About Govt Newspeak

I am a carer of two-disabled relatives and we have been through hell with the DWP.

All articles not written by me are fully sourced and I never claim authorship and all images are either from the article/twitter/photo share sites. I’m not paid for this blog nor do I EVER ask for any money.

Articles with comments in bold-red type are written by me and not part of the sourced article.

If by any chance I should add any unsourced articles [by mistake] or copyrighted images please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will immediately delete them.

The [main] purpose of this blog is to share my experiences of dealing with the DWP and if I can help with any advice, I will do my best.

Man with a heart condition that has left him confined to the house is denied PIP

Barrhead man brands benefits system “a joke”

A man with a heart condition that has left him confined to the house and in dire financial need has slammed the Department for Work and Pensions for refusing him disability benefit.

Hugh Trainer, of Cedar Place, was diagnosed with chronic heart failure after suffering two heart attacks, leaving him unable to work and reliant on Employment and Support Allowance. However, he has been repeatedly refused Personal Independence Payment (PIP) because, in the view of DWP assessors, he does not need the help.

Hugh, 49, was working as a security officer when he suffered his first heart attack in 2009. He was diagnosed with a bicuspid aortic valve, which restricts the flow of blood around the body, leaving him fatigued, breathless and prone to black-outs.

He continued to work until he failed a medical assessment, which was followed by the revocation of his driving licence due to his symptoms. Unable to work and stuck in the house, he is cared for by his 14-year-old son, who saved his life when he suffered a second heart attack in August.

Hugh said: “I collapsed in the kitchen. My son found me and called an ambulance. He was spraying nitroglycerin under my tongue. “He’s well clued up because he knows I could go in a minute. If not for him, I’d have been dead on the floor.

“After that, the doctors said the valve needs replaced. It won’t get any better until I get heart surgery but I don’t know when that will be. “They’re telling me I have to rest and not exert myself in any way. I can’t work, I can’t drive, I can’t leave the house without someone holding my hand. I can’t even stand up without nearly passing out.

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“I applied for PIP, they refused me. I appealed, they refused me. I went to a tribunal, they refused me. “I’m on 15 tablets a day. I want to know what the point is in taking them because, according to the DWP, there’s nothing wrong with me.”

The face-to-face PIP assessment, introduced in 2013 as part of the switch-over from Disability Living Allowance (DLA), is typically an interview with someone with a healthcare background, such as a nurse or paramedic.

Claimants are assessed depending on their ability to complete day-to-day tasks such as getting dressed and preparing food, with each answer awarded points. Someone will receive help if they come out of the assessment with at least eight points. In his most recent assessment, Hugh emerged with zero.

He said: “The doctors all agree I’m in a seriously bad way but, when I went for the PIP assessment, the guy was an ex-paramedic. How is he qualified to pass judgement on my heart condition or my mental health?

“If you can work a microwave, you can live without support, that’s what they say. I don’t even use the microwave. My son does all the cooking. They asked me if I could get up and make a cup of tea. God forbid I should feel good one day and make myself a cup of tea.

“But according to them, if I can do that, I can live my life no bother. If you can walk 20 metres, there’s nothing wrong with you. Where do they come up with these rules? It’s a joke.

“I’m a genuine case. It’s not as if I’m trying to scam anyone. I want to work but there are things an able-bodied man can do that I physically can’t. By definition, doesn’t that mean I’m disabled? But not to them. “I could drop dead tomorrow and I’m getting nothing. Where is the justice in that?”

For Hugh, the situation is increasingly stressful as, without further financial support, he risks losing his home and custody of his son. He is struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide but says the supporting statements of his doctors don’t matter to the PIP process.

He added: “Clearly, if anyone feels ill, they should consult the DWP first because they obviously know better than GPs or surgeons. “I understand there are people in much worse situations than me – people with cancer and brain tumours – who are being refused help. If they can’t get it, there’s no chance I’m getting it – but that doesn’t stop me being entitled to it.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We’re spending more than ever on benefits to support disabled people and those with health conditions.

“PIP assessments are carried out by qualified health professionals and decisions are made following consideration of all the information provided, including supporting evidence from someone’s GP or medical specialist.”

