She said “Brexit means Brexit” and “no deal is better than a bad deal” – but now those words are coming back to haunt her.
After two years of near-stasis, the last fortnight must be considered the most important period of the Brexit process since the referendum itself and last year’s shock general election result.
It feels, at last, like the contours of the Brexit process, its endgame, have been revealed for what they really are. And for the first time, after last week’s parliamentary contortions, both sides now believe that no deal is a real possibility. In the past, Theresa May often said that no deal was better than a bad deal, but she didn’t mean it. It was a negotiating ploy.
But not for the first time, idle words and brinkmanship with Brussels have come back to haunt a Tory prime minister. Theresa May has spent two years as prime minister as David Cameron spent six – trying, often in vain, to keep the Tory party together over Europe. Her strategy is much the same as Cameron’s: to appease the carnivorous Brexiteer right by throwing them fresh, Eurosceptic red meat at regular intervals.
So Cameron vetoed the EU budget in 2011, he tried to veto Jean-Claude Juncker as commission president, he pulled the Conservatives out of the pro-EU European People’s Party Group in the European Parliament and so on and so forth.
Again and again he chose not to confront them, for fear his position was too weak, until the very end, when the referendum came and by then it was too late.
In delaying the battle, he made the war worse.
Every time he went on TV to disparage Europe, every time he vetoed something, or lambasted this EU initiative or that, he bought himself a few positive headlines, a few glowing Brexiteer smiles, but their appetite was undiminished, they would come back for more, smile gone, hungrier than ever.
Moreover, this wasn’t an internal conversation – the public was listening too.
To the very end he kept his options open, ducking and diving – even suggesting in the weeks leading up to the announcement of the referendum, that if his negotiations with Europe were unsuccessful he might lead the Leave campaign.
This was absurd – but it was only the last example of his storing up credibility problems.
‘No deal’ Brexit would see UK ‘state of emergency’
The dire prediction comes as the newly appointed Brexit secretary did not dismiss reports of official contingency planning
During the referendum, when Cameron claimed that disaster would come if we voted to leave, the voters were rightly puzzled: if so, they said, why are you even asking us in the first place?
Why risk a referendum? And why did you say you might lead the Leave side only a few months ago?
And while we’re at it, if Europe is so great, why have you been eviscerating it for the last 10 years while you’ve been Tory leader?
Cameron’s political dexterity and agility, for so long an asset, had become a profound liability. And history has repeated itself. Theresa May, so determined for so long to keep her party together, has waited for too long to reveal her hand.
In the meantime, others have filled the vacuum with their own hopes and dreams – her Brexiteers believing she was now one of them and when her proposals for a deal came, they would not disappoint.
How aghast they were. As Arthur Miller said: “Betrayal is the only truth which sticks.” Justified or not, betrayal is the word on the Brexiteers’ lips – in parliament and country alike. Perhaps this was inevitable but Mrs May made it worse.
In saying “no deal is better than a bad deal” she helped convince the public that no deal wouldn’t be so bad. She said it again and again and again and so she ought not to be surprised to learn that the voters believed her.
In saying “Brexit means Brexit” she helped set impossibly high standards for what Brexit might mean. She could never meet them.
No surprise then, that only 11% of the public back Chequers and 38% think we must come out with no deal at all. Like Cameron, she finds her own words and actions haunting her.In both cases, the political breathing space they bought in the short-term suffocates them in the end.
Over the summer, she must do her best to sell her proposals which in fact fall a long way from the soft Brexit many Remainers would like. But as Cameron found, selling his “renegotiation”, the stories prime ministers tell about themselves and their motives, built over years, are hard to escape. Nick Clegg said that his former coalition ally Mr Cameron was “all tactics, no strategy” when it came to Europe.
Theresa May runs the risk of historians saying much the same about her.
Although the post of development secretary is one of the easiest in the Cabinet, involving posing as a saviour of distressed people while budgets surge, it is a job wanted by few ministers with an eye on the top job. Most Tories loathe the foolish concept of fixing a target for spending as poverty declines worldwide and know much of the money is wasted. But Penny Mordaunt, who took over the post last November from a predecessor that once sought the department’s abolition, does at least actually believe in the cause.
