Reposted from Union Solidarity International
The list of Cabinet members who failed to secure 40% of the vote. They would not have been elected had the same criteria been imposed as strike ballots
Half the members of the new Tory Cabinet were elected on less than 40% of the electorate – failing the government’s own trade union legitimacy test.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid, himself elected by 38.3% of the electorate, yesterday announced new rules concerning strike ballots.
The proposal is that a ballot result would only be valid if: (1) at least 50% of members vote in them and (2) at least 40% of all members vote to support the action.
Therefore, the bare minimum will be 80% yes with a 50% turnout. meaning trade union strike ballots would no longer be declared by a simple majority, but would only become valid if 40% of members voted in them.
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Reposted from Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union people magazine
Making work or claimants pay?
Iain Duncan Smith claims that Universal Credit (UC), the governments new single benefit, is being rolled out successfully under budget. The reality, according to PCS members charged with its implementation and delivery, is that UC is in disarray, mired by a lack of staff, poor training and inadequate IT, which has wasted millions of tax payers money.
- 1 Million people were intended to be on UC by April 2014. By November, just 40,000 were in receipt of it, demonstrating the scale of the job involved in implementation. The Joseph Rowntree Trust warned “getting this kind of change wrong can result in hardship that can last for many years”
- 4 in 5 of PCS members working on UCsay that the training they have received to prepare them for the job has been less than adequete…
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Universal Credit staff have delivered a damning verdict on Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reform.
Staff told the PCS union that Universal Credit is ‘in disarray’ and mired by a lack of staff, poor training and an inadequate IT system.
A survey carried out by PCS, shows that 90% of Universal Credit staff believe the IT systems underpinning the new benefit are less than adequate. Only 0.9% said the IT systems were more than adequate.
Respondents to the survey also said they didn’t feel confident in carrying out their roles, with four in five saying the training they had received to prepare them for Universal Credit was of a poor standard.
Almost three-quarters said their working conditions had deteriorated under the new system, leaving them feeling stressed or very stressed.
77% said they thought staffing levels were less than adequate and two thirds said they were frequently asked to work overtime, with only 7% saying they were never asked.
Perhaps the most damning indictment of Universal Credit, is that more than half of those who responded to the survey said the new benefit was not an improvement for claimants.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has spent more than £700 million on Universal Credit, which merges a number of existing benefits into one single monthly payment.
The new benefit has been dogged by long delays and IT problems. Last year the Government admitted it may have to write off £663 million on Universal Credit IT.
Official government figures show that only 31,030 people were on Universal Credit by 8 January 2015. Of these 32% were in employment and 68% were not in employment.
At the time of the survey, around 820 staff were working on universal credit and 300 to 400 responded to the questions.
PCS say they are not opposed to Universal Credit in principle, but say the scheme has not been designed with claimants in mind.
They added that staff are not being given proper training and resources, while millions of pounds on IT have already been written off.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:
“No one can trust Iain Duncan Smith to tell the truth about universal credit so it falls to the staff to expose this wasteful and politically motivated shambles for what it is.
“It has long been obvious that staff are under-resourced and undertrained and that universal credit is at risk of collapse.
“The DWP cannot keep burying its head in the sand and hope these problems go away because they are only going to get worse if nothing is done.”
A DWP spokesman said:
“The PCS survey comprises of only 13% of our 2,700 staff working on Universal Credit.
“They chose to ignore staff in our Jobcentres when conducting this research providing a skewed unrepresentative sample of union members.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 13 Mar 2015
Government officials have been reported as saying that up to 30,000 DWP staff could be axed, if the Tories win the next general election.
The startling figure represents a significant reduction in the DWP’s 83,000 full-time staff.
But even under a future Labour government, the number of DWP staff could be slashed by up to 20,000.
If true, the reductions would occur gradually over the course of the next parliament.
A spokesperson for the PCS union, who include DWP staff among their members, said:
“If carried through this would devastate the delivery of essential social security support.”
It’s unclear as to whether these cutbacks would affect front-line Jobcentre staff.
Neither the Conservatives nor Labour have confirmed or denied the allegation.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 13 Mar 2015
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has condemned the Government’s decision to privatise part of the administration of Universal Credit.
Private firm Capita will be gifted with the responsibility for booking initial work search interviews for new Universal Credit claimants.
