Tagged: Job Seekers Allowance

Stockton Benefits Street participant regrets decision to take part

A participant in the new series of Benefits Street filmed in Stockton says he regrets his decision to take part in the show.

The second series of the controversial Channel 4 show will be screened this month after being filmed on Kingston Road, on the Tilery estate.

Lee Nutley is one of six main characters followed in the six-part series, but  after watching the first episode earlier this week the 42-year-old is convinced he made the wrong decision.

“If I could take it all back I think I probably would,” said Lee, 42. “It took months for the producers to convince me to take part. And I only really did because some of my family were already in it.”

It’s only been two days since the show premiered in London but Lee, who has been claiming Job Seekers Allowance for the past year, said he already feels like a “local celeb” in his home town.

“I went to Stockton earlier and people were stopping me in the street. Mainly people I know shouting ‘Lee, you’re famous now mate’ and stuff like that.

“But this is not why I went on the show.

“I don’t plan to become some big celebrity and earn loads of money.

“As far as I’m concerned you don’t need money to be happy, and us lot being filmed here will prove it.”

Lee, who will appear alongside his mum Chrissie who lives nearby, added that his life is “totally different” to how it was a year ago when filming was taking place.

He said: “I’m in a much better place now. I was on anti-depressants when the cameras were here and my epilepsy is under control now. I’m just waiting for one more test and once I’ve got the all clear I’ll be straight back to work.

“I’ve worked all my life and I plan on getting back to it. If people think I want to sit on my backside on £45 a week, they are very wrong.”

Lee, who has lived on the Tilery estate for about 30 years, admits he is very “self critical” of his appearance on the show.

He said: “I’m not worried about what the viewers will think of me. Everyone has said I come across really well, but I hate watching myself.”

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Chronicle, 01 May 2015

Stockton Borough Council brands benefit sanctions as “cynical” and call on Government for urgent review


An impassioned debate over claims that strict sanctions on benefits claimants are causing severe poverty ended with Stockton Borough Council passing a motion criticising Government policy.

The motion called for a review of the Department for Work and Pensions‘ (DWP) sanctions where benefits claimants, including those on Job Seekers Allowance, who miss an appointment or is late can be left without any money at all for five to six weeks.

Several councillors speaking at the authority’s full council meeting said they had examples of where the policy was being used “unfairly” while deputy leader Jim Beall branded it as a “deliberate, cynical measure” to alter the unemployment statistics.

However Conservative councillor Andrew Stephenson argued against the motion saying the sanctions helped people back to work.

The motion concluded:

“The Council resolves to write to our MPs requesting that they raise this deplorable situation with the responsible Minister urging an immediate review of national policy and guidance on sanctioning.”

Council leader Bob Cook told of a case where a young man got a letter informing him of a morning appointment but didn’t receive it until the afternoon and lost his benefit.

 Cllr Michael Clark said he knew of a case where a claimant lost benefit for attending the funeral of a grandparent.

Meanwhile Cllr Norma Stephenson said she knew of 19 families on the Hardwick estate who had been sanctioned while Cllr Barry Woodhouse cited the case of a Billingham resident who lost her disability benefit for having zero points, only for a review to say she had 33 points.

Cllr Eileen Johnson said she had a friend working for the DWP who told her staff had been in tears “because they can’t bear what they are doing.”

> But they carry on doing it nevertheless…

Cllr Norma Wilburn said she had heard a national story on the radio about an amputee who had lost his benefit because he couldn’t answer the phone. She said: “This seems like a coordinated attack on the vulnerable. This is evil.”

Cllr Mark Chatburn, Ukip, said the policy was “deliberate” and “the epitome of nasty.

> This from the representive of a party who’s members have called for the unemployed to be denied the vote and banned from owning cars.

 But Conservative councillor Andrew Stephenson pointed out that people in work who didn’t turn up or were late could get sacked. He said: “The state now looks to get people off benefits and back into work. There are 50,000 people who have recently left the unemployment register.”
> No, The state now looks to get people off benefits  by any means, and bugger the consequences.

The motion was passed and Stockton’s two MPs, Alex Cunningham, Labour, and James Wharton, Conservative, will be contacted by the council.

