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UNIVERSAL CREDIT ( UC ) : Rollout Schedule * Mines * Sanctions * Changes * Delays * Reports From Infected Manors - Page 8 - Carers UK Forum

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

All about money
266 posts
Oh dear , crocodile tears ? ... really ? ... whatever next ?

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... ank-field.

Tory MP cries at universal credit impact speech from Frank Field.

Heidi Allen wiped away tears at welfare reform debate after hearing Labour MP tell of persuading a man not to kill himself.

A Conservative MP broke down in the House of Commons during an emotional Labour-led debate on universal credit, where the government conceded it would release confidential reports into the impact of the welfare reform’s rollout.

MP Heidi Allen wiped away tears as Labour’s Frank Field, the chair of the work and pensions select committee, described persuading a man not to kill himself and spoke of another man who told him about his “lucky week” going to a funeral “so they could finish off the food”.

The debate came as the government pledged it will make universal credit reports from between 2012 and 2015 available to the select committee in a concession to Labour, but work and pensions secretary David Gauke said they should not be made public.

Gauke said the government had nothing to hide on universal credit, hinting that the project assessment reports would not give any sort of damning indictment of the flagship welfare reform.

Labour said the government had so far ignored a ruling in August by the information commissioner that five of the reports should be released to campaigners because their publication would be in the public interest.

Government sources said they would continue to challenge their public release, even though the reports will be given to the committee, after Labour used an arcane parliamentary device called a “humble address” to the Queen, requesting ministers release project assessment reviews conducted into the welfare reform.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has already said the papers should be published publicly and in full – as that is specifically in the public interest.

During the debate, a visibly upset Allen said she was pleased how MPs were working cross-party to improve the system.

“I’m humbled by the words from my honourable, good friend from Birkenhead [Field],” she said. “No government is perfect, no benefits system is perfect, no debate, no motion is perfect, but by God we work together and make this better.”

Field intervened to give Allen a chance to compose herself, saying: “I’m just amazed for the first time I’ve been able to report those events publicly without weeping.

“I’m so affected by them, I’m affected as she is. That’s the debate we’re really having – how do we represent here the desperateness of many of our constituents when many of us feel we can’t offer them hope.”

Earlier Field said his constituents were being hit by the cumulative impact of reforms under Labour and Conservative governments.

“On my last surgery Friday, for the first time ever a gentleman rose after we had spoken, I had tried to persuade him not to commit suicide, such was the desperateness that he saw the future for himself, and I realised the hand that shook my hand was wet. He’d been crying. And the hand that shook my hand was the hand that wiped away those tears,” he said.

Gauke said he was granting the request on an “exceptional basis” and said the reports would only give a partial picture of the policy’s impact, given how it had subsequently been revised.

He said he would confidentially provide the reports to the select committee, and “hope and expect that the documents will not be disclosed further”.

Field hinted he was uneasy about the condition that his committee keep the reports confidential, and that he would seek guidance from Commons Speaker John Bercow about “what sense of secrecy or of honour bind us” when they get the documents.

Labour and some Tory MPs have repeatedly voiced concern about the long wait faced by fresh claimants to be paid benefits once they apply for universal credit, originally six weeks but reduced to five in last month’s budget.

The Department for Work and Pensions has said no claimant needed to wait that long without funds, saying emergency payments to cover the period can be requested and received within three days and paid back over 12 months.

Speaking in the debate, Gauke accused Labour politicians and the media of “scaremongering”, which he said was leading families to believe they had no way of accessing help.

The shadow work and pensions secretary, Debbie Abrahams, said the reports would give a “greater insight into the scale of their implementation and design failures during the mismanagement of the programme and must be published unredacted and unedited”.

Another one to shed crocodile tears when the winter deaths casaulty list is made know in the spring ?

If UC hadn't been loaded by traps / delays / mines , it would be an improvement.

Trouble is , the politicians doctored it to suit their own motives.

Hypocrisy ... plain and simple.
A byproduct of UC ... nasty , nasty :

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ho ... 17241.html

One million children living in poverty will miss out on free school meals under universal credit plans, charity warns.

The Children’s Society says plans to means test free school meals under universal credit will create a ‘cliff-edge’ where many families are better off taking a pay cut.

One million children living in poverty in England are set to miss out on free school meals under universal credit proposals, a charity has warned.

