Secret Tory plans to slash sickness benefits for people unable to work have been leaked in a document, it has been reported today.
Tory ministers are considering slashing Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for claimants in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) by as much as £30 a week, affecting thousands of sick and disabled people.
The move would see the value of ESA for this group of jobseekers falling from £102.15 a week to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance – £73.10 a week for jobseekers over the age of 25.
Work Capability Assessments (WCA) would also be overhauled and renamed “Employment Capability Assessments”, to “focus attention on work seeking, not benefit seeking”, reports the Daily Mirror.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has branded attempts by Labour MPs and welfare campaigners to force the government into publishing benefit-related death statistics ‘disgraceful’.
A petition calling on the government to publish figures revealing how many people have died within six weeks of having their benefits removed, including those who have committed suicide, has now passed 220,000 signatures.
Civil servants have admitted that they collect the data, reports the Daily Mirror. And the Information Commissioner recently ordered the DWP to publish the figures.
Iain Duncan Smith continues to resist the mounting pressure to release the requested data, even insisting that the Department for Work and Pensions “doesn’t collate the numbers”. This is despite of the DWP releasing similar statistics in 2012, showing that thousands of Incapacity Benefit claimants tragically lost their lives between 2009 and 2011.
More than 60,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to publish statistics into the number of benefit claimants who have died after benefits were removed.
The number of signatories is growing fast and could force the government to come clean about the impact of welfare reforms on vulnerable people.
A number of attempts by journalists and campaigners, using the Freedom of Information Act, to force the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to publish the statistics have been rebuffed.
The government argues that drawing a direct link between the deaths of seriously ill people and the removal of benefits would be irresponsible.
Welfare Weekly reported last month that the DWP had been ordered by the Information Commissioner to disclose details into deaths related to welfare reforms, following a complaint by political blogger Mike Sivier. It is our understanding that this is currently being appealed by the DWP.
The petition, on the change.org website, claims that this appeal is a direct attempt by the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to block publication of benefit-related death statistics.
An influential group of Tory MPs have called for young person’s unemployment benefits to be turned into repayable loans, it has been reported.
It’s claimed that the move would provide young people with “an additional incentive to find work rather than allow the debt to build up”.
The suggestion is included in a book by the right-wing Conservative MP, Kwasi Kwarteng.
Mr Kwarteng and junior Tory MPs call for the shrinking of the welfare state and a return to a contributory benefits system – the more you pay in the more you get out.
The book – ‘A Time For Choosing: Free Enterprise in Twenty-First Century Britain’ – says:
“Young individuals who have not yet paid national insurance contributions for a certain period, five years say, could receive their unemployment benefit in the form of a repayable loan.
“Turning an entitlement into a loan would mean that people would still be supported while out of work, but would have an additional incentive to find work rather than allow the debt to build up.”
The Government must use the “hard lessons” it learnt from welfare reforms which caused “significant financial and human costs”, says the National Audit Office (NAO).
In a new report published today, the NAO criticised the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) “important and high profile failings” in implementing an unprecedented number of welfare reforms and employment programmes.
The report says the Government “relied too heavily on uncertain and insufficiently challenged operating assumptions, and did not have a sufficient understanding of its portfolio of programmes or overall capacity.”
It adds that the DWP has a “high-level vision but needs to think more strategically when considering how reforms will work in practice.”
“The Department has thought too late about the management information and the leading indicators it needs to understand progress and performance”, says the NAO. “This meant the Department took several weeks to identify backlogs in Personal Independence Payment claims.”
Auditors credited the Government for responding well “to uncertainty”, but added that it “should be able to set out plans with specific timetables, costs and impacts and reflect where flexibility is needed.”
“They should also have clear processes for revising plans against changing circumstances or expectations”, says the NAO.
The NAO criticised the DWP’s initial handling of the Universal Credit. The NAO says the department “held too rigidly to fixed deadlines and now has adopted a more flexible approach. It will need to reconcile this approach with the requirement to monitor progress against milestones.”
In implementing a significant welfare reform programme, the DWP “relied too heavily on reacting to problems and has not been able to anticipate possible failings or establish the principal ways in which performance and progress can be measured”.
The NAO called on the Government to “plan more openly for the possibility of failure, and build an integrated view of portfolio risks and capacity”.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said:
“Any large portfolio of reforms will run into problems. The Department has shown a resolute approach to dealing with them. However, we think it has relied too much on dealing with difficulties as they emerge rather than anticipating what might go wrong.
“As a result it has had to learn some hard lessons with significant financial and human costs. It is important that the Department use these hard lessons to improve how it manages change and anticipates risk.”
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said the Government must learn from the mistakes of previous changes to welfare.
