DVLA warns motorists to be aware of scams

Hands holding a mobile phone with a scam text message on itDVLA has released pictures of some of the cons being used by scammers to trick motorists into handing over their money.

It comes as new figures show a 20% increase in scams reported to DVLA, with 1,538 reports made to agency in the last three months of 2019.

The reports of suspected web, email, text or social media scams were up from 1,275 in the same period in 2018. DVLA has released the images of recent scams reported to help motorists be aware of what to look out for and issue a clear warning that if something offered online or by text message appears too good to be true, then it almost certainly is.

Scammers are targeting unsuspecting customers with links to services that don’t exist and messages of tax refunds, all of which are fake.

The reports also show that driver and vehicle documents are for sale on the internet. DVLA is advising anyone with concerns about any calls, texts, emails or suspicious activity online, to always report these to the police via Action Fraud immediately.

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DVLA chief information security officer David Pope said:

We’ve released examples of real life scams to help motorists understand when a scam is at work. These websites and messages are designed to trick people into believing they can access services that simply don’t exist such as removing penalty points from driving licences.

All our tax refunds are generated automatically after a motorist has told us they have sold, scrapped or transferred their vehicle to someone else so we don’t ask for anyone to get in touch with us to claim their refund.

We want to protect the public and if something seems too good to be true, then it almost certainly is. The only trusted source of DVLA information is GOV.UK

It is also important to remember never to share images on social media that contain personal information, such as your driving licence and vehicle documents.

A spokesperson for Action Fraud said:

This can be a stressful time of year, sorting out finances for the year ahead. Fraudsters are aware of this and are using different ways to trick people.

Taking a couple of minutes to familiarise yourself with a few simple online safety tips can be significant in protecting yourself from becoming a victim of online fraud.

You should always be cautious when sharing personal information online and avoid being scammed by only using GOV.UK for government services online, such as the DVLA.

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, please report it to us.

 

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Man who can’t find smaller house calls on the DWP to change unfair bedroom tax.

Consett man who can’t find smaller house calls on the DWP to change ‘unfair’ bedroom tax. John Hinds, 54, says people who can’t move due to a lack of one bedroom properties should be exempt from the tax. 

John Hinds has been waiting 15 months for a tribunal after being denied PIP by the DWP
John Hinds has been waiting 15 months for a tribunal after being denied PIP by the DWP 

A man is calling on the Government to make changes to the ‘unfair’ bedroom tax. John Hinds, of Consett,County Durham, says the tax is unfair for people living in areas where there are no alternative options and residents in the area have also called for it to be amended.

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The unpopular tax – known as The Under Occupancy Charge – was introduced in 2013 and cuts benefits for anyone with a “spare” room. Since its introduction, John says more than £5,000 has been deducted from his benefits as he lives in a three bedroom property, with £57 per month currently being deducted.

Bedroom tax loophole throws councils into chaos and some residents ...

John, 54, who is secretary of The Grove Community and Residents’ Association, has written to the Department for Work and Pensions on behalf of the group calling for changes to be made.

“There are no plans to change this policy.”

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Ten ways coronavirus has changed Universal Credit and what it means for you

Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have applied for Universal Credit as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
Universal Credit | West Dunbartonshire Council

Coronvirus has affected almost every aspect of our lives and it has changed Universal Credit in 10 major ways. Personal circumstances have continued to change as job losses and pay reductions become more common as the pandemic contnues.

Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have turned to Universal Credit for financial support during the difficult times. According to Birmingham Live, the impact of lockdown has driven many to seek help from benefits to pay their bills and feed their families.

Up to May 19, there have been 2.9 million applications for the benefit.

For those who are new to the system, or for existing recipients who are still getting Universal Credit during the coronavirus pandemic, these are the 10 ways coronavirus has affected the scheme and how it affects you.

Universal Credit: Claimants could be entitled to further benefit support

1. Making a claim

The first thing is to check you are eligible. For instance, if you have £16,000 or more in savings, you can’t get Universal Credit.

Bear in mind that your partner’s income and savings will be taken into account, even if they are not eligible for Universal Credit and not intending to apply for it. Don’t take any steps towards applying before checking the criteria or you could irreversibly affect existing benefits such as tax credits.

Claims for Universal Credit are made on the internet. You have to set up an online account and you also need a bank, building society or credit union account.

In a bid to ease pressure on the system during the pandemic, the DWP says people making new claims will no longer need to make a phone call as part of the process. The department said its staff will ring up claimants if they need to check anything and will also message via the online process to confirm details.

The DWP says its calls may show on your phone as an 0800 number or an unknown or private number and urges people to check their online accounts so they know when to pick up such calls.

2. Jobcentre visits

During the claim process, you no longer need to arrange a face-to-face appointment and you do not have to go along to the jobcentre. The DWP says people receiving benefits do not have to attend jobcentre appointments for three months from March 19 2020. If coronavirus restrictions continue, this could be extended.

Claimants will be contacted to discuss alternatives such as telephone or paper-based assessments. You will continue to receive benefits as normal, but all requirements to attend the jobcentre in person are suspended.

Don’t go to the jobcentre unless asked to do so “for an exceptional purpose”, the DWP said.

3. Temporary increase

On March 20, 2020, the Chancellor announced a package of support for workers during the coronavirus pandemic. This included a £1,000 increase to the standard allowance for Universal Credit for one year.

It means the amount of Universal Credit went up twice – once in line with inflation as the benefits freeze came to an end, and then a further boost for the coronavirus increase.

