Tagged: Lord Freud

Whistleblower predicts troubled start for new universal credit system

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Reposted from the Bolton News

The Bolton News: Elizabeth HouseElizabeth House

A WHISTLEBLOWER inside one of the government’s pilot centres for universal credit has warned how numerous errors will make a smooth introduction of the new system “highly unlikely”.

Staff at the service centre in Elizabeth House, Bolton town centre, have been involved in supporting the management of universal credit since it was piloted in Ashton-under-Lyne and Wigan last year.

Since then, a member of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, who has asked not to be named, told The Bolton News that employees have been leaving their jobs “in droves” after facing huge pressure to make an unworkable system fit for purpose.

Other issues included glitches with the computer system and inadequate training with staff only able to process a fraction of the claims they could under the old system.

The spokesman said: “The union has had to deal with more personal…

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Tory Minister Admits Link Between Welfare Cuts And Food Banks

Scottish National Party (SNP) Press Release:

After months of denial, a UK [Conservative Party] Minister has finally admitted there is a link between Westminster welfare cuts and the increase in food bank use across Scotland.

 Giving evidence to the Welfare Reform Committee in the Scottish Parliament, Under Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell* said there “isn’t any doubt” that some people have been forced to go to food banks “because they have been subject, for example, to sanctions or delays in receiving benefits.

The evidence the committee heard today is in stark contrast to evidence given to the committee by DWP director Neil Couling, who said that growing reliance on food banks was a result of the poorest people in society having to “maximise their economic choices”. This was later backed up by Employment Minister Esther McVey in a letter to Housing Minister Margaret Burgess.

Work and Pensions Minister Lord Freud has also previously claimed there was no link between Tory welfare cuts and soaring food bank use.

During the committee meeting, David Mundell also said he wanted the UK Government to produce an analysis of the use of food banks – something that has not yet been carried out, despite evidence from the Trussell Trust that reliance on food banks has grown 400 per cent in the past year.

The Trust’s figures also show that 22,387 children in Scotland used food banks in 2013/14 alone – an increase of over 1000 per cent since 2011/12.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael – who previously described the UK welfare system as “fantastic” – was scheduled to appear at the committee, but cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice.

SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing, who sits on the Welfare Reform Committee, said:

While it is welcome that a UK Government Minister has finally faced up to the fact that Westminster’s attack on welfare is responsible for the growing number of people forced to rely on food banks, this admission is long overdue. For months, Westminster has ducked responsibility and tried to blame the poor for the devastating impact cuts to benefits are having.

“David Mundell has said he would like to see a UK Government analysis on food banks – something that has not yet been produced, despite the fact reliance on food banks has grown 400 per cent. Given we now have 22,387 children in Scotland relying on food banks for a square meal, we desperately need a change of direction.

“Scotland is brimming with resources and talent – and is richer per head than the UK, France and Japan – but while it is tied the Westminster system the most vulnerable people in society are forced to use food banks. Only a Yes vote in September can give Scotland the opportunity to build the fairer country we know we can be.”

Commenting on Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael’s cancellation of his appearance before the committee with less than 24 hours’ notice, Annabelle Ewing said:

It was very disappointing that Alistair Carmichael did not attend the Welfare Reform Committee today. While everyone understands the importance of the commemoration on World War 1, Alistair Carmichael has a duty to appear before the Scottish Parliament and explain why the UK welfare system is ‘fantastic’ as he has previously claimed, and it would be good if it could be rescheduled.”

 

*David Mundell is the Conservative Party member of parliament  for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (2014).

 

Source: Minister admits welfare cuts link to food bank use

Source – Welfare News Service, 26 June 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/tory-minister-admits-link-welfare-cuts-food-banks/

Lord Freud: Universal Credit £40 Million IT Write-Off ‘Deeply Regrettable’

Speaking in the House of Lords, Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud described the write-off of a failed £40 million IT system as “deeply regrettable”.

He also insisted that the decision to “reorganiseUniversal Credit, which led to the government’s flagship welfare reform being ‘reset’, was taken by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP.

