The number of children in poverty is rocketing. Who is protecting them?

It’s telling that those zealots who want to defend the ‘unborn child’ are complicit in policies that impoverish women and children

Child on council estate
 ‘Avoiding this hypocritical ‘concern for children’ does not require a complex position: a civilised society would give women the choice not to continue with a pregnancy and in turn support a child’s wellbeing if they are born.’ 

One of the most remarkable things that came out of the Irish referendum was the personal testimony of women who had been forced to journey to England for medical care. But some – poor or migrant or disabled women – recounted how even this option wasn’t available to them; unable to travel, they had no choice but to take the gamble of a pill bought from the internet. It’s a striking insight into the black-and-white thinking imposed on pregnancy: women who could not even afford a flight on Ryanair for a safe abortion were somehow expected to be able to afford to feed, house and clothe a child.

Beyond Ireland, this denial of the material reality of raising a child is an ongoing issue – in abortion debates and beyond. Indeed, the same voices so ardently protecting the “unborn child” are often strangely quiet when it comes to support for children once they are outside the womb. This convenient cognitive dissonance has long been a feature of rightwing attitudes: arguing to restrict a woman’s reproductive rights while supporting measures that push children into poverty. (Some British rightwing – often male – journalists couldn’t resist stepping in over the Irish debate too.)

Avoiding this hypocritical “concern for children” does not require a particularly complex position: a civilised society would give women the choice not to continue with a pregnancy and in turn support a child’s wellbeing if they are born. And yet it is a concept with which many still seem to struggle, including our own government. The Conservatives have long positioned themselves as the party of family – from cruel so-called protection of the “traditional family” such as the anti-LGBT Section 28, 30 years old this month, to David Cameron’s pledge to use the family to solve social problems, and 2017’s backbench Manifesto to Strengthen the Family, pitched as Theresa May’s key social narrative.

At the same time, their small-state ideology can make it devastatingly difficult for a low-income parent to look after a child. Look at the controversial “two-child” limit to child tax credits under universal credit (UC). From its inception, it was predicted the policy would lead to hundreds of thousands of additional children living in poverty, but it’s now emerging that some women are even feeling forced to have abortions because they can’t afford to go ahead with the pregnancy. “It wasn’t planned but it was very much wanted. I was crying as they wheeled me in,” one woman told the Mirror this month about her abortion; without the safety net of tax credits, she had no way to afford another baby. Women in Northern Ireland in similar positions have an even more restricted choice: the rape-exemption clause that gives some women on UC a financial reprieve endangers women who haven’t reported their attack to the police (in Northern Ireland, failure to report a crime is an offence) and, as the renewed calls for reproductive rightsin light of the Irish vote has highlighted, Northern Irish women have no legal access to abortion in their own country if they feel they can’t raise a child.

Recent years have in fact seen a determined removal of support from low-income mothers – everything from forcing single parents (90% of whom are women) to look for work once their child turns three or have their benefits sanctioned, to the benefit cap, a policy so regressive it was actually ruled to be unlawful when forced on single parents with toddlers.

Just this week, it came out that a third of low-income families are missing out on state-funded free food vouchers – a scheme designed to help pregnant women and those with young children afford fruit, vegetables and milk.

Much like Sure Start and child tax credits, these vouchers were brought in by a Labour government to reduce inequalities between wealthy and poor children, based on the understanding that if it takes a village to raise a child, it often requires a government to ensure they don’t live in poverty. It’s no coincidence that, as the welfare state has been pulled back, the number of children in poverty is rocketing to record levels.

In the post-crash austerity era, this sense of social solidarity towards children has noticeably lessened. Under each policy to remove state support from parents there’s a lurking narrative that working-class women are “breeding too much” or that low-income children are drains on the “hardworking taxpayer”. (“Why should I pay for someone else to have more kids?” is the rejoinder on most articles advocating child benefits). In the real world, pregnancy is rarely predictable – contraception fails, relationships end, and jobs are lost – and besides, even the most ardent individualist would admit low-income children have done nothing to “deserve” their own poverty.

We are at the point in which it is not rare to hear of infants living in B&Bssleeping on cardboard, or even scrambling for food in school bins. If the ongoing debate over abortion rights teaches us anything, it’s that there are no shortage of voices content to defend the “unborn”. It’s a shame few are willing to give the same care to those children who are already here. HEAR HEAR!!!