The Government has been accused of missing a “golden opportunity” to ensure no child in poverty goes hungry in school after it emerged just 700,000 of the 1.7 million school children in poverty would receive free school meals under plans to introduce means testing to the system.

While all families in receipt of universal credit have so far been automatically entitled to free school meals, The Children’s Society has warned the plans will create a “cliff-edge” where many families would be better off taking a pay cut.

Analysis of figures by the charity show that under the plans, once a family with one child passes the £7,400 threshold they would need to earn £1,124 a year more – the equivalent of working 2.4 hours more each week at national living wage – to make up for the loss in free school meals.

The Department for Education has disputed the claims, insisting that more than 50,000 extra children will be entitled to free school meals through its eligibility proposals following the rollout of universal credit.

Announcing the proposals last month, the Government suggested it would introduce a net income threshold of £7,400 a year before benefits are taken into account for families to benefit from free school meals. Minister for Children and Families Robert Goodwill said the measure would “ensure the support reaches children from the most disadvantaged families”.

But in light of today’s figures, campaigners and politicians said the proposals “undermine the very principle” of universal credit being designed to make work pay, and accused the Government of “failing to tackle child poverty”.

The analysis from The Children’s Society show that the regions worst affected by child poverty stand to lose the most from the proposed eligibility criteria, with 212,000 children projected to miss out on free school meals in London, and 130,000 set to miss out in the West Midlands.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “There are significant, proven benefits for children’s health, education and their futures in making sure they have a healthy lunch every day, but at least one million children will miss out if this change is introduced.

“Continuing to provide free school meals for all children on universal credit would not only help vulnerable children, it would also prevent low-income parents being left worse off if they take on more hours or get a pay rise.

“Universal credit was designed to always make work pay, but these plans will undermine that very principle.

“If the Government wants to show it is truly committed to tackling the growing crises of inequality and child poverty, delivering free school meals for children in low-income working families is a crucial step.”

Debbie Abrahams, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “The Conservatives are failing to tackle child poverty, refusing to even commit to a reduction target, and holding our children back.

“We need to make sure that work always pays and this proposal does nothing of the sort, instead it creates a serious ‘cliff edge’ for families on the lowest incomes. Labour will introduce universal free school meals to end the scandal of children going hungry at school.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The fact is over 50,000 more children will be entitled to free school meals through our eligibility proposals following the rollout of universal credit.

“It’s right that we make sure this support reaches children from the most disadvantaged families and we’re consulting on this issue to make sure that’s the case.”

Another " Mine " many will step on.

How many more yet to be mapped ?
LAs now acting as lenders of the last resort ?

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... -claimants

Councils forced to fund emergency help for universal credit claimants.

Labour says its findings offer more evidence that the government should pause rollout of new benefit system.

Cash-strapped councils are being forced to set aside extra resources to cushion the blow of switching to universal credit for vulnerable households, according to analysis by Labour.

Responses to a series of freedom of information requests submitted by the party have revealed many local authorities are allocating significant funds to support tenants with rent arrears and provide advice to help them navigate the new system.

Margaret Greenwood, the shadow minister for employment, said: “Universal credit is causing misery and hardship for thousands of families this Christmas and councils are being expected to pick up the pieces. This is yet more evidence that the government should immediately pause the roll out of universal credit so its fundamental flaws can be fixed.”

Newcastle city council reported that it was spending £390,000 supporting UC claimants, almost a quarter of which was for additional rent arrears support.

Liverpool city council said it had spent £175,000 from its local welfare provision scheme on UC claimants, while Shropshire council said it had set aside £20,000 to help food banks to “diversify the type of help they are able to give specifically to suit universal credit.”

In London, Tower Hamlets council said it had set aside £5m over three years to help those affected by the shift to UC, while Barking and Dagenham is budgeting £50,000 from January 2018.

In total, 26 councils said they had set aside extra resources or anticipated increased demand for welfare support as the UC rollout reaches their area.

Universal credit, which is being implemented gradually across the country, bundles together six different benefits into a single monthly payment and is intended to sharpen work incentives.

MPs and charities have raised concerns about the long initial wait for payments and the fact that benefits cuts instigated by George Osborne mean the new system is considerably less generous than the one it replaces.

When Labour convened an opposition day debate on the rollout of UC in October, the government ordered its MPs not to vote rather than risk a backbench rebellion.

The monthly payments, and the fact claimants receive the money directly, unlike the current system of housing benefit which is paid directly to landlords, are meant to reflect the world of work and help claimants learn to manage their budget.

