Controversial zero-hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low-paid and insecure jobs, according to a new report published today.
An analysis by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) shows that in addition to the 700,000 people on zero-hours contracts, a further 820,000 workers are underemployed – working between 0 and 19 hours a week.
The TUC says that whilst zero-hours contracts have featured heavily in the news, underemployment is blighting the lives of “hundreds of thousands of workers” struggling to make ends meet.
Workers on ‘short-hours contracts’ are typically paid a much lower hourly wage than other workers, the TUC says. The hourly rate for a short-hours worker is just £8.40, compared to an overall average for all employees of £13.20 an hour.
According to the TUC, short-hours contracts “give too much power to the employer” and allows them to escape having to pay National Insurance for their employees.
Like zero-hours contracts, workers on short-hours contracts can be offered as little as one hour paid work each week and have to compete with colleagues for extra hours.
Workers in the retail sector are the hardest hit by low-paid contracts. Nearly 250,000 people working in shops, supermarkets, warehouses and garages are trapped on short-hours – 29% of all underemployed workers. This compares to 16% in the education sector, 14% in food services and 12% of health and social care workers.
The TUC’s report shows that women account for nearly three-quarters (71.5%) of all workers trapped on short-hours contracts.
Zero-hours and short-hours contracts, along with low-paid and bogus self-employment, have reduced tax revenues and are harming the UK economy, according to the TUC.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Zero-hours contracts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to low-paid, insecure work.
“Hundreds of thousands of other workers find themselves trapped on short-hours contracts that simply do not guarantee enough hours for them to make ends meet.
“Like zero-hours contracts, short-hour contracts give too much power to the employer. Bosses have an incentive to offer low wages and fewer hours to get out of paying national insurance.
“Without more decent jobs, people will continue to have to survive off scraps of work and UK productivity will continue to tank.”
The report also draws attention to a sharp increase in self-employment, which accounts for 31% of the net rise in employment since 2010. Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that average earning for self-employed people have fallen dramatically by 22% since 2008/09.
New figures published by Eurostat place the UK at 23rd out of 28 for its record on underemployment.
The figures show that UK underemployment is 31% higher than the EU average, which the TUC says is a sign of the Government’s failure to create high-quality jobs.
Frances O’Grady said:
“These figures show what a bad time British people are having at work compared with their European neighbours.
“We have a fragile recovery built on pumped-up house prices, instead of the strong foundation of good quality jobs with decent hours and wages.
“The current approach just isn’t delivering enough high quality jobs to meet demand and it’s leaving too many families struggling to get by on scraps of work.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 27 Apr 2015
Delusional David Cameron has insisted the Tory-led coalition government “protected the poorest” in society, in an interview with the Independent newspaper.
“I haven’t changed. I am a compassionate Conservative”, he told the journalist, whilst travelling from Belfast to Cardiff during a four-nations tour to promote his support for the union.
“We had to make difficult decisions”, he says. “I would argue that this has been done in a compassionate way. We protected the poorest, the pensioners, the NHS. We had a balanced plan.”
When pushed to explain why a “compassionate Conservative” would push for a further £12bn in welfare cuts after May’s general election, he replied: “There is nothing compassionate about leaving people to live on welfare when they could have the dignity and security of work”.
He claims that the coalitions welfare reforms have led to 900,000 fewer people claiming working-age benefits.
> I wonder how that figure would look once you’d deducted those sanctioned…and those who have died.
“That is a deeply compassionate thing. That is very much the impetus of our welfare reform”, he said.
“It is not just about saving money. It is about trying to save lives and change people’s lives. Can we save about half of what we saved in the last parliament through a process of reform? Yes, we can.”
David Cameron’s comments will undoubtedly infuriate thousands of families who have been forced to turn to food banks, in the wake of some of the most callous and vicious cuts to welfare and social security in living memory.
More than 900,000 jobseekers were subjected to benefit sanctions in one year alone (April 2013 to March 2014), often for unfair or spurious reasons. This has resulted in a call from the Work and Pensions Committee for an independent review into the punitive system.
> Sometime in the next few years. Maybe.
Disabled people have been targeted with cuts to vital disability benefits and other forms of support, such as the abolition of the Independent Living Fund.
Low-income working families have seen their employment rights reduced and tax credits cut.
The hated bedroom tax has pushed some of the poorest and most vulnerable people into poverty and others out of their family home.
Abolition of Council Tax Benefit has resulted in a more than *25% increase in the number of households summoned to court over unpaid Council Tax bills.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on how David Cameron’s government inflicted pain and misery on Britain’s poorest.
If this is what David Cameron calls being a “compassionate Conservative”, I hope we never get to see the real Tories. Some may argue we already have.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 07 Apr 2015
This article was written by Karen McVeigh, for The Guardian on Sunday 14th December 2014
The Department for Work and Pensions has been urged by mental health and disability charities to publish its secret investigations into suicides that may have some link to benefit changes, following revelations that it has carried out internal reviews into 60 such cases.