Citizens Advice has found that delays and problems with the delivery of reforms such as Employment and Support Allowance increased hardship and anxiety for many people. Last year we helped people with almost two million benefit issues, more than any other type of problem.
“As Ministers look to make further savings from the welfare budget it is important they fully understand the impact proposed reforms have on people’s lives.
The Government must be certain that further cuts won’t just shift costs away from the welfare budget and into other areas such as health and social care.
Changes to benefits can have a far-ranging impact on people’s lives, so any reforms need to delivered at a safe and steady pace.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 29 May 2015
David Cameron has rewarded former banker Ros Altmann for the report she wrote calling on us all to work longer by making her Minister for Pensions despite her never having never won an election in her pampered life.
Altmann, who said last year that “Encouraging and enabling those who want to work longer is an idea whose time has come”, will join comedy toff and another former banker Lord Fraud at the DWP where he will remain in his role as unelected Minister for Welfare Reform. That’s democracy yah.
Altmann is obessed with making people us work longer, even claiming it will be good for our health. She should fit right in at the DWP where forced work makes you free and poverty is good for you. In her report last year, commissioned by the DWP, Altmann even endorsed unpaid workfare style schemes for older workers, suggesting it was…
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Priti Patel, staunch supporter of the death penalty, will replace unemployed former Employment Minister Esther Mcvey it has been announced today. Patel has previously said that she supports the reintroduction of capital punishment as a ‘deterrence’, although she would not say whether she preferred hanging or electrocution. Wanting to bring back state executions is only half the story of her malevolent past however.
Prior to becoming an MP, she worked as a public relations advisor to British American Tobacco, where she was linked to the sinister ‘Project Sunrise’. This is believed to be part of the initiative established by cigarette firm Phillip Morris which aimed to create the “dawn of a new day” for the tobacco industry by smearing anti-smoking groups as extremist.
Patel continued supporting the tobacco industry on being elected, voting in favour of ending the smoking ban in 2010 and speaking out against plain cigarette…
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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been ordered to disclose details into deaths related to coalition welfare reforms, it has been revealed.
DWP officials have been told that they must disclose the number of Incapacity Benefit and ESA claimants who have died between November 2011 and May 2014.
The ruling was made by the information commissioner following a formal complaint from blogger Mike Sivier, who runs and operates the website Vox Political.
So far, the DWP has refused to publish details into at least 49 benefit related deaths it has admitted to have investigated.
In his ruling, the Commissioner states:
“It appears … that the DWP has had reasonable time to prepare for publishing [the] information and that disclosure was not so novel or unusual given the previous requests and disclosures made.
“DWP have not supplied any detailed or convincing evidence about the time needed and what preparation would need to be undertaken during this time or what the specific impact of disclosure would be… The DWP has previously published similar information.”
The decision notice continued:
“It is not reasonable for the DWP, having had enough time to extract the information and prepare internally for publication, to seek further time to provide the information requested.
“The Commissioner also finds that delaying publication is not reasonable in light of the requests DWP have received from the public and the fact that the previous statistics published were around two years old at the time of the request.”
Mr Sivier said he had first asked for information on benefit-related deaths in the summer of 2013:
“It was almost a year after the DWP had published an ‘ad hoc’ report entitled Incapacity Benefits (Deaths of Claimants).
“That document stated that 10,600 people had died between January and November 2011, while claiming benefits that should have helped them survive with a reasonable quality of life.
“Some of those people may have died because of their conditions, but evidence that has become available since suggests that many died due to the stress of constant reassessment by an unsympathetic government department that was determined to clear as many people off its books as possible, no matter what the health risks might be.”
“I knew that other FOI requests had been made in November 2012 – a year after the last date covered in the ‘ad hoc’ report – but they had been refused.
“When I made my request in June 2013, I publicised it via my website, Vox Political, and asked for others to submit a similar request in the hope that weight of numbers might sway the DWP. This was a mistake as the department was able to use FOI rules to dismiss my request as being ‘vexatious’.
“I made a new request last May, and the DWP illegally delayed its response by several months. When ministers finally denied me the information, claiming they would be publishing it at an unspecified date in the future, I checked the rules and found that they were wrong. That is why I appealed to the Information Commissioner – and I am delighted that the Commissioner has upheld my appeal.”
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the DWP may appeal to the Information Rights Tribunal, but Mr Sivier said he doubted any such appeal would succeed:
“I took my first request to a tribunal and, although the decision was upheld, the judges stated that they were extremely sympathetic to my cause”, he said.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 02 May 2015
Welfare reforms have barely made a dent in the number of long term benefit claimants figures quietly released last week revealed. There are just 91,000 fewer people who have been on an out of work benefit for at least three of the last four years compared to 2010 despite grandiose claims that a million new jobs have been created during the period.