Source –  Northern Echo,  22 Jan 2015

Benefit sanctions drive Newcastle families to payday lenders

Families are being forced into taking payday loans to cope with benefit delays, a city advice group has warned.

Newcastle Citizens Advice Bureau says the region has seen a 206% increase in the number of Job Seeker’s Allowance cases in just one year after Government rules came in which see benefits stopped as punishment for not finding a job.

While ministers say they want to force people to take job hunting seriously, the bureau says the strict new regime is having a different impact.

Shona Alexander, chief executive of Newcastle CAB, said that the longer minimum sanction period – when people are left without the financial support of their benefit – is having a counter-productive effect.

Claimants are distracted from job hunting as they focus on putting food on the table and keeping a roof over their head.

She added: “We see people here every day who have had their benefits sanctioned and who are desperate for money.

“They are often forced into the hands of payday lenders, which only make things worse.

“Sanctions often have a negative effect on our clients’ mental health. Being sanctioned can actually put someone further away from the workplace.

“They’re so busy trying to put food on the table and worrying about debts that they can’t look for a job.

“Some people don’t even know when they’ve been sanctioned, so by the time the money stops there’s no time for emergency budgeting, challenging the sanction or applying for hardship payments.

“For the first week they’ll struggle to get by, scraping up every penny.

“The second week they might borrow from family or friends, but by the third week they are desperate, and that’s when they come to us.”

In the North East, around 13% of those seeking work have had their benefits docked as a punishment for mistakes such as turning down an interview.

The extra pressure and financial burden caused by sanctions means parents struggle to put food on the table, pushing people further into debt and impacting upon their health.

The Government has previously defended the move, with employment minister Esther McVey saying: “Sanctions are used as a deterrent. The vast, vast majority of people don’t get sanctions.

“When you get Job Seeker’s Allowance – there’s a clue there in the name, job seeker’s allowance – you are paid that to make sure you are doing all you can do to get a job.”

More than £7m is thought to have been spent on appeal tribunals.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle  22 April 2014

Nice to know ….

Good to know ! Another point to make, perhaps, is wherever possible to use local Credit Unions instead of banks. Although I don’t think you can have benefits paid into them ? Not into mine, anyway.

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

There is an Act of Parliament which over-rides banks taking charges from your account if you are in receipt of any of the following benefits.

• Income Support
• Tax Credits
• Child Benefit
• Job seekers allowance
• Incapacity benefit
• Disability living allowance
• Attendance Allowance
• CSA payments
• Other DWP payments.

These social security benefits are granted to stop hardship and are designed to meet basic day to day needs, and are exempt and are protected under the Social Security Administration Act 1992 sub section 187. from arrestment in terms of section 187 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 (see Enforcement of Civil Obligations in Scotland, Scottish Executive report, at paragraph 5.245).

Section 45 of the Tax Credits Act 2002 Chapter 21 part 1 is an identical provision to the said section 187 of the 1992 Act. This stipulates that the banks can not apply…

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The Perils Of Zero-Hour Contracts

On the face of it, the headline in yesterday’s Sunderland Echo –

Sunderland benefit cheat claimed £5,000

– looks pretty much like a cut-and-dried case.  As the Echo put it – ” A man working on a zero-hour contract fell foul of the law when he continued to claim unemployment benefits – conning taxpayers out of more than £5,000.”

Steven Wardell claimed £5,266 in job seekers’ allowance, housing and council tax benefits he was not entitled to and  was caught after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) received a tip-off that he had been working for Velocity Driver Hire since October 2010.

Wardell pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances to the authorities spanning a period of almost two years.

However, the defence put by his soliciter  stands as a pretty good warning to anyone contemplating taking a zero-hour contract job…

“The original claim made by Mr Wardell was a legitimate claim for job seekers’ allowance,” defence solicitor Gavin Sword said.

“The problem here is that thereafter he works intermittently. It’s one of those zero-hour contracts. He only works when work is available.

“In 2008 he had been on benefits. He worked for 18 hours. He notified the DWP of that and was signed off benefits. It then took just over 11 weeks before benefits were reinstated.

During that period of time he finds himself in the county court for non-payment of debt. He finds himself in quite a bad situation.

“He cannot face another 11 weeks without benefits. He is thinking ‘how am I going to pay my rent and keep the wolf from the door?’ as it were.

