The number of people reliant on food banks to help feed themselves and their families could rocket to more than two million, according to new research.
Research by Dr Rachel Loopstra, from Oxford University, forecasts that Tory plans for a further £12bn in welfare cuts could lead to a doubling in food banks users by 2017.
Trussell Trust, who operates over 440 food banks, gave out 1,084,604 emergency food parcels in 2014/15 – up from 61,468 in 2010/11.
The charity is just one of many food bank providers, charities and churches supporting hungry families across the UK.
The research also shows that rising food bank use is due to higher demand, rather than greater supply – as claimed by some government ministers.
According to a formula devised by Dr Loopstra, the number of food parcels given out per head of the population rises by 0.16% for every 1% cut in welfare spending.
Dr Loopstra said: “It coincides with spending cuts, welfare reform and record numbers of benefit claimants losing payments due to sanctions.”
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves seized on the figures, saying they were further evidence of the hardship and misery caused by Tory welfare policy.
“It would be an absolute disgrace for food bank use to double”, she said.
“The welfare state is there to provide a safety net. It’s not doing what it’s meant to do when people have to rely on charity.”
Reeves said David Cameron’s pledge of more savage cuts to welfare benefits means he has no choice but to cut working-age benefits, because the Tories have ruled out any changes to pensions and pensioner benefits.
“The Tories cannot achieve their £12bn of cuts to social security without doing so and hitting family budgets hard”, she said.
“Child benefit and tax credits are now on the ballot paper next week. Labour will protect them, and families across the country now know the Tories will cut them again.”
Reeves blamed benefit delays, sanctions and the hated bedroom tax for the increased demand on food banks.
She said Labour was the only party committed to reducing the reliance on food banks.
> But hang on… didn’t she say Labour didn’t want to be the party of the unemployed ? And aren’t Labour promising more Workfare ?
“A Labour government would do this by axing the bedroom tax, getting rid of benefit sanctions targets and introducing protections for people with mental health problems, carers, pregnant women and people at risk of domestic violence.”
She added: “It’s inevitable, if the Tories get back in, that we will see further food bank use.”
Trussell Trust’s Adrian Curtis said: “Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers in the UK today.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 04 May 2015
At election time, politicians from the main parties (and UKIP) will repeat the mantra of low taxes and blah, blah, blah. There is a group of people whom these politicians always ignore, unless it’s to claim they will “create jobs” or offer some kind of “job guarantee” for a certain age group. Who am I talking about? The people on out of work benefits. These are the forgotten voters.
The rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) has failed to keep pace with the increased cost of living. There are two kinds of JSA: Contributory and Income-based. The rates for each are exactly the same. I won’t bother going into detail about the minor differences, because they’re not that important. The only real difference is the rate for couples.
The rates are
Age JSA weekly amount 18 to 24 up to £57.90 25 or over up to £73.10
For those on Income-based…
View original post 533 more words
Labour stands charged with harbouring “disdain” for the North East after it emerged the benefits cap could be harsher in this region than in the wealthy South East if they win power.
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said an independent body will review the threshold on an area-by-area basis, and admitted it could vary depending on the cost of living.
Ian Jones, chair of the North East Lib Dems, poured scorn on the move and accused Ed Miliband’s party of “treating the North East like a second class citizen”.
Conservatives, meanwhile, said it would “penalise” the North East and called the idea “simply wrong”.
Mr Balls said the issues will be looked at by an independent board that will “double check we are doing the right thing” maintaining a national standard.
“We are not proposing to lower the benefit cap,” he said. “We are asking an independent advisory committee to check and make sure it is at the right level in all parts of the country.
“We have a national benefits system and we are going to keep the benefits system national.
“We are going to make sure by double checking with the advisory committee that we are doing the right thing.
“The right thing to do is to have the same level of support across the country but there is a cost of living difference and we have got to get it right.
“We aren’t thinking to undermine support for people, we are looking to enhance it.
“This is why we are asking for an independent committee to look at it, we don’t think it should be a political decision and we don’t want to give a steer to the committee. There is no preordained agenda from the Labour Party.”
The news is likely to anger Labour’s support in one of their heartland regions. It also comes after a controversial statement by Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves.
She was attacked by opponents as being part of a “metropolitan elite” and turning her back on the unemployed when she claimed Labour was “not the party of people on benefits.”
The senior figure added: “We don’t want to be seen, and we’re not, the party to represent those who are out of work.”
> Fine. So you won’t want my vote then.
