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

All about money
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Universal credit to be scrapped by Labour government, Corbyn says.

‘Worst aspects’ of bungled benefit will be reversed " immediately ", Labour leader vows – with entirely new system to follow.

Be very careful in what you wish for !

Tinkering with UC will help ... the main problem is in the LEVEL of individual benefits paid out under UC.

Doing away with online submissions will be a great improvement for claimants in low wage areas ... like my manor , Worksop ...
where regular access to the Internet is NOT cost effective.
Thousands of Wakefield Universal Credit claimants forced to wait for first payment.

People previously entitled to any one of six benefits are being gradually moved onto Universal Credit, under controversial government plans which began at the end of 2018.

But the rollout of the new system has been beset by administrative problems, with one in five new claimants facing serious delays in getting the cash they need.

And Wakefield Council says there is evidence that people are struggling to fill in registration forms, possibly causing them long waits too.
As of July this year, a total of 18,659 people across the district were on Universal Credit.

A report going before senior councillors next week said: “Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) information shows that in Wakefield 81.3 per cent of all claims are fully paid on time with a further 7.5 per cent of claims receiving at least some payment of on time.

“This means that all claimants must wait at least five weeks for their first
payment but one in five are waiting longer than this (even if they have provided all the necessary information).

“There is also anecdotal information, which indicates that some people struggle to complete the online claim form and do not provide all the information required to complete the claim.

“It is not possible to quantify the number but these people are will be waiting even longer, before getting any payment.”
The government says that the rollout of Universal Credit will make the welfare system more simple and fairer.

But in Wakefield, the Labour-run council has dismissed the new system as “outrageous” and “disgusting”.

There was consternation last October, ahead of the rollout, when the local authority threatened to defy government instructions over the level of support claimants should be given.

Citizen’s Advice is now giving advice and help to those entitled to Universal Credit, but Wakefield Council has continued to offer its own support service to residents.
Universal credit " Leaving families depressed' " in poorest London borough.

Parents in Tower Hamlets tell study that squeeze on income is causing conflict and stress.

Low-income families in London’s poorest borough say that moving on to universal credit has left them financially worse off, caused parental conflict, stress, and feelings of guilt at not being able to provide for their children, according to a study.

Researchers found the squeeze on household budgets from universal credit meant many parents struggled to buy warm clothes and nutritious food for their children, as well as being unable to afford birthdays, toys and school trips.

Parents said the financial pressures provoked rows with partners, stress and depression. Many cut out eating or buying clothes to try to ensure their children did not go hungry, while others switched off the heating.

The research, carried out by the Child Poverty Action group (CPAG) for Tower Hamlets council in east London, found the stress and indignity triggered by universal credit was exacerbated by the complexity of the online benefits system and the frequently erratic payment system.

CPAG’s chief executive, Alison Garnham, said: “As a society we believe it’s right to have a social security system that protects people from poverty and helps them to get better prospects. But this research shows that universal credit isn’t achieving those aims.”

Tower Hamlets, which includes Docklands, home to major banks and corporations, has pockets of extreme wealth alongside extreme deprivation. It has the highest level of child poverty in London at 43%, as well as the second highest level of unemployment, and high rates of long-term illness. Universal credit has been in place there since 2017.

The notorious five-week wait for a first universal credit payment pushed many families into debt and food bank use to survive the loss of income. While a quarter took up the Department for Work and Pensions’ offer of an advance payment, almost as many got through by not paying rent, leading to rent arrears.

It found that some claimants, especially older people and those with poor English struggled with the system. Some had relied on their children to set up and manage their claim. Twenty-four per cent of those surveyed judged it “very or fairly difficult”. A third had no consistent access to the internet, in or outside the home.

Even some claimants who were used to the internet found it difficult to understand how universal credit worked. One told researchers: “Nothing is explained … you get no rules. You get no handbook, guidance, assistance. I’m not unintelligent and I’ve messed up the system. If someone is not IT-literate, they are screwed.”

All claimants interviewed by researchers said they had experienced universal credit payment errors, messing up their household budgets. One woman had £135 twice wrongly deducted because the DWP system had wrongly recorded that she was supposedly in receipt of maternity allowance – five years after she was pregnant.

When claimants contacted universal credit service call centres to resolve errors they encountered long call waiting times, and frequently rude and unhelpful staff. One respondent, re-interviewed six months later, said the service had hugely improved – “the on-hold times are now only around 10 minutes”.