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Somerset man stole out of complete desperation after becoming victim of benefits trap

He ran out of money for food after claiming Universal Credit
Shoplifting spree

A Chard man who became a victim of the benefits trap stole out of “complete desperation” when he ran out of money for food.

Stuart John Burden had transferred onto Universal Credit following the loss of his job but was told he would not receive any money for seven weeks.

With no way of making ends meet he went shoplifting, helping himself to some DVDs to sell for cash, but later handed himself in to police and confessed what he had done.

This is how to avoid the 'payment gap' over Christmas if you are being moved to Universal Credit

Burden, 30, of Furzehill, appeared in the dock at Somerset Magistrates’ Court in Yeovil.

He pleaded guilty to stealing two Blu-ray DVDs valued at £30 from Sainsburys in Chard on September 18.

He also admitted a similar theft involving a PS4 game worth £42.99 from the same store on the same day and also accepted being in breach of a conditional discharge for a previous matter of stealing Blu-ray DVDs worth £58 from Tesco.

Prosecutor Emma Lenanton said the defendant was caught on CCTV entering Sainsburys in Chard and stealing the two lots of items. “None of the goods were recovered after he left without making any attempt to pay and he admitted the offences during his interview with the police,” she said.

Defending solicitor Sam Morton said Burden went to Chard police station voluntarily on September 20 and admitted the offences which he said were “borne out of complete desperation”.

Universal Credit: Prisoners ‘Lured Back Into Crime’ By Benefit Delays

He lost his job, which in turn led to the loss of his home, and he then registered for Universal Credit. “However, because of his previous earnings he was not entitled to anything for seven weeks,” he said.

“It was towards the end of this seven weeks that he was hungry and had nowhere to live so he took these items and sold them but is sorry for what he has done. “He now has his Universal Credit in place and part of that goes towards his rent and his means are still very limited. “He is now desperate to get back into work after being jobless for the past four months.”

The magistrates told Burden they were encouraged by the fact that he was hoping to get back into work and fined him £50 for each of the two thefts.

They also ordered him to pay compensation to the affected stores along with £85 costs and a £30 victim surcharge.

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Young woman riddled with TUMOURS wins disability row with DWP

Young woman riddled with TUMOURS who needs help with most basic functions wins disability row with the DWP.  they have reversed their decision to stop Pearl Kelly’s personal independence payments

A young woman with a rare genetic condition which left her body riddled with tumours was won a dispute with the Department for Work and Pensions over her disability benefit. Pearl Kelly, 22, from Orrel Park, suffers from neurofibromatosis which causes tumours to grow along her nerves and has undergone around 20 operations over the last 15 years.

Despite being unable to complete basic functions without help from other people, last year the DWP decided to stop her personal independence payment (PIP) – a benefit awarded to people to help them with the added costs of disability.

Pearl said she had to fill out a 60 page form to apply for the PIP benefit, and found the process confusing.

Pearl Kelly, from Orrell Park, who is taking the DWP to court. 

Athough the PIP benefit is not means tested, claimants are medically assessed by private companies who employ health professionals. Claimants need to secure eight points to be eligible for the benefit.

However a panel has now ruled in her favour, and found that Pearl is entitled to the benefit which is worth around £450 per month. The decision notice found that Pearl needed assistance with preparing food, washing, going to the toilet, dressing, undressing and managing her health condition.

The decision notice read: “The appeal is allowed. The decision made by the Secretary of State on 16/11/2017 in respect of the Personal Independence Payment is set aside. Miss Kelly is entitled to the daily living component at the enhanced rate from 16/11/2017 to 15/11/2022. Miss Kelly has severely limited ability to carry out activities of daily living.”

Pearl said: “I need this money to travel around different hospitals in the North West. Some days I might have to be in Manchester for a morning appointment. There is a lot of travelling on public transport and I do need all the help I can get.

“I am so happy that I won what I deserve. It’s been a long 12 months without my PIP but I finally got it back.” Pearl underwent her first operation aged five and has had around 20 operations over the last 15 years. Her childhood was complicated by her illness and she was bullied at school because she was different.