Rates for Universal Credit are now as follows:

  • Single and under 25 – £342.72
  • Single and 25 or over – £409.89
  • In a couple and both under 25 – £488.59 (for you both)
  • In a couple and one of you is 25 or over – £594.04 (for you both)

But concerns have been raised about the £1,000 boost (about £90 a month) only being in place for 12 months.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “If the Government believes this level of support is necessary during lockdown, why do they believe people will need less money when the (lockdown) ends and the normal cost of living would apply? “Surely it is inconceivable that anyone still unemployed by March next year could see their benefits being cut?”

The DWP confirmed the one-year limit on the increase and has so far made no suggestion it could be maintained beyond then.

4. Looking for work

Usually, going on to Universal Credit if you are unemployed means proving to the DWP you are still looking for a job. A formal agreement called a claimant commitment sets out what people are expected to do in return for benefits – and what happens if they fail to comply.

What is Universal Credit?

Universal Credit is a new benefits system that will eventually replace six seperate benefits.

They are:

  • income support
  • income-based jobseeker’s allowance
  • income-related employment and support allowance
  • housing benefit
  • child tax credit
  • working tax credit

Claimants will get one single payment to cover any and all of these benefits they are entitled to. Out of that single payment they will then have to cover their own costs directly, e.g. rent, rather than it being a deducted payment.

The brainchild of the Conservative Government, it is theoretically meant to make claiming benefits easier. But the policy has been bereft with problems since it started being rolled out across the country and has been blamed for pushing many vulnerable people into hardship and poverty.

Claimant commitments are normally agreed with a work coach when a person attends a local jobcentre and must be accepted in order to receive Universal Credit. However, because of the exceptional circumstances resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, people are not expected to accept claimant commitments before being entitled to Universal Credit.

In addition, requirements to prepare for work, search for work or be available for work are temporarily suspended. Most claims for Universal Credit begin on the date the claimant commitment is agreed but for applications received in the four weeks up to April 9, 2020, the date the claimant verifies their identity is taken as the start date.

5. Advance payments

With more people going on to Universal Credit, there have been more requests for advance payments. This is like an upfront loan of the amount of your first expected UC payment and is repaid in instalments from future benefits.

From March 1 to May 19, 2020, there were 1,132,570 advance payments issued. Most were advances requested by new claimants but there has also been an increase in the number of advances given to those already on the benefit – these include budgeting advances to help people cover emergency expenses such as replacing a broken cooker.

You normally need to have been receiving Universal Credit for six months or more to qualify for a budgeting advance. In addition, you need to have earned less than £2,600 (£3,600 together for couples) in the past six months.

You can receive up to £348 if you’re single, £464 if you’re part of a couple or £812 if you have children.

The DWP says repayments on these loans have been temporarily stopped because of the impact of coronavirus. Repayments won’t restart until July 2020 at the earliest.

6. Maximum deductions

Money can be taken out of your benefits by the DWP to repay anything you owe to the department or to other organisations. This includes rent arrears and other debts.

The maximum amount that can be deducted used to be 30 per cent of your Universal Credit standard allowance. This was lowered to 25 per cent from April 6, 2020, meaning UC recipients get more money per month.

In addition, deductions to pay off debts to housing providers, energy firms, water suppliers or the council were temporarily halted when the DWP was dealing with a massive surge of benefit claims at the start of the pandemic. These third party deductions resumed from May 10.

The DWP says that if you fail to do what you have agreed in your claimant commitment without good reason, your Universal Credit payments can be reduced for a set period. This is called a sanction.

These financial penalties can be applied for failing to attend jobcentre appointments, job interviews or training courses.

This became an issue when the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold.

The DWP confirmed that such punishments won’t be applied if you break the rules because of coronavirus – such as if you are self-isolating and can’t leave the house.

Therese Coffey, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said: “People will not be penalised for doing the right thing.

“I think it’s important that people do have that conversation with their work coach. As I’ve emphasised already, work coaches can exercise discretion but the important thing is that ongoing conversation which a claimant has with their work coach.”

8. Housing allowance

Those on Universal Credit get money towards their housing costs included in their monthly payment.

Staff at the Government’s Valuation Office Agency set a Local Housing Allowance (LHA) which is used to work out how much is given to claimants renting from private landlords.

It’s based on average rents in the area where you’re living.

People should now get more money towards their rent. It also means more rented properties are now affordable to tenants who need to move.

For instance, in Birmingham the LHA rose as follows from April 2020:

  • Category A (tenant has exclusive use of one bedroom with shared use of other facilities) – increased from £57.34 to £67
  • Category B (tenant has exclusive use of one bedroom with exclusive use of other facilities) – increased from £101.84 to £120.82
  • Category C (tenant has use of two bedrooms) – increased from £127.62 to £143.84
  • Category D (tenant has use of three bedrooms) – increased from £135.96 to £155.34
  • Category E (tenant has use of four bedrooms) – increased from £173.41 to £195.62

9. Minimum income floor

There was good news for self-employed people when the Minimum Income Floor was lifted. The MIF is an assumed level of income calculated by the DWP based on what it would expect an employed person to receive in similar circumstances.

It is used instead of a person’s actual earnings when working out how much Universal Credit they would get on top – even though self-employed people typically have income that goes up and down from month to month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed in the March 2020 budget that the MIF would be temporarily suspended to help the economy during the coronavirus outbreak. He did not state how long this would be in place but did say it was part of a package of measures to tackle the impact of the epidemic.

So the benefits received by a self-employed person will be based on their actual earnings. Those whose income is a lot less during the coronavirus crisis – lower than the previous MIF that would have been applied – will see a rise in their Universal Credit.

10. Benefit cap

The benefit cap is a limit on the total amount of state help you can receive.

