Tagged: Lancashire

Bedroom Tax Victim Forced To Live In A Tent Loses All His Toes To Frostbite

A 32 year-old homeless victim of the hated Bedroom tax had to have all his toes amputated after being forced to spend winter living in a tent, it has been reported today.

Mitchell Keenan, from Skelmsdale in West Lancashire, was rushed to hospital by family members after being discovered with severe frostbite.

Mr Mitchell and his 62 year-old father Keith were evicted from their four-bedroom home after falling behind on rent repayments, due to being hit by the government’s bedroom tax.

Keith has since been diagnosed with a range of serious health problems including scabies, dementia and malnutrition.

His sister Dawn Doyle, 54, tried to find emergency accommodation for the two men “but nowhere would take them”, she said.

Dawn told the Liverpool Echo:

“It’s absolutely outrageous what has happened to my brother and nephew.

“They lived in their home for thirty years and got into difficulty last year.

“They both have neurological conditions and disabilities and kept missing job interviews, so the problem got worse and worse.

Unable to find suitable accommodation, Dawn was eventually forced to buy her brother and nephew a tent.

Dawn says she was unable to house her relatives due to disabilities and being a single parent, but added that she had provided the men with food parcels from a local food bank.

“I felt awful that I couldn’t take them in, but I’m a single parent, with my own disabilities and I just knew I couldn’t cope.

“I tried my best for them and contacted so many different organisations, but just kept getting turned away.

“Social Services said they couldn’t come and assess them because they were in a tent – it was just farcical.

“When we saw Mitchell’s toes we were horrified, that this can happen to people in the 21st century is disgusting.”

“In July they lost their home and I tried everywhere to get them accommodation but nowhere would take them.

“The bedroom tax is an awful thing, it’s affecting people’s lives all over the country and needs to be repealed.”

West Lancashire Borough Council has now provided Mitchell Keenan with temporary accommodation, while his father Keith has been given supported housing.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said the men “continue to be supported through benefits and by jobcentre staff”.

They added: “We have given their local council hundreds of thousands of pounds to support vulnerable people through our housing benefit reforms”.

Source – Welfare Weekly, 27 Apr 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/bedroom-tax-victim-forced-to-live-in-a-tent-loses-all-his-toes-to-fostbite/


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Average Teesside home is worth £25k LESS than it was five years ago

The average homeowner in parts of Teesside has lost £25,000 off the value of their house since the coalition came to power in 2010 – while prices in London have soared.

Exclusive analysis of Land Registry data show the average house price in Redcar and Cleveland has dropped by 21.3% since May 2010, the date of the last election.

The average price is now £92,785 – or £25,134 LESS than it was then.

Only two places in the country – Merthyr Tydfil (down 27.1%) and Blackpool (down 24.9%) – have seen a bigger percentage fall.

In Middlesbrough, prices are down 6.6% since May 2010.

That means the average property is worth £5,904 less now than then.

And Stockton-on-Tees has seen a 2.6% fall, equivalent to £2,944.

Across England and Wales as a whole, house prices have actually gone up by 10.8% since May 2010, with the average property worth £17,595 more than it was then.

Across England and Wales as a whole, house prices have risen by 10.8% since May 2010.

The biggest increases have all been in London – with the 29 top-rising areas all in the capital.

Top of the list is Hackney, where house prices are up 76.3%.

The average house is now worth £634,045 – or £274,491 more than it was five years ago.

In the City of Westminster, meanwhile, the average price is up £464,941 from £610,767 to £1.07m.

When London is taken out of the equation, Tory-run areas seem to have done markedly better than those controlled by other parties.

Ten of the 20 ‘non-London’ areas that have seen the biggest rises are held by the Conservatives, with nine in no overall political control and just one – Slough – held by Labour.

Tory Wokingham (up 25.7%), Hertfordshire (up 24.6%) and Surrey (up 24.6%) have seen the biggest rises outside London.

By contrast 19 of the 20 areas to have seen the biggest falls in house prices are run by Labour.

The only one that isn’t is Lancashire (down 13.6%) – which is in no overall control.

Source – Middlesbrough Gazette, 13 Apr 2015

South Tees Health trust advertises for 11 new roles – days after telling 40 staff their jobs are to go

Eleven new finance jobs worth at least £400,000 have been advertised at a health trust – days after nearly 40 staff in the same department were told their jobs are to go.

The move has angered the workers facing redundancy, who today described it as “just another smack in the face”.

If the 11 new staff were appointed at the bottom of the pay scale their wages would still cost South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust nearly £400,000 a year.

