Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit could spark a ‘substantial increase’ in the number of Britain’s poorest people hammered by benefit sanctions, according to a leading think tank.
Punitive and spurious benefit sanctions have become common place over recent years, with the poorest in society being pushed ever-further into poverty rather than supported and helped into work.
More than 686,000 desperate people saw their benefits slashed or removed in 2014, including 37,000 sick and disabled people claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).
Around 50% of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants referred for potential sanctioning in 2014 saw their benefit payments docked – an increase on previous years.
The ‘sanction rate’ in 2014 – the number of sanctions per month compared to the total number of claimants – stood at 5.1%, according to research from the New Policy Institute (NPI). This is a slight fall on 2013 levels, but still represents the second highest on record.
According to NPI’s research, a fall in the number of sanctions between 2013 and 2014 was mainly due to a reduction in JSA claimants and not because of ‘the system becoming less harsh’.
More than a quarter of sanctioned JSA claimants were disabled or lone parents, highlighting a lack of understanding and compassion for the ‘hardest to help’.
David Cameron’s plans to target benefit cuts at the young and vulnerable have come under fire from within his own party.
Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the health committee, said she did not support scrapping housing benefit for 18-to-21-year-olds, after the prime minister toured the television studios detailing some of the Tories’ proposals to cut another £12bn from the welfare budget.
In a series of interviews, Cameron repeated his pledge to lower the welfare cap from £26,000 to £23,000 per family alongside proposals to stop housing benefit for school-leavers. The cap was about a “basic issue of fairness”, he said.
“I don’t think a family should be able to get more in benefits than someone going out to work, working every day, and trying to do the right thing for them and their family,” he said.
> If anyone ever does get more in benefits than someone working (which I doubt) , perhaps it’d be because the wages they are earning are so poor, or they’re only working 16 hours a week.
But in any case, you can only play the hand you’ve got, so if it did happen that you’d get more on benefits than by working…why not ? Cameron & Co probably dodge paying more tax in a year than you’d claim.
“One of the criticisms of the cap set at £26,000, which I have heard all over the country, is that the cap was set too high. We’re responding to that.
“We’re generating these jobs. People listening to this programme don’t pay their taxes to sustain people on welfare who could work.”
> Well actually, yes they do – National Insurance, at least. When working I’ve never grudged paying NI (much) because I paid it in the belief that I could claim some of it back should I become unemployed, and also – and this is an important point – that it should go towards helping others unemployed even if I wasn’t.
He said the country was no longer willing to tolerate people living on welfare as “a lifestyle choice” and claimed Conservative plans would help “young people move into work more quickly”.
> A lifestyle choice ? And I thought it was a survival choice….the choice being survive or die.
However, his proposals on scrapping housing benefit for young people came under fire from Wollaston and a number of charities.
Wollaston, the Conservative MP for Totnes, told the BBC’s Daily Politics:
“That is a policy that I don’t actually support. The point is that there is a debate going forward, I would not support personally taking housing benefit from the most vulnerable. I would not personally support taking away housing benefit from the very young. I think because there is an issue here we need to discuss about intergenerational fairness … There are many policies within parties that we have a debate about.”
Tory peer Baroness Wheatcroft later added that the Conservatives need to “get the tone right” to make sure they sound sympathetic towards those who cannot work.
“I firmly believe there is only one nasty party and it’s a very nasty party called Ukip. What the Conservative party needs to do is to be careful that it does not appear to be in the least nasty, but kind and caring and wants people to work because it is the best possible solution to them as well as the country,” she told the World at One.
> HA HA HA HA HA ! Maybe you’d appear kind and caring if you were kind and caring. No-one who has been fucked over by the Tories is going to forget it.
The warnings came the day after academics from the LSE, Manchester and York published a new study showing the coalition’s cuts are disproportionately hitting families with young children.
Among the charities to issue warnings about the proposed benefit cap were the Child Poverty Action Group. Its chief executive, Alison Garnham, said:
“Let’s be absolutely clear – the benefit cap is at least nine times more likely to affect children than adults, and the majority of adults it hits are lone parents, many of whom have children so young even the government recognises they should not be required to work.
> The parent or the children ? I only ask because the government making small children work just seems so likely…
“On the day that a major programme of research by academics from leading universities shows families with young children have been more impoverished than anyone else in recent years, we have another policy-push that would undercut the most vulnerable.”
Paul Noblet, head of public affairs at youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, weighed in on the issue of housing benefit, saying it would cause further misery for vulnerable young people.