The figures are one of the Government’s ‘social justice outcome indicators’ and include everybody on sickness benefits, the dole and unemployed lone parents. 2.381 million of these groups had been on one, or a combination of, these benefits for three out of four years in 2014 compared to 2.472 million in the period following the recession in 2010.
Perhaps most significantly the slight fall in the figures coincides with a huge rise in benefit sanctions suggesting that people are just being stripped of benefits, not finding jobs. The…
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George Osborne has refused to categorically rule out rolling child benefit into Universal Credit (UC) to help contribute towards Conservative plans to save £12 billion from the welfare budget.
The Chancellor was asked repeatedly to rule it out and did not, but said that if the Tories had wanted to include child benefit in the new welfare system, they would have done so when it was created.
The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said that scrapping child benefit and increasing UC for eligible families could save £4.8 billion a year.
But such a measure would mean that 4.3 million families who receive child benefit at the moment but would not be entitled to UC in the future would lose more than £1,000 a year, the IFS said.
At a Westminster briefing, Mr Osborne was asked to rule out rolling child benefit into UC.
The Chancellor replied:
“If you judge us on our approach in this parliament and if we wanted to put child benefit into Universal Credit, we would have done it when we set up Universal Credit.
“We have got a track record, we have got a plan that’s based on clear principles about making work pay and sharpening work incentives…”
Asked again to rule it out, Mr Osborne replied:
“I’ve just given you an answer. If we wanted to do it we would have done it when we created Universal Credit.”
Asked again, Mr Osborne said:
“I’ve given a very clear answer and you have to be a contortionist to think I’m not giving a pretty clear answer to that.”
The Conservatives’ plans for the next parliament involve saving £30 billion to contribute to deficit reduction, with £12 billion set to be cut from the welfare budget.
But the party has faced criticism from the IFS and Labour for failing to set out how it would achieve the majority – around £10 billion – of those welfare cuts.
The Chancellor said:
“If you look at our track record, the £21 billion we’ve saved in this parliament, you can look at principles we will apply to future such savings.
“We want to go on creating a welfare system which rewards work and the aspirations of families and protect the most vulnerable.”
Universal Credit is the coalition Government’s flagship welfare reform and simplifies the system by rolling a string of benefits and tax credits into one payment.
It is being rolled out in stages after being hit by delays and IT problems but will eventually take in jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit.
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said Mr Osborne had put middle income families in the firing line.
The Labour frontbencher said:
“The Tories won’t admit where their £12 billion of welfare cuts will come from, but after this press conference it’s now clear middle income families are in the firing line.
“George Osborne repeatedly refused to rule out rolling child benefit into universal credit. This would mean 4.3 million families losing over £1,000 a year, according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies.”
Treasury Minister Priti Patel said rolling child benefit into UC was not Conservative policy.
She told BBC News:
“We’re very clear as well, we have made it clear and we’ve said that we need to find £12 billion of welfare savings but it’s not our policy, that suggestion, and that there are other ways in which we can find those savings.”
But Ms Patel would not be drawn on whether the Tories will pay child benefit only for the first two or three children.
Asked if it was a possibility, she said:
“I’m not going to come here and start talking the ins and outs of the spending review because that will all be for the next government.”
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said he was not surprised by Mr Osborne’s failure to rule out the move as he insisted the change would not feature in his own party’s manifesto.
Speaking in Newtown, Mid Wales, he said:
“It’s no surprise to me that the Conservatives are considering pretty dramatic changes like taking child benefit away from lots of families because they have committed to taking £12 billion away from some of the most vulnerable families in this country.
> And we’ve been helping them for the last five years…
“They have committed to taking the equivalent of £1,500 away from eight million of the poorest families in this country to balance the books; they are not asking the very wealthy, those with the broadest shoulders, to make a single contribution through the tax system in balancing the books.
“Even if they did what is now being floated by George Osborne, they would still have £8 billion or £9 billion to fund. Who are they going to affect next, those with disabilities?
“Which other vulnerable groups will be affected by this unfair plan from the Conservatives?”
Asked whether the Lib Dems would rule out the move, Mr Clegg said:
“Child benefit rolled into the Universal Credit will not be in our manifesto because we are not planning the very, very extensive reductions in support given to the most vulnerable in our society that the Conservatives are.”
> But if anyone’s interested we’ll sell our souls again. Cheaply.
Pressed on whether it would be a measure he would block in coalition as a red line issue, Mr Clegg said:
“There’s no way the Liberal Democrats would ever endorse, of course not, in government or in opposition an approach which takes £1,500 away from eight million of the most vulnerable families in Britain.”
Source – Northern Echo, o7 Apr 2015