 Lord Freud told peers:

“We all know that, when you have a £2.5 billion programme with a high IT content, there are elements that you write that you do not need.

“In the private sector that can be a third of a programme. Clearly, any write-off is always deeply regrettable, but one has to put those things into a context.

“We remain within our budget of £2.5 billion — not £12 billion — and we are looking at an overall net benefit of £35 billion from this programme. The NAO (National Audit Office) has said that it is taking a regular interest in the programme; we will continue and will see more reports on it from the NAO.

“However, as regards the way in which we are doing it, it is somewhat misleading to think of this as a twin-track system, because we have a single plan for universal credit.

“We are finding what works through the rollout we have; it may be small, but you do not need huge numbers to find out what works. It is important that we do this testing.

“At the heart of the programme is what we call the “test and learn” process, in which we take what is happening and assess and measure it against other things, aiming to find out how it works. That informs what we call the end-state build, which is thoroughly under way and is in agile.

“The first Warrington programme was trying to be agile, which I think is the best way; this end-state solution — the fully digital one, the interactive digital one — is being done on an agile basis.

Lord Freud also commented on Universal Credit being classed as ‘reset’ by the Major Projects Authority:

“What does reset mean? What happened, as noble Lords will remember, is that Ministers, the Secretary of State in particular, took a decision that the programme was not going properly and took a view to stop it and reorganise it — reset it.

“It is not a new category; it is a description of a process. If one is in charge of a programme, rather than blundering on with it regardless, I would hope noble Lords would agree that it is the job of the Ministers in charge to take that kind of decision, work out how to rebase it — reset it — and make sure it is done safely and securely, which is what we are aiming to do. That is everything that we are doing.”

> Yeah, all deeply regretable… but hey, its only public money, and you’ve got to spend big in order to be able to cut benefits, which we cant afford.

What’s that ?  Stop wasting money on mad unworkable schemes and we wouldn’t need to cut benefits ?

Ho ho ho, you obviously just don’t understand how politics works… next you’ll be suggesting that IDS and myself should take personal responsibility for  failures.

Source –  Welfare News Service, 25 June 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/lord-freud-universal-credit-40-million-write-deeply-regrettable/

Government Criticised For Over-Emphasising 0.7% Benefit Fraud

The Work and Pensions Select Committee has accused the coalition government of over-emphasising benefit fraud in a report on fraud and error in the benefits system.

According to official statistics included in the report, of the total £5.1 billion of ‘incorrectly’ paid benefits, £1.6 billion was underpaid and £3.5 billion overpaid.

 Of the £3.5 billion in overpaid benefits £700 million was due to ‘official’ DWP or local government errors, £1.6 billion was blamed on ‘claimant error’ (unintentional errors on claim forms etc) and £1.2 billion was due to claimants deliberately seeking to “mislead DWP or local authorities”.

The amount lost to claimant fraud represents just 0.7% of the entire 2012/13 benefits expenditure and the figure has remained relatively constant for several years.

The report says that “there is a large disparity between the official estimate of benefit fraud and the public perception”.

> Something that neither the DWP or the media has gone out of its way to emphasis. Quite the opposite, in fact…

A survey by Ipsos Mori in 2013 found that the general public believed that 24% of all benefits were claimed fraudulently, 34 times greater than the official 0.7% estimate.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee, which consists of MPs from all the main political parties, say that the government’s approach to tackling fraud and error in the benefits system “appeared to place emphasis on addressing fraud”.

Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Freud and David Gauke MP, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, “appeared to place emphasis on addressing fraud” in a strategy document announced in 2010. They highlighted the government’s intention to:

  • Employ private sector firms on a payment by results basis, where appropriate, to ensure the full adoption of cutting-edge private sector fraud prevention techniques;
  • Redirect resource to the front line to prevent fraud and error from entering the system in the first place, through enhanced checks and tougher sanctions for those even attempting to defraud;
  • Ensure that anti-fraud activity is protected from cuts, including through the recruitment of over 200 new anti-fraud officers to sanction a further 10,000 fraudsters every year;
  • Remove the current silo-based approach to tackling fraud, by creating new integrated cross-departmental data-matching and fraud investigation services (see Single Fraud Investigation Service, chapter 4);
  • Introduce a system for rewarding members of the public who provide information that results in significant recovery of public funds;
  • Respond to the growing threat of organised fraud through a new Identity Fraud Unit and far tougher sanctions for those involved;
  • Introduce a new mobile regional fraud taskforce to investigate each and every claim in high fraud areas, to increase the certainty of detection;
  • Address the weakness of the current penalty regime by abolishing cautions as a penalty for fraud, increasing asset seizures, and introducing far tougher one-strike and two-strike penalties, and a new three-strike rule;
  • Clean up nearly 2 million claims to remove error; and
  • Increase the frontline support provided by “Big Society partners” to help educate and support customers to get it right first time.

The Work and Pensions Select Committee say that of these measures, “seven focus solely on benefit fraud, one is aimed at fraud and error generally, and only two appear to be specifically designed to combat error”.

> That’s because their starting point is believing that anyone claiming benefit must be doing something illeagal. I mean, its what those poor people do, isn’t it ?

Benefit fraud and error is extremely complex with many different causes and ‘risk factors’. Analysis by the National Audit Office (NAO) shows that the incorrect reporting of income accounts for 47% of all benefit overpayments.

Claims made by a single person when they are living with a partner accounts for 13% of all overpayments, whilst claims made by people living ‘abroad or untraceable’ represent 11% of benefit overpayments.

The incorrect disclosure of savings accounts for 8% of all benefit overpayments, according to official statistics.

The report says that the over-reliance on claimants to report changes in their circumstances to different parts of the DWP, HMRC, local authorities and other official bodies, means that they “aren’t always aware who needs to be told what information, and when”.

Criticising the government’s over-emphasis on benefit fraud, the Work and Pensions Select Committee recommended that:

Whilst we understand that making a distinction between claimant error and fraud is not always straightforward, we believe that DWP could be clearer about the official estimated level of benefit fraud.

> They certainly could be clearer – but that wouldn’t suit the Government’s agenda.

“We therefore recommend that DWP publish, on separate days, discrete statistical summaries of its estimated rates of a) fraud and b) official and claimant error in the benefits system, alongside its more detailed report, to reduce the risk of confusion or conflation of these statistics in media reporting and public perceptions about benefit fraud, and to emphasise the importance of actions to reduce error as well as fraud.”

Source –  Welfare News Service,  19 June 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/government-criticised-emphasising-0-7-benefit-fraud/

Is the Fight for Truth Important?

jaynelinney

As reader are fully aware, Debbie Sayers and I presented our first petition to Parliament last year which helped get Iain Duncan Smith & Lord Freud called into the Work & Pensions Select to answer for their misuse of statistics.

At that time RosWynne Jones of the Mirror asked me if it had been worth the effort, I replied  We’ll keep up the fight and keep campaigning. It doesn’t end here” and it hasn’t. Since then Debbie and I have worked tirelessly on collating the data that demonstrates our claim and of course we published our 2nd petition demanding the House of Commons accept the Selects three recommendations on delivery and use of statistics.

Since the publication on 15 May, there have been numerous accounts of Politicians continuing to spin statistics and deny the reality of Welfare Reform issues, I’ve personally written about Evidence behind growth in food banks,  Rising ESA…

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‘Shoestring Army’ to battle government-imposed ‘slavery’ in the courts

Vox Political

Energising: Keith Lindsay-Cameron prepares to take his case to the police. Energising: Keith Lindsay-Cameron prepares to take his case to the police.

An activist from Somerset is raising his own ‘Shoestring Army’ to crowdsource funds and mount a legal challenge against the government’s new Claimant Commitment for jobseekers, after police said they were unable to arrest Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud for breaching the Human Rights Act.

