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.
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
Iain Duncan Smith dropped out of a hustings in his own constituency at the last minute, frightened of facing the sister of David Clapson, the diabetic former soldier who died after his benefits were cut.
IDS should have appeared on a platform with candidates from six other parties in Chingford, north London on Monday night.
Gill Thompson, the sister of David Clapson, was there to talk about how having his benefits stopped for missing an appointment had led to her brother’s death and to call IDS to account.
But, with just hours to go, IDS was suddenly called to “to the north-west of the country” for unexplained reasons.
According to the Daily Mirror, Thompson moved some in the audience to tears as she explained the circumstances surrounding her brother’s death.
“My brother died because of Iain Duncan Smith’s policies,” she said. “He wasn’t a scrounger. He was a former soldier. He died with a pile of CVs next to his body. He was a diabetic. After he was sanctioned he couldn’t even keep his insulin cold in the fridge.”
Just last week, we asked After Harper no-show on Newsnight, will IDS duck his benefits debate too? This followed DWP minister benefits stopped for missing an appointment’s last minute refusal to appear in a Newsnight debate on benefits.
It’s beginning to look more and more likely that the answer to that question will be ‘Yes’.
Source – Benefits & Work, 29 Apr 2015
“Dramatic” and “life-changing” benefits cuts will be imposed if the Tories are running the country after 7 May, Iain Duncan Smith has warned.
They could include taxing DLA, PIP and AA, axeing contribution-based ESA and JSA, cutting the work-related activity component of ESA to 50p, cutting carers allowance numbers by 40%, and making people pay the first 10% of their housing benefit.
For many, these will be life-threatening cuts, rather than life-changing ones.
But claimants are in a position to prevent them happening.
And it won’t take a miracle.
In fact, just an additional 5% turnout by working age claimants could have a dramatic and life-changing effect on IDS and his plans instead.
But a higher turnout won’t happen by itself. Labour are too frightened of the tabloids to try to rally claimants. Many of the major charities and disability organisations have been scared into silence by the Lobbying Act. And the media has little interest in benefits cuts, other than to applaud them as a good thing.
So it looks like it’s up to ordinary claimants to make sure as many other claimants as possible understand the threat they are facing.
In this newsletter we tell you what’s at stake and how you can make a difference.
IDS told Andrew Marr last week he didn’t become a minister to make “cheese-paring” cuts. Instead he has ‘dramatic’ and ‘life-changing’ plans for claimants.
And the tool for those dramatic changes is £12 billion of cuts to benefits in the space of just two years.
So far, we only know where £2 billion of the cuts will come from – a freeze on working age benefits. But the Conservatives are refusing to say where the other savings will be made.
A document leaked to the BBC, however, set out some of the cuts the Conservative party are considering, including:
- Taxing DLA, PIP and AA.
- Abolishing contribution based ESA and JSA entirely, so that only claimants who pass a means test can claim these benefits.
- Cutting the number of people getting carer’s allowance by 40%.
- Limiting child benefit to the first two children.
There are other proposed cuts too, including replacing industrial injuries benefits with an insurance policy for employers, regional benefit caps and changes to council tax.
Not enough cuts
But all of this will still not be enough.
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS):
“If all of these were implemented, the total saving would be likely to fall well short of the missing £10 billion per year that the Conservatives intend to find by 2017–18”
So, what else might be in the firing line?
Housing benefit and ESA cuts
We know that pensioners benefits are protected. And JSA costs such a tiny amount compared to other benefits that further cuts there would make little difference.
Cuts to housing benefit are one possibility that the IFS have highlighted, however, as this makes up a large and growing proportion of the benefits bill.
The IFS have estimated that making everyone pay the first 10% of their housing benefit would save £2.5 billion over two years.
Another extremely strong contender is to cut the work-related activity component (WRAC) of ESA to just 50 pence.
We know that the Conservatives are keen to slash the WRAC, because they’ve considered doing it before.
Cutting the WRAC wouldn’t save huge amounts, probably less than £1 billion a year.
But combined with cuts to housing benefit and all the other cuts listed above, it would probably be enough.
What you can do
Is this all nothing more than unnecessarily distressing speculation? After all, we don’t know what cuts will be made until – and unless – the Tories are elected.
But by then it will be too late. As Andrew Marr said in his interview with IDS, if the Conservatives won’t tell us which benefits will be cut, sick and disabled claimants will have to expect the worst:
“What I’m saying to you is if I was on welfare, if I was on disability benefit and I was told that you were taking £12 billion out of the budget, I would really need to know before I voted was I going to be hit. Or if I didn’t know that, I’d have to be assume that I was going to be hit.”
IDS, Osborne and Cameron have all now said no details of the cuts will be given before the election. So there’s no time to lose.
Clearly, the most important thing is to make sure you are registered to vote and then actually vote for a candidate who can keep the Tories out, if that’s possible, in your constituency.
But there’s more.
Above all, alert other claimants and carers to the dramatic threat they face – because many people still have no idea how huge £12 billion in cuts in two years really is.
And then try to persuade them that voting isn’t a waste of time. Because it is no longer true that all the parties are the same.