Capita is currently facing a second inquiry into a £1.5bn Whitehall jobs contract, which small companies claim could leave them facing financial ruin.
A press release on the union’s website reads:
“Their intention is that the process for booking the appointment for a claimant’s initial work search interview will be handed to the private company Capita. No DWP staff will be transferred to Capita under this proposal.
“There is no justifiable business reason for doing this. DWP claim that Capita will be able to make these appointments at weekends for claimants who make a claim online at a weekend, but in practice the appointments could just as well be done by DWP staff the following Monday, as has happened up to now.
“Capita already have been handed the same task for claims to Jobseekers Allowance and this announcement extends that arrangement to Universal Credit claims.
“PCS has protested strongly to DWP about this decision. Seeing their work privatised is a kick in the teeth for our hard working members.
“Members will also be understandably concerned that this privatisation is a foretaste of further private sector involvement in the delivery of Universal Credit.
“PCS has also made the point to the department that Capita is consistently failing to meet its key targets in relation to JSA First Contact calls that are currently out sourced to them. This failure contrasts with the DWP staff in CCS who are consistently meeting the very same targets.
“Again the failure of the private sector to out-perform the public sector has been ignored as the tired, false dogma of ‘private sector good, public sector bad’ is wheeled out once again.
“PCS will continue to argue against all privatisation of DWP work and will continue to campaign for all privatised work to be brought back in-house where it belongs.”
> Hear, hear – claimants should be harrassed by public sector, not private company , workers.
Jobcentres are, I would guess, high on the list for selling off to private companies if the Tories win the next election. Possibly if Labour win too.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 22 Feb 2015
Jobseekers could be forced to “sign on” every week to continue receiving benefit payments, under new plans being considered by the Government.
Currently, only benefit claimants who are deemed not to be doing enough to find a job are required to visit a Jobcentre every week.
Trials in East London and parts of the West of Scotland, where claimants signed on every week instead of every fortnight after the 13th week of their claim, found that unemployed people spent “at least an average of 2.6 fewer days on benefits than fortnightly signers”.
Other approaches to the analysis suggest that jobseeker’s spent an average of six fewer days on benefits, but the DWP said they have “less confidence in the higher figure”.
However, the DWP is said to be taking the findings “very seriously” and could eventually force all of the UK’s 1.91 million Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants to sign on every week.
Researchers also tested “speed signing” in other parts of the UK, where claimants had shorter fortnightly jobsearch reviews.
“Flexible signing” was also trialled, giving Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches the flexibility to change how often JSA claimants were asked to sign on.
Speed signing had “no effect”, while flexible signing resulted in one day more on benefits. A figure which the DWP says isn’t “statistically significant”.
Pilots lasted for 52 weeks following random assignment. Participation ended sooner where individuals were referred to the Work Programme or where they ended their claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Unions have condemned the idea, with the PCS union – who include Jobcentre staff among its members – accusing the Government of “punishing the jobless”.
The plan would also require “massive investment in Jobcentres and staff”, said PCS.
A PCS spokesperson said weekly signing “doesn’t appear to be designed to help claimants, it’s just another way for the Government to turn the screw”.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 02 Feb 2015
Coalition claims that it has presided over a jobs revival have come under fresh scrutiny with research showing that as few as a fifth of the 2 million jobless people whose benefit has been taken away are known to have found work.
The research, due to be presented at a Commons select committee inquiry into welfare sanctions on Wednesday, suggests that hundreds of thousands are leaving Jobseeker’s Allowance because of benefit sanctions without finding employment, though the report’s authors decline to provide an exact figure.
Written by academics at the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, the report raises questions about why so many of those losing their benefit then disappear from the welfare system – possibly to rely on food banks.
Prof David Stuckler, of Oxford University, said that benefit sanctions “do not appear to help people return to work. There is a real concern that sanctioned persons are disappearing from view. What we need next is a full cost-benefit analysis that looks not just narrowly at employment but possibly at hidden social costs of sanctions.
> No, what we need next is a stop to sanctions. Then you can do all the cost-benefit analysis stuff, in the knowledge that your research is not being made obsolute by people continuing to be sanctioned every day.
“If, as we’re finding, people are out of work but without support – disappeared from view – there’s a real danger that other services will absorb the costs, like the NHS, possibly jails and food support systems, to name a few. Sanctions could be costing taxpayers more.”