But Pearl still managed to get 11 GCSEs at grade C or above at Walton secondary school Archbishop Beck. Pearl later spent two years studying at Hugh Baird College but missed large chunks of the course to poor health.

Pearl recently told the ECHO that she may need to undergo a high risk operation which could save her from becoming wheelchair bound within a few years. Pearl has been told by doctors that she needs to undego major surgery to prevent her spine from crumbling.

pipx

But the operation carries with it a degree of risk, and could leave her paralysed below the waist. But Pearl has said that she thinks she will probably go-ahead with the procedure.

A DWP spokesperson said to the ECHO: “We’re committed to ensuring that people with health conditions get the support they need. Decisions for PIP are made after careful consideration of the evidence provided by the claimant, including supporting evidence from their GP or medical specialist.

“Over 3.5 million PIP decisions have been made, and of these a relatively small proportion – 4% – have been overturned. In the majority of successful appeals, decisions are overturned because people have submitted more evidence.”

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Disabled people already fight battles every day. Making us prove we need benefits is almost inhumane

Samantha Renke Actress and disability campaigner

You have to be prepared to discuss your bodily functions, mental health & your darkest days

Living with a disability in the UK today means living in a state of perpetual fear, feeling unheard, patronised and at times like a burden – and it can take a huge toll on your mental health. I was born with a genetic condition called Osteogenesis Impefecta (Brittle Bones) – a condition that won’t get better with age, and I am a full-time wheelchair user.

When I think about my own battles with anxiety and depression and what induces them, the principle triggers for my depression and anxiety come from the fear of losing my independence, not being able to work and financially support myself, socialise and feel part of a community. Of course, I need to take ownership for my own wellbeing and there are measures I can take to limit my anxiety but I need to know that those around me understand and listen. Especially as my independence still relies heavily on the external support I receive, namely financial support from the government.

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The support the disabled community receives comes from the government via local authorities and it’s been this way since 1970s. Initially it came in the form of Attendance Allowance and Mobility Allowance, intended to help people with mobility issues get around as public transport was completely inaccessible. Then in 1992, Attendance and Mobility Allowance was integrated into the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) that had two additional lower rates of benefit, determined by your specific support needs.

My parents fought tooth and nail to ensure that I would receive support throughout my life and after a lengthy battle, I was awarded indefinite DLA. However, in 2012 the government changed the goal post again and introduced Personal Independent Payments (PIP). This meant that anyone receiving DLA, even if they had been awarded it indefinitely, would now be re-assessed. In a nut shell I, and thousands like me, now have to prove that I am disabled enough to receive further help. The assessment involves a combination of telephone interviews, home visits, form filling and interviews at designated assessment centres, all of which are very intrusive and stressful.

Don’t insult us by sending someone with no knowledge of disability to assess us

For the form alone you are asked to go into huge amounts of detail about your impairments, illnesses or condition, and how they impact you. You have to be prepared to discuss your bodily functions, mental health and your darkest days. Questions like: have you ever tried to kill yourself? If so, when? and, Do you have friends? are common.

You also need to put your pride and embarrassment to one side as the person coming to assess you often has no knowledge of your condition, or any formal qualification for medical issues. You are given just four weeks to complete and return the form, which includes sourcing supporting evidence from medical specialists, doctors, physiotherapist , occupational therapists and supporting statements from any PAs (carers or support workers) that work for you.

Unsurprisingly, many have reported that the process has left them feeling dehumanised and vulnerable. One full-time wheelchair user told me that at the time of her PIP assessment she was bed ridden due to an unstable hip. Yet the assessor asked her repeatedly to get out of bed and try to walk, stating, ‘If you fall I will catch you’. She didn’t comply out of pain and fear of causing more damage – the final report stated that she ‘refused’ and therefore could not prove she was a wheelchair user.

Despite having been awarded indefinite DLA, she was not awarded PIP – and while she was eventually awarded the help she was entitled to, the experience left her feeling humiliated. ‘She didn’t understand my condition,’ she told me. ‘Even after explaining to her, [the assessor] asked me if I was sure that I do suffer that much?’ Others have told me that the whole process left them having panic attacks, night sweats and that they were made to feel like a criminal and a liar.

