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Poorest And Most Vunerable The Hardest Hit : Especially Those NOT Able To Work !!! Half Of The 8.4 Million Carer Army ? - Carers UK Forum

Poorest And Most Vunerable The Hardest Hit : Especially Those NOT Able To Work !!! Half Of The 8.4 Million Carer Army ?

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
216 posts
New thread ... interlinks with several others .. but worthy of a separate thread ... Equality and Human Rights Commission.


http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ho ... 58176.html

Poorest and most vulnerable hardest hit by Tory reforms, study shows.

Equality and Human Rights Commission warns of 'bleak future' for those most in need.

The poorest and most vulnerable in society will be hardest hit by Government changes to tax, social security and public spending reforms, a major report has revealed.

Disabled people, the elderly and lone parents will suffer financial losses far greater than the general population under reforms introduced in recent years. Women will also suffer an annual loss more than double that of men, and black households will face a loss of income more than double that of white families, the research shows.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which published the report, warned of a “bleak future” for those most in need, and has urged the Government to “come clean” and provide a full and cumulative impact analysis of all current and future tax and social security policies.

Released ahead of next week’s Budget, the report carried out a “cumulative impact assessment” of the impact that changes to all tax, social security and public spending reforms from 2010 to 2017 will have on people by 2022.

It shows that families with a disabled adult will see a £2,500 reduction of income per year, compared with £1,000 for non-disabled households. Those with both a disabled adult and a disabled child will face a £5,500 reduction of income per year — five times that of non-disabled families.

Black households will face a 5 per cent loss of income, more than double the loss for white households, while women will suffer a £940 annual loss — a figure more than two times higher than the losses for men.

The biggest average losses by age group, across men and women, are experienced by the 65-74 age group, with average losses of around £1,450 per year, and the 35-44 age group, with average losses of around £1,250 per year.

Lone parents will also struggle with a 15 per cent loss of income, compared with losses for all other family groups which stand at between 0 and 8 per cent.

In light of the findings, David Isaac, chair of the commission, said: “The Government can’t claim to be working for everyone if its policies actually make the most disadvantaged people in society financially worse off

“We have encouraged the Government to carry out this work for some time, but sadly they have refused. We have shown that it is possible to carry out cumulative impact assessments and we call on them to do this ahead of the 2018 budget.

“If we want a prosperous and, in line with the Prime Minister’s vision, a fair Britain that works for everyone, the Government must come clean and provide a full and cumulative impact analysis of all current and future tax and social security policies.

“It is not enough to look at the impact of individual policy changes. If this doesn’t happen those most in need will face an extremely bleak future.”

Disability charities said the report offers “concrete evidence” that disabled people are the “biggest losers” from reforms by the Government in recent years.

Beatrice Barleon, policy manager for learning disability charity Mencap, said: “The EHRCs report offers concrete evidence supporting the warnings already raised by the disability sector; that due to a succession of cuts and reforms to disability benefits and changes to tax credits, disabled people and their families are the biggest losers from the austerity agenda.

“The Government has repeatedly argued that they want to protect the most vulnerable in society, yet this report shows the opposite is in action. With some families with disabled members losing up to £5,500; disabled households are getting pushed into poverty at the same time as available social care support has been slashed year on year.”

Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “This report makes for grim but unsurprising reading – disabled people have been saying for many years that they are increasingly struggling to get by.

“The report is clear evidence that the government’s reforms have been having a massive negative effect, driving disabled people deeper into poverty when they already don’t have enough money to live on. We’re acutely struck by the report’s conclusion that the reforms will continue to cause ‘particularly adverse impacts on disabled families’.

“This can’t go on. The Government should use next week’s Budget to call a halt to its reforms and review the cumulative impact of tax and benefit changes since 2010. We have to come up with a system which doesn’t penalise people for being disabled.”

With regards to the fact that lone parents will be disproportionately affected, Young Women's Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE said: “Young women are having the rug pulled from under them as incomes fall and prices rise.

"They are working hard to be financially independent but for too many the reality is insecure work, low pay and debt. Today's report shows that this is only set to get worse without action.

“Much more needs to be done to improve young women’s prospects. This means giving them the right skills and support to find jobs, ensuring decent and flexible jobs are available for those who need to balance work with care, and extending the National Living Wage to under-25s, so they are paid the same amount for the same work."

In light of the findings that the elderly population will be worst hit, Caroline Abrahams, director at Age UK, said the charity was "dismayed" that the study suggests people in the 65-74 age group will lose an average of £1,450 a year by 2022 as a result of recent policy changes.

“If this happens it would have a serious adverse impact on the living standards of older people on low and modest incomes – and with 1.9 million of them still living in poverty they are far more numerous than is often assumed,” she said.

A Government spokesperson said: “This analysis fails to take into account our successful jobs market or the steps we are taking to help people of all backgrounds get on in life, including expanding tax-free childcare, boosting apprenticeships and introducing the National Living Wage.

“Inequality is at a 30-year low and there are 1.4 million more women in work since 2010. We inherited the highest deficit since the Second World War and have reduced our borrowing ever since, while protecting our public services, cutting income tax for 30 million people and ensuring those with the broadest shoulders contribute the most.”

In both CarerLand and CareeLand , there is only one way to respond to the findings of this report.