However, the Department for Work and Pensions, which is expected to hail a further rise in UK employment on Wednesday, countered that it was proud that 1 million jobless people were now subject to the “claimant commitment”, which sets out tougher requirements on the jobless to find work or risk losing their benefit payments.
Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said:
“It is only right that in return for government support – and in return for their benefits – jobseekers are expected to do all they can to find work. Although on benefits, they still have a job: the job is to get back into work.
> This would be the government support we paid into, via National Insurance, when we were working, right ? So its our money, IDS, not yours.
“The claimant commitment, which is deliberately set to mimic a contract of employment, makes this expectation explicit. It has created a real change in attitudes. Already more than a million people have signed up to – and are benefiting from – this new jobseeking regime.”
> What real-life employment contract does it mimic !? The sort used for slaves on the old southern US plantations perhaps ?
The Oxford-based research showed that between June 2011 and March 2014, more than 1.9m sanctions were imposed on people receiving jobseeker’s allowance (JSA), with 43% of those sanctioned subsequently ceasing to try to claim the benefit. Only 20% of those who left gave as their stated reason that they had found work.
The Department for Work and Pensions conducts no systematic research into what happens to those sanctioned, so the new findings start to fill an evidential gap in what has been one of the biggest but least publicised changes to the welfare system since the government came to power.
The 1.9m benefit removals between June 2011 and March 2014 represent a 40% increase compared with the previous seven years. The figures are based on official monthly and quarterly data from databases covering UK local authorities between 2005 and 2014.
The highly emotive dispute about a central aspect of government welfare reform centres on whether jobcentre staff, driven by senior management, are following arbitrary and poorly communicated rules that punish not just the feckless but some of the most vulnerable in society, including mentally ill and disabled people. Many independent witnesses have urged the DWP inquiry at least to suspend the sanctions regime for those claiming employment support allowance, the main disability benefit .
Study author Dr Rachel Loopstra, from Oxford University, said:
“The data did not give us the full picture of why sanctioned people have stopped claiming unemployment benefit. We can say, however, that there was a large rise in the number of people leaving JSA for reasons that were not linked to employment in association with sanctioning. On this basis, it appears that the punitive use of sanctions is driving people away from social support.”
The study also shows widespread variation in how local authorities used sanctions. In Derby, Preston, Chorley and Southampton, researchers found particularly high rates of people being referred for sanctions. In some months, more than 10% of claimants in these areas were sanctioned – the highest rates nationwide.
Co-author Prof Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said:
“There is a need for a cost-benefit analysis of sanctioning, looking at it not just in narrow terms of unemployment benefit, but also the bigger picture, focusing on employment, health, and other social costs.”
“The coalition government has embarked upon an unprecedented experiment to reform social security. I hope policymakers will be informed by these findings and see the value of investigating the consequences.”
Separate evidence in front of the DWP select committee inquiry includes witness statements from former jobcentre staff suggesting senior management threaten staff if they do not take a harsh approach to claimants. There is also cumulative evidence that many of those sanctioned have little or no knowledge of why they are being punished.
The main union representing jobcentre staff, PCS – also due to give evidence on Wednesday to the select committee inquiry – suggests:
“While there is considerable anecdotal evidence about the inappropriate use of sanctions, there is a lack of empirical evidence. We believe that DWP should publish a more detailed breakdown of sanctions, and specifically more detailed explanations as to why they were imposed. PCS’s survey of our adviser members showed that 61% had experienced pressure to refer claimants to sanctions where they believed it may be inappropriate to do so.”
DWP select committee inquiry member Debbie Abrahams said:
“This government has developed a culture in which Jobcentre Plus advisers are expected to sanction claimants using unjust, and potentially fraudulent, reasons in order get people “off-flow”. This creates the illusion the government is bringing down unemployment.”
The government counters that its policies are turning the UK into the jobs factory of Europe, and dismisses the idea that the unemployment figures are being subverted by sanctions.
This article was written by Frances Perraudin and Patrick Wintour, for The Guardian on Tuesday 20th January 2015
> It would be interesting to know how many PCS members have participated in handing out sanctions… and how many have refused to. I suspect its a lot of the former and very few of the latter. I think that if Serwotka really cared he might have attempted to oppose the sanctions regime before now.