But after pressure from Tory MPs concerned about the impact on their constituents, the chancellor, Philip Hammond, announced changes in November including a reduction in the upfront waiting time to five weeks from six.

The work and pensions secretary, David Gauke, has increasingly begun to publicly reject Labour’s portrayal of UC as creating hardship for welfare claimants. On Twitter, he challenged Frank Field, the Labour MP who chairs the work and pensions committee, this month about the case of an individual voter.

Gauke said: “I strongly believe we have got a really good policy with this that will transform lives, but there is almost a sort of knee-jerk criticism and a temptation in particular with universal credit that you can almost say anything critical about it and it goes without challenge.”

Responding to Labour’s claims about council funding to support claimants, a DWP spokesman said: “Councils have been providing welfare advice and housing payment top-ups as standard, since long before the introduction of universal credit.

“The majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money but advances are available for anyone who needs extra help, and arrangements can be made to pay rent direct to landlords if needed.”

Almost half (49%) of claimants are now receiving an advance when they apply for universal credit, helping to shorten the time without funds, but they must then repay it.

Regular readers will see no real change ... beyond effects that have been predicted.

50 more manors every month ... the odds on disorder are shortening.
Ground Zero ... Yorkshire ... UC effect on those with fluctuating incomes :

https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/un ... -1-8923670

Universal Credit rollout sees food bank use increase across Yorkshire.

[quote]Parts of Yorkshire which have introduced Universal Credit ahead of its national rollout are reporting increased food bank use from desperate clients. Chris Burn reports.

“People are very upset, don’t have anything in their cupboards and don’t know what to do. They are just at their wits’ end. They are struggling to provide for themselves and their families.”

Michelle Gregg, director of housing services for the Yorkshire Housing Association, has seen at first-hand the difficulties facing people finding themselves in rent arrears after changes to their benefits onto the controversial Universal Credit system on visits to properties with her team.

“We have had quite an increase in people who need referrals to food banks,” she says of the service’s arrival in Ryedale. That experience has been echoed across Yorkshire, with similar issues reported in Harrogate, Sheffield, and Wakefield as people wait weeks for their first payments under the new system and are subjected to unexpected deductions.

Universal Credit is a single monthly payment designed to replace six benefits - Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance and Working Tax Credit and simplify the system. It is being introduced in stages across the country and is due to be in place everywhere by December 2018.

But multiple problems have been reported with the roll-out so far, with harrowing stories from across the country reported in evidence submitted to the Work and Pensions Select Committee by housing associations and charities.

Gregg says one of the problems with the way the system works is how it affects those in jobs with uncertain hours and salaries such as taxi drivers, retail staff and the self-employed.

“In Ryedale, there are people on low incomes whose wages fluctuate. If you have a good month in terms of extra hours,you will get much less Universal Credit but because that comes a month later it might coincide with a month where you also have a low wage. It is quite hard to work out how much you are going to get.

“Having that uncertainty can make it difficult to plan or budget. If a big bill comes in, you can be really stuck.

“Usually if someone works extra hours and gets paid more, that is a good thing. But unless they continue at that level, it will affect them more in the months when they get a lower Universal Credit payment.

“That difficulty is something we have seen. People who absolutely want to work and are working feel they are being punished. If you don’t know what you are going to be paid this month or the month after, it is hard if you haven’t got the certainty to plan.”

Yorkshire Housing Association said earlier this year that the average rental arrears for those clients on Universal Credit was £416, compared to £144 for those still outside the new system. It also warned about the rate of at avoidable sanctions placed on claimants, “some of whom are vulnerable, live in isolated villages across North Yorkshire with no IT access, no smart phone and expensive public transport to their nearest Job Centre Plus”.

Wakefield and District Housing warned in March that of the 327 tenants it had claiming Universal Credit, 299 were in some form of rent arrears.

It said that the minimum six-week wait for the first payment under the new system was seeing tenants “often required to rely on support from friends and family to get by and increasingly on the support provided by food banks”, as well as turning to legal and illegal doorstep lenders.

The organisation added: ““We have also identified significant difficulties as an individual moves into work whilst claiming UC. This is especially apparent where a claimant moves into partial employment or is on a zero hours contract. Here the claimant is required to conduct quite complex budgeting and to take into consideration previous months earnings, current work and also forecast potential work in the following month in order to budget effectively.”

