Families failing to meet basic costs of raising children due to benefit cuts

Families failing to meet basic costs of raising children due to benefit cuts and rising inflation, report reveals

A couple on the National Living Wage now earns 13 per cent less than the amount needed to provide essentials for their child, the report calculated

Local authorities are failing to find secondary school places for children with special needs Getty

Low-income parents are increasingly struggling to meet even the basic cost of raising children amid rising inflation, falling real wages and frozen benefits, according to new research.

In a damning report, the Child Poverty Action Group lays bare the realities of low-wage, austerity Britain in which families face a “yawning gap” between what they need and what they have.

The cost of supplying the essentials that are needed to raise a child to his or her 18th birthday, excluding housing costs, rose 4 per cent to £75,400 for a two-parent family in the year to April.

A couple on the National Living Wage now earns 13 per cent less than the amount needed to provide essentials, the report calculated. A lone parent on the maximum level of benefits now falls 31 per cent short of the cost of child-rearing, up from 22 per cent in 2012.

“For the first time in post-war history, these cost increases are not being matched by increases in support given to families from the state,” said report author Donald Hirsch, director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University.

He said the cuts are, “particularly painful for non-working families, who have little over half of what they need.”

The report measures the cost of raising a child as the difference between what parents would spend on their basic living costs with and without children, rather than the absolute cost of child-rearing.

‘I use food banks’ – workers on the impact of the pay squeeze 

On this measure, lone parents have been hit hardest by recent benefit cuts, the CPAG found, with the cost of raising a child soaring more than a fifth in just five years. Couples have seen costs jump by 8.7 per cent.

Child benefits and tax credits have not increased since 2015 and several elements have recently been axed. The result is that, as prices rise, state payments are increasingly inadequate to cover living costs, the CPAG said.

For those in work, the Government’s introduction of the National Living Wage has not allowed people to make ends meet. A 4 per cent increase in the statutory minimum pay level has been largely clawed back through reduced tax credits, which are means tested, the CPAG found. Inflation has eaten up the rest and more. The Office for National Statistics reported last week that price rises are again outsripping wages largely as a result of the weak pound which has made imports more expensive.

Even single parents on the UK’s median wage earn 14 per cent less than the minimum they need to bring up a child in what Britons consider an adequate standard of living. A couple on the average wage earns 8 per cent more than the amount they need to reach that standard, the research found.

In a society dripping with opulence, it’s disgusting people must go cap in hand to food banks

Both in-work and out-of-work families have been hit by a range of recent benefit changes, and the effects will become worse as cuts take full effect, CPAG warned.

It said the reduced cap on total benefits which took effect in 2016 has begun to have “significant effects” on the ability of families to make ends meet. The family element, which was paid to all families receiving tax credit and covered 7.3 million of the UK’s 12.9 million children has only just begun to hurt. As has the limit on child tax credit entitlements to two children, which is estimated to affect 3 million children.

The changes come after child poverty had already increased in both 2015 and 2016, with 20 per cent of children now living below the poverty line according to the latest figures from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The CPAG report calls into question Prime Minister Theresa May’s commitment to helping the “just about managing”. It also comes just a day after she faced a backlash from dozens of Tory MPs, including 20 former ministers, over the decision to drop a key general election proposal to cap energy bills for 17 million British people.

Katie Schmuecker, head of policy at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which commissioned the CPAG research, warned that “tough times are set to get even tougher”.

She called on the Government to use the next Budget to help struggling families.

“By ending the freeze on working age benefits and reversing the two child limit on Universal Credit, the Government can give low income families much-needed respite from the strain on their living standards,” she said.

80,000 people have been quietly hit because of Tory attacks on welfare

Chief executive of CPAG Alison Garnham said her organisation’s research shows the benefit freeze means children will be “the main losers with the return of inflation”.

There is now a “yawning gap between what ordinary families need for a no-frills living standard and what they actually have”, Ms Garnham said.

She added: “With the return of inflation the benefits freeze has become toxic for struggling families.”


“Far from a welfare state which protects the weakest in society, it is attacking them

Image result for food banks a conservative triumph

I had just bought my copy of the ‘I’ this morning and was glancing at the story below (it’s the basis of the Front Page) when I saw a group of Street People squatting on the Corner of Upper Brook Street and Tacket Street in Ipswich.

They did not over supplied with wealth….

View image on Twitter


I immediately thought of this article, written by somebody with the ideas not too far from  Patrick Minford, the man who says, “Our economy will gain billions after Brexit”.

