Tagged: low wages

Welfare Study: Poverty And Stress ‘Reduces Chances Of Getting A Job’

This article  was written by Patrick Butler, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 2nd December 2014

The Coalition’s “indiscriminate” welfare cuts have created a climate of fear among benefit recipients, reducing rather than improving their chances of moving into work, a study has found.

The latest instalment of a two-year qualitative research programme finds that rather than providing an incentive for unemployed individuals to find a job, the squeeze on benefits is more likely force them to retreat into day-to-day “survival mode”, unable to seize opportunities to find employment.

Even those who were in work felt trapped in poverty as a result of low wages, zero hours contracts and cuts to housing benefit and tax credits. Many felt that they did not feel financially better off as a result of having a job.

The study concludes:

Our research found that the changes brought about by welfare reform did not have a considerable impact on respondent’s attitudes to work, or indeed the likelihood of them finding work.

It adds:

Work did not seem to enable people to escape the negative impacts of welfare reform or poverty.

It warns that many families are “living on a cliff edge” financially and are affected by increased anxiety and stress. The study argues that current welfare reforms will lead to increased costs to the state as it picks up the bill for poverty-related ill-health and homelessness

The study, by the charity Community Links, is based on in-depth interviews with 20 people in the London borough of Newham. It aims to assess the impact of welfare reform on individuals, in particular whether it can change “behaviour” and get people into work.

The cohort is divided between those in part-time or low paid work and those on benefits. Monthly income ranged from £200 a month to £1,500. All were affected by at least one cut, and most were hit by a combination, including the bedroom tax and reductions in tax credits.

Although the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has claimed that his reforms provide an incentive to unemployed people to move into work, only one interviewee, a mother who was threatened with the benefit cap, said the prospect of losing income had motivated her to get a job.

The majority of unemployed interviewees reported that the cuts had overwhelmingly negative consequences for them, making them feel stressed and insecure and vulnerable to even tiny changes in income. Some had defaulted on rent and bills and had been threatened with eviction, while others “coped” by cutting back on food and heating, or going into debt.

The study reports a “culture of fear”, especially among those with serious disability or illness who were unable to work and so felt powerless to escape or offset the financial losses causes by welfare cuts.

It says:

The continued squeeze on incomes is forcing people into survival mode: having to deal with incredibly stressful situations day-to-day and unable to focus on the longer-term. People feed their children and go without themselves; wash clothes by hand if their washing machine breaks; walk miles to work in the early hours of the morning; they just about get by. But only just.

The sheer scale and speed of the cuts to state support left interviewees with “almost no flexibility to live with any comfort”. It meant some of those interviewed were barely surviving

Most people told researchers they both wanted to work and saw benefit in working. It calls on ministers to provide more help in getting people into work, and criticises the “lack of compassion” in the implementation of the reforms.

Some of those who were keeping their head above water could only do so because they received transitional support from the local authority in the form of Discretionary Housing Payments. But these were temporary, the study points out, and:

It is highly likely that as Local Authority budgets reduce and thus become naturally more restrictive, that many people who have been temporarily protected from hardship will find themselves suffering again

Community Links is a pioneering and respected charity based in Newham, east London, once praised by the prime minister David Cameron as “one of Britain’s most inspiring community organisations.”

The charity was co-founded by David Robinson, a social activist who abandoned his initial support for the Coalition’s Big Society project in protest at the damage inflicted on the UK’s poorest neighbourhoods by what he called the government’s “barrage of unsustainable cuts”.

It is likely that the Department for Work and Pensions will draw attention to the small size and geographical reach of the research and suggest that it is not a representative analysis. But the study points out:

In the absence of an official cumulative impact assessment, this report makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of the impacts of the Coalition’s welfare reforms.

> Well ? Does anyone feel these conclusions are not representive of the UK as a whole ?

Source –  Weekly Welfare, 02 Dec 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/welfare-study-poverty-stress-reduces-chances-getting-job/

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Labour Blame Low Wages For Soaring Housing Benefit Bill

The Housing Benefit bill is set to spiral out of control due to low wages and rising rents, official figures suggest.

Between 2010/11 to 2018/19 the amount spent on helping struggling households to keep roofs over their heads is set to rocket to a staggering £12.9 billion, or £488 for every household in the UK.

 Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary will blame the soaring Housing Benefit bill on the tory-led coalition government for failing to tackle the scandal of low wages and poor working conditions.

The figures obtained from the Commons Library also show that Housing Benefit paid to people in work is set to more than double, from £2.4 billion in 2010/11 to £5.5 billion in 2018/19.

Stagnating wages will also have a knock on effect on how much is spent supporting low-income households with tax credits. Currently the UK spends £21.2 billion on tax credits, but this is forecast to rise to £23.7 billion by 2018/19.

Speaking in Pudsey, West Yorkshire, Rachel Reeves is expected to say:

The number of working people claiming housing benefit is set to double because the Tory Government has failed to tackle low pay, insecure work and the cost-of-living crisis.

“Labour will raise the minimum wage, introduce living wage contracts and get 200,000 homes built a year by 2020 to tackle the bill and ensure working people can make ends meet.