Keith Lindsay-Cameron, of Peasedown St John, near Bath, was advised to obtain the services of a solicitor and raise a legal challenge in the courts after he made his complaint at Bath police station on Friday (May 2).

He said the conditionality regime that is part of the new Claimant Commitment will re-cast the relationship between the citizen and the State – from one centred on ‘entitlement’ to one centred on a contractual concept in which the government provides a range of support only if a claimant meets an explicit set of responsibilities…

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Need for food banks is caused by welfare cuts, research shows

> Research – perhaps by the same people who, after several years “research“, decided that on  the balance of probability the Pope was almost certainly a catholic – tells us what most people had already worked out for themselves : the rise in foodbanks and the welfare cuts are not unconnected.

The government’s welfare reforms, including benefit sanctions and the bedroom tax, are a central factor in the explosion in the numbers of impoverished people turning to charity food banks, an academic study has said.

The study, part of a three-year investigation into emergency food provision, was carried out by Hannah Lambie-Mumford, a Sheffield University researcher who co-authored a recently published government report into the extent of food aid in the UK.

That report concluded there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate a clear causal link between welfare reform and food bank demand in the UK. But Lambie-Mumford’s new study, to be published on Wednesday, says the rise in demand for charity food is a clear signal “of the inadequacy of both social security provision and the processes by which it is delivered“.

The report warns that as social security safety nets become weaker, there is a danger that charity food could become an integral part of the state welfare provision, or even an replacement for formerly state-funded emergency welfare schemes.

> And that is a really scary prospect – having to go cap-in-hand to charities in order to survive. How very Victorian.

Lambie-Mumford’s study was based on 25 in-depth interviews with a range of food bank staff and volunteers in 2012 and 2013 and found many food banks were adapting to demand by scaling up food collection and storage provision “to accommodate the future trajectory of need“.

Her paper will be presented to an all-party committee of MPs which meets on Wednesday to finalise the terms of an inquiry into hunger and food poverty. The inquiry will examine the rise of food banks, an issue that has become politically highly charged as ministers attempt to deflect criticism that austerity policies, including welfare cuts, have had the effect of compelling more people on low incomes to rely on food aid.

> Well, what kind of result  did they expect austerity policies to have ? The clue is in the name…

Lambie-Mumford said her research showed that food banks were expanding to meet rising demand caused in part by a squeeze on welfare entitlements which made already poor people even worse off. This was compounded by inadequate processing of social security claims, including payment delays and “arbitrary and unfair” sanctioning decisions that left claimants without any income at all.

There were other factors which had contributed to the rise of food banks, such as low wages and the rise in the cost of food. But it was important that MPs did not duck or underplay the importance of welfare reform. “The tricky thing is that welfare reform is the most political aspect of a political issue. But we should not shy away from it for this reason,” she said.

The welfare minister Lord Freud notoriously claimed last year that more people were going to food banks because the food was free, thereby triggering “almost infinite demand”. Last month Freud admitted people did not turn up “willingly” at food banks but said it was “very hard to know why” they did go.

> And its people of this calibre making welfare decisions ?

The Trussell trust, which oversees a network of more than 400 food banks in the UK, has insisted repeatedly that welfare reform is the biggest driver of demand for food parcels. Its third-quarter data, published in March, showed that it helped 614,000 people in the first nine months of this year. Its final-year figures, expected next week, are likely to show that demand has more than doubled in the past 12 months.

More than eight out of 10 food bank managers interviewed for the study acknowledged the impact of welfare changes and welfare processes as a factor in driving demand.

A DWP spokesperson said: “This report, which is based on just 25 interviews, fails to consider how welfare reforms are helping people off benefits and into jobs. The truth is that we now have record numbers of people in work, the highest employment rate for five years, and falling unemployment.”

> I should imagine its easy to spot a DWP spokesperson – they must have very long noses by now.