The whole process fueled their anxiety and depression, resulting in guilt and a feeling that they were at fault for their disability or illness, or that they were ‘making up’ their situation. I recognise some people abuse the system and deprive those with genuine complex needs from receiving the help and support they need. However, this new way of assessment is almost inhumane and an insult to anyone living the reality of life with a disability or illness. Don’t insult us by sending someone with no knowledge of disability to asses us, don’t see us being able to walk 20 metres as a reason not to qualify for help. Just because we are able to go out and work or socialise with friends doesn’t mean that tomorrow we won’t be in pain and unable to move.

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Man with one leg is homeless and sleeping in a car park

Tony Duffy, who lost a leg to diabetes, says he was thrown out of a hotel and council have not re-housed him since July

Tony Duffy is now sleeping in the Theatre Royal car park 

A man whose leg was chopped off at the knee after diabetes left him with a rotting ulcerated foot, says he has been left sleeping in a city car park due to housing problems. In July Plymouth Live reported on how 60-year-old Tony Duffy was being shunted from hotel to hotel by Plymouth City Council as they tried to find him a permanent home.

The loss of Tony’s leg resulted in him needing to use a motorised wheelchair to get about, meaning he was unable to live in the private rented property he was in before his lengthy stint at Derriford Hospital.

At the time, a council spokesperson said they had been “working our hardest to find a suitable long term solution for his situation since we were first made aware of his case at the beginning of July”.

However, Tony – who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2010 – claims he was ordered to leave his last hotel room by staff and has since been left to sleep rough.

He said: “I was staying at the Premier Inn at Sutton Road and got on great with everybody. About a week and a bit ago one of the staff helped me into my room and I said, ‘Come in, sit down, take the weight off your boots’ and I got told to leave. They accused me of being offensive to her. What’s offensive about asking someone to sit and talk to you?”

Tony Duffy has been sleeping on the 10th floor of a Plymouth car park for the past week and a half 

Tony, who also has COPD as well as an irregular heartbeat, said that in recent months he has gone from a Travelodge, to a Premier Inn, to the Crescent Guest House, then Jury’s Inn and finally the Premier Inn in Sutton Road.

At a loss as to where to go, Tony – a former fruit and veg worker – said he trundled his wheelchair to the multi-storey car park behind the Theatre Royal.

He said: “I’m now sleeping on one of the upper floors of the car park. I told the security I’d been made homeless when I went there and they said it was no problem, go on up. I’ve got me all-in-one coat, a blanket in the back of the chair, a little pillow which I rest against the wall. It’s quieter at the top and no-one goes up there.”

London-born Tony, who also used to DJ at weddings and birthdays with his large record collection, said that when he was ordered to leave the hotel by security staff he was not allowed to take any belongings except for a handful of items. He claims he was refused re-entry to get medicine to treat his diabetes.

Tony recovering after having his leg below his knee removed
Tony recovering after having his leg below his knee removed 

He said: “It meant I went two days without my Insulin. I could have fallen into a coma and died.

“I went to the council’s One-Stop shop and while the staff at the counter were okay, the management wouldn’t help me.

“I’m getting so cheesed off with it. These last few days it’s been getting cold and wet. I leave the car park at 6am and go over to the McDonald’s in town to have a cup of tea and charge my wheelchair. Sometimes I can stay there till very late to keep warm. I’m just hanging about.

“The council know I’m living on the street.

“I feel like chucking myself off a bridge sometimes. I feel depressed. I’m on beta-blockers, high blood pressure tablets. I’m out in the cold. Everything is costing me so much. I have to buy hot food because I can’t cook it.

“I was offered a place in North Prospect but it was two floors up! They tell me they’re doing the best they can, but I’m sleeping in a car park. I want to know if anybody else can help me.”

Mr Duffy told Plymouth Live he had now been handed a letter from council staff saying he was no longer allowed attend the One Stop shop without an appointment after repeatedly demanding to see the same member of staff.

A spokesperson for Premier Inn said: “The City Council cancelled the guest’s booking following complaints about inappropriate behaviour, which we do not tolerate”.