Citizens Advice Sheffield said in October: “The evidence from our clients’ points to minimum waiting times of six weeks before claims are processed and often these times are longer.

“Our clients report separate and serious delays in processing living and housing costs. The impact of delays in living costs means nothing to eat and reliance of help from food banks. It also impacts on the ability to pay for fuel for heating, cooking and heating, with had a particularly detrimental impact on the poorest who use prepayment meters meaning for some an inability to heat up the tinned food received from the food bank.

“The delays in the processing of housing costs is leading to threats of possession action, possession orders and, in the worse cases reported to us, eviction proceedings.

“We make frequent referrals to food banks and the evidence from our clients on UC points to this increasing as we lead up to and become a full service area. We have taken the step of embedding advice workers in the foodbanks to reach some of the most vulnerable people who otherwise couldn’t or wouldn’t contact us. Unfortunately, we now see food banks as the de facto first source of support for the poorest rather than the State.”

Citizens Advice Harrogate District warned earlier this year it had dealt with several people “who have lost many thousands of pounds because they were signposted to Universal Credit or been given incorrect information that has led to them having to claim Universal Credit straightaway and as a result have lost their transitional protection”. It said the issue had particularly affected severely disabled people without carers who received Severe Disability Premium payments - a form of support that did not have an equivalent under Universal Credit.

In response to criticism, changes to the system have been promised by the Government. The wait for payment will be reduced from six weeks to five weeks from February and it will be made easier for people for apply for payment advances, as well as doubling the amount of time to repay advances from six months to one year.

Gregg says these are steps in the right direction - but more needs to be done.

“As far as we are concerned, anything that helps is better than nothing. We are pleased people will wait five weeks rather than six weeks but I think we have preferred a little more change. and the timeframe being shortened even further. But it is a start.”[/quote]

50 more manors per month ....
So much for saving tax payers monies despite many claimants receiving less ?

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... efits-cuts

Universal credit to save taxpayers just 2% in spite of benefit cuts.

Welfare scheme a ‘significant risk’ to public spending, warns Office for Budget Responsibility.

Universal credit is on course to deliver only marginal taxpayer savings despite driving through huge cuts in benefit payments to many claimants, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

The independent forecaster warned that even these relatively slender £1bn savings – amounting to just 2% of the social security budget – could be knocked off course if ministers were forced to reverse potentially unpopular cuts built into universal credit affecting tax credit recipients, disabled people and self-employed claimants.

It said political uncertainties and problems with the design and implementation of the much-delayed project, currently around five years behind schedule, meant universal credit presented a “significant risk” to public spending.

The OBR pointed out that some of the gross savings from universal credit were predicated on driving through cuts to relatively large numbers of families. The Resolution Foundation has said cuts to the generosity of universal credit will leave 1m working households an average of £2,800 a year worse off by 2022.

Public anger over cuts to tax credits, disability benefits, and changes to national insurance contributions for self-employed workers have driven the most significant government welfare policy U-turns in recent years.

“The experience of past – typically smaller – welfare reforms is that they often take longer than expected to deliver, save less than anticipated and create political pressure to compensate losers,” the Welfare Trends report published this morning said.

Universal credit is expected to consume around £63bn of expenditure by the time its rollout is completed in 2022-23, accounting for around two-thirds of working age welfare spending. Currently around 660,000 people claim universal credit, a number expected to rise to 7m.

Although its aim of simplifying social security by rolling up six working-age benefits into one payment – including tax credits, housing benefit and jobseeker’s allowance – has attracted wide political support, it has been dogged by design and administrative flaws that have left poorer claimants homeless, hungry and in debt.

The OBR report states: “The move to universal credit has been – and remains – an enormous design and delivery challenge for the government, notably the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The rollout has already been delayed repeatedly. And universal credit is now designed to save money, relative to the legacy system it replaces, rather than to cost more, as in the original vision.”

It adds: “A welfare reform of this scale and nature is also a huge forecasting challenge and a source of significant risk to the Treasury in terms of public spending control.”

The OBR estimates that, based on the current design, universal credit will deliver £1bn of net savings to the social security budget by the time it is fully rolled out in 2022 – equivalent to just 2% of the total amount it would have spent on existing benefits had the new system not been introduced.

The system has made an estimated £11bn in savings, mainly through cuts to the generosity of universal credit – most notably through reductions to work allowances, which will save around £3bn, and the removal of £2bn in disability premium payments – but it has also incurred £8.5bn in expenses.