The benefit cap outside Greater London is:

  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) if you’re in a couple
  • £384.62 per week (£20,000 a year) if you’re a single parent and your children live with you
  • £257.69 per week (£13,400 a year) if you’re a single adult

The benefit cap inside Greater London is:

  • £442.31 per week (£23,000 a year) if you’re in a couple
  • £442.31 per week (£23,000 a year) if you’re a single parent and your children live with you
  • £296.35 per week (£15,410 a year) if you’re a single adult

The DWP said: “For some of those new to the benefits system, who have been employed for the previous 12 months, the benefit cap won’t apply for a nine month period.”

You will get this nine month grace period if you are claiming Universal Credit because you stopped working or your earnings went down; if you are now earning less than £604 a month; or if, in each of the 12 months before your earnings went down or you stopped working, you earned the same as or more than the earnings threshold (this was £569 up to March 31, 2020 and is £604 from April 1, 2020)

But one woman is taking legal action after the benefit cap prevented an increase in payments that was intended to help families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The single mother – who does not wish to be named – saw her monthly Universal Credit payment of £1,397.92 cut to £1,275.

The woman found that as soon as the UC boost was applied, the benefit cap came into effect and, on top of that, her advance payment deductions were increased, meaning she now ends up with less. The DWP has been asked to review the process.

 

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Where to go for UC help

  • Benefits calculators – check before you make a claim
  • Turn2Us – a national charity offering benefits information, grants and support
  • Citizens Advice – help with benefits, consumer issues and other work and financial matters

read more

Privatisation is at the heart of the disastrous coronavirus response

From PPE failures to care home tragedies, this crisis has exposed the pernicious role of corporate power in public policy 

Manufacturer forms alliance to cope with the demand for PPE ...

Amid the smog of lies and contradictions, there is one question we should never stop asking: why has the government of the United Kingdom so spectacularly failed to defend people’s lives? Why has “this fortress built by Nature for herself against infection”, as Shakespeare described our islands, succumbed to a greater extent than any other European nation to a foreseeable and containable pandemic?

Part of the answer is that the government knowingly and deliberately stood down crucial parts of its emergency response system. Another part is that, when it did at last seek to mobilise the system, crucial bits of the machine immediately fell off. There is a consistent reason for the multiple, systemic failures the pandemic has exposed: the intrusion of corporate power into public policy. Privatisation, commercialisation, outsourcing and offshoring have severely compromised the UK’s ability to respond to a crisis.

Take, for example, the lethal failures to provide protective clothing, masks and other equipment (PPE) to health workers. A report by the campaigning group We Own It seeks to explain why so many doctors, nurses and other hospital workers have died unnecessarily of Covid-19. It describes a system built around the needs not of health workers or patients, but of corporations and commercial contracts: a system that could scarcely be better designed for failure.

Four layers of commercial contractors, each rich with opportunities for profit-making, stand between doctors and nurses and the equipment they need. These layers are then fragmented into 11 tottering, uncoordinated supply chains, creating an almost perfect formula for chaos. Among the many weak links in these chains are consultancy companies like Deloitte, whose farcical attempts to procure emergency supplies of PPE have been fiercely criticised by both manufacturers and health workers.

Instead of stockpiling supplies, as emergency preparedness demands, companies in these chains have been using just-in-time production systems, whose purpose is to cut their costs by minimising stocks. Their minimised systems could not be scaled up fast enough to meet the shortfall. Where there should be a smooth, coordinated, accountable programme, there’s opacity, byzantine complexity and total chaos. So much for the efficiencies of privatisation.

The pandemic has also exposed the privatised care system as catastrophically unfit and ill-prepared. In 1993, 95% of care at home was provided publicly by local authorities. Now, almost all of it – and almost all residential care – is provided by private companies. Even before the pandemic, the system was falling apart, as many care companies, unable to balance the needs of their patients with the demands of their shareholders, collapsed, often with disastrous consequences.

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Now we discover just how dangerous their commercial imperatives have become, as the drive to make care profitable has created a fragmented, incoherent system, answerable sometimes to offshore owners, that fails to meet basic standards, and employs harassed workers on zero-hour contracts. If there is one thing we have learnt from this pandemic, it’s the need for a publicly owned, publicly run National Care Service – the care equivalent of the NHS.

It could all become much worse, due to another effect of corporate power. A report by the Corporate Europe Observatory shows how law firms are exploring the possibility of suing governments for the measures they have taken to stop the pandemic. Many trade treaties contain a provision called “investor state dispute settlement”. This enables corporations to sue governments in opaque offshore tribunals, for any policies that might affect their “future anticipated profits”.

So when governments, in response to coronavirus, have imposed travel restrictions, or requisitioned hotels, or instructed companies to produce medical equipment or limit the price of drugs, the companies could sue them for the loss of the money they might otherwise have made. When the UK government commandeers private hospitals or the Spanish government prevents evictions by landlords, and stops water and electricity companies from cutting off destitute customers, they could be open to international legal challenge. These measures, which override democracy, have already hampered attempts by many governments, particularly of poorer nations, to protect their people from disasters. They urgently need to be rescinded.

The effectiveness of our health system is also threatened by the trade treaty the UK government hopes to sign with the US. The Conservatives promised in their manifesto that “the NHS is not on the table” in the trade talks. But they have already broken their accompanying promise, “we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards”. Earlier this month, they voted that measure out of the agriculture bill. US companies are aggressively demanding access to the NHS. The talks will be extremely complex and incomprehensible to almost everyone. There will be plenty of opportunities to give them what they want while fooling voters.

Boris Johnson’s central mission, overseen by Dominic Cummings, is to break down all barriers between government and the power of money. It is to allow private interests to intrude into the very heart of government, while marginalising the civil service. This helps to explain why Johnson is so reluctant to let Cummings go. The disasters of the past few weeks hint at the likely results.

