Tagged: out-of-work benefits

Child poverty in the North East will get worse, not better, charities warn

Nearly half of children in parts of the North East are living in poverty, shocking new figures show.

In Elswick, Newcastle, more than 47% of children are living below the breadline, making it one of the most deprived areas in the region, according to the Campaign to End Child Poverty.

This is in comparison to just 3.6% of children in Stocksfield, Northumberland, who are living in poverty.

Children from the North East’s most deprived areas have today taken up the fight to end child poverty, by marching on Parliament and thrusting their own manifesto under MP’s noses.

Chair of End Child Poverty David Holmes said:

“These figures reveal just how widely and deeply child poverty reaches into our communities, even those areas generally regarded as well off.

“Far too many children whose parents are struggling to make a living are suffering as a result and missing out on the essentials of a decent childhood that all young people should be entitled to. We can and must do better for our children.

“Poverty ruins childhoods and reduces life chances. Failing to invest properly in children is a false economy: already child poverty costs the country £29bn each year and in the long run taxpayers will foot an even higher bill for correcting the damage.

“We are calling on politicians of all parties to urgently set out a clear roadmap towards ending child poverty which includes the additional actions needed and the measures by which progress will be tracked.”

Today’s figures are based on the proportion of children living in low income households.

Either their families are in receipt of out of work benefits or in receipt of in-work tax credits or their income is less than 60% of median income after housing costs.

On average throughout the UK, nearly one in six children are classified as below the poverty line before housing costs, while one in four are in poverty once housing costs have been deducted from their income.

Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility and Child Poverty (SMCP) commission said current levels of child poverty in the North are a “moral outrage” and have to change.

The former Labour cabinet minister said:

“Poor kids in the region are four times as likely to be poor adults.

“The poorest kids in the region’s schools face a double whammy. They arrive at primary school less ready to learn than their more privileged peers and only a third leave primary school with the required levels of reading and writing.

“Two in three of those kids then leave secondary school without five good GCSEs. The challenge we have in this country is at large in the North.”

According to the North East advisory group on child poverty in the North East figures show that in some areas, noticeable improvements have been made.

Against many indicators the North East is no longer the region with the worst levels, but there is no cause for complacency, says chair of the North East Child Poverty Commission, Murray Rose.

Child poverty remains a real and serious problem for the North East,” he said. “Worryingly, there are signs that, while ‘relative poverty’ has been falling, this is partly due to falling average incomes, and ‘absolute poverty’ has begun to increase.

“The Institute for Fiscal Studies has suggested that child poverty is likely to increase, rather than decrease, over the next six years, meaning the Government will fall well short of its child poverty reduction targets.

“Another area of real concern is the level of severe poverty experienced by some families and children who are being impacted by changes to the social security and benefits system – the ‘welfare reform’ programme.

“Many of these impacts are not yet showing up in official statistics, and tend to be masked within wider averages.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  15 Oct 2014

Outrageous levels of child poverty in the North must be tackled says former MP

Action is needed to tackle “outrageous” levels of child poverty in parts of the region, campaigners have urged.

It comes as figures suggest nine of the 12 North East councils have wards where more than 20% of children live in pockets of severe poverty.

The worst areas were in Middlesbrough (33%), Hartlepool (29%), Newcastle (28%) and South Tyneside (26.5%).

The North East Child Poverty Commission warned inflation, unemployment and cuts could see levels of deprivation spiral.

> Oh wow – they’re on the ball, aren’t they ?  What do they think has been happening these last few years ?

The group has produced a map of child poverty for every ward, council and constituency in the region.

The map classes children as living in poverty if they are in families on out of work benefits or work tax credits where income is less than 60% of median – before housing costs.

Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility and Child Poverty (SMCP) commission said current levels of child poverty in the North are a “moral outrage” and have to change.

> MP for Darlington from 1992 until 2010. He served for five years in the Cabinet, first as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1998 to 1999, and subsequently as Secretary of State for Health until 2003.

A strong supporter of Tony Blair‘s policies, especially his continued policy of increased private involvement in public service provision

Following his resignation as Secretary of State for Health (to spend more time with his family), Milburn took a post for £30,000 a year as an advisor to Bridgepoint Capital, a venture capital firm heavily involved in financing private health-care firms moving into the NHS, including Alliance Medical, Match Group, Medica and the Robinia Care Group. He has been Member of Advisory Board of PepsiCo since April 2007.

