Tagged: ESA claimants

Undercover at the Jobcentre

I asked the Jobcentre to let me have work experience there so I could dig up some dirt on the DWP. I did the work experience in another JCP in a different area from 9th March 2015 to 26th March 2015. All names are changed.

Alarm bells started to ring before I’d even started the placement. As I read the training material I overheard a man getting referred to the decision-maker for not applying for jobs. For the first job, there was no bus to get there on time. The other job he didn’t apply for required qualifications he didn’t have.

At about 10:15 on the first day of my work experience (Tuesday 10th March 2015) administrator Pammy said shows like Benefits Britain make her angry because those programmes depict JCP staff as “ogres” but it’s the benefits claimants who are lazy. “They were sanctioned for a reason,” she kept saying.

Pammy said the show had portrayed a lone mum with three kids who was sanctioned and now dependent on a food bank. The woman said she was feeding her kids out of the freezer but didn’t have enough frozen food to feed them. Pammy called her “lazy” and said she should “buy fresh food then” and that she obviously “has an attitude problem.”

During my time in the Jobcentre I saw numerous examples of staff insensitivity towards ESA claimants and customers who were ill. An ESA claimant came in asking why he hadn’t been paid. It turned out that his benefits had been stopped because he hadn’t got a ‘sick line’ (note of unfitness for work) from his GP to prove he was still unfit for work.

In response to my question about why he was on ESA, Pammy said he might be depressed. She said this is a “lazy attitude” but that now his benefit is stopped then he’ll go because he wants benefits. She kept repeating this point, convinced that benefits were the only thing that motivated depressed people (or Jobcentre customers generally).

Another morning, a JSA claimant told me she was now sanctioned and applying for hardship funds. She’d been ill and missed a Jobcentre appointment. She had phoned the doctor and went to get sick note the next day but her GP wouldn’t give her one because they didn’t see her the day she was ill, so she was sanctioned.

A man who was claiming JSA came into the Jobcentre to explain that he didn’t sign-on on Friday because he went to a funeral. Pammy said he would “probably” be referred to a decision-maker and maybe he’d get sanctioned. She also criticised him for waiting until 1pm the next working day (Monday) to inform the Jobcentre instead of telling them on Friday, the day of the funeral.

G4S security guard (‘Customer Care Officer’) Bob pointed out a customer to me and claimed he was a lost cause. He said some claimants would “like you to think [they’re looking for work]” but they aren’t, and he “will never get a job, who would hire him, would you give him a job?” Bob then suggested “They should just be wiped out, we shouldn’t have to deal with them”.

Read rest of article here –

http://northstar.boards.net/thread/44/undercover-jobcentre

ESA sanctions hit new record high

Sanctions against Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants in the work-related activity group have hit a new record high, according to DWP figures released today.

In September 2014, the most recent month for which statistics are available, 3,828 ESA claimants were hit with a sanction. The total for the preceding month was 3,096.

3,453 of the September sanctions were for alleged failure to participate in work-related activity, the remainder for failure to attend a mandatory interview.

The DWP continue to refuse to supply any explanation as to why ‘new regime’ sanctions have more than trebled from 1,091 in December 2012 to their current level.

You can download the latest sanctions statistics from this link.

Source – Benefits & Work, 18 Feb 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3022-esa-sanctions-hit-new-record-high

DWP brings new hope to payday lenders

In a move that will bring new hope to struggling payday lenders, the DWP have extended the waiting days for employment and support allowance (ESA) and jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) from 3 days to 7 days from today.

The new rules mean that claimants applying for ESA or JSA will not be entitled for any payments during the first 7 days that they would otherwise be eligible for benefits.

Claimants will not be affected if they have made a previous claim for ESA or JSA in the preceding three months, however, as they will be considered to have already served their waiting days. ESA claimants will also not be affected if they have claimed statutory sick pay immediately before claiming ESA.

Terminally ill claimants are exempt from serving waiting days.

The move has brought condemnation from trade unions and charities, but the chancellor, George Osborne, argues that: “Those first seven days should be spent looking for work and not looking to sign on.”

Last month Wonga was forced by the Financial Conduct Authority to write off £220 million in loans interest and charges to people who should never have been given loans in the first place. There have been calls for other payday lenders to suffer similar penalties.

But the decision by the Coalition to extend the waiting period for ESA and JSA to seven days means that there is likely to be an upsurge in applications for short-term loans by people with no other resources to fall back on.

Given that waiting times for a first payment of Universal Credit (UC) are likely to be around 6 weeks – and up to six months for people whose earnings were too high, according to new government proposals – and bearing in mind that UC also includes a housing costs element, the future for payday lenders is beginning to look rosy again.

Source –  Benefits & Work,  27 Oct 2014

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/2919-dwp-brings-new-hope-to-payday-lenders

Queen’s Speech: David Cameron Has Failed Britain

By Jenny Howarth

Her Majesty the Queen has delivered the final speech at the opening of parliament before next year’s general election.   A speech that Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described as ‘bold’.

