Reposted from Ripped off Britons.com
The Welfare State was hard won by generations of Britons before us. It is as much an inherited right as is the unearned income received by some from their inherited property and financial assets.
Doubtless the Welfare State can be reformed and improved. However, evidence from independent top civil servants shows government reforms of the Welfare State are not driven by well considered improvements, but by a reckless drive to cut the cost. The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), speaking about MoJ cuts, admitted “the most critical piece of evidence that was relevant to the decision that was made was the size of the spend.” We will come back to this later.
In the years following the two World Wars the strength of ordinary Britons at the warfront and on the homefront was clearly understood and appreciated. Those years saw pieces of…
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In this my last post before the festivities kick in I want to take a look at a quick overview of the Truth Campaign and our reasons for pursuing it.
It all began on April 14 2013, when Debbie Sayers and I wrote an open letter, to Esther McVey regarding her persistent misuse of facts and statistics, we sent this with over 800 signatures, including 4 MPs, a month later. On the back of this, we started our first petition (27/5/13) to the Work & Pensions Committee demanding they :Hold IDS to account for his use of statistics.
We eventually received a response from the DWP correspondence team to our letter, which failed to even acknowledge the questions we had asked, but she did reply to Michael Meacher and Tim Loughton MPs, who had supported our letter with the same reply.
By June 12 our first petition had hit the magic 100,000 signatures…
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This article was written by Patrick Butler, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 2nd December 2014
The Coalition’s “indiscriminate” welfare cuts have created a climate of fear among benefit recipients, reducing rather than improving their chances of moving into work, a study has found.
The latest instalment of a two-year qualitative research programme finds that rather than providing an incentive for unemployed individuals to find a job, the squeeze on benefits is more likely force them to retreat into day-to-day “survival mode”, unable to seize opportunities to find employment.
Even those who were in work felt trapped in poverty as a result of low wages, zero hours contracts and cuts to housing benefit and tax credits. Many felt that they did not feel financially better off as a result of having a job.
The study concludes:
Our research found that the changes brought about by welfare reform did not have a considerable impact on respondent’s attitudes to work, or indeed the likelihood of them finding work.
Work did not seem to enable people to escape the negative impacts of welfare reform or poverty.
It warns that many families are “living on a cliff edge” financially and are affected by increased anxiety and stress. The study argues that current welfare reforms will lead to increased costs to the state as it picks up the bill for poverty-related ill-health and homelessness
The study, by the charity Community Links, is based on in-depth interviews with 20 people in the London borough of Newham. It aims to assess the impact of welfare reform on individuals, in particular whether it can change “behaviour” and get people into work.
The cohort is divided between those in part-time or low paid work and those on benefits. Monthly income ranged from £200 a month to £1,500. All were affected by at least one cut, and most were hit by a combination, including the bedroom tax and reductions in tax credits.
Although the work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has claimed that his reforms provide an incentive to unemployed people to move into work, only one interviewee, a mother who was threatened with the benefit cap, said the prospect of losing income had motivated her to get a job.
The majority of unemployed interviewees reported that the cuts had overwhelmingly negative consequences for them, making them feel stressed and insecure and vulnerable to even tiny changes in income. Some had defaulted on rent and bills and had been threatened with eviction, while others “coped” by cutting back on food and heating, or going into debt.
The study reports a “culture of fear”, especially among those with serious disability or illness who were unable to work and so felt powerless to escape or offset the financial losses causes by welfare cuts.
The continued squeeze on incomes is forcing people into survival mode: having to deal with incredibly stressful situations day-to-day and unable to focus on the longer-term. People feed their children and go without themselves; wash clothes by hand if their washing machine breaks; walk miles to work in the early hours of the morning; they just about get by. But only just.
The sheer scale and speed of the cuts to state support left interviewees with “almost no flexibility to live with any comfort”. It meant some of those interviewed were barely surviving
Most people told researchers they both wanted to work and saw benefit in working. It calls on ministers to provide more help in getting people into work, and criticises the “lack of compassion” in the implementation of the reforms.
Some of those who were keeping their head above water could only do so because they received transitional support from the local authority in the form of Discretionary Housing Payments. But these were temporary, the study points out, and:
It is highly likely that as Local Authority budgets reduce and thus become naturally more restrictive, that many people who have been temporarily protected from hardship will find themselves suffering again
Community Links is a pioneering and respected charity based in Newham, east London, once praised by the prime minister David Cameron as “one of Britain’s most inspiring community organisations.”
The charity was co-founded by David Robinson, a social activist who abandoned his initial support for the Coalition’s Big Society project in protest at the damage inflicted on the UK’s poorest neighbourhoods by what he called the government’s “barrage of unsustainable cuts”.