“The 80,000 young people who find themselves homeless will think David Cameron is more focused on May’s elections than the reality that, for the most vulnerable young people in our society, housing benefit is a lifeline, not a lifestyle choice,” he said.
Source – The Guardian, 27 Jan 2015
Single parents participating in the Government’s flagship back-to-work scheme are being told to leave children as young as nine at home unsupervised in order to attend, according to a North-East MP.
Labour’s Jenny Chapman, the member for Darlington, told MPs some of her constituents undertaking the Work Programme had been to see her to raise their concerns about advice given to them.
Speaking during work and pensions questions in the Commons on Monday (December 8), she said:
“Single parents in the Work Programme in Darlington have been to see me because they are being told to leave their nine and ten-year-old children at home unsupervised during the school holidays to be able to attend.
“Will you urgently look into this and make sure that this foolish, dangerous, reckless advice is never given to parents?”
Employment minister Esther McVey said it was key to ensure the right support was being offered to lone parents.
She went on:
“Obviously, we work closely with charities like Gingerbread to ensure that when people are lone parents that actually the hours they have to work and the commitments they have to live up to are actually fit around their lifetime and also the children they are looking after.
“That is really key in offering the right support for those lone parents.”
This Work Programme aims to provide support, work experience and training for up to two years to help people find and stay in work.
It was launched in 2011 with the goal of helping 2.1 million people by March 2016.
In a leaflet explaining the Work Programme, published in December 2012, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), said those with young children would have their benefits protected.
“Benefit recipients will be expected actively to look for work, and where this is not possible to prepare for work – except for a few exceptional groups, for example those who are seriously disabled or have very young children.”
It added: “Some people with health problems… continue to receive incapacity benefits; lone parents with younger children and some other groups are eligible for Income Support.”
Source – Northern Echo, 08 Dec 2014
Scottish National Party (SNP) Media Release:
New figures obtained by the SNP have found a staggering increase in the number of people being hit by benefit sanctions at the hands of Westminster welfare reforms, further highlighting the need for a Yes vote and the full powers over welfare it would bring.
An answer to a Written Question from SNP MSP Kevin Stewart found that, since 2009, there has been a 65 per cent increase in the number of disabled people being sanctioned and a 76 per cent increase in women being sanctioned.
Lone parents have been hit the hardest, with a staggering 563 per cent increase in sanction since 2009.
Analysis from the Child Poverty Action Group has previously found that 100,000 more children in Scotland face being pushed into poverty by 2020.
Those hit by sanctions can have their benefits taken away for a fixed period of anything from a week to three years.
SNP MSP Kevin Stewart, who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee, said:
“These figures show a staggering increase in the number of people being hit by Westminster’s deeply unfair benefit sanctions. It is seriously worrying that lone parents are the hardest hit group with a 563 per cent increase since 2009 – this sets alarm bells ringing about the impact that this policy will be having on children across Scotland.
“The 65 per cent increase in disabled people being hit is also cause for major concern. The welfare system should be supporting and empowering people with disabilities, not making life more difficult for them.
“Women already bear the brunt of welfare cuts, with 69 per cent of planned cuts falling on them – these figures show that despite David Cameron’s attempts to appear to be taking action on equality, the number of women being sanctioned is up by three quarters.
“Evidence of Westminster’s failure on welfare grows by the day. We have already seen a four fold increase in the number of people relying on food banks as a result of Westminster’s obsession with dismantling the welfare state, and now the UK Government’s own report on Bedroom Tax – sneaked out during the reshuffle – finds more than half of those hit by Bedroom Tax are in arrears.
“The Scottish Government is doing what it can to mitigate the impact of welfare cuts, but with the full powers of independence we could do so much more. In an independent Scotland we can build a welfare state that empowers people, tackling poverty and helping to bring about the fairer Scotland we all want to see.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 18 July 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
Ha… and I’ve still not signed up for it. 🙂 This’ll be another good arguement – why sign up for something that’ll be phased out anyway ?
Universal Jobmatch was launched at huge cost towards the end of 2012 as a means of spying on unemployed people to ensure they are carrying out sufficient jobseeking activity. Changes to conditions for receiving benefits mean that in some cases unemployed claimants are expected to spend 35 hours a week looking for work. When Universal Credit is finally launched (stop laughing), millions more people, – including part time or self-employed workers, lone parents and disabled people – will also be expected to endlessly look for ‘more or better paid work’.