This week Mordaunt makes her first real mark on the job by hosting what is grandly called the Global Disability Summit in London. The idea, which no doubt emerged from her previous post as disabilities minister, aims to share and showcase ways to assist people who are among the most excluded in societies around the world.
‘Only last year the United Nations condemned Britain’s failure to uphold disabled people’s rights’
If billions are being blown on aid, few voters would quibble with diverting a few crumbs to people with disabilities instead of the usual bunch of self-serving charities, dodgy despots and fat-cat consultants. And unlike many leading Brexiteers, she is at least a competent minister.
Lots of talk, little action
The aid world, of course, loves a good conference. Some leading lights seem to do little more than fly around the world bragging about alleged good works. This is a sector that places emphasis on talking to itself over hard evidence. True to form, Mordaunt has been pointing out that “in the developing world if you live in poverty, you are more likely to have a disability, and if you have a disability, you are more likely to live in poverty”. She says disabled people in poor places are unable to fulfil their potential due to stigma and lack of support, and is seeking to break this “vicious cycle” along with barriers that exclude them.
This is all correct and unarguable. Yet look at the evidence closer to home and it smacks of sickening hypocrisy to see Britain, and this government in particular, position itself as global champions of people with disabilities (and indeed to see Microsoft, a firm notorious for tax evasion that reduces state spending, hailed as a partner in the event).
The reality is that from birth to death, life remains a struggle for most Britons with disabilities – and since taking office in coalition government, the Tories have mostly made matters worse.
‘Culture of indifference’
Only last year the United Nations condemned Britain’s failure to uphold disabled people’s rights across a range of areas including education, health, housing, jobs, transport and social security. The Government’s risible response was to say Britain was “a recognised world leader in disability rights and equality”. Yet its true attitude was seen last week when a cross-party group of MPs criticised the Department for Work and Pensions for a “culture of indifference” after taking six years to correct a mistake that left 70,000 chronically ill and disabled claimants thousands of pounds out of pocket. This was the latest in a string of errors – yet the bungling bureaucrats keep on getting bonuses.
Perhaps the Government should hold a similar conference on links between poverty and disability in Britain? After all, its own equalities watchdog warned those with disabilities are left behind with “very poor” life chances in a report echoing the UN. “Progress has either stalled, or in some cases gone backwards”, said David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Studies have found two-thirds of disabled people living alone are in penury and almost half the people in poverty are either disabled or in a household with someone disabled. And they are more than twice as likely to be in food poverty.
Such a conference could study the bedroom tax, since two-thirds of families hit by this dismal policy include a disabled adult, yet even a Supreme Court ruling of discrimination failed to force decent reform. Another session could be on the corrosive impact of overloading austerity on local government, shattering social care and support services. There could be discussions of why families including a person with disabilities are being hit hardest by fiscal reforms and why more than one million carers live in poverty. Maybe another on how Brexit is hurting those hiring care workers. For balance, a minister could point to a rise in employment levels – although people with disabilities are still far less likely to be in work and far more likely to be low paid, even with good qualifications.
‘Bigotry and paternalistic attitudes towards people with disabilities remain pervasive’
There could also be proceedings on people with learning disabilities, since they suffer the worst impact of rising hate crime – all too often to deadly effect. Most say they endure routine harassment, which wounds their confidence and stalls attempts to integrate – and sometimes in places supposed to offer sanctuary. They are rarely employed and regularly dumped in the worst parts of town amid diminishing state facilities. We saw how little they are valued with release of a report earlier this year exposing how dozens die needless deaths each year due to prejudice and indifference in “caring” professions. Ministers were shamefully silent in response.
This reflects wider attitudes. Surveys by Scope and others underline a sad reality: that bigotry and paternalistic attitudes towards people with disabilities remain pervasive. The results can be fatal at worst. Often they lead to loneliness and social ostracisation.
For millions of our fellow citizens the most basic aspects of everyday life from education to entertainment, from housing to healthcare, from transport to work, are a struggle. Instead of pontificating to the planet as self-proclaimed global leader on disability, ministers should rectify their mistakes and work harder to bring all Britons with disabilities in from the cold.
Government received repeated warnings over several years but failed to take action
Repeated warnings about the developing Windrush scandal were made over the course of several years to both the Foreign Office and the Home Office but no action was taken, the Guardian has learned, revealing in new detail the government’s persistent failure to respond to the problem.
