that the SNP’s decision to delay the devolution of welfare powers will mean that 140,000 Scots will still be assessed under the current system.

Last month, a Scottish government consultation on social security revealed a “strong consensus that services should not be delivered through the private sector or profit-making agencies, with the majority of respondents in agreement that social security should be delivered through existing public-sector or thirdsector organisations.”

Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin said his party will seek to “use the new social security powers of the Scottish Parliament to kick the private sector out of our social security system.”

He laid into “these cruel and inhumane [PIP] assessments that have piled misery on vulnerable Scots.”

“Nicola Sturgeon failed to mention poverty once in her speech to the SNP conference. That tells you everything you need to know about her priorities,” he said.

He urged the First Minister to “work with Labour to use the new powers of our parliament” and abandon her preoccupation with Scottish independence.

Welfare Weekly (March the 17th) reports,

SNP Conference: Calls to scrap ‘draconian’ benefit sanctions regime

“The SNP does not believe we should be attacking the most disadvantaged in our society and completely rejects this benefits sanctions regime.

“The Tories need to realise this is the devastating consequences that removing the only source of income available has on real people and their families.

“It is extremely concerning that the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society, including those at risk of homelessness, those with caring responsibilities and those with mental ill health issues, are the most likely to be punished by the draconian regime.

“The UK government must urgently scrap this punitive sanctions regime. The shocking findings of the National Audit Office illustrate the sheer unfairness and ineffectiveness of sanctions.

“The SNP has consistently done everything it can to mitigate the worst impacts of Tory welfare cuts spending £100m on protecting people – money we would rather invest in pulling people out of poverty.

“Our Government in Scotland continue to fight against the regime, for instance the Scottish Government have already secured agreement from the UK Government that the Scottish employment programme will not facilitate their benefits sanctions system.

“Scottish Ministers have been crystal clear that our services in Scotland must be seen as an opportunity, not a threat.”

The full text of the resolution reads:

“Conference rejects the punitive Tory benefit sanction regime; commends the creators of I, Daniel Blake for bringing the public’s attention to the cruel and callous reality facing tens of thousands of disadvantaged people across the UK; further notes with the concern the shocking findings of the National Audit Office of the scale and ineffectiveness of the sanctions regime; is concerned that the most vulnerable including those at risk of homelessness, those with caring responsibilities and those with mental ill health are the most likely to be punished by the draconian regime, welcomes the decision of the Scottish Government to make sure that the new Employment Programme, effective from April 2017, does not facilitate the UK Government’s sanctions system, and calls for the UKG to move urgently to scrap the unfair sanctions regime.”


This in an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP).

Written by Andrew Coates

March 21, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Universal Credit Puts Vulnerable Homeless into Debt.

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DWP News HQ: “claimants are comfortably managing”.

If people scroll through to the end of this article they will see that the Factory for Alternative Facts has been hard at work offering a reply.

How do you get a job with this flourishing branch of the DWP?

Suspension is growing that the work is outsourced to a busy team circling the earth in rebooted Roswell Flying Saucers.

EVERY tenant of homeless accommodation in the Highlands has been plunged into debt by the roll out of a controversial new benefits system.

Reports the excellent Ross-shire Journal.

The “terrifying” situation, which has been blamed on universal credit, means Highland Council is now owed £704,347 from claimants of the new benefit alone. This has increased by 82 per cent from £317,000 since September last year.

More than half of this comes from Inverness, where £473,227 is owed.

The local authority is owed around £1.3 million for all unpaid rent.

Universal credit is a single benefit to replace job seeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit.

It has been widely criticised for leaving people worse off, as well as implementing a benefits freeze of a minimum six weeks while applications are processed.

Any new application or change of circumstances, including a new job, change of address or birth of a baby will result in the freeze, leaving people unable to pay rent.

“Live service” universal credit is applicable all over the Highlands and only applies to new claims but “full service” is currently being trialled in Inverness, where claimants have reported benefits freezes of four months, leaving them penniless and unable to pay rent or buy food.

Council leader Margaret Davidson said the missed payments have a knock on impact on the council’s ability to provide housing and predicts the situation getting worse.

“In Highland all of the people in homeless accommodation are in rent arrears, that is just awful,” she said.

“They don’t get any money for at least six weeks so they are always starting on a negative and a lot of them never get enough to be able to pay it back.

“It is already a major problem and it is going to get worse.

“We have to deal with not getting that rent income and bear that financial burden which then impacts on the rest of our housing stock because we don’t have enough money for repairs and new builds.”

The full service system is due to be rolled out to the rest of the Highlands in the summer but Inverness MP Drew Hendry has called for an immediate halt until the system can be managed more efficiently.

“These benefit cuts are lining the pockets of the UK Treasury while people living in temporary accommodation, along with working families, lone parents, those in receipt of disability benefits and job seekers are left without enough to make ends meet,” he said.

