Universal Credit: Chancellor pressured over welfare system

Heidi AllenTory MP Heidi Allen says the system “isn’t right”

Chancellor Philip Hammond is facing increasing pressure from Conservative MPs to find extra funding for Universal Credit in his upcoming budget.

Tory MP Heidi Allen told the BBC some 30 colleagues had expressed concerns about the flagship welfare system.

Reports say 3.2 million households could lose £48 a week under the system, which merges six working-age benefits.

The work and pensions secretary has admitted it could leave some worse off but defended the system.

Esther McVey said the most vulnerable would be protected [PMSL], and people could take on more work to increase their income. what work?

The government has set aside £3.1bn to help people affected by the transition to Universal Credit. However, there are still fears families will face hardship. you think!

And the architect of the system, former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, has said it needs a further £2bn cash injection to enable it to work properly. HOW MANY BILLIONS HAVE BEEN PLOUGHED INTO IT ALREADY!!!

Significant Tory concerns over Universal Credit, Hammond warned

Currently being phased in across the UK, Universal Credit is aimed at making the benefits system simpler and more flexible – so people who are able to work are rewarded for doing so.

It has been criticised for running over budget and causing delays to people’s payments, but the plan is to move all existing benefit claimants on to it next year.

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Analysis

by Matthew Cole, BBC political correspondent

With two weeks until the Budget, calls for the chancellor to address concerns about Universal Credit are growing. Which raises two questions: Will he stump up some cash? And if so, where will he find it?

Philip Hammond has hinted he could raise taxes… and possibly cut relief on pension contributions. But whilst that might appease those worried about Universal Credit, he could end up angering “low-tax Tories” elsewhere in the Parliamentary party.

Clearly, he has a tough balance to keep all sides of his party happy. But if the chancellor decides against including cash in his Budget for the flagship welfare reform, the government might face trouble in the Commons next month.

Votes are scheduled on measures connected to the migration of claimants onto Universal Credit – which could be an opportunity for unhappy MPs to rebel.

Conservative rebels threaten to defeat government unless huge universal credit cuts are stopped

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Maria Amos, from Liverpool, told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme she had had to wait five weeks to get her payment, which had led to feelings of hopelessness. “I was so frightened,” she said. “I didn’t know how I was going to cope.

“I [asked], ‘can you explain this to me’, but they didn’t. They [just said] it is the way the system works. “[In that time] I got behind with my rent by over £400 [and] I wasted away.”

Ms Allen, a member of the work and pensions select committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Significant numbers of colleagues on my side of the House are saying this isn’t right and are coming together to say the chancellor needs to look at this again.”

Mr Hammond, who will announce his budget at the end of the month, has hinted he could target tax relief on pension contributions to find extra funds, calling the measure “eye-wateringly expensive”.

‘More losers than winners’

Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation – which has carried out numerous studies on the benefit – said the purpose of Universal Credit was a good one, aiming to simplify welfare and make sure people were not losing money by returning to work.

But he told Today: “The problem is that a benefit that was meant to do that… has then had cuts added to it [by former chancellor George Osborne in 2015], and it now means there will be more losers than winners.”

Ms Allen said she wanted her party to have the “political nerve” to remove the triple-lock protection for pensions, which she said cost the government £3bn a year.

The triple-lock sees the state pension rise in line with wages, inflation or by 2.5% – whichever is highest.

‘Sound principles’

The warning from Tories comes after a number of senior political figures attacked Universal Credit this week, including former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major and former Labour premier Gordon Brown.

A government spokesman said ministers were listening to concerns but defended Universal Credit, stressing it was based on “the sound principles that work should always pay and those who need support receive it”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he would stop the nationwide roll-out immediately and propose a “more comprehensive system.”

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Theresa May appoints first ever minister for suicide prevention

How many suicides has Theresa May and her ilk caused?


‘There are few greater examples than the injustices facing those with mental health conditions’

*image Twitter

[Hypocrite] Theresa May has appointed the first ever minister for suicide prevention as part of a £1.8 million push to reduce the number of people taking their own lives.

In what is thought to be a world first, Ms May announced that the health minister, Jackie Doyle-Price, will lead efforts to end the stigma that prevents people from seeking help for their mental health.

The prime minister also pledged £1.8 million to ensure the Samaritans‘ helpline remains free for the next four years, returning to her pledge to tackle “burning injustices” prevalent in society, which was set out in her first speech at Downing Street.

Universal Credit will send suicides soaring claims Labour chairman in ‘blood on your hands’ warning to Theresa May

Universal Credit will send suicides soaring claims Labour chairman in ‘blood on your hands’ warning to Theresa May

It comes amid concerns over a “national scandal” in suicide rates among teenagers, which rose by 67 per cent between 2010 and 2017.

There are more than 4,500 self-inflicted deaths every year in England, and suicide remains the leading cause of death among men under the age of 45.

Speaking at a reception to mark World Mental Health Day, Ms May was due to say: “When I first became prime minister, I stood on the steps of Downing Street and pledged to fight the burning injustices in our society.

“There are few greater examples than the injustices facing those with mental health conditions. But together we can change that. “We can end the stigma that has forced too many to suffer in silence. We can prevent the tragedy of suicide taking too many lives. “And we can give the mental wellbeing of our children the priority it so profoundly deserves.”

The prime minister will call for “true parity” between physical and mental health, as she outlined plans for a ministerial taskforce to cut suicide rates and requirements for local areas to have a suicide prevention plan.

PM refuses to scrap work capability assessments despite link to suicides

Samaritans chief executive, Ruth Sutherland, said: “We welcome the government’s announcement of funding towards Samaritans’ helpline, which will meet around 10 per cent of the total helpline costs for the next four years and help us to continue to provide our service free of charge.

“Samaritans’ 20,000 volunteers are available at any time for anyone who is struggling to cope. We respond to more than five million requests for help a year.

“This is an acknowledgement of the importance of our vital service.”

For confidential support call Samaritans on 116 123.

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Tory MP Ben Bradley VANISHES off Twitter after fury at his ‘work for free’ job advert

Good Riddance I say


Tory Ben Bradley has vanished from Twitter after he was slammed for trying to hire a video editor to work for free. The shamed MP faced a massive backlash after appealing for a “talented video editor” to make a “slick and engaging” clip – without any pay.

Image result for Tory Ben Bradley images

The backlash happened after he appealed for a “talented video editor” who could help him make a “really good short film” that would be “slick and engaging”. He claimed the role would be “voluntary” and “the ideal project for