Combining all resourses together ... right up the food chain ... there is only one enemy.

I recommended precisely that more than a decade ago during CarerWatch days.

Those were easier times for all ... now , with a full scale social war on our hands , what do we find ?

Supporting organisations reaffirming their charity status ... now non combatants ... white feather jobs in other times.

Only SCOPE appears to have broken ranks ... be interesting to see what difference , if any , that makes.

May read brutal but ... it is fact !

If the various members voted for that ... fine ... all others will have to live with their decision ... as will the members who voted in favour !

Trussells are also a charity ... and yet , the only one providing much need necessities to those already fallen through that , now mythical , safety net.

For carers and carees alike , we are really on our own ... ?
Joseph Rowntree Foundation ( JRF ) ... well known in carer circles for more than an decade ... today's Guardian :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... erty-study

UK government warned over sharp rise in child and pensioner poverty.

Almost 400,000 more UK children and 300,000 more pensioners plunged into poverty in past four years, new study finds.

Hundreds of thousands of children and older people have been plunged into poverty in the past four years, according to a stark analysis laying bare the challenge to families trying to keep up with the cost of living in Britain.

The research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found almost 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners in the UK were living in poverty last year compared with 2012-13, the first sustained increases in child and pensioner poverty for 20 years. The foundation warned that decades of progress were at risk of being unravelled amid weak wage growth and rising inflation.

The thinktank urged the government to unfreeze benefits, increase training for adult workers and to embark on a more ambitious house-building programme to provide affordable homes for struggling families.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, seized on the report to call for the minimum wage to rise to £10 an hour and for the government to remove the cap on salaries in the public sector. “Working people are not getting a fair deal from the economy, with real wages still worth less than a decade ago,” she said.

The foundation’s latest research, titled UK Poverty 2017, found a gradual increase in poverty rates over the past four years, reversing a trend of falling numbers since the mid-1990s.

About a third of children were living in families lacking the resources for their minimum needs in 1994-95 before the rate fell to 27% in 2011-12 with the help of higher employment rates and tax credits introduced under the last Labour government. The proportion of pensioners living in poverty fell from 28% to 13% over the same period.

However, poverty rates increased to 16% for pensioners and 30% for children last year, while the charity also found as many as one in five people across the UK may be in poverty – which it defines as being when someone earns less than 60% of median earnings, adjusted for size and type of household.

The JRF chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: “These worrying figures suggest that we are at a turning point in our fight against poverty. Political choices, wage stagnation and economic uncertainty mean that hundreds of thousands more people are now struggling to make ends meet.”

Recent analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates the number of children living in poverty is set to rise to a record 5.2 million over the next five years, up from about 4 million at present. The thinktank said frozen benefits as well as the introduction of universal credit would contribute to the surge, which it said would be most profoundly felt in the most deprived parts of the country.

Tax cuts and minimum wage increases have proved beneficial to some families – as the government has raised the personal tax-free allowance and imposed a “national living wage” of £7.50 an hour – but the JRF report found the gains were outweighed by the reductions from benefit support.

One in five of the population of the UK live in poverty - this includes 8 million working-age adults, 4 million children and 1.9 million pensioners.

Percentage of group in poverty and number in millions.

People in poverty 22% 13.9m
Children in poverty 30% 4m
Working-age adults in poverty 21% 8m
Part-time workers in poverty 21% 1.4m
Pensioners in poverty 16% 1.9m
Workers in poverty 12% 3.4m
Full-time workers in poverty 9% 2m
People in persistent poverty 7% 4.6m

NOTE ... above table ... IN poverty ... CLOSE TO poverty , the 1 in 4 ... add a few million more ... as I often quote.

Stark ... in essence , the return of Victorian times for millions.

Outlook ?

More of the same.

One does not expect to even make a dent in these figures for a generation ... or two.

Even then , just tinker with the System ?
Ground zero ... The Wirral , Merseyside ... interlinks with both the FOODBANKS and UNIVERSAL CREDIT threads :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... eidi-allen

Hunger in Wirral: the truth behind the tale that made a Tory MP cry.

Frank Field, whose story of a hungry constituent moved Heidi Allen to tears, says he is seeing destitution, not poverty.

It was the true story that moved a Tory to tears: Heidi Allen, Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, wept after Frank Field, the veteran Labour MP for Birkenhead in Wirral, told parliament of the hungry constituent who said he had had “a lucky week” because his family had been invited to a funeral and so could eat the food left over after the wake.

A few days later, Field was back in Birkenhead, immaculate in a checked shirt and tank top as he surveyed a scene of organised chaos in a sports hall at the Hive youth centre. Around him, volunteers scurried hither and thither to fill Christmas hampers for Wirral’s most needy.

Four years ago, they delivered 70 hampers. “This year we are doing 3,000,” said Ema Wilkes, who runs the Neo community cafe and social supermarket in Rock Ferry, one of the most deprived wards in Wirral. “People look at this and say: ‘Isn’t it brilliant what you’re doing?’ But I get really upset: this project should be getting smaller, not bigger.”