It is likely that the Department for Work and Pensions will draw attention to the small size and geographical reach of the research and suggest that it is not a representative analysis. But the study points out:
In the absence of an official cumulative impact assessment, this report makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of the impacts of the Coalition’s welfare reforms.
> Well ? Does anyone feel these conclusions are not representive of the UK as a whole ?
Source – Weekly Welfare, 02 Dec 2014
Bedroom tax and benefit reform have been blamed for a rise in youth homelessness as parents struggle to accommodate their children.
A survey published this week found the primary cause of youth homelessness in the region was parents no longer being willing to house their older children.
Youth homelessness is continuing to increase in the region according to the third annual survey conducted by Youth Homelessness North East (YHNE) and published this week.
North-East local authorities are seeing at least one homeless young person a day, the research suggests.
Each month, hundreds of youngsters approach their local authorities for help after finding themselves homeless – mostly because of family breakdown.
The issue has been linked to changes in the benefit system as well as overcrowding, abuse and financial difficulties.
Bedroom tax, benefit sanctions and the introduction of universal credit are having a significant impact on the region’s young people, according to YHNE.
Changes and reductions in housing benefit are also reported to be affecting young people’s ability to access and sustain housing.
Sharon Brown, the regional manager of YHNE, said:
“Youth homelessness is increasing in our region and the main factor is family relationship breakdown.
“The impacts are massive both short-term and long-term – young people without homes, security and jobs feel they have no future.
“They can find themselves on a downward spiral of poverty, poor mental and physical health.
“The consequences though affect all and it’s really important that we invest in our young people – that means making sure they have somewhere to live, that they have the means to pay their bills and plan for the future.”
To help young people affected by benefit reform, the report calls for more welfare rights officers in the region, the production of accessible information resources on welfare reform for young clients and regular one-to-one meetings about benefits.
New research published by the TUC reveals the future impact of a controversial new welfare reform – the five-week wait – on workers in North West England, with 39,000 newly unemployed people set to be hit each month.
Currently most workers who lose their job have to wait two weeks before they get their first benefit payment. But under new Universal Credit rules for assessing unemployment claims, most people will face a wait of more than five weeks before they get any money. This could mean going two months into rent arrears before any cash support arrives.
The TUC’s new research reveals the monthly average number of newly unemployed people broken down by region, local authority (county and unitary) and constituency. This indicates how many people can be expected to be hit by the five-week wait when Universal Credit replaces workers’ current safety net benefits.
Across the region, Lancashire is the most affected local authority where over 5,000 people each month are expected to be hit by the five-week wait, in Manchester more than 3,600 people will be affected whilst in Liverpool just under 3,500 people will be affected.
These local authorities are amongst the biggest affected in the UK, ranked 4th, 9th and 11th respectively. The DWP’s own analysis suggests that the measure may increase claimants’ reliance on short-term loans.
The TUC has launched a new campaign, Saving Our Safety Net, to highlight the five-week wait and other welfare reforms that cut safety net protection for working people.
North West TUC Regional Secretary Lynn Collins said:
“We know workers in the North West have suffered cuts in real earnings over the last 5 years, and will have relied on savings to get by, which means that many workers have no financial buffer if they lose their job. Help should be there when it is needed, but instead people will be left to rely on food banks and pay day loans to see them through the wait.
“Welfare reform is one thing but the five week wait is a collective punishment for anyone who loses their job. People need to focus on finding new work, instead of being stressed-out about how they will pay the rent, feed the kids and keep the heating on.
“Job security has got worse since the recession. Government ministers are out of touch and fail to understand the anxiety many people feel not knowing if they’ll still have work next month. If your job goes, the five-week wait puts you at greater risk of a downward spiral where you’re trapped in debt, lose your home, become ill from the stress and fall too far to climb back again.
“With these escalating bills, worsening job security and only a limited recovery in the jobs market, a 5 week wait could easily push many more families into poverty through no fault of their own. These people have paid for, and deserve, a safety net.
“We are launching the Saving Our Safety Net campaign to expose government welfare plans for what they are – cuts to the National Insurance safety net we’ve all paid into on the understanding that it will be there when we need it.”
Source – Welfare News Service 07 Aug 2014
Police chiefs have blamed savage welfare cuts for a sharp rise in shoplifting figures.
Ron Hogg, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Durham, claims people are “stealing to live” after a 35 per cent rise in his force area in shoplifting cases.
Despite not having direct evidence to back up his claim, Mr Hogg says people are turning to crime as they do not have enough money to feed themselves after the Government’s welfare reforms.