“The Scottish Government is also paying to mitigate bedroom tax in addition to other measures and now, thanks to this shambolic roll out, local authorities have to foot the bill for arrears. It is not on.

“The situation is now at crisis point and I have asked ministers to undertake an immediate consultation of the situation, with a pause on any further roll out in the meantime.”

Mr Hendry also described a constituent, who has been named only as Gavin, who receives just £60 per week for housing benefit on universal credit, despite his homeless accommodation costing £175 per week.

“Even if he gave up food, heat, light and everything else, if he spent every single penny on rent, he would still be short,” said Mr Hendry.

“It is Highland Council left carrying the debt of the money Gavin and others simply don’t have.”

Mr Hendry’s staff have been working with the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and the council’s welfare support team to help people who have been left without money.

He urged anyone who has been affected to contact one of these organisations for help.

But Inverness Ness-side councillor Alasdair Christie, who also manages the Inverness, Badenoch and Strathspey CAB, pointed out CAB grants are being slashed at a time when more people than ever before need help.

“More than half of the people who approach CAB do so because they need benefits advice,” he said.

“More and more people are coming to us with issues with universal credit. It is a complex system which is difficult to use and even once they get the money a lot of people are getting far less than before.

“It has been a really rapid increase for us because it is such a challenging system.

“We are seeing more vulnerable people through the door than ever before but at a time when we are facing funding cuts ourselves.”

Cllr Christie added that people often miss appointments or have to hitch hike because they can’t afford the travel cost.

“We have seen people come to us when they have lost money because they haven’t been able to keep job centre appointments because they haven’t even got the bus fare to get there,” he said.

“Others have had to hitch hike from Aviemore, it is a very unsympathetic system.

“It is putting a strain on everything – the council, CAB, local MPs.

“In terms of housing arrears, people get into arrears quickly because they have no income and it fast becomes unmanageable.

“The council then bears that burden and that is not sustainable.”

The Roswell News Satellite responds with some alternative facts.

But a spokesman for the UK Department for Work and Pensions said universal credit claimants are “comfortably managing”.

“The reasons for rent arrears are complex and to link it to welfare reform is misleading,” he said.

“In many cases tenants are already behind with their rent before they move onto universal credit.

“Our research shows that the majority of Universal Credit claimants are comfortable managing their budgets, and that after four months, the proportion of claimants we surveyed, who were in arrears at the start of their claim, fell by a third.”

Written by Andrew Coates

February 4, 2017 at 10:27 am

Universal Credit, “unmitigated disaster”.

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Universal Credit system is increasingly Kafka-esque.

The Herald reports today,

Since it was first mooted by then Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith back in in 2010, Universal Credit has rarely been out of the news.

This major reform of the welfare system – which replaces six separate benefits and tax credits with one payment – was supposed to improve a number of things, not least making work pay for the lowest earners and streamlining a system that has been creaking under the strain for some time.

Three years after the roll-out of the policy, however, it’s fair to say neither of these things have come to pass; indeed many would argue that the introduction of Universal Credit has been an unmitigated disaster.

Among them is likely to be Glasgow City Council which, like local authorities up and down the land, is left to pick up the pieces when mistakes are made.

A recent document revealed Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff mistakenly transferred 73 homeless claimants on to the new benefit, despite the fact they are supposed to be exempt until 2018. One of the consequences of this has been that each of these claimants now has an average of £2,000 in housing arrears each, creating a deficit of almost £145,000 for the council.

The DWP says its system does not allow a change of status for those involved, meaning the claimants in question are locked-in to Universal Credit through no fault of their own.

The Council will have to pick up the tab, and the longer this goes on, the more serious the financial loss will be for a body already facing swingeing austerity cuts to its budgets. According to some, cuts to both service provision and jobs are now on the cards to pay for the deficit. Not even Franz Kafka could have made up this level of bureaucratic incompetence; it’s surely time for the DWP to take responsibility for its mistakes and focus on services for those on Universal Credit rather than extending another failing system.

This is the document they refer to:

Homeless people on new benefit owe Glasgow £144,000

HOMELESS individuals and families on the UK Government’s controversial Universal Credit scheme are racking up huge arrears putting services and jobs at risk in Scotland’s largest city, according to a new report.

In a report detailing the impact of the new benefit on homeless people in the city, the council says Glasgow City Council said errors by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have been compounding the problem by mistakenly transferring homeless people on to the initiative.

Written by Andrew Coates

January 11, 2017 at 10:46 am

Attempt to Reform Benefits Sanctions – Private Member’s Bill Shelved.

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Friday, (BBC)

Work and Pensions Minister Damian Hinds is now answering the second reading debate on the Benefit Claimants Sanctions (Required Assessment) Bill.