Sixty local taxi drivers have offered their time for free, shuttling the gift-wrapped cartons to their recipients. These were not bundles of luxuries but the basic essentials of life: toilet rolls, sanitary towels, baked beans and toothpaste, with the odd treat thrown in – a bottle of hot sauce donated by a nearby Nando’s, a bashed box of sugary cereal. There were bags with toys, each labelled with the gender and age of the recipient: a doll for a girl aged six, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Sewer Duel for a boy aged four and up.

Much of the food came from FareShare, a charity that redistributes food from retailers that has gone past the best-before date but not the use-by date.

The toys are largely donated by members of the public. Last year, said Wilkes, a present had been dropped off by the man who earlier this month had resorted to feeding his family at the funeral of someone he did not know.

The fact that a man could go from donor to recipient in one year showed how precarious life was for many people now, she said. “The dad was self-employed. He had quite an OK life. Then his van broke and things just began to spiral downwards.”

At the same time, the Department for Work and Pensions stopped the disability living allowance the man had been receiving for the eldest of his three children, who has autism. “They were ‘reassessing’ him,” she said, grimly.

Wilkes thought she had lost the ability to be shocked, but she cried when the man left her social supermarket, where customers “pay what you feel” – unless, like this family, they can pay nothing at all. The man’s young son had chosen a lunchpack of food off the shelf rather than a toy. “I don’t often cry,” she said, “but I was in bits.”

In parliament, Field, who speaks in the perfect grammar of a patrician, had told the Commons it was the first time he had been able to tell the funeral story without crying himself.

“One had thought that there’s nothing now that can shock one and yet this, the scale of it is so huge, isn’t it?” he said, gesturing at the sports hall.

“We’ve had over 10 years of cuts to benefits and then along comes universal credit sweeping along on this economic desert and the results are destitution, not poverty. Some of these things are really personal toiletries and people actually need them.”

Field has been an MP for 38 years. Until five years ago, no one had come to see him complaining of hunger.

“Now, two-thirds of the people who come to my surgery are on the brink of destitution,” he said. “There’s a lot of crying and gnashing of teeth in the surgery. It was totally unheard of before.”

In October, Field spoke in the Commons in another debate about universal credit.

He asked the employment minister, Damian Hinds, for assurances that when the new all-encompassing benefit was rolled out to Birkenhead in mid-November it would not lead to more people going hungry.

Food banks in his area were preparing to handle an additional 15 tonnes of food in 2018, Field said, learning from other areas further down the universal credit line.

Hinds suggested Field was worrying unnecessarily. Universal credit wouldn’t, he hoped, lead to queues outside the 15 food banks that have popped up in Wirral in the past six years.

Yet at one of Birkenhead’s busiest food banks on Friday, a month after the start of the benefit rollout, hungry people arrived, desperate after having their money cut as the government transfers them to the new benefit.

The food bank, at St Emmanuel’s church, was to have its second biggest day, feeding 47 people, just three short of its all-time record. One woman through the door was in her 50s. It was her first visit and she was clearly mortified. But she didn’t know what to do: she had just received a letter saying her benefits were stopping while she was moved on to universal credit. She can’t work because she cares for her disabled daughter and autistic son, and her cupboards were bare.

She had been told she must apply for the new benefit online. But how, when she didn’t even have an email address?

It was a familiar story. Joseph, a 42-year-old crack cocaine addict with a pregnant girlfriend, said his brother had been released from jail that morning and been told by probation he should apply for universal credit online. “He doesn’t have an email address. He hasn’t even got a phone. All these middle-class, computer literate people who make these rules don’t understand that ordinary people don’t have computers,” he said.

Joseph, who has painful ulcers on his legs because of an iron deficiency, plus bipolar disorder, had recently been turned down for the personal independence payment and was struggling to make ends meet on the £240 he received each fortnight in the shape of employment support allowance.

Back at Neo social supermarket, where they had just received a few turkeys they planned to sell for 50p, Wilkes received a typical text. “Hi sorry to bother you,” it began. It was from a mother whose income support had stopped without warning. She had received a letter ordering her to apply for universal credit. “I have literally sat sobbing since 3 this afternoon as I have been told that I will not receive a payment until 27 January and I can’t apply for the advance loan until I get an appointment and I have to wait for an appointment which will take 3-5 working days which means I will not get any money until after Xmas. I literally have nothing and have two very beautiful kids who I have basically failed, don’t have a clue where to turn to as I have tried everything I can think of.”

At the food bank Peter, 55, was also desperate. He had worked as a printer until he collapsed at work eight years ago with obstructive pulmonary disease, a lung disorder which makes it hard to breathe. He had been surviving on toast and was struggling to wash his clothes after the bearings in his washing machine went. He was dreading being transferred to universal credit and couldn’t believe how his life had panned out.

“If you had told me 10 years ago I’d be in a food bank, I’d have said you were having a laugh. Never in a million years did I think this would happen. Then, my only fear was being out of work, not going hungry,” he said.

Field too is in constant disbelief. Had anyone told him in 1979, when he became an MP, that he would be spending the run-up to Christmas packing hampers for constituents who couldn’t even afford toilet paper, he would have disregarded them as mad. “I would have gently had them put in a strait-jacket. I would have taken them to lie down in a dark-filled room.”

If nothing else , the main reason I returned.

To give the carers / carees of areas like the Wirral a voice ... unheard before me.

The stark reality of daily life for far too many.

Carers supporting organisations and forums alike ... what can they do ?