These include higher take-up of benefits – the “one-stop shop” nature of universal credit means that £2.5bn currently unclaimed by social security recipients who fail to take up all of the benefits they qualify for will be automatically paid – and £1.5bn in transitional protections for people moving over to the new system.

It said shortcomings with tools used to measure and monitor the progress of universal credit were “far from ideal”. Many elements of monitoring architecture are “opaque, poorly integrated and take too long to produce robust results”.

The report also undermines ministerial claims that universal credit will deliver improved job market outcomes. Although early trials suggest claimants are more likely than those on legacy benefits to move into work, or increase their earnings, the OBR points out that these “modest but positive” effects were based on older iterations of the system, not the more complex full system currently being rolled out.

A System designed to punish those needing protection from the ravishes of the free market economy ?
A first legal challenge on the way :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... ial-review

Universal credit system faces landmark legal challenge.

Lawyers for terminally ill man who say new system costs him almost £200 a month win right to judicial review.
A terminally ill man has won the right to launch a landmark legal challenge to the government over its introduction of universal credit after the controversial new benefits system left him significantly worse off.

The 52-year-old, known only as TP, a Cambridge graduate who once worked in the City, has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the rare lymph node condition Castleman disease. Following a successful hearing last week, a full judicial review of his claim will take place next month, the first high court challenge of its kind.

The outcome could have consequences for thousands of other disabled people who claim that they are now experiencing financial hardship as a result of having had their benefits restricted under universal credit.

“I am proceeding with the judicial review for my own personal financial situation during this very difficult time of illness, but also because it is quite wrong of the government to remove by stealth and without prior warning on a transition into universal credit a much-needed benefit for people trying to cope alone at home with a substantial disability,” TP told the Observer. “This includes the most very vulnerable of society. It piles on a financial burden at a time when these people are most in need of assistance to continue their day-to-day lives as best they can.”

TP became terminally ill in 2016 and received the severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP), which were set up to meet the needs of severely disabled people living alone without carers.

Following the introduction of universal credit (UC), both benefits for TP were removed, despite a government pledge that no one with a severe disability would be financially worse off. According to the charity Disability Rights UK, the abolition of SDP will cost disabled adults with no one to care for them, or with only a young carer, about £62.45 per week, or £3,247.40 a year. The abolition of EDP will cost them £15.90 per week or £826.80 a year.

Following his diagnosis, TP’s doctors recommended that he move to London to receive treatment. His return to the capital, a universal credit full-service area, led to a reduction in his benefits which, say his lawyers, has resulted in their client being £178 a month worse off. They contend that the government’s decision to introduce the single benefit, while removing his disability benefits, has left TP in financial difficulties, which have had a major impact on him at a time of extreme ill health and stress.

Tessa Gregory from the law firm Leigh Day, which is representing TP, said David Gauke, the former work and pensions secretary, had made repeated commitments to protect existing benefit levels with “top-up payments” for claimants moving to UC. Gauke had pledged: “No one will experience a reduction in the benefit they are receiving at the point of migration to universal credit where circumstances remain the same.” But both the work and pensions select committee and the House of Lords secondary legislation scrutiny committee have concerns that disabled people could miss out on benefits, with no top-up payments planned until July 2019. “We believe that by taking away these essential benefits for some of the most vulnerable people in society, the government has acted unlawfully,” Gregory said.

A DWP spokeswoman said that it was unable to comment on the specifics of the case while the review was under way. She added: “We are committed to supporting people into work while making sure the right care is in place for those that cannot. Unlike the previous system, universal credit is more targeted and support is focused on those who need it most. Transitional protection is also available for those people who move on to UC from other benefits, provided their circumstances stay the same.”

As posted earler , a cocktail of old money benefits going into UC does not produce the same level of income coming out.

Usual comments section ... buzing as I type.
Hardly a day goes by without UC being in the headlines ?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/po ... 99311.html

Universal credit project review full of 'gobbledegook', says Commons committee.

'They have produced no evidence to back up the key, central economic assumption of the biggest reform to our welfare system in 50 years.

William Beveridge will be rolling in his grave'

The universal credit project review is full of “management gobbledegook” with ministers failing to make a full business case for the rollout of the Government’s flagship welfare reform, an influential Commons committee has warned.

Frank Field, who chairs the Work and Pensions Committee, said the architect of welfare state, William Beveridge, “will be rolling in his grave” at the failure to produce evidence to back up the key economic assumption of universal credit.