Evidence does show that sanctions have a positive effect, he says.

The government ensures that claimants are made aware of the availability of hardship payments, and that these are made within three days, he says.

Mr Hinds says the existing legislation refers to “causes” rather than “reasonable causes” so that discretion can be used to assess whether a person has failed to comply with a condition of their benefits.

As he launches into a line by line response to the bill, the Deputy Speaker calls the debate to order.

Debate on the bill ceases at this point, and although Ms Black asks debate to resume in February, it is unlikely there will be any private members’ time left to return to the bill.

Welfare Weekly reports.

SNP MP Mhairi Black will today (Friday) issue a heartfelt plea to all MPs to put party politics aside and support her initiative to reform the UK Government’s “cruel and damaging” benefits sanctions regime.

The Benefits Sanctions (Required Assessment) Bill will have its second reading in the House of Commons today and Mhairi Black, the youngest MP in the Commons, is the second SNP MP to ever bring forward a Private Member’s Bill.

The legislation will ensure that Department for Work and Pensions staff in Jobcentres across the UK would be required to consider whether personal circumstances such as caring commitments, whether a person is at risk of homelessness or whether they suffer from a mental ill-health condition that could be exacerbated by a benefit sanction before one can be issued.

Director Ken Loach, whose film I, Daniel Blake deals with the effects of benefits sanctions, gave his support to the Bill earlier this week and also urged others to give it their backing.

Mhairi Black MP (pictured) said: “Today we have an important opportunity to make the cruel and damaging benefits sanctions regime fairer. This is about real people, real lives and the real and devastating consequences that sanctions have on individuals and their families.

“My bill will introduce a process of assessing a person’s circumstances such as their caring commitments, whether they are at risk of homelessness or whether they suffer from a mental ill-health condition that could be exacerbated by a sanction.

“If I could scrap sanctions completely I would do it in a heartbeat but I can’t and so I’m making this small ask in the hope that it will improve the lives of people who simply cannot afford to have their safety net stripped from them when they need it most.

“I call on MPs from all parties – Labour in particular – to prove that they can stand up for their constituents and support my Bill today.”

Update: Bill was shelved after MPs spoke for so long there wasn’t enough time for the government to respond.

Note: the Mirror reports.

SNP law to reform benefit sanctions runs out of time after long speeches by Tories… and the SNP

The clock ran out on Mhairi Black’s bid to stop Jobcentres unfairly penalising carers, the homeless and the mentally ill.

However, he prompted a row by complaining he only had eight minutes to talk after other people’s speeches – the longest of which was from Ms Black, Westminster’s youngest MP.

“She spoke for one hour and 15 minutes and I have very little time,” he told MPs. “I’m not going to be able to get through all the contents of the Bill.”

Before he stood up in the House of Commons, four SNP MPs talked for 2 hours and 29 minutes; three Tory MPs talked for an hour and 40 minutes; and Labour’s shadow minister talked for 20 minutes.

But SNP MP John Nicolson – whose own law to pardon 50,000 gay men was “talked out” by a Tory minister weeks ago – defended Ms Black and said her law would have been blocked regardless.

“The minister would have talked it out had she spoken for 5 seconds,” he tweeted. “It’s all pre-arranged on Tory benches with whips.

“They do this every Friday whether speeches are long or short. It’s government policy.”

The SNP tweeted: “While Mhairi Black’s bill was talked out by the Tory minister, the SNP will never stop fighting for a more just society.”

The Private Member’s Bill – not backed the government – was governed by out-of-date rules which put a time limit on the overall debate, but not individual speeches.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 4, 2016 at 12:24 pm

Inflation to Hit Benefit Claimants Hard.

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Higher inflation rise will cost poor families extra £100 a year, warns IFS.  Inflation rose to 1 per cent in September, the highest level in almost two years.  Zlata Rodionova The Independent.

The Guardian.

Poor families hit as UK inflation rises to 1% – as it happened

Government’s freeze on in-work benefits means many families will suffer as the cost of living rises.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) states,

In the July 2015 Budget the Government announced that, as part of its attempt to cut annual social security spending by £12 billion, most working-age benefit and tax credit rates would be frozen in cash terms until March 2020.

This policy represented a significant takeaway from a large number of working age households. But it also represented a shifting of risk from the Government to benefit recipients. Previously, higher inflation was a risk to the public finances, increasing cash spending on benefits. Now the risk is borne by low-income households: unless policy changes higher inflation will reduce their real incomes.

 

Huffington Post.

UK Inflation Rises To Two-Year High Of 1.0% As Sterling Turmoil Hits Britain’s Poor

Article 50 hasn’t even been triggered yet.

The rising cost of everyday goods is “just the start” of a sustained rise in inflationthat will hit Britain’s poor hardest, experts have warned.