In a joint statement issued alongside the Queen’s speech, the prime minister and his deputy said: [The coalition was] “still taking bold steps” [to] “take Britain forward to a brighter future”, adding:

 “We may be two parties, with two different philosophies but we understand one thing, countries rise when their people rise. So this Queen’s Speech is unashamedly pro-work, pro-business and pro-aspiration.”

Among the measures announced in the speech were:

  • A bill implementing reforms to annuities announced in March’s Budget. In future, people will not be required to buy an annuity with their pension savings and will be able to draw their retirement income in one go if they choose
  • A separate bill to allow employees to pay into collective pension funds shared with other workers, a move it is hoped will cut costs and encourage saving
  • A new state-funded childcare subsidy worth up to £2,000 a year, replacing the existing employer-funded scheme
  • A Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism bill offering extra legal protection for people being sued for negligence or breach of duty if they acted heroically or in the public interest
  • Curbs on “excessive redundancy payments” for highly-paid public servants
  • Tougher penalties for employers who fail to pay the minimum wage and a crackdown on the abuse of zero hours contracts
  • Plans for a 5p charge for plastic bags in England as announced at last year’s Lib Dem conference
  • Reforms to speed up infrastructure projects, including new freedoms for the Highways Agency and allowing fracking firms to run shale gas pipelines on private land without getting prior permission
  • New criminal sentences for those assisting organised crime syndicates, tougher sentence for cyber criminals and tougher powers to seize the assets of crime bosses – and making the possession of written paedophilia a criminal offence
  • A modern-day slavery bill with tougher penalties for human trafficking
  • Help for pub landlords including a statutory code and a body to adjudicate disputes
  • Giving voters the power to trigger by-elections where MPs have committed serious wrong-doing

With polls showing a Labour Party average lead of 6.6%, the speech, written for the Queen by her government highlights how out of touch and removed from reality the coalition government is. With Labour sources for the BBC saying it was “staggering” that the NHS and immigration were not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech.

You would assume that David Cameron would have ensured that this final speech would have contained elements to woo voters. But sadly, it has failed, just as Cameron and his coalition government has failed the people of Britain and here is why:

National Health Service (NHS)

This week in a letter to The Guardian, top health officials including Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals, and the chairs or chief executives of acute hospital trusts in London, Nottingham, Teeside, Kent, Sheffield, Oxford and elsewhere, warned that the NHS “is at the most challenged time of its existence.”

In a separate article, Rob Webster, speaking to The Telegraph, warned, that if “significant changes” were not made and the “decline” was to continue that:

  • Hospital patients would be forced to pay for their meals, bed and even for patient transport.
  • Swathes of the country would be left without a GP, because family doctors refuse to work in areas where they cannot keep up with demand.
  • Accident & Emergency departments would be increasingly shutting their doors without warning, because they are unable to cope.
  • Hospitals would go bust overnight because bills cannot be paid.
  • There would be Longer waits for surgery, and increasing numbers of cancelled operations.

With the NHS so critical, it is something that should have been addressed in today’s speech but it would appear that Cameron and his Health Secretary are more determined than ever to place the NHS in private hands.

Welfare

Work and Pension Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s (IDS) welfare reforms have been an unmitigated disaster.

His flagship Universal Credit Scheme has been beset with problems, with The Guardian reporting in May this year that The Major Projects Authority (MPA) – responsible for grading its implementation – has said that it has undergone so many fundamental changes that it is “reset” (gone back to drawing board).

In addition, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures, also released in May showed that over half a million ESA claimants are still waiting for the results of their assessment.

Then there is the hated Spare-room subsidy (bedroom tax).   In a survey of 183 housing associations (HA), conducted by IPSOS Mori on behalf of the National Housing Federation in February this year, it was found that:

  • One in seven of those hit by the bedroom tax has now had a notice of seeking possession issued to them.
  • 66% of HA residents hit by the bedroom tax are in rent arrears
  • More than a third (38%) reported to be in debt because they were unable to pay the bedroom tax

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation said:

“If these notices of seeking possession turn into evictions it will be the direct responsibility of those who introduced a measure which is economically incoherent, socially divisive, disruptive of family life and causing real damage to real people. It really can’t be allowed to go on.”

The failure to address welfare reform in today’s speech would indicate that if the Conservatives were to win next year’s election then it is likely it will go on, inflicting more misery to more families.

 It is clear, that Cameron is not listening.   The recent local and European elections proved that the people of Britain are not happy.   Ed Miliband, picked up on this by saying ahead of today’s speech:

“The local and European elections show the depths of discontent with the direction of our country which people increasingly feel does not work for them.

“We need action, we need answers, we need a programme for government equal to the scale of the challenge our country faces.

“We would have a Queen’s Speech with legislation which would make work pay, reform our banks, freeze energy bills and build homes again in Britain.

“A Queen’s Speech which signals a new direction for Britain, not one which offers more of the same.”

So what would be in Labour’s first Queen’s speech if they were to win next year?

