Tagged: Tees valley

Durham University study warns cutting off benefits ‘makes people ill’

Tough measures designed to force benefit claimants to find work are instead making them ill, a study by North East academics has warned.

Claimants who have their benefits cut are sometimes left to go without food or the ability to heat their homes, a study found.

And this has an impact on their health – particularly because some of these affected are already ill or disabled.

The study was carried out by researcher Kayleigh Garthwaite and Professor Clare Bambra of Durham University.

Their findings were presented to MPs on the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, which is holding an investigation into “sanctions” which can imposed on people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and some people claiming Employment and Support Allowance, a benefit paid to people who are ill or disabled.

Claimants can have their benefits cuts off, known as a sanction, if officials believe they have failed to prove that they are looking for work.

But critics including a number of North East MPs argue that some claimants have lost benefits for no good reason. In a Commons debate in January, Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman and other Labour MPs said they believed job centre staff were given unofficial targets for the number of sanctions issued.

The study by Dr Garthwaite and Professor Bambra was part of a five year project looking at why some groups of people are healthier than others, which has focused on foodbank users in Stockton on Tees.

In a paper presented to MPs, they said:

“Sanctions led to loss of their only source of income, resulting in sanctioned ESA recipients often going without sufficient food and/or energy required to maintain good health or recover from illness.”

In some cases, benefits were taken from people who did not understand the complex rules, including people mental health conditions, the academics said.

They warned:

“Sanctions have led to cases of a total loss of income resulting in an inability to eat or heat at the levels required for maintaining good health or recovering from ill health.

“Indeed sanctions have exacerbated ill health. The sanctioning of people with mental health problems is a particular problem – with the stress and anxiety of income loss adding to their underlying condition.”

The academics said sanctions for ESA claimants “should be relaxed or removed – particularly for those with mental health problems”.

Dr Garthwaite also spoke to MPs at Westminster, where she warned that claimants often had no idea that there was an official hardship fund available to help people who had entirely run out of money.

She told them that some food bank users had resorted to eating food they knew would be bad for them because of medical conditions – such as an intolerance for wheat – because they had nothing else.

Defending the policy, Employment Minister Esther McVey told the committee that studies had shown sanctions encouraged people to find work.

She 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.”

The Government publishes figures showing how many sanctions have been imposed.

In Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham and Tees Valley, sanctions were imposed 92,326 times since 2012.

The job centre which has cut benefits most often is James Cook House in Middlesbrough, which imposed 7,068 sanctions.

John Street job centre in Sunderland imposed 4,922 sanctions.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Feb 2015

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Claims that North-East rail fares are cheaper than the South is a “myth”, says a passenger group

Cheap North-East rail fares are a “myth” that should be dispelled, campaigners say as the Government proposes increasing tickets prices to pay for better services.

Train fares in the region are already comparable with other parts of the UK and putting up prices to pay for new rolling stock and more frequent services would be unfair, says rail user group Coastliners.

As part of a consultation exercise ahead of the refranchising of the Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE) services, the Government has asked users for their views on below-average fares being increased to pay for improvements.

But research by Coastliners, which represents rail passengers on the Durham coast, found that many journeys in the Tees Valley were no cheaper than those in the South-East and London.

Peter Walker, who carried out the study, said the South-East had received massive investment in schemes such as Thameslink and Crossrail – and North-East passengers deserved similar levels of funding without seeing substantial price rises.

“We often pay as much for our trains as do those in the Home Counties. It is time to end the double standards of funding so often seen in the years gone by.”

 Coastliners added in its official response to the Government consultation:
“We as a user group would be grateful if this myth of lower fares in the North of England could be abandoned once and for all – it has little basis in fact.”

The findings were supported by Martin Abrams, from the Campaign for Better Transport.

He said:

“There are many myths about rail in the North of England which desperately need dispelling if passengers are to get a fair deal.

“The idea that northern passengers are getting better value for money than passengers in the south is one of these.

“Not only are standard fares very similar across the regions, but investment per head in the south is around twice that per head in the north.”

In response, the Department for Transport said the consultation on the Northern and TPE franchises asked for views on how services could be improved and how this could be balanced with fares.

A spokeswoman added:
“We are currently looking at the responses to that consultation. No decision will be taken without considering local views.

“We are very aware of passengers’ concerns over rail fares, and that is why the Chancellor announced a second year’s freeze in real terms on regulated fares, as well as abolishing train operating companies’ ability to flex prices on unregulated fares.”

The RMT has announced that it will hold an event in the House of Commons to lobby MPs on the Northern and TPE franchises.

The transport union said members and supporters from across the country would attend the event on November 4.

Source –  Northern Echo , 18 Oct 2014

North-East “being ignored” in new train plans, says MP

An MP has said the North-East has been “totally ignored once again” in a Government consultation on rail travel.

