Tagged: National Insurance contributions

Five-Week Wait For Benefits Will Increase Food Bank Use, Says TUC

> Another for the “Really ? Who’d have thought it ?” file.

New benefit rules forcing claimants to wait at least five weeks before they receive any cash will increase demand on food banks, says the TUC.

Under current rules new claimants have to wait an average of two weeks before they receive their first benefit payment. But with the introduction of Universal Credit new claimants will not be eligible for any financial support during the first week of their claim, and will then have to wait a further month before any benefits are paid.

The warning comes in response to a cross-party inquiry into hunger and child poverty, which found that delays in benefit payments is one of primary reasons for soaring numbers of food bank users.

In the last year the food bank charity Trussell Trust helped more than 900,000 people with three-days worth of emergency food aid, with some experts suggesting the true extent of food poverty in the UK could be in the millions.

The new five-week wait for benefits will not only affect people who are unfortunate enough to be made redundant, but also anyone who is unable to continue working due to ill-health or disability – regardless of how long they’ve been in work or how much they’ve paid in National Insurance contributions.

A recent TUC poll found that 70% of people are worried about having to wait five weeks for benefits if they were to become unemployed.

TUC launched the ‘Saving Our Safety Net’ campaign earlier this year, which seeks to challenge the new rule and other benefit changes that undermine the social security system we all pay in to and could need at any moment.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“The government is introducing what amounts to a ‘food banks first’ policy for anyone who loses their job or becomes too sick or disabled to work.

“It’s unrealistic and unfair to make new claimants wait five weeks or more before they receive any cash.

“While it is right to deal with people who abuse the system, ministers are now undermining the social security safety net that any of us might need.

“The government’s welfare reforms are attacking people who have done nothing wrong at a time when they most need help.”

The DWP is sending new guidance to 700 job centres, informing them that they must make claimants aware of ‘short-term cash advances’ which may be available while their claim is processed.

Responding to the announcement, Labour MP Frank Field said:

“It is vital both that emergency payments are made available and that they are actively publicised to prevent the need for using a food bank.”

He added the Government should take action to “limit the amount of time it takes to process a claim”.

> Frank Field may say that – election on the horizon, etc – but I doubt that he means any of it. I do rather hope he gets dumped at the next election – though sadly he won’t have to wait 5 weeks for money to buy food.

Only a small number of people will be eligible for emergency support while they wait for the first benefit payment to come through, say the TUC.

> Well thank you TUC, its nice to know you’re catching up at last. Now, what are you going to do about it ?

Source – Welfare Weekly,  08 Dec 2014

http://www.welfareweekly.com/five-week-wait-benefits-will-increase-food-bank-use-says-tuc/

 

Ed Miliband To Set Out Plans To Cut Benefits For Young Jobless

This article was written by Patrick Wintour, political editor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 18th June 2014 21.00 UTC

Ed Miliband will set out Labour’s first plans for cuts to the welfare system, ending out-of-work benefits for roughly 100,000 18-to-21-year-olds and replacing them with a less costly means-tested payment dependent on training.

The move is designed to symbolise Labour’s determination to reform welfare, making it more closely linked to what people pay in, as well as cutting the benefits bill.

> More closely linked to Tory policy more like. What odds on a Con-Lab coalition after the next election ? They might as well – the differences between the parties seem to have now completely vanished.

Britain’s young people who do not have the skills they need for work should be in training, not on benefits,” the Labour leader will say. It is essential to reform welfare to bring down a “wall of scepticism” among voters who don’t believe that politicians will make the system fairer, he will argue.

> So does “reform” always have to mean “make life more difficult for those worst off” ?

Miliband’s move reflects a recognition of anger among some voters that some people are getting “something for nothing” out of the welfare system. A YouGov poll for the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the leading centre-left thinktank, published on Thursday, finds that 78% believe that the welfare system is failing to reward people who have worked and contributed to it.