At the top end the wages would be closer to half-a-million pounds.

Most of the jobs were advertised on the website jobs.nhs.uk just days after 37 payroll workers were told their roles were being “outsourced” to Lancashire.

As reported, the shock news – two days before Christmas – left staff reeling.

One staff member said: “We are mad that jobs are going from Teesside.

“Our area suffers enough and it’s the knock-on effect for our families.”

Trust chiefs say the review of financial services is part of a programme to save £90m over three years – “that will eventually touch all areas of the organisation”.

From April 2015 services provided by the trust’s payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable teams will move to East Lancashire Financial Services, part of Calderstone Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Among the 11 new positions now being advertised in the trust’s finance department are a head of financial management on £65,922-£81,618 per annum, head of financial governance and control, also on £65,922- £81,618, and financial controller on between £39,239-£47,088.

One of the payroll staff, who asked to remain anonymous, said:

We all feel appalled and let down by the way we have been treated.

“The timing of advertising the positions in finance is just another smack in the face.

“How can the trust possibly justify this sort of spending at a time when it is in such deficit and other departments trust-wide are being told job losses are inevitable?”

Payroll staff will be subject to TUPE transfer, under which they would keep certain employment rights, to East Lancashire Financial Services, say the trust.

But chief executive, Professor Tricia Hart said:

“The board recognises that moving may not be a viable option for some staff.

“In those cases the trust will work with individual staff members to look for alternative roles at South Tees, in line with the trust’s policies.”

Responding to the job adverts a South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust spokeswoman said:

“The trust is working hard to achieve a number of savings plans and financial initiatives which have been developed to ensure the organisation makes the required savings over the next three years.

“In order to achieve these plans it is crucial that financial support is available. We have looked at our current structure and are recruiting to essential posts.

“In line with our savings plans any posts which are not essential will be removed from our structure.”

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 03 Jan 2015

Hospital trust tells staff nearly 40 jobs are to go – two days before Christmas

Nearly 40 Middlesbrough hospital staff were told two days before Christmas that their jobs are being “outsourced” to Lancashire.

The shock news has left workers reeling in the payroll department at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Trust chiefs say the review of financial services is part of a programme to save £90m over three years – “that will eventually touch all areas of the organisation”.

From April, 2015 services provided by the trust’s payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable teams will move to East Lancashire Financial Services, part of Calderstone Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Over the last three months the 37 full and part-time staff in those teams have had weekly meetings with managers about the review.

They received confirmation yesterday of the trust board’s decision to move the services to another NHS provider.

Staff effected will be subject to TUPE transfer, under which they would keep certain employment rights, to East Lancashire Financial Services, say the trust.

But chief executive, Professor Tricia Hart said:

“The board recognises that moving may not be a viable option for some staff.

“In those cases the trust will work with individual staff members to look for alternative roles at South Tees, in line with the trust’s policies.”

She added: “It is never a good time to make decisions that have a major impact on lives of staff, and we would not normally want to make such an announcement so close to Christmas.

“However in our discussions with staff over the last three months they have made it clear they wanted to know about any decision on the future of their services as soon as it was made.

“We will now be working on the detail of the contract with East Lancashire Financial Services over the coming months, and during that period we will support the staff affected by the change, having one-to-one discussions with individuals as well as team meetings to keep them up to date with details of the outsourcing process.”

Prof Hart said, in making the decision, the board “did give detailed consideration to a proposal put forward by staff to keep the services in-house, but unfortunately it did not offer the same benefits as the outsourcing option.”

A staff member said:

“We are mad that jobs are going from Teesside. Our area suffers enough and it’s the knock-on effect for our families.

“It’s only two days before Christmas.

“There’s a TUPE situation, but they will probably do that to get out of paying us redundancies.

“People are not going to take their families to East Lancashire.

“It’s been in the pipeline since early September – and they’ve waited until now to tell us officially.

“We said we could match them, so it wouldn’t cost any more and they wouldn’t outsource but they’ve gone for outsourcing.

“They haven’t treated us fairly. Everyone is really upset, especially when you see the big wigs getting their salary increases, then staff losing their jobs the next week.”

The trust says the outsourcing option will also free up space at The James Cook University Hospital to allow IT staff to move back on site from Eggleston Court in Middlesbrough, saving money on rented accommodation.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette,  24 Dec 2014

Welfare Sanctions Make Vulnerable Reliant On Food Banks, Says YMCA

This article  was written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Thursday 13th November 2014

The YMCA, the UK’s oldest youth charity, has warned the government that its changes to welfare policy are driving vulnerable young people to become reliant on food bank handouts rather than preparing them for jobs.