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Lying Tory minister says it’s ‘shameful’ to claim DWP cuts have driven people to suicide

Sarah Newton said claims were ‘unsubstantiated’ and critics ‘deliberately misuse data’ to accuse Tory welfare reforms of driving people to death

Sarah Newton accused critics of “deliberately misusing data” to say Tory welfare reforms are driving people to death.

Activists such as the Black Triangle Campaign have spent years amassing dozens of individual reports of benefit claimants’ suicides since the Tories took power in 2010. Disability campaigners also march with a banner listing names of people who “died due to sanctions and benefit cuts”.

Speaking in the Commons today, SNP MP Deidre Brock demanded an apology “to those who have taken their own lives as a result of government’s benefit policies”.

But Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister Ms Newton claimed even if suicide rates were high, there is no evidence they were caused directly by welfare cuts.

To shouts of anger from MPs, she told Ms Brock: “It is [of] deep regret that she has made such appalling and unsubstantiated claims about people committing suicide as a result. “We in this House, all of us, have a duty to be very mindful of the language used and the evidence we use for making such assertions. “We are talking about some of the most vulnerable people in society and it is shameful when members in this house deliberately misuse data.”

How she has the brass neck to tell so many lies is beyond my comprehension

The NHS’s 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) showed 43% of people on sickness benefit Employment and Support Allowance had attempted suicide at some point – compared to 7% of the general population.

The figure was far higher than the last APMS in 2007, when 21% of people on ESA’s predecessor Incapacity Benefit had tried suicide. The 2007 APMS report did not include the figures for benefit claimants. But the National Centre for Social Research, which did the survey, provided the additional analysis after a request last month.

Tory minister Ms Newton admitted the study showed “certain associations” – but said it did not show benefit cuts cause suicide. She told MPs: “The Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Gina Radford, has said the APMS does not show any causal link between being on benefits and suicidal thought or behaviour.

“The survey findings indicate certain associations – but they do not indicate causality.

“Now you may not want to take my word for it. “But are you seriously, seriously doubting the word of the deputy chief medical officer?”

SNP MP Deidre Brock stood by her claim and refused to back down

Asked for her evidence by the Mirror, Ms Brock’s office sent links to news stories about the APMS, which did not show benefit cuts directly cause suicide (see above).

The MP also sent links to several individual cases in which it was claimed benefit changes were a factor in peoples’ deaths.

The cases Ms Brock highlighted included claims that Scottish writer Paul Reekie left two letters about his benefits on his desk in lieu of a suicide note.

She also highlighted Tim Salter, a blind man who took his own life. South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh said of him in 2013: “A major factor in his death was that his benefits had been greatly reduced leaving him almost destitute.”

Previously a committee of MPs in 2015 identified 40 suicides by benefit claimants.But it did not link them directly to benefit changes.

Separate previous research by the DWP showed 2,650 benefit claimants died shortly after being found ‘fit for work’ between December 2011 and February 2014. But these deaths were from all causes and did not specify suicides, if any.

Samaritans guidelines for the reporting of suicide say it is “misleading” to “over-simplify” the supposed causes or ‘triggers’ for a death.

Ms Brock stood by her claim, saying: “I’m disgusted that the Tory Government continues to try to deny that their policies are causing harm to people, so much harm that vulnerable people are taking their own lives.

“We know that the figures among failed benefit claimants are very high, and we know that the DWP has done analysis on the effects of its benefits changes. It’s time we got to see that analysis.”

It came as MPs debated the revelation that all 1.6million claimants of disability benefit PIP will have their case reviewed.

Ministers are launching the exercise after the High Court ruled they should give thousands of people with mental health issues more Personal Independence Payment (PIP) They expect the £3.7billion change to benefit up to 220,000 people – but must reconsider every single PIP claim to work out who is eligible and who isn’t.

Ms Newton, who emphasised no one will have to endure a new face-to-face assessment, was once again completely unable to say how long the exercise would take.

Ms Brock told her: “I find it shameful and depressing that it took a court case to drag this government back to edge of decency.”

Shadow work and pensions minister Marsha De Cordova added: “This mess is one of the Government’s own making.

“[It] is a clear example to this Government of the dangers of seeking to undermine both the independent judiciary and the House of Commons.”

Labour MP Pat McFadden said the whole system was “broken, inhumane at times and in urgent need of fundamental change”.

Ms Newton also made an embarrassing gaffe by claiming the architect of PIP, Lord Freud, was a Lib Dem – when he was actually a Tory.

Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org. 

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Tories challenged over ‘outrageous’ pension credit cut

Government under pressure to overturn 7-year-old cut to pension topup.

Photo credit: garryknight via photopin cc

The SNP has tabled a motion forcing the UK government to give MPs a vote on the cut to Pension Credit, which would see the lowest income pensioners up to . The provision was made in the Welfare Reform Act back in 2012, but now the UK Government has given their intention to implement this clause without a debate – seven years and two governments later.

Pension Credit is a benefit designed to top up income for pensioners who have a weekly income below a certain amount. This change would mean that for couples where one person is of state pension age and the other is below, the individual in receipt of state pension would no longer be eligible to claim Pension Credit to top up their household income.

Statutory Instruments are small pieces of legislation which are usually designated as either ‘affirmative procedure’ – need to be passed by both Houses – or ‘negative procedure’ – if MPs table a motion against it which has enough support, it can be debated.

However, this cut is being brought in by legislation with no mechanism for debate. According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, one in six pensioners in the UK lives in poverty – up from one in ten 22 years ago.

Commenting, SNP Work and Pensions spokesperson Neil Gray MP said: “It is outrageous that the UK Government are content with slipping through a huge change to Pension Credit without allowing MPs to vote on these substantial changes passed two governments ago.

“These sweeping changes are brought forward only two months after the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s UK Poverty 2018 Report, which highlighted that previous falls in pensioner poverty were in part due to the introduction of Pension Credit.

“The UK Government must urgently make time to debate these changes on the floor of the House so that MPs have the opportunity to make their view heard on them. To ignore these calls would be a democratic outrage.”

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Supreme Court rejects government appeal on criminal records scheme

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has ruled in favour of three people who claimed their lives were blighted by past minor criminal convictions. The judges found the way the criminal records are disclosed to employers infringed human rights.

The government will have to consider reform of the system, said BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman.

The charity Unlock said the ruling stands to affect thousands of people with old and minor criminal records. Christopher Stacey, co-director of Unlock, said that criminal checks leave many people “unnecessarily anchored to their past”.

He claims that in the past five years alone, more than a million youth criminal records were disclosed on standard or enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks that related to offences from more than 30 years ago.

Supreme Court justices found that the criminal records disclosure scheme was “disproportionate” in two respects.

These were that all previous convictions should be disclosed, however minor, where the person has more than one conviction, and also in the case of warnings and reprimands issued to young offenders.

They announced their decision on Wednesday following the government challenge against a Court of Appeal judgment in 2017 over the legality of the scheme.

The appeal ruling backed the High Court’s 2016 finding that the scheme was “not in accordance with the law” within the meaning of Article 8 of the ECHR, which protects the right to private life.

The children’s charity Just for Kids Law, which brought one of the cases to court, had argued that DBS checks fail to treat children differently to adults.

Its CEO Enver Soloman said the “landmark judgement” would benefit thousands of children issued with cautions each year, a disproportionate number of whom are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

“There is now an overwhelming view shared by the higher courts and MPs that the government should act immediately to ensure no child who is given a caution ends up with a criminal record that stigmatises them for life.”

Shoplifting and ‘dares’

One of the cases involved a woman, referred to in court as P, who was charged with shoplifting a 99p book in 1999 while suffering from untreated schizophrenia.

She was bailed to appear before magistrates 18 days later, but failed to attend court, which meant she ended up with two convictions – for which she received a conditional discharge.

P wants to work as a teaching assistant, having previous experience of teaching, and has sought voluntary positions in schools. However, with each application she is required to disclose her historic convictions, which has the effect of leading to the disclosure of her medical history to explain them.

In another case, G was arrested at the age of 13 for sexually assaulting two younger boys, with offences involving sexual touching and attempted intercourse.

Police records indicated the sexual activity was consensual and carried out as “dares”, in the form of sexual curiosity and experimentation on the part of all three boys.

The Crown Prosecution Service decided it was not in the public interest to prosecute. G received a police reprimand in Sept 2006 and has not offended since.

In 2011, when working as a library assistant in a local college, he was required to apply for an enhanced criminal records check because his work involved contact with children.

The police proposed to disclose the reprimand with an account of the mitigation. As a result, G withdrew his application and lost the job. He has since felt unable to apply for any job requiring an enhanced criminal records check.