A Plymouth City Council spokesman said: “Following a number of complaints from different accommodation providers about inappropriate behaviour, we have discharged our legal duty to provide interim accommodation to Mr Duffy. We will continue to provide advice and assistance to him to support him in finding permanent accommodation.”

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It took a UN envoy to hear how austerity is destroying lives

Philip Alston’s inquiry into poverty in the UK has heard a shocking truth that British politicians refuse to acknowledge.
Philip Alston with pupils from Avenue End primary school in Glasgow
 Philip Alston with pupils from Avenue End primary school in Glasgow.

The room is packed, people spilling out of the doors. The atmosphere crackles. So it should, for this is what it feels like when an entire society is held to account. Over 12 days, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights is touring not Bangladesh nor Sudan but the UK. And what Philip Alston has discovered in the fifth-richest country on Earth should shame us all. From Newcastle to Jaywick, he has uncovered stories of families facing homelessness, of people too scared to eat, of those on benefits contemplating suicide.

‘A political choice’: UN envoy says UK can help all who hit hard times

Bearing their crutches and their prams, the crowd gathered in this east London hall on this Monday afternoon knows visitors like Alston come along but once. “We’re really glad you’re here,” one person tells him, to general approval. That enthusiasm is widespread: the UN team has been deluged by a record-breaking number of submissions (nearly 300 for the UK, against 50 when it toured the US last year); city councils have passed motions requesting his presence. After eight years of historic spending cuts, a decade of stagnant wages and generations of economic vandalism, these people and places want to bear witness.

cream of foodbank
*image twitter

Without media training, some speak off mic, others run over time. While talking, they clutch friends’ hands or break down. When the subjects are too raw, they look away. But the stories they tell are raw. In tears, Paula Peters remembers a close friend who jumped to her death after her disability benefits were stopped. With nine days to Christmas, “she left behind two small kids”. Trinity says she and her children eat from food banks and “everything I’m wearing, apart from my hair, is from jumble [sales]”.

The welfare secretary, Esther McVey, has never conducted such a listening project. Instead she makes up her own fantasies about the effect of this government’s austerity. This summer she fabricated stories about the National Audit Office’s report into universal credit, for which she was later forced to apologise. A couple of months later, she told the Tory faithful that claims of cuts to disability benefits were “fake news”, just days after House of Commons research showed that the government planned almost £5bn of cuts to disability benefits.

The effect of those malicious government lies resounds through this afternoon. We hear how ministers talking of “shirkers” creates an environment in which people in wheelchairs are spat at. Still in his school uniform, 15-year-old Adam talks about boys being knifed in his suburb and links it to cuts in youth services, in policing, in schools. In this Victorian-built hall, where Sylvia Pankhurst once spoke and the GMB trade union was formed, he half-shouts, half-pleads with Alston: “Label this government as criminal, because that is what they are.”

Over the weekend, I asked Alston whether he heard any echoes between British experiences and the testimonies he heard last December while investigating Donald Trump’s US. “In many ways, you in the UK are far ahead of the US,” he said. He thinks “the Republicans would be ecstatic” to have pushed through the kind of austerity that the Tories have inflicted on the British.

Like others at the Guardian, I have been writing on the debacle of austerity Britain for years now. Rather than the goriest details, what strikes me is how normalised our country’s depravities have become over the course of this decade. Ordinary people speak in ordinary voices about horrors that are now quite ordinary. They go to food banks, which barely existed before David Cameron took office. Or they go days without food even in London, the city that has more multi-millionaires than any other. They spend their wages to rent houses that have mice or cockroaches or abusive landlords. Any decent society would see these details are shocking; yet they no longer shock anyone in that hall. What will remain with me of that afternoon is the sheer prosaic weight of the abuse being visited on ordinary people who could be my friends or family.

Alston has heard so many stories about the toxic failings of universal credit and the malice that is the disability benefits assessment scheme that he is in no doubt about the truth. The question for McVey, who is due to meet the UN party this week, will be how she responds to the weight of people’s lived experience. None of those giving evidence this afternoon want victim status. They are, as Trinity says, “survivors”. What they want is to be heard – and after that they want remedies.