Minford was a pioneer in the “rational expectations revolution’. Not being an economist I have little idea of the details, but his premise was the unfettered free market. “Work by Minford’s team at Liverpool was also influential on unemployment policy, especially labour market liberalisation, where the Liverpool Model was the first model to develop a ‘supply side’ designed to explain the underlying trend or ‘natural’ unemployment rate.”

More recently, apart from his his promise of a rosy future under Brexit, he has said this, “New living wage will penalise the poor with unemployment, economist warns” “Cardiff University economics professor Patrick Minford says the new rate of £7.20 an hour prices people out of jobs” (March 2016)

Why food banks are a conservative triumph

By   (‘Senior fellow’ at the Adam Smith Institute)

We’re told, endlessly that this food network exists because of austerity – that the need is something new. But this doesn’t pass the laugh test for anyone rich in maturity. The British state has always been lousy at paying benefits on time and in full – even before Mrs Thatcher, I recall people waiting weeks and weeks for unemployment benefits, which is why we would chip in to keep them fed.

So, in one sense, we should be celebrating the rise of the food bank network. Here we’ve a long running and pernicious problem to which a solution has been found. Government’s not very good at the £10-here-and-£20-there problems, and the very bureaucracy of government seems to be the cause of many of them. We’re solving one of these problems.

But this leads us to question why this is a conservative (but not Conservative) movement and system of organisation. The clue to that being Edmund Burke’s “little platoons”. There has been no governmental nor societal mobilisation of the populace to achieve this, Simply a realisation that a problem, previously seemingly intractable, can now be solved.

So, it is being solved entirely through the voluntary action of individuals and groups and purely from the goodness of their hearts. And, again, note, in reaction to the incompetence of government and the state.

The alleviation of poverty is a good idea, the alleviation of hunger a great one. That it’s being done through entirely voluntary interaction of a free people is indeed a conservative moment and victory.

For a different point of view we turn back to the ‘I’.

Here is more about this Tory Triumph:

Vulnerable people ‘being forced to use foodbanks because of benefits system problems’

Vulnerable people are being driven into destitution and reliance on foodbanks because of major flaws in the benefits system, a former welfare minister has claimed. Frank Field has called for a review of the operation of benefits, including the new universal credit (UC), to prevent claimants being unintentionally forced into poverty. His intervention follows warnings that foodbank use continues to climb, with large numbers of families with young children asking for emergency help.

The Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest foodbank network, handed out a record number of emergency food parcels in 2016-17. It said foodbank referrals in areas where UC had been fully rolled out were running at twice the national average. Mr Field, the chairman of the work and pensions select committee, said: “Far from a welfare state which protects the weaker underbelly in society, it is attacking them.”

In a letter to the new Work and Pensions Secretary, David Gauke, he listed a series of complaints about the benefits system. Advance loans Mr Field said UC claimants only receive their first payments after six weeks, relying on advance loans to tide them over. Others faced problems because they cannot produce adequate paperwork – such as proof of tenancy – to back up claims for the housing costs element of universal credit, he added.

The Labour MP warned of disabled people being forced to use foodbanks as their benefits have been “wrongly withdrawn or drastically reduced” when they moved on to the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) system. He backed an urgent review of the assessment system for evaluating PIP claims amid frequent complaints that it was too rigid to assess accurately claimants’ ability to work.

Mr Field said he had been told homeless people faced penury because they were unable to claim Jobseekers’ Allowance without a fixed address. Travel costs He added that he also had evidence from around the country that people who found jobs were relying on foodbanks in the gap between the final benefit payments and first pay cheque. He suggested they could be given special help with expenses such as travel costs over this period to make ends meet and stop them going hungry.

Mr Field told i: “For the first time ever, we have now got a welfare state which is causing destitution and nobody, but nobody, set out for the welfare state to do that. “A number of benefit changes have stopped people getting help they need. “Those benefits are meant to knit together and give us a safety net. What we now have is far from a safety net – the welfare state is by accident being reshaped into an agent that causes destitution.” Mr Field was particularly critical of the six week gap before the first universal credit payments are received – and said the cash often did not arrive that quickly. “If you are down on your luck and you aren’t going to get benefit for six weeks, and they make it three months – and you have got kids, it’s the summer, then there’s the school uniform and electricity bills to pay and you have got to get the rent – then the whole thing is intolerable.”


Disabled people take their fight against Tory cuts to the United Nations

Disabled people take complaints about UK Government’s disability rights record to the United Nations.