A Conservative spokesman said:
“The benefits cap is an important measure, and it is right it is applied fairly. But under Labour plans, people could be penalised for living in the North East rather than another part of the country. That is simply wrong.
“Labour just have no credibility when it comes to welfare – they voted against our benefit cap and every single measure we’ve taken to get people off the dole and into work.”
Ian Jones, chair of the North East Lib Dems, said:
“Ed Balls’ weasel words on this won’t fool any one. The Labour manifesto is clear that they will look to treat people in the less well-off areas of the country worse than those in London and the South East.
“We saw the same thing with Conservative plans for regional pay cuts for teachers and nurses in the North East. Both parties, for different reasons, treat the region as a second class citizen. Labour are incredibly complacent and the Conservatives have nothing but disdain for the North.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 Apr 2015
The number of housing benefit claims made in the North East has almost doubled since 2010, an analysis of Government data has shown.
The Labour Party says low pay and soaring housing costs have led to the sharp rise, and criticised the Tories for allowing the benefits bill to escalate.
Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions, Rachel Reeves said the cost of housing benefit has risen to £1.3bn since 2010.
While London saw the highest rise in the country at 52%, the North East was a close second with 48%.
Catherine McKinnell, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Newcastle North said:
“This government has been content to build an economy based on low paid jobs. Our region has seen a huge increase in the number of working people forced to claim in work benefits to pay housing costs.
“This isn’t the way to build prosperity for the long-term. Labour has a better plan for the North East and will boost pay by increasing the minimum wage to £8 an hour, and by cutting taxes for working people with a lower 10p starting rate.”
While the region still has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 8%, with 103,000 people out of work, the number out of work fell by 15,000 on the previous quarter, representing a general trend.
But Ms Reeves added the quality and pay of jobs was damaging the economy and regions like the North East.
She said: “Since 2010 David Cameron has failed to tackle low pay and high housing costs leading to a 36% increase in the number of working people claiming housing benefit.
“And another five years of Tory failure to tackle high housing costs and low pay will lead to a 20% increase in the number of working people claiming housing benefit, costing £1.3bn. David Cameron’s failure to tackle housing benefit shows the Tory plan is failing.
“Labour has a better plan to control the housing benefit bill and tackle the root causes of rising spending; low pay and high housing costs. A Labour government will raise the national minimum wage to £8 an hour before 2020, give tax rebates to firms who pay a Living Wage and build at least 200,000 homes a year by 2020.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 10 Apr 2015
Job Centres in the region are among the first in the country to take part in the national roll out of the Government’s new Universal Credit, which began today (Monday, February 16).
Universal Credit, designed to get people into work more quickly and making it easier for them to earn more, has started in 15 areas, including Hambleton, Ryedale, Hartlepool and York.
Initially the credit, which merges six working-age benefits into one, is being rolled out only for new claims from single people who would otherwise have been eligible for jobseekers allowance, including those with existing housing benefit and working tax credit claims.
At Northallerton Job Centre today there was confusion over how it will work. One single parent, who gave her name as Julie, said she had been told nothing about it.
“It could possibly be a good idea, rather than having separate benefits and dealing with different departments,” she said.
“But I have been told nothing about this, and how it will work. I want to get back to work and I am studying at the moment so if it helps me to get back to work that’s good. But information would be a big help too.”
Another 19-year-old man who is currently claiming jobseekers allowance said he was also in the dark.
A pilot scheme has been tried out in the North-West, which the Government said had been a success
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said:
“The evidence shows that under Universal Credit, people move into work more quickly and earn more money, giving them increased financial security.
“It is very impressive that we have seen these results so soon and that this is having a real impact on people’s lives. This is a cultural change which will alter the landscape of work for a generation.”
But Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said no one believed the promises that the new system would work.
“Labour wants universal credit to work and we’ll call in the National Audit Office to do an immediate review of this failing programme to get a grip of the spiralling waste and delays.”
Source – Northern Echo, 16 Feb 2015
The number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) being subjected to benefit sanctions is creeping up, with nearly one in five being penalised last year.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that 3,097,630 JSA claims were made in 2013-14 and 568,430 individuals were subject to a sanction, a total of 18%. In 2012-13, 16% of claims were subjected to sanctions and 15% in 2010-11. They are imposed on people who fail to keep appointments, reject jobs or walk out of jobs without good reason.