Tower Hamlets council said it had uncovered 539 universal credit payment errors generated by the DWP in a year. A council benefits official told researchers that had a local authority service created a similar volume of wrong payments the service would have been put in special measures.

Despite being alerted to these errors, totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds, the DWP told Tower Hamlets it would not correct them unless the claimants themselves notified the department, meaning that residents continued to be either under-paid or over-paid benefits.

One council official said: “We have this scenario where it is like phoning the fire brigade and saying, ‘look, I can see out the window, there’s a block of flats on fire there’, and they [the DWP] go ‘yes, we can see it as well but we are waiting for the resident to tell us’”.

The research – based on interviews with clients and stakeholders, and a survey of universal credit claimants in the borough – found evidence that one of the central ambitions of universal credit – to encourage more claimants into work, or to work more hours – was not working because claimants felt they were better off on benefits.

A DWP spokesperson said its survey of 12,000 people nationally found more than 80% of claimants were satisfied with universal credit: “This report is based on the experience of fewer than 300 claimants, when more than 17,000 people are receiving universal credit in Tower Hamlets.

“Nobody should struggle to claim the benefits they need, and we have a wide range of support in place to help people, including our Help to Claim service delivered by Citizens Advice.”
Two-thirds of young single parents to lose out under universal credit, think tank warns.

" Reduction in generosity" for under 25-year-olds with children prompts fears already soaring child poverty rates will only increase further.

Two-thirds of young single parents are set to lose welfare support under universal credit, according to a new report which raises concerns that soaring child poverty rates are set to increase further.

Research by the Resolution Foundation has found that parents under the age of 25 are more than twice as likely to lose out than to gain when moving over from the old benefit system, creating what it called a “young parents’ penalty”.

The report described a “specific reduction in generosity” for young people transferring to universal credit, predicting that 16- to 24-year-olds would lose out by an average of £100 a year, with those who are parents set to be paid £15.20 per week less than otherwise identical but older claimants.

This change particularly affects younger single parents, with two in three experiencing a fall in income as a result of switching to the new benefit, while only 32 per cent get an income boost, according to the findings.

By contrast, 56 per cent of older single-parent recipients, aged 25 and over, lose money while 41 per cent gain, as a result of the switch to universal credit.

The Resolution Foundation warned that with child poverty rates were on course to reach their highest level since records began 60 years ago. Ministers must reform and strengthen the social security safety net for young adults, and young parents in particular, it said.

Official figures published in March revealed that the number of children living in absolute poverty across the UK has increased by 200,000 in a year – to a total of 3.7 million.

Margaret Greenwood, shadow work and pensions secretary, said the report showed "clearly how disgracefully" young single parents were being treated under universal credit.

She added: “There isn’t a separate aisle in shops where food, clothes and nappies for babies cost less if a parent is under 25. The government is simply punishing families by setting a lower rate in universal credit for young parents."

The Resolution Foundation said the reduction in support for under-25s under universal credit fitted into a wider pattern of cuts in support for young people across the past 20 years.

This has included reductions in housing benefit to those under-25 – and the under-35s since 2012 – as well as a reduced rate for those aged 16 to 24 on out-of-work benefits, all of which the think tank said had left a “fraying social safety net for young adults”.

The think tank recommended awarding young single parents (those aged 18 to 24) the same basic allowance under universal credit as parents aged over 25, acknowledging that their responsibility for a child or children effectively placed them in the same life-stage bracket as older adults.

Fahmida Rahman, research and policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Over the past 20 years, successive governments have chipped away at the social safety net for young adults, despite that group being more reliant on benefits than other working-age groups.

“Universal credit should be an opportunity to address this problem. But instead its design has created a ‘young parents’ penalty, with young single parents twice as likely to lose out under the new benefit system as they are to benefit from it. This harsh treatment comes at a time when child poverty is already projected to rise."

Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, who commissioned the policy analysis and recommendations, said the “tremendous” impact having a safety net to fall back on had on the futures of young people “should not be underestimated”.

She added: “These recommendations clearly set out where the government can take action now to secure the health of our young people for the future.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “As this report acknowledges, universal credit is a simpler system that incentivises work and represents a positive step for many young adults.