Deaf and Disability organisations from across the United Kingdom will today (21 August) highlight the Government’s ongoing human rights violations and evasive behaviour towards a major United Nations committee.

Deaf and Disabled people’s organisations (DDPOs) will tell the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Geneva that the Government has ignored many of the questions put to it earlier this year by the UN team.

The committee is assessing the UK’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, which the UK government ratified in 2009. It will consider the Government’s response to its questions and the DDPOs’ observations before quizzing representatives from the UK and devolved Governments in Geneva later this week (23 and 24 August).

Referring to the Government’s submission for the investigation, Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “Many of the Government’s answers have a tone of complacency at best and high-handed evasion at worst.

“The Government produced no evidence or detail to show how it is supporting people to lead independent lives; something it committed to when it ratified the convention in 2009.

“The Government document also makes grand claims about the impact of the Equality Act and the Care Act that simply don’t reflect the everyday experiences of disabled people in the UK.”

DPPOs will tell the committee that a range of Government policies – many arising from the austerity agenda – place it in breach of the convention. These shortcomings are aggravated, the campaigners say, by the failure of other public sector bodies such as local authorities and NHS organisations to deliver the support and safeguards set out in the convention.

Among the issues highlighted in the DDPOs’ submission are:

  • The poor supply of accessible housing
  • The impact of the Government’s welfare reforms
  • A rise in the number of Disabled children in segregated education
  • Cuts in health and social care services that support people to live independently
  • The growing use of compulsory detention and forced treatment powers contained in mental health legislation that are incompatible with the UN convention
  • Plans to cap funding for support that allows Disabled people to work – possibly forcing many to give up satisfying and worthwhile jobs
  • Concerns about the level of hate speech and hate crime
  • A tendency by public bodies to focus on processes rather than meaningful outcomes when fulfilling their legal duty to eliminate discrimination and promote equality.

The cumulative impact is that many Disabled people are unable to live the independent, fulfilling lives that the convention commits nations to delivering. Instead, they continue to face serious discrimination in accessing educational, employment and social opportunities.

Tracey Lazard, Chief Executive Officer of Inclusion London speaking on behalf of the Reclaiming Our Future Alliance, said: “There is clear and extensive evidence of retrogression of Disabled people’s rights in the UK since 2010.

 “To date responses from the Government have failed to acknowledge the existence, let alone the scale, of this problem – a problem that is having a dramatic adverse impact on the lives of millions of Disabled people and our families every day.

“We look forward to taking part in proceedings in Geneva to continue to ensure the disability committee has accurate information about the situation in the UK and in hearing how the government responds to their questions.”

Tony O’Reilly of the North West Forum of People with Disabilities, an organisation in Northern Ireland, said: “The Government needs to do much more to ensure that Disabled people are properly and effectively engaged with in the decision-making processes that impact on their lives.”

Rhian Davies, Chief Executive of Disability Wales said: “Disabled people in Wales are angry at the continued dismissal of their rights by the UK Government. There is only so much that the Welsh Government can do to mitigate the impact of austerity policies.

“With the highest proportion of Disabled people in the UK, the cumulative impact of benefits and service cuts is devastating lives in Wales.”

Sally Witcher, Chief Executive Officer at Inclusion Scotland said: “We remain deeply concerned about the erosion of Scottish Disabled people’s human rights caused by the UK Government-led cuts to benefits and services. We are pleased to join our colleagues from across the UK to challenge this.

“The Scottish Government’s approach is more positive, with commitments to new devolved disability benefits founded on dignity and respect, and to reducing the employment gap, as well as support for Disabled people’s participation in politics and policymaking.

“However, we now need to see more action to realise Disabled people’s human rights – particularly in relation to the real failings of our social care support system.”

Steven Robertson, Chair of the Law and Human Rights Group within People First Scotland, added: “We are again excited to be part of the delegation of Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations attending the United Nations Committee session.

“People First (Scotland) have been campaigning for the replacement of substitute decision-making regimes, such as Guardianship, with a system of supported decision-making for people with learning disabilities. Only then will Government be in compliance with Article 12 of the convention.”

“DPPOs will also point to the Government’s failure to act on the recommendations of a separate inquiry report the committee published last December. In that special inquiry, which was triggered by the DPPOs, the committee concluded that the UK Government’s welfare reforms were violating rights set out in the convention.

The DDPOs’ submission was co-produced by Disability Rights UK, Reclaiming our Futures Alliance, Inclusion Scotland, People First Scotland, Disability Wales, Disability Action Northern Ireland, British Deaf Association and Black Triangle.