A Freedom of Information request by the Disability News Service has revealed that the DWP has carried out “60 peer reviews following the death of a customer” since February 2012. A peer review is triggered when suicide or alleged suicide is “associated with a DWP activity”, according to its internal guidance.
Despite growing concern over the way benefits are administered in relation to vulnerable individuals, and amid a number of reports of related deaths, the department told the Guardian it had no plans to publish the reviews.
Disabled People Against the Cuts said that, because of the way the reviews were carried out, the DWP figure was likely to be the “tip of the iceberg”.
Tom Pollard, the policy and campaigns manager at Mind, told the Guardian the figures were a concern. He stressed that suicide was a complex problem but added:
“It would be helpful for organisations to see what things could be going wrong in the benefit system that could lead to these tragic situations.”
Sue Bott, director of policy and services at Disability Rights UK, said DWP reviews should be transparent.
“There have been allegations and anecdotal evidence for a while that the benefits regime has tipped people over the edge. It should be looked into in a transparent way,”
“This is not just about the nature of the decision taken as to whether it was right or wrong. It’s also about the process and there is a lot of concern about the way benefits are administered.”
The DWP’s latest figures show that sanctions to punish disabled ESA claimants had risen by 470% in 18 months, from 1,096 in December 2012 to 5,132 in June 2014.
According to DWP figures released as the result of an FoI request, 62% of adverse ESA sanction decisions in the first three months of 2014 were made against people with mental or behavioural problems (9,851 out of 15,955).
The calls for transparency from the DWP come after a number of reports of the deaths and suicides of vulnerable individuals after adverse benefit decisions.
David Clapson, 59, a former soldier and type-1 diabetic, died in July after his benefit was cut. Clapson had no food in his stomach, £3.44 in the bank and no money on his electricity card, leaving him unable to operate his fridge where he kept insulin.
MPs are to look into his death after a petition written by Gill Thompson, his sister, gathered more than 200,000 signatures.
Thompson, told the Guardian:
“All I’ve ever asked for is lessons to be learned. I can’t bring him back but we should know what is going on. There are certain people who shouldn’t be sanctioned. People with terminal cancer, waiting for heart operations, people with diabetes. Before they sanctioned my brother, they knew his disability. He was waiting to hear from a job, he had been on work placement. He was claiming the bare minimum.”
Christine Norman, a nurse whose disabled sister, Jacqueline Harris, took her own life in November 2013 after her benefits were cut, said:
“It’s too late for my sister. Everything is stacked against you. If you’ve got a great education, if you have great health, you’re OK. But if you haven’t, you have to fight against the odds. The government want you to work. The ones they pick are the ones that are vulnerable and ill.”
An inquest found last month that Harris, 53, of Bristol, who was partially sighted, took her own life after months of constant pain and following a “fit for work” ruling that replaced her incapacity benefit with jobseeker’s allowance. Staff at a jobcentre Harris was told to attend had to call an ambulance after she blacked out in pain.
Disabled People Against Cuts said that, because the DWP’s reviews only relate to suicides or alleged suicides and were triggered by regional managers within the benefit system, the number of deaths was likely to be far higher than the 60 cases that reached review.
Anita Bellows, of Disabled People Against Cuts, said:
“The triage for advising whether a peer review is to be carried out is done by regional managers at seven regional centres, who may not have an interest in putting them forward. Also, the guidance for peer review is focused on suicide, which does not cover people like David Clapson.”
She called on the DWP to open a proper investigation into the deaths, and include evidence from medical experts.
“These should be public documents” she said. “They are also only focused on the process. There are no medical experts on it.”
The DWP said it was unable to disclose the names of individuals under review because of provisions of the Social Security Administration Act.
However, the Mental Welfare Commission of Scotland, a Scottish government-funded watchdog, published its comprehensive review of the suicide of a claimant known only as Ms DE this year. The MWCS concluded that the WCA process and the subsequent denial of ESA was at least a “major factor in her decision to take her own life”. It concluded that the work capability assessment process was flawed and needed to be more sensitive to mental health issues.
Colin McKay, chief executive of the Mental Welfare Commission of Scotland, said he was disappointed with the DWP response to the report on Ms DE, who died on 31 December 2011.
“Certainly, nothing in what they said gave us confidence that if another Ms DE was claiming benefit, the outcome would be any different,” he said. “If the number of deaths are 60, that’s a lot. You would expect any organisation experiencing deaths as the potential consequences of their actions would be seriously considering whether they needed to do anything differently.”
This year a whistleblower tasked with getting claimants out of the ESA sickness benefit told the Guardian that some of her clients were homeless, many had extreme mental health problems – including paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism – and some were “starving” and extremely depressed after having benefits stopped. “Almost every day one of my clients mentioned feelings of suicide to me” she said.
