Posts Tagged ‘Work and Pensions Committee’
Damian Green DWP Minister (who?): Still on Holiday.
I, like many of us, am in two minds about posting this: Frank Field is pretty dodgy, and Pretty Dodgy is Frank Field.
But here goes.
This story follows this:
MPs launch investigation into ‘punishing’ Universal Credit rollout
Follows inquiry last year which congratulated Government on ‘revolutionary innovation’ Independent 23rd February.
DWP in denial about Universal Credit hardship, says Work and Pensions Committee.
From Welfare Weekly 16th of March.
Work and Pensions Committee Chair, Frank Field MP, says the DWP have their “head in the sand” about hardship caused by Universal Credit.
The Work and Pensions Committee has accused the government of having their “head in the sand” about problems with the roll-out of Universal Credit, which is replacing a number of existing benefits with one single monthly payment.
The committee says it has heard “compelling evidence” about “serious knock-on effects” caused by the roll-out of Universal Credit around the country, including rising rent arrears and problems resulting from “a built-in six-week delay” between someone applying for the new benefit and receiving th
Recent research warned the government’s flagship Universal Credit scheme is causing significant anxiety and leaving many claimants reliant on the generosity of food banks to get by.
A study commissioned by Community Housing Cymru (CHC) found that rent arrears among Welsh Universal Credit claimants was more than three-times higher than the UK average – £450 compared to £131.
Commenting on the research, Frank Field MP, chair of the Work and Pensions Committee said: “Huge delays in people receiving payments from universal credit have resulted in claimants falling into debt and rent arrears, caused health problems and led to many having to rely on food banks.”
He added: “It is bad enough that UC has a built-in six-week wait between someone applying and receiving their first payment, but we have heard that many have to wait much longer than this.
“The adverse impact on claimants, local authorities, landlords and charities is entirely disproportionate to the small numbers currently claiming UC, yet Lord Freud has told us he thinks it will take decades to optimise the system.
“We have therefore felt compelled to investigate UC yet again. We will examine what its impact is on claimants and those local bodies which deal with them, and what government needs to do to ease the pressure on those worst affected.”
Former Welfare Minister Lord Freud told the Committee in an evidence session that Universal Credit might take “decades to optimise”.
But despite mounting evidence that UC is causing severe hardship for many people, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) continues to claim that rent arrears associated with UC will be short-lived and should not present an insurmountable obstacle to landlords.
Frank Field said: “Despite a growing body of evidence about the very real hardship the rollout of Universal Credit is creating for some, often the most vulnerable, claimants – and the struggles it is creating for local authorities trying to fulfil their responsibilities – it is flabbergasting that the Government continues to keep its head in the sand.
“There is no urgency in the Government’s attempts to solve, for example, the incompatibility between Universal Credit and a council’s duties to those in emergency temporary accommodation.
“This is affecting some of society’s most vulnerable people, at a point of crisis, yet the Government appears unwilling to take the action it could to solve this and simply remove these people from the Universal Credit system.”
The Report cited above:
The first-ever Welsh research report into the impact of Universal Credit (UC) from the tenants’ perspective will be launched in Cardiff today (Thursday, 9th March).
Community Housing Cymru (CHC), the membership body for Welsh housing associations, commissioned Cardiff Metropolitan University to carry out the research with Welsh social housing tenants as part of its Welfare Defence Programme.
Cardiff Metropolitan University worked with tenants by enabling them to design the research question and undertake the research themselves, using focus groups made up of their peers.The independent research, funded by the Oak Foundation, explores tenants’ experiences of UC, barriers to engaging with their landlord and solutions to overcome these barriers.
The report found that:
- There can be 4-8 week delays in payments, causing significant anxiety and forcing several people to access food banks to get by.
- Tenants often rely on their peers for support and information. A huge barrier for some tenants engaging with their landlord and the DWP was due to confidence ,literacy issues and the personal cost of contacting these organisations.
- Generic rent arrears letters were not seen as effective.
- Participants wanted more communication between their landlord and the DWP as they had no way of knowing if rent increase charges had been taken into account as part of their new UC payment.
The UK average for rent arrears is £131. However, this more than trebles in Wales to £450 under UC which emphasises the importance of this piece of research.
Stuart Ropke, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru, welcomed the report’s findings. He said: “This report is the first of its kind about the impact of Universal Credit (UC) from tenants’ perspectives, uniquely undertaken by tenants themselves. CHC’s members are actively working to mitigate the impact of UC and, while it’s heartening to read the praise for support staff from tenants, there is a lot we can learn from this research.”
Stuart added: “UC has created a vacuum between tenants and landlords. Under the current system, many landlords do not know if their tenants are on UC and are therefore having to pay their rent themselves. They are often only alerted to the fact that they are on UC when they fall into arrears.