Universal Credit and applying for benefits destroyed my life and led to poverty, homelessness and abuse


Universal Credit is advertised as ‘welfare that works’ or ‘making work pay’.

Those slogans couldn’t be any further from the truth.

When I read them for the first time, I laughed.

What else can you do? It’s laugh or cry, and trust me, Universal Credit makes you want to do more than cry. It makes you want to give up completely.

Teenager killed himself ‘after being belittled by JobCentre staff’ 

More than that, it forces you out of a life. It pushes the vulnerable into crisis.

I say this, because it’s what I experienced.

I applied for Universal Credit when I was unemployed last year, and ended up being pushed into homelessness, poverty and abuse.

It’s common for people to think that those who apply for welfare are lazy.

In fact, Victoria Derbyshire recently posted a clip of Jack Monroe, an author and activist, speaking with Toff from Made in Chelsea.

Toff said: ‘You see people that are sat there, that are clever, can go and work, and choose not to. They choose to go and sign on.’

Vulnerable people ‘being forced to use foodbanks because of benefits system problems’

If that was really the case, I’d understand people’s anger.

Of course, it doesn’t help that shows like Jeremy Kyle depict individuals who perpetuate the stereotype of welfare seekers, that they’re sat around all day, not wanting to work, claiming money from the hard-working taxpayer.

I wish that was true, because it would make the system simpler, and Universal Credit would make sense.

People who can work, but don’t want to, should be given a financial incentive to work, get into employment, and voila, problem solved.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen the reality with my own eyes, and can confirm that it simply isn’t the case.

Powerful photo series captures unemployed youths of Thatcher’s Britain

I’ve worked since the age of 16, taught myself my A-levels while working part time with my own flat and worked part time jobs throughout my time at university.

After graduating, I became university staff but the funding ran out after six months.

So I applied for new jobs, and received an offer to work at a national publication in London.

I moved across the country to the capital, but the job fell through due to changing business needs.

You’d think it shouldn’t take too long for an experienced young person to find another job pretty quickly, right?

I was in the capital, and had years of retail and hospitality work under my belt, alongside a degree, journalism and graduate experience.

I didn’t want to apply for Universal Credit right away – I didn’t want to take the money when I still had a bank loan to live off.

I applied for 20 jobs a day to start with. Half of them graduate roles, half of them retail and hospitality roles.

I got interviews each week, attended, did my best, but got knocked back because somebody else had more direct or recent experience.

When I looked at the ratio of applications to roles, I saw that, on average, 60-100 people were applying for every job I was.

Before too long, I realised I would have to apply for Universal Credit.

So I filled in the online application form and waited.

Mother-of-nine took her life after having benefits cut

Five days later, I got a call saying that my application had been automatically closed.

Despite giving my current address on my application, the system had a different address on file, so I didn’t read as eligible for Universal Credit.

I was told I’d need to travel to my local Jobcentre Plus, fill in a change of address form, wait for the system to process it, call up again, make a new claim, then await a callback with an appointment.

I asked the woman on the line if she was joking. She wasn’t.

So I turned up to the Jobcentre Plus, spent 20 minutes filling out a form, then got told not to fill in any applications. I was meant to apply for Universal Credit online.

Yeah, tried that. Didn’t work, did it?

After explaining my situation repeatedly over the course of two hours, watching three staff stand and scratch their heads over what a change of address form was and where it could be, I was eventually sent away and told it would be sorted.

Four working days later, I’d heard nothing, so I called back.

I’d been applying to 20 jobs a day, attending three to five interviews a week on average, and my money was running out.

I was told that I couldn’t be found on the system, and I had to reapply over the phone.

Woman with mental health issues asked ‘why haven’t you killed yourself’ in benefits assessment

The adviser on the line asked me questions I didn’t know the answer to – such as the full names and dates of birth of all the tenants in my house.

‘I’ve only been living here for a few weeks, I don’t know that information,’ I told him.

‘Well, if you can’t tell me anything, I can’t progress your application, and this whole call is useless,’ he told me irritably.

There was no need for him to be irritable – I was the one paying premium rates for the privilege of listening to his anger.

Eventually, I was told my application was being processed, and I got a call with an appointment a week later.

When I went in, I was told I’d need to wait six weeks until my first payment.

So I was forced to take out another bank loan so that I could afford to eat and keep a roof over my head.

By this point, my credit score was so low, I couldn’t apply for any other loans.

To this day, my credit score stops me from doing a lot of things.

I can’t even apply for rentals that run credit checks and there’s already a housing crisis in London, so my options are severely limited.