The problems at street level are far beyond their comprehension.
This morning's Guardian ... the health gap between rich and poor :

https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/ ... h-and-poor

Huge health gap revealed between UK’s rich and poor.

Report shows ‘devastating impact’ of deprivation on child health with poorest teens 70% more likely to visit A&E than their wealthier counterparts.

Children from poor families are far more likely to end up in hospital A&E departments or need emergency treatment for conditions such as asthma and diabetes, according to shocking figures revealing the consequences of poverty in Britain.

In findings that senior doctors said showed the “devastating impact” of deprivation on child health, the nation’s poorest teenagers were found to be almost 70% more likely to appear in A&E than their less deprived counterparts.

A comprehensive study that examined hundreds of thousands of patient records found inequalities between children from the poorest and richest families were costing the NHS hundreds of millions a year and contributing to pressures on the health system.

Across the 10 most common conditions leading to unplanned hospital visits, the rates of admission were consistently highest among children and young people from the most deprived areas. The study, by the Nuffield Trust, found inequalities in some areas of child health had increased over the last decade in England, despite advances in care.

School-age children from the poorest areas are two and a half times more likely to be admitted to hospital in an emergency for asthma than those in the richest areas. The research shows the gap has grown substantially in a decade.

One of the study’s authors warned that with child poverty increasing, it is “hard to see the inequality gaps we highlight being eradicated any time soon”. Other experts blamed cuts to school nursing and the benefits system as contributing to the divide.

The most deprived young people are 58% more likely to go to A&E than the least deprived groups, with the most deprived teenagers experiencing A&E attendance rates almost 70% higher than those from the best-off families. The most deprived groups were 55% more likely to experience an unplanned hospital admission, though that gap narrowed over the last decade.

Experts said education, diet, environment and the pressures on families living on the breadline meant poor children often ended up in hospital when their health issues could have been headed off earlier. The report’s authors warn that the most vulnerable children are being let down by health services.

In 2005-06, school-age children in the most deprived areas had double the emergency admission rate for asthma compared with their least-deprived counterparts. However, by 2015-16, the gap had grown to about two and a half times. That gap alone is costing the NHS £8.5m per year.

There is also evidence of alarming health inequalities persisting into adulthood. While unplanned admissions for diabetes have been stable or have decreased for younger children, analysts said there had been a “striking growth” for all 20- to 24-year-olds.

The most deprived children were almost twice as likely to experience an unplanned admission in 2015-16 as the least deprived. Reducing these admissions to the level experienced by the least deprived would have led to a decrease of some 244,690 paediatric emergency admissions in 2015-16, and a potential saving of £245m per year.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust, said: “Asthma and diabetes are both conditions that we should be managing outside hospital. It is an indictment of how we are looking after the most vulnerable in our society that deprived children are now more likely to experience unplanned admissions for asthma than their counterparts did 10 years ago.”

Dougal Hargreaves, Nuffield visiting researcher, said: “Receiving emergency hospital treatment is often absolutely essential, and emergency care saves lives every day. But the level of variation between rich and poor, and the growing inequalities gap in unplanned admissions for asthma, is really worrying.”

Professor Russell Viner, officer for health promotion for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said that the report highlighted “the devastating impact poverty can have on child health, especially in relation to emergency admissions for asthma and diabetes.”.

However poverty has an impact on a range of other issues such as education, housing and continuity of healthcare,” he said. “We agree with the authors of this report when they say the most vulnerable children are being let down by health services and we back their calls for policymakers to focus on narrowing the inequalities gap. They can do this by reversing cuts to universal credit which actually leave the majority of families claiming this benefit worse off, and by the restoration of national targets to reduce child poverty, backed by a national child poverty strategy.”

Wendy Preston, head of nursing at the Royal College of Nursing, said asthma should be managed outside hospital. “Yet the worsening shortage of school nurses and health visitors means early warning signs and prevention opportunities are missed, and vulnerable children do not receive the support they need.

The Department of Health said: “Progress has been made in reducing the rate of emergency admissions for the most deprived children – but more needs to be done. To help, we have introduced the world’s first diabetes prevention programme, a new tobacco control plan, targeting the most vulnerable groups, and we are giving local areas £16bn to spend on public health.”


‘I regularly see rickets’: diseases of Victorian-era poverty return to UK

Doctors on NHS frontline say there must be a debate about public health responsibilities

It may be Christmas, but it is business as usual at Leicester Royal Infirmary children’s emergency department. Anxious families sit in the waiting room, receptionists deal with the stream of admissions and doctors continue on their never-ending rounds. The only concessions to the festive season are the murmur of a Christmas film on the television and some tinsel in the corridors.

Given the unrelenting pace of life in the NHS, Dr Damian Roland, a consultant in paediatric emergency medicine, says the social background of his patients is not on his mind when they arrive for treatment. But during a brief lull in another frantic day, he reflects on how child poverty is manifesting itself in the young people he treats.

“I don’t have time to sit with families for ages and discuss those particular social issues or have any chance of doing anything about it,” he says. “But clearly it’s important – and it’s affecting children. We need to recognise it as an issue, and there needs to be a debate about the public health responsibilities of frontline NHS services.”