The Government is consulting on future Northern and TransPennine franchises which start in February 2016.

Plans have already been unveiled for major improvements to Manchester train stations and the possibility of electrification of the railway lines to York or Leeds has been raised.

But Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said the North-East and especially the Tees Valley is being “totally ignored.”

In a written response he pointed to an Institute of Institute of Public Policy Research report which showed that for nearly £3,000 spent per person on transport in London and the South-East just £5 is spent in the North-East.

He also said current TransPennine trains were “third rate,” any investment in the North-East was confined to the Tyne and Wear Metro and the current franchise plans were likely to lead to ticket office closures and price hikes for customers. Stopping electrification at York or Leeds would also reduce the region to being left with mere “shuttle services to the 21st Century.

He continued: “I went to one presentation about rail with the secretary of Transport about this and all I could see on the screen was an arrow pointing North-East. That was our only mention. I went beserk. There’s nothing for us, despite the fact that we’re the only region outside London actually with a positive contribution to GDP. It’s like the North doesn’t exist at all outside the M62 corridor.”

Mr McDonald said he had sympathy with The Hannah Mitchell Foundation which campaigns for the North to have a regional Government. The Foundation has appealed directly to the Labour Party to promise to make changes if elected to the franchise to include new trains which it says should be made in the north.

A Department for Transport spokesman said major investment was planned for Northern railways, but also he conceded a ‘Northern hub’ would be centred on Manchester. He said: “As part of our plans, we have asked passengers what they would like to see from these new franchises. This will allow us to plan the best way forward so we can deliver a world-class network that drives long-term economic growth across the region.”

Companies will be chosen to run the new rail franchises in the coming year.

Source – Northern Echo,  18 Aug 2014

David Cameron mixes up his Tyne and his Tees during radio interview on Teesside

> Well, its understandable – these places north of Watford are all the same, aren’t they ?

David Cameron mixed up his Teesside and his Tyneside as he took to the airwaves to talk up economic growth in the region.

The Prime Minister frequently used examples of economic activity in Tyne and Wear – including investment from companies like Hitachi and Nissan – during an interview with BBC Tees.

Oh his third mention of the Tyne, BBC Tees presenter Lisa McCormick intervened.

You keep mentioning the River Tyne, that’s not our region Prime Minister,” she said.

I’m sorry, we are the River Tees, does that mean that you’re forgetting about us?”

For a moment Mr Cameron seemed flustered as he paused.

Oh, I thought I was doing – oh no absolutely not,” he replied.

I mean, if I look specifically in terms of the Tees Valley, we’ve got £90m from our local growth fund to boost economic growth.”

It might have been a swift recovery from the PM – but it was not quick enough for some.

Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland‘s Labour MP Tom Blenkinsop seized the chance to attack Mr Cameron.

In isolation this may just seem like a somewhat silly mistake, yet over the last four years we’ve had a Tory peer calling the region ‘desolate’, frequent misspellings of Teesside in official Number 10 letters, and now the Prime Minister himself can’t even take the basic cue of appearing on BBC Tees to get the hint that our river is the Tees and not the Tyne,” he said.

This just highlights how David Cameron is out of touch and completely uninterested in places like Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar, Hartlepool and East Cleveland.”

UKIP’s North East MEP Jonathan Arnott also took the opportunity to bash the PM.

This is not just embarrassing for the Prime Minister but also what’s left of the Conservative party in the North East of England,” he said.

Whilst unemployment figures are going down elsewhere around the country, ours are still going up.

“Perhaps if he knew which area he was talking about, people might have more confidence that he actually cares about local people.”

Defending Mr Cameron was Conservative MP for Stockton South,  James Wharton.

No excuses, but I suspect he was doing a round of local interviews one after the other and these things can happen,” said the MP.

I will be reminding him when I next see him not only how great Teesside is but of all the things this government has done for the south of our region, from bringing Hitachi to the return if steel making and the announcement of over £90m in local investment only a few weeks ago.

I am proud of our record of delivering for this area and I am sure the Prime Minister is too.”

The chairman of the Redcar Constituency Liberal Democrats, Councillor Josh Mason, added:“The slip-up by the Prime Minister does not take away from the fact that since 2010 our area has received over five times more government investment per year than it did under the previous Labour government.

“It remains more important than ever for us to keep pushing for more investment and banging the drum for Teesside to ensure it remains on the government’s radar.”

The Prime Minister’s office declined to comment.

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette,  25 July 2014

Areas of North-East worse off than former East European communist countries

Parts of the North-East are poorer than many areas in former communist countries in Eastern Europe, new figures show.

People living in County Durham and Tees Valley have a lower income than places in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland, according to the Brussels statistics.

Large chunks of Greece also boast higher living standards than the North-East’s poorest sub-region – despite that country’s recent economic catastrophe.

And the figures also lay bare the extraordinary wealth of central London, where incomes are 4.5 times those in Tees Valley and County Durham.