About 5,000 young people were referred by YMCAs to food banks last year, it said in a report, with benefit sanctions cited as the main reason for what it called a “significant increase” in the number of clients falling into food poverty.

The YMCA accused ministers of having their “heads in the sand” over welfare changes and they must urgently fix flaws in the benefits system that leave an increasing number of young people penniless.

The charity, which has 114 branches in England, works with care leavers and youngsters who have left home to escape abuse or family breakdown. The majority of those referred to food banks were people living in special supported accommodation.

Denise Hatton, YMCA England chief executive, told the Guardian:

For me, the benefit system is there to support the most vulnerable people. We are in touch with young people and we know the system which is there to protect them is failing them, and the government must want to do something about that.”

She said the government could no longer ignore the way jobcentres were treating vulnerable young people.

“The welfare system was set up to protect and provide a safety net for those individuals in their time of need and so that no one would be left without money to be able to afford food. However, our evidence shows it is failing in this role.

“It is unacceptable in this day and age that anyone should have to rely on the kindness of strangers in order to eat.”

The YMCA’s criticisms of a rigid “tick box” approach to benefits that imposes strict punishments for infringements but fails to meet the needs of individuals with complex needs echoes the findings of the government-commissioned Oakley review of sanctions, published in July, which said the system placed disproportionate burdens on the most vulnerable.

Ministers have persistently rejected claims that the rise in referrals to food banks has been driven by sanctions and delays in benefit payments, but Hatton said the link was incontrovertible.

I have been in this kind of work for 30 years, working with young people on the ground, and I have never known it like this.”

The charity said a lack of flexibility in jobcentre culture and practice meant the benefits system was unable to respond to the challenges faced by youngsters who had chaotic lifestyles or learning difficulties.

Jobcentre staff focused on pushing claimants into intensive work-search activity such applying for jobs and completing CVs, even when young people were emotionally unprepared for work. When they failed to meet these tough conditions they were punished by having their benefits stopped, with the effect that they were left further from the job market.

The YMCA cites the case of Joshua, 21, from Nelson, Lancashire, who was sanctioned after attending one of its residential courses designed to prepare him for volunteering. Although he told the jobcentre about the course and provided evidence it would help him find a job, he was sanctioned for having missed an appointment and had his jobseeker’s allowance stopped for three months.

Joshua said:

“I went three months living on food parcels from the local mosques and the church, which was really degrading because you lose all your dignity. The assistance I got was purely from the YMCA and Stepping Stones [a housing charity], other than that I think I would have starved.”

The YMCA said:

We are fortunate to live in a country where people and communities give so charitably. However, relying upon this goodwill and other organisations to pick up the pieces should not be seen by the government as a substitute to fixing a welfare system that is driving many young people into hardship rather than employment.”

Although jobcentres are able in theory to offer hardship payments to vulnerable and penniless claimants who have been sanctioned, the YMCA says one in four of its clients said they were not told of this potential source of support, while even fewer knew they could apply to their local councils’ welfare assistance scheme for crisis help.

Even where they did know this help was available, however, many youngsters were deemed ineligible, with nearly a third of YMCAs referring clients to food banks because they had been turned down for hardship payments or crisis loans.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show that the proportion of young people having their payments stopped for alleged infringements has doubled since tighter conditions were applied to unemployment benefit claims in October 2012.

The YMCA says in its report:

“While there is recognition among YMCAs and young people that conditionality is an important element of any benefit system, the way it is being administered and the focus on punishing perceived ‘bad behaviour’ over rewarding those doing the right thing is having a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of young people.”

A DWP spokesman said:

“There is no robust evidence that our reforms are linked to increased use of food banks and these claims are based on anecdotal evidence. “The reality is benefit processing times are improving and we continue to spend £94bn a year on working age benefits to ensure there is a strong safety net in place.”

Source –  Welfare Weekly,  13 Nov 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/welfare-sanctions-make-vulnerable-reliant-food-banks-says-ymca/

UK’s Poorest Regions Worst Off Among Northern European Countries

 

Source: Inequality Briefing - Twitter
Source: Inequality Briefing – Twitter

The poorest regions in the UK are by far the poorest in all of Northern Europe and much more unequal, figures suggest.

Source –  Welfare News Service,  22 Aug 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/uks-poorest-regions-worst-among-northern-european-countries/

Universal Credit: Housing Benefit Claimants Told To Pay Rent A Month In Advance

Housing Associations have told tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit to pay their rent a month in advance, due to growing fears over Universal Credit.