The issue of older Caribbean-born residents being wrongly classified as illegal immigrants was raised formally in 2016 by Caribbean foreign ministers with the then foreign secretary Philip Hammond during the biannual UK-Caribbean forum held that year in Freeport, the Bahamas. The high commissioner to one affected Caribbean country said officials alerted the Foreign Office to the problem at least half a dozen times from as early as 2013 onwards, to no avail.
Meanwhile the government has admitted in a response to a parliamentary question that it took no action in response to a detailed 2014 warning, in a research paper about the looming problem.
Eight months after the Guardian first reported that the Home Office had wrongly detained Paulette Wilson, a 61-year-old grandmother who had lived in the UK for 50 years, and two-and-a-half months after the resignation of the former home secretary Amber Rudd, many Windrush victims remain near destitute, waiting for compensation, their anger towards the government unabated. Many who were deported or refused re-entry into the UK remain stranded in the Caribbean, still waiting to hear from officials about whether they will be given a chance to come back.
The prime minister has apologised repeatedly for the fallout from policies she introduced as home secretary. Three separate internal reviews have been commissioned into Windrush-related errors, a Windrush taskforce has been set up to fast-track applications for documents for those affected and a compensation scheme is being established.
Elements of the controversial hostile immigration environment have been suspended until better safeguards are put in place, and the entire policy has been rebranded as “compliant” rather than hostile.
But the anger remains and there is growing impatience among victims that they are still waiting for financial assistance. “I still feel like I am being violated,” said Hubert Howard, 61, who arrived in the UK from Jamaica when he was three and has never lived anywhere else. He was told he was an illegal immigrant and sacked from his job in 2012; he was also told he was not eligible for benefits, and consequently went around £20,000 into debt, and as a result has been blacklisted by credit agencies and is unable to open a bank account.
A few victims are understood to have been paid some compensation by the Home Office, but asked to sign non-disclosure agreements, to the concern of others who are still waiting for assistance.
Judy Griffiths, 63, who arrived in Britain from Barbados at the age of nine, and who was told she was an illegal immigrant in 2015, and prevented from working, would like the government to get in touch urgently with her local authority, Islington in north London, and request that they cancel over £7,000 of rent arrears she accrued during the period she was prevented from working.
“I’m trying to get over the anger. It’s not healthy to be angry all the time,” she began, but was unable to control her frustration as she recounted the frequent calls she is still getting from rent recovery officers, warning that she faces eviction unless she finds the money. “I’d been paying rent on time for 31 years until this happened. I’m doing the best I can in a very hard situation. The government still hasn’t understood the effect this has had on people’s lives.”
New evidence that this was a disaster that could have been averted if warnings had been heeded will do little to soothe the simmering sense of betrayal among victims.
Information has emerged that Caribbean delegations had tried unsuccessfully to get the Foreign Office to take action on the issue of retirement-age, long-term UK residents being wrongly detained and deported, and being refused access to services. Kevin Isaac, Saint Kitts and Nevis high commissioner to the UK, said he and colleagues had repeatedly attempted to get Foreign Office staff to engage with their concerns, but were told nothing could be done unless they passed over names of people who had been affected.
Although many individuals were calling their high commissions to ask for advice, most were afraid to allow their details to be handed on to the UK government.
“People did not want to come forward because there was a fear that if their status was deemed irregular, perhaps they could be deported, so people opted to hide in the shadows of uncertainty,” he said. “We were caught in a catch 22 situation. The Foreign Office said they needed specific cases; yet individuals were just too afraid that if they came forward they could find themselves being put on a plane and sent off to a country they had not seen in decades.”
After the matter was raised by Caribbean foreign ministers with Hammond in 2014, they were told that there was a “commitment to trying to progress the matter,” Isaac said. “Very little happened.” Caribbean high commissions were also concerned about the introduction of “hostile environment” policies in 2014, at the same time as the removal of legal aid. “We were raising concerns about the hostile environment; 2014 became a seminal year,” he said.
Caribbean diplomats were concerned that the government was extending “the long arm of the law to the point whereby landlords and banks became the agents of government policy to deal with a group of people mischaracterised as illegal aliens”. The concerns they raised gained “little traction”, he said.
