George Osborne has refused to categorically rule out rolling child benefit into Universal Credit (UC) to help contribute towards Conservative plans to save £12 billion from the welfare budget.
The Chancellor was asked repeatedly to rule it out and did not, but said that if the Tories had wanted to include child benefit in the new welfare system, they would have done so when it was created.
The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has said that scrapping child benefit and increasing UC for eligible families could save £4.8 billion a year.
But such a measure would mean that 4.3 million families who receive child benefit at the moment but would not be entitled to UC in the future would lose more than £1,000 a year, the IFS said.
At a Westminster briefing, Mr Osborne was asked to rule out rolling child benefit into UC.
The Chancellor replied:
“If you judge us on our approach in this parliament and if we wanted to put child benefit into Universal Credit, we would have done it when we set up Universal Credit.
“We have got a track record, we have got a plan that’s based on clear principles about making work pay and sharpening work incentives…”
Asked again to rule it out, Mr Osborne replied:
“I’ve just given you an answer. If we wanted to do it we would have done it when we created Universal Credit.”
Asked again, Mr Osborne said:
“I’ve given a very clear answer and you have to be a contortionist to think I’m not giving a pretty clear answer to that.”
The Conservatives’ plans for the next parliament involve saving £30 billion to contribute to deficit reduction, with £12 billion set to be cut from the welfare budget.
But the party has faced criticism from the IFS and Labour for failing to set out how it would achieve the majority – around £10 billion – of those welfare cuts.
The Chancellor said:
“If you look at our track record, the £21 billion we’ve saved in this parliament, you can look at principles we will apply to future such savings.
“We want to go on creating a welfare system which rewards work and the aspirations of families and protect the most vulnerable.”
Universal Credit is the coalition Government’s flagship welfare reform and simplifies the system by rolling a string of benefits and tax credits into one payment.
It is being rolled out in stages after being hit by delays and IT problems but will eventually take in jobseeker’s allowance, income-related employment and support allowance, income support, child tax credit, working tax credit and housing benefit.
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie said Mr Osborne had put middle income families in the firing line.
The Labour frontbencher said:
“The Tories won’t admit where their £12 billion of welfare cuts will come from, but after this press conference it’s now clear middle income families are in the firing line.
“George Osborne repeatedly refused to rule out rolling child benefit into universal credit. This would mean 4.3 million families losing over £1,000 a year, according to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies.”
Treasury Minister Priti Patel said rolling child benefit into UC was not Conservative policy.
She told BBC News:
“We’re very clear as well, we have made it clear and we’ve said that we need to find £12 billion of welfare savings but it’s not our policy, that suggestion, and that there are other ways in which we can find those savings.”
But Ms Patel would not be drawn on whether the Tories will pay child benefit only for the first two or three children.
Asked if it was a possibility, she said:
“I’m not going to come here and start talking the ins and outs of the spending review because that will all be for the next government.”
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said he was not surprised by Mr Osborne’s failure to rule out the move as he insisted the change would not feature in his own party’s manifesto.
Speaking in Newtown, Mid Wales, he said:
“It’s no surprise to me that the Conservatives are considering pretty dramatic changes like taking child benefit away from lots of families because they have committed to taking £12 billion away from some of the most vulnerable families in this country.
> And we’ve been helping them for the last five years…
“They have committed to taking the equivalent of £1,500 away from eight million of the poorest families in this country to balance the books; they are not asking the very wealthy, those with the broadest shoulders, to make a single contribution through the tax system in balancing the books.
“Even if they did what is now being floated by George Osborne, they would still have £8 billion or £9 billion to fund. Who are they going to affect next, those with disabilities?
“Which other vulnerable groups will be affected by this unfair plan from the Conservatives?”
Asked whether the Lib Dems would rule out the move, Mr Clegg said:
“Child benefit rolled into the Universal Credit will not be in our manifesto because we are not planning the very, very extensive reductions in support given to the most vulnerable in our society that the Conservatives are.”
> But if anyone’s interested we’ll sell our souls again. Cheaply.
Pressed on whether it would be a measure he would block in coalition as a red line issue, Mr Clegg said:
“There’s no way the Liberal Democrats would ever endorse, of course not, in government or in opposition an approach which takes £1,500 away from eight million of the most vulnerable families in Britain.”