Here at Benefits and Work we have no trust for either of the major parties. But Labour, unpleasant as they undoubtedly are, don’t drool at the thought of cutting welfare in the way that the Tories do.
And the £7 billion savings Labour say they plan to make are very much smaller than the Conservative cuts. Even if every single pound Labour saved was from cutting benefits, instead of from other measures such as raising taxes from the wealthy, it would still amount to just over half the benefits cuts the Tories have guaranteed.
Not that it has to be Labour that claimants turn to. There are other parties – most notably the SNP – which have a real chance to win seats in some areas of the UK and who don’t support big cuts to benefits.
Read our suggestions on how to fight back, possibly add your own and then make a start. Talk to people, contact your local paper, tweet, comment and write letters.
You can make a difference
And don’t imagine that your voice can’t make a difference.
This is a very close election so far.
There will be many seats where the winner’s majority is in the low hundreds, some where it will be less than a hundred. Even a 5% additional turnout by working age claimants – amounting to perhaps 400 voters in many constituencies – could make the difference between Labour and the Conservatives being the largest party.
If you can convince a handful of people to vote and to talk to other claimants, you could genuinely help to change the course of this election.
Remember, you’re not trying to persuade hard-faced, right wing tabloid readers that cutting benefits is wrong. That undoubtedly would be a waste of time.
You’re talking to people who already know how painful the Coalition benefits cuts have been – because they’ve been hit by them.
You just have to persuade them that it’s not time to despair.
It’s time to fight back.
It’s time to vote for your life.
Source – Benefits & Work, 07 Apr 2015
Iain Duncan Smith yesterday warned that claimants face “dramatic”, “life-changing” cuts if the Conservatives win the election. He refused to rule out cutting disability benefits and the support group, whilst explaining that the Conservatives “may not decide that it’s relevant” to tell people prior to the election where the cuts will be made.
In an interview on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday, IDS gave what many sick and disabled claimants will view as a chilling warning that:
“I didn’t come into this job after years looking at this to just make cheese paring cuts.”
Instead, he said, he wanted to do things that will have a “life changing, dramatic effect, and that is about getting people back to work and improving their life chances.”
The ‘back to work’ reference appears to be a clear warning that employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants are in the firing line of any ‘dramatic’ changes.
This is especially the case as Jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) is expected to cost just £2.39 billion in 2016-17, when the cuts come in, compared to £14.47 billion for ESA. So cuts to JSA would go nowhere near meeting the £12 billion in welfare savings the Conservatives have said they will make in just two years.
But cuts to ESA would still not go far enough and IDS refused to rule out an attack on disability benefits as well. He argued that:
“Throughout all of my changes, we have protected the most disabled, we have kept disability benefits out of the freeze and we’ve supported the support group.”
But when Marr asked: “Will that continue?”
IDS would only respond that:
“Well, as I said, as and when the time is right, we will make it very clear what our position is.”
“When we’re ready”
Unfortunately for voters, IDS repeatedly made it clear that the right time to reveal their plans may not be until after the election, saying that “when we’re right and when we’re ready, we will talk about what we plan to do.”
When specifically asked by Marr:
“Will they know before they vote what you plan to do?”
“Well you know we may, we may not decide that it’s relevant to put something out there about some of those changes.”
No decisions made yet
In fact, according to IDS it would be impossible for the Conservatives to reveal their plans to voters because, in spite of warning for two years that they planned to make £12 billion in benefits cuts, no decisions have been made yet about what to cut.
“I can tell you now no decisions have been made. As and when decisions are made, of course we will be very open to the public.”
Improved quality of life
Perhaps the most alarming claim made by IDS was that his time at the DWP has resulted in an improvement in people’s lives:
“And I’ve said that these changes would improve the quality of lives, and I have to tell you right now our welfare reforms have improved the quality of life for the vast majority of the British people and also saving taxpayers’ money – which is the key point.”
Sick and disabled claimants have already been hit by the bedroom tax, the switch from DLA to PIP, the time-limiting of contribution-based ESA, changes to council tax, changes to the way benefits are uprated and more.
The prospect of IDS spending another five years improving their lives may ensure a very high turnout of claimants on May 7th.
Source – Benefits & Work, 30 Mar 2015
News that long-term unemployment amongst young ethnic minorities has soared is far from the first time that Iain Duncan Smith has been plunged into a race row.
The comment above was made by Lord John Taylor, the Conservative Party’s first black peer, as Iain Duncan Smith’s Tory leadership bid descended into chaos. IDS was forced to sack the Vice-Chair of his campaign Edgar Griffin after it was revealed that he was the father of Nick Griffin, the then leader of the BNP. His wife Jean Griffin had previously stood as a BNP candidate against Iain Duncan Smith. He was even known to have manned the BNP phonelines. Griffin was unrepentant about being sacked, claiming that…
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Mark Harper the Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions was on Radio4 Today this morning, talking about Cameron’s promise to protect pensions; in his discussion he stated “we can’t tell people how to spend their money“!
Where then does this leave the vow from IDS that he is “testing prepaid cards, onto which we will make benefit payments, so that the money they receive is spent on the needs of the family”? ‘Given the total contrast between Ministers statements, who can we believe, Harper’s – we trust the public or Ids – the poorest must be told where to shop and what to buy’?
