Tagged: benefit cap

What the Conservative win means for your money

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Article reposted from AOL Money UK

Good Morning my darlings. I’m feeling a little less emotional about the election result (still angry though) and so I decided to look into what’s to come …

​What the Conservative win means for your money© PA Wire

Few people predicted any one party could win outright but now the Conservatives have done just that.

Before today, the party manifestos were seen as starting points for coalition negotiations, but now that the Tories have won a small majority they will be able to implement their pledges.

So what were those pledges and how will they affect you? Let’s take a look…

Your taxes

The Tory manifesto was stuffed full of promises on tax, including raising the personal allowance to £12,500 and increasing the 40% tax threshold to £50,000. The threshold is currently £42,386, which means current higher-rate taxpayers could save a tidy sum.

A key Conservative pledge was on inheritance tax…

View original post 671 more words

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We’ll Slash Benefits For 100,000 Families And Young People To Fund Apprenticeships, Says Cameron

A future Tory Government would slash benefits for around 100,000 struggling families and young people to fund more low-paid apprenticeships, Prime Minister David Cameron will pledge on Monday.

Cameron will say that he plans to deliver 3 million more apprenticeships by cutting the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 a year.

The plan would affect 70,000 families in receipt of either in-work or out-of-work benefits and tax credits, saving around £135 million a year. This will include 40,000 households who have so far managed to escape welfare cuts, according to Conservative Party figures released to the Press Association (PA).

Figures released at the end of last year (December 2013) show that for the first time in recorded history more low-paid working households are living on or below the breadline than those who are out-of-work. More cuts to in-work benefits could further exacerbate this issue and cost the Tories votes at the next general election.

The Tories would also remove Housing Benefit entitlement from 18-21 year-olds, affecting 30,000 young people and saving an estimated £120 million a year.

SKY News reports that Mr Cameron has the backing of a number of large firms including Nestle, Airbus, Ford, Balfour Beatty, Fujitsu and the National Grid.

 Cameron said:

“Because of difficult decisions we will make on welfare, we will deliver three million apprenticeships by 2020. This is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain.

“It will help give us the skills to compete with the rest of the world. And it will mean more hope, more opportunity, and more security for our young people, helping them get on in life and make something of themselves.

“We have already doubled apprenticeships this Parliament. We will finish the job in the next and end youth unemployment.”

Cameron had previously told the Andrew Marr show:

All the evidence is the cap is too loose, particularly in some parts of the country, so bringing it down saves money, will mean more families getting into work, and what I want to see – the plan we have for Britain – is to spend less money on welfare and more on helping people into work.”

However, the Tories relentless attack against the young and low-paid has come under criticism from their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats.

Leader Nick Clegg used his speech at the Liberal Democrats annual conference to attack the Tories for taking an “axe” to the welfare budget, without showing any “regard for the impact on people’s lives”.

His words will anger millions of people affected by welfare cuts his party helped (voted) to introduce – including the cap on benefits.

Currently the minimum wage rate for an apprentice is £2.73 an hour for 16-18 year-olds. The same hourly rate applies to 19 year-olds who are in the first year of their apprenticeship.

Apprentices over the age of 19, or who have completed their first year, are paid at least the national minimum wage for their age group, with some businesses willing to pay more – if you’re lucky.

The national minimum wage rate for 16-18 year-olds currently stands at £3.79 an hour, £1.06 higher than that for apprentices. Those aged 18-20 receive a minimum wage rate of £5.13 an hour, rising to £6.50 for the over 20’s.

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  20 Oct 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/well-slash-benefits-100000-families-young-people-fund-apprenticeships-says-cameron/

 

Benefit Cut Could Force Social Landlords To Turn Tenants Away

David Cameron’s pledge to cut the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 if the Conservatives win the next election could force housing associations to turn away families in need of social housing.

Speaking at a Guardian fringe debate at the Conservative party conference on Tuesday, chief executives of two major housing associations warned that the cut would jeopardise their tenants’ ability to pay rent, putting their main source of steady income at risk.