She will also say that Labour may withdraw its support for Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit scheme, unless “urgent action” is immediately taken to prevent “more money being wasted” on the crisis hit programme.

Ms Reeves will say: “Today I want to make a direct appeal to David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith.

“Labour wants Universal Credit to work. But we won’t accept more taxpayers’ money being wasted. It is in crisis and needs urgent action.”

> Yes, Rachel, but what you need to understand is that the problem with Universal Credit is not just that it’s a money pit. Its also the way in which it makes life so much more difficult for people who  already have more than enough problems to be going on with.

Are Labour going to deal with those aspects ? Nothing seen so far suggests that they would  anything except continue with more of the same.

Earlier this year, Welfare Reform Minister Lord Freud described the write-off of a failed £40 million IT system for Universal Credit as “deeply regrettable”.

He insisted that the programme would be delivered on time and within its £2.5 billion budget and that the scheme would benefit taxpayers to the tune of £35 billion.

Minister for Disabled People, Mark Harper MP, told the Daily Mirror that the government had “inherited an out-of-control housing benefit system from Labour”.

He added that the government were working to “build a welfare system that provides a safety net for those in need, while rewarding the willingness to work”.

Source – Welfare News Service,  05 Aug 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/labour-blame-low-wages-soaring-housing-benefit-bill/

Hunger and food poverty are sweeping the North East, inquiry told

Hunger is sweeping the region and the austerity-driven Government is relying too heavily on volunteers to help – that was the message food poverty investigators heard yesterday.

Members of the all-party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty were at the centre of a packed room at South Shields’ St Jude’s Parish Hall to find out why there is a rising tide of foodbank use here.

The touring inquiry, which meets with policy-makers in London next, heard how foodbank use has tripled since 2008 in some areas. Calls are now ringing out for the Coalition to act.

> They have acted.  The state we’re in now is exactly what they wanted. It must be – they surely couldn’t be so stupid as to think that austerity and cuts would result in anything else.

Could they ?  I don’t know which I’d find worse – malevolent intent or incredible ignorance on that scale.

Bishop Mark Bryant, the Bishop of Jarrow, has been campaigning on the issue. When asked if the church is being asked to step in where the welfare state previously had, he said: “That is undoubtedly true.

Even with the welfare state it is good that, as a society, we do things that enable us to care for each other, but it is certainly true that the church and other men and women of goodwill are picking up things that we never thought would be necessary two or three years ago.”

The Reverend Roy Merrin, of Grange Road Baptist Church in Jarrow, said: “Politicians themselves need to recognise their responsibility and not look to the voluntary sector for sticking plasters for what are structural problems in our society.”

Peter MacLellan, director of the Trussell Trust’s County Durham Foodbank, said: “I think it is a scandal. I’m encouraged by people’s generosity but of course we should not have to do this.

“I think there will always be a need for foodbanks but the scale we have them on at the moment is nonsense.”

Jean Burnside, chief officer for South Tyneside Churches’ Key Project, said it gave out 26 food parcels in 2008, but last year was called on for 339 and so far this year had given out 222 packs.

There has been a massive increase,” she said. “There is a variety of reasons for that, including the Bedroom Tax, benefit sanctions and high unemployment.

“I want these politicians to know what it is like here in the North East.

“The Government needs to know that the system isn’t working. There have been so many cuts and the people at the Department for Work and Pensions can’t provide advice for us so what chance do our clients have? Something needs to change.”

Veteran Merseyside MP Frank Field is leading on the inquiry and will now hold a series of meetings in London on food poverty across the UK now.

He said he had been shocked by the scale of the problem in the North East, also describing it as a “scandal”.

The economy needs to be run differently and we need more jobs at the bottom and the people to do them,” he said.

“We are hearing about low wages, benefit delays and benefit sanctions and some people not getting their benefits at all.

“People don’t want this to be a long-term solution, they say they don’t want foodbanks to exist.”

> Frank Field – why do I not trust the bugger ?  A member of the advisory board of the free-market think tank Reform, and of the generally conservative but also pro-freedom of speech magazine Standpoint.

In May 2008, he said that Margaret Thatcheris certainly a hero” and that “I still see Mrs T from time to time – I always call her ‘Mrs T‘, when I talk to her.

Although there have been attempts to get him to defect to the Conservatives, they have been without success (possibly he thinks Labour is moving to the right anyway, so why bother).

In 2008, Frank Field was named as the 100th most-influential right-winger in the United Kingdom by the Telegraph.

Field supports the return of national service to tackle growing unemployment and instil “a sense of order and patriotism” in Britain’s young men and women.

Field is a practising Anglican, a former chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust, and a member of the Church of England General Synod.

Field believes in reducing the time-limit with which women can have an abortion,and in stripping abortion providers such as Marie Stopes of their counselling role and handing it to organisations not linked to abortion clinics. 

Oh yeah – I remember now why I don’t trust the bugger.

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  04 July 2014

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

Not Just The Skivers Claiming Housing Benefit…

A study by a campaigning group called Home Truths reports that a housing shortage and stagnant wages are forcing increasing numbers of those in work to apply for help with housing costs in order to keep a roof over their heads.