Mark Ferguson, writing for Labour List, has put together what he thinks would be in it, based on Labours plans so far:

Banking bill

A first year priority, that would mean breaking up banks to create competition in the banking sector – and reforms intended to boost lending and support small businesses.

Make Work Pay bill

Mark Ferguson acknowledges that this one still needs some detail adding to it, which he believes we should get in the months ahead. In short, this bill would see Labour legislating for a higher minimum wage (maybe even a statutory living wage?) and legislating on zero-hours contracts.

Housing bill

Currently Labour is talking about building 200,000 homes a year by 2020. For Mark Ferguson, that’s a little slow, believing that Labour should be aiming to build a million homes over the next parliament with the expectation for Miliband to upgrade Labour’s offer on housing before the election.

However, it is already pretty substantial, and this bill would act on land banks, legislate for new garden cities, crack down on fees for private sector tenants and provide more stable and secure long-term rents for those in the private rented sector.

Community bill

Nicknamed, the “taking back the high street” bill. This would give communities a say on payday lenders and betting shops on their high streets – thus reducing their volume and growth.

Immigration bill

Angela Eagle has stated that Labour would legislate on immigration. Such a bill would seek to stop workers being undercut and ban recruitment agencies from only recruiting from overseas.

A new Scotland bill 

This would  enshrine the recommendations of Scottish Labour’s Devolution Commission, introducing a form of “Devo-Max” – obviously this is in the event of a No vote in this year’s referendum.

Consumers’ bill

Or perhaps more accurately, the energy prices bill. Labour’s big energy price freeze pledge would be enacted in the first Queen’s Speech

Outlawing discrimination against armed forces bill

This would put discrimination against members of the armed forces on the same footing as other forms of discrimination.

Mark Ferguson, goes onto state the other priorities for Labour in the first year of the next parliament that don’t necessarily need primary legislation, but which would be mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. These include:

  • The jobs guarantee,
  • The return of the 50p Tax rate
  • The abolition of the Bedroom Tax.

Unlike Cameron and his Conservative Party, it is evident, although some may disagree, that Ed Miliband has thought through what the people of Britain need.

> More likely the thinks its the sort of thing people might vote for at this moment in time. Unfortunately, an increasing number of people believe that should Labour win the next election, it’d actually just be a case of neo-liberal policies as usual.

And In case you’re wondering where the NHS fits in, Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has said today that it would be a “joyous moment, when next year, Her Majesty the Queen says: “My Government will repeal the Health & Social Care Act 2012″. Assuming of course that there will be a Labour victory.

With 336 days to go to the general election, the stakes have never been higher.   David Cameron has to start listening to the people of Britain, has to axe the bedroom tax, has to curb welfare reform and stop privatizing the NHS.   Failure to do so will mean he will be out of a job – not only as prime minister but also as leader of the Conservatives.

Source – Welfare News Service, 04 June 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/david-cameron-has-failed-britain/

 

Welfare Reform Impacting On Mental Health, Say SNP

Scottish National Party (SNP)  Press Release:

The Scottish National Party has criticised the UK government for failing benefits claimants with mental health problems.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate today [7 May 2014] on Improving the Employment and Support Allowance application process for people with mental health problems, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP will condemn the UK government’s Work Capability Assessment (WCA) for its shortcomings with regard to people with mental health conditions.

 Concerns have been raised by mental healthcare professionals and representative organisations that WCA doesn’t capture the impact of more serious mental illnesses on a person’s capacity to function in a working environment, and leads to poor decision making.

According to a Freedom of Information request, in 2013, 58% (6 out of 10) ESA claimants hit by sanctions were vulnerable people with a mental health condition or learning difficulty – an increase from 35% of sanctioned claimants in 2009 – indicating that people with mental health problems are being inappropriately sanctioned.

Commenting, Dr Whiteford said:

“The UK government must do more to help some of society’s most vulnerable people.

“I have seen an increasing stream of people with quite serious mental illnesses over the last couple of years who are falling through our now very frayed social safety net because of Welfare Reforms. I’m sure it goes without saying that many people with a mental illness won’t ever need to depend on the benefits system. But some of those with more severe mental illnesses do require support, and some of them are extremely vulnerable.

“A key problem is that too often assessors and decision makers have little or no relevant background information about claimants’ complex medical histories, and too rarely seek input or opinions from claimants’ clinicians.

“A report recently published by the Scottish Association for Mental Health, SAMH, details findings on how the experiences of living in poverty affect peoples’ mental health, and how SAMH service users with mental health problems have been affected by UK government welfare reforms. A truly shocking finding was that 98% of respondents said that welfare reforms were impacting on their mental health, including increased stress and anxiety, while 79% were facing financial impacts such as reduced income.

“In six cases reported to the 2013 survey, SAMH staff had to carry out suicide interventions directly related to the welfare reforms.

“The information is there in black and white, and the UK government cannot continue to ignore it.”

> I’ll bet you anything that they can…

Source – Welfare News Service  08 May 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/welfare-reform-impacting-mental-health-say-snp/