Paul Langley, Head of Business Development for CHC’s Your Benefits are Changing project added:‘We currently do not have automatic access to information about which tenants are on UC and we are working with the DWP on a solution to improve this. The landlord portal, once rolled out, will improve data sharing to enable a personalised approach which is essential to ensure that we support tenants moving on to UC.”
Amanda Protheroe, one of the report’s authors said: “Our hope is that this report reflects the experiences of tenants who are dealing with the issues around Universal Credit. Tenants were clear about issues and barriers to their communicating with both the DWP and their landlords but were most keen to discuss solutions. The overarching message was around the quality of relationships tenants had with these organisations with kindness being mentioned as something the tenants really valued.”
You can read the report here.
Right Hon Esther McVey MP looking a Right Sight.
The Work and Pensions Select Committee announce the final oral evidence session for its inquiry into benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review.
- Parliament TV: Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review session
- Inquiry: Benefit sanctions policy beyond the Oakley Review
- Work and Pensions Committee
At 9.30am, Wednesday 4 February 2015, Wilson Room, Portcullis House
Department for Work and Pensions:
- Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, Minister of State for Employment
- Chris Hayes, Director, Labour Market and International Affairs
Purpose of the session
The session is intended to explore the Government’s position on a range of issues highlighted during the inquiry, including
- The development of benefit sanctions policy and the evidence base
- The Government’s response to the Oakley Review and progress towards implementation of its recommendations
- The setting of appropriate benefit conditions and the sanctions decision-making process
- The culture around conditionality and sanctions within DWP/JCP and the case for an independent review
- Protecting claimants against hardship
- The appropriateness of ESA sanctioning
From the PCS response:
Target and expectation culture must be stopped
PCS is demanding that DWP must take action to stop the target and ‘expectation’ culture for sanction referrals, which is shown by 23% of those surveyed having an explicit target for sanction referrals, and 81% having an ‘expectation’ level. These levels are shocking as both DWP and Ministers claim that targets do not exist at all.
It is no longer acceptable for WSD Management to deny that there is a problem or claim that issues are just isolated incidents. They must take responsibility for the regime that sees 61% of surveyed members experiencing pressure to refer claimants where they believe it may be appropriate.
Performance action used to threaten staff
Worryingly 36% of members stated that they have been placed on Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), and 10% have gone through formal poor performance procedures for not making ‘enough’ referrals.
It’s clear that performance procedures are being used to push staff into making more and more referrals, rather than used to challenge staff who ‘refuse to sanction’ as DWP claim. Poor performance action can lead to dismissal, it is therefore a thinly veiled threat to your employment if you don’t make ‘enough’ referrals. Nor is there any evidence that staff who make an excessive number of referrals are challenged using the same procedures.
The specific PIP tool designed by WSD management to monitor sanction referrals completely contradicts the Employment Minister’s statement to Parliament on 24th January 2014 which said that “there are no sanction targets or expectations for numbers of referrals.”
The GEC will continue to challenge WSD management and provide advice to members on how they can resist this action. Members are encouraged to seek help and support from a PCS representative if they find themselves under threat of action.
Social Consequence of sanctioning
We believe the survey results highlight the devastating impact the conditionality regime has on benefit claimants. 70% of members completing the survey did not believe that sanctioning has a positive impact on a claimant finding work, and 76% have seen an increase in foodbank referrals.
The government has stated that they make no assessment of the link between sanctioning and foodbank referrals. We believe that the Government must analyse and take responsibility for the effects of sanctioning on claimants and their families.
The GEC is working with the Unite Community branches and the Unemployed Workers Centre on joint work to raise claimants’ awareness of their rights and to produce campaign material. This survey shows that whilst some members may support some aspects of conditionality, the punitive regime with its target culture is opposed. PCS understand but do not accept the anger directed towards DWP staff because of sanctioning and other welfare reform issues. We will use the survey results to campaign against the regime, and also raise awareness of the views and feelings of our members.
From the previous discussion,
House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee report of 20 Jan 2014 on The Role of Jobcentre Plus in the Reformed Welfare System made the following recommendations on sanctions:
para. 97 We recommend that DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by benefit sanctions, including by collecting, collating and publishing data on the number of claimants “signposted” to food aid by Jobcentres and the reasons for claimants’ need for assistance in these cases.
para. 100 It is important that JCP makes fair and proportionate sanction referrals and that the process is transparent. We welcome the current independent review which will focus on the clarity of communications between JCP and claimants in relation to the conditionality and sanctioning process; the availability of hardship payments for sanctioned claimants; and the clarity of the review and appeals process. We strongly believe that a further review is necessary and welcome the Minister’s commitment to launch a second and separate review into the broader operation of the sanctioning process.
para. 101 We recommend that the second review of sanctions investigate: whether sanction referrals are being made appropriately, fairly and proportionately, in accordance with the relevant Regulations and guidance, across the Jobcentre network; and the link between sanctioning and benefit off-flow, including whether benefit off-flow targets have an influence on sanctioning rates. We also recommend that this review consider whether, and to what extent, the use of sanctions is having the desired effect of encouraging claimants to engage more actively in job-seeking. We further recommend that this review is launched as a matter of urgency and reports before the end of 2014.
The Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee held an evidence session on sanctions on 1 April 2014.
The House of Commons had a debate on sanctions on Thursday 3 April, the following motion by Michael Meacher which was carried.
‘Resolved, That this House notes that there have been many cases of sanctions being wrongfully applied to benefit recipients; and calls on the Government to review the targeting, severity and impact of such sanctions.’ (col.1082)
The government published its reply to the Work & Pensions Committee report on 3 April 2014.
The government has gone back on the commitment to a further inquiry post-Oakley which was made to the Work and Pensions Committee by the Employment Minister Esther McVey on 20 November (Qu. 570-71) and reaffirmed in a letter of 1 February 2014.
Now, the government reply states:
‘We have already committed to an independent review by Matthew Oakley which will look primarily at the communications to claimants and offer recommendations to improve the operations of the sanctions process.And we will be publishing further information on sanctions through the forthcoming Work Programme Evaluation and the claimant commitment research to help inform our future strategy. We are fully committed to monitoring the current regime to ensure it continues to deliver the intended outcomes and will assess whether any further evaluation is needed once the current evaluation programmes have concluded.’
A new Report is out today.
The government’s work programme, intended to help jobseekers back to work, is failing people with disabilities as well as not tackling problems faced by homeless people and those recovering from substance abuse.
MPs found that although the Work Programme got off to a “poor” start there had since been improvements in support for the “mainstream” unemployed.
However the Work and Pensions Committee said there is “growing evidence” that disadvantaged jobseekers are being “parked
It criticised the techniques of providers, who are paid according to their success in securing long-term work for clients, claiming they are playing an “ineffective numbers game” that involves deluging employers with poorly matched CVs and under-prepared candidates.
MPs also said they were “dismayed” to learn that Work Programme advisers had to deal with up to 180 jobseekers, arguing that the caseload was too heavy to allow an effective service.
The Huffington Post focuses on the problems of people with disabilities.
The Guardian adds,
A report by the Commons work and pensions committee published on Tuesday says the employment programme is “unlikely to reach the most disadvantaged long-term unemployed people” and warned that the hardest-to-help jobseekers were “at risk of being ‘parked'” – the industry term for abandoning those claimants who are deemed very unlikely to find work, and therefore offer little prospect of triggering payment-by-results bonuses.
But there are wider problems.
An earlier report said this,
The first set of data to emerge from the Work Programme revealed the number of people being helped into employment was worse than the government had forecasted for if the scheme did not even exist.
Just 3.5% of the 878,000 people referred to the Work Programme’s providersin its first year were lifted into sustained employment, well below the government’s 5.5% target for providers.
A separate group of lawmakers blasted the Work Programme as “extremely poor” and also voiced concern that the hardest-to-help participants were being left behind.
“While we recognised that it is early days for the Work Programme, such poor performance undermines the confidence in its long-term success,” said the Public Accounts Committee (Pac), which took evidence from ministers and service providers.
“The DWP needs a better understanding of the factors that led to early performance being well below expectations in order to assess whether the longer term targets for the Work Programme are still achievable.”
Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Pac, said it was “shocking” that just 20 of the 9,500 people on incapacity benefit taking part in the Work Programme had been placed in a job that lasted just three months.
“The Work Programme is absolutely crucial for helping people, especially the most vulnerable, get into and stay in work,” she said.
“However its performance so far has been extremely poor.“
This leads us to ask how the Work and Pensions Committee can make this claim,
The Work Programme has the potential to work well for relatively mainstream jobseekers but is unlikely to reach the most disadvantaged long-term unemployed people, argues the Work and Pensions Committee in a Report published today.
Commenting on the Report, Dame Anne Begg MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:
“The performance of the Work Programme in its first 14 months was poor. There are signs that it is now improving significantly for mainstream jobseekers. We hope the next job outcome statistics to be published in June will bear this out – we will be very concerned if they don’t.
While we recognise this,
The Committee concludes that the Work Programme’s differential pricing structure, which is designed to financially incentivise contracted providers to support those with more challenging barriers to employment, is not having its intended impact on providers’ behaviour. The hardest to help jobseekers remain at risk of being “parked” – given little or no support by providers who assess them as being unlikely to find sustained work.
It is equally the case that evidence given by people writing and commenting on this site that the Work Programme is failing a wide group of people from all kinds of backgrounds.
As the previous post noted, “Work Programme providers begin the chase“.