More than 70 leading Catholics have written to Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, who is Catholic, to tell him they fear the impact of his welfare reform policies.
In an open letter the group, led by the thinktanks Ekklesia and the Centre for Welfare Reform, calls on Duncan Smith to redraft his policies “in a way that is more compatible with Catholic and Christian values.”
They highlight benefit sanctions, work capability assessments, the benefits cap and the scheme to incorporate all benefits in a single system of universal credit as policies that are worsening the situation of poor families up and down the country.
“We understand that your Catholic faith is important to you, and your approach is driven by a desire to improve the quality of individual lives,” the letter says.
“However, we believe that [your policies] are in fact doing the reverse. We would urge you to rethink and to abandon further cuts which are likely to cause more damage.”
Duncan Smith was the first Catholic leader of the Conservative party between 2001 and 2003. In 2010 he was named one of Britain’s most influential Catholics. Since his appointment at the head of the Department for Work and Pensions that year, he has led a radical reorganisation of Britain’s benefits system to ensure “work always pays more”.
But he has faced criticism from campaigners who say that cuts to benefits have led to suicides, an increase in poverty and the social cleansing of wealthier areas, particularly in London and the south-east.
Iain Duncan Smith had his official credit card suspended after racking up more than £1,000 in expenses debt, it has been revealed.
The Work and Pensions Secretary is one of nineteen MPs subjected to action by the Commons watchdog, over potential invalid spending.
The revelation comes after Iain Duncan Smith had previously backed the introduction of prepaid cards for benefit claimants.
Details released in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the Press Association, reveal that the watchdog has suspended the credit cards of nineteen MPs since the beginning of 2015.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) issue credit cards to MPs to use for expenses costs, such as travel and accommodation.
Politicians are required to prove that spending on the cards is legitimate within one month. Failure could result in a build-up of debt, which would be recovered by refusing further expenses payments made through the cards.
According to the FOI response, Iain Duncan Smith’s card was blocked after he owed £1,057.28. He is no longer owes any money.
Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has branded attempts by Labour MPs and welfare campaigners to force the government into publishing benefit-related death statistics ‘disgraceful’.
A petition calling on the government to publish figures revealing how many people have died within six weeks of having their benefits removed, including those who have committed suicide, has now passed 220,000 signatures.
Civil servants have admitted that they collect the data, reports the Daily Mirror. And the Information Commissioner recently ordered the DWP to publish the figures.
Iain Duncan Smith continues to resist the mounting pressure to release the requested data, even insisting that the Department for Work and Pensions “doesn’t collate the numbers”. This is despite of the DWP releasing similar statistics in 2012, showing that thousands of Incapacity Benefit claimants tragically lost their lives between 2009 and 2011.
Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit could spark a ‘substantial increase’ in the number of Britain’s poorest people hammered by benefit sanctions, according to a leading think tank.
Punitive and spurious benefit sanctions have become common place over recent years, with the poorest in society being pushed ever-further into poverty rather than supported and helped into work.
More than 686,000 desperate people saw their benefits slashed or removed in 2014, including 37,000 sick and disabled people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Around 50% of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants referred for potential sanctioning in 2014 saw their benefit payments docked – an increase on previous years.
The ‘sanction rate’ in 2014 – the number of sanctions per month compared to the total number of claimants – stood at 5.1%, according to research from the New Policy Institute (NPI). This is a slight fall on 2013 levels, but still represents the second highest on record.
According to NPI’s research, a fall in the number of sanctions between 2013 and 2014 was mainly due to a reduction in JSA claimants and not because of ‘the system becoming less harsh’.
More than a quarter of sanctioned JSA claimants were disabled or lone parents, highlighting a lack of understanding and compassion for the ‘hardest to help’.
Treasury officials have asked the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to find even deeper cuts to welfare spending, according to reports.
BBC Newsnight’s Political Editor, Allegra Stratton, has reported that treasury officials have asked Iain Duncan Smith to find £15bn of welfare cuts, rather than the £12bn originally promised in the Tory manifesto.