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Universal Credit: Claimants could be entitled to further benefit support

Universal Credit UK: Claimants could be entitled to further benefit support – Here’s how
UNIVERSAL CREDIT has provided vital support to many Britons who are currently on a low income or have found themselves out of work. However, there could be additional benefit support for claimants.

Universal Credit | West Dunbartonshire Council

Universal Credit is a living support payment, and often provides a helping hand to those struggling with several costs. It is particularly helpful due to the difficult financial circumstances many are facing at present. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) provides successful claimants with a monthly payout to help them meet their everyday needs.

While Universal Credit varies from person to person, there is a standard basic allowance the government has outlined. Single people who are 25 or over can receive £409.89 in monthly standard allowance. Those in a couple over the age of 25 receive £594.04 per month to split between them.

Additional funds are provided to those who have children, health needs, disabilities or who are struggling to meet bill payments. However, the government has also outlined additional support which claimants may be entitled to.

Universal Credit: How Britons can apply for an advance to assist their living costs

This is dependent upon personal circumstances, however, may provide a lifeline for those who need extra assistance. People who receive the benefit may also qualify for assistance with health costs.

This is the case if they receive Universal Credit and either had no earnings, or net earnings of £435 or less in their last assessment period. However, Britons may also be eligible for health cost help if they receive the payment including an element for a child, or have limited capability for work, and had no earnings or net earnings of £935 or less in the last assessment.

Additional help for claimants also comes in the form of assistance for children. Healthy Start vouchers are available to those who are pregnant or have a child under the age of four, with Best Start Foods available to those in Scotland.

Extra financial help if you claim universal credit

Free school meals and free early education for two year olds may also provide vital aid.

Sadly, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many more Britons are having to plan funerals for their loved ones. While the expenses of this event can often snowball, those claiming Universal Credit could also be entitled to a Funeral Expenses Payment.

If the person passed away on or after April 8, 2020, claimants could get financial support of up to £1,000. This could help with important costs such as burial fees, important documentation, flowers or the coffin.

Many Britons also have to meet the regular costs of utilities within their home. Universal Credit claimants can also be entitled to assistance with this, through payments such as WaterSure – to cap bills for those with a water meter – and the Affordable Warmth Obligation for energy saving improvements.

It is important to note Universal Credit claimants may opt to apply for a different benefit which does not take savings or income into account. This can be found through new style Jobseeker’s Allowance, or new style Employment and Support Allowance.

The government also provides Britons with an online benefits calculator which assists potential claimants in finding out how much they could be entitled to.

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Where to go for UC help

  • Benefits calculators – check before you make a claim
  • Turn2Us – a national charity offering benefits information, grants and support
  • Citizens Advice – help with benefits, consumer issues and other work and financial matters

read more

 

Tory Scandal: MP Faces Calls To Resign After ‘Unlawfully’ Approving Tory Donor’s £1bn Housing Project

Robert Jenrick Faces Calls To Resign After ‘Unlawfully’ Approving Tory Donor’s £1bn Housing Project Labour calls for investigation and MPs label housing secretary “unfit” for job over intervention that would have saved Richard Desmond’s firm millions. – Huffpost
Housing secretary Robert
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick is facing calls to resign after he admitted “unlawfully” signing off a 1,500-home development that saved a Tory Party donor millions of pounds.

The £1bn project on the former Westferry Printworks site on London’s Isle of Dogs was approved in January by Jenrick – a last-minute reprieve after the council and then the independent Planning Inspectorate both deciding it should be refused. They had said it lacked enough affordable housing and conflicted with local conservation policy.

But the housing secretary’s decision came just a day before Tower Hamlets Council approved a new rate for its Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) – a move that would have increased the property owner’s financial liability to the local authority by between £30m and £50m.

That money would have been spent mitigating the impact of the development on the local area, and improving local services. Instead, thanks to Jenrick’s timing, it stayed in the pocket of the developer. Now Boris Johnson is under pressure to reveal what knowledge, if any, he had of the deal.

The building used to be the Daily Express printworks on the Millwall waterfront. The land is owned by Northern & Shell, which is in turn owned by publishing magnate and former Tory donor Richard Desmond.

Jenrick, who faced criticism for his approach to social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak, has been labelled “unfit to continue to serve” after denying vital investment in east London where affordable housing is scarce.

The Labour Party has also written to the cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill calling for an investigation into the matter. Apsana Begum, Labour MP for Poplar and Limehouse – the constituency that includes the printworks – told HuffPost UK: “We have one of the highest rates of child poverty in the entire country and struggle with the near-impossible situation of having soaring monthly rents, which all too often mean people, particularly those on low incomes, are faced with an increased risk of homelessness.

“This whole debacle is further evidence that this government is more interested in serving billionaires rather than local people. “The housing minister – whose properties include a £1.1m mansion built by an 18th century slave-trader – should consider his position given the alleged revelations surrounding the quashing of the planning permission for the huge Westferry Printworks scheme.”

What to do when your buyer is accused of bribery - Telegraph

The council began legal action in March, alleging that the timing of the decision appeared to show bias. It asked the High Court to order the government to disclose documents that, it argued, would show Jenrick was influenced by a desire to help Desmond save money by avoiding the charges.

Faced with the prospect of having to publicly release documents relating to the case, Jenrick accepted his decision letter was “unlawful by reason of apparent bias” and confirmed it was deliberately issued before the new CIL policy could be adopted. He agreed planning permission should be quashed and decided by a different minister.