Their cases were heard alongside that of W, a man who – more than 35 years ago – was convicted aged 16 of actual bodily harm, and given a two-year conditional discharge.

Due to the categorisation of this type of offence, under the current rules the record will never come off his standard or enhanced DBS check. However, the justices allowed the government’s appeal regarding W. Those involved cannot be named for legal reasons.

Presentational grey line

Bob’s story: ‘Mucking about’

Bob Ashford

Bob Ashford, 65, from Somerset, says he struggled to get a job after being convicted of trespassing and possession of an offensive weapon when he was 13 years old.

“I was mucking about on a railway embankment with a group of lads and one of them had an air pistol,” he told the BBC.

“It wasn’t until I finished university and started applying for jobs I realised the impact this was going to have because I had to disclose these offences.”

He said he did eventually have a successful career in the criminal justice system but as recently as six years ago he had to stand down as a candidate to be a police and crime commissioner after his past convictions were disclosed.

He welcomed the Supreme Court ruling as a “step in the right direction” but said there should be a “complete review” of the whole DBS system.

Presentational grey line

‘Barrier to rehabilitation’

The Justice Committee, which published an inquiry in July, welcomed the ruling.

Bob Neill MP, chair of the committee, said the disclosure system is “inconsistent with the aims of the youth justice system, with mistakes made as a teenager able to follow someone around for decades, creating a barrier to rehabilitation, and preventing large numbers of people from gaining access to employment, education, and housing”.

Corey Stoughton, advocacy director of Liberty which represented P, said: “P made a mistake a long time ago and has been unfairly punished ever since.

“Using overly broad bureaucratic rules that deny people meaningful careers by forcing them to to carry a scarlet letter for life is both cruel and pointless.”

Mr Stacey from Unlock, which intervened in the case, urged the government to take “prompt and considered action” and carry out a fundamental review of the wider DBS system.

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Woman with two terminal illnesses deprived of PIP

Woman with two terminal illnesses deprived of PIP for more than four months
Her MP asked the Prime Minister if it was fair for his constituent to lose her benefits and carer because assessment takes so long.

pipx

A woman with two terminal illnesses has been deprived of vital benefits for more than four months because the assessment process takes so long.

Sandy Martin MP told how his constituent Lynne Sherman has been deprived of not just the benefit but also a blue badge, bus pass and vital carers because the assessment takes so long.

The Ipswich MP told the Commons that Ms Sherman reapplied for her PIP on the 19th September 2018but did not receive a home visit assessment until 6th January 2019.

MPs in the chamber were heard to shout “shame”. He added: “She has still not received a decision on her claim.

Ian Blackford says Theresa May is either ‘incompetent’ or ‘lying’ to Parliament
Theresa May replied: “The honorable gentleman has raised a specific constituency case and I will ask the relevant department to look into the detail of that case.”

Mr Martin asked Theresa May: “Does the Prime Minister consider it fair or sensible that in addition to losing her benefit Miss Sherman has also lost her blue badge, her bus pass and her carers.”

Earlier this month it was revealed more than 17,000 people died waiting for a decision on their disability benefit in the last five years.

DWP minister Sarah Newton said between April 2013 and April 2018, 17,070 Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claimants died after registering but before the DWP made a decision on their claim.

Labour said it showed the “cruel and callous” assessment process creates a “hostile environment” for the disabled.

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Housing benefit freeze still driving tenants from their homes

The controversial roll out of Universal Credit has been stalled. Under pressure from across the political spectrum, work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has unveiled a “fresh approach”. Among the new measures, Rudd has announced that the government will launch a digital platform, which promises to streamline housing benefit payments to landlords, in cases where the tenant is having difficulty paying rent.

Image result for housing benefit

Though it sounds technical, there is much at stake: landlords wait much longer to receive such payments from the government under Universal Credit than they did under the previous system, which was administered by local authorities. And while they wait, tenants can slide further into arrears, leaving them prone to eviction – and possibly, homelessness.

If successful, the platform could benefit landlords, as well as tenants facing the prospect of eviction when they fall into rent arrears. Yet evidence suggests that the new platform cannot plaster over the deeper issues around housing affordability, which are causing benefits claimants to lose their homes.

Rising rent arrears

Research I conducted for the Residential Landlords Association showed that over the past three years, more and more landlords have reported tenants on Universal Credit going into rent arrears. In 2016, 27% of landlords said their tenants on Universal Credit had gone into arrears. By 2018, this had more than doubled to 61% of landlords.