A treasury source allegedly told Stratton that both child tax credits and working tax credit could be in the firing line for £8bn in cuts.
More than 60,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to publish statistics into the number of benefit claimants who have died after benefits were removed.
The number of signatories is growing fast and could force the government to come clean about the impact of welfare reforms on vulnerable people.
A number of attempts by journalists and campaigners, using the Freedom of Information Act, to force the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to publish the statistics have been rebuffed.
The government argues that drawing a direct link between the deaths of seriously ill people and the removal of benefits would be irresponsible.
Welfare Weekly reported last month that the DWP had been ordered by the Information Commissioner to disclose details into deaths related to welfare reforms, following a complaint by political blogger Mike Sivier. It is our understanding that this is currently being appealed by the DWP.
The petition, on the change.org website, claims that this appeal is a direct attempt by the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to block publication of benefit-related death statistics.
The collective groan that went up when Iain Duncan Smith was reappointed to the Department for Work and Pensions over the weekend could probably be heard from space.
For housing workers, it’s five more years of the same: no change in direction, just straight ahead with the pressing business of welfare reform. However, the return of IDS also provides an opportunity for pragmatism in the delicate relationship between the new Conservative government and social landlords.
From the bedroom tax to the social cleansing of London as families hit by the benefits cap are shunted outside the capital, there was a lot for housing experts to criticise during the term of the coalition government – and criticise they did.
Much of that was tied up in an understandable moral objection to the changes being implemented. After all, if you’ve dedicated your career to alleviating housing need, it can be hard to work within the constraints of policies which you observe to be undermining a life’s work.
The practical objections, however, have been far more quietly stated, in part because some of them are so complex that they do not resonate with the wider public. In short, their comments don’t make great headlines.
Universal credit is one such example. The policy sounds laudable when described as a simple way of helping benefit recipients transition into employment by handing over full financial responsibility for all their outgoings including rent (previously paid directly to the landlord).
But as all housing providers knew, it will be much more complicated than this. Government has never been good at managing large IT projects or handling lots of data. The reality of working life for many low-paid staff can be weeks of employment and unemployment hard up against one another, with no time for state bureaucracy in between. And most frontline jobs are paid weekly or fortnightly, not monthly like universal credit.
For housing associations, the policy introduces a huge financial variable. How can large organisations with loans negotiated on the basis of a reliable income cope with hard-pressed tenants who do not pay up? The housing regulator is now stress-testing accommodation providers to see how they would cope with situations like this. The result is, inevitably, a downgrading in their ratings.
It’s important to remember that universal credit is derided by private and social landlords alike. Both fear for their revenue. The difference between the two is that, while private landlords can refuse to house people on benefits, social landlords will need to make compromises to stay afloat. That’s why, though he is so widely disliked, Duncan Smith’s reappointment should actually be welcomed.
Cameron told MPs at a meeting of the 1922 Conservative parliamentary committee on Monday that their “re-election starts now”. Absolutely. This government can no longer blame the mistakes of the previous incarnation, and nowhere is this more significant than for housing.
After five years of thwarted pilots, up to £663m of IT costs being written off by the Treasury and more stumbling blocks than an army fitness assault course, it’s time for a pragmatic approach to the introduction of universal credit. The Conservative government is unlikely to walk away from the policy, and Duncan Smith cannot claim ignorance of its failings so far. He cannot hide behind excuses or inexperience in the way a new minister to the brief could be tempted.
To survive their new future, social landlords will need to adapt. They will need to have diverse income streams: development will now always be for the private sector alongside the social to make ends meet. So for every social home that is built, a home for sale, shared ownership or private rent must also be built to help social landlords stay afloat.
Yet, also, there’s never been a better time to challenge a minister head on and demand some certainty. The minister will have little choice but to capitulate.