On file, I look like somebody who is irresponsible with their money and runs up big bills buying luxury goods.

In reality, I was forced to live off credit to survive.

Theresa May confronted by angry voter who had her disability benefits cut

I was still expected to travel to my Jobcentre on the train every week, attend interviews and pay for my living costs, despite rapidly depleting funds.

I did so, expecting that my efforts at job hunting each week would be recognised by my work coach.

Two weeks in, he asked me why I was applying for graduate jobs.

‘You need to set the bar lower,’ he told me, handing me an application to be a night cleaner in a supermarket.

I felt like he was telling me to give up on my dreams.

When I told him I was getting interviews, but being told that other candidates had more experience, he told me I wasn’t working hard enough.

I struggled not to cry. I was working so hard and being punished for no reason.

I was applying for 30 jobs a day by this point – spending eight hours a day filling in online forms, emailing CVs to companies, tweaking cover letters, updating my LinkedIn profile with as much experience as I could.

When my money finally came through, it was only a fraction of what I’d been told I would get.

I asked what was going on in my next appointment and my work coach shrugged.

‘Dial the call centre,’ he told me, pointing to a phone.

Being unemployed even for a few weeks can change your personality… for the worse

The woman on the line told me that my eligibility for housing allowance had been deducted by the assessment team, as I wasn’t eligible under the criteria.

‘What criteria?’ I asked.

‘You don’t meet the shared housing criteria that makes you eligible for the housing element of Universal Credit as you’re under 35 years of age,’ I was told.

‘What am I supposed to do for rent? Why wasn’t I told this sooner?’ I asked.

‘You can apply to your local housing authority,’ she told me.

‘They’ll take weeks to make a decision, and even then the funds aren’t guaranteed,’ I said, panicking.

‘You’re making me choose between having a roof over my head and food. What am I meant to do?’

‘I know it’s hard, trust me I know,’ she told me.

‘I don’t think you do know,’ I told her, anger mounting.

‘Thanks for nothing.’ I hung up, and started to leave.

‘Get back here!’ my work coach yelled from across the room.

I froze, and turned around.

Everyone was staring at me. I was forced to walk across the room, bright red with embarrassment, while everyone watched.

‘Have you stopped complaining now?’ he asked me.

Universal Credit and applying for benefits destroyed my life
(Picture: Getty)

‘I am incredibly angry right now, and our appointment is over,’ I said, struggling to keep the rage out of my words.

‘I would suggest I am given some time to process the latest decision that’s been made about me.’

For once, he didn’t say anything – just shooed me away with a flick of his hand.

I knew I had to spend the meagre funds I’d been provided with on transport to interviews, so my rent went unpaid and I was evicted.

I put all of my belongings in storage, and moved in with a friend I’d met a few weeks previously.

This unemployed man is not giving up until he finds a job

I barely knew him, but it was sleeping on the floor of his bedsit or sleeping on the streets.

His room was filthy. A blackened mattress lay on the floor, next to a sink covered in dust. Spiders nestled in the corner of the ceiling.

I spent the next two months being routinely guilt-tripped into sex, with the unspoken agreement that, because he had housed me, I was to give him my body in return.

I applied for 40 jobs a day.

Universal Credit and applying for benefits destroyed my life
(Picture: Getty)

I’d wake up, sit on the mattress, and spend all of my time filling out application forms, attending interviews across the city, and receiving rejection emails.

Then I’d be abused, go to sleep, wake up and do it all over again.

I attended the Jobcentre, and they repeatedly told me I’d been on benefits for a long time.

They told me I should be trying harder.

Unemployed graduate spends ‘last £500’ on billboard begging for job

If I stayed on Universal Credit for much longer, they’d need to refer me to a specialist clinic to get me back into work.

I gave up on fighting. It was clear they wouldn’t listen to my efforts. I was just somebody taking up their time, being lazy, not wanting to work, sponging off the government.

Sleeping on the floor of a strangers’ bedsit, going hungry for days at a time, getting repeatedly rejected for jobs in every sector from marketing to hospitality, was not good enough for them.

Universal Credit and applying for benefits destroyed my life
(Picture: Getty)

My spirit was being ground down every day by people who did not care how I felt, or have any desire for me to be happy.

Then I received another cut.

I saw that, if I’d still had my own place, I would have had enough to cover the rent – then have 75p remaining for the month.

Eventually, one of my friends worked out what was going on and told me to seek refuge.

‘This is horrific, you need to get out,’ he told me.