Whether it’s Tony Blair and his “big conversation” or Cameron and his false belief that the Brexit vote was in the bag, leading British politicians don’t do listening – for the simple reason that they wouldn’t like what they’d hear. The evidence about austerity, about economic hollowing-out, about a shoulder-shrugging bureaucracy was all readily available before Alston flew over from the UN. But the government, like most of the press, didn’t want the truth to be acknowledged – because then it would be compelled to act. This is what Britain has been reduced to: hoping that a foreigner has the stomach and integrity to hear and record our decade of shame.

• In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international suicide helplines can be found at http://www.befrienders.org

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Universal Credit: Prisoners ‘Lured Back Into Crime’ By Benefit Delays

“Everything has to be done online and I don’t even know how to send a text,” one offender said. Offenders recently freed from prison are being pushed into poverty and tempted back into a life of crime due to a delay in receiving benefits, HuffPost UK has been told.

Prisoners cannot currently make a claim for the new Universal Credit benefit while they are in jail and have to wait until after they are released. But with around a five-week wait to receive money, campaigners warn the system is “setting people up to fail” at their most vulnerable moment, and claim former offenders may be tempted back into criminal behaviour to support themselves.

Although the switchover for existing benefits claimants is being slowly phased in, those who are new to benefits or have experienced a change in circumstances are going straight on Universal Credit. Some offenders say they don’t understand the system, which is administered online, and are struggling to survive while they wait for payment.

All prisoners in the UK are issued with a £46 discharge grant on release. But this figure has not changed for at least 15 years.

HuffPost UK spent two days at the foodbank in Preston where staff revealed increasing numbers of former prisoners are coming to them in need. Major Alex Cadogan, local leader of the Salvation Army, said: “Once people are released from custody, they have to make a Universal Credit claim and that takes time.

‘I Fear I’ll End Up Back In Jail’

William Appleton is 63 and has had many run-ins with the law but was determined to have a fresh start on his recent release.

However, as he admitted to HuffPost UK whilst waiting to receive a food parcel from the Salvation Army foodbank in Preston, he fears he will end up back in jail.

Appleton, from Preston, was released from prison a few weeks ago. He told us: “I have been in and out of prison all my life for theft.

“When I came out this time, I was told about Universal Credit but still don’t know how it works.

AASMA DAY
William Appleton: ‘I was told about Universal Credit but still don’t know how it works’.

“They’re basically saying I can’t get any help for five to six weeks.

“Everything has to be done online and I don’t even know how to send a text.

“I have many health issues and have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, alcohol dependency and bladder cancer and was signed off indefinitely.

“My argument is that before I went into custody, they had got all my records and everything they needed to know. Why can’t they get all my information and update it on to my new Universal Credit?

“But as far as they are concerned, I am a new person. So I have to go back to my doctor and start from day one.

“I wanted a fresh start free from crime this time. But I came out of jail with just £46 and am struggling so had to go to a food bank so I could eat.

“I feel with this Universal Credit, they are setting me up to fail and I feel I’m going to end up back in prison.”

Major Alex Cadogan, local leader of the Salvation Army.

Cadogan said: “I know the prison service is working really hard to get people to rehabilitate and get to a point where they are ready and able for a return into the community. “If those released from custody are having to wait for money to live on, it is difficult for them to rehabilitate and people may be tempted to re-offend in order to survive.”

Nicola Hawkes, foodbank co-ordinator at South Liverpool Foodbank, said: “We do see people recently released from prison coming to us. “I remember one gentleman coming in who had been recently released and he hadn’t eaten for two days. “He opened a can of corned beef from his food parcel right in front of us and started eating it.

“At the moment, we are only just into Universal Credit in our area and are concerned about anything which might impact on our numbers.”

He opened a can of corned beef from his food parcel right in front of us and started eating it

In Manchester, Amy Archie, project manager at the central foodbank there, said they have also seen recently-released offenders who are waiting for their Universal Credit to come through.

“They face a five weeks waiting period or are given advance payments which are taken out when they do receive their payment,” she said. “When people are trying to get back on their feet and reintegrate back into society, this not helpful and depending on their circumstances, it is going to put more pressure on them.

“If someone is desperate and struggling to feed themselves or their family, this is not going to help them keep away from crime,” Archie said.

