This article was written by Patrick Butler, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 2nd December 2014
The Coalition’s “indiscriminate” welfare cuts have created a climate of fear among benefit recipients, reducing rather than improving their chances of moving into work, a study has found.
The latest instalment of a two-year qualitative research programme finds that rather than providing an incentive for unemployed individuals to find a job, the squeeze on benefits is more likely force them to retreat into day-to-day “survival mode”, unable to seize opportunities to find employment.
Even those who were in work felt trapped in poverty as a result of low wages, zero hours contracts and cuts to housing benefit and tax credits. Many felt that they did not feel financially better off as a result of having a job.
The study concludes:
Our research found that the changes brought about by welfare reform did not have a considerable impact on respondent’s attitudes to work, or indeed the likelihood of them finding work.
Work did not seem to enable people to escape the negative impacts of welfare reform or poverty.
It warns that many families are “living on a cliff edge” financially and are affected by increased anxiety and stress. The study argues that current welfare reforms will lead to increased costs to the state as it picks up the bill for poverty-related ill-health and homelessness
The study, by the charity Community Links, is based on in-depth interviews with 20 people in the London borough of Newham. It aims to assess the impact of welfare reform on individuals, in particular whether it can change “behaviour” and get people into work.
The cohort is divided between those in part-time or low paid work and those on benefits. Monthly income ranged from £200 a month to £1,500. All were affected by at least one cut, and most were hit by a combination, including the bedroom tax and reductions in tax credits.
Although the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has claimed that his reforms provide an incentive to unemployed people to move into work, only one interviewee, a mother who was threatened with the benefit cap, said the prospect of losing income had motivated her to get a job.
The majority of unemployed interviewees reported that the cuts had overwhelmingly negative consequences for them, making them feel stressed and insecure and vulnerable to even tiny changes in income. Some had defaulted on rent and bills and had been threatened with eviction, while others “coped” by cutting back on food and heating, or going into debt.
The study reports a “culture of fear”, especially among those with serious disability or illness who were unable to work and so felt powerless to escape or offset the financial losses causes by welfare cuts.
The continued squeeze on incomes is forcing people into survival mode: having to deal with incredibly stressful situations day-to-day and unable to focus on the longer-term. People feed their children and go without themselves; wash clothes by hand if their washing machine breaks; walk miles to work in the early hours of the morning; they just about get by. But only just.
The sheer scale and speed of the cuts to state support left interviewees with “almost no flexibility to live with any comfort”. It meant some of those interviewed were barely surviving
Most people told researchers they both wanted to work and saw benefit in working. It calls on ministers to provide more help in getting people into work, and criticises the “lack of compassion” in the implementation of the reforms.
Some of those who were keeping their head above water could only do so because they received transitional support from the local authority in the form of Discretionary Housing Payments. But these were temporary, the study points out, and:
It is highly likely that as Local Authority budgets reduce and thus become naturally more restrictive, that many people who have been temporarily protected from hardship will find themselves suffering again
Community Links is a pioneering and respected charity based in Newham, east London, once praised by the prime minister David Cameron as “one of Britain’s most inspiring community organisations.”
The charity was co-founded by David Robinson, a social activist who abandoned his initial support for the Coalition’s Big Society project in protest at the damage inflicted on the UK’s poorest neighbourhoods by what he called the government’s “barrage of unsustainable cuts”.
It is likely that the Department for Work and Pensions will draw attention to the small size and geographical reach of the research and suggest that it is not a representative analysis. But the study points out:
In the absence of an official cumulative impact assessment, this report makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of the impacts of the Coalition’s welfare reforms.
> Well ? Does anyone feel these conclusions are not representive of the UK as a whole ?
Source – Weekly Welfare, 02 Dec 2014
A welfare team has been praised for helping tenants claim £2m in benefits and grants.
Financial advice from Derwentside Homes’ Welfare Rights Team has helped tenants access more than £2m in unclaimed benefits and grants.
Residents struggling to cope with changes to the welfare system, including the introduction of the bedroom tax, have been getting advice and support from Derwentside Homes’ Welfare Rights Team, set up in 2011.
Since it was established, the team has helped 869 tenants to claim an average of £2,314.54 in additional benefits.
Together, these previously unclaimed benefits now add up to £2,011,335.