Mick Sweeney, chief executive of One Housing Group, which operates in London and the southeast, said associations may be forced to abandon plans to build much-needed new homes as result of the change. They may also have to turn away certain tenants, he added.

“We’re going to look at their income and we’re going to have to say, if they’re wholly benefit-dependent and they can’t afford even the sub-market or social rents that we’re charging, [then] we can’t house you,” he said.

“What happens to those families? There are lots of unintended consequences to this.”

Elizabeth Austerberry, chief executive of Moat, which also houses tenants across the southeast of England, said that rent was the biggest source of steady income for associations. Rental streams are already placed under threat by the introduction of universal credit.

“If the benefit cap goes down to £23,000, it will make certain types of home extremely vulnerable,” she said.

Between 40-50% of Moat’s residents are benefit dependent, Austerberry explained, adding that for some housing associations this figure is as high as 80%.

“For an association like that it [the reduction of the cap] will make it extremely difficult for them to generate new housing, particularly if they haven’t got a strong housing market. I suspect it will make it extremely difficult for us to build three-bedroom homes, and maybe two-bedroom homes in most of our areas.

“If we’re not going to be able to collect rent from people, then where is the money going to come from? That again will push us further towards the open market.”

Housing associations have increasingly pursued commercial projects to generate income since the government cut grant funding for new social homes by 60% in 2010. But securing finance for such operations is challenging if investors notice a risk to an association’s main income stream, Sweeney said.

If the banks get nervous then they won’t lend us money. And if they won’t lend us money then we can’t build new homes.”

Richard Blakeway, director of housing for the mayor of London, said that housing associations have no choice but to raise money through commercial projects.

There needs to be an acceptance that the landscape has changed. Some housing associations have responded brilliantly, others are still quite cautious. They need to stop thinking that there is going to be a significant change in terms of capital subsidy in relation to affordable housing, because I can’t see that happening.”

Uncertainty could not be cited as a reason for avoiding commercial initiatives, he added.

“The funding settlement that exists now will last until the end of the decade, and then the rent settlement goes into the middle of the next decade.”

Conference delegate David Hancock, representing Hyde Housing Group, questioned how associations could succeed in a commercial market under current regulation rules.

“We have to carry out commercial activity to meet our social objectives, but we’re regulated by a regulator which is principally driven by protecting public assets. At some point that has to give,” he said.

Sweeney agreed, stating that although the coalition’s decision to abolish the Audit Commission and the Tenant Services Authority was welcome, change to the regulation of the housing sector was still needed. The Homes and Communities Agency “needs to be put back in its box,” he said.

“It’s growing, it’s trying to extend its remit, its trying to second guess what our business plans are. I hope a conservative government would put regulation on a proper footing, and that is not interfering with building homes.”

Source –  Welfare News Service, 01 Oct 2014

Tories Plan Fresh Attack Against Benefit Claimants- Suprised ?

A future Conservative government would reduce the benefit cap from £26,000 to £23,000 and force young unemployed people to work for their benefits, chancellor George Osborne has revealed.

He told the Mail on Sunday that lowering the controversial benefit cap would help fund three million new apprenticeships. Previous Tory attempts to lower the cap have been blocked by the Liberal Democrats.

 He also announced that 18-21 year-olds who are out-of-work for longer that six months would be required to take part in unpaid “community projects”, such as cleaning up local parks, or risk having their benefit payments stopped if they refuse.

The Tories believe such a move would be popular among voters calling for yet more cuts to welfare spending. But it will alarm charities and poverty campaigners, who argue that benefit claimants are being unfairly targeted for cuts and marginalised in British society.

 Osborne said:

“Our mission is not just to save the pounds here and there, we’re trying to change the welfare system so it doesn’t trap people in poverty and a culture of dependency. It is a tragedy for them and a waste for the country.

“We are saying you will receive an allowance but if you can’t find work after six months, you will have to work for the dole. They are difficult decisions but the right ones.”

 Osborne also said that 18-21 year-olds would be prevented from claiming housing benefit.