Source – Northern Echo, o7 Apr 2015
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
Part-time workers claiming Universal Credit face punitive in-work benefit sanctions, it has been reported today.
Universal Credit claimants in part-time employment could see their Housing Benefit slashed, if they fail to increase their working hours to 35 hours per week on the minimum wage, reports Inside Housing.
The trial, quietly introduced through secondary legislation, will affect around 15,000 new Universal credit claimants earning less than £12,000 a year.
Sanctions currently only affect unemployed people in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
If the trial is rolled out across the country, thousands of hard-working people could see their in-work benefits docked for the very first time.
> From one point of view this could be a good thing – because it will bring home to people who previously didn’t give a damn about, or even supported, benefit sanctions for the unemployed, just what is going on.
Universal Credit merges a number of existing benefits into one single monthly payment. This includes Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Income Support, JSA and ESA.
However, the Government’s flagship project has been beset by delays and problems with its IT systems. Official figures show 26,940 people were claiming Universal Credit by 11 December 2014.
The DWP is speeding up the roll-out of Universal Credit across Britain, in an apparent bid to prevent Labour from calling a halt to its introduction if they win the next general election.
> Labour could – and should – still scrap it if they win… but will they ?
Under the new mandatory pilot, which launches in April 2015, in-work Universal Credit claimants face the prospect of weekly sanctions – starting at around £29 per person.
Those affected by the trial will be offered ‘support’ from Jobcentre Plus to increase their pay and working hours. Failure to comply could result in sanctions.
> So just how do you increase your hours (unless you’re the boss) ? And its not much incentive to take a job like that if you know you’ll still be at the mercy of Jobcentre work coaches.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 11 Feb 2015
HMRC are to stop paying Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit to people claiming to the new Universal Credit, it has been revealed.
Previously, when people were moved to Universal Credit their tax credits accounts with the HMRC would remain open until the end of the tax year.
Tax credit payments will now form part of a households total Universal Credit award. Those who have not yet been moved (claiming) Universal Credit will continue to have their tax credits paid by the HMRC.
The changes, revealed in October’s issue of the DWP’s Touchbase magazine, come into force from this month (October) and will affect all existing and new Universal Credit claimants.
From this month, the HMRC will begin contacting affected claimants to inform them that their tax credit payments will stop, and give details on what they need to do.
The DWP say that claimants who are already getting tax credits do not need to contact the HMRC, while they wait for the changes to affect them. But they must report any changes in their circumstances as soon as possible, to ensure they receive the correct amount within the Universal Credit system.
People will be moved to Universal Credit ‘at different times’ depending on where they live, their circumstances and what benefits they are currently claiming. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith recently announced plans to accelerate the roll-out of Universal Credit across the UK.
Tax credits will eventually be scrapped to form part of Universal Credit, as will a number of existing benefits including Housing Benefit and Income Support.
The HMRC is also changing the way it recovers overpaid tax credits. People who have been overpaid tax credit, largely due to HMRC blunders or accidental claimant error, may have their tax credit award reduced to repay outstanding debts. Depending upon a person’s circumstances this may include one or more previous claims.
Those affected will receive letters from the HMRC informing them of the overpayments. The amount deducted from their tax credit award could be as much as 25%. Those who have already made an arrangement to repay with the HMRC will not be affected.
Touchbase also reveals that Atos and Capita have employed more staff to increase the number of assessments they do for the new disability benefit, Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
The reports used by assessors have also been improved, claim the DWP, and changes have been made to the PIP IT system. DWP say that PIP decision-makers have doubled their output since April 2014.
They also claim that disabled people will not have to wait more than 16 weeks for a PIP assessment by the end of 2014.
The news comes after charities and politicians raised concerns over a growing PIP assessment backlog.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 13 Oct 2014
Labour Party Press Release:
The Government has admitted Universal Credit could cost taxpayers an additional £750 million after failing to decide how free school meals will work alongside the crisis-hit programme.
Under the current system, eligibility for free school meals is decided by certain benefits received by families such as income support.