He said people are being expected to take it on good faith that the contentious overhaul of the welfare in Britain will deliver.

After examining internal project assessment reviews of the universal credit programme’s finances and delivery by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), the committee expressed concerns about the situation.

While MPs said it was to the department’s credit that it brought universal credit back from the “brink of complete failure” in 2013, they said it continues to face major challenges.

Mr Field said that perhaps the most damning point emerging from the assessment of the Government’s progress on universal credit is that in its eighth year of the programme, the department itself “is yet to produce the full business case for its own mega reform”.

He continued:“The programme managers appear to expect us, the public, and the minister responsible to take it on faith that universal credit will deliver the much improved employment outcomes they claim for the vast range of people – disabled, single parents, carers, the self-employed – who will claim UC.

“At the moment, they are relying on the simplest cases – single, unemployed claimants with no children. They have produced no evidence to back up the key, central economic assumption of the biggest reform to our welfare system in 50 years. William Beveridge will be rolling in his grave.

“The reviews, which barely mention claimants, are also shot through with management gobbledegook. Were I the minister in charge, I would have either rejected or ignored much of it entirely as totally incomprehensible.

“This major reform would surely have been served better by a much more transparent approach.”

Responding to the comments from the committee, Debbie Abrahams, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said the report proved “once again that universal credit is not fit for purpose”.

She added: “It is completely unacceptable that the Government has not provided any evidence to back up their repeated assertion that universal credit will help people into work, a key principle of the programme.

“As universal credit is being rolled out, people in and out of work are being pushed into rent arrears, debt and poverty with food bank use rising as a consequence. Yet the Government’s own review barely mentions claimants.”

A DWP spokesman said the department had been commended for improving the universal credit programme and “substantial achievements” had been delivered since 2013. A statement added: “Universal Credit is the biggest modernisation of the welfare system in a generation and continues to be delivered in a safe and secure way.

“The Infrastructure and Projects Authority has independently supported our test and learn approach, the improvements we continue to make and the recent expansion of the programme.

“People on Universal Credit are moving into work faster than those on the old system, staying in work longer and keeping more of their money. And in the Budget we announced a £1.5bn package of additional support for people as they move to the new system.”

Several million lab rats in this " Experiment."

What percentage " Success " rate will be acceptable ?

And , what of the failures ?

The so called " Trials " are still in progress leaving millions bewildered and uncertain of their future.

Where will all this lead ... bearing in mind the age of the robots is not that far distant.

One can " Retire " a robot ... how about human beings surplus to requirements ?
A legal challenge ... benefits prior to UC now dead ... one of the many mines posted earlier on this thread :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... led-people

How a terminally ill man is leading the fight against inhumane universal credit.

TP’s landmark legal challenge is taking on the flagship welfare reform that is leaving disabled people hungry and housebound.

Next month, a terminally ill man is set to take on the government – and with it, the disastrous universal credit (UC) policy. Known only as TP, a 52-year-old ex-City worker – who has non-Hodgkin lymphoma and the lymph node condition Castleman disease – is launching a landmark challenge at the high court after becoming financially worse off under the new benefit system.

This couldn’t come sooner. In October, I warned of the hidden cut within UC for disabled people: thanks to the abolition of both the severe disability premium (SDP) and enhanced disability premium (EDP). As a result, according to the disability charity Scope, the move to UC will see claimants lose as much as £395 a month. The outcome of the legal challenge could have widespread ramifications for 230,000 disabled people who it is estimated will be hit by the removal of disability premiums under UC.

The government says that disabled people will be protected by “top-up payments” as they transfer to UC but no such payments are planned until July 2019. The Department for Work and Pensions claims UC means support is focused on those “who need it most”, but a government removing SDP and EDP – benefits designed to help severely disabled people living without a carer – is pulling a safety net from citizens with the greatest needs. This includes disabled single parents who, without their benefits to pay for help to cook or wash, are likely to be forced to rely on their children as young carers. TP’s case shows this inhumanity in a nutshell. He discovered he was dying in 2016 and moved to London to receive treatment, but as it was an area where UC had already been rolled out in the capital, his benefits were cut by £178 a month.