It is not acceptable for young people under the age of 21 to go straight from school and into a home paid for through housing benefit – benefit funded by other people who are working”, he said.

Mr Osborne claimed that before the introduction of the benefit cap “some families were receiving £100,000 a year in housing benefit”. An analysis by the respected fact-checking website FullFact in November 2012 found that only 70 households, out of a total of 4.5 million, were receiving over £1,000 per week in housing benefit a week in September 2010.

Even this is likely to overstate the number claiming £100,000 per year however”, said FullFact, “as a family would need to claim over £1,900 per week to hit this total. Previous FoI responses from the Department have suggested around five families benefited by this amount.”

They added: “While the evidence suggests that there are a small number of Housing Benefit claims of more than £100,000 per year – perhaps around five – these cases are very much the exception rather than the rule.

“Focusing exclusively on these outliers without first putting them into context, where over 80% of claims are below £100 per week, could distort the debate around this important topic.”

Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary said:

David Cameron’s Government is set to overspend by a staggering £13 billion on social security. And the number of working people claiming Housing Benefit is set to double by 2018/19 costing every UK household £488.

“Spending has risen because the Government has failed to tackle the increasing number of low wage jobs and their welfare policies, from Universal Credit to Personal Independence Payments, are in chaos.

“We must bring down social security spending and doing that requires a new approach to tackle the root causes of these costs directly. That’s why a Labour Government would make work pay by increasing the minimum wage, stop young people cycling in and out of welfare before they’re established in jobs and build more homes to tackle rising housing benefit spending.

“Alongside our plans to introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee to get the long term unemployed off benefits and into work, these measures will help control social security spending for the long term. All the Tories offer is announcements to hide the truth of rising welfare spending.”

> compulsory jobs guarantee = workfare.  Different arseholes, but the same old shit.

 Update: Since publishing this article it has been brought to our attention that a future Tory government would also scrap Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) for 18-21 year-olds. It would be replaced with a “youth allowance”, paid at the same level as JSA. In order to continue receiving payments after six months of being unemployed young people would be required to “work for their dole” on “community projects”. The idea of a youth allowance has already been proposed by the Labour Party.

Source –  Welfare News Service,  28 Sept 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/tories-plan-fresh-attack-benefit-claimants/

Tax credit debt collection is a double-edged attack on the poor

Vox Political

140126facts

There’s more than a little of the piscine about the fact that our Conservative-led has set debt collection agencies onto poor families who have been overpaid tax credit due to errors made by HM Revenue and Customs.

Firstly, the move undermines the principle behind the tax credit system – that it is there to ensure that poorly-paid families may still enjoy a reasonable living standard. Tax credits are paid on an estimate of a person’s – or family’s – income over a tax year and the last Labour government, knowing that small variances could cause problems for Britain’s poorest, set a wide buffer of £25,000 before households had to pay anything back.

By cutting this buffer back to £5,000, the Conservatives have turned this safety net into a trap. Suddenly the tiniest overpayment can push households into a debt spiral, because their low incomes mean it is impossible to pay…

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PCS – Campaigning against attacks on welfare ?

Attempts by the government to make the poorest and most vulnerable pay for a crisis not of their making were condemned at PCS DWP group conference.

The group’s first motion this morning (19 May), proposed by Mandy Priest of DWP Dorset branch and seconded by Glasgow benefit centre branch, opposed the “implementation of a system based on punishment”.

> The “implementation” ? Bit late opposing the implemention – its been with us for several years !  As PCS’ DWP members must be aware.

The motion also said the “widest possible campaign across the trade union movement” was needed to defeat the government’s attacks on benefit claimants.

> The government’s attacks, certainly. But it’s DWP staff who implement them.

Gerry McMahon from Glasgow benefit centre branch said: “The welfare state has been under attack in Britain for many years. Huge cuts have been made that make life on benefits much harder.”

Gerry highlighted the fact that a group of religious leaders have said that hunger is now a national crisis and said our union needs to take up its welfare campaign “like never before“.

Nick Parker, from our Lincolnshire and Rutland branch, called for a united campaign involving “as many people as possible to defeat attacks on welfare”.