However because Universal Credit is set to replace existing benefits, including in-work benefits, and will be claimed by families not currently in receipt of free school meals, the Government must decide on new eligibility criteria.
Since 2011, Labour has consistently asked questions on the issue but the Tory-led Government has still not decided what the Free School Meals criteria will be despite repeated assurances.
Until it reaches a decision it has said that all children in households receiving Universal Credit will automatically be eligible for free school meals – which could result in an extra £750 million of government spending.
Chris Bryant MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform, said:
“Ministers have ignored warnings about Universal Credit and free school meals for years.
“Now they have admitted the cost of their incompetence could reach £750 million.
“David Cameron must urgently get a grip of this latest Universal Credit fiasco with threatens to cost taxpayers millions of pounds.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 25 June 2014
They might demand entry, but I’m certain they have no legal right.
You could draw a comparison with the TV Licence people (who, as a weirdo who doesn’t have a TV set, and therefore no TV licence, I’ve come to know very well…).
Their inspectors occasionally turn up unexpectedly and, upon being told I have no TV, demand to be allowed in to check for themselves.
To which the answer is – “Certainly, as soon as you come back with a search warrant and a policeman“, because that’s what they have to do – get a judge to issue a search warrant, and they must be accompanied by a copper.
Can’t see it’d be any different for a DWP official.
In today’s scary news, it has emerged that the DWP are claiming the right to enter the home of people in receipt of a variety of benefits, demand to see their ID and financial documents, and interrogate them for an hour or more. All without prior warning.
While the DWP have always had teams that investigate fraud – including spying on people through their windows from parked cars – the idea that they can select you at random and turn up unannounced appears to be new. What happens if you turn the DWP officer away is not stated. While the website says “You can reschedule your appointment if you need to” it also says “You won’t always get a letter in advance telling you about the visit.” Of course this is very likely to be backed up with the usual “you do not have to comply but…
View original post 384 more words
Hello, I thought I would let you know about various issues we have been having with the benefit system.
I am a 48-year-old who is very unwell. I suffer from Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy. It’s a cross between M.E and M.S and causes terrible pain all over my body. My mobility is very poor and I have had several operations on [my] stomach due to severe problems. I also suffer from I.B.S and have seizures.
Things have become so bad that my husband has had to give up work to care for me, because I cannot be left on my own for any length of time. I need help in doing most things.
I was called in for a medical [assessment] three years ago, which was cancelled twice as they did not have the staff. Once we were not told it was cancelled until we had got there. I got my Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), but then about eighteen months ago I was called in for yet another assessment.
I went to the Luton office as instructed to do so. On arrival, I was then told I would have to go as I was in my wheelchair and that if there was a fire I would not be able to get out of the building. The medical [assessment] office was on the top floor. When I was asked what I should do, and could they put something in writing to say I had attended, I was ‘tutted’ at and told to wait.
In all I was kept waiting for twenty minutes, to which I pointed out [that] they could have done some of my assessment in that time. I was advised to go home [and that] it had been noted I had attended, even though they would not give me anything there and then in writing. I would be sent another appointment and advice on what to do next.
Three days later a letter arrived giving me another appointment, but again is was for the same place. I called and explained [what had happened previously] and was told this was an error and not to go – another appointment would be sent.
Another letter arrived, but again stating to go back to the Luton office. It was a nightmare and caused a lot of upset and stress. In the end, a month later, I was sent an appointment to go to another office twenty miles away. I am pleased to say my claim was upheld.
But, I am sorry to say, that was not the last issue we have had. Last year I got another form to fill in for my ESA. My husband and I eventually [completed] the form and sent it off by recorded post (I have learnt not to send anything that cannot be traced). After two months I had [still] not heard anything, so I called them to find out what was going on. I was told they had received all my paperwork on July 18th 2013 and [that] I would hear back within the next two months. Again I waited [but] by end of October [I had still not] heard anything, so I called [them] again to be told they could not find anything. I was very upset, and yes angry, about this and pointed out that I had already been told it had been received on July 18th, All of a sudden it was found. I was told should hear [something] by the new year. [To date] I have had nothing back from them and as I am still getting my ESA I have [decided] not to rock the boat. I just hope no news is good news and [that] I carry on getting my benefits.