Before Universal Credit, housing benefit could be paid directly to landlords without delay, at the discretion of local authorities. But now, landlords must wait until a tenant has been in arrears for two months before they can apply to receive the housing benefit directly from the government to cover unpaid rent.

On average, it takes 9.3 weeks for landlords to receive the first payment. By that time, the tenant could owe up to four months worth of rent. At this point, the tenant is at significant risk of losing their home, as landlords can lawfully evict tenants with two months of rent arrears. This was borne out in our research: 77% of landlords in my study reported that the main reason for evicting tenants on Universal Credit was unpaid rent.

If the government’s new platform makes it quicker for landlords to receive a direct payment, it could reduce rent arrears, help to sustain tenancies and ultimately reduce homelessness. But our research also showed that there was a significant increase in rent arrears for tenants who claimed housing benefit, but were not on Universal Credit. This tells us that the roll out of Universal Credit isn’t the only thing which is causing hardship for private tenants.

Five year freeze

These problems can be traced back to 2013, when the government reformed how the housing benefit is calculated. Previously, each claimaint’s entitlement was worked out using Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates, based on private market rents in the claimant’s local area.

But from 2013, the government capped how much the LHA rate could rise – first in line with inflation, and then to 1% each year. In 2016, Chancellor George Osborne froze LHA rates for four years. In effect, this means that the housing benefit has not kept up with rising rents for five years.

Recent research from Manchester Metropolitan University found that the LHA rates were a major factor in the increase in homelessness. Researchers found that tenants on benefits were more likely to lose their tenancy, and then have difficulties finding an affordable home to rent, due to the gap between housing benefit and the rent.

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DWP denies paying actor who promoted Universal Credit

Come on put your hands up in the air [or comment below] if you believe a single word that the DWP says?

Victor Meldrew IDont Believe It GIF - VictorMeldrew IDontBelieveIt GIFs


The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been forced to deny hiring an actor for a video promoting Universal Credit.

A clip tweeted by work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd features Charlie Watson, who gives a glowing endorsement of the much-criticised benefit that he says helped him launch a career as a personal trainer.

Mr Watson filmed a Vodafone advert alongside Liverpool footballer Mohamed Salah last May and is due appear in the Sky Atlantic drama Curfew later this year.

He also appeared on Channel 4 reality programme First Dates in 2017 and was involved in a CBeebies production the previous year, according to posts on his Instagram account.

Mr Watson’s acting work prompted claims on social media that had been paid to appear in the government’s Universal Credit video. However, the DWP insisted he had been a genuine benefit claimant and vehemently denied the clip was scripted.

A spokesman said: “Everything portrayed in the video is true, and the people speaking are not paid to do so. Charlie is a real Universal Credit claimant who has now moved into work and his work coach, shown in the video, still works at the jobcentre.

Source Alex Tiffin

“Charlie was asked to speak about his Universal Credit experience and his responses were not scripted.” He declined to give further details about Mr Watson’s benefit claim without his permission.

Ms Rudd accused Alex Tiffin, a Universal Credit blogger who first drew attention to Mr Watson’s acting work, of promoting “conspiracy theories”. “More than 1.6 million people claim UC, and they have a wide range of life experiences,” she tweeted. “No matter what work you’ve done, you can apply for UC.”

Mr Watson, who now works as a personal trainer in Salford, Greater Manchester, did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment. His social media profile shows he has travelled across the world over the past four years.

In the video, he says Universal Credit helped him out of unemployment. He admits being “sceptical” about the benefit because “it has a reputation” but says jobcentre support “led to me somehow getting a job”.

A DWP spokesman said the video was filmed “three to four months ago”.

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The tweet has received more than 1,000 replies, with many users saying the video did not portray a typical experience of Universal Credit.

Asked if the DWP had been aware Mr Watson worked as an actor, a spokesman told The Independent: “I think we may have been aware that at one point he was an aspiring actor.

“I don’t know if he was working as an actor at that time.”

He added: “His previous career has no impetus on whether or not he is eligible for universal credit and it has no effect on the support and guidance he would receive whilst on universal credit. Actors are allowed to apply for universal credit if they are on low wages or out of work.”