Tony Church, speaking on behalf of the group executive, said: “In the 90s John Major, the Tory prime minister, said we were living in a classless society. It was a lie then it’s a lie now. The current coalition goverment is probably the most  divided ever.”

He said that welfare reform was just another name for screw the poor.

 

The motion instructed conference to campaign for:

  • Fair, decent levels of benefit
  • The repeal of the Bedroom Tax and benefit cap
  • A mass council house building scheme
  • The abolition of the work capability assessment
  • The abolition of workfare and removal of the sanctions regime
  • A publicly-run, fair and decent social security system as part of a welfare state based on people’s needs.

The motion was passed unanimously.

> Fine words. But will PCS DWP members refuse to sanction people ? Not send people to workfare ?  They could make a start, right now. They probably wont, though.

Source – PCS Union website,  19 May 2014

http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_events/pcs_comment/index.cfm/campaigning-against-attacks-on-welfare

Bedroom tax hitting North East the hardest

Benefit claimants in the North-East and North Yorkshire have been hit harder by Government’s ‘bedroom tax’ than any other region, a new study has revealed.

The report, by Oxfam and the New Policy Institute (NPI), warns that wide-ranging cuts are changing the shape of welfare support at a time when rising prices are making it harder for families to make ends meet.

The study, Multiple Cuts For The Poorest Families, found 28,000 of the poorest households in the region are being hit by the bedroom tax and are £12.80 per week worse off, with around 3,000 at least £20 a week out of pocket.

As a result, job seekers, carers, single parents or those with a disability or illness who are unable to work are being pushed deeper into poverty, it said.

North Durham MP Kevan Jones (Labour) said the record use of food banks was a clear indication that not only the unemployed, but also those in low pay, are being forced to rely on charity to survive.

He said: “In the year 2014 it is a national scandal. It is a situation where they are forcing people to move who have lived in the same homes for many years. The Government is treating people’s home as commodities rather than homes.”

But cuts to council tax benefit are more widespread in the region, where 103,000 of the poorest households have seen a cut in their cash payments.

These households now have to pay around £2.40 per week in council tax, a charge they were previously deemed too poor to pay.

The worst off are those 40,000 households who have seen both cuts in their housing benefit and their council tax benefit.

North-West Durham MP Pat Glass (Labour) said: “People who have never been in debt before are now in debt.

 “What worries me more is that people who are on the margins do not seem to be able to hold on any more are falling into all sorts of problems.”

Renters in the private sector have also seen their housing benefit slashed too, through cuts to the Local Housing Allowance.

The research estimates that this has affected 29,000 of the poorest households in the area, costing them around £7.80 per week.

Mark Goldring, Oxfam chief executive, said: “This is the latest evidence of a perfect storm blowing massive holes in the safety net which is supposed to stop people falling further into poverty.”

In London, where the population is two-and-a-half to three times greater than the North-East, around 34,000 of the poorest households are being hit by the bedroom tax.

On average they are £20 per week worse off, the highest cut of any region, and around 7,000 are being hit by at least £25 per week.

But cuts to council tax benefit are much more widespread in the capital where 240,000 of the poorest households have seen a cut.

Geraldine Kay, chief executive of Derwentside Homes, the social landlord  which manages former council housing stock in the north-west of County Durham, said: “The North-East has been disproportionately adversely affected by welfare reforms compared to all other regions with the exception of London for a different reason.

“In London the issue is the extortionate cost of housing, to buy or to rent, exceeding the benefit cap.

“In the North-East it is the ‘bedroom tax’ that is causing particular hardship as our housing stock is dominated by two and three bedroom family homes with very few flats and apartments.

“There are simply not the smaller properties for people to downsize into and tenants are caught in the ‘bedroom tax’ poverty trap.”

Conservative Stockton South MP James Wharton said hundreds of thousands of people are on waiting list for homes while hundreds of thousands more have properties bigger than they needs, which are paid for by the taxpayer.