> Really ?  Is it supposed to be a reward ? Are these people confusing benefits with investing money in stocks and shares or something ?

The removal of jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) for those with skills below level 3 would affect seven out of 10 of the 18-to-21-year-olds currently claiming JSA, and initially save £65m.

Miliband will reveal further plans to make welfare more conditional by linking benefit payments to national insurance contributions.

Under his plans, people would only be able to claim the higher rate JSA of £71 a week after they have paid National Insurance for five years, instead of the current two. The contributory element of the welfare system has been eroded in Britain and is much smaller than in most European economies.

Labour officials said the switch in spending by abolishing JSA for young people was not designed to be punitive, but to incentivise them to train. The longer qualifying period for higher-rate JSA will mean those who qualify will be able to receive additional help worth as much as £20 to £30 a week, they added.

The Labour leader, struggling with poor personal poll ratings, will be responding to a major report by the IPPR setting out as many as 30 radical measures to rebuild public faith in politics and public institutions in an era of austerity.

Two separate polls sent further dire messages about Miliband’s personal standing, with one poll by Ipsos MORI showing a small majority of voters wanting him replaced as party leader, and another by YouGov claiming voters would be more likely to back Labour if it was led by his brother, the former foreign secretary David Miliband.

Miliband will argue that any reforming politician must deal with doubts about the ability of politics “to address the long-standing pressures on work, family and people’s sense of fair play that has been piling up for decades”.

He will admit one reason for such scepticism is that “people think the problems are huge, but they don’t believe they can be solved because of the financial problems the country faces. Many people think that in hard times, politicians’ promises are all hot air.”

But big reforms need not require big spending, he will argue. “Our country continues to confront a fiscal situation the like of which we have not seen for generations, the result of a financial crash the like of which none of us has ever seen,” he will say.

We cannot just hope to make do and mend, and we cannot borrow and spend money to paper over the cracks.”

Writing in today’s Guardian, the IPPR’s director, Nick Pearce, goes further, saying: “Gone are the days when economic growth could generate enough resources to redistribute income without making painful choices. Even with a different economic agenda, there is little prospect of any government elected in 2015 spending its way to greater equality.”

Pearce urges Labour to reject a business as usual path in which the government “would tax a little more and cut a little less, leaving the architecture of the state untouched and the current framework of services and social security in place”.

Miliband will also back proposals for local councils to be given more control of the ballooning housing benefit budget. The report suggests the housing benefit bill will reach £25.4bn, with real terms rises expected for the next five years.

Miliband argues the IPPR report shows that even when there is no money to spend radical reform can be started in the fields of health, child care, welfare, social care and housing. But he is going to be cautious about embracing some of its specific plans drawn up over the past 18 months, including a £2bn child care package, funded through scrapping plans for a marriage tax allowance, freezing child benefit and reducing pension tax reliefs.

The report also argues that there needs to be a switch of government resources from tax transfers and credits to delivering services, something that might require abandoning the expensive target to eliminate child poverty.

It will also propose a radical devolution of power to local councils, including over housing benefit and welfare to work for the disabled. In probably the biggest proposal, the IPPR will argue that the left has to restore the contributory principle in the welfare system. Pearce argues social security for the unemployed has become a liability for social democrats. Turning the issue into a source of strategic strength will require rebuilding the reciprocity that underpins it, restoring the contributory principle and giving new life to the idea of national insurance. “Fiscal constraints should lead us away from means-tested residualisation of welfare, not further towards it”.

There is frustration among some Labour policy leaders at Miliband’s reluctance to embrace more of the report, designed to show how the left set out a redistributionist agenda in the post-crash world. It has had the support of Jon Cruddas, head of the Labour policy review.

> Well, that’s it then. Labour continue to piss all over the very people who were originally their electorate. If anyone still had any belief that they were the People’s Friend, this should finally disabuse them.

