A Universal Credit claimant who featured in a government film to promote the reform now says the system is riddled with computer problems and could make people destitute.
In the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advert, Daniel Pacey explains how the reform helped him to find work.
But he now says a six-week delay before the first payment and subsequent monthly payments are “a nightmare“.
The DWP said monthly sums replicate the world of work and tackle dependency.
A spokesman said:
“Universal credit is simplifying the benefit system and [makes] the transition into employment smoother.
“Our work coaches discuss budgeting support with all claimants and nearly 80% say they are confident in their ability to manage a monthly budget.”
> Is that 80% of work coaches or claimants ?
Mr Pacey, 24, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, said:
”It might be easy for a government minister to make their wages last a month. But I’d like to see them make £250 last four weeks while looking for work.”
The government has announced that a national roll-out of universal credit is starting in earnest across the country. The aim is for it to be offered in all job centres in England, Scotland and Wales by 2016.
> Whether it works or not, presumably.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told BBC News the new benefit was £600m under budget and had been implemented gradually on advice.
But Mr Pacey, who lives with his father, said his job centre struggled with failing computer systems, adding:
“I hate to think about how I would have coped had I lived on my own. I know I couldn’t have.”
The DWP spokesman added:
“People can apply for advanced benefit payments if they need extra support and we are working with local authorities to make sure people get budgeting and debt advice.
“The IT system adapts smoothly to claims as they become more complex, which we have already seen across the North West.
“Computer problems in offices are separate issues and are resolved quickly but these do not impact the operating system, or have an impact on claims.”
The scheme was initially piloted in Ashton-Under-Lyne nearly two years ago.
Under the old system, payments were bi-weekly, with housing benefit paid directly to landlords.
Under universal credit, claimants are instead paid monthly and are expected to pay their rent themselves.
Housing Associations in Ashton-Under-Lyne say rent arrears and debt are on the rise amongst universal-credit claimants.
The chief executive of the National Housing Federation, David Orr said:
“This scheme isn’t even ready to fully roll out in Ashton-Under-Lyne, where it’s been piloted for two years, let alone the rest of the country.”
The DWP spokesman said:
“In some cases, we can arrange for alternative payment arrangements, including rent being paid direct to landlords.”
The government says it is important for people to learn how to handle their own monthly budgets, as this replicates the world of work.
> Oh for fucks sake – how stupid do they think we are ? Do they think every unemployed person has never worked ? Do they think anyone having to survive on benefits doesn’t already know all about handling budgets ?
But Mr Pacey’s new job in a call centre pays bi-weekly.
He said: “In my experience, most low-paid jobs pay weekly or every other week, not monthly. You can’t make small sums of money last a month.
“It’s not about dependency, it’s about living, being able to get a bus to go to the job centre. The government needs to rethink this.”
The scheme has also been criticised by the National Audit Office as badly managed and failing to deliver on its targets.
It is concerned that a roll-out from pilot areas in north-west England is taking place with fewer resources to spend on staff training and less time for staff to get accustomed to the changes.
About 50,000 people in selected areas have claimed the benefit since it was introduced in April 2013 – far fewer than the government originally said would be getting it by now.
Computer problems have also caused delays and seen ministers write off tens of millions of pounds.
Source – BBC News, 16 Feb 2015
Northerners hit by the bedroom tax are cutting back on essentials such as food and heating, according to new research from the National Housing Federation.
An Ipsos MORI survey carried out for the Federation found that nearly a third (32%) of people affected by the bedroom tax in the North say they have cut back on food and more than a quarter (26%) have cut back on heating as a result of the tax.
Nearly half (45%) of those affected in the North have needed to borrow money to help pay their rent since the introduction of the bedroom tax in April 20131.
The research also found that:
· Four in five (80%) of those affected in the North are concerned about falling behind on rent.
· Nine in ten (90%) of those affected in the North are concerned about meeting their living costs.
· Nearly three-quarters (74%) of those affected in the North are concerned about eviction.
National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said: “People stung by the bedroom tax are being forced to make difficult choices on which bills to pay and which essentials to go without. They are living in fear that they will lose their homes and have resorted to borrowing from friends and family to try and get by.
“Housing associations have spent millions of pounds working more closely with their tenants, introducing projects to tackle fuel poverty and working with food banks to help alleviate food poverty. But these services have costs, which leaves less money for building new homes.
“The results of our latest survey are depressing. As we feared and warned, the bedroom tax is having a disastrous impact. The only solution is to abolish this policy which fails on every level.”
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 04 June 2014
Two-thirds of households in England affected by the bedroom tax have fallen into rent arrears since the policy was introduced in April, while one in seven families have received eviction risk letters and face losing their homes, a survey claims.
The National Housing Federation (NHF) said its survey demonstrated that the bedroom tax was “heaping misery and hardship” on already struggling families who were unable to pay their rent but unable to find anywhere cheaper to live because of a shortage of smaller homes.
The NHF survey is one of three separate reports published on Wednesday which collectively criticise the design and implementation of the bedroom tax and highlight the negative impact it has had on the lives of many of the 522,000 people in the UK who are subject to it.
The disability charity Papworth Trust says that a third of disabled people affected by the tax have been refused emergency financial help, despite government guidance that disabled people who live in adapted homes get first call on discretionary housing payment funding.
The trust said many disabled people who have been refused emergency payments – which are intended to provide short-term financial relief to those struggling to cope with the bedroom tax – were now cutting back on essentials such as food or household bills. It called on ministers to exempt people living in adapted properties from the tax.
Meanwhile, the Labour party has published the results of a freedom of information request which shows the number of tenants wrongly subjected to the bedroom tax as a result of drafting errors in legislation is nearly 50,000 – at least 10 times as many as official estimates.
Chris Bryant, the shadow minister for welfare reform, said information from a third of councils showed that 16,000 people were affected by the error, which affects working age tenants in social housing who have occupied the same home continuously since 1996.
The reports herald a day of parliamentary activity around the bedroom tax. A bill to abolish the tax will be introduced by Labour backbench MP Ian Lavery, while Lord Freud, the welfare minister, will appear before a committee of MPs to answer question on a raft of welfare reforms.
Lavery said he believed that the bedroom tax had caused the most visible poverty and heartache of all the coalition’s welfare changes. “I have seen with my own eyes the absolutely astounding impact the bedroom tax has on disabled and sick people. I’m not sure the government is aware of the hardship and misery it has caused. We are talking about ordinary people who have been forced to move from the homes where they have spent a lifetime raising their kids. They have been cast out like dogs in the night.”
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: “We are determined to support those who might need extra help through these necessary reforms. That is why we have tripled the extra funding given to councils this year to £190m – some of which is specifically targeted at disabled people – and have announced that £165m will be available for councils next year to help vulnerable tenants.”
It said the NHF could not prove whether the rise in tenant rent arrears was accounted for by the bedroom tax alone.
The bedroom tax – also known under its official names of “spare room subsidy” or “under-occupation penalty” – affects 660,000 housing benefit claimants living in social housing across the UK. Introduced last April, the policy imposes an average penalty of between £14 and £22 a week on working-age tenants deemed to have more bedrooms than they need.
NHF chief executive David Orr said: “From day one we have said the bedroom tax is unfair, unworkable and just bad policy. It’s putting severe pressure on thousands of the nation’s poorest people and must be repealed.”
This article was written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 12th February 2014.
Source – Welfare News Service 12 Feb 2014