Maybe the Tories believe that only people who have retired can manage a budget? Or is it, much more likely in my opinion, the pensioner promise is more about the Conservatives feeling worried they might lose their traditional voting base, by means testing the additional support such as…
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Today I came across two articles, once again calling into question the behaviour of Politicians and Government Departments when using statistics; it is clear from these that “Once again, DWP has shown itself to be a master in statistics manipulation and in the use of selective figures” this was on sanctions; and on pay and living costs “an act of statistical trickery to change the landscape of pay bargaining in the UK for the worse.”
This persistent misuse of data and the ensuing Spin’ fed to the media by the likes of IDS, is precisely what we have been saying this for the past 2 years; and it is the reason for our petition TO: KATHRYN HUDSON PARLIAMENTARY COMMISSIONER FOR STANDARDS to :
“Use the full Powers of the Commission and investigate Iain Duncan Smith Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, for his regular use…
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The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has discretely released dismal Universal Credit statistics on the same day as the latest unemployment figures are announced.
The figures reveal that there were just 31,030 people on Universal Credit by 8th January 2015.
This represents an increase of 17 per cent on the caseload compared to December 2014, but is still far short of the 1million (plus) originally promised by the Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith MP.
The Jobcentre Plus office with the largest caseload was Oldham with 2,640 Universal Credit claimants, followed by Wigan with 1,930.
Of the people on the caseload in January 2015, 32 per cent were in employment and 68 per cent were not in employment.
47 per cent of the Universal Credit caseload in January 2015 has been on the new benefit for less than three months, this compares to 52 per cent in December 2014, 55 per cent in November 2014 and 60 per cent in October 2014.
There are more males on the Universal Credit caseload than females (70 per cent compared to 30 per cent).
Males aged 20-24 make up 24 per cent of the total Universal Credit caseload.
Universal Credit is replacing the following benefits:
- Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
- Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
- Income Support
- Working Tax Credit
- Child Tax Credit
- Housing Benefit
63,690 people have made a claim for Universal Credit up to 12th February 2015. The rate at which people are claiming continues to increase as the roll out of Universal Credit continues.
35,620 of the people who have made a claim have, up to 8th January 2015, attended an initial interview, accepted their claimant commitment, and gone on to start Universal Credit.
31,030 people were on the Universal Credit caseload, as at 8th January 2015. Of these, 10,080 (or 32 per cent) were in employment and 20,950 (or 68 per cent) were not in employment.
UK Labour Market, February 2015
- Comparing the estimates for October to December 2014 with those for July to September 2014, employment continued to rise and unemployment continued to fall. These changes maintain the general direction of movement since late 2011/early 2012.
- There were 30.90 million people in work. This was 103,000 more than for July to September 2014 and 608,000 more than for a year earlier.
- The proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 in work (the employment rate), was 73.2%, higher than for July to September 2014 (73.0%) and for a year earlier (72.0%). The employment rate last reached 73.2% in December 2004 to February 2005 and, since comparable records began in 1971, it has never been higher.
- There were 1.86 million unemployed people. This was 97,000 fewer than for July to September 2014 and 486,000 fewer than for a year earlier.
- The unemployment rate was 5.7%, lower than for July to September 2014 (6.0%) and lower than for a year earlier (7.2%). The unemployment rate is the proportion of the economically active population (those in work plus those seeking and available to work) who were unemployed.
- There were 9.05 million people aged from 16 to 64 who were out of work and not seeking or available to work (known as economically inactive). This was 22,000 more than for July to September 2014 and 6,000 more than for a year earlier.
- The proportion of people aged from 16 to 64 who were economically inactive (the inactivity rate) was 22.3%, virtually unchanged compared with July to September 2014 and with a year earlier.
- Comparing October to December 2014 with a year earlier, pay for employees in Great Britain increased by 2.1% including bonuses and by 1.7% excluding bonuses.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 18 Feb 2015
Crucial statistics on the effects of the governments welfare reforms will be deliberately delayed until after the election, to prevent academics and campaigners discovering the effects of policies such as the bedroom tax, changes to disability living allowance and employment and support allowance and increased sanctions.
The Households Below Average Income figures will be two and a half years out of date by the time of the election.
Complaints about the delay in publication were made to Iain Duncan Smith as long ago as last September, but with no effect. IDS has also continued to refuse to meet with the Trussell Trust to discuss food poverty.
Dawn Foster, writing in the Guardian argues that:
“Academic annoyances aside, the impact of this delay on the political debate around welfare in the election is huge. Cuts to welfare provision have been a flagship policy of the coalition government, and the belief that the answer to unemployment and poverty is to cut off financial support looks to be a mainstay of the Conservatives’ campaign until 7 May. But the official statistics all parties rely on to make their arguments will be two-and-a-half-years out of date, and completely useless as a measure of how the coalition’s welfare changes have affected poverty rates. The raft of changes that heralded the start of the 2013 financial year are hidden from official statistics until votes have been cast.”
Source – Benefits & Work, 18 Feb 2015