He said: “The housing system this government inherited was in need of major reform and by paying for what people need, rather than over the odds, the taxpayer can get people into the right sized homes and free up properties for those in desperate need.”

> Except… that doesn’t work. Surely he’s grasped the fact by now ?

 

Source – Northern Echo   22 April 2014

Extended Benefit Sanctions Push Up Numbers Seeking Advice On Paying Bills

This article was written by Patrick Wintour, political editor, for theguardian.com on Monday 14th April 2014

There has been a 60% spike in the number of people seeking advice about paying bills as a result of increases in the length of benefit sanctions, according to the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB).

 It came as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published a new survey showing that women make up four in five people losing money from the £500-a-week benefit cap. Almost all have dependent children and 83% have three or more.

A year after the limits were introduced, Ipsos Mori research found a third of people affected have been forced to cut back on essential items. Around 25% have looked for a job after being hit by the cap, while 45% plan to do so in future. The survey looked at 1,000 people out of more than 38,600 households that have been caught by the new rules.

The government extended the period Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) is withheld from one week to four weeks last October. There have been repeated reports that JSA claimants feel they have suddenly lost benefit on the basis of arbitrary decisions for which they have been given no warning or little explanation.

An independent review of the sanctions regime commissioned by DWP is yet to be published, but the latest CAB figures suggest there is an urgency to the issue that ministers have yet to grasp. Polls suggest the DWP would feel under little pressure to soften any aspect of the welfare regime.

The CAB – which is a free advice service – said that since the sanctions regime was toughened, it has helped clients with over 15,000 JSA sanction problems. The increase in the numbers seeking help is disproportionate to the increase in the number of sanctions being applied by the DWP.

Under the previous one-week sanction claimants could cope, the CAB said, but a four-week withdrawal of access to benefit led people into desperate measures including approaching loan sharks.

Publishing its research, the CAB said: “People are struggling to pay their bills, rent and put food on the table. Many clients are forced to turn to food banks and even payday loan companies. With all this on their plate people are distracted from looking for a job, so they’re less likely to get into work.”

The CAB said: “From October to December last year one in four Citizens Advice clients with a JSA sanction problem had dependent children, one in four identified as being disabled or suffering from a long-term health condition, one in six also had a debt problem, and one in 10 had issues with rent arrears or threat or reality of homelessness.”

The chief executive of CAB, Gillian Guy, said: “The minimum four-week sanction is setting people up to fail and creating a barrier which can stop them from looking for work. Four weeks is a long time to go without money to get by and people are struggling to make ends meet.

“The success rate of sanction appeals reveals a culture of ‘sanction first and ask questions later’. This is not only ineffective and a huge waste of money but also has a devastating effect on thousands of people’s lives.

“People need a system that can take into account their situation, set suitable work search requirements and, where necessary, apply sanctions at a level that won’t limit their chances of employment.

“To date, work programme contractors have been responsible for twice as many sanctions on the people referred to them as they have successfully helped people find work. Combined with CAB’s latest figures this paints the strongest picture yet that the system is not working as it should.”

CAB pointed out that under universal credit – the new benefit integrating many existing benefits including JSA – Jobcentre staff are to be given greater flexibility in deciding the length of benefits. The CAB asked how it was possible to give staff flexibility for the incoming benefit system, but not for the current one.

Case study

Ian is a 43-year-old single father of two (aged nine and 12) living in Hastings. He has been on long-term sick leave for depression but, following a work capability assessment by Atos, was told he did not have enough points and was moved onto JSA.

Ian was put on to the work programme, though due to a staff mix-up by Pertemps he has not been receiving support to find work. He has been filling in his work-search forms and giving them to the Jobcentre. Then last Thursday Ian was told he had been given a four-week sanction for not giving enough work-search detail. He was told there were six cleaning jobs for which he could have applied, but he said that they were early morning jobs that did not fit with his responsibilities to his children.

He was given no notice or warning that he was doing anything inadequate about his work search. The money – £72 a week – just didn’t appear.

“I’ve been left high and dry. I filled in the work-search form as usual, but this time they’ve said it’s not enough. Thursday/Friday I was at rock bottom, I was in a total state. I was just thinking, where am I going to get money from?