Reposted from Public & Commercial Services (PCS) website
Evidence to MPs on benefits sanctions
Our general secretary Mark Serwotka and DWP vice president Helen Flanagan (@Shenanigans_PCS) appeared this morning before the work and pensions select committee.
Giving evidence to the work and pensions select committee’s inquiry into sanctions, our general secretary Mark Serwotka said this is “corrupting” the work our members are trying to do.
Mark was appearing alongside our Department for Work and Pensions vice president Helen Flanagan. The committee had previously published our written submission to the inquiry.
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The quality of decision making for personal independence payment (PIP), is being called into question following the revelation that hundreds of staff without the proper experience and training are being temporarily promoted to the rank of PIP decision maker.
The promotions are being made because Atos and Capita have taken on many more health professionals to clear the backlog of PIP applications. Without hundreds more decision makers the bottleneck would simply move from the assessors to the decision makers.
According to the Public and Commercial Services union:
“Pressure of work continues to affect PIP members in other ways. There are high numbers of staff on temporary promotion: at one site 50 staff are on TDA [Temporary Duties Addition for staff acting up to a higher grade]. There is an expectation that even more Decision Makers will be needed as reassessment ramps up. Despite this, there are no permanent promotion opportunities. Transfers out of PIP are being blocked. There are reports of a harsh Managing Attendance regime at some sites.”
The mass promotions appear to be having an effect throughout the DWP:
“PCS were recently informed that the training for new apprentices has been very poor: they have been given just two weeks’ classroom training. When the apprentices start their consolidation there are very few Band B staff available to help them because so many staff are on TDA as Decision Makers.
“Training for all grades was reported as poor.”
With poorly trained and under qualified staff being drafted in as temporary decision makers, it is even more vital that the difficulties you face are spelt out as plainly and in as much detail as possible in your PIP application and backed up with supporting evidence where this is available.
Source – Benefits & Work, 02 Dec 2014
This article was written by Tom Clark, for The Guardian on Tuesday 4th November 2014
The occupational pensions of MPs, ministers and the prime minister could be classified as welfare spending in the tax transparency statements that George Osborne has promised every taxpayer.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is writing to millions of tax-paying households with detailed figures on how the government spends their income tax and National Insurance contributions. Welfare is recorded collectively as the single largest expenditure, consuming nearly one pound in every four.
This presentation has been criticised as a politically motivated departure from Treasury officials’ original plan to break down social security into the components paid to different parts of the population, such as elderly, disabled and unemployed people.
By revealing that payments specifically earmarked for the unemployed, for example, represented only 3% of the total, this approach may have set back Osborne’s case for a fresh £12bn in benefit cuts.
Now experts are drawing attention not only to the lack of differentiation in the welfare chunk of spending but also to the inclusion of substantial elements of spending that would not normally be considered welfare at all, notably personal social services and public sector pensions. Even ministerial pensions are likely to be covered.
The Treasury said: “The headings in our tax summaries are based on internationally recognised (UN) definitions.” But in a briefing note published on Tuesday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies detailed how the welfare total included £28.5bn on “personal social services”.
“This is a number that in many analyses one would want to report separately from other welfare spending,” the IFS said. “Unlike other elements of ‘social protection’ it is not a cash transfer payment and in many ways has more in common with spending on health than spending on social security benefits.
“Another £20bn of the spending counted under welfare is pensions to older people other than state pensions. That includes spending on public sector pensions – to retired nurses, soldiers and so on. This is not spending that would normally be classed as welfare.”
Declan Gaffney, a social security researcher, said the inclusion of public sector pensions was bizarre.
“The Treasury needs to clarify exactly how it arrived at these figures, and publish the workings – spelling out exactly whose pensions it included. Does it, for example, include MPs and the prime minister himself?”
Gaffney has used IFS tables to calculate a more conventional figure for total welfare less state pension expenditure, and concludes that the government’s choice of definition inflates the published welfare spending total by around 40%.
The Treasury did not respond to a question about whether the pensions of MPs, ministers and the prime minister would be classified as welfare.
A spokesman for PCS, the civil service union, said:
“Tens of thousands of civil servants work hard to deliver social security support and they know how important and necessary it is. For their pensions to be hijacked as part of the government’s latest political attack on our welfare state is absolutely disgusting and it exposes just how far ministers will go to poison the well of public opinion.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 04 Nov 2014