The North East has seen a 108%  rise, since 2009, in those in work who are claiming housing benefit, and also the smallest increase nationally in new business start-ups.

Private rents and house prices are projected to rise by 25% and 17% respectively by 2020.

Monica Burns, North East external affairs manager for the National Housing Federation “We hear a lot about ‘making work pay’, but employment opportunities are scarce in parts of the North East and wages are lower than in other parts of the country.

“This is having a knock-on impact on people in work, with more and more hard working families being forced to rely on housing benefit to help pay for the roof over their heads.”

Of course, we still get idiots suggesting that we should have lower regional wages. But then, those idiots are usually (a) Tories, who know they’re never going to be in power here, (b) in London or the South East, and (c) never likely to be in a position to have to accept lower regional wages themselves…more’s the pity.

 

 

 

Tyne & Wear Metro Cleaners Win Low Pay Dispute

A long-running dispute which saw 19 days of strike action by cleaners working on the Tyne and Wear Metro has been resolved in the clearner’s favour.

Over the past 18 months, the staff, who are employed by Churchill Services, have fought bosses over minimum wage and workplace justice. and have now been offered a 5% rise over the next four years and an extra day’s leave from January 2014.

The general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, Bob Crow, said it was a “landmark victory”.


Mr Crow said:  “This pay deal, which lifts our cleaner members on this key North East transport contract  out of the shackles of the minimum wage and on the pathway to a living wage, is a breakthrough that will send out the clearest possible signal to low-paid workers throughout the land that if they fight, they can win.”

Who Benefits?: Campaign launches to give voice to people supported by benefits

Campaign launched to give voice to people supported by benefits

The vast majority of people believe benefits are an important safety net for people in need, a new campaign has revealed today.

But one in four people who claim benefits have hidden the fact because they worry what people will think.

More than seventy charities and community groups have joined forces to launch Who Benefits? – a campaign to give a voice to the millions of people supported by benefits at some point in their lives.

Polling carried out for Who Benefits? – brought together by The Children’s Society, Crisis, Gingerbread, Macmillan Cancer Support and Mind – reveals overwhelming public support for the principle that benefits should be there for those who need them. 81% agree that ‘benefits are an important safety net to support people when they need help’, while two-thirds (64%) agree that ‘we all benefit as a society when support from benefits is available for those that need it’.

But despite widespread public support, more than a quarter (27%) of those who currently claim benefits say they have hidden this because of what people will think. This rises to half (47%) of 16-24 year olds who have been supported by benefits. And more than half (51%) of all those who had never been supported by benefits said they would feel embarrassed to claim.

The poll findings come on the back of the recent British Social Attitudes survey which showed a softening of public attitudes towards benefits and unemployment.

Who Benefits? argues that the overwhelming majority of those on benefits really need the support, yet too often their voices are ignored, misrepresented or at worst they are blamed for their situation.

The campaign, which launches today, is asking people to share their stories. Hundreds of people who have been supported by benefits have already shared their stories through the website and through social media with the hashtag #WeAllBenefit.

Laura is one of the hundreds who shared their story. She said: “I’ve needed support from benefits because, as a mother of four, daily life can be a real struggle. Before we received support I was forced to borrow from family and friends. I’m a full-time mum, and my husband has been working as a full-time mechanic for six years.”

“Receiving support from Child Tax Credits is not a lifestyle choice for me – it’s a necessity. It helps me to put food on the table for my family, buy clothes and school uniforms for my children and prevent the gas and electricity from being cut off. Without this support I don’t know how we would survive.”

Who Benefits? asks politicians of all parties to do more to understand the lives of people who have been supported by benefits, as well as focus on the real reasons that people are struggling, like low wages, the high cost of living and the housing crisis.

Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said: “Life is full of ups and downs, it can be unpredictable. But no one should go hungry because they lose their job or go into debt because they are on such a low wage. And it is reassuring to see that the public support this view.

“At a time when families up and down the country are feeling the squeeze, it is important – now more than ever – that society supports those in need. The overwhelming majority of people who get benefits really need them; whether they are working, looking for work or unable to work.”

Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: “At Crisis we see every day how support from benefits lifts people out of homelessness, or prevents them from ending up on the streets in the first place. With this support we see people moving into work and on to a better life. Yet all too often the realities of people’s lives and situations are just ignored. That’s why we want people to get involved with Who Benefits? – to ensure real voices are heard.”

Fiona Weir, Chief Executive of Gingerbread, said: “None of us know what is around the corner for our family, which is why it can come as a huge blow to someone who’s already having a tough time to be labelled or stereotyped. It is great to see that the vast majority of the British public are behind giving support to those who need it, and we hope that our campaign will encourage more people to come forward to share their stories of how benefits have supported them.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Support from benefits makes a huge difference to the lives of many people with mental health problems, allowing people to stay well and retain their independence; or help with the additional costs that come from having a disability.

“Lots of individuals with mental health problems face stigma and discrimination, as their condition is less visible than a physical disability. These new statistics suggest those who claim benefits experience double the stigma.”