Housing providers fear that tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit may default, or fall behind on their rent payments when they are transferred (moved) to Universal Credit, which is replacing six existing benefits and rolling them into one single monthly payment.

Housing Benefit is currently paid directly to social landlords in the majority of cases. Under the new Universal Credit system, housing support will be paid directly to the claimant.

Those claimants will then be expected to manage their own housing costs – a month in advance. In the minority of cases where a claimant may not be able or capable of managing their own housing costs, rent payments may still be paid directly to housing providers.

Six Town Housing based in Bury, Lancashire, has told its tenants that “you need to make additional rent payments now if you are affected by the introduction of universal credit. Otherwise, you are at risk of your rent account falling into rent arrears.”

The Town and Country Housing Association, who manage social housing properties across 22 local authorities, is asking its tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit to pay an extra £14.60 every month, until they are a month in credit. “This will ensure that when you transfer to universal credit you will not be in arrears which could put your tenancy at risk,” the Housing Association said.

Town and Country also refused to reimburse a tenant who had wrongly been asked to pay the controversial ‘bedroom tax’. The tenant was owed £362, however the Housing Association said it would be in the “best interests” of the tenant for the over-paid rent amount to remain on their account.

Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice’s chief executive, told the Guardian newspaper:

It’s for householders to manage their finances, not landlords or housing associations. There’s a difference between advising people to be financially prepared and doing it for them, and it would be concerning if the latter were the case.”

Source –  Welfare News Service,  17 Aug 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/universal-credit-housing-benefit-claimants-told-pay-rent-month-advance/

300,000 Unemployed People Each Month Face ‘Five Week Wait’ For Benefits, New Research Shows

New research published  by the TUC reveals the future impact of a controversial new welfare reform – the five-week wait – on workers in North West England, with 39,000 newly unemployed people set to be hit each month.

Currently most workers who lose their job have to wait two weeks before they get their first benefit payment. But under new Universal Credit rules for assessing unemployment claims, most people will face a wait of more than five weeks before they get any money. This could mean going two months into rent arrears before any cash support arrives.

Across the UK, almost 300,000 people will be hit each month by the five-week wait. Despite this, recent polling by YouGov for the TUC has revealed that fewer than one in seven people (13 per cent) say they have heard of the plans. Seven out of ten people (70 per cent) say that they would be worried when asked to imagine losing their job and not being entitled to receive any benefit payments for five weeks. More than half (52 per cent) say it makes them think less favourably of the government’s welfare reforms.

The TUC’s new research reveals the monthly average number of newly unemployed people broken down by region, local authority (county and unitary) and constituency. This indicates how many people can be expected to be hit by the five-week wait when Universal Credit replaces workers’ current safety net benefits.

Across the region, Lancashire is the most affected local authority where over 5,000 people each month are expected to be hit by the five-week wait, in Manchester more than 3,600 people will be affected whilst in Liverpool just under 3,500 people will be affected.

These local authorities are amongst the biggest affected in the UK, ranked 4th, 9th and 11th respectively. The DWP’s own analysis suggests that the measure may increase claimants’ reliance on short-term loans.

The TUC has launched a new campaign, Saving Our Safety Net, to highlight the five-week wait and other welfare reforms that cut safety net protection for working people.

North West TUC Regional Secretary Lynn Collins said:

We know workers in the North West have suffered cuts in real earnings over the last 5 years, and will have relied on savings to get by, which means that many workers have no financial buffer if they lose their job. Help should be there when it is needed, but instead people will be left to rely on food banks and pay day loans to see them through the wait.

“Welfare reform is one thing but the five week wait is a collective punishment for anyone who loses their job. People need to focus on finding new work, instead of being stressed-out about how they will pay the rent, feed the kids and keep the heating on.

“Job security has got worse since the recession. Government ministers are out of touch and fail to understand the anxiety many people feel not knowing if they’ll still have work next month. If your job goes, the five-week wait puts you at greater risk of a downward spiral where you’re trapped in debt, lose your home, become ill from the stress and fall too far to climb back again.

“With these escalating bills, worsening job security and only a limited recovery in the jobs market, a 5 week wait could easily push many more families into poverty through no fault of their own. These people have paid for, and deserve, a safety net.

“We are launching the Saving Our Safety Net campaign to expose government welfare plans for what they are – cuts to the National Insurance safety net we’ve all paid into on the understanding that it will be there when we need it.”

Source – Welfare News Service 07 Aug 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/unemployed-people-each-month-face-five-week-wait-for-benefits/