“I had a water bill due on Friday, but the direct debit bounced as no money had gone in. I’m worried about my rent, as I don’t know if my housing benefit will come in now I’ve been sanctioned. Then at 5pm on Friday I got a hardship payment through so I can look after my kids. The crux of the issue is that they should give you some warning or notice that they are going to deduct some money. Otherwise the only two options at the end of the day are to borrow money or commit a crime.”

He adds that he took out a £100 emergency loan that will require repayment of £160. Ian is appealing his sanction, as he has a letter from Pertemps stating he has not been getting the support he should have due to an administrative mix-up.

Source – Welfare News Service  14 April 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/extended-benefit-sanctions-push-up-numbers-seeking-advice-on-paying-bills/

MPs Criticise DWP For ‘Spin’ On Official Statistics And Benefit Claimants

This article was written by Patrick Butler, for The Guardian on Tuesday 18th March 2014

MPs have criticised the Department for Work and Pensions for a series of rule breaches in which official statistics were used inaccurately, inappropriately, or to “spin” stories about benefit claimants.

The Commons work and pensions committee also criticised the DWP for shortcomings in the management of claims for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), a disability benefit that replaces the Disability Living Allowance, saying it was unacceptable claimants were having to wait six months or more to find out if they were eligible.

A report by the MPs warned the DWP to exercise care in the language used in its press releases and ministerial comments to ensure they do not feed into “negative preconceptions and prejudices about people on benefits”.

> exercise care in the language used in its press releases and ministerial comments to ensure they do not feed into “negative preconceptions and prejudices about people on benefits –  as if they strayed into negative preconceptions by accident ! Its what they were designed to do. Where have these MPs been for the past few years ?

It cites examples in the past few months where the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) criticised the use of DWP statistics, including by the secretary of state, Iain Duncan Smith, and Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps.

Dame Anne Begg MP, the committee chair, said: “Statistics should be used to shed light on policy implementation, not to prop up established views or feed preconceptions.

“Government efforts to promote a positive image of disabled people will be undermined if the language used by DWP when communicating benefit statistics to the media feeds into negative perceptions and prejudices about benefit recipients, including disabled people.”

The committee said it had warned the government as early as 2011 to take more care over the way it presented information on benefits statistics to the media. Ministers had replied then by saying they had a “robust” system in place to ensure no abuses took place.

However, the committee notes in a report into DWP performance, published on Tuesday , that problems still remained and that the UKSA had reprimanded the department a number of times in 2013 for the way it handled welfare statistics.

In one case, the Conservative party had put out a press release which quoted party chair Grant Shapps citing DWP figures that purported to show nearly a million people had dropped their incapacity benefit claim rather than face a work capability test. The UKSA found that two sets of figures had been erroneously and misleadingly conflated.

Duncan Smith said he and his officials had not prepared one criticised Conservative party release, and he had had “conversations” with Shapps to ensure in future he checked with the department if he was going to say something about DWP statistics.

In a separate case, Duncan Smith was officially reprimanded for claiming that the threat of the benefit cap had directly persuaded 8,000 of claimants to get a job. This clearly demonstrated that the cap was working, he said. But the UKSA ruled that there was no statistical evidence to support this.

The DWP director of communications John Shield told MPs that Duncan Smith had the right to make clear his “opinion” on “what he thinks the data are saying”. But he admitted that on this occasion the DWP press office had been involved in the preparation of the secretary of state’s claims.

The committee report says government statistics should be presented fairly, accurately and unspun, “and this is especially the case when they are being used to justify a particular policy or a particular allocation of resources.”

Regarding delays in PIP, the report urges ministers to involve financial penalty clauses to force private contractors Atos and Capita to speed up the claims process.

Begg said: “Many disabled or sick people face waits of six months or more for a decision on their PIP eligibility. Even those with terminal illnesses are having to wait far longer than was anticipated. This not only leaves people facing financial difficulties whilst they await a decision, but causes severe stress and uncertainty. It is completely unacceptable.”