A long-delayed answer to a parliamentary question put down by the Green party co-leader Caroline Lucas revealed that the government did not act on the recommendations of a critical report, which detailed the problems being experienced by older, long-term UK residents who had no documents.
The Chasing Status report published in October 2014, when Theresa May was home secretary, called for the government to set up a special unit to fast-track cases of people who had been living in the UK before 1973 (and who therefore had an automatic right to citizenship), and recommended that they should be allowed to work, access the NHS and claim benefits.
“No specific action was taken as a result of this report,” Caroline Nokes, the minister of state for immigration, revealed in an answer to Lucas’s question. A special unit has now been set up, as part of the Windrush taskforce. “We now have yet more clear-cut evidence that Theresa May as home secretary chose to explicitly ignore recommendations that would have prevented much of the damage of the Windrush scandal from happening,” Lucas said.
“Responsibility for the Windrush scandal, and the countless lives it has ruined, falls squarely on the shoulders of our prime minister – and she must be held to account for this act of great betrayal.”
There have been about 8,000 referrals to the Windrush taskforce and right-to-residency documents have been issued to over 2,000 people. The wide range of the issues being highlighted by victims underlines the huge challenge that remains for the government before they can draw a line under the scandal.
The government has promised to set out details of how it will undertake the Windrush “Lessons Learned” review before parliament breaks for summer. Sir Alex Allan, the prime minister’s adviser on ministerial standards, has already completed an inquiry into the civil service support (or lack of support) given to the former home secretary in the days leading up to her resignation, triggered by a realisation that she had misled the home affairs select committee on whether or not the government had deportation targets; the findings have not been made public.
Meanwhile 150 members of Home Office staff have been redeployed to work on the historical review into the numbers of Windrush people the government wrongly detained and deported as a result of its policies. There is growing unease from politicians on the home affairs select committee that there is still almost no detail about the circumstances in which an estimated 63 people were wrongly deported, and no information at all about how many people were mistakenly detained.
Trevor Johnson, 57, a widow who struggled to feed his two teenage daughters when he was classified as an illegal immigrant (after 45 years in London), and who was told he faced deportation, believes older people were seen as easy targets, because they were largely voiceless and unlikely to resist deportation.
“I feel even more angry now the full extent of it has come out. They were picking on us, old people,” he said. “I’m still worried; I’m still scared – that’s what it’s done to me – I have turned into someone who is fretting all the time. I loved living here, but I’ve lost faith in this country.”
Liam Fox’s Brexit trade bill set to crush disabled people,As it stands, ministers would have the right to tear up the human rights of disabled people to facilitate trade deals the President of the CBI says will be of no benefit to Britain.
An inevitable consequence of a Brexit run by the Conservative Party is that the interests of society’s most vulnerable people are being trampled upon in an unprecedented manner
The latest example of that happening comes courtesy of the Trade Bill that will be debated on the floor of the House of Commons tomorrow. It is designed to take some 40 trade agreements signed by the EU with third countries and place them into UK law. This act of housekeeping, however, comes with an extraordinarily nasty sting in the tail if, like me, you are among the estimated 20 per cent or so of Britons who have a disability. READ MORE
According to a letter sent to the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, the bill “lets ministers change a wide range of laws – including the Equality Act – without parliamentary scrutiny, in order to implement international trade agreements”.
It continues: “There are no safeguards to prevent ministers from using these new powers to remove rights granted by Parliament.”
Its 20 signatories include Liberty, the Business Disability Forum, Disability Rights UK, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Mencap, The National Aids Trust, the Royal National Institute for the Blind, Amnesty International UK, Ambitious About Autism and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations.
They and their co signatories warn that the powers granted by the bill could lead to some apallingly malign outcomes. One example they highlight is that it could be used to change those parts of the Equality Act that require public vehicles to be made accessible to disabled people.
This is important because people with disabilities rely far more on public transport than non disabled people do for access to leisures facilities, local services, shops and the like. Of no less importance is the critical role accessible public transport plays in their ability to work. The Government still claims that its desire is to get 1m or so more disabled people into work. That’s not going to happen if they aren’t able to get to places of employment.