Rachel Reeves, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said:
“The huge rise in sanctions since 2010 shows the government’s system is in chaos. The number has doubled since 2009 to a level where one in five of all JSA claimants receive a sanction. This will lead to further concerns that unofficial targets imposed on jobcentres by the Department for Work and Pensions are forcing up the number of people who have their benefits withdrawn.
“Under a Labour government, there will be no targets for sanctions and the system will focused on helping people into work, not simply finding reasons to kick jobseekers off benefits.”
> So under a Labour government there will be no targets for sanctions. That’s not quite the same as saying there will not be a vicious sanctions regime…there always were people in the system who’d impose sanctions just because they could. They will presumably keep right on doing so.
The figures also show that 372,461 claimants were subject to one adverse decision, 99,621 to two and 35,170 to three between 1 July 2013 and 30 June 2014.
The DWP stressed the figures were derived from unpublished information that had not been quality assured to Official Statistics publication standards, and should therefore be treated with caution.
David Webster, an honorary senior research fellow at Glasgow University, said:
“The DWP is still regularly claiming that it is only a ‘tiny minority’ of claimants who are sanctioned – most recently by Esther McVey last week – but this suggests it is not a tiny minority.”
The employment minister, Esther McVey, said:
“All the international evidence suggests that sanctions do have a positive impact on people getting into work, and there are two parts of that: as a deterrent, it has a positive impact on moving people into work and there is further research that, should somebody have been sanctioned, it helps them into work afterwards.”
> Actually, all it seems to prove is that sanctions reduce the unemployment figures – their real aim. And that’s very much not the same as people vanishing from the figures because they’ve found work.
The DWP pointed to OECD research on northern member states which suggested that having a credible benefit reduction leads to increased work searches and a subsequent increase of flow into employment of up to 50%.
Source – The Guardian, 13 Feb 2015
An update on todays’ bedroom tax vote
View original post 185 more words
Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit programme may not deliver ‘value for money’, the Government spending watchdog has warned today (26 November).
The net value of Universal Credit is now estimated to be £14.5 billion – £1.7 billion lower than three years ago. The figure supposedly accounts for reduced welfare spending and other ‘societal benefits’.
However, the National Audit Office (NAO) said it’s too early to determine whether Universal Credit will deliver ‘value for money’ for taxpayers, “regardless of how it is implemented and the cost of doing so”.
Delays in the implementation of Universal Credit, changes to its delivery service and problems with IT mean additional costs for taxpayers, including £2.8 billion more in staffing costs (NAO estimate) and £130 million wasted on failed IT software.
The DWP is planning to start rolling out new IT software for Universal Credit in just 18 months. However, the NAO said the DWP “does not yet have a contingency plan” if the IT software (delivery service) experiences “delays or fails”. This in turn could result in yet more losses.
According to the NAO, if the new delivery service is delayed by just 6 months the value of Universal Credit “reduces by £2.3 billion due to lost societal benefits”.
Their report also criticised the government for failing to “stabilize senior leadership roles and responsibilities”. Universal Credit has seen seven chiefs in only two years, with the former DWP Work Service Director Neil Couling replacing Howard Shiplee less than two months ago.
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Margaret Hodge MP (Labour) accused the DWP of “throwing good money after bad”, in botched attempts to fix Universal Credit.
Margaret Hodge said:
“The Department is throwing good money after bad by introducing a short-term fix with no adequate plan for delivery, insufficient skills and unclear milestones to measure progress against.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves added:
“The National Audit Office has cast grave doubts over the future of Universal Credit. This shocking report says the benefits of Universal Credit have fallen by £1.7 billion and that value for money, ‘can’t be determined’. It also confirms the roll-out of the new benefit won’t be complete even by 2019 as Iain Duncan Smith has repeatedly promised.
“The National Audit Office report is further evidence that the government’s handling of Universal Credit has been disastrous. It’s neither on time or on budget as the government promised. It’s yet another example of Tory Welfare Waste. Ministers must urgently get a grip of the huge waste and delays to this failing programme.”
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said:
“The Department for Work & Pensions has reset Universal Credit on a sounder basis but at significant cost, by extending the time for implementation and choosing a more expensive approach.
“It is now vital that the Department quickly establish clear goals for delivering the programme, in terms of cost, time and functionality, against which it can be held to account.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith defended the botched roll-out, arguing it was “best” to properly test Universal Credit before expanding the programme to more jobcentres.
He added that poor families on Universal Credit would “get more money”. They “go into work quicker, they stay in work long and families will benefit enormously”.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 26 Nov 2014
Rachel Reeves ,the shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Stephen Timms, shadow Employment Minister have said that if labour is elected next year they will end targets for sanctions. But how much difference would this actually make?