Source –  Welfare News Service,  18 June 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/ed-miliband-set-plans-cut-benefits-young-jobless/

Argos, Homebase and Tesco exploit workers with contracts guaranteeing around THREE HOURS a week

A Sunday Mirror investigation has revealed the shocking findings, which would see a worker on the minimum wage take home less than £19 a week.

Some of Britain’s biggest high street stores are paying staff as little as £19 a week on miserly short-hours contracts.

Many working for our major retailers are employed on deals guaranteeing as little as three hours of work a week, a Sunday Mirror investigation has found.

On the minimum wage of £6.31 an hour that would add up to weekly pay of just £18.93 for the minimum three hours.

And even if they work many more hours than that minimum in an average week, some employees are still entitled to just three hours worth of holiday pay when they take a week off.

Companies claim the contracts give working mothers, students or pensioners flexibility. But union research reveals half of those on contracts of less than eight hours a week are desperate for more work.

Staff interviewed by the Sunday Mirror told of people desperately waiting for a call or text offering extra shifts or even queuing up for them.

One Tesco worker, who did not want to be named, said: “Notices go up offering the extra hours available and there’s always a raft of people waiting to sign.”

The mother-of-one, from Cottingham, East Riding of Yorkshire, added: “It’s on a first-come, first-served basis so there’s a bit of rivalry to get on the list. Occasionally, we might get a text offering us more hours.”

The scandal of zero-hours contracts – under which more than 1.4million workers must be available to work with no guarantee they will get shifts – has been widely exposed. But our investigation is the first detailed research into short hours.

Many employers offering short hours, say the contracts fit around staff needs. But the Unite union claims they are a way to cut costs for firms.

Assistant general secretary Steve Turner said: “Zero hours or short hours, it’s all the same in terms of absolute abuse of a ­workforce. We recognise that some people might want to work just a few hours a week but in most cases the flexibility is a one-way street and lies with the companies.

“This is a corporate UK which believes it can treat people terribly, particularly the young. Like those on zero-hour contracts, those given short contracts have no ­knowledge of what extra time they will be called to work.

“They are either sitting at home waiting for a text or scared to turn hours down in case they aren’t offered any again.”

Unite claims companies use short contracts to avoid paying National ­Insurance. Firms must pay NI contributions for every employee earning more than £136 a week.

Mr Turner said: “It’s preferable for ­companies to take on two short-hour workers than a full-time employee they would have to pay NI contributions for. This means benefits such as pensions and maternity pay are affected.”

The Sunday Mirror investigated firms across the UK and found that Argos and ­Homebase have some staff on contracts as short as three hours a week. Tesco’s shortest contracts are just three-and-a-half hours.

Arcadia group, which encompases fashion stores Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Topman, Topshop, Wallis and BHS use four-hour contracts. Currys, PC World and Next use six hours.

The GMB union claims many of the short contract jobs are full-time posts which have been sliced up.

National officer Kamaljeet Jandu said: “We believe short-hour contract jobs are not new jobs, but old positions that have been broken up. It’s job splitting.

“We feel this is partly so employers can avoid National Insurance contributions.

“The impact of these contracts is the same as the zero-hour arrangement where there is no guarantee of when you will be working or income. That has a tremendous impact on family life.

“A lot of people on three or four-hour contracts will only be entitled to three or four hours’ pay on a week off.”

A recent study showed that 40 per cent of people without full-time jobs want more hours.

The figures, from Markit, expose the truth behind company claims that flexibility is a lifestyle choice for mums, students or retired people.

 The research is backed up in another report by retail workers’ union Usdaw. Half of their members on short-hours contracts regularly worked overtime, some doing as much as 16 hours a week extra.

And three-quarters of those want the security of guaranteed shifts. The union also attacked the Government for failing to tackle short hours arrangements.

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett said: “The coalition ­Government has continually ­underestimated the numbers of zero-hours contracts. They have launched consultations and reviews and this has become an excuse for inaction. Their failure to act has given the worst employers a green light to exploit vulnerable workers.