By this point, I felt dead inside. I’d had everything taken from me. My money, the roof over my head, my self esteem, my body. Everything.

Man who applied for 400 jobs finally gets interviews after hiding his disability

Universal Credit had pushed me into homelessness, poverty and abuse, and the trauma is something that remains with me to this day.

When I found refuge, I was picked up by an officer who drove me to a nondescript house, in the outer suburbs of London. She offered me a cup of coffee.

I looked at her, bewildered. Why did I deserve a hot drink? What was the catch? What did I have to give in return?

She showed me into a room, and told me it was mine. I was given a care package, and a bag of food.

The door closed, and I sunk to the floor. I didn’t even know how to cry. I was numb.

A Beautifully Honest Portrayal of Post Natal Depression (Farah Hughes)
(Picture: Farah Hughes)

Why was I being given an entire room to myself? Why did I deserve this luxury?

Food? For free? Surely it was going to be taken off me. This had to be a cruel joke. That’s all my life had been for the last six months.

That’s what Universal Credit did to me: it destroyed my self esteem and made me think I was worthless. What’s more, that I didn’t deserve to be given food and a roof over my head.

‘I didn’t do anything wrong,’ I told a therapist three months later.

‘I just tried to make a future for myself, like everyone else in this world. I worked hard. I did everything asked of me, and more. I don’t understand why it got forcibly taken from me.’

Yes, I’m in therapy – after the experiences that resulted from claiming Universal Credit, the abuse I went through, and the symptoms of PTSD I’ve started having.

‘I never asked for help’: We chat PTSD, anxiety, and life in a mental health unit on our new podcast, Mentally Yours

Obviously I have to pay for it myself each week – getting access to healthcare is a luxury many of us cannot get on the NHS.

Fortunately, I have a therapist who was so horrified by what I went through that the rate for each session is severely discounted.

I became so desensitised to the sexual violence that I would talk about it in a matter-of-fact monotone, face expressionless, sometimes laughing slightly to deal with talking about how disgusting the events were, the shocking nature of the things I was talking about so calmly.

In fact, I didn’t cry at anything I discussed over the following four months, and I’ve been abused over 30 times.

The other day, I went to therapy, and discussed the details of what Universal Credit had done.

‘I applied for 40 jobs a day, and they told me I wasn’t working hard enough. They cut my money, and I was evicted, I was homeless, and I got abused. They gave me 75p a day.’

Universal Credit and applying for benefits destroyed my life
(Picture: PA)

My voice cracked on the last word, and I started crying.

Abusive people, at least in my experience, don’t pretend to be good.

You know what you’re getting with them. That doesn’t make the experiences easier to deal with, but it’s clear cut.

What made me cry is the fact Universal Credit has people believing those on benefits are lazy. Then they make you think you’re worth nothing.

They trot out slogans which, combined with television depictions of those receiving welfare, have people believing that they could walk into a job, should they want to – but they can’t be bothered.

I used to think that, after university, I’d graduate and all the experience I’d gained would guarantee me a job fairly quickly.

What I learned is that, the minute you slip through the net, you get pushed to the floor, then repeatedly kicked, over and over.

Some people give up. I know people who have committed suicide over benefit cuts. 

Universal Credit calls itself a service that makes work pay, when really, all that happens is the most vulnerable people end up paying with their happiness, their security or even their lives.

MORE: America to start drug-testing unemployed people before paying benefits



Rent Arrears Swell with Universal Credit.

Image result for universal credit rent arrears

Universal Credit: More and More Demands…

One of the ideas behind government welfare ‘reforms’ is to make people more “responsible”.

We now have to pay a percentage of our Council Tax, because that makes us “responsible”, or to put it more simply, it is thought to make us consider how Councils allocate money. In this case a right-wing idea, that poor people voting over public spending is a bad idea because we will use our power to tax our betters, is behind this. As ‘taxpayers’ ourselves we will think twice about forking out for the elderly, and public services more widely and, they hope, vote Tory to keep Council Budgets in order. Bad councils, that is Labour ones, will suffer electoral reverses if they do not follow the penny pinching and contracting out ways of the Conservative crooks who still run many councils.

The fact that this scheme costs money to collect, that poor people fall into arrears, and that not a single penny has gone to compensate benefit claimants for what is in reality a hefty cut in our income, is ignored.

Universal Credit operates with another kind of enforced “responsibility”.

People pay their rent themselves, rather than having it deducted and sent to the properties’ owners.

Common sense would have told the designers of this system that far from ‘teaching people how to budget’ it would be the occasion for many to fall into arrears.