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Disabled people are going hungry. Tears are not enough

Not since Margaret Thatcher have we seen such an all-out assault on our social fabric, nor one that has caused such harm.

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Sometimes, Marie goes three days without a meal. The 46-year-old used to get by with her disability living allowance, but as austerity hit and the Conservatives replaced it with personal independence payments (PIP), last year she lost the social security entirely.

Her disabilities haven’t magically disappeared. She walks with crutches due to degenerative joints, but can’t get far. A series of unsuccessful operations mean her knees dislocate each week. Pain is constant, and she has severe depression too.

Marie sits in thermals, a jumper and a dressing gown – she can’t afford the heating. As the temperature drops, she tells me she’ll soon wear a jacket inside, too. On the days she can’t buy proper food, she survives on toast. She cuts her own hair now. This week, her sister had to buy her toilet roll.

Ministers like to dub this “welfare reform” but for Marie, it is profound anxiety. “I’m constantly worrying about money,” she says. “It’s my very first thought after pain in the morning and my last at night.”

I thought of Marie as I watched Tory MP Heidi Allen and independent Frank Field embark on a nationwide “anti-austerity” tour, which started in Leicester last week. “I have absolutely had enough,” Allen said, her eyes reddening. “Unless we blow the lid off it, my lot are not going to listen.” Her intentions may be genuine – Allen was only elected in 2015 after the first wave of cuts came in – but this seeming surprise at the impact of austerity is, at best, naive and, at worse, negligent. The suffering Allen is crying about has not occurred by magic but is caused by policies she consistently voted for.

Cut billions from disability, housing, in-work and child benefits, and deep poverty is the all-too-predictable consequence. Take the disability benefit system. The result of austerity has been a benefit system stacked against the claimant, where disabled people are re-evaluated by outsourced staff with next to no medical training, frequently falsely turned down for benefits, and then forced to battle the lengthy appeals process to get them back. Others, like Marie, are simply left to live in destitution without them.

Welfare ‘reforms’ are pushing mentally ill people over the edge

This month it emerged that the rollout of PIP is costing the public purse £4bn more than ministers estimated, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. This is the perversity of austerity: ministers have probably spent more trying to remove benefits from disabled people than it would have cost to give them the support they needed.

With the Brexit crunch ahead, Britain is on the brink of significant change. But austerity surely requires just as much soul searching from the political class. Not since the era of Margaret Thatcher have we seen such an all-out assault on our social fabric, nor one that has caused such harm. The impetus on MPs like Allen now is not simply to bring attention to the damage of the last decade but to come to terms with what has brought us here. That requires a recommitment to the welfare state, and an economic redistribution in which those on the bottom rung are granted the dignity of a decent income, home and opportunities. At the very least, politicians must take responsibility for the crisis their policies have created. Tears alone will do little to help the disabled people now going hungry.

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Universal Credit Update – Briefing for Unions Author

Key findings

Has there been an overhaul or reset of Universal Credit? Despite some fanfare over the latest tweaks to the policy, the answer is no, it is business as usual with Universal Credit.

scrapuniversalcredit(1)

There are fundamental problems within Universal Credit ( UC)

  • There is a substantial gap for the first payment built in to UC.
  • Delays in receiving the first payment are common.
  • The complex online application process is difficult for claimants.
  • The model is based on the idea that people get paid monthly – which many do not in real life.
  • Money has been taken out of UC .
  • If the aim of UC is to make work pay, the taper rate (the rate at which benefits are reduced as income from work rises) needs to be looked at.
  • Families with a self-employed earner will face reductions in the level of support they receive on UC if they do not meet a set (minimum) income.

UC is causing severe hardship. In areas where it has been rolled out, there are more people turning to foodbanks, falling into rent arrears, getting into problem debt and suffering from physical and mental health problems.

The policy and design of UC is fundamentally flawed; no amount of tinkering with the policy and design can fix it. The roll out of UC needs to stop immediately, and the policy scrapped before it does any more damage

We are looking for feedback on experiences of Universal Credit – especially for those who are in work. Please contact Anjum Klair – email aklair@tuc.org.uk

Unfortunately the TUC is not in a position to give welfare/legal advice on individual cases

Universal Credit Update

Has there been an overhaul or reset of Universal Credit?  Despite some fanfare over the latest tweaks to the policy, the answer is no, it is business as usual with Universal Credit.