The team provides a complete package of financial support – including helping people claim benefits they are entitled to but unaware of, applying for discretionary housing payments and appealing against benefits decisions.
Derwentside Homes’ Head of Housing Services Shelagh McGinn, said: “The Welfare Rights Team does a fantastic job helping our tenants to cope with the impact government’s changes to the benefits system which can leave many people confused and unsure of what they are entitled to claim.
“The fact we have now helped our tenants to access £2m in unclaimed benefits is a significant milestone and is testament to the hard work and commitment of the team.
“Our advice is targeted at tenants most at risk of falling into financial difficulty.”
Derwentside’s Welfare Rights Team can be contacted on 01207-521100, freephone 0800-783-9295 or email email@example.com
Source – Northern Echo, 01 Aug 2014
This article was written by Adele Irving and Sheila Spencer, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 11th June 2014
Because there is no requirement to measure single homelessness in England, it is extremely hard to find direct evidence of the impact of reform. But welfare reform is leading to a rise in the number of risk factors for homelessness, and our study found these risks were escalating fast in the north east of England.
There is a shortage of one bedroom flats in many parts of the region, with sharp competition between individuals trying to move on from supported housing, and those faced with having to downsize to avoid the bedroom tax or risk falling into arrears.
We are also seeing a slide into food poverty. Single people without disabilities tend to have much smaller incomes at their disposal. Many are now economising on food in order to pay basic household bills. Use of food banks is growing and some local authorities and housing providers say they are becoming part of a standard response to poverty, rather than a last resort.
Tough benefit sanctions are disproportionately hitting vulnerable young and homeless people. Rent arrears have increased in the region, though some housing providers say they have now begun to stabilise. When sanctioned, claimants often do not understand the complex rules that can protect housing benefit payments and are being plunged into further debt unnecessarily. Increases in money lending are also reported.
There is already additional pressure on advice services. The Citizens Advice Bureau says the number of people asking for help because of council rent arrears is up by more than a third and the number looking for advice about discretionary housing payments (DHPs) – used by government to offset the impact of the bedroom tax – has doubled.
Benefits is now the biggest category for services, and many advice providers are struggling to cope with demand. But, as one agency noted to researchers: “No amount of advice is going to replace the entitlement that has been lost”
Crime levels are increasing. Two north east police forces report an increase in burglaries and shop thefts, and some homeless people are turning to crime instead of applying for hardship payments when sanctioned.
Other emerging effects of welfare reform are deteriorating physical and mental health, worsening relationships with families and increasing numbers of people who are found to have complex needs.
Local authorities and housing providers are putting significant resources into helping affected households, particularly those struggling to pay the bedroom tax.
An Ipsos MORI survey of predicted housing association spend reported an average of £109,000 per household affected by March 2014. The irony is that this expenditure may not have been necessary. One local authority, which in July 2013 had just 54 customers affected by overcrowding (1% of the total on the housing register), commented: “We’ve spent over £4m fixing a problem that never existed.”
There is also growing evidence that the welfare reforms have failed to encourage people into work. A series of reports show that homeless people and young people in the north east want to work, but face significant barriers. Increased conditionality appears to actually be discouraging engagement with government support and removing people from benefit claims altogether, rather than improving their chances of securing employment.
Agencies across the north east have called for action to understand the cost-effectiveness of welfare reform, campaigned against the proposed loss of housing benefit for under-25s and challenged DWP to work more closely with agencies supporting vulnerable homeless people. Wouldn’t government funding be better spent supporting vulnerable people into work and investing in social housing?
Adele Irving is a research fellow at the Centre for Public Policy at Northumbria University. Sheila Spencer is a housing consultant
Source – Welfare News Service, 11 June 2014
The truth is that it doesn’t really matter anymore. The end result of his policies will be the same whichever is the case. A result as tragic as it was predictable, as poverty not seen in generations returns to the UK.
The recent case of Tim Salter, who committed suicide after benefits were stopped due to the brutal Atos assessment regime, is far from the first death directly linked to welfare reforms. At the end of last month two suicides linked to Atos assessments were reported in just one week. Also reported just before Christmas was the death of Denis Jones, a disabled former soldier who died alone five weeks after his benefits were stopped. Whilst his death was recorded as natural causes…
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