“He now accepts the over-payment. However, there were during that period of time some weeks when he didn’t work at all and he was fully entitled to benefits.

“During that period of time he says he on average worked 14.5 hours per week. The maximum he received when working a full week was £240. He was certainly not living beyond his means. He was struggling to get by.”

Wardell was handed a 12-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work. He was told to pay £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge. The DWP will seek to recover the full amount of the overpayment from him.

Victim surcharge ? Who to, the DWP ? There’s ironic…

It’s exactly because of the potential for  this kind of situation developing that I wouldn’t touch a zero-hour contract job with a bargepole. Forget the dignity of labour and all that crap –  for most people jobs like these are far worse than no job at all.

If people refused point-blank to do them, perhaps the employers involved would start offering more realistic terms.

Source – Sunderland Echo, 22 Jan 2014


The Deputy Mayor’s New Clothes

Sunderland City Council may have had to close libraries in this great age of austerity, but it’s good to learn that some important expenditures are safe.

The council’s cabinet has approved an increase of the deputy mayor’s allowance, from 3,827  to 5,735 pounds.

To put that in to some kind of context, someone receiving just the basic Jobseekers Allowance will get 3,728 pounds a year.

And he’s not even the mayor – just the deputy.

For the record (and I have to admit I didn’t know) the current deputy mayor is one Stuart Porthouse (Lab), St. Chad’s ward.who says –

“I think I’m like all other councillors. When you offer to become deputy mayor, the allowance is the last thing you think about.

“I don’t think people realise that, as deputy mayor, you have to represent the city at functions, and if you are invited to a mayoral event, you have to pay for it yourself. That didn’t use to be the case. For example, I’m going to the Newcastle mayor’s Christmas function. That is going to cost 60 pounds.

“There are a number of mayoral events at this time of year. I’ve supported the mayor of South Shields at charity events and the mayor of Stockton.

“The allowance that I get has to cover a number of things. You have to buy extra suits and also clothes for the deputy mayoress, so it goes towards that. Then you have to buy all the raffle tickets, and if you want a glass of wine or a pint of beer, you have to pay for that yourself.”

It’s a hard life, isn’t it ? Having to buy your own drinks and raffle tickets, just like ordinary people. Why, though, do you need all the extra suits (which you presumably keep), why does the wife need to be clothed at taxpayer’s expense ? Dont either of you have any clothes of your own ?

Do we really need a deputy mayor at all ?  If he’s attending all these jollies (albeit having to buy his own drinks) where is the actual mayor ?

Come to think of it, who is the actual mayor ? I’ve got no idea. That’s how important the office of mayor is in my life.

Unison regional organiser Helen Metcalf wasn’t very impressed either –

“While the actual amount in real terms isn’t huge…”

No ?  In real terms it’s more than some people have to live on – and pay Council Tax  from – for a whole year. Sorry, Helen, please do continue –

“…it is more the principle that  Unison strongly disagrees with – to see a 50% increase when 110million pounds has to be cut from council budgets over the next three years, and that on the back of 100million pounds already cut.

“Considering Sunderland, and the North East in general, has been one of the worst hit regions for cuts, the deputy mayor really should set more of an example.”

Yes, we’re all in it together…

Punishing Poverty – Sanctions & Their Impact

Punishing Poverty ?  A Review Of Benefits Sanctions & Their Impacts On Clients & Claimants  is the title of a report by the Manchester Citzens Advice Bureau  but it, and its conclusions, would, I suspect, apply equally to the North East…


Benefits sanctions are financial penalties that are given to claimants who are deemed to have not met the necessary conditions for claiming benefit.

Although the Government has, in the past, denied that there are official targets for the number of sanctions that are made, Greater Manchester CABx had become concerned about

• The number of clients they were seeing who had sanctions against them

• The reasons for the sanctions being made

• The fact that clients did not appear to be receiving the correct notifications about their sanctions, why they had been made, or how to appeal against them

• The proposals from the Government to increase the duration of sanctions up to a maximum of three years.

They decided to conduct some research in to these issues, and look at how claimants who were already on very restricted incomes coped with the further reductions made. This report summarises the survey findings.


The full report can – and should – be read here-