Mind released research on Thursday that found that people with mental illness were having their benefit cut more than those with other illnesses. It also found 83% of those with mental health problems surveyed said their self-esteem had worsened, and 76% said they felt less able to work as a result of DWP back-to-work schemes.
The DWP said: “We take these matters extremely seriously, which is why we carry out peer reviews in certain cases to establish whether anything should have been done differently. However, a peer review in itself does not automatically mean the department was at fault.
“Since its introduction in 2008 there have been four independent reviews of the work capability assessment and we have made significant improvements to make it better, fairer and more accurate.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 14 Dec 201
- 913,138 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013-14 compared to 346,992 in 2012-13
- Figures are ‘tip of the iceberg’ of UK food poverty says Trussell Trust Chairman
- 83% of foodbanks report ‘sanctioning’ is causing rising numbers to turn to them
- Foodbank figures trigger biggest ever faith leader intervention on UK food poverty in modern times.
Over 900,000 adults and children have received three days’ emergency food and support from Trussell Trust foodbanks in the last 12 months, a shocking 163 percent rise on numbers helped in the previous financial year. Despite signs of economic recovery, the poorest have seen incomes squeezed even more than last year reports The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest foodbank network. More people are being referred to Trussell Trust foodbanks than ever before.
“That 900,000 people have received three days’ food from a foodbank, close to triple the numbers helped last year, is shocking in 21st century Britain. But perhaps most worrying of all this figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty, it doesn’t include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no foodbank, people who are too ashamed to seek help or the large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.
“In the last year we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low-incomes. It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.
“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon.”
Source – Benefits & Work, 03 Nov 2014
“Hidden food” could be used to tackle hunger in the region, according to a food redistribution charity.
In the past year, FareShare provided charities and organisations in the North-East with more than 790,000 meals using food sourced from supermarkets and suppliers.
Its North-East centre has saved the local charity sector around £1.3m and helped to feed almost 5,000 people a day using surplus supermarket food.
However, the charity currently accesses just 1.5 per cent of surplus food from the UK’s food and drink industries, meaning the majority of so-called “hidden food” goes to waste.
Up to 400,000 tonnes of surplus food is edible, in date and could be used to provide up to 800m meals across the UK – the equivalent of 13 meals per person.
FareShare believe this food could be used to tackle poverty and hunger.
The charity’s CEO, Lindsay Boswell, said: “FareShare and its partners have been working with leading supermarkets and suppliers for over 10 years to rescue good food from going to waste and redirect it to people in need across the UK including North East England.
“Over the past decade – UK wide – we’ve redistributed enough surplus to provide over 67m meals.
She added: “We have a huge challenge in the future in getting further into the supply chain to meet ever growing demand for our services but we have a solid and sustainable solution to food poverty which can help tackle an ever growing issue.”
For more information, visit fareshare.org.uk.
Source – Northern Echo, 13 Aug 2014
Oxfam Press Release: Big rise in UK food poverty sees 20m meals given out in last year
Food banks and food aid charities gave more than 20 million meals last year to people in the UK who could not afford to feed themselves – a 54 per cent increase on the previous 12 months, according to a report published today by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust.
Below the Breadline warns that there has been a rise in people turning to food banks in affluent areas. Cheltenham, Welwyn Garden City and North Lakes have seen numbers of users double and in some cases treble. The massive rise in meals handed out by food banks and food aid charities is a damning indictment of an increasingly unequal Britain where five families have the same wealth as the poorest 20 per cent of the population.
The report details how a perfect storm of changes to the social security system, benefit sanctions, low and stagnant wages, insecure and zero-hours contracts and rising food and energy prices are all contributing to the increasing numbers of meals handed out by food banks and other charities. Food prices have increased by 43.5 per cent in the past 8 years. During the same time the poorest 20 per cent have seen their disposable income fall by £936 a year.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam Chief Executive, said: “Food banks provide invaluable support for families on the breadline but the fact they are needed in 21st Century Britain is a stain on our national conscience. Why is the Government not looking into this?
“We truly are living through a tale of two Britains; while those at the top of the tree may be benefiting from the green shoots of economic recovery, life on the ground for the poorest is getting tougher.
“At a time when politicians tell us that the economy is recovering, poor people are struggling to cope with a perfect storm of stagnating wages, insecure work and rising food and fuel prices. The Government needs to do more to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable aren’t left behind by the economic recovery.”
Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty said: “Protecting its people from going hungry is one of the most fundamental duties of Government. Most of us assume that when we fall on hard times, the social security safety net will kick in, and prevent us falling into destitution and hunger. We want all political parties to commit to re-instating the safety net principle as a core purpose of the social security system, and draw up proposals to ensure that no one in the UK should go hungry.”