This whole debacle is further evidence that this government is more interested in serving billionaires rather than local people.Local MP Apsana Begum

The story was originally reported by the East London Advertiser last week and followed up by The Times on Wednesday. In an editorial, the national newspaper called for further “scrutiny”. “It is an extraordinary admission that requires an explanation rather than just passing the decision on to another minister,” it said.

Now political parties are demanding answers amid claims the controversy has been masked by Dominic Cummings dominating the headlines. In his letter to the cabinet secretary, Labour’s shadow housing and planning minister Mike Amesbury wrote: “The consequence of Mr Jenrick’s decision was to save a developer a very great amount of money and [gives] rise to serious questions which require answers.”

In a further statement, he added: “Serious questions need to be answered about why this decision was taken, a decision which could have saved a Conservative donor tens of millions of pounds, and in the process deprived local residents of vital infrastructure funding.

“It’s essential that we have transparency in processes such as this so that trust can be maintained in our housing and planning system. “I hope the Cabinet Office will uphold this spirit of transparency, do the right thing and conduct a thorough investigation into the events around this decision.”

Amesbury said the investigation should establish what discussions were held between Jenrick or his office and the developer, and what knowledge prime minister Boris Johnson had of the case, if any.

The party wants the correspondence that Jenrick avoided handing over to be published. And Labour wants to know how it can trust the decision when it is taken again by a different cabinet member.

Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat housing, communities and local government spokesperson, told HuffPost UK: “Jenrick’s calculated decision to sign off a huge development just in time to save a party donor millions exposes something rotten at the heart of this Conservative government.

“This is yet another example of Tory ministers showing it is one rule for them and their cronies, and another for everyone else. “If the minister accepts his decision to sign off the project was unlawful, then he should also accept that he is unfit to continue to serve in that role.”

Labour peer Lord Andrew Adonis has called for the Metropolitan Police to look into the matter, and the Conservative Party leader in Tower Hamlets has resigned from the party altogether because it looks “very suspicious”.

In an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, Jenrick told Adam Boulton the application was decided “on its merits” and done “without any actual bias”. He added: “But clearly the way that the process was run gave rise to some concerns and so that’s why we’ve chosen to quash the decision.”

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “While we reject the suggestion that there was any actual bias in the decision, we have agreed that the application will be redetermined.”

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Charity ordered to stop feeding the homeless

This article reminded me of the ‘Don’t feed the birds’ notices that you see on notices around the city, which really shows us what some council leaders think of the homeless.

Charity ordered to stop feeding Leeds’ homeless by police and council after complaints made. They have been helping those who have been living on the streets during lockdown – Leeds Live
Feed The Homeless Project have been told to stop with their weekly feeds
Feed The Homeless Project have been told to stop with their weekly feeds 

A charity feeding homeless people during lockdown in Leeds city centre has been left shocked after police and the council told them to stop.

Feed The Homeless Project has been feeding rough sleepers in the city centre for more than seven years. But they have been ordered to stop by West Yorkshire Police after numerous complaints were made about “unofficial feeds” where social distancing was not being carried out.

The group of volunteers offer the rough sleepers clean socks and underwear, coffee and hot soups each Friday. Despite the council moving those who live on the streets into hostels, Madga Krupa, a volunteer for Feed the Homeless, said they have continued to help 20 people each week.

These include couples who are not in hostels to avoid being separated, a man who has an injured leg and cannot move and another man with mental health problems who prefers to be on the streets.

Feed The Homeless Project have been told to stop with their weekly feeds

Magda, 49, said: “Our service is important to the people who are still living on the streets, they’re hungry.

“A police officer came to our house and told me we have to stop feeding the homeless people on the street because they’re all in accommodation and they’re being fed in hostels.

“But I asked them what about the people who are still living on the street? At the beginning of the lockdown, there was about 30 people but it’s now 20 people we are helping.”

A few other street charities which help feed the homeless have stopped doing their weekly rounds due to the virus or have started to provide food to the hostels instead.

But Feed the Homeless have continued their feeds each Friday while adhering to social distancing rules.

Feed The Homeless Project have continued to help people living on the streets of Leeds during lockdown
Feed The Homeless Project have continued to help people living on the streets of Leeds during lockdown

They say the police have told them they can continue once lockdown is lifted but say the people they are helping are more vulnerable now than ever.

“They told me once the lockdown is over we can continue,” said Magda.

“I know they’re working to help the homeless but we feed those who can’t get the help but now we can’t do that.”

What the police say

Chief Inspector Richard Padwell from Leeds District Police said: “Leeds Police are key members of the Street Support Team.

“As such, we received various complaints about this particular group carrying out unofficial ‘feeds’ which was happening without social distancing guidelines always being followed.

“After the Street Support Team was asked to do so by the Homeless Charter, we directly engaged with the group to explain the dangers to everyone concerned (the homeless people and the people looking to help them) about this approach and that everyone they were feeding still had the chance to have meals provided by the Salvation Army or St George’s Crypt.

Feed The Homeless Project have continued to help people living on the streets of Leeds during lockdown

“This approach of engaging with people has meant that no enforcement activity has had to be carried out and no fines issued as a result. We would never stop rough sleepers having the opportunity to receive food and accommodation – especially during what is a particularly difficult time.”

What the council says

Paul Money, chief officer of Safer Leeds at the council, said: “As the Council Chief Officer responsible for the multi-agency Street Support Team, we recognise that people who sleep rough on the streets of Leeds are particularly vulnerable and have complex needs.

“We continue to work closely with the Homeless Charter (an umbrella organisation representing various charities and agencies) to ensure our approach meets the needs of homeless people and the wider population.

“As a result of this approach and recent government guidance every single rough sleeper in the city has been offered accommodation and food during the current situation and the vast majority have accepted this.

