UNIVERSAL CREDIT ( UC ) : Rollout Schedule * Mines * Sanctions * Changes * Delays * Reports From Affected Manors

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
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Veteran MP accuses ministers of treating universal credit claimants and Commons committee " Like dirt."

Government response to universal credit warnings " Skimpy and disappointing ", says Frank Field.

Ministers have been accused of dismissing the experiences of people struggling under universal credit and treating witnesses and MPs raising concerns about the issue “like dirt”.

In a highly unusual move, the Work and Pensions select committee claimed it was “not clear” the government had even read the group’s recent report on the new benefits system.

Independent MP Frank Field, who chairs the committee, said the government's initial response to the warnings about childcare as a barrier to work under universal credit detailed in the report was “skimpy and disappointing”.

The committee's original report, published in December 2018, found that, far from helping parents get into or back into work after having a child, the way the “support” is constructed under universal credit actually acts as a barrier to work.

A number of witnesses gave evidence to the original inquiry, including several single parents who putting “considerable time and effort” into giving evidence and coming up with constructive ways to improve Universal Credit childcare support.

But the MPs said the government’s response, published last month, gave the impression that it was “simply dismissing the very serious problems (under universal credit) that are plaguing parents who are trying to get into work”.

They said it was particularly disappointing given that work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has acknowledged the serious problems that structural flaws in the new system are causing for parents who rely on childcare support to be able to work.

Independent MP Frank Field, chair of the committee, said the group was “frankly sick of these disrespectful government responses that treat us like dirt and fail to engage with our robust, evidence-based conclusions”.

He added: “It’s not clear they’ve even read this one. Worse, in responding this way, government dismisses the experience and evidence of the individuals and organisations that have taken the time, and made the effort, and are working with us to try to fix the unholy mess that is universal credit.

“This response in particular is simply not acceptable, and that is why we are taking the unusual step of issuing this report, demanding that they go back, look at what we and our witnesses have said, and come up with a second, decent response. This will not do."

A DWP spokesperson said: “These claims are disappointing - we take the committee’s input very seriously, have provided detailed responses to all of their recommendations and have already accepted some. We will now carefully consider their additional points.

“Universal credit is supporting 1.8 million people and can pay up to 85 per cent of people’s childcare costs, which is more generous than the old benefit system.”
" Deeply irresponsible " : DWP kept " Alarming " universal credit findings secret for 18 months.

Report revealing " Lack of awareness " among claimants released to MPs a year and a half after it was produced.

Ministers have been accused of keeping “alarming” findings about their flagship universal credit scheme under wraps for a year and a half.

MPs say it was “deeply irresponsible” to delay the release of the report, which suggests nearly half of claimants were not aware their tax credits would stop when they claimed universal credit, and 56 per cent felt they received too little information from HMRC.

The document was produced in November 2017 but only released this month to MPs who, in the meantime, have had to make “pivotal” decisions based on “partial” information, according to the chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Frank Field.

In a letter to senior ministers, Mr Field said the “excessively long delay” had taken place during ongoing decisions about the flagship welfare benefit, which have affected the “lives and incomes of millions of people”.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has repeatedly argued that universal credit is more generous than the old benefit system and provides a “safety net” for those who need it.

The report reveals, however, that more than a third were experiencing financial difficulties – of which six in 10 said their difficulties started after they began claiming universal credit.

It also found that there was a “lack of awareness and a perceived lack of clear information about the new benefit and the migration process”.

Politicians and charities who support people transitioning to universal credit said it was “counterproductive” for ministers to have refrained from publishing the research for a year and a half. They urged the government to take into account all future research in a “thorough, timely and transparent way”.

In his letter, Mr Field asks Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and Chancellor Philip Hammond what actions they took “immediately on seeing the report, aside from deciding to delay publication”.

He writes: “MPs should not be asked to make these pivotal decisions based on partial information. It would be deeply irresponsible for the government not to provide Members of both Houses with the best possible information on which to make them.

“It is profoundly regrettable that this seems to have occurred in this case. I very much hope that this consideration will be at the forefront of the government’s mind as it makes future decisions on sharing the findings of its own research.”

Garry Lemon, director of research and policy at the Trussell Trust, said the fact that the research has not resulted in significant changes to the support provided to people moving onto universal credit was “not only deeply concerning, but deeply irresponsible”.

He added: ”Our benefits system was created to anchor us all from being pushed into poverty, but for too many people moving on to the new service, universal credit has pushed them to a food bank.”

Jess Leigh, policy and campaigns manager at disability equality charity Scope, said: “At a time when government needs to restore trust in the system, sitting on a report for 18 months is counterproductive.

“This report is further evidence that universal credit isn’t working for disabled people. As universal credit becomes a reality for millions of disabled people, many face losing vital welfare support and falling off a financial cliff edge.

“It is critical that the upcoming trial of managed migration takes into account all research in a thorough, timely and transparent way.”

The latest figures show that the DWP is expected to spend close to £1bn on administrative errors in the payment of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) to disabled people – far more than initially expected.

The department was forced to admit that even after new guidance had been issued to staff in 2015 in an attempt to correct the problem – which saw around 180,000 people deprived of benefits they were legally entitled to – 30,000 extra cases had been identified where it was possible the same error resulting in underpayment had been made.