“Parents on universal credit can claim back up to 85 per cent of their childcare costs and since April working parents have been able to earn an extra £1,000 a year before their payments start to reduce.

“There are near-record numbers of single parents in work, but we spend more than £95bn a year on benefits for families who need more support.”
Watchdog bans DWP's " Misleading " universal credit adverts.

ASA found claim that people could move into work faster on UC to be unsubstantiated.

A series of government ads extolling the virtues of universal credit and purporting to bust negative myths about the flagship Conservative welfare policy has been banned because it is “misleading”.

In an embarrassing indictment of the policy before next month’s general election, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that a claim that people moved into work faster on universal credit (UC) than under the old system could not be substantiated.

Two other claims – that jobcentres will pay an advance to people who need it and that rent can be paid directly to landlords under UC – were also found to be unsubstantiated.

The adverts, part of a £225,000 Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) campaign to detoxify UC, appeared in print in the Metro newspaper and on its website, as well as on the MailOnline, in May and June.

They attracted 44 complaints, including from the Motor Neurone Disease Association, the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and the anti-poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K), who have called for the DWP to apologise in light of the ASA ruling.

The Z2K chief executive, Raji Hunjan, also demanded an investigation into working practices at the department.

“If it has misled the public on UC, its flagship policy, what else is it misleading us on?” Hunjan said. “The next government must engage with the compelling evidence that points to the harm UC is causing, leaving many people reliant on food banks and others destitute. Enough is enough.”

The DWP’s nine-week advertising campaign launched with an advert wrapped around the Metro newspaper and a four-page feature inside.

The headline on the advertorial said “Universal credit uncovered” and it presented a series of “myths” followed by “facts”, such as: “Myth – you have to wait five weeks to get any money on UC. Fact – if you need money, your jobcentre will urgently pay you an advance.”

The five-week waiting time for a first payment has been one of the most controversial elements of UC, having been criticised by MPs of all parties, campaigners and the National Audit Office, and blamed for an increase in food bank use.

The ASA adjudged the webpage hosted by MailOnline and Metro.co.uk to be in breach of rules stating that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such, because a label identifying it as DWP content was too small.

Jonathan Blades, a parliamentary co-chair of the DBC, a coalition of more than 100 charities, said: “The DWP must apologise for its actions and concentrate on fixing UC. They need to stop messing around with misleading adverts and focus on reform – like scrapping the five-week wait.”

UC, which is running six years behind schedule, rolls six benefits into one single monthly payment. A recent estimate suggested millions of claimants would be up to £1,000 worse off when they move on to it.

Labour, which has pledged to abolish UC, seized on the ASA ruling. The shadow work and pensions secretary, Margaret Greenwood, said: “It is shameful that this Conservative government chose to waste thousands of pounds on misleading ads about UC rather than ending the harsh, punitive policies that are causing such severe hardship.”

A DWP spokesman said it was disappointed by the decision and had responded to the ASA. “We consulted at length with the ASA as we created the adverts, which have explained to hundreds of thousands of people how UC is helping more than 2.5 million people across the country,” he said.

Now we have proof : the government used your money to lie about poor people.

After I revealed Whitehall plans to deceive the public on universal credit, an investigation began. Its conclusions are shocking.

Early this summer, a national newspaper published a string of curious articles. Under the logo Universal Credit Uncovered, the features promised readers of the Metro the truth about this most notorious of all benefits. The series began with a giant advert wrapped around the cover of the paper, coupled with a four-page spread right in its centre, and continued week upon week for nine weeks. Launched by the Department for Work and Pensions, it was an unprecedented attempt to salvage the reputation of a policy that had been attacked by MPs on all sides, plunged families into starvation and homelessness, and driven councils dealing with the fallout to call for its abolition.

That suffering across the country was dismissed by the DWP as “negativity and scaremongering” in an internal memo I saw and reported on here weeks beforehand. Signed by three top officials, it described the campaign to the Metro’s 2.5 million daily readers as “very different to anything that we’ve done before”. The civil servants crowed over how readers might be deceived into treating the advertorials as independent reporting: “The features won’t look or feel like DWP or UC [universal credit] – you won’t see our branding … We want to grab the readers’ attention and make them wonder who has done this ‘UC uncovered’ investigation.”