“The Homeless Charter, aware of the need to ensure social distancing and the enhanced provision for rough sleepers, has advised groups against setting up ‘feeds’ in the City Centre.

“A small number of people have refused offers of accommodation or have been restricted from staying in accommodation due to their conduct and another organisation not linked to the Homeless Charter has sought to continue their regular weekly ‘feeds’.”

Couple in six month wait for Universal Credit claim due to coronavirus delays

A Universal Credit letter

Benefit assessment delays due to coronavirus has cost a couple thousands as they wait for their claim to be finalised. 

The couple has lost more than £500 a month after they were told to apply for universal credit almost six months ago.

The husband and wife, from the south west of Glasgow, received tax credits due to the mum working part time for the NHS. She received more than £500 in Limited Capability to Work payments through tax credits. However, the family said due to a change in household circumstances in January they were to be put on universal credit instead and the payments stopped.

They have been told they are not entitled to universal credit as it is income dependent but say the limited capability to work payment has not yet been taken into account. The couple did not get an assessment due to delays and then when lockdown was introduced face to face assessments were suspended and they have not been assessed.

They had submitted a joint claim for universal credit and were told that when the Limited Capability to Work element was taken into account their income could not change. But they needed an assessment.

How people with no recourse to public funds are surviving in the coronavirus pandemic

The husband said: “There are no face to face assessments to clarify my wife’s disability so the claim is not being progressed properly. “There is a doctor’s letter as supporting evidence.” He said the loss of income has put them into hardship.He added: “We have had to miss gas, electric and council tax payments and have also been to a food bank.”

The couple’s MP said they are “in limbo and missing out potentially on hundred of pounds a month.” Chris Stephens, Glasgow South West SNP MP, has written to Therese Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, stating they have not has a Work Capability assessment due to Covid 19 but could have it done via telephone or a paper assessment,

He said: “Delays meant that this did not take place before the outbreak of the pandemic and they have now gone over three months without a decision, meaning they could have potentially missed out on hundreds of pounds in Limited Capability for Work payments if this element was added on their UC claim.

Glasgow Times: Chris StephensChris Stephens

He added: “Whilst I understand the significant strain that has been place on DWP and assessment services by the pandemic, I am sure you can appreciate the concern of my constituents and other claimants of ill health and disability benefits that extensive delays could be costing them social security entitlements which they might be due if assessments could proceed as normal.”

A DWP spokesman said the couple are not entitled to Universal Credit as it is income based.  He said: “Household income is taken into account when determining eligibility for Universal Credit and, on that basis, (the couple) are not entitled. “They continue to receive support through the Personal Independence Payment.”

The DWP said there is no backlog resulting from the coronavirus pandemic but it has suspended face-to-face assessments. It said that it is looking at the couple’s situation in terms of any limited capability for work, and it will contact them directly.

source

Universal Credit for UK migrants as PM hints at U-turn

Boris Johnson holds the daily Covid-19 Press Conference on 28 May 2020.

Yet again the Boris Johnson “right wing” Government has to consider changes to it’s usual policies.  During coronavirus COVID-19 there has been a huge increase in the welfare state under the Johnson Government.  The Conservative Government has ended up spending more money than a left-wing Labour Government would most likely spend during more normal times.

So it seems following remarks from Boris Johnson the Prime Minister it is very possible if not likely that UK migrants including presumably Tier 2 visa holders working for an employer with a Sponsor Licence will be able to claim Universal Credit.  The Furlough scheme is not always available as it depends on visa holders still being in employment but not working for the employer.

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has hinted at a review of controversial immigration rules that deny thousands of UK migrants access to a string of state benefits, despite paying taxes while in Britain.

During a Commons Liaison Committee meeting, Johnson was seemingly caught off guard when quizzed by Labour MP, Stephen Timms, on the issue of the longstanding ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF) rule imposed on many UK visa holders.

Responding to questioning, Johnson said: “People who live and work here should have support during the coronavirus crisis.”

Government concessions for migrant health workers

The government has already made a number of concessions for migrants working for the NHS or independent care facilities, albeit after negative press coverage, including 12-month visa extensions and the recent scrapping of the controversial immigration health surcharge.

However, the NRPF rule remains intact, leaving many migrants to face severe financial hardship because they’re ineligible for state benefits, including:

  • Universal Credit
  • Employment Support Allowance
  • Housing Benefit
  • Assistance with council tax payments

Under the former Coalition government, NRPF rules were further tightened and now deny access to means-tested free school meals for migrant children whose visa is subject to the legislation. The rule exists despite migrants holding leave to remain status in the UK and paying taxes.

Priti Patel urged to end NRPF rule

In April, Workpermit.com reported that migration spokesperson for the Scottish National Party (SNP), Stuart McDonald, had urged Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to end the NRPF rule or risk spreading the coronavirus.

When pushed on the issue at the Commons Liaison Committee meeting, the Prime Minister said: “Hang on Stephen [Timms]. Why aren’t they eligible for Universal Credit or Employment Support Allowance or any of the other [benefits]?”

Timms replied: “Well, it’s a very good question.  It’s because they have No Recourse to Public Funds. That’s a condition that’s attached to their leave to remain. They’ve been here for years, their children have been born in the UK but, because for a ten year period, we have this No Recourse to Public Funds, at the moment they can get no help at all.”

Johnson responded, saying: “I’m going to have to come back to you on that Stephen.”

However, Mr Johnson did hint that the NRPF rule could be reviewed, saying: “Clearly people who have worked hard for this country, who live and work here should have support of one kind or another. But you [Stephen Timms] have raised a very, very important point.”

“The condition of their leave to remain is that they should have no recourse to public funds. I will find out how many there are in that position and we will see what we can do to help,” Johnson added.