He said: “Shoplifting is up 35 per cent year on year and an awful lot of people are stealing to live.
“We predicted this would cause massive problems for some of the most vulnerable in our society.
“With more welfare reform yet to be implemented the situation will only get worse.”
Mr Hogg’s claims were echoed by Barry Coppinger, the PCC for Cleveland, after a 7.3 per cent hike in his force area.
He said: “Deep and relentless welfare reforms have a knock-on effect on other crimes, particularly shoplifting, as families turn to the black market to buy food and items they can’t afford.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said there was no evidence linking reforms to increased crime.
He said: “Ending the spare room subsidy was absolutely necessary in order to get the soaring housing benefit bill under control, returning fairness to the system and making better use of social housing stock.
“These rules already applied to the housing benefit claimants in the private sector – introduced by the previous Government.”
A recent DWP report found 522,905 households were affected by the so-called bedroom tax by last August and nearly a fifth of claimants had registered an interest in downsizing.
More than half of claimants had cut back on household essentials, a quarter had borrowed money and three per cent had taken pay day loans.
Mr Hogg and Mr Coppinger advised people who have found themselves struggling financially to use credit unions.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 07 Aug 2014
Benefit sanctions can lead to a spiral of decline and potentially destitution, often getting in the way of people getting back to work, according to the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Reform Committee.
In its report Interim Report on the New Benefit Sanctions Regime: Tough Love or Tough Luck?, the committee refers to a climate of fear around jobcentres rather than one that encourages people to engage with them and find their way back to work.
Evidence presented showed that the loss of income that sanctions can lead to is now twice the maximum that can be imposed in fines by the courts.
The report identifies a number of weaknesses in the current system –
- a consistent failure to notify people that they are being sanctioned and why;
- a lack of flexibility and misapplication of sanctions reducing the likelihood of people finding work;
- a failure to appreciate that many people on benefits do not have the necessary IT skills at day one to utilise the DWP’s Universal Jobmatch facility or other IT technology;
- a failure to make those sanctioned aware of the availability of hardship payments;
- the consistent triggering of a stop in housing benefit as a result of a sanction, which should not happen and can lead to significant debt being incurred even for a minor sanction;
- the lack of a deadline for decision-making on DWP reconsiderations leading to delays in redressing wrong decisions; and
- the shunting of the costs of dealing with sanctioned claimants onto other agencies: local authorities, health board, third sector agencies etc.
Noting that four in ten decisions to apply a sanction are overturned, the report calls for a review of the current regime and makes several recommendations for change.
Commenting on the report, Committee Convener Michael McMahon said:
“The system is so broken that many people do not know why they have been sanctioned, which totally undermines the DWP assertion that sanctions ‘teach’ people a lesson.
“How many of us could manage if we did not get paid one week, without any notice or often explanation?
“This demonstrates once again the enormous gulf between reality and DWP thinking.”
Interim Report on the New Benefit Sanctions Regime: Tough Love or Tough Luck? is available from scottish.parliament.uk
Source – Benefits & Work, 12 June 2014
This article was written by Adele Irving and Sheila Spencer, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 11th June 2014
Because there is no requirement to measure single homelessness in England, it is extremely hard to find direct evidence of the impact of reform. But welfare reform is leading to a rise in the number of risk factors for homelessness, and our study found these risks were escalating fast in the north east of England.
There is a shortage of one bedroom flats in many parts of the region, with sharp competition between individuals trying to move on from supported housing, and those faced with having to downsize to avoid the bedroom tax or risk falling into arrears.
We are also seeing a slide into food poverty. Single people without disabilities tend to have much smaller incomes at their disposal. Many are now economising on food in order to pay basic household bills. Use of food banks is growing and some local authorities and housing providers say they are becoming part of a standard response to poverty, rather than a last resort.
Tough benefit sanctions are disproportionately hitting vulnerable young and homeless people. Rent arrears have increased in the region, though some housing providers say they have now begun to stabilise. When sanctioned, claimants often do not understand the complex rules that can protect housing benefit payments and are being plunged into further debt unnecessarily. Increases in money lending are also reported.
There is already additional pressure on advice services. The Citizens Advice Bureau says the number of people asking for help because of council rent arrears is up by more than a third and the number looking for advice about discretionary housing payments (DHPs) – used by government to offset the impact of the bedroom tax – has doubled.
Benefits is now the biggest category for services, and many advice providers are struggling to cope with demand. But, as one agency noted to researchers: “No amount of advice is going to replace the entitlement that has been lost”
Crime levels are increasing. Two north east police forces report an increase in burglaries and shop thefts, and some homeless people are turning to crime instead of applying for hardship payments when sanctioned.