They almost got away with it too – but, tipped off by the Guardian’s reporting, others began an extraordinary fightback. MPs fired questions at Amber Rudd, then the DWP’s secretary of state, while disability activists turned up at train stations, from Swindon to Stoke, and emptied their stands of Metros – with the support of the RMT union. A number were bulk-delivered to Rudd’s offices in Westminster. Other groups, including anti-poverty charities such as Z2K, formally complained to the Advertising Standards Authority that the government was misleading the public. The watchdog was blitzed with 44 complaints (the average for a case is between one and five), and has been investigating the claims since early June. This morning it publishes its findings – and they make quite the starter pistol for the general election.

Throughout its campaign, the DWP would summarise what it called “Myths” about universal credit and then give readers the “Facts”. The ASA looked at three of the claims – and found they weren’t facts at all. They were lies, told by the government to its own taxpayers.

In big letters, the DWP boasted that “people move into work faster on Universal Credit than they did on the old system”. After poring over the statistics, the ASA has found this claim “did not reflect the evidence … had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading”.

“If you need money,” readers were assured, “your Jobcentre will urgently pay you an advance.” In its ruling, the ASA takes the government to task for not making it clear that this is only a loan and that the vast majority of claimants will have to wait five weeks for their first UC payment.

Finally, the adverts’ claim that “your Jobcentre can pay rent directly to landlords” was again found to be misleading because it only applies to a small number of claimants. The ASA looks at one other charge, that the ads might not be identifiable as such, and while it worries about the “quite small” font that admits this is DWP marketing, only partially upholds it. In total, that’s three clear rulings against the DWP, plus one partially upheld.

It is no small thing for a watchdog to face down the government in such an uncompromising fashion. Yet at the end of its remarkable judgment, there is something even more startling. The DWP is told that in future it must have “adequate evidence to substantiate the claims in their advertising, to include significant conditions [where the claims don’t apply], and to present significant conditions clearly”. The regulator has been forced to advise the Conservative government to tell the truth.

We stand at the edge of an election campaign, a period traditionally marked by half-truths, plausible fibs and outright partisan lies. Yet even amid the discursive sewage that is about to deluge us, this deceit is far different and vastly more serious. First, that campaign was paid for by taxpayers like you and me. The DWP’s own filings show that £225,000 was paid to the Metro to run ads now declared “misleading”, “unsubstantiated” and “exaggerated”. Almost a quarter of million pounds was taken off us to lie to us

Second, these ads were not devised by Dominic Cummings, or any party operative. As Rudd admitted in a letter this June to a select committee of MPs, “detailed campaign and content planning was taken forward by Department officials”. Under orders to sell the government’s biggest welfare reform this decade, civil servants played fast and loose with the truth. The reputation of the DWP, already badly damaged by countless failures, has taken another huge knock today.

Approached for comment, the DWP has not offered even an apology to the public, merely saying it is “disappointed with this decision”. It further claims that “we consulted at length with the ASA as we created the adverts”. I asked the obvious follow-up: how then do you explain the fact that you’ve breached so many of its guidelines? There was no response. Nor was there any response on whether the DWP is running any more ad campaigns on UC, as several sources both in and out of Westminster have claimed to me.

What the government has effectively done is use public money to gaslight poor people, denying the reality of what has been done to them. In its eagerness to push its gargantuan failure of a welfare policy, it has swept aside the truth and peddled lies. Politicians, campaigners and journalists have all pointed out how Rudd and her DWP predecessor Iain Duncan Smith have done so – and each time we have faced breathtaking defensiveness from a Whitehall department that is meant to be working on our behalf, rather than for the Tories.

So let’s end with some truth on universal credit. Last week in these pages I wrote about Maureen Powell in Colchester, a sick pensioner driven to set up lunch clubs because of the families she sees driven to starvation by universal credit. Tuesday’s report from the Trussell Trust concludes that those claiming the benefit are two and a half times more likely to have to use food banks. And a report last month from the work and pensions select committee reported that women were being driven into “survival sex” to make ends meet because of problems with UC. Among the testimony quoted was one woman who told MPs she was about to be moved on to UC: “I will lose £200 a month. The thought of going into debt and having no money is really frightening. I have children. I will sell my body.”

It takes a particularly rotten government to be confronted with such evidence and think that, rather than fix the policies, it will instead lie about them. But that, apparently, is the one we have.

• Aditya Chakrabortty is a Guardian columnist
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