> Another erosion of your rights…
The government has recently granted HMRC new powers to help itself to whatever is in your bank account.
Chancellor George Osborne recently announced as part of his 2014 Budget that the tax authority will be able to bypass any scrutiny or due process and take money directly from your account if they feel that it is necessary.
Previously, they had to have a court order and prove that you owed them money, or they would first have to take out insolvency or debt collection proceedings against you. Now, the burden of proof lies solely with the individual concerned, who will be forced to claw back the money from HMRC if they feel that the judgement was made in error.
Of course, the only realistic way for an individual to defend themselves in such circumstances would be to take HMRC to court, but by then they will have already helped themselves to the money in your account, leaving you with no money to pay a lawyer.
The law is frightfully similar to the powers afforded to the much-maligned IRS in America which has the same powers and has come under fire in many well-documented cases where families have been forced into homelessness after having their bank accounts raided by the IRS.
The IRS also has the power to freeze any assets or money attached to an individual or businesses name – meaning that even if you did have money left over to challenge them – you would not be allowed to access it. HMRC have the same powers.
But it has defended these new powers which it has awarded itself by saying that they can only be used once you’ve received a couple of letters and a phone call.
They also claim that this will only apply to people with more than £1,000 worth of debt and they are required to leave at least £5,000 in your account.
Once the money has been grabbed from your account, it is then put on hold for 14 days and you will then have to agree to a payment plan.
But its powers do not end there. It is also able to snatch money from you if it thinks that it may win a legal battle against you.
In other words, if you are in a dispute with them about how much money you owe, they can take the legal expenses out of your account on the proviso that they give it all back to you if you win.
In other words, you can now face sanctions before a case has been proven against you. Not only does this break every single legal foundation that our current laws are based upon, it also sets a very dangerous precedent indeed, and represents a significant power grab from a government department that has just made itself less accountable.
(The bank account confiscation power is in Section 1.208 and the future confiscation power is in Section 1.200 and 1.201. You can access the full Budget document here.)
Source – Akashic Times, 29 March 2014
> A whistleblower’s account of what really goes on…though I doubt it’ll come as a suprise to anyone who’s done time on the WP.
I took on a full-time job as a student in the summer holidays. The interview was fairly standard and the company advertised the role as a customer management assistant that helped people get back into work.
However, as I started my new job, I began to notice that it wasn’t the caring compassionate company that it had advertised itself as. My position involved taking calls from “clients”, these were both Job Centre advisors from over London and the South West as well as Job Centre customers who called us directly.
The calls were to make appointments to put the customers onto their first meeting with their work program advisors. Other calls from direct customers were either for this same reason, as they had been instructed to, or to cancel an upcoming appointment.
What I discovered however, as my time there ticked along, was that our company was paid directly from the government for every individual they successfully “engaged” onto the Work Programme (WP) – a rough estimate of £1000. For every six weeks that person was in employment the company would be paid another £300 to £400; in fact the centre had a completely separate section called In Work Support, solely to make sure that the customers employment was maintained.
At the end of twenty-six weeks in paid employment the company would then be paid another lump sum of at least £1000. This meant that for every individual successfully engaged into employment through the WP the company would be paid approximately £3000 to £4000.
Now, let’s just deal with that for a second.
This is one company of many. With roughly 100 staff over all departments. The question that I pondered constantly was how is it cheaper to fund these centres and its staff with its financial incentives, how is that effective and where could that money be dispersed for the greater good?
A second but more important point is the effect that the pressure of this had on people. I was called on one occasion by a man who had his JSA stopped. This man was homeless and currently living in a shelter, yet he had been contacted on his mobile by his job centre that were insistent that he make an appointment to see an employment consultant, before his money would be reinstated. Money that he picked up from the post office. I spent a relatively long time just speaking to him, getting to know his situation and trying to help him as best I could. A lot of the available appointments that we had on our books clashed with meetings at his job centre. He took what he was being made to do in his stride but I found it a pointless exercise. He was homeless yet this wasn’t a priority. Without a fixed abode he would not be able to start a bank account and without a bank account he would not be able to find legitimate employment.
Another gentleman called me, enquiring about his(ESA) claim. He had been sent a letter stating that he needed to attend this particular appointment or his money would be stopped, however he very calmly and politely told me that he couldn’t get to this specific date and time as he had to undergo dialysis three times a week. Dialysis! Yet he was being forced onto the WP with threats to stop his money [if he failed to do so].
I worked mainly with(JSA) customers, however on other occasions I did also deal with ESA claims. I had people call [me] in tears, telling me they didn’t know what to do or where to turn. These people were being blackmailed into the WP so that our company could receive it’s pound of flesh, it’s profit, it’s blood money.
We received weekly emails from the CEO who visited the centre on two occasions, encouraging us to engage the customers, giving us statistics on our success rate and constantly telling us “engage, engage, engage”, even with promises of bonuses. It was also discussed in these emails the bad press and statistics of those who had been forced on the WP and had committed suicide, it does happen and it is being ignored. Now, I wish I had saved some of those emails.
Eventually, when I saw it for what it really was, I decided I could no longer stay there. A few weeks previous to my leaving, I was taken into the manager’s office as she pointed out all the things I had done wrong; joking with the customers, not engaging them. I knew what I was doing. Soon after I handed in my notice, the job was to save up for my wedding but morally I couldn’t stay there.
I’ve never before seen such a vulgar display of capitalism exploiting the poor, the disabled and the sick.
The money that is poured into these centres I have no doubt could be put to better use. Training centres, volunteering, computer access. Why do these places still exist and yet the government are cutting welfare that will affect EVERYONE?
People are genuinely being pushed into stress, depression and in some cases suicide. This is real, this is happening! The WP needs to be either seriously reassessed or shut down.
I feel it is my civil duty to share my experience and to make you all aware that the work program doesn’t work!
Source – Welfare News Service, 26 January 2014