Another New Labour “socialist” you could trust with your life… if you’re tired of living.

The former Labour cabinet minister said: “Poor kids in the region are four times as likely to be poor adults.

“The poorest kids in the region’s schools face a double whammy. They arrive at primary school less ready to learn than their more privileged peers and only a third leave primary school with the required levels of reading and writing.

“Two in three of those kids then leave secondary school without five good GCSEs. The challenge we have in this country is at large in the North.

“Children post 16 are more likely to drop out of education than anywhere else in the country. The region also has the lowest rate of children going to university.

“It is more clear than ever that effective collaboration at all levels of government is required to help ensure the right conditions for children living in these deprived communities.”

The figures come three days before a group of young people from the region march on Parliament to give MPs their views on how to tackle child poverty.

As reported  last week, more than half of the 38-strong cohort of youngsters that have been working on a children’s manifesto hail from the region.

They will present their national findings to an All Party Parliamentary Group on Wednesday.

Source –  Sunday Sun, 12 Oct 2014


North East children to march on Parliament to make their voices heard on child poverty

Children from some of the most deprived parts of the North will storm the corridors of power in a bid to end child poverty.

> I’m sure the word storm is not being used literally here, but it wouldn’t it be nice if they did…

A 38-strong national cohort of children, which is more than half made up of children from this region, has drawn up a manifesto to launch in Parliament on October 15.

They hope to see their issues raised by local MPs during future Prime Minister’s Questions – something believed never to have happened before.

The North East has the highest child poverty rate in the UK, with one in three children affected.

Some neighbourhoods in the North East have more than two-thirds of children living in families on out of work benefits.

The manifesto has been written by children aged between 13 and 18 and targets government-­led policies against child poverty, which they feel have “failed” to engage with young people.

It has been thought up and produced by Poverty Ends Now (PEN); a group of young people from some of the most deprived parts of England, coming together to speak about the issues affecting children in their community.

The project is supported by Children North East, a charity which works with children and their parents who are living in poverty.

The charity’s chief executive Jeremy Cripps said children’s voices are seldom heard in public debates.

He said: “Children and young people experiencing poverty can see most clearly what must be done. This is their manifesto. It sets out plainly how to reduce the impact of poverty on children and eventually eliminate it altogether.

“The manifesto is national but if you take the view that child poverty is a structural issue caused by a lack of well-paid jobs, then the North East lags behind the rest of the country.

“The children want to be able to get some of their questions about child poverty asked by their local MPs as part of Prime Minister’s Questions.

“As far as I understand this has never been done before.”

Key issues addressed by the young people includes low incomes, which leaves many families struggling, and the failure to provide three meals per day for all children.

The six-point manifesto has been developed by children who are members of various youth groups, reflecting on theirs and their friends’ experiences.

Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who sits on the cross party education select committee, says it’s important children have a voice of their own.

They are not just flying kites here,” he said. “They are highlighting real and distinct problems that members of Parliament should listen to.

“It’s important to produce the interests, particularly of children, who have no voice of their own when it comes to democratic policies.”

Stockton MP Alex Cunningham, who also has a seat on the select committee, said: “Young people taking this level of interest in politics have to be applauded.

“And I am sure they have some very clear messages from their own personal experiences.

“Incomes are poor on Teesside and worse than most parts of the country. Children are suffering as a result of a low-wage economy and high rates of unemployment.

“If any group of people are qualified to tell politicians in London what it’s like living in child poverty, it’s these children who are directly affected.”

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  05 October 2014

British people stopped believing in the benefits system due to Tony Blair, researchers claim

The exact moment that the British public lost its faith in the benefits system has been pinpointed by researchers.

Tony Blair’s famous pronouncement in 1999 that welfare should be “a hand-up, not a hand-out” in reference to Labour’s New Deal policies coincided with a fundamental change in public attitudes towards benefits claimants, according to a paper published today by academics at the University of Bristol.

Using data from the British Social Attitudes survey, the researchers argue that around the time Mr Blair introduced his fresh approach to the benefits system, public opinion on the subject reached a “point of intersection”.

Throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s, they argue, there was a widespread belief in Britain that out-of-work benefits were set at derisory levels, causing significant hardship for those who relied upon them. But by 1999 people had started to feel they were set too high – ushering in an era of benefit “scroungers” rhetoric which has continued to this day.