Chris Mould, Chairman of The Trussell Trust said: “Trussell Trust food banks alone gave three days’ food to over 300,000 children last year. Below the Breadline reminds us that Trussell Trust figures are just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty, which is a national disgrace.
“The troubling reality is that there are also thousands more people struggling with food poverty who have no access to food aid, or are too ashamed to seek help, as well as a large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.
“Trussell Trust food banks are seeing parents skipping meals to feed their children and significant repercussions of food poverty on physical and mental health. Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon.”
The report will feature on tonight’s Dispatches, to be broadcast at 7.30pm on Channel 4. The documentary, Breadline Kids, will follow three families in their daily lives as they struggle to feed themselves.
In total, Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty estimate that the three main food aid providers – Trussell Trust, Fareshare and Food Cycle – gave out over 20m meals in 2013-4, up from around 13m, a year earlier. The Trussell Trust, the only robust source of statistics showing how many people actually visit food banks, reported in April that 913,138 people were given three days’ emergency food between April 2013 and March 2014 – the equivalent of over 8 million meals.
Benefit sanctions is one of the major factors contributing to the increase in food bank usage. Since the new sanctions policy was implemented in October 2012, over 1 million sanctions have been applied.
A recent report by the Work and Pensions Select Committee recommended that “DWP take urgent steps to monitor the extent of financial hardship caused by benefit sanctions (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmworpen/479/479.pdf; p.29)
Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust are calling on the Government to urgently draw up an action plan to reverse the rising tide of food poverty and to collect evidence to understand the scale and cause of the increases in food bank usage. The organisations are also calling on all political parties to re-instate the safety net principle as a core purpose of the social security system.
Source – Welfare News Service, 09 June 2014
Nearly 60,000 people sought emergency food from the Trussell Trust in 2013-14 compared with just 10,510 in the previous financial year.
Across the country 45% said problems with benefits had driven them to claim, while 20% cited low income. And since April 2010 the total number of referrals in Britain has risen from 61,000 to over 900,000 – up by a factor of fifteen.
Trust chairman Chris Mould called the figures “shocking” and warned things were getting “worse rather than better” for the Northern poor.
He said: “This figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty. It doesn’t include those helped by other providers, people who are too ashamed to seek help, or the large number who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.
“It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.
“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest any time soon.”
The figures do not exclude repeat visitors but simply record the number of people cited on vouchers given by jobcentres, doctors and social services to claim food.
They are likely to inflame controversy over the link between food banks and the government’s welfare reforms. Critics claim organisations like the Trussell Trust are becoming an unacknowledged and unpaid part of the welfare system.
Changes since 2012 include raising the minimum jobseekers’ sanction from one to four weeks and the start of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’.
Margaret Nelson, the Trust’s North East spokeswoman, said benefit sanctions were behind much of the rise and that many food bank users were “suicidal” when they came in.
She claimed some had benefits stopped for missing appointments even when they had phoned and been given permission.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We’re spending £94bn a year on working age benefits so that the welfare system provides a safety net to millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed so they can meet their basic needs.
“The OECD say there are fewer people struggling with their food bills compared with a few years ago, benefit processing times are improving and even the Trussell Trust’s own research recognises the effect their marketing activity has on the growth of their business.
“The truth is that the employment rate is the highest it’s been for five years and our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.”
He cited an ONS survey which found fewer people saying it was “difficult to get by” in 2012 than 2010 and claimed benefit clearance times are “improving year on year.”
And he said: “There is no robust evidence that welfare reforms or benefit administration are linked to increased use of food banks.”
> ????? How can they not be ?
Tory peer David Freud told the Lords last year that food bank use was driven by “supply”, saying more people were going because the food was free and available.
But a three-year study by Sheffield University this month argued rising demand was to blame, with benefit cuts and sanctions seen as a major cause.
The DWP insists it does not “refer” people to food banks but merely “signposts” them – a distinction not made by the banks themselves.
Meanwhile over 35 Anglican bishops and 600 church leaders will call for “urgent action” from the three main party leaders.
Reverend Mark Bryant, the Anglican bishop of Jarrow, praised food banks’ efficiency and kindness but said society had “seriously got something wrong” to need them at all.
He said: “Something in a region of a third of the people they are helping are simply people whose benefits have been delayed.
“These are not people who are trying to work the system or anything like this. These are people who are entitled to benefits and the benefits system hasn’t delivered on time.
“You go to places like this, and you hear the stories, and you simply come away thinking ‘something isn’t right’. We have seriously got something wrong when people who for a whole variety of reasons are very vulnerable cannot afford either to feed themselves or to feed their families.”
Mr Bryant spoke at Gateshead Food Bank while on a joint visit with the Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, Seamus Cunningham.
Source – Newcastle Journal 16 April 2014
100 ? Tip of the iceberg !
Reposted from The Green Benches
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