And so it has come to pass…..

Almost 90 per cent of tenants in receipt of Universal Credit are in rent arrears Daily Record.

South Lanarkshire Council confirmed this week that 633, 87 per cent, of UC tenants owe £525,000.

Almost 90 per cent of council tenants in receipt of the controversial Universal Credit (UC) benefit are in rent arrears totalling £525,000.

South Lanarkshire Council confirmed this week that 633, 87 per cent, of UC tenants are struggling to pay for housing.

The local authority said it was doing everything possible to assist people to repay the debt and avoid losing their home, as Gerard Killen MP called on the government to halt the full roll out of the benefit.

Currently offered to a limited number of people, UC replaces six of the main means tested benefits including housing benefit and sees claimants receive all of their benefits in one single payment monthly in arrears.

It means tenants are, for the first time, responsible for paying their rent as opposed to their housing benefit being paid direct to their landlord.

The Residential Landlords Association quickly got a whiff of this and has set the following up,

In July Councils were already flagging up their concern.

Councils losing £6.7m in Universal Credit arrears

The saga of Universal credit looks far from over.

Ipswich Unemployed Action

More than 5,000 sick and disabled benefit claimants have been sanctioned for 6 MONTHS

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed the extent of punishments used against people on Employment and Support Allowance

More than 5,000 sick and disabled people have had their benefits sanctioned for at least 6 months, new figures show.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed the extent of punishments used against people on disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance.

ESA is slowly replacing the ageing Incapacity Benefit and is now paid to 2.4million people.

Between December 2012 and December 2016, 71,543 ESA claimants have been sanctioned – which normally involves stopping their benefits.

Just over half of those claimants (40,288) had their benefits sanctioned for less than four weeks and the average length of a sanction was 28 days.

But 5,739 suffered a sanction for 27 weeks or more.

More than 70,000 people on ESA have been sanctioned since 2012

Another 6,579 claimants were sanctioned for between 14 and 26 weeks, statistics published yesterday show.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said: “It is abhorrent to see the Tories sanction thousands of sick and disabled people for up to six months, depriving them of much needed financial support and causing them further stress.

“The figures confirm that disabled people are not receiving the proper support from Jobcentres to navigate the complex social security system.”

Sanctions are only made against ESA claimants deemed fit for “work-related activity”, not those in the more serious support group, a DWP official said.

ESA sanctions are made for a fixed period of one, two or four weeks.

But they are open-ended and carry on indefinitely if people are still unable or refuse to take part in ‘work-related activity’.

The DWP, run by Tory minister David Gauke, insists sanctions are not widespread (Image: Getty Images Europe)

DWP officials insist this means no one will be sanctioned for six months if they play by the rules.

But campaigners argue assessments that deem people fit for work-related activity in the first place are flawed.

The vast majority of ESA sanctions – more than 90% since December 2015 – have been a punishment for people refusing to take part in that activity.

Meanwhile the rate paid to the work-related activity group has axed and made the same as Jobseekers’ Allowance – a cut of £30 a week.

Yesterday’s figures showed the number of people on Jobseekers’ Allowance or ESA being sanctioned is falling.

But Labour’s Debbie Abrahams said Jobcentres are not providing enough support (Image: Daily Mirror)

However the number of sanctions for people on Universal Credit, the all-in-one system that’s slowly being claimed by more and more people as it replaces the old benefits – hit an all-time monthly high of 9,119 in December 2016.

More than 100,000 Universal Credit claimants have now been sanctioned since August 2015, 2,313 of them for six months or more.

A DWP spokesman said: “Only a very small proportion of people on ESA are sanctioned every month – just 0.6%.

“ESA sanctions are designed to encourage people to fulfil their requirements, so they remain in place until someone re-engages with their work coach or employment support.

“It’s only fair to ask claimants to do their part and there is a well-established system of payments available for people who need support to meet their immediate and most essential needs.”

‘High use’ of food banks after benefits sanctions


Crunch time for Universal Credit!

The pace of the roll-out of ‘full’ Universal Credit is set to ramp up in a few months’ time.


Jo King shakes her head in desperation as Vivaldi’s The Four Seasonscroaks from her phone speaker. She has heard it countless times since she first called the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Universal Credit (UC) helpline.

“I’ve rung up four times already,” she explains over the garbled concerto. “If my Universal Credit is not there by the close of play, then my direct debits will bounce.”