Just before Parliament returned from the Christmas break, there were welcome headlines suggesting the next stage of Universal Credit (UC) rollout was to be scaled back following a major Government rethink. The reality, however, was that there was no U turn on UC, merely a confirmation of Esther McVey’s November announcement[1] that only 10,000 people will be migrating from legacy benefits to UC (known as managed migration) from July 2019, with the roll-out of managed migration to increase from 2020 onwards. There would be no change to the timetable of completing managed migration of UC by December 2023. The only new news was the delay in passing the managed migration regulations in Parliament, with Government now intending to initially seek powers for the 10,000 pilot of UC only.

While the recent focus has been on the relatively small number of claimants to be moved from legacy benefits to UC later this year, this underplays the total number of claimants who will be on UC this year. UC has now been rolled out to all jobcentres and there are already 1.4 million claimants on UC who have ‘naturally migrated’. This is the language used when a claimant receives UC because they are making a new claim or have experienced a change of circumstances. It is expected around 1.6 million claimants will naturally migrate over 2019, so by 2020 there will be around 3 million claimants of UC.  This is no small number.

Later details confirmed the replacing of the current regulations laid before the House, with two separate Statutory Instruments in January.

  • The first a negative Statutory Instrument to provide for the Severe Disability Premium Gateway. This prevents legacy claimants who are in receipt of the Severe Disability Premium from moving naturally to Universal Credit and allows them to continue to claim legacy benefits until they are moved over as part of the managed migration process, when they can get transitional protection.
  • The second was an affirmative Statutory Instrument, the new draft regulations were for the 10,000 pilot of managed migration of UC commencing in July 2019. These are still to be debated.

A later speech by Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd equally lacked in substantive changes.[2] The new news included a few changes to child care support. Jobcentres were instructed that if the initial upfront month’s childcare costs prevent a claimant from starting work, the discretionary Flexible Support Fund should be used to help smooth the transition for this priority group. And secondly, they were told to be flexible when parents are unable to report their childcare costs immediately, so that these costs will be reimbursed.

These changes to child care support do not address the fundamental design flaw of families having to cover massive upfront child care costs every month before claiming them back. Many of affected households are in precarious financial positions which the move to UC could exacerbate.

Rudd’s speech also confirmed the announcement which had been trailed earlier in the morning on the cancellation of the extension of the two-child policy. To be clear, this is not cancelling the policy itself, only the scheduled plan of applying the two-child limit to families applying for UC who had their children before the cap was announced – in-effect children born before April 2017. This will only help 15,000 families.

The financial cost of the two-child policy to a family is up to £2,780 in child tax credit for each extra child, and its introduction will inevitably increase child poverty.  Previous analysis shows the two-child policy will lead to an extra 200,000 children in poverty.[3]

The more noteworthy announcement in the speech was about household payments going directly to the main carer, which is usually the woman. We would welcome more detail on this.

There was also an announcement of some flexibility on payments. The department would build an online system for private landlords, so they can request for their tenant’s rent to be paid directly to them. Further support could also be provided to those who find monthly payments hard to manage, as job centres will do some pilots on how to improve the provision of more frequent payments.

This does not solve the problems caused by the five-week wait for the initial UC payment or the rigid monthly assessment period which is highly complex and can cause large fluctuations in the amount of UC received. The monthly assessment periods are set arbitrarily, based on the date of a claim, rather than being aligned with pay cycles. Those paid non-monthly wages may earn a sufficient amount to take them over the earnings threshold for UC altogether in a single period, for example, where two four-weekly wage packets happen to fall in a single assessment period). And if a claimant is paid early because of a weekend or bank holiday the system counts this as having been paid twice in that month and therefore reduces or withdraws UC.

On the same day as, Amber Rudd’s speech the High Court found this system of assessing income to be unlawful. The judicial review case, brought by Child Poverty Action Group and solicitors Leigh Day on behalf of four lone mothers, challenged the rigid, automated assessment system in universal credit.

The judges ruled that the DWP has been wrongly interpreting the universal credit regulations. They said in the government’s treatment of claimants as earning twice as much as they do if they happen to receive two pay cheques in one monthly assessment period, and as having no earnings in the next assessment period is “odd in the extreme” and “…. could be said to lead to nonsensical situations”.