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants welcomes comments

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) welcomed Boris Johnson’s promise to look into the issue. The JCWI has previously called on the government to abolish the NRPF rule, warning that it will unnecessarily push migrants into further hardship amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an interview with Politics Home, Public Affairs and Campaigns Manager for the JCWI, Minnie Rahman, said: “The Prime Minister is right to be shocked that migrants, and their families, have been left to fend for themselves during this pandemic.”

“We see children and their parents driven to destitution every day, who have been forced to risk their lives in unsafe jobs, and made homeless because they’re refused access to a safety net that protects us all. We will be holding Mr Johnson to the pledge he has made to help those who have been placed in this situation by government policy,” added Rahman.

Meanwhile, Stuart McDonald has stated that the SNP would work with the government to scrap the rule in its post-Brexit immigration bill.

Mr McDonald said: “It is absolutely jaw dropping that after umpteen years as Mayor of London, in Parliament, in cabinet and now as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson appears totally unaware of the plight of people who are prohibited from having recourse to public funds.”

“However, looking on the positive side, I’m pleased he seems as mystified as anyone as to why people should be prevented from getting the support they need. He has the perfect opportunity to fix things when the Immigration Bill comes back to Parliament in a couple of weeks, and we’ll be very happy to help him,” McDonald added.

Johnson has no idea what NRPF rule is

According to Nick Thomas-Symonds, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, the Prime Minister has no idea what the NRPF rule is, which he finds deeply concerning.

Thomas-Symonds said: “We’ve called for its suspension in this public health emergency and, with the Prime Minister promising to look at it, let’s hope that he can persuade the Home Secretary to think again.”

Mr Timms has since written to the Prime Minister following their exchange at the Commons Liaison Committee meeting as a follow up. An excerpt from the letter reads: “For two months, ministers have been promising to act, but we’ve seen no substantial change.”

“The Prime Minister was clearly surprised to hear that people in this situation can’t claim Universal Credit or other benefits – so I am hopeful that he will now put his foot on the accelerator and offer much needed support to people facing financial hardship,” the letter added.

Calls to scrap the NRPF rule have been backed by the Liberal Democrats, several Labour MPs and London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, each of whom have demanded that the policy be ended.

A recent statement from a government spokesperson said: “The government is committed to supporting people through this crisis and nobody should find themselves destitute, with £1.6 billion allocated to local authorities to help the most vulnerable.

“Many of the other wide-ranging coronavirus measures we have put in place are not considered public funds and therefore are available to migrants with no recourse to public funds.

“These range from protections for renters from evictions, a mortgage holiday for those who need it, support for the employed and the self-employed and for those on zero-hour contracts, and support for those who are vulnerable and need assistance with access to medication and shopping.

“These measures all apply to people with no recourse to public funds status.”

Latest coronavirus updates, visa and immigration restrictions

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, plus details of visa and immigration restrictions worldwide, check Workpermit.com’s news section to stay informed.

To apply for a UK visa extension amid the coronavirus pandemic, see this recent Workpermit.com news report.

Workpermit.com can help with Tier 2 Visa Sponsor Licence and Tier 2 Visa

If you need help with a Tier 2 visa, or a Tier 2 Sponsor Licence, including help with complying with your Tier 2 Sponsor Licence obligations, workpermit.com can help.

For more information and advice on Tier 2 Sponsor Licences, UK immigration law and UK visa applications please contact us on 0344 991 9222 or at london@workpermit.com

source

Chancellor extends Self-Employment Support Scheme and confirms furlough next steps

  • Rishi Sunak announces Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will be extended – with those eligible able to claim a second and final grant capped at £6,570
  • Chancellor also outlines further details on the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, including improved flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time in July, and a new taper requiring employers to contribute modestly to furloughed salaries from August
  • both schemes are UK wide

Those eligible under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), which has so far seen 2.3 million claims worth £6.8 billion will be able to claim a second and final grant in August. The grant will be worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

The Chancellor also set out more details on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will continue to support jobs and business as people return to work, following the announcement of an extension of the scheme on 12 May.

So far, the CJRS has helped 1 million employers across the UK furlough 8.4 million jobs, protecting people’s livelihoods.

From 1 July 2020, businesses will be given the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time. This is a month earlier than previously announced to help support people back to work. Individual firms will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return, so that they can decide on the best approach for them – and will be responsible for paying their wages while in work.

From August 2020, the level of government grant provided through the job retention scheme will be slowly tapered to reflect that people will be returning to work. That means that for June and July the government will continue to pay 80% of people’s salaries. In the following months, businesses will be asked to contribute a modest share, but crucially individuals will continue to receive that 80% of salary covering the time they are unable to work.

The scheme updates mean that the following will apply for the period people are furloughed:

  • June and July: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 as well as employer National Insurance (ER NICS) and pension contributions. Employers are not required to pay anything.
  • August: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions – for the average claim, this represents 5% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.
  • September: The government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. For the average claim, this represents 14% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.
  • October: The government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up 80% total up to a cap of £2,500. For the average claim, this represents 23% of the gross employment costs the employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said:

Our top priority has always been to support people, protect jobs and businesses through this crisis. The furlough and self-employment schemes have been a lifeline for millions of people and businesses.

We stood behind Britain’s businesses and workers as we came into this crisis and we stand behind them as we come through the other side.

Now, as we begin to re-open our country and kickstart our economy, these schemes will adjust to ensure those who are able to work can do so, while remaining amongst the most generous in the world.

Employers will be required to submit data on the usual hours an employee would be expected to work in a claim period and actual hours worked. Employees who believe they are not getting their 80% share can also report any concerns to the HMRC fraud hotline. HMRC will not hesitate to take action against those found to be abusing the scheme.