Attitudes towards unemployed people are clearly changing and hardening fast. Solidarity with unemployed citizens, poor people and welfare claimants has declined significantly in recent times,” said Dr Chris Deeming of the University of Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences, who led the research.

“The British public now sees work aversion and the declining work ethic as one of the main issues facing society. Coupled with this trend is a growing belief that out-of-work benefits are now too generous and act to promote the ‘dependency culture’,” he added.

> But who exactly believes this ? Certainly no-one who has actually had to live on benefits for any length of time.

Nor, you’d suppose, anyone who had close relatives of friends who had to survive on them.

Still, wasn’t it Sid Vicious who once remarked: “I’ve met the man on the street, and he’s a cunt” ?

The research also reveals that support for the welfare state among Labour voters has been in steep decline for two decades. In 1987, around 73 per cent of the party’s supporters agreed that the Government should spend more on welfare benefits for poor families, compared with just 36 per cent in 2011.

The study, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is published in the journal Social Policy and Administration.

Source – The Independent, 25 Sept 2014

Labour’s ‘Big Idea’ for JSA: a translation

I have decided to try my hand at translation. The two languages are, grammatically, almost identical. I shall translate from Labour leader Ed Miliband’s English to my native tongue, plain English. I’m not qualified so there may be some debate on my translations. Some may call them clunky, or say I am over-stripping, that if I left in a little more bullshit the beauty of the original Miliband language might be preserved.

Ed Miliband has presented a Big Idea for cutting jobseekers allowance, based on the following maxim: “Britain’s young people who do not have the skills they need for work should be in training, not on benefits.”

No more jobseekers allowance for you, 18-to-21-Year-Old-Who-Hasn’t-Found-a-Job-Yet (I’ll call you “Tim” for short). Labour plan to end out-of-work benefits for around 100,000 Tims and replace it with another payment that’s means-tested according to parental income, and dependent on “training”. So, instead of getting money with which to buy frivolous things like food and shelter, Tim will be getting “training” and less money (because Tim’s parents are of course rich, by virtue of being old, and willing to give him as much as he needs).

This may seem simple but given the vast cultural differences between politicians and those of us who live in The Real World, some translation – and a massive slow clap – is needed.

They say:Young people don’t have the skills for work
Translation:Businesses don’t want to spend money training entry-level employees, so demand that they come ready-made. They would be delighted to pass this cost on to the government if the government are ever stupid enough to offer.”

The recession and following job crisis is, in terms of recruitment, the best thing that ever happened to businesses. Remember the term “on-the-job training”? It went out of fashion in the last few years, when recruiters realised that they were buyers in a buyer’s market and could demand whatever the hell they wanted from potential employees, then sit back as thousands scrambled to appease them.

Hence ridiculous requests like “graduates with five years’ experience”, as a Central Saint Martin’s student was told he needed for an entry-level assistant job in a clothes store. Sure, he’d folded pants before, but he hadn’t honed his folding skills over five years so frankly, what good would he have been to them for £18k a year?

They say:Young people who are out of work need need training, not benefits.”
Translation: “We’ve noticed that for some reason, young people are suddenly lacking in skills. This has never been a problem with any generations that came before this massive recession…what could the connection be? Oh! We know! Since school does not magically train young people for what employers need, and employers aren’t willing to do it themselves, we’re going to make taxpayers pay for it.”

I love the idea that suddenly young people are lacking skills previous generations had. Like somehow we got a bad batch of youngster, because it was the 90s and pregnant women thought red After Shock was good for the baby. The admission that young people lack training is baked right into their policy, yet no one is asking why this has to come from government rather than schools or employers. How have businesses managed to pass on the cost of training their entry-level employees without anyone raising a fuss? Should we fund their office space as well?

They say:The ‘youth allowance’ will be means-tested on parental income.”
Translation:Even though we’re doing nothing to incentivise businesses to hire young people, we’re passing the cost of unemployment benefit on to young jobseekers’ parents. Because all parents are present, willing and able to financially support their adult children.”

Hey, boomers! Congrats on being the generation that votes. It’s really gone well for you hasn’t it? Now, not only have businesses blamed your “unskilled” kids for their frugal employment freeze, but after all that tax you paid, you’re still expected to support your kids financially because the government just don’t feel like doing it anymore. They’re too busy providing all the training businesses don’t want to pay for.