I was advised whilst all this was ongoing, that my husband was entitled to a little bit of Income Support. We applied, received a letter saying he would get about £8 a week paid monthly and advised to check to see if he was entitled to any back-pay. We did this and wish we had not. It led to a number of phone calls from the manager of Luton Jobcentre asking why we had passed things on to my MP. I told her I had done this as I was not getting anywhere in getting the money paid to my husband, which we had been told he was entitled too.
After a couple of days Alan [received] a payment but was told that there was no back pay. Again, I questioned this. Another very nasty call from Luton Job Centre, the manager again told us that we had caused a problem, to which I asked why, and got no proper answer.
She then said she was going to stop the income support that was going to Alan. I asked why and could she do that? To which she said she could, and would do it, and if we wanted to do anything about it we would have to stop our ESA claim and put in a joint claim for Income support, but it could take up to sixteen weeks and whilst it was being looked in to we would get no money. Well,.. of course we cannot do that, so we are losing out on the small amount of income support we should and did get for a short time. This seems very unfair. If we are entitled then we should get it, surely?
I dread a brown envelope coming through the door and am desperate and very worried about the changeover from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP). It’s already causing worry, stress and sleepless nights.
I do not know what we will do if it is stopped for any reason as I cannot go to work. I did not choose this, the [medical[ conditions chose me. I had a good job in a company I loved working for and I did not want to go on benefits.
Like many people, I am made to feel unworthy and nothing but a scrounger.
Sorry this is all a bit long-winded, but I feel [like] I wanted to get as much information down as possible. I know there are plenty [of] others that are in a worse situation because of benefits being withdrawn. My heart really goes out to them.
If, like us, you are deemed to have a spare room, that is another worry, upset and obstacle to cope with.
This government will not be happy until we have all starved, frozen to death or back in the workhouses of the Victorian era.
We have also had to go cap in hand twice to a food bank, and I often just have soup and 2 slices of toast in a day. I try to do my best, but things are so expensive and it is very hard. I feel terrible that my illness has such a negative knock-on effect on my husband and son, as many others do. I wonder if my family would be better off with out me?
Thank you very much for taking the time to read all of this.
Source – Welfare News Service, 17 May 2014
A benefits study in two Middlesbrough suburbs has revealed almost £100,000 of entitlements going unclaimed.
The project could now be rolled out across the town, ranked eighth across the country in the index of multiple deprivation, following the results of the ‘It’s your right to claim’ campaign.
Money experts spent a week in Coulby Newham and Hemlington in March when they spoke to 1,000 people which flagged up 52 potential new claims for help.
Along with a number of follow-up calls made to Middlesbrough Citizen Advice Bureau it is estimated that £93,200 in unclaimed benefits has been identified to assist these residents.
Councillor Tracy Harvey, Middlebrough Council’s executive lead for welfare reform, said: “It may well be that we have only scratched the service and we will now need to look at rolling this project out across Middlesbrough.
“This campaign is about removing any stigma attached to welfare and letting people know what their circumstances entitle them to.
“The amount of money we have found going unclaimed in such a short space of time is a real eye-opener and shows this is an important issue that we need to tackle.”
Latest statistics show 24 per cent of householders in the town claim disability benefit and 7.5 per cent are in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance.
John Daniels, Manager of Middlesbrough Citizen’s Advice Bureau, said: “Many people in Middlesbrough are finding it difficult to make ends meet.
“At a time when household expenses like gas and electricity seem to be constantly rising, it is important that local people receive all the income to which they are entitled. Campaigns like this are a useful way of ensuring that happens.”
> So that’s £93,200 in unclaimed benefits in just two areas of one town. Now extend this across the North East. Then across the rest of the UK…
Source – Northern Echo 02 May 2014
Single parents with children under the age of five face the threat of ‘punitive’ benefit sanctions, due to the introduction of tough new rules and over-stretched jobcentre’s, the charity Gingerbread has warned.
Jobcentre staff have been given new powers to remove benefits from single parents with young children in receipt of Income Support, otherwise known as sanctioning, should they fail to adhere to strict new requirements which may include attending more jobcentre appointments, participation in training programmes or work experience placements, depending on the age of their child(ren).