It comes as no surprise to senior doctors such as Roland that deprivation is playing a part in poor children appearing at hospital more often than their richer counterparts. However, an eye-opening study for the Nuffield Trust, revealed in the Observer and based on hundreds of thousands of patient records over a decade, brings new and depressing evidence.

For condition after condition, the poorest fifth of young people are admitted in greater numbers than the richest fifth. In cases of tonsillitis, viral infections, abdominal pain, respiratory infections, convulsions, gastroenteritis, poisoning, chest pain – even head injuries – the poorest young people were admitted for emergency treatment at rates 40% or more higher than the richest.

In the case of some conditions such as epilepsy the gap has been closed, suggesting that education campaigns and a good strategy can help. But no medical professional believes that awareness campaigns designed to head off emergencies will on their own stop poor children needlessly turning up at hospital.

The worry is that with the NHS under pressure, a housing crisis and state spending squeezed, things will get worse before they get better – while stagnant wages are heaping pressure on families less able to cope with a medical issue that is allowed to become an emergency.

One of the report’s authors, Dr Ronny Cheung, a paediatric consultant at the Evelina children’s hospital, London, says he is seeing a growing evidence of conditions not only exacerbated by poverty, but caused by it. “I’m seeing kids with rickets on a fairly regular basis in my clinic,” he says. “That is related to nutrition at the very least. We are seeing more advanced cases. It should be a Victorian illness. It shouldn’t be around to this degree any more.

“What we see on a weekly basis is that poorer families who come in often take their children into hospital a bit later than they otherwise would. Maybe that’s partly down to health literacy, but – and I’ve spoke to parents about this – it is a struggle for them to bring children in. If your ability to make a living is on the line, your threshold for taking time off work to check a child’s health is going to be higher.”

Rates of admission for asthma are particularly alarming, having risen over the last decade – the poorest young people are now well over twice as likely to be admitted for the condition as the rich. Medical experts say that environment, and above all poor housing, is a prime cause.

According to the latest government data, there were 121,360 children in temporary accommodation in England in the third quarter of 2017 – with more than 88,000 of those in London. It is the highest number in a decade. The figure in London represents a 52% growth over the last five years. In the capital alone, more than 3,000 children are living in bed and breakfasts, or hostels.

“Housing problems can have a major impact on child health – whether that’s increased likelihood of respiratory problems because of poor housing conditions, or mental ill-health,” said Dr Dougal Hargreaves, of the UCL Institute of Child Health. “In a recent survey of paediatricians, over 40% had difficulty discharging a child in the last six months because of concerns about housing or food insecurity.”

The Nuffield study is published as years of progress in cutting child poverty is being reversed. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation earlier this month found almost 400,000 more children in the UK were living in poverty last year compared with 2012-13. It warned that decades of progress were being erased due to stagnant wages and inflation. It has called on the government to unfreeze working-age benefits and build decent, affordable homes.

Meanwhile, the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates the number of children living in poverty is likely to rise to a record 5.2 million over the next five years. The Nuffield report suggests that this also has serious consequences for an NHS already under strain.

The pressures of that poverty on families, Dr Cheung says, are becoming tragically clear. “A few months ago we had discussions with social services about whether a child was being cared for properly,” he recalls. “But it just turned out that the mother was working two jobs, she had two other children and was simply under pressure not to take more time off to go to an asthma appointment. In the end, we agreed to see the child at home because that was the only way we could make it work.

“This is about life chances. It’s about the fact that a quarter of the children in this country live in material poverty. It’s about a lack of social mobility. It’s a cycle.”

A " Summing up " article from Frances Ryan in this morning's Guardian ... that mythical safety net ?

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... sal-credit

The Tories’ obscene joke: shred the safety net, then toss people into it.

From bedroom tax to universal credit, vulnerable people are being forced into crisis by May’s policies. And she’s gutted the system supposed to help them.

“If you make a mess, at least clean it up yourself” is a lesson most children learn – but it’s one that Theresa May and her chaotic cabinet increasingly seem to be struggling with. The year has started with local councils across the country having to put aside emergency funding for the poorest residents as they switch to the disastrous universal credit system.

From this month, Barking and Dagenham council has set aside £50,000 to help those struggling to pay their bills, while Tower Hamlets, another east London council, is budgeting £5m over the next three years. Grimly, Shropshire council has earmarked £20,000 to help food banks to “diversify the type of help they are able to give specifically to suit universal credit”.

It’s shameful that low-income families are being forced into crisis by the very system meant to help them – a chalice filled with such poison that even Conservative ministers are now resigning from government rather than taking it on. Worse still, as the government plunders, it’s cash-strapped local authorities that are being left to pick up the pieces – the same local authorities who are unable to afford children’s centres, respite care, libraries, or environmental services and transport. But what’s happening with universal credit is not unique. Council budgets are repeatedly being used to alleviate the suffering being caused by government policies.

The bedroom tax may no longer make headlines but some of the poorest – predominantly disabled – social tenants are still having to find over a tenner each week simply because they have a so-called “spare” room through no fault of their own; and councils are having to “top up” their rent with discretionary housing payments (DHP) to stop evictions (while having to deny these payments to many others). Local authorities across Britain spent more than £80m on helping families affected by the bedroom tax in 2016, while another £14m was spent on renters facing the benefit cap. Last year it was announced that some councils were running out of cash to help poor residents hit by these housing benefit cuts, with Dudley in the West Midlands having spent 84% of its DHP budget for 2016 after only six months.