“Such broad powers have not been and cannot be justified to achieve the Bill’s stated aim of rolling over existing trade agreements the UK has through our membership of the EU,” the signatories say, while urging a commitment to change the text of the bill to protect human rights and equality laws.
Given the quality of the man in post as International Trade Secretary, whom it bears repeating is a doctor by training, it is hard to see that happening.
This is what Paul Drechsler, President of the the CBI, said on the subject of the trade deals Mr Fox’s Department was set up to negotiate: “There’s zero evidence that independent trade deals will provide any economic benefit to the UK that’s material. It’s a myth.”
For the record, the Department for International Trade insists that the continuity powers in the trade bill won’t be able to be used without Parliamentary scrutiny and says that it has held discussions with the with the Equalities & Human Rights Commission about the bill. However, if all is hunky dory, why would 20 respectable organisations feel sufficient concern to write? Perhaps it’s a reflection of the Government’s lamentable record on disability.
Depressingly, this has so far received little in the way of publicity. Perhaps that is partly because there is now just so much evidence of the desire on the part of the right wing of the Conservative Party to turn the Brexit wound septic.
What sickens me about this expose is: they are the ones that look down on the poor; sick, disabled, single parents etcand have had a field day in the right-wing media, who could forget Daily Hate articles like this: Revealed:
A BOMBSHELL dossier naming and shaming 36 Tories suspected of inappropriate sexual behaviour has emerged as Westminster remains engulfed by a sex abuse scandal.
The explosive hit list was leaked as Theresa May was under pressure to sack Brexit Minister Mark Garnier over claims he made his secretary buy sex toys for him and called her “sugar t***” in public.
Conservative aides have put a list together of three dozen suspected Tory ‘sex pests’ detailing accusations of inappropriate or even criminal behaviour at work.
Accusations include one MP who is said to have been “handsy with women at parties”, while another “perpetually intoxicated and very inappropriate with women”.
Conservative aides have put a list together of three dozen suspected Tory ‘sex pests’ detailing accusations of inappropriate or even criminal behaviour at work
Another minister is said to have had “sexual relations with a researcher” and another “paid a woman to be quiet”. A former Conservative minister is also accused of propositioning his secretary by asking her to “come and feel the length of my c***”.
Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to sack her own ministers if they are proven to be guilty of sexually inappropriate behaviour, claiming the House of Commons’ disciplinary procedures lack “teeth”.
It comes after senior Tory and former cabinet minister Stephen Crabb admitted sending explicit messages to a 19-year-old woman after a job interview in Parliament.
Westminster has been engulfed by various rumours, including the claims a cabinet minister placed his hand on the thigh go a female journalist and told her “God, I love those t***”.
Anonymous reports also suggest a second senior minister had an affair with a junior female aide, who is also an MP.
The lurid list includes 12 MPs who are accused of behaving inappropriately towards female staff, while four are accused of acting inappropriately towards male researchers.
The list and spreadsheet grabs were leaked to political gossip site Guido Fawkes.
Two Cabinet ministers have been accused of inappropriate behaviours towards women and 18 ministers face allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Last night, a journalist accused a Tory MP of making a drunken lunge after her following a lunch at Westminster.
Although currently Conservative politicians have been the subject of allegations, it is believed senior Labour politicians have been accused.
Labour MPs John Mann and Jess Phillips demanded Mr Garnier and Mr Crabb are suspended.
Mr Garner dismissed the allegations against him as “high jinks”.
Mrs May wrote to Speaker John Bercow on Sunday, saying: “I believe it is important that those who work in the House of Commons are treated properly and fairly – as would be expected in any modern workplace.
“As you know, there is a suggested disciplinary procedure provided by IPSA ( Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) as part of the standard contract.
“However, it does not have the required teeth as contractually an MP does not have to follow the procedure.
“I do not believe that this situation can be tolerated any longer. It is simply not fair on staff, many of whom are young and in their first job post-education.”
‘Flawed’ universal credit driving social housing tenants into debt and hardship
Housing federations join forces to warn that the Universal Credit system is “flawed” and causing debt, suffering and hardship.
The National Housing Federation, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, Community Housing Cymru and the Northern Irish Federation of Housing Associations, are joining together to warn that the Universal Credit system is “flawed” and causing debt, suffering and hardship for the families they house.