For many Usdaw members short-hours contracts and under-employment are even bigger concerns. The Government is quick to advertise small falls in unemployment but fail to mention the problem of under-employment.

“Short-hours contracts suit some but a far greater number are struggling to get the hours they need to support ­themselves and their ­families.”

Companies defended the contracts, insisting they offer flexibility to staff. Tesco said: “We do not use zero-hours contracts and of our 300,000 colleagues a fraction of one per cent are contracted for less than five hours a week.

“Most of the people working these short hours are in full-time education or have chosen to work a few hours a week after reaching retirement age.

“The vast majority of colleagues are on contracts of 16 hours a week or more.”

Dixons Retail, which owns Currys and PC World and recently agreed a £3.8billion merger with Carphone Warehouse, admitted using six-hour contracts.

But a spokesman said: “Hours are confirmed with colleagues well in advance and regularly reviewed.”

A spokeswoman for Argos and Homebase said: “We employ staff with fixed-hour contracts to ensure they have regular core hours to maintain their skills in the workplace.

“Some of our workforce have a ­preference for more flexible working hours which enables them to fit work around their home lives.”

A spokeswoman for Arcadia, which owns BHS, Burton Menswear, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Topshop and Topman said: “We offer contracts according to the needs of the store so they vary.”

Next said: “Our contracts are all about flexibility for the employee.

“The minimum contract is six hours because that’s the number of hours some employees want to work.

“The average that people work is much more than that and there is no cap on the maximum number of hours which can be worked.”

Short-hours jobs are available all over the UK but very few job adverts give exact details of the contract on offer.

Companies use words such as “must be available” at certain times or give a shift pattern without revealing exactly how many hours employees will be given.

Almost all vacancies can only be applied for online so job-seekers have little knowledge of exactly what they are applying for or what the rate of pay is. We called stores to ask for more details but only Tesco and Next staff could help.

Here are jobs advertised by companies which use short-hours contracts:

Currys PC World

JOB: Sales adviser

WHERE: Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

CONTRACT: Between eight and 30 hours.

DETAILS: Candidates should be available to work Mon–Fri 9am–8pm, Sat 9am–6pm, Sun 10.30am–4.30pm

Tesco

JOB: Customer delivery assistant

WHERE: Launceston, Cornwall

CONTRACT: Temporary (flexible)

DETAILS: Shift pattern: Sun 5.45pm- 10pm, Mon 9am-7pm, Fri 7am-11am

  • We called customer services as a mum of two. An adviser said: “It will probably be a four-hour contract upwards. The shift pattern means you could be called in at any of those times and must be available. I can’t advise you whether you should apply, but if you don’t have child care for those shift patterns I would personally say it’s not for you.”

Next

JOB: Sales consultant (£5.18-£6.33ph)

WHERE: Leeds Trinity Shopping Centre

CONTRACT: Eight hours, part-time (temporary)

DETAILS: Important: Contract shifts are subject to the availability stated within your application, therefore shifts will change each day and each week. Actual shifts are confirmed two weeks in advance. As a minimum, your contracted hours will always be scheduled each week.

  • We called the store and were told: “It’s mostly flexitime work and short-hour contracts. Your contract will probably guarantee eight or 12 hours. You will have to work when the store wants you to.”

Asda

JOB: Working in chilled products

WHERE: Long Eaton, Derbyshire

CONTRACT: Permanent, part-time, 10 hours a week

DETAILS: Shift pattern, evenings

  • When we called Asda we were referred to the website for job applications.

Argos

JOB: Driver (£6.35 ph)

WHERE: Hamilton, Lanarkshire

CONTRACT DETAILS: Nine hours

DETAILS: You need to be prepared to work weekends and start as early as 6am, potentially earlier during peak periods. While the contract is for nine hours per week, we need you to be flexible and able to work additional hours on a regular basis if required.