Source – The Guardian, 15 May 2015
Reposted from Union Solidarity International
The list of Cabinet members who failed to secure 40% of the vote. They would not have been elected had the same criteria been imposed as strike ballots
Half the members of the new Tory Cabinet were elected on less than 40% of the electorate – failing the government’s own trade union legitimacy test.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid, himself elected by 38.3% of the electorate, yesterday announced new rules concerning strike ballots.
The proposal is that a ballot result would only be valid if: (1) at least 50% of members vote in them and (2) at least 40% of all members vote to support the action.
Therefore, the bare minimum will be 80% yes with a 50% turnout. meaning trade union strike ballots would no longer be declared by a simple majority, but would only become valid if 40% of members voted in them.
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The botched roll out of Universal Credit is set to continue under the Conservatives, it has been announced today.
Universal Credit is replacing six existing benefits including Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefit, with one single monthly payment.
Described as a “welfare revolution” by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, Universal Credit will be made available to new single claimants in Richmond, Kirkwall, Lerwick and Stornoway, from today (11 May 2015).
According to the Department for Work and Pensions, all Jobcentres in the country will be offering Universal Credit to some groups of claimants by spring 2016.
Iain Duncan Smith MP, said:
“Universal Credit is bringing welfare into the 21st Century by restoring fairness to the system and making work pay in a modern labour market.
“We’ve already seen remarkable successes with Universal Credit claimants moving into work faster and staying in work longer.
“As part of our long-term economic plan, today sees the next stage of this welfare revolution with the continual roll out of Universal Credit.”
The new benefit is currently available in one-in-three Jobcentres (260). The government initially targeted the roll out of Universal Credit at the ‘easiest to help’ claimants, such as single people without children. For example, only 96 Jobcentres are currently offering Universal Credit to couples, families and lone parents.
DWP figures show that more than 64,000 people have made a claim. However, this is far short of the one million originally promised by Mr Duncan Smith to be in receipt of Universal Credit by April 2014.
Universal Credit has been dogged with delays and IT problems. DWP officials have already been forced to write off millions of pounds in failed IT software.
HM Treasury officials admitted last year that a potential £633 million could be written off by the time Universal Credit is completely rolled-out across the country and to all groups of claimants.
Children’s charity Gingerbread warned in October 2013 that working single parents will be worse off under Universal Credit. Researchers found that there will be little financial incentive for single parents to increase their hours beyond ‘mini-jobs’.
The charity also found that non-working single parents’ income will be on average lower under universal credit than it is now.
Commenting on the findings, Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said at the time:
“Government claims that universal credit will make work pay, but in fact working single parents will be the biggest losers under the new system.
“The simple fact is that universal credit won’t deliver on its promise to make work pay. Single parents on low wages will be under considerable pressure to extend their hours under universal credit, but our research shows that financially, extra hours often won’t stack up.”
However, the DWP claims that Universal Credit will leave three million families better off and provide a £7 billion boost to the economy.
The department also claims that Fraud and Error will be reduced under Universal Credit, with officials having access to real-time HMRC earnings data.
Universal Credit will enable benefit payments to be calculated more accurately, says the DWP, ‘including topping up claimants earnings when they are on a low income’.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 11 May 2015
Jonathan Bartley (@jon_bartley) on Twitter
I don’t know if any of you watched the welfare debate on BBC 2 yesterday, in which members of Labour, Conservatives, UKIP, Greens and Lib Dems discussed their manifesto for welfare.
At 13 minutes and 50 seconds into the debate, Johnathan Bartley (Green Party spokesperson) challenges IDS on the DWP peer reviews into suicides of claimants and the delay in providing death statistics via a Freedom of Information (FoI) request. (although not mentioned by name, he is referring to Mike Sivier over at the Vox Political blog who requested this information – you can read more about his FoI “journey” here)
IDS, as I am sure you can imagine, was his usual charming self, calling Mr Bartley all sorts.
The Green Party today published this article on its’ website;
The Green Party has requested that Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work…
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