It’s the political equivalent of kicking someone when they’re down. Disabled people are already hardest hit by austerity, especially when cash-strapped councils are increasingly charging them for their social care (a charge that can hit those receiving SDP even harder as they don’t have a family carer). Research from disability charity Scope this month finds disabled people have to pay on average an extra £570 a month for the costs of disability for anything from taxis to specialist food, with one in five paying more than £1,000 extra per month.

Since its rollout, UC has become synonymous with hardship, often heaped on the most disadvantaged families: from an increase in food bank use and rent arrears, to now one million children set to miss out on free school meals because of UC’s new earnings threshold. But the threat to disabled and chronically ill people has up until now gone largely under the radar. Yet severely disabled people will collectively lose £2bn in disability premium payments (a fraction of what the government is spending on UC’s delayed rollout). Or to put it another way, a mother with multiple sclerosis won’t be able to afford to put the heating on or pay for a carer to help her wash.

Launching a multibillion pound benefit system only to remove vital income from some of the poorest people in the country is a particularly warped use of public money – and a move that exemplifies just how low the Conservatives are willing to sink in their rush to gut Britain’s safety net. The campaign group, Disabled People against Cuts, is launching a national protest in responseon 1 March. As UC is hailed as the biggest reform to the welfare state since Beveridge, there’s a very real risk that its greatest achievement will be making more disabled people hungry and housebound. Led by one terminally ill man, the time has come to fight it.


One to keep both eyes on !!!
Later edition of today's Independent :

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/po ... 37131.html

Ministers have quietly shelved a plan to cut benefit sanctions, sending poorest to food banks.

Exclusive: A 'yellow card' warning system was announced in late 2015 – but there is still no date for introducing it.

Ministers are accused today of breaking a promise to introduce a reform to cut the huge number of benefit sanctions, plunging people into the misery of hunger and eviction from their homes in some cases.

A “yellow card” system, giving claimants 14 days to challenge a decision to dock their benefits on the grounds it was imposed wrongly, was pledged more than two years ago in October 2015.

But the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has now quietly admitted that the move has been shelved indefinitely because “an evaluation has proved complex”.

The stance has been condemned by Frank Field, the chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, who highlighted the appalling distress that sanctions are still causing.

It comes as the number of sanctions starts to rise again, driven by an explosion in the number of punishments imposed on claimants of universal credit.

One constituent of Mr Field, the MP for Birkenhead, was recently docked benefits for missing an appointment to receive universal credit because he was in an operating theatre at the time.

The DWP later accepted it as a valid reason and issued a back payment. But, Mr Field said, “the damage had already been done. The loss of money resulted in my constituent being evicted.”

In another similarly alarming case, a man in the Merseyside constituency was sanctioned for missing a job centre appointment while he was in A&E.

On that occasion, he pleaded with hospital staff to ring the job centre – fearing his benefits would be lost – but the sanctioning went ahead.

“My constituent said ‘Please don’t tell my family first, tell Jobcentre Plus,’ even as he had to be taken to A&E, because he was so terrified of being sanctioned,” Mr Field told The Independent.

“People are being reduced to going to food banks because they are being left so hungry, or they are losing their homes, which the yellow card would prevent.”

The warning system was first promised in October 2015 by Iain Duncan Smith, then Work and Pensions Secretary, who was under growing pressure from MPs.

He told MPs: “People are notified of a sanction and it is imposed immediately afterwards. In some cases, claimants go on to challenge the decision and the sanction may be overturned.

“We will trial arrangements whereby claimants are given a warning of our intention to sanction and a 14-day period to provide evidence of good reason before the decision to sanction is made.”

The trial, in parts of Scotland, led to almost 500 people successfully explaining why they did not deserve punishment after being accused of failing to meet their commitments in return for benefits.

A year ago, the DWP said claimants from the trial were being interviewed to compile a “final report” for publication in Spring 2017, but it never appeared.

Instead, Mr Field has now been told, in a written parliamentary answer, that “the finalisation of the evaluation has proved complex” and there is no date for publication.

Meanwhile, the number of benefit sanctions is starting to rise again, after falling in 2016, driven by the controversial extension of universal credit.

The shake-up replaces six existing benefits with a single payment, but the six-week wait for a first award, since cut to five, triggered widespread condemnation.

In the year to October 2016, 133,301 sanctions were imposed on universal credit claimants – a figure that soared to 238,985 in the following 12 months.

“The tide of sanctions is already high but – far from that tide going out – it is now going into reverse and the numbers are going up again,” Mr Field added.