This myth that the parents of the downtrodden youth are necessarily rolling in it needs to die with the Loch Ness Monster. Fat chunks of the supposedly affluent middle classes are one pay cheque away from bankruptcy. Employed people are claiming housing benefit in their thousands, because now even a job can’t lift people out of poverty. It’s all hanging by a thread.

They say:The policy is not punitive, it’s designed to get young people the skills they need to get a job.”
Translation: “I’m a disingenuous tool, please throw long-expired foodstuffs at my eyes.”

Not only is this policy a mass reshuffling of who pays for what (with businesses once again getting the break), it’s another sneaky way to hide the fact that there aren’t enough jobs.

We’ve seen this same old youth-shaming and victim-blaming since the job crisis hit. Employment Minister Esther McVey had the nerve to claim young people lacked basic skills like “turning up on time” – quite an amazing remark to make about a group of people several million strong. Born recently? Late for work. Sure, Esther. That follows.

It utilises the now-familiar argument that’s designed to toss blame back on to jobseekers, “Well, young people, maybe you’re not good enough for a job as a cleaner”– as if there are plenty of jobs going, as if the only reason they’re jobless is their own brazen incompetence and manifest shiteness, as if managers are crying out for applicants who don’t turn up to the interview with breadsticks up their nose.

They’ve taken that argument, pretended it’s true, and used it as the basis for a policy.

If you’d all like to join me in a massive slow-clap…

Author – Erica Buist

Source – http://www.gothinkbig.co.uk/features/labours-big-idea-for-jobseekers-allowance-a-translation

South Tyneside – Food banks and advice services feel brunt of welfare reforms

Rising rent arrears, increased use of food banks and soaring demands for advice services are revealed in a shock new report focusing on the impact welfare reforms are having in South Tyneside.

 The Coalition Government’s welfare reform programme represents the biggest change to the welfare state since the Second World War with a raft of changes to benefits and tax credits to help cut spending and streamline services.

A new report by Helen Watson, South Tyneside Council’s corporate director for children, adults and families, outlines the human impact reforms are having in the borough.

It says that, within six months of the bedroom tax being introduced, rent arrears in the borough rose by 19 per cent – £81,000.

In total, South Tyneside Homes rent collection rates have fallen by 21 per cent over the last year, resulting in a loss of £331,000.

There has also been a 20 per cent increase in the demand for advice services since April last year.

Over the same period there has been a big rise in people using the borough’s three food banks, with a 50 per cent hike in referrals over the last 12 months.

There are 2,770 residents affected by the bedroom tax, with Tyne Dock, Victoria Road and Laygate, all South Shields, and The Lakes and Lukes Lane estates, in Hebburn, most affected.

Meanwhile, the number of out-of-work benefits being paid in the borough has been reduced in recent months, with a 22 per cent fall in claims for Jobseekers Allowance since April – 1,556 claimants.

The report makes grim reading for Coun Jim Foreman, the lead member for housing and transport at South Tyneside Council.

Coun Foreman believes the welfare reforms are having a “tsunami effect” and says the Government is “burying its head in the sand” by denying any direct connection between rising rent arrears and food bank usage and the welfare reforms.

He said: “The Government says there is no correlation between benefit cuts and the rise in food banks but they are just burying their heads in the sand.

“People don’t go to food banks out of choice. They go there because they are living in poverty. Having to use them is an attack on their pride and their resilience.”

Coun Foreman also expressed admiration for the “phenomenal work” being done by borough Citizens Advice Bureau staff and the South Tyneside Homes’ Welfare Reform team in a bid to minimise the impact of reforms.

He added: “It is not just a matter of the benefit cuts themselves but also the sanctions that are imposed if claimants turn up five minutes late for an appointment or don’t fill in a form or don’t make 15 applications for work in a week.

“All this is having a massive impact on the ability of people to provide for themselves and their families.”

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith, the driving force behind the welfare reforms, has claimed increased publicity over food banks was the reason for their rising popularity.

He said: “Food banks do a good service, but they have been much in the news. People know they are free. They know about them and they will ask social workers to refer them. It would be wrong to pretend that the mass of publicity has not also been a driver in their increased use.”

The welfare report is due to be presented to the council’s Riverside Community Area Forum at South Shields Town Hall at 6pm on Thursday.

Source – Shields Gazette  22 April 2014