New figures from the ONS show that inflation in prices is now at the highest point for two years amid the falling value of Sterling following the Brexit vote.

And rising inflation will not only affect prices in supermarkets and high streets, but reduce the income of Britain’s poorest families, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Left Foot Forward.

Brexit: Tory benefit cuts £100 worse for 11.5 million families thanks to pound dive.

Since the British people ‘took back control’ and stuck it to the elites on June 23, the pound has fallen to a 31 year low. While the Brexit press has tried to spin this as a good thing, the facts tell a different story.

As the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) finds today, a weak pound means rising prices, which would be bad enough for low-income people. But since we have a Tory government, this inflation comes amid a freeze on benefits and tax credits, as part a £12 billion cut to social security spending.

This means 11.5 million families will see an even greater real terms cut to their incomes as a result of sterling’s nose dive. Thanks Brexit!

We know what this will mean when we go to the supermarket and do our shopping.

Already we have to watch what we spend, what we buy, wait for the cheap bread at the end of the day, or look in the reduced sections.

And that’s without mentioning our bills.

This is going to get worse, a lot worse.

 

The benefits freeze should be ended now!

Written by Andrew Coates

October 19, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Protests Against Cuts to Disability Benefits Take off.

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All this week protests have been taking place.

Scores of disabled protesters shutdown Westminster Bridge with chilling banners showing all those ‘killed by cuts’. Daily Mirror.

The Canary continues.

Disabled rights activists brought Downing Street and Westminster to a standstill on 7 September as part of a week-long campaign against the Conservative government. Activists coordinated a vocal protest outside Number 10 to remember the victims of welfare reform. They then blocked traffic in all directions on Westminster Bridge for over two hours. This was during the first Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) of this parliament.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) said in a statement:

We call on the new Prime Minister to make public the findings of the UN investigation in the UK, into violations of deaf and disabled people’s rights; to scrap the Work Capability Assessment and to commit to preventing future benefit-related deaths.

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Norwich Monday.

Suffolk DPAC activist at London protest, Wednesday.

Get Involved!

 

– Sign the petition to stop benefit cuts for disabled people.

– Support DPAC in its fight against austerity cuts.

– Volunteer to support people with a learning disability, through Mencap.

– Find out when a protest against austerity is happening, near you.

This is stark reminder of why these protests are important.

Diabetic man left too poor to eat after benefits cut forced to have leg amputated Welfare Weekly today.

David says he couldn’t afford to manage his condition after being sanctioned for five months by the DWP.

A diabetic man left virtually penniless after being sanctioned for five months by the Department for Work and Pensions, claims his leg had to be amputated after his health deteriorated.

David Boyce, 59, from Weaste, was left without enough money to meet his basic health needs and even had to sell his belongings. But David says he still couldn’t afford to eat healthily, which is an essential part of the management and treatment for diabetes

David was a photographer who used to own a business, but was forced to give up his work because of ill-health. A dispute with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over “issues with paperwork” led to David’s benefits being sanctioned fourteen times.

However, it’s clear that the sanctions happened because of a flawed decision-making process on the part of the DWP, as he later won an appeal which successfully overturned every sanction, with support from Salford’s Unemployed and Community Resource Centre. He was eventually awarded the money that had been wrongfully withheld from him.

The government have claimed that benefit sanctions are an “incentive” to “help” people like David into work. However, David has been pushed even further away from the job market, because he now has been left with a greater degree of disability: horrifically, the sanctions have cost him his leg.

David said that by July, complications from diabetes had already caused irreversible damage. His health deteriorated because he had no money to live on: he couldn’t control his insulin intake and was unable to follow his strict diabetic diet.

Subsequently he suffered diabetic ulcers and was diagnosed with the flesh-eating infection, necrotizing fasciitis, and doctors were forced to amputate one of his legs.

He told the Manchester Evening News: “I suffered from depression and mental anxiety. I’m not a rich man. I had to sell everything to eat.

You don’t tell anyone, it’s embarrassing, that’s what they prey on. You go into a depression. You lock yourself away.”

David Boyce’s tragic case was revealed as protesters gathered to demonstrate against the extremely punitive and irrational Jobcentre conditionality rules and welfare sanctions.

Campaigners gathered at Eccles Job Centre this week to protest against the immoral benefits sanctions. They said that scores of people were being left depressed and on the verge of suicide.

David’s horrific experience is not an isolated case, sadly. Many campaigners have reasonably demanded an inquiry since the death of former soldier David Clapson, who also had diabetes. He died of ketoacidosis, caused by a lack of insulin in the body, after being sanctioned for missing a single Job Centre meeting. He was also unable to afford to maintain an electricity supply to keep his fridge running, where he ordinarily safely stored his life-saving insulin.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 9, 2016 at 10:53 am