The Independent revealed how the Government was refusing to investigate evidence of a 30 per cent leap in the number of claimants going to food banks in areas where universal credit was introduced.

A DWP spokesperson declined to expand on when the warning system might be taken forward, saying only: “Findings will be shared once the final draft is agreed.”

The department acknowledged that the use of sanctions had risen, but said the increase in the year to October 2017 – after the expansion of universal credit – was only from 3 per cent to 4.8 per cent.

“These are figures which relate to some time ago, and in fact the rate of universal credit claimants with a sanction deduction has decreased since a peak in March 2017 and now remains fairly stable,” the spokesman said.

“This peak in early 2017 was the consequence of the department processing a backlog of outstanding decisions at the end of 2016.

“Sanctions are only used in a small minority of cases when someone has failed to meet the requirements without good reason.”

The benefit sanctions system has long fiercely criticised for causing hardship and depression, often on flimsy evidence of wrongdoing – and with little proof that they work.

Typically, if conditions are not met, benefits are docked for four weeks, which can mean a loss of £300 for a claimant over the age of 25 – but a sanction can last for three months, or even a year.

In a damning report in 2016, the National Audit Office castigated the DWP for failing to monitor people whose benefits had been docked and suggested the system cost more money than it saved.

In the six-month Scottish trial, around 6,500 claimants were given a yellow card, of whom 13 per cent provided evidence to challenge their potential sanction.

Of that 13 per cent, 455 then avoided being sanctioned – which means around half of the claimants who provided evidence made a successful challenge.

The social " War " continues ... unabated.
This morning's Guardian :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/201 ... chancellor

Reverse universal credit cuts, Iain Duncan Smith tells chancellor.

Thinktank says 340,000 people could be taken out of poverty if Philip Hammond takes action.

The former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has warned the chancellor that he risks undermining the whole purpose of welfare reform if he fails to reverse cuts to universal credit (UC) in his spring statement.

Philip Hammond is under mounting pressure from across the party to use better than expected tax revenues to reverse cuts made after the 2015 election. Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that 340,000 people could be taken out of poverty by reversing the cuts to work allowances.

‘I think he’s under a lot of pressure. There are a lot of colleagues around who would like to see the money restored to UC as a step in the right direction,” said Duncan Smith. “Hammond has got more money to spend. But will he? He says no … The answer to that is, we’ll see.”

UC, which rolls six major working-age benefits – including job seeker’s allowance, tax credit and housing benefit – into one monthly payment, has been beset with problems. It is years behind schedule and there have been four different secretaries of state since Duncan Smith resigned in 2016, protesting about cuts to disability benefits – saying they were a “compromise too far” that made the cuts look political rather than economic.

But all new claimants are intended to be on the system by the end of this year and, by 2022, all claimants on the existing in-work benefits are planned to have been moved on to UC. The government insists that no one will lose out in the move, but transition terms have yet to be agreed.

The rationale behind for UC is that it will ensure that work always pays more than being on benefits. However, MPs on the work and pensions select committee said last month that the business case had still not been made.

The latest crisis to hit the system is the plan to use the UC as a passport for benefits such as free school meals. That would mean some claimants losing £11 a week, which would take at least £30 of earnings to recover because of the way the tapering system works. Labour is forcing a vote on the change after the spring statement debate.

Cuts to the work allowance element of the benefit – the equivalent of the old tax credits – will hit low-paid families hard. The Resolution Foundation thinktank said the Treasury’s cuts were preventing the system functioning effectively. It has called for “far-reaching and fast-moving reform” as well as more investment

Duncan Smith said: “Rolling out a new system, and pulling the money out of it the whole time, is very difficult to do it. It counters the whole purpose of what the welfare reforms are about.”

Some Tory backbenchers have allied with opposition parties to force the chancellor to make changes. The waiting time has been cut from six weeks to five and, from next month, housing benefit claimants will continue to receive support for two weeks after making their first claim for UC. It will also be possible to get a 100% advance on the benefit, with a year to pay it back, instead of being allowed only a 50% advance and being given just six months to return the loan. The work allowance is also being uprated in line with inflation.

The number of families who are in work but still living below the poverty line is continuing to rise. Over the next four years, incomes for low-paid households are expected to stagnate or, at best, rise very slowly. As a result, inequality is likely to increase, with the poorest working age households getting left behind.

NO ! Not a fake news story.

Just one vampire , having had his fill over the years , now with a smidgen of remorse ?
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