Worse still, this has a domino effect: short-sighted cuts to housing benefits, combined with the rise of private renting and precarious tenancies, are adding to the homelessness crisis that local councils are then also left to address. Local authorities spent more than £1.1bn on homelessness in 2015-16 (some of this was recovered from the Department for Work and Pensions), with spending on temporary accommodation rocketing by 39% in real terms since 2010-11. This winter has seen harrowing reports of people sleeping in cars, buses and tents, and even dying in the freezing cold. But years of cuts are leaving councils less able to provide a safety net: on average, local authority funding for services to help vulnerable people avoid homelessness was cut by 45% between 2009-10 and 2014-15.

Hardship funds, meanwhile, are increasingly a lifeline for families pushed into crisis by government policies; that’s help to buy an oven for a young mum drowning in private rent costs because there’s no social housing in her area, or a Parkinson’s patient being given low-cost loans to buy food after being forced off disability benefits by a flawed assessment.

But with their budgets gutted, nearly two-thirds of English councils have now closed their “welfare assistance schemes” or offer only a threadbare service. It adds insult to injury that, at a time in which the Department for Work and Pensions has never been more needed to fulfil its duty, Esther McVey – a woman with such a brass neck she defended benefit sanctions, the spread of food banks, and harsher disability benefit assessments – has been put in charge of the system.

Austerity is turning into the ultimate raid on local government’s finances – gut its funding and then force it to pay out more to fix the problems caused by other cuts. And it’s only going to get worse: the Local Government Association estimates that councils will face a £5.8bn funding gap by 2020, while biting social security cuts, rising poverty and stagnating wages mean families are going to have an even greater need for help.

Yet this is about more than strained spreadsheets or internal politics – it’s a sign of a government that’s causing obscene hardship to its citizens and doing nothing to alleviate it. As councils and communities strain under a burden forced upon them, May’s government is simply looking on.

A social war on those least able to improve their lives.

Nothing more ... nothing less.
Article in today's Guardian dealing with a major side effect of low incomes ... borrowing monies :

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... sal-credit

How government policy is forcing poor people into catastrophic debt.

The benefit cap, zero-hours contracts, and now universal credit have all exacerbated the debt burden on people already struggling to eat and pay rent.

It is extraordinarily expensive to be poor. The less money you have, the more expensive many things are likely to cost. Those with the lowest incomes are often forced to access electricity and gas via prepaid meters – forking out hundreds of pounds more annually than those who pay by direct debit.

And when your income is only just enough to cover your basic living costs, even modest unexpected outgoings can push you into debt. New school shoes, perhaps. Or a train ticket to visit a hospitalised elderly parent. The situation is even scarier with larger buys. What are you supposed to do if you live in a rural area and your car breaks down – borrow the money to fix it, or risk losing your job because the patchy local bus service won’t get you in on time?

Not all debt is the same, of course. The more affluent you are, the more likely it is you’ll be able to access credit at low interest rates. Doorstop lenders and extortionate BrightHouse-style rent-to-own companies target poorer customers because they are the least likely to have other options. Eye-watering annual percentage rates mean debts can quickly spiral out of control. Even initially enticing 0% credit cards can catch you out if you fail to keep up with minimum payments. And if you’re barely bringing in enough to cover rent, food and bills, finding that regular extra income can be a struggle.

In recent years, government policy has only exacerbated the situation. The household benefit cap arbitrarily reduces the means-tested housing benefit households receive to bring their total welfare income below a figure that seems to have been plucked from thin air. Most of those affected are families with young kids, including single parents who are not legally expected to look for work because they have children under the age of three. There are reports of people racking up unmanageable debts trying to keep their heads above water, and of families going into rent arrears and eventually losing their homes.

Universal credit has been similarly disastrous for households struggling to make ends meet. It’s hard to understand why the system was designed with a six-week wait before the first payment (recently reduced to five weeks) until you consider the financial circumstances of those who created it. If you have the kind of income that allows you to put away money for a rainy day, waiting an extra few weeks to be paid is no big deal. Perhaps it genuinely didn’t occur to them that many universal credit recipients would be in a much tougher situation. The alternative is that homelessness and crippling debt are being inflicted deliberately, in an act of apparent sadism.

Zero-hours contracts and the gig economy are also a major cause of financial hardship. One McDonald’s worker I spoke to recently explained how her fluctuating hours made claiming housing benefit all but impossible, and left her unsure whether she’d be able to make rent from one month to the next. She ended up being evicted from her temporary accommodation with just 24 hours’ notice, forcing her to move with her son into her mother’s already overcrowded house. Because she needed to arrange after-school childcare in advance, she had to find money for the full week even if she had only been given a couple of days’ shifts.

Thousands of households face similar struggles. In many circumstances, borrowing money is the only option, even if you’re not sure how you’ll manage to pay it back. It’s hardly surprising, then, that one in four of Britain’s poorest households are falling behind with debt payments or spending more than a quarter of their monthly income on repayments. The findings of a report released today by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, shouldn’t come as a surprise to the government – but perhaps it might push them to act.