  • When we called Argos we were referred to the website.

Outfit (part of the Arcadia group)

JOB: Sales adviser

WHERE: Various stores

CONTRACT: No information given

DETAILS: Competitive hourly rate + bonus + benefits

Opinion: Firms save thousands in NI payments

By Kelly Griffiths, Employment law expert at Backhouse Solicitors

When working well, short-time contracts provide flexibility for both employers and employees and can be a great way for students, retired people and people with families to earn some extra money. For others they can be a nightmare when things go wrong.

In order to qualify for benefits such as statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory sick pay, an employee has to be earning at least £111 a week which can be difficult with this type of contract.

The low level of guaranteed wages may make it difficult to budget and to obtain credit or a mortgage, all of which can lead to increased risk of debt problems. While employees may wish to work more hours this is not always an attractive option for employers.

If an employee is earning under £663 per month the employer is not required to pay National Insurance – a large corporation can save thousands of pounds.

It is for that reason many find themselves restricted to a few hours per week with no ability to earn the money required to meet their household needs.

Little is known about the number of people who work under this type of contract but we could be looking at hundreds of thousands.

It seems further consultation is needed, to help the employees stuck with these contracts and to address the loophole which allows large corporations to avoid paying National Insurance.

Source – Sunday Mirror,  31 May 2014

Benefit Cuts To Blame For ‘Huge Increase’ In Council Tax Arrears, Charity Warns

Government cuts to welfare benefits, rising living costs and stagnating wages are to blame for a ‘huge increase in the numbers of people with council tax arrears’, a leading charity has warned.

 

According to figures released today (13 March 2014) by the charity Stepchange, 45,561 people approached the charity for help and advice after falling into arrears with council tax payments in the last year, up 77 percent on the previous years total of 25,000. The average council tax debt was £102, the charity claims.

 

Stepchange says that the figures ‘highlights how the squeeze on household budgets is leaving more people struggling to pay essential living costs’.

 

StepChange Debt Charity chief executive Mike O’Connor said:

 

 

“More and more people are struggling to pay essential household costs. Stagnating incomes, changing work patterns, rising living costs and changes in welfare benefits are a toxic combination. Government, business and charities need to ensure that safety nets and protections are in place to ensure that short-term financial problems do not escalate into problem debt which can blight the lives of individuals, families and whole communities.”

 

The figures come almost a year after the coalition government scrapped council tax benefit as part of widespread welfare reforms and replaced it with a locally administered Council Tax Reduction support scheme.

 

Under the new system, many more low-income families – including some in receipt of state benefits – are now expected to contribute toward their council tax bill, the exact amount of which is decided by their local council authority.

 

Margaret Hodge MP (Labour), Chair of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has recently described the change to council tax support as “fundamentally perverse”, after it was revealed that 71 percent of councils were requiring households to make at least a small council tax contribution, regardless of whether they can afford to pay or not.

 

The PAC also found that some households, now expected to contribute toward council tax as a result of government welfare cuts, were losing as much as 93 pence out of every £1 earned, when combined with a cut in housing benefit and increased income tax and national insurance contributions.

 

Margaret Hodge said:

 

“This just goes to show, for some, work simply doesn’t pay under the new scheme. For them, work incentives have actually weakened rather than strengthened – the opposite of what the Government intended.

 

“Some of those 225,000 people stand to lose 97p for every extra £1 earned – a fundamentally perverse result.”

 

Stepchange surveyed 845 helpline clients and found that 50 percent had council tax arrears at some point over the past year, while 19 percent claimed that they had been threatened with bailiff action by their local council.

 

The Charity has also warned that changes to bailiff fees, due to be introduced in April 2014, could see an additional £310 added to a households accumulated council tax arrears every single time a bailiff pays a visit to a person’s home.