With Jobcentres already desperately over-stretched due to other reforms to social security, Universal Jobmatch was intended to be a ‘digital by default’ way of policing this new regime on the cheap. Iain Duncan Smith had…
View original post 446 more words
This article was written by James Meikle, for theguardian.com on Friday 21st February 2014
The government’s welfare shakeup has survived two legal challenges at the court of appeal after five disabled tenants failed in their attempt to get the bedroom tax declared unlawful and judges ruled against claims the £500-a-week cap on benefits violated the human rights of vulnerable families.
The decisions mean that central planks of Iain Duncan Smith’s benefits changes remain intact, although there may yet be further challenges at the supreme court.
The bedroom challenge questioned the legality of new “size criteria” regulations that have led to reductions in housing benefit payments to tenants in social housing assessed to be underoccupying their home. It was backed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Two lone parents and a child from each family challenged the benefit cap after being forced into temporary accommodation in London.
Campaigners say the welfare cuts are having a particularly harsh impact on women fleeing domestic violence, and on their children, threatening to trap them in abusive relationships.
Those challenging the bedroom tax vowed to continue their battle following the ruling. Ugo Hayter from law firm Leigh Day, representing two people with disabilities who argue that their second bedroom is essential, said lawyers were disappointed and baffled by the ruling.
“The court recognised that our clients and thousands of disabled people across the UK had a need for accommodation not provided for by the new housing benefit rules. However, the court decided that disabled tenants should not have their housing needs met on an equivalent basis to their able-bodied counterparts just because they are disabled.
“Instead disabled tenants are being forced to rely on short-term and discretionary payments. We are currently considering whether an appeal to the supreme court is possible. Our thoughts go out to the thousands of disabled tenants who continue to be faced with uncertainty, poverty and the risk of eviction.”
Anne McMurdie, of Public Law Solicitors, which is acting for three of the appellants, said: “The government has sought to make savings by targeting the most vulnerable in our society. On the government’s own figures at least 440,000 disabled households will lose out under the new regulations.
“There is compelling and growing evidence of the terrible adverse impact on disabled tenants, having to make the dreadful choice between paying the rent and buying food or heating their homes. Disabled tenants are not asking for extra funds, they are asking for housing benefit to be paid at a level which meets their needs – for the same right as others.”
Richard Kramer, deputy chief executive of Sense, the national deafblind charity, said the bedroom tax policy had been devastating for many disabled people. “Many have been found to have a so-called extra bedroom despite requiring it because of their disability, for example needing extra space to store disability-related equipment and for short-term carers.
“Many disabled people, including the deafblind people that Sense supports, have been pushed to breaking point. They are struggling with the transition from DLA [disability living allowance] to Pip [personal independence payment] and many are facing huge cuts to their social care, leaving them without the support they desperately need to live full and active lives,” said Kramer.
“Alongside other benefits being cut, housing benefit has been the final blow for many disabled people and can lead to serious financial hardship.”
A statement from the Department for Work and Pensions said:”Reform of housing benefit in the social sector is essential to ensure the long-term sustainability of the benefit. But we have ensured extra discretionary housing support is available for vulnerable people.”
On the issue of the cap, the statement said: “We are pleased that the courts have ruled again that the benefit cap complies with the European convention on human rights. The benefit cap sets a fair limit to what people can expect to get from the welfare system – so that claimants cannot receive more than £500 a week, the average household earnings.”
In the judgments, Lord Dyson said Duncan Smith was aware of the “serious impact” of the new criteria for housing benefit, which was why so much effort had been devoted to seeking a solution. He recognised the benefit cap would “cause hardship to some (possibly many) people who are on benefit” but the government recognised it might need modification.
> I suspect the only modification Duncan Smith has in mind is extending hardship from “some” people to the greatest number possible.
The cap in its present form reflected the political judgment of the government and had been endorsed by parliament after considerable debate. It was not up to the court to say whether it agreed with the judgment or not, he said.
Rebekah Carrier, of Hopkin Murray Beskine solicitors, representing two women who had fled violent marriages along with their children and were challenging the benefit cap, said the judges had not decided important issues of principle affecting the large numbers of women and children made homeless by domestic violence every year.
“The government promised to address this in April 2013, 10 months ago, but has failed to do so. The court recognised the problem and expressed concern about the government’s delay in addressing it, but they have abandoned many domestic violence victims to their fate until the government chooses to act,” said Carrier.
“That is not good enough for my clients, or for the many women who will face a stark choice about whether to stay with a violent partner, or flee and risk losing their home or being destitute.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 21 Feb 2014