Ms King, who was born blind and struggles with an array of physical and mental health problems, was told it would be in her account by 2pm. It’s now 3pm and there is no sign of the money. She could be fined £48 by her bank, which is a frightening sum for someone who needs every penny to pay for her care, bills and food.

“I won’t have much left out of my benefit if I’m charged for the direct debits,” she says when Inside Housing meets her at her homely council flat on the Newbiggin Hall Estate in Newcastle. “I will have to try to put something off until next month. Or it will be less food, probably.”

Universal Credit-Waiting Days Exceptions

Eventually, she is passed to a manager from the DWP’s Grimsby call centre, who promises she will get her money. But Ms King, 43, has every reason to doubt his word. The month we meet, the DWP has already failed to pay her rent directly to Your Homes Newcastle, Newcastle City Council’s 28,000-home ALMO.

Usually under UC, the money goes to the tenant, but tenants are able to make special arrangements to have their rent paid directly to their landlords. “I’ve not had one payment on time, or paid or worked out correctly,” she says, fiddling with her dark hair anxiously.

Ms King started receiving UC –which combines six benefits, including housing benefit, into a single payment – last year. Previously it only applied to single, unemployed adults. The so-called ‘full’ version is now being rolled out to families with children and disabled people.

Since then, Ms King has frequently fallen behind with her rent. “I would get calls from my rent officer all the time saying ‘have you been paid the rent, because we haven’t been paid the rent?’” she says.

She has twice been left without any UC. Instead she relied on emergency food parcels and her disability benefit, which is supposed to pay for her care. “The food bank dropped stuff off for me. And they made me smile because they gave me a bunch of flowers,” she says, still grateful for such a small act of kindness.

Rising pressures

Ms King’s plight is not unusual. Across Newcastle – the government’s official test bed for UC – 86% of the 2,271 council tenants currently claiming UC are in rent arrears, owing a total of £2.5m. Before UC was rolled out, only 53% were in arrears.

Yet in October, the roll-out of full UC is set to increase from five to 50 areas a month. By 2022, more than seven million households are expected to be in receipt of UC. This will include half of all families with children and nearly 60% of households where an adult is disabled or has a long-term health condition.

Nick Forbes, leader of Labour-run Newcastle City Council, warns UC is pushing people into debt and destitution. “We are having to pick up the pieces of a badly designed and badly thought through system, which is leaving people, who are often vulnerable, in serious financially difficulties,” he says. “And that is not acceptable.”

“We are having to pick up the pieces of a badly designed and badly thought through system.”

Rather than evicting tenants waiting for payment, the council is offering advice and support, and, occasionally, emergency payments and food. “Staff in our customer service centre have tins of food in cupboards because people are presenting having not eaten for three days,” says Mr Forbes.

But the council cannot stop private landlords taking matters into their own hands. “We know a number of people are starting to run up significant arrears in the private rented sector,” he says. “And that increases their risk of homelessness through eviction.”

Nor can it keep bailing tenants out for ever. Newcastle has had to cut £221m over the past six years and needs to find another £70m worth of savings by 2020. “Over the next two years we won’t be able to provide the same level of support,” says Mr Forbes.

Rent arrears pose other problems for the council: less money for housing maintenance and new homes. “It is yet another pressure on the Housing Revenue Account at a time when there is a huge drive to build new housing,” remarks Mr Forbes.

The experience of other areas with full UC is equally troubling. A survey of councils and ALMOs by the National Federation of ALMOs (NFA) and the Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH) found in July that 73% of tenants were in arrears, owing an average of £772.21, up from £611.73 a year earlier. This is far higher than the 31% of tenants in arrears under the housing benefit system.

A separate Citizens Advice survey in July found that 57% of UC claimants seeking its advice had been forced to borrow money while waiting for their first payment, which takes at least six weeks. It also showed that 39% were waiting longer, and 11% were waiting more than 10 weeks.

Evidence of hardship caused by these delays is easy to find. A report for The Trussell Trust, which runs food banks across the UK, found in April that food banks in areas with full UC roll-out had seen a 17% average increase in referrals, more than double the national average increase of 7%.

In the West End of Newcastle, there are already people queuing outside The Trussell Trust food bank at the Church of the Venerable Bede when Inside Housing visits at 9.30am, 30 minutes ahead of its opening. There is a young man in sportswear, an older woman and a young couple holding empty shopping bags. They look sheepish and apprehensive in the morning drizzle – nothing like the Benefits Street stereotypes.

Inside, washed-out light comes through a broken window. The hall was broken into the week before but staff managed to open the food bank, which featured in Ken Loach’s acclaimed film I, Daniel Blake.