They added that the DWP’s incorrect interpretation of the regulations had caused “…severe cash flow problems for the claimants living as they do on low incomes with little or no savings”. [4]

This high court ruling was the significant news that day and not the Secretary of State’s speech. We await to hear from the DWP.

The ruling is further evidence of the shortcomings of the design of UC and the suffering it is causing. So why is the roll out of UC going ahead when the experience so far has been shambolic? We have reported extensively on the problems within UC.

Fundamental problems within Universal Credit

  • There is a payment gap for the first payment built in to UC. The 2017 Budget reduced the waiting time from six to five weeks. This is still unacceptably long. And there is no rationale for a five-week wait in payment other than to save money
    The DWP’s response to the delay that claimants can get a repayable advance payment does not resolve the fundamental issues within UC. And advances have to be paid back from UC payments.
    The two weeks of legacy benefits run-on announced in Budget 2018 will not cover five weeks of living costs, and this measure does not include tax credits run-on, and will only apply from July 2020.
  • Delays in receiving the first payment are common. The five-week wait is the minimum wait time for the first payment. The National Audit Office (NAO) reported that in March 2018, 21 per cent of new claimants did not receive their full entitlement on time and 13 per cent received no payment on time. [5]
  • The complex online application process is difficult for claimants. The DWP’s own survey showed only half (54 per cent) of claimants were able to register their claim online unassisted, with a further fifth (21 per cent) completing it online but with help.[6]
  • The model is based on the idea that people get paid monthly – which many do not in real life. Rigid monthly assessment periods do not work for everyone.
  • Money has been taken out of UC. The 2015 summer Budget reduced work allowances by £3 billion, and the recent Budget only partially restored this by £1.7 billion. In addition, the 2015 summer budget froze benefit levels and reduced support to families with more than two children.
  • If the aim of UC is to make work pay, the taper rate (the rate at which benefits are reduced as income from work rises) needs to be looked at. And second earners, who are often women, miss out on the entitlement to a work allowance as it is only paid to one person in the household.
  • Families with a self-employed earner will face reductions in the level of support they receive on UC if they do not meet the ‘Minimum Income Floor’ (MIF). This requires them to earn the equivalent of 35 hours a week at the National Minimum Wage. This financial saving to the Treasury is in effect coming out of the pockets of the low-paid self-employed.
  • We are also seriously concerned about the process of managed migration.
    – Rather than automatic migration as the process of ‘managed migration’ suggests, the process requires claimants to end an existing claim and making a completely new claim.
    – The process of managed migration places the responsibility for transferring to UC from legacy benefit on the claimant.  This will cause considerable stress and anxiety to some claimants. If they are unable to understand and follow the UC rules, claimants can find their legacy benefits have ceased and they have no new benefit to move on to. While the DWP claim that this will not happen to those who are vulnerable, we question how they guarantee this under the regulations as they stand.

UC is causing severe hardship. In areas where it has been rolled out, there are more people turning to foodbanks, falling into rent arrears, getting into problem debt and suffering from physical and mental health problems.

Amber Rudd says “the overall product that is Universal Credit is absolutely compassionate… Some of the criticisms that have come from various publications have been based on one or two particular individuals where the advice hasn’t worked for them.”[7]

The evidence of the effects of UC seriously contradicts the Secretary of State.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on his visit to the UK said

“I have heard countless stories from people who told me of the severe hardships they have suffered under Universal Credit. When asked about these problems, Government ministers were almost entirely dismissive…”[8]

The policy and design of UC is fundamentally flawed; no amount of tinkering with the policy and design can fix it. The roll out of UC (whether this be natural or managed migration) needs to stop immediately, and the policy scrapped before it does any more damage.

We are looking for feedback on experiences of Universal Credit – especially for those who are in work. Please contact Anjum Klair – email aklair@tuc.org.uk

Unfortunately, the TUC is not in a position to give welfare/legal advice on individual cases

source

 

[1] https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-11-05/debates/D15809FF-EAF7-4…

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/universal-credit-personal-welfare

[3] http://cpag.org.uk/content/austerity-generation-impact-decade-cuts-famil…

[4] http://cpag.org.uk/content/high-court-finds-dwp-unlawful-universal-credi…

[5] https://www.nao.org.uk/report/rolling-out-universal-credit/

[6] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-full-service…

[7] https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/tory-amber-rudd-suggests-heartbre…

[8] https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23881&…