Instead of patronisingly offering “free budgeting support” for people struggling as a result of universal credit cuts and delays, they should recognise that falling into unmanageable debt is often the product of impossible circumstances – not simply a personal failing. Rent-to-buy and other high-cost forms of credit should be capped, as payday loans were two years ago. Universal credit should be either fixed or abandoned, and nobody should be left stranded while they wait for delated payments. Efforts should be made to eradicate zero-hours contracts, perhaps by legally mandating that overtime be paid at a higher rate than scheduled hours. The welfare cap should be scrapped; building more social housing is an alternative method of bringing down the housing benefit bill.

Food, adequate housing and other essentials should be recognised as universal rights. The current situation – where people are forced into crippling debt trying to sustain themselves and their families – is a genuine moral catastrophe

One article that needs no further comment ... the information therein does it's own talking !
This morning's Independent ... disabled claimants ... ESA ... could be expanded to include all with no option other than to rely on " Benefits " ?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/po ... 63576.html

Majority of disability benefit claimants being left with not enough to live on, campaigners warn.

Employment and Support Allowance survey suggesting 60 percent of recipients struggling even before cuts branded 'damning indictment of Government' by Labour.

Some 60 percent of people claiming the main long-term sickness benefit believe the amount of money they get is not enough to live on, according to a major new survey.

Labour called the findings from Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) claimants “a damning indictment of the Government's treatment of sick and disabled people”.

Campaigners warned that claimants were struggling to stay healthy, pay bills or afford to eat even before further cuts to ESA came into effect last year.

The Department for Work and Pensions said it did not recognise the findings and its own research showed 83% of people were satisfied with the benefit.

The online survey was carried out by the Disability Benefits Consortium, a national coalition of more than 80 different charities and other organisations.

Analysis of the results shows 60% of 1,755 respondents said the amount of ESA they receive is not enough to live on.

When asked about the consequences of this, 62% said they struggled to stay healthy, 49% said they could not pay bills, 36% could not afford taxis to medical appointments, and 32% said they could not afford to eat.

“This is a damning indictment of the Government's treatment of sick and disabled people,” said Debbie Abrahams, the shadow work and pensions secretary.

“It is shocking that people on ESA are struggling to afford the basics and having to make a choice between heating or eating.

“If this Government is committed to a fairer society, they should stop trying to rebuild the economy off the backs of poor, sick and disabled people.”

ESA is the main long-term sickness benefit, paying 2.4 million people a minimum of £73.10 a week.

Last April, ministers introduced a £30-a-week cut for new claimants in the so-called ESA Wrag group - those who had been found not fit for work, but who may be in the future.

Kevin Stannard, 62, from Colchester, was made redundant from a blind-fitting firm he worked for for 40 years in 2010 after his Parkinson's symptoms stopped him working.

He and his wife Amanda said they faced a “horrendous” four years in the ESA Wrag group before being moved into the support group in 2016.

“We couldn't afford to pay bills or buy food, so we were forced to live off credit cards the whole time and we're still paying them off now,” Mrs Stannard said.

“It got to the point that we were going to lose the roof over our heads as we couldn't pay the rent. Luckily our local councillor stepped in to help us at that point.

“The whole process of ESA is so confusing. I took it on because it was too difficult for Kevin to deal with alongside his Parkinson's.

“But the stress of it all led to me having a stroke, which means I've also had to give up work, and I noticed a decline in Kevin's health too.

“We were never informed of any changes to the support that Kevin would receive so it came as a complete shock and, despite in the end the Department for Work and Pensions agreeing that we were right, we are still living with the consequences of that awful time.”

Four in five claimants told the DBC survey their “fit for work” tests made their health worse due to stress and anxiety, while 62% thought their assessor did not understand their condition.

Around two-thirds of 3,530 respondents said their experience of the disability benefits system was “bad” or “very bad”.

The consortium is due to meet Disabilities Minister Sarah Newton to raise these issues this week.

They will also urge the Government not to scrap the support group and accept that some people will never be able to return to work.

“It is unacceptable that under ESA people are living with the stress of not knowing if they can afford to stay healthy, eat or pay bills,” said Phil Reynolds, a DBC co-chairman and senior policy and campaigns adviser at Parkinson's UK.

“Even more worryingly, these results are from people on the previous rate of ESA. Due to cuts, new applicants from April 2017 will receive a third less money, which will inevitably make it even more difficult to make ends meet.

“This paints a dire picture for disabled people who will also be at risk from the roll-out of Universal Credit in 2018.”

A DWP spokesman said: “We do not recognise these figures.

“The latest official research shows that 83% of ESA claimants are satisfied with their overall experience.”

Lack of monies ... the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY.

Virtually everything else is secondary ... even support services which often need financing.
More from the Guardian ... as if the subject matter was not unlike a constant , loud , buzzing throughout CarerLand and Careeland ?

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/20 ... or-welfare

Millions of families on brink face deepest benefit cuts in years.

New study confirms that the poorest are being hit hardest by continuing austerity.

Families struggling to make ends meet will be hit by the biggest annual benefits cut for six years, according to a new analysis that exposes the impact of continuing austerity measures on the low paid.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is preparing to give a stripped-down spring statement on Tuesday, where he is expected to boast of lower than expected borrowing figures. He will use them to suggest Britain has reached a “turning point”.