Stepchange has urged councils to do more to help people who fall into arrears on their council tax and ‘ensure that vulnerable people do not see their debts inflated through the unnecessary use of bailiffs’

Source – Welfare News Service,  13 March 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/benefit-cuts-blame-huge-increase-council-tax-arrears-charity-warns/

Why do right-wing people support workfare?

The lovely wibbly wobbly old lady

Reblogged from Another Angry Voice (he’s from Yorkshire, he calls a spade a spade and I like his style!)

One of the big mysteries in politics is why so many right-wing people support Iain Duncan Smith’s Stalinist Workfare schemes, which are designed to force people (under threat of absolute destitution) to give away their labour for free, often to highly profitable foreign corporations.

There are many glaringly obvious complaints that the right-wing thinker should have against these economically illiterate schemes, yet the typical Tory voter tends to enthusiastically support Workfare. First I’ll look at the big reasons that right-wing people should be highly suspicious of Iain Duncan Smith’s Workfare schemes, then I’ll try to consider the reasons that they might over-look these problematic factors in order to convince themselves that Workfare is a good idea, or even to actively propagandise in favour of mandatory unpaid labour schemes.

Right-wing arguments against…

View original post 2,244 more words

Benefit Sanctions – It Gets Worse

Figures from November last year to June show payments were suspended as a result of benefit sanctions 33,460 times across the North East –  17,470 of those were  in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland and the remainder in County Durham and the Tees Valley.

On Wearside, a total of 3,720 sanctions were put in place, with 2,150 in Sunderland Job Centre,  780 in Southwick Job Centre, 400 in Houghton and 390 in Washington.

In South Tyneside benefits were withdrawn on 1,430 occasions for claimants registered at South Shields Jobcentre and 600 times for clients at Jarrow Jobcentre.

Across Durham and East Durham, a total of 2,820 sanctions were put in place, with 1,060 of those in Peterlee, 810 in Durham, 540 in Chester-le-Street and 410 in Seaham.

Couldn’t find the figures for Newcastle, Gateshead or north Tyneside – if you know, add them to the comments section.

It should be remembered that although the final decision on whether to sanction is made by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP)  many of the cases are actually raised by the private for-profit Work Programme providers, as happened in my case – thank you Ingeus, Sunderland.

Comments from local politicians seem to be a bit thin on the ground (hello Labour MPs ! Anyone awake there ?) although South Tyneside councillor Jim Foreman, a critic of  welfare  “reforms” was quoted as saying :  “If you walk into South Shields Jobcentre, there is generally 700 to 900 vacancies available.
“How many people do we have on the dole in the borough, 6,000 to 7,000? Those are telling statistics.

“The Government makes great play about the work-shy, but people need more support to fill out the complex forms they need to.

“There are many people who are not computer literate, who are not numerically OK. These people are in a lose-lose situation.

“They are at risk of having their benefits cut and falling into the hands of loan sharks. It’s a never-ending cycle.”

You dont have to be too numerate to be able to work out that 6000 – 7000 unemployed into 700 – 900 jobs just wont go. You just cant fit a quart into a pint pot.

Unfortunately this basic fact escapes those responsible for these draconian tactics.   Minister for Employment Esther McVey for example, who stated:  “This Government has always been clear that, in return for claiming unemployment benefits, jobseekers have a responsibility to do everything they can to get back into work.

“We are ending the something-for-nothing culture.”

Uh, pardon me ? I’ve been involved in the often less than wonderful world of work since  before Ms. McVey was even born. I dont know how much I’ve paid out in National Insurance contributions over the years, but I did so on the understanding that by doing so I’d be able to claim help in hard times such as these, and also that others in need would be helped, regardless of whether they’d paid as much NI as me.

So something for nothing ? I don’t think so. And it certainly pales in comparison with MP’s expenses claims. Now that really is the something-for-nothing culture.

McVey, we are told,  has worked in the family business, which specialises in demolition and site clearance.

How appropriate. Now she’s focusing those skills on the poorest in society.