Gingerbread say the new rules ‘focus too heavily on sanctions’ in what the charity has described as a ‘tick box exercise’, rather than providing single parents with tailored support which would enable them ‘to get work ready’.
Failure to comply could result in single-parents having their Income Support payments cut by 20 per cent a week for an ‘indefinite period’. Sanctions will be lifted if and when those parents comply to the requirements imposed upon them or are able to prove their benefits should not have been cut in the first place.
Gingerbread claim that they are already hearing from single parents with children as young as six months who have wrongfully had their benefits sanctioned after being told they must begin looking for work.
The charity has drawn attention to the number of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants who have wrongfully been hit with benefit sanctions and are having those decisions overturned following appeal (nearly four in 10 or 38%). Gingerbread has expressed concerns that 423,000 single-parents in receipt of Income Support could be subjected to the same fate.
Gingerbread chief executive Fiona Weir said:
“Many single parents do want to work before their child reaches school age, some decide that’s not right for their family, and others have little choice financially. Whenever parents decide they’re ready to go to work, they should get support that helps them do just that; but we’re concerned that the new rules will become little more than a tick box exercise with punitive sanctions attached.
“We know that single parents are already often wrongly sanctioned and, based on the calls our helpline is already getting, we fear that this situation will only get worse as these new rules are introduced.”
Gingerbread have called on the coalition government to ensure that jobcentre staff fully understand the new rules to reduce the probability of single-parents wrongfully having their benefits slashed. They are also urging the government to consider investing in ‘voluntary tailored support and training for single parents’.
The Work and Pensions Select Committee has recently recommended that an independent review be carried out in order to determine whether some benefit claimants are having their payments docked inappropriately.
Referring to the use of benefit sanctions against JSA claimants, chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee Dame Anne Begg said:
“The number of JSA Sanctions are at a 12 month high, and probably the highest ever on record. Yet, we don’t even know if these Sanctions are working. There have been many examples of people being sanctioned and not knowing why. If the aim of a sanction is to change peoples’ behaviour then people need to know why their benefits have been stopped otherwise it is just a punitive punishment which is trying and save money.”
Source – Welfare News Service 29 April 2014
Unemployed lone parents could to be forced into mandatory unpaid work placements as part of fresh changes to benefits coming into force from the 28th April 2014.
Lone parents in receipt of Income Support who have a child between the age of 3-4 will be required to undertake ‘mandatory work related activity’ “to better prepare them for the full work-related requirements they will face when their child turns 5”.
The changes will also apply to lone parents in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ (WRAG) of the sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Local authority childcare schemes will be made available to allow the changes to come into effect and help free up lone parents to partake in the new requirements. Up to fifteen hours of free childcare will be available for those affected.
Income Support claimants with a child between the age of 1-4 will also be required to take part in work focused interviews at their nearest Jobcentre. The time and duration ‘will be tailored to the needs of the lone parent’.
Failure to comply with the changes – without good cause – could result in lone parents having their benefits cut or stopped completely (sanctioned). The level of the cut will begin at 20% but could increase to 100% for ‘further failures’. However, only one Income Support cut will be permitted in a two-week period.
It has also been announced this week that jobseeker’s who have been out of work for over three years, and who have already taken part in the government’s controversial Work Programme, will be required to undertake community work placements for up to 30 hours per week. They will also be expected to spend 10 hours per week looking for work.
The DWP has given the example of “clearing up litter and graffiti in local areas” which has previously been reserved for community volunteers and criminal offenders.
> Which is a pretty good indication of how our betters regard the unemployed – criminals who need to be punished. For their own good, you understand…
My contention is that if you have to work for benefits, then they are no longer benefits – they’re wages, and wages below the National Minimum Wage at that.
In this instance, failure to comply will result in jobseeker’s having their benefits cut for four weeks which could extend to several months for repeat offenders.
New Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants will also have to wait 7 days before they become entitled for the unemployment benefit.
We have been informed that once a lone parent with a child over the age of 3 ‘volunteers’ for participation in the government’s ‘Work Programme’, that participation then becomes ‘mandatory’.
Source – Welfare News Service, 02 April 2014