Source – Welfare News Service  08 April 2014

http://www.scoop.it/t/welfare-news-service/p/4019225517/2014/04/08/need-for-food-banks-is-caused-by-welfare-cuts-research-shows

Bedroom Tax: One In Seven Households ‘Face Eviction’

Two-thirds of households in England affected by the bedroom tax have fallen into rent arrears since the policy was introduced in April, while one in seven families have received eviction risk letters and face losing their homes, a survey claims.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) said its survey demonstrated that the bedroom tax was “heaping misery and hardship” on already struggling families who were unable to pay their rent but unable to find anywhere cheaper to live because of a shortage of smaller homes.

The NHF survey is one of three separate reports published on Wednesday which collectively criticise the design and implementation of the bedroom tax and highlight the negative impact it has had on the lives of many of the 522,000 people in the UK who are subject to it.

The disability charity Papworth Trust says that a third of disabled people affected by the tax have been refused emergency financial help, despite government guidance that disabled people who live in adapted homes get first call on discretionary housing payment funding.

The trust said many disabled people who have been refused emergency payments – which are intended to provide short-term financial relief to those struggling to cope with the bedroom tax – were now cutting back on essentials such as food or household bills. It called on ministers to exempt people living in adapted properties from the tax.

Meanwhile, the Labour party has published the results of a freedom of information request which shows the number of tenants wrongly subjected to the bedroom tax as a result of drafting errors in legislation is nearly 50,000 – at least 10 times as many as official estimates.

Chris Bryant, the shadow minister for welfare reform, said information from a third of councils showed that 16,000 people were affected by the error, which affects working age tenants in social housing who have occupied the same home continuously since 1996.

The reports herald a day of parliamentary activity around the bedroom tax. A bill to abolish the tax will be introduced by Labour backbench MP Ian Lavery, while Lord Freud, the welfare minister, will appear before a committee of MPs to answer question on a raft of welfare reforms.

Lavery said he believed that the bedroom tax had caused the most visible poverty and heartache of all the coalition’s welfare changes. “I have seen with my own eyes the absolutely astounding impact the bedroom tax has on disabled and sick people. I’m not sure the government is aware of the hardship and misery it has caused. We are talking about ordinary people who have been forced to move from the homes where they have spent a lifetime raising their kids. They have been cast out like dogs in the night.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: “We are determined to support those who might need extra help through these necessary reforms. That is why we have tripled the extra funding given to councils this year to £190m – some of which is specifically targeted at disabled people – and have announced that £165m will be available for councils next year to help vulnerable tenants.”

It said the NHF could not prove whether the rise in tenant rent arrears was accounted for by the bedroom tax alone.

The bedroom tax – also known under its official names of “spare room subsidy” or “under-occupation penalty” – affects 660,000 housing benefit claimants living in social housing across the UK. Introduced last April, the policy imposes an average penalty of between £14 and £22 a week on working-age tenants deemed to have more bedrooms than they need.

NHF chief executive David Orr said: “From day one we have said the bedroom tax is unfair, unworkable and just bad policy. It’s putting severe pressure on thousands of the nation’s poorest people and must be repealed.”

This article was written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 12th February 2014.

Source – Welfare News Service  12 Feb 2014

Benefits claimants are shortchanged by £5bn a year, says thinktank

It’s part of their culture…back in the 1980s I knew someone who worked for the DHSS (as it then was) but left precisely because she was always being told NOT to help people claim their full entitlements, only the barest minimum she could get away with. Things haven’t changed at all, except to get nastier.

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Reposted from the Guardian Society

Job centres
Benefits claimants are being shortchanged, says the Demos thinktank. Photograph: Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Millions of benefit claimants – who as a group fail to receive £5bn a year that they are due from the state – are being shortchanged by the welfare system rather than overindulged, a thinktank says on Sunday.

Rather than cutting benefits, ministers should seek to ensure that those on welfare receive their full entitlement, Demos says. Official figures show that one million people a year do not receive their full entitlement of housing benefit, equating to a failure by the state to pay out up to £3.1bn.

More than two million people a year do not apply for relief from paying their council tax bill, equivalent to more than £1.7bn in savings to the state. Meanwhile, the number of pensioners that were estimated to be entitled but not claiming…

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