He will point to forecasts showing the “first sustained fall in debt for a generation” to claim “there is light at the end of the tunnel” in turning around Britain’s finances.

However, he will be speaking just weeks before a further public spending squeeze will see the second largest annual cut to the benefits budget since the financial crash. According to new research by the Resolution Foundation thinktank, the changes from April will save around £2.5bn and dent the incomes of the “just about managing” families that Theresa May has vowed to help.

The cuts will affect around 11 million families, including 5 million of the struggling families that the prime minister stated she would focus on.

There will also be some good news for the low paid, with more than 1.5 million workers set to benefit from a 4.4% pay rise when the national living wage increases from £7.50 to £7.83 at the start of April. However, that measure will be outweighed by the effective £2.5bn cuts to working-age benefits.

While there were bigger cuts in 2012 when child benefit was removed from higher earners, this year’s squeeze will fall on low- and middle-income families. The new analysis suggests these families are set for an average loss of £190 this year alone, though some will be far worse off.

There are four key benefit cuts this year. Working-age benefits will be frozen for a third year, saving £1.9bn and affecting almost 11 million families. The 3% real-terms cut in working-age benefits this year will be by far the biggest of the freeze, set to last four years.

A measure limiting benefit claims to a family’s first two children, costing up to £2,780 for a family having a third child, saves £400m this year and affects 150,000 families.

The withdrawal of the family element of support for new tax credit and universal credit claims from families with children will cost families up to £545. It saves the public purse £200m this year and will affect 400,000 families.

Finally, the rollout of the controversial universal credit system, which combines several benefits into one payment, saves £200m because some claimants have lower entitlements compared with the existing system, especially the long-term sick and working families.

It comes just days after Paul Johnson, head of the respected Institute of Fiscal Studies, warned that Britain was “nowhere near out of austerity”.

New research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that the decision to press ahead and freeze most working-age benefits and tax credits this year would see a couple with two children left £380 worse off compared with a scenario in which their universal credit claim had increased in line with prices.

Labour is planning to embarrass the government and Tory MPs on Tuesday by forcing them to have a vote on controversial changes that are set to leave some poor families without free school meals for their children or free childcare.

David Finch, chief analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said that upgrades to Britain’s short-term economic outlook “won’t change the fact that families across Britain still face a huge living standards crunch in the coming years, some of which is a direct result of government policy”.

“The chancellor is keen to stick to his brief of a short speech with no new policies,” he said. “But given the financial challenges facing families across Britain, a quick change of his predecessor’s policies on benefit cuts would go a long way towards showing that he is on the side of hard-pressed working families.”

A government spokesman said: “We are spending more than £90bn a year on working-age welfare, and this will continue to rise.”

The words BLOOD and STONE spring to mind ... yet again !
More confirmation of the real effects of " Austerity " :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... ty-by-2021

Austerity will have cast an extra 1.5m children into poverty by 2021.

Lone-parents, disabled children and ethnic minorities will be among worst-hit, says EHRC.

An extra 1.5 million children will have been pitched into poverty by 2021 as a consequence of the government’s austerity programme, according to a study of the impact of tax and benefit policy by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The EHRC study forecasts dramatic increases in poverty rates among children in lone parent and minority ethnic households, families with disabled children and households with three or more children.

There are clear winners and losers from austerity tax and benefits changes since 2010, the study says. The regressive nature of the policies means that low-income families have been hit hardest: the poorest fifth will lose 10% of income by 2021, while the wealthiest fifth will see little or no change.

David Isaac, chair of the EHRC, said: “It’s disappointing to discover that the reforms we have examined negatively affect the most disadvantaged in our society. It’s even more shocking that children – the future generation – will be the hardest hit and that so many will be condemned to start life in poverty.”

The commission called on the government to reconsider existing policies that hit the most disadvantaged groups hardest, and to review social security benefit levels to ensure they provide an adequate standard of living.

The study says the negative financial impacts are largely driven by the four-year freeze on working-age benefits from April 2016, cuts to disability benefits and reductions to work allowances in universal credit.

The findings include:

Children in 62% of lone parent households will be in poverty in 2021, compared to 37% in 2010. Lone parent households will lose an average of £5,250 – a fifth of their income.

The largest increases in child poverty measured by ethnic group will be in Pakistani families (up almost a fifth), while Bangladeshi households will lose £4,400 on average.

Households with a disabled adult and a disabled child will shoulder annual cash losses of just over £6,500, equivalent to 13% of their net income. Disabled lone parents with a disabled child stand to lose £10,000 a year.

The study, which was carried out by the economists Jonathan Portes and Howard Reed, examined the cumulative impact on different groups of changes to income tax, VAT, national insurance, social security benefits, tax credits, universal credit and the national living wage.

It concludes that although changes to taxes and benefits were a clear consequence of the government’s commitment since 2010 to reduce the deficit, it was not inevitable that the most vulnerable groups would bear the heaviest burden, and that the precise mix of changes was a political choice.

A government spokesperson said the report did not take into account many changes made since 2010. “Automatic enrolment pension saving and near record employment are just two issues which contribute enormously to people’s lives but are not reflected in the analysis,” they said.

The social war continues ... unabated.

And ... if the projected growth rate slows ... ???
'Social war' is a very apt description for what's happened over the years.
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