Together these organisations represent more than 1,000 housing associations housing over 6.9m people, and they are urgently calling on the Government to change their flagship benefit policy before it is rolled out to all parts of the country this year.
This includes scrapping the “two child policy” where families only receive benefits to cover the cost of their first two children.
Surveys of 118 housing associations in England, Wales, and Scotland reveal that their Universal Credit tenants are in £24m of rent arrears. This figure is only a snapshot of what’s happening to social housing tenants across the country on Universal Credit and it’s likely there are many more people struggling financially.
According to the surveys, a total of 65 English housing associations revealed that tenants were dealing with £21.6m of debt. A sample of 29 housing associations in Wales had £1.1m worth of arrears, while 24 housing associations in Scotland had well over £1.2m of arrears debt from tenants on Universal Credit.
The amount of accumulated debt is highest in England because Universal Credit was rolled out there first and has far more people on Universal Credit. In England, in December 2017, there were 155,669 households in the social rented sector who were reliant on Universal Credit to help pay their rent; the figures for Wales and Scotland were 5,339 and 24,368 households respectively.
While tenants may have existing arrears before moving on to Universal Credit, the survey of English housing associations found that tenants on Universal Credit are more than twice as likely to be in debt compared to all other tenants. Nearly three quarters (73%) of Universal Credit tenants are in debt, compared to less than a third (29%) of all other tenants.
This is also the case in Scotland, where two thirds (65%) of Universal Credit tenants are in arrears, compared to less than a third (32%) for all other tenants.
Moreover, the English survey found there has been a significant increase in demand for support services from housing associations as more people are moved on to the new system. More than half (51%) of housing associations in England have reported an increase in food bank vouchers issued to people struggling to pay for food, while nearly two thirds (59%) reported an increase in demand for welfare advice needed to help tenants say in their homes.
Universal Credit is merging six existing benefits into one and is being introduced gradually across the UK. To date it has been rolled out to around 10% of potential claimants in Great Britain, approximately 920,000 people.
The number of people in receipt of Universal Credit is set to double this year and it is estimated that around 6.7m working age people will be registered by 2023.
The “two child policy” has been blamed for pushing families into poverty because families will no longer receive benefits to cover the cost of feeding and clothing more than two children. So too has the overall benefit cap, which is applied regardless of how high a families’ rent is or the number of children they need to support.
Moreover, under Universal Credit housing association staff have to go through a separate consent process every time they try and sort out a problem with the Department for Work and Pensions on behalf of vulnerable tenants.
This makes it significantly harder for housing associations to sort out issues, causing unnecessary delays and stress and hardship for people.
The UK Government addressed some of Universal Credit’s flaws in the last budget in October 2017 and has already committed to making some changes to prevent severely disabled people losing out.
However, the four housing federations say these changes aren’t enough, and are now urging Government to make five vital changes before hundreds of thousands more people move on to Universal Credit.
The housing federations are calling on the UK Government to:
Allow housing association staff and agencies, such as Citizens Advice, to sort out problems with Universal Credit as advocates for tenants. This will help solve problems earlier and minimise rent arrears.
Scrap the “two child policy” and “benefit cap limit” pushing families into poverty.
Ensure Universal Credit is paid to people and their landlords on time, at the same timeThe DWP has set up a system of Alternative Payment Arrangements so that in some circumstances people’s housing costs can be paid direct to their landlord. At the moment, landlords receive this money in arrears on varied and unpredictable dates which causes confusion. Landlords should be paid rent at the same time it is deducted from the tenants benefit.
The Department for Work and Pensions agreed to put in place Universal Support to provide advice, assistance and support to tenants. They must adapt it to cope with greater numbers and more complex cases, and provide the funding to support more tenants.
Government needs to restore the in-work allowances and revise the rules so that the self-employed, those working in the gig economy with fluctuating pay packets or those who are not paid monthly do not lose out. Present policies mean people are losing money as a consequence of moving onto Universal Credit now.
David Orr, Chief Executive of the National Housing Federation said: “Today’s findings show that the Government urgently needs to fix the fundamental flaws in Universal Credit.