‘They Are Setting People Up To Fail’

“There is a window of opportunity on release from prison for people to move away from crime,” says Helen Berresford, director of external engagement at Nacro, a national charity helping disadvantaged people. But one of the big challenges they see for recently-released offenders is access to immediate financial support.

“All prisoners are given a £46 discharge grant on release. But this figure has not changed for at least 15 years and it does not go far at all. “If the basic building blocks are not in place, people can return to familiar ways especially if they need food and money to survive.

“People need to have financial resource on day one of release otherwise they are being set up to fail. “If they don’t have sufficient money or a home, it is really hard for people to move away from crime.”

The Department For Work and Pensions confirmed to HuffPost UK that prisoners cannot make a claim for Universal Credit while they are in prison and have to wait until release.

A spokesperson for the DWP said: “Work Coaches provide support to prisoners prior to their release to make their claim to benefits.

“This includes support in gathering all the details and documentation needed to make their Universal Credit claim and booking an appointment at the local job centre on the day of release so they can access support, including applying for advance payments of up to 100 per cent immediately if needed.

“We are constantly exploring how we can improve the support for claimants and prison leavers, including a wider national partnership to support more prisoners into employment across England and Wales.”

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Jobcentre chiefs withdraw deceitful guidance for GPs to help people off benefits

Jobcentre chiefs have now withdrawn the note after it was raised by the Mirror

Bungling (DWP) officials have now withdrawn the note

Jobcentre staff have had to withdraw guidance that urged GPs to use “deceitful” tactics to help people off benefits and into work.

The “shocking” note asked doctors to send benefit claimants for a 45-minute session with a “Patient Coach” – without mentioning the coach worked for the Jobcentre. And it suggested withholding vital “fitness for work” notes unless patients agreed to go.

Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) officials have now withdrawn the note, which was issued to a GP practice in Leeds, after being confronted by the Mirror.

The guidance had prompted outrage among disability activists who branded it “deceitful”, “awful” and “just wrong”.

The guidance was sent to a GP surgey in Leeds but has been withdrawn. The DWP insisted it wasn’t widespread

Shadow Minister for Disabled People Marsha De Cordova said it was evidence of the DWP “ignoring claimant wellbeing to push forward its punitive policies.” She told the Mirror: “A fit for work note should be supplied based entirely upon medical diagnosis.

“The DWP has undermined this by unfairly interfering in the relationship between a doctor and their patient. “This shocking move could threaten patient safety and the integrity of medical practice.”

Jobcentre staff sent the one-page guide to a GP practice in Leeds after giving a presentation on a regional “patient advisory service”. The scheme “co-locates” DWP staff in GP surgeries to help people not normally seen at Jobcentres to find work.

But campaigners argue it blurs a line between controversial back-to-work schemes and impartial medical help. The guidance described how patients could attend an appointment for help with CVs and interview techniques, or to “access voluntary work”.

It then encouraged GPs not to explain what the session was for.

Shadow Minister for Disabled People Marsha De Cordova said it was evidence of the DWP “ignoring wellbeing”

Instead it said: “Please tell the patient they are being referred to the Patient Coach.

“I will explain at the first meeting that I work for the Jobcentre but initially it may put some people off.”

The note claimed “the service is voluntary” and “I will not push anybody to do what they are not capable of or willing to do.” However, it then told GPs: “You may consider issuing a fit note with the proviso that they attend an appointment with me before returning for another fit note.”

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams warned the government “has form” in trying to get sick and disabled people off their support.

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“Now they seem to be trying to put further pressure on them through their family doctor which has the potential to damage the doctor-patient relationship as well as putting GPs in a very difficult position regarding their medical ethics,” she said.

“I will be writing to the Royal College of GPs and other professional bodies to ask them about their guidance to their members on these matters.” A spokesman for the British Medical Association insisted it “would always encourage doctors to be as open as possible”.

The BMA told benefits campaigner Alex Tiffin: “When a GP issues a ‘fit note’ it is based on the needs of the patient – part of which can be how best to support people back into work.”

DWP sources said the scheme was not aimed at any specific benefit and could be used by people who were not claiming benefits.

They insisted the guidance had been drawn up with the best intentions but acknowledged the wording was inappropriate.A source confirmed it “was produced for one GP surgery and has been withdrawn.”

SOURCE