Phil Wilson, the Sedgefield Labour MP, said the analysis was a stark reminder of just how far the region had to go to catch up, saying: “These are poor figures.

“There is a lot to do to raise the standard of living in the North-East. People face a cost of living crisis, which has only got worse over the last two or three years.

“However, we should remain part of the EU, because the North-East has benefited from a lot of inward investment, including from multinational companies like Nissan and Hitachi.”

The statistics, produced by Eurostat, an arm of the European Union, compare wealth across the EU using a measure known as “purchasing power standards” (PPS).

 It takes into account the effect of prices on the cost of living, rather than simply measuring gross domestic product (GDP), or output per person.

They show that, in 2011, Tees Valley and County Durham, GDP per head on the PPS measure was £14,700 – or just 71 per cent of the EU average.

That was significantly lower than Northumberland Tyne and Wear (83) and North Yorkshire (89) and the third lowest figure in the UK, after Cornwall and West Wales (both 64).

But it was also lower than the Yugozapaden sub-region of Bulgaria (78) and two areas in Poland – Mazowieckie (107) and Dolnośląskie (74).

Four sub-regions of Greece enjoy a higher income and Bucureşti-Ilfov (122) – which takes in the capital of Romania – is far, far wealthier.

Meanwhile, two other sub-regions of the UK – North Eastern Scotland (159) and Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire (143) – are among the EU’s richest.

Separate figures, yesterday, also threw fresh doubt, on the Government’s claims that the region has enjoyed a jobs recovery, despite the flatlining economy, until recently.

Since the start of the recession five years ago, the number of self-employed people has leapt by 23,000 in the North-East and by 37,000 in Yorkshire.

Meanwhile, the number of traditional employee jobs has dropped by far more – by 91,000 in the North-East and by 64,000 in Yorkshire.

> I think that says all you need to know about the job situation in the North East.

Worryingly, the average weekly income of someone in self-employment is 20 per cent lower than in 2008, earning them 40 per cent less than a typical employee.

Source – Northern Echo  07 May 2014

Full List of Touts Running ‘Community Work Programme’.

North East:  Northumbria; South Tyne and Wear Valley; Tees Valley –  our poverty pimps look to be Pertemps. Anyone know anything about them ?

Ipswich Unemployed Action.

The List of Shameis out (Hat tips to Another Fine Mess and Watching A4E),

We publish this in full – from TWPSolutions.

Following on from our article yesterday on lack of information re who won where on Community Work Placment tender round – we now have the full list from DWP so here it is:-

Community Work Placement Suppliers

 

Contract Package Area CoverageSupplier
1East of England: Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire; Cambridge and Suffolk; Essex; NorfolkSeetec
2East Midlands:  Nottinghamshire; Derbyshire; Lincolnshire and Rutland; Leicestershire and NorthamptonshireG4S
3London West:  Ealing; Hammersmith & Fulham; Brent; Harrow; Hillingdon; Hounslow; Richmond Upon Thames; Kingston Upon Thames; Wandsworth; Enfield; Kensington & Chelsea; Barnet; Camden; Westminster; Islington; HaringeyG4S
4London East:  Hackney; Newham; Tower Hamlets; Barking & Dagenham; Redbridge; Havering; Waltham Forest; City of London; Croydon; Bexley; Lambeth; Bromley; Greenwich; Lewisham; Southwark…

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Middlesbrough and Stockton have “highest youth unemployment in country”

Two North-East towns have the highest youth unemployment in the country, a report claims.

Middlesbrough and Stockton were ranked top of a youth unemployment table prepared by The Work Foundation.

The Lancaster University-based organisation’s report, The Geography Of Youth Unemployment – A Route Map For Change, claims that unemployment rates for 16 to 24-year-olds in the two towns is more than 25 per cent.

In contrast, York was found to have the second lowest youth unemployment in the country at less than 13 per cent.

The study recommends that town and cities reduce their rates by ensuring that local services work together more effectively.

The paper argues that without effective, targeted action from national and local government, businesses, and educators, a generation of young people in these cities will face a bleak future in the labour market.

Commenting on the paper, Lizzie Crowley, head of youth unemployment programmes at The Work Foundation, said: “Urgent action is needed to ensure young people get the right support to either continue in school, further training or with getting a job.”

Commenting on the report, Stockton Council leader Councillor Bob Cook said it was a “nonsense that the youth unemployment rate in Stockton was the highest in the country”.

 He added: “It is actually the second lowest in the Tees Valley and is also below the regional average.

“That said, we know that the current economic climate has made it tough for young people to get a foothold on the career ladder.

“We are determined to help which is why our children and young people select committee is in the final stages of an in depth scrutiny review looking at how education and business can work together to make sure that learning provision matches local industry need.”

Source – Northern Echo  08 April 2014

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.