A government spokesperson said they had received Mr Field’s letter and would respond in due course, adding: “This study shows the public’s understanding of universal credit continues to rise. Satisfaction levels are high and people are being helped into work quicker.

“We publish reports once they are quality assured and we regularly update the Committee on universal credit.”
Almost 2m people will lose £1,000 a year with universal credit – study.

Those on disability benefits and low incomes will be among worst affected, IFS concludes.

Almost 2 million people will lose more than £1,000 a year following the switch to universal credit, with those claiming disability benefits the worst affected, according to research by a leading thinktank.

Self-employed workers on below average incomes and low-income families with little savings will also be among the biggest losers, the Institute for Fiscal Studies study concluded, as the government aims to complete one of the biggest overhauls of the benefits system since the introduction of tax credits in 2003.

The benefit clawbacks under the new system, which will affect around half of claimants, are expected to lead to a huge outcry from anti-poverty charities who have accused ministers of sanctioning more than a decade of austerity for some of the UK’s most hard-pressed households.

Earlier this month, welfare claimants began the fourth year of a benefits freeze imposed by the former chancellor George Osborne in 2016, which has already delivered cumulative savings of £4.4bn.

In March, the annual Households Below Average Income (HBAI) report covering 2017-18 found that 3.7 million children were living in absolute poverty, up from 3.5 million in 2016-17.

Universal credit is a merger of several benefits previously paid to claimants separately, including housing benefit, child tax credit and jobs seekers allowance.

The IFS said 11 million adults would lose or gain under new rules governing UC payouts, with 1.6 million gaining by more than £1,000 a year and 1.9 million losing at least that much.

About 4.2 million will be at least £100 per year better off than under the current system and 4.6 million will be at least £100 per year worse off after transitional protection expires, the IFS said.

The research tracked previous claimants and concluded that the circumstances of many low-income families will improve and they are likely to reduce their losses from UC over eight years. For some, losses will fall from more than £1,000 to nearer £100, the report said.

But those who are disabled or live with a disabled person are especially likely to be persistently, rather than temporarily, poor.

Tom Waters, a research economist at the IFS and an author of the briefing note, said: “The biggest losses experienced as a result of the switch are mostly down to a small number of specific choices the government has made about universal credit’s design, such as its treatment of the low-income self-employed and people with financial assets.

“Many of those very large losses do turn out to be temporary for those concerned. However, even when measuring people’s incomes over relatively long periods, universal credit still hits the persistently poor the hardest on average.”
While Britain forces its disabled people to food banks, it is unfit for the 21st century.

There is no starker example than universal credit of the way cuts punish this country’s most vulnerable citizens.

It is 2019, and the UK is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. But today’s figures released by the Trussell Trust show that more than 1.6 million emergency food parcels were given to people going hungry across the UK last year.

This country is home to 145 billionaires, yet food banks for the poorest are becoming the norm. Today’s Britain is far from fit for the 21st century.It is marked by soaring child poverty, poor housing and rising homelessness.

Last year was the busiest year for food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network since the charity opened. Over the last five years, the number of food parcels given out across the UK has rocketed by 73%.

Responsibility for this increase lies firmly at the door of nine years of austerity. Devastating cuts to social security, social care and local services have left more and more people with no other option but to turn to charity.

More than almost any other group in society, disabled people have been forced to bear the brunt of austerity.

Cuts to social security, a cruel work capability assessment (WCA) and punitive sanctions regime have pushed many disabled people to the brink.

Every week, I hear heartbreaking accounts of people going hungry or unable to heat their homes, having been denied social security or sanctioned for missing a job centre appointment. This is sadly unsurprising, given that spending on social security for disabled people has shrunk by £5bn in the last decade, and more than a million social security sanctions have been imposed on disabled people since 2010.

It follows that half of all people at food banks are from households that have one disabled family member.

The social security system is supposed to protect people from poverty. But it is in fact pushing them closer to it. There is no starker example of this than universal credit. The system is the clearest embodiment of the government’s austerity agenda. It has acted as a vehicle for cuts for disabled people – such as the removal of vital disability premiums worth £180 per month. Since its introduction, universal credit has been beset with errors and delays that have pushed many to destitution.

After years of denial from ministers, the current work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd recently admitted the link between universal credit and the rise in food bank use. According to the Trussell Trust’s new analysis, nearly half of food bank referrals were made due to a delay in benefits were linked to universal credit.

Analysis from the Trussell Trust on food bank referrals in 2018 showed a 52% average increase in food bank use in areas that had universal credit for 12 months or more compared with 13% in areas that had not yet gone live with universal credit, or where it had been live for three months or less.

This is the reality in Rudd’s own constituency of Hastings and Rye, where the number of people going to food banks rose by 80% when universal credit was introduced.

But instead of springing to action, the Conservatives have continued to ignore what is happening on their doorsteps. They have failed to end the five-week wait between claiming universal credit and receiving first payment, and they have failed to reverse the brutal cuts inherent to the system. Instead of recognising the devastating effects of austerity on food bank use, Conservative MPs are lining up for photo opportunities.

The figures published today must act as a call to action. Disabled people and the millions of others using our social security system deserve better.
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