Other emerging effects of welfare reform are deteriorating physical and mental health, worsening relationships with families and increasing numbers of people who are found to have complex needs.
Local authorities and housing providers are putting significant resources into helping affected households, particularly those struggling to pay the bedroom tax.
An Ipsos MORI survey of predicted housing association spend reported an average of £109,000 per household affected by March 2014. The irony is that this expenditure may not have been necessary. One local authority, which in July 2013 had just 54 customers affected by overcrowding (1% of the total on the housing register), commented: “We’ve spent over £4m fixing a problem that never existed.”
There is also growing evidence that the welfare reforms have failed to encourage people into work. A series of reports show that homeless people and young people in the north east want to work, but face significant barriers. Increased conditionality appears to actually be discouraging engagement with government support and removing people from benefit claims altogether, rather than improving their chances of securing employment.
Agencies across the north east have called for action to understand the cost-effectiveness of welfare reform, campaigned against the proposed loss of housing benefit for under-25s and challenged DWP to work more closely with agencies supporting vulnerable homeless people. Wouldn’t government funding be better spent supporting vulnerable people into work and investing in social housing?
Adele Irving is a research fellow at the Centre for Public Policy at Northumbria University. Sheila Spencer is a housing consultant
Source – Welfare News Service, 11 June 2014
The group’s first motion this morning (19 May), proposed by Mandy Priest of DWP Dorset branch and seconded by Glasgow benefit centre branch, opposed the “implementation of a system based on punishment”.
> The “implementation” ? Bit late opposing the implemention – its been with us for several years ! As PCS’ DWP members must be aware.
The motion also said the “widest possible campaign across the trade union movement” was needed to defeat the government’s attacks on benefit claimants.
> The government’s attacks, certainly. But it’s DWP staff who implement them.
Gerry McMahon from Glasgow benefit centre branch said: “The welfare state has been under attack in Britain for many years. Huge cuts have been made that make life on benefits much harder.”
Gerry highlighted the fact that a group of religious leaders have said that hunger is now a national crisis and said our union needs to take up its welfare campaign “like never before“.
Nick Parker, from our Lincolnshire and Rutland branch, called for a united campaign involving “as many people as possible to defeat attacks on welfare”.
Tony Church, speaking on behalf of the group executive, said: “In the 90s John Major, the Tory prime minister, said we were living in a classless society. It was a lie then it’s a lie now. The current coalition goverment is probably the most divided ever.”
He said that welfare reform was just another name for screw the poor.
The motion instructed conference to campaign for:
- Fair, decent levels of benefit
- The repeal of the Bedroom Tax and benefit cap
- A mass council house building scheme
- The abolition of the work capability assessment
- The abolition of workfare and removal of the sanctions regime
- A publicly-run, fair and decent social security system as part of a welfare state based on people’s needs.
The motion was passed unanimously.
> Fine words. But will PCS DWP members refuse to sanction people ? Not send people to workfare ? They could make a start, right now. They probably wont, though.
Source – PCS Union website, 19 May 2014
A benefits study in two Middlesbrough suburbs has revealed almost £100,000 of entitlements going unclaimed.
The project could now be rolled out across the town, ranked eighth across the country in the index of multiple deprivation, following the results of the ‘It’s your right to claim’ campaign.
Money experts spent a week in Coulby Newham and Hemlington in March when they spoke to 1,000 people which flagged up 52 potential new claims for help.
Along with a number of follow-up calls made to Middlesbrough Citizen Advice Bureau it is estimated that £93,200 in unclaimed benefits has been identified to assist these residents.
Councillor Tracy Harvey, Middlebrough Council’s executive lead for welfare reform, said: “It may well be that we have only scratched the service and we will now need to look at rolling this project out across Middlesbrough.
“This campaign is about removing any stigma attached to welfare and letting people know what their circumstances entitle them to.
“The amount of money we have found going unclaimed in such a short space of time is a real eye-opener and shows this is an important issue that we need to tackle.”
Latest statistics show 24 per cent of householders in the town claim disability benefit and 7.5 per cent are in receipt of Jobseekers’ Allowance.
John Daniels, Manager of Middlesbrough Citizen’s Advice Bureau, said: “Many people in Middlesbrough are finding it difficult to make ends meet.
“At a time when household expenses like gas and electricity seem to be constantly rising, it is important that local people receive all the income to which they are entitled. Campaigns like this are a useful way of ensuring that happens.”
> So that’s £93,200 in unclaimed benefits in just two areas of one town. Now extend this across the North East. Then across the rest of the UK…
Source – Northern Echo 02 May 2014