Further information

SEISS

  • Individuals can continue to apply for the first SEISS grant until 13 July. Under the first grant, eligible individuals can claim a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total. Those eligible have the money paid into their bank account within six working days of completing a claim.
  • Applications for the second grant will open in August. Individuals will be able to claim a second taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.
  • The eligibility criteria are the same for both grants, and individuals will need to confirm that their business has been adversely affected by coronavirus. An individual does not need to have claimed the first grant to receive the second grant: for example, they may only have been adversely affected by COVID-19 in this later phase. Further guidance on the second grant will be published on Friday 12 June.

CJRS:

  • Around 40% of employers have not made a claim for employer NICs costs or employer pension contributions and so will be unaffected by the change in August if their employee’s employment patterns do not change.
  • Many smaller employers have some or all of their employer NIC bills covered by the Employment Allowance so will not be significantly impacted.
  • Around 25% of CJRS monthly claims are below the thresholds where employer NICs and automatic enrolment pension contributions are due, and so no employer contribution would be expected for these payments to furloughed employees in August.
  • To enable the introduction of part time furloughing, and support those already furloughed back to work, claims from July onwards will be restricted to employers currently using the scheme and previously furloughed employees. The scheme will close to new entrants on 30 June, with the last three-week furloughs before that point commencing on 10 June.
  • From 1 July, employers will be able to agree any working arrangements with previously furloughed employees.
  • When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours; employers will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week, for grants to be calculated accurately across working patterns.
  • The updated SEISS and CJRS schemes will continue to operate UK-wide to the timings set out above.
  • If an average claim lasted 8 months, the total cost of employer contributions would represent around 5% of the gross employment costs an employer would have incurred had the employee not been furloughed.

Factsheet for SEISS and CJRS schemes (PDF126KB5 pages)

Stakeholder reaction

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said:

The government’s support throughout the lockdown so far has been a lifeline for businesses, employees and the self-employed. The changes announced will help ensure the schemes stay effective as we begin a cautious recovery.

Introducing part-time furloughing at the same time as more stores and factories start to open will help employees to return to work gradually and safely. Many more businesses will feel supported during this vital restart phase.

Firms understand the scheme must close to new entrants at some point and that those using it in future will need to make a contribution to help manage the costs. However, previously viable firms not able to open until later, particularly in leisure, hospitality and the creative industries, may need further assistance in the coming months.

Mike Cherry, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said:

The furlough and self-employed schemes have been a true lifeline for all those protected by them – continuation, certainty and increased flexibility will boost economic recovery and help us get through the turmoil created by the coronavirus.

Small firms have long been the backbone of the UK economy and these policies will help keep it that way. Keeping the self-employed and those who work in a small business attached to the labour market is crucial to prevent scarring of the economy – the package today gives certainty and support to millions.

We will continue to work with the Government to make sure small firms can come out the other side and get back to what they do best – creating jobs, fuelling growth and powering our communities forward.

Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said:

The Chancellor has listened to business communities and struck a careful balance that will help many firms bring furloughed staff back to work flexibly over the coming months.

The gradual reduction in furlough contributions from the Treasury will give businesses additional time to rebuild their income streams and cash flows, and the decision to give businesses maximum flexibility to bring people back part-time will be appreciated.

The extension of support for the self-employed will come as welcome relief for those who have seen their livelihoods impacted by the virus. It is right that this group continues to receive similar levels of support to those on PAYE.

Edwin Morgan, Director of Policy at the Institute of Directors (IOD) said:

The furlough scheme has played an immense role protecting jobs, and business leaders understand it couldn’t be sustained at the same level forever. This is a much more gradual tapering than many were expecting, reflecting the concerns the IoD has raised. The ability to bring people back part-time is crucial, and we’re delighted the Treasury has taken on board our members’ calls to bring this in as soon as possible.

Extending SEISS is also a welcome move, and reflects the immense challenges many self-employed people are facing.

Derek Cribb, CEO of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), said:

It will be an overwhelming relief to self-employed people who are eligible for SEISS that their support has been extended. It is very welcome that the Chancellor has once again heeded our calls and taken steps to get many of the self-employed, who are particularly struggling in the Coronavirus crisis, the income support they so badly need.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), said:

We strongly welcome the extension of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which means construction tradespeople will not face a cliff-edge in terms of support. This is essential for those who are not yet able to return to work. Furthermore, introducing flexibility into the Job Retention Scheme will give businesses the scope they need to scale-up activities at the right pace for their firm. Retaining the construction workforce is essential to ensure the industry stands ready to build back better as the country recovers from the impact of the coronavirus.

Stephen Phipson, CEO of Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation commented:

It is welcome news for manufacturers that monetary support to businesses through the Job Retention Scheme will remain unaltered for the next two months giving businesses much needed time to recover order books and start to get production levels back on track. Crucially the Chancellor has also delivered the flexibility which industry so desperately needs to bring its workforce back in a staggered way allowing for imaginative working patterns until business recovers.

Industry has always accepted that Government could not continue to pay indefinitely and understands that cost to the taxpayer had to be reduced. But this gradual increase in the amount companies contribute to their employee wage bill will buy companies vital time before they are asked to take on the full cost burden.

The Chancellor has today protected many more jobs and kept vital skills within the sector to help power the economic recovery which the country so needs as we come out of the COVID crisis and the extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will also help protect vital elements of the supply chains as we go forward.

Steve McNamara, General Secretary of Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) said:

The extension to the furlough scheme for the self employed is much needed and fantastic news for Cabbies across the Country. It highlights how the Chancellor is listening to, and helping those who need it, well done!