“There are some very simple changes they need to make, like ensuring payments are made on time and allowing housing associations to easily negotiate on behalf of vulnerable tenants, so tenants get their money when they need it. If people aren’t receiving money on time, of course they’re being pushed in to debt. People depend on these vital payments.
“But the Government also needs to make bold decisions like amending the two child policy. Families across Great Britain with more than two children are finding themselves with the same amount of money whilst trying to provide the basics for more children.
“Although the Government has made some positive changes to Universal Credit that will make a difference to families, serious challenges remain and they urgently need to be sorted out.”
Sally Thomas, Chief Executive of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations said: “We have worked with the Government and made significant strides in making Universal Credit fit for purpose.
“We would like to see the UK Government accept our five asks as they will allow for further vital changes that will facilitate better administration of Universal Credit and reduce its negative effects on tenants.
“Housing associations are doing everything they can to support tenants through the system but huge challenges remain. To date barely 12% of the total number of claimants have moved over to Universal Credit.”
Stuart Ropke, Chief Executive of Community Housing Cymru said: “The recent changes to Universal Credit are welcome, but as it stands, the system is still not fully fit for purpose.
“Implementing our five asks will improve the mechanisms of the policy while empowering tenants to take responsibility for their finances. However, to do this, it’s crucial more support is offered around budgeting to improve financial and digital literacy among the most vulnerable in our society.”
Ben Collins, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations said: “A number of important points are raised in these five asks, which we support. In Northern Ireland the UC roll out is at an earlier stage than the rest of the UK and therefore we do not think a pause is necessary for the region.
“Working closely with the Department for Communities we have secured some important changes. The housing element is paid direct to landlords by default. Joint claims can have the personal element split between both claimants. The personal element can be paid twice monthly instead of once a month as in the rest of the UK.
“Over the coming months housing associations will continue to work closely with their tenants to help ensure that the UC rollout is as smooth a process as possible. “NIFHA will also work in partnership on an ongoing basis with the other UK housing federations, Department for Communities and other stakeholders.”
Disclaimer: This is an official press release from the National Housing Federation.
7 awkward things you should know about 7 Tories who Theresa May just promoted
Theresa May has made an emergency Cabinet reshuffle to save her leadership. So who are the Tory ministers she’s promoted? Here’s a potted guide
Dominic Raab and Geoffrey Cox have been given big new Cabinet jobs, while Jeremy Hunt and Matt Hancock have been promoted from within. So apart from all being white men, who are these people – and have they said or done anything controversial that you should know about?
The short answer is – you betcha. Here’s a quick rundown.
1. Dominic Raab – said foodbank users aren’t ‘languishing in poverty’
OLD JOB:Housing Minister
NEW JOB:Brexit Secretary
The 44-year-old karate black belt will be Britain’s top diplomat in Brussels talks – but he’s uttered a string of undiplomatic views in the past. He sparked fury last year by saying most food bank users are not “languishing in poverty”. He claimed: “The typical user… is someone who has a cash flow problem.”
When a disability activist told him “people are dying” under Tory austerity, he described her calls for cash as a “childish wish list”. He put out a pamphlet in 2011 that suggested exempting small firms from minimum wage laws for workers under 21.
Also in 2011 Mr Raab said “feminists are now amongst the most obnoxious bigots” and said it was time for men to start “burning their briefs”. In 2012, Mr Raab was one of five Tory MPs who branded Britons “the worst idlers in the world”.
2. Jeremy Hunt – presided over years of crisis in the NHS
OLD JOB:Health Secretary
NEW JOB:Foreign Secretary
Once Jeremy Hunt – who became the longest-serving Health Secretary ever just weeks ago – said it was “likely to be my last big job in politics.”
But after securing a £20.5billion-a-year cash boost for the NHS, he now moves to an even bigger job at the Foreign Office.
Mr Hunt’s critics slammed his record at the NHS – presiding over soaring A&E waiting times and a cash and recruitment crisis.
Shadow Health Minister Justin Madders said: “His time in charge will be remembered for soaring waiting lists, huge staffing shortages, and patients left with treatments rationed and operations cancelled in record numbers.
“It is an astonishing measure of the meltdown at the heart of the Tory Government that this catalogue of failure is rewarded with promotion rather than the sack.”