According to Reeves and Timms:
“. . . we urgently need to get a grip on the delays and administrative errors that can mean the difference between eating and not eating for people trying to make a few pounds last for days.
As MPs we have had to refer people to food banks because of problems like this. In one case a mother who worked three jobs as a cleaner but ended up living on payday loans because she had been forced to wait months on end to get the tax credits. We should take this kind of system failure as seriously as we do a delay to an important medical appointment or a failure to respond adequately to a crime report.
“We also need to ensure that sanctions are fair and proportionate, and based on transparent procedures and appropriate safeguards. Sanctions have been part of our social security system since its foundation, and the principle of mutual obligation and putting conditions on benefit claims were integral to the progressive labour market policies of the last Labour government, from the first New Deals to the Future Jobs Fund.
“We in the Labour movement have always believed that the right to work goes hand in hand with the responsibility to prepare for, look for, and accept reasonable offers of suitable work.
“That’s why we have pledged that there will be no targets for sanctions under a Labour government so that jobcentre staff are focused on helping people into work, not simply finding reasons to kick them off benefits. We will also ensure that rules and decisions around sanctions are fair and properly communicated, and that the system of hardship payments is working properly.”
But, without a change in the criteria for sanctions and a change in the attitude towards claimants of both politicians and the civil servants at the top of the DWP, how much difference would ending targets that are never explicitly stated in the first place actually make?
Let us know what you think.
You can read the full statement on the Labour List website.
Source – Benefits & Work, 24 Nov 2014
300,000 more people could be living in “absolute poverty” in the UK than previously thought, according to a shocking new report.
Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that poorer households have experienced larger increases in living costs than richer households, mainly due to rises in food and energy prices.
> Well – who’d have guessed ?
IFS say that taking into account “differential inflation” since 2010-11, the number of people recorded as being in absolute poverty would be 300,000 higher in 2013-14 than official figures suggest.
Between 2002-03 and 2013-14 the poorest 20% of households saw prices increase on the typical goods they purchase by 50%, compared to richest 20% who saw prices rise by 43%.
According to the IFS, poorer households devote more of their income on things like food and energy, whereas the richest 20% of British society spend more on areas such as motoring and mortgages.
On average, the prices of goods purchased by low-income households have risen more quickly than those more commonly purchased by more affluent households. This is particularly apparent in the ‘wake’ of the 2008 recession, say IFS.
The government uses two different methods of measuring poverty in the UK. The first is ‘absolute poverty’, which is a measure of the number of people thought of as being below a poverty line, before housing costs, calculated using the Retail Price Index (RPI). Through this measure we can confidently say that 18.8% of individuals were living in absolute poverty in 2012-13, before housing costs.
Another method used by the government is relative poverty, which calculates the number of households earning less that 60% of the national median average. Using this method we can calculate that 15.4% of the UK population were living in ‘relative poverty’ (before housing costs) in 2012-13.
The IFS study also accounts for different inflation pressures felt by households depending on how they spend their income – a measurement not included in official poverty statistics. This new measurement found that absolute poverty is 0.5% higher in 2013/14 than standard poverty measures- the equivalent of 300,000 more households.
However, the IFS say this trend has not been consistent over earlier years, adding that “this new definition had been at times higher and at times lower”.
Peter Levell, a Research Economist at IFS said:
“In recent years, lower-income households have tended to see bigger increases in their cost of living than have better off households.
“Official poverty measures do not take this into account and hence have arguably understated recent increases in absolute poverty by a small but not insignificant margin.”
Rachel Reeves MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said:
“This report is further evidence of the huge pressures which families are facing as a result of David Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis.
“The Government’s failure to tackle soaring energy, childcare bills and low wages has led to millions struggling to get by. Earlier in the year the IFS said child poverty is set to rise 900,000 by 2020.
“A Labour Government will do more to help families who are struggling to make ends meet so that every child gets the best start in life. We will freeze energy prices, raise the minimum wage, extend free childcare provision, scrap the Bedroom Tax and introduce a Compulsory Jobs Guarantee to get people off benefits and into work.”
> But getting people off benefits and into work doesn’t mean those people will necesserily be any better off. Maybe Labour should really be thinking about capping rents, energy, public transport and food prices ? But of course they won’t really change anything much, they’ve bought into the system too far to do that.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 05 Nov 2014