The committee’s findings echo a recent National Audit Office report, which concluded that the PIP programme suffered from “poor early operational performance” leading to long and uncertain delays for claimants.

A DWP spokesman said: “PIP is a completely new benefit with a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews. In some cases this end-to-end claims process is taking longer than the old system of Disability Living Allowance, which relied on a self-assessment form.

“We are working with providers to ensure that all the steps in the process are as smooth as they can be and the benefit is backdated so no-one is left out of pocket.

“Claims for terminally ill people are fast-tracked and Macmillan has acknowledged that improvements in the system have already been made. Latest statistics show over 99% of people with terminal illnesses who have applied have been awarded the benefit, which means over 9,500 terminally ill claimants are now receiving PIP.”

Source – Welfare News Service,  18 March 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/mps-criticise-dwp-spin-official-statistics-benefit-claimants/

DWP On Verge Of Meltdown Over Big Welfare Projects

This article was written by Jane Dudman and Rowena Mason, for The Guardian on Friday 14th March 2014

Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions is facing “meltdown” over three of its biggest projects, Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Commons public spending watchdog, has said.

Ahead of a damning report on government contracts with private firms, Hodge singled out the DWP as a department particularly struggling with the delivery of welfare changes, which involve managing a relationship with private IT contractors, back-to-work providers and benefit assessors.

The public accounts committee report turns up the pressure on ministers to allow all government contracts to be subject to freedom of information (FOI) laws and examined by the National Audit Office (NAO).

Given that half of all spending on public services now ends up in the hands of private providers, departments must stop hiding behind “commercial confidentiality” when people want to know more about how these contracts work, it said.

The committee said two examples of contracts that the public deserved to know more about were the scandal of G4S and Serco charging for the electronic tagging of offenders who were in prison or dead, and the “complete hash” that G4S made of supplying security guards for the Olympics.

Following a stretch of negative publicity, the major outsourcing companies – G4S, Serco, Atos and Capita – are now willing to be subject to FOI laws when it comes to public sector contracts, but the government is still resisting, it said.

“Time and again when we see failures … it’s a failure of government to manage contracts,” Hodge said, adding that departments “simply have to up their game and get a grip”.

The committee said the DWP is particularly bad when it comes to private firms’ involvement in public services, including Universal Credit, its new IT system that will deliver an overhaul of benefits, the Work Programme, its back-to-work scheme, and the personal independence payment (PIP), the replacement for disability living allowance.

“All their programmes are on the verge of meltdown,” she said at a briefing to launch the report.

On Monday, a leaked internal review from the DWP said the government’s ambitious welfare strategy is at risk because of the speed and depth of the cuts imposed on the department, while a recent NAO report said the new PIP payment will cost almost three and a half times more to administer than the existing scheme.

Hodge said it was deeply ironic that if the DWP had been more open about the Universal Credit scheme – which she said was a “good policy” – there would have been a far better chance of the programme being implemented. Instead, she said, it was being “appallingly handled”.

> the Universal Credit scheme – which she said was a “good policy” – Is this a hint that a future Labour government intend to keep right on with UC regardless ?

A spokesman for DWP said the department has a “track record of delivery”. “We’ve already successfully launched the benefit cap, Universal Credit and the new personal independence payment. The industry tells us that the work programme has got almost 500,000 of the hardest to help into jobs. We are bringing in our reforms safely and responsibly,” he said.

John Cridland, director-general of the CBI, a business lobby group, said the report notes that the the private sector “plays an increasingly important role in running public services”.

“The public has a right to know how its money is being spent and the industry has pledged to meet a higher bar on transparency,” he said. “Businesses running public services agree that open-book contracting should become the norm. The National Audit Office should also be able to audit government contracts as long as this is done in a systematic way with the triggers for inspection, like missed performance targets, agreed from the outset.

“Rather than relying on individual Freedom of Information requests, we think FOI should be built into contracts when they are agreed.”

Source – Welfare News Service, 14 March 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/dwp-verge-meltdown-big-welfare-projects-margaret-hodge/