3. Kit Malthouse – vowed to make homeless lives ‘uncomfortable’
OLD JOB: DWP minister
NEW JOB:Housing Minister
The new Tory Housing Minister openly admitted he made life “uncomfortable” for the homeless.
A key Boris Johnson ally, he was condemned over his zero-tolerance approach when he was deputy leader of Westminster City Council before he left in 2006.
Under his watch, the council was accused by one London Assembly member of adopting a “ruthless” policy towards homeless people that included “hosing them out of doorways”.
Asked in 2008 if he was behind such a “hosing” policy, Mr Malthouse replied: “We certainly instituted a policy of making life – it sounds counterintuitive and cruel – more uncomfortable; that is absolutely right.”
Mr Malthouse strongly defended his record at the time and flatly denied being ruthless.
But a Labour local government spokesman said: “In her desperation, Theresa May has appointed a new Housing Minister whose callous disregard for the lives of homeless people should immediately rule him out of the job.”
4. Jeremy Wright – Is Digital Minister; doesn’t tweet
OLD JOB:Attorney General
NEW JOB:Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary
The bespectacled 45-year-old lawyer probably isn’t the best choice to lead the so-called ‘Ministry of Fun’.
The Secretary of State for Digital doesn’t seem to have tweeted since 2015 – and even then he only sent five tweets.
Yesterday the official Twitter account for the Prime Minister announced the latest appointments in a series of tweets, tagging each new Cabinet member by including their Twitter handles.
Mr Wright was the only one not tagged.
An unverified account with the handle JeremyWrightPPC, referring back to when he was a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, appears to have only five tweets, including retweets, which date back to 2015.
A link to his Facebook page on the parliament website did not work.
5. Justin Tomlinson – Was suspended for leaking report to Wonga
OLD JOB:Not a minister
NEW JOB:DWP minister
The Tory MP – who returns as a DWP minister after a two-year absence – was suspended from the Commons for two days in 2016 for leaking a draft credit industry crackdown report to Wonga.
A watchdog found Justin Tomlinson “seriously breached” Parliament’s rules when he sent the draft report to a worker for the payday lender from his personal e-mail account. The Wonga employee sent him back four suggested paragraphs for the Public Accounts Committee’s final report, a probe found.
A day later, Mr Tomlinson forwarded all four almost word-for-word to the committee’s clerk in what he said was a bid to “toughen up” rules and help “the most vulnerable”.
He did not mention Wonga in his missive – but Wonga’s lawyers reported the e-mail chain to Parliament two years later.
Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Hudson said he did not gain personally but warned his actions were a “substantial interference” in the committee’s work.
Mr Tomlinson told MPs at the time: “I completely accept the findings of the report published today. I accept my actions in sharing the report constituted an interference in the work of the committee of Public Accounts.
“For this I am truly sorry. This was never my intention. These actions came as a result of my own naivety driven by a desire to strengthen regulations on payday lenders and protect vulnerable consumers.”
6. Geoffrey Cox – Forgot to declare £325,000 earnings on time
A report by Parliament’s Standards Commissioner branded his slip-up a “serious breach of the House’s rules.”
He told MPs at the time: “The House has a right to expect of its members – and particularly those on the Standards Committee as I was – that they will uphold those rules to the fullest extent.
“For this reason I have stepped down from the standards committee and I hope that the house will accept my sincere and full-hearted apology for my failure to observe this important rule.”
7. Chris Heaton-Harris – Was embroiled in a row with Unis
OLD JOB: Whip
NEW JOB:Brexit Minister
The then-Tory whip sent “sinister” letters to universities last year asking for names of professors teaching about Brexit . The Leave campaigner also asked for copies of syllabuses and links to online lectures.Prof David Green, vice-chancellor at Worcester University, said at the time: “Was this the beginnings of a very British McCarthyism?
“His letter appears so innocent but is so, so dangerous. Here is the first step to the thought police. Churchill said, ‘We shall outlive the power of tyranny’. That is my reply to Mr Heaton-Harris MP’s sinister letter.”
Lord Patten, chancellor of Oxford University and a former Conservative Party chairman, branded the Tory MP’s move “absolutely disgraceful”.
Angela Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary, said it was “ignorant” and “governments should keep their nose out of how universities teach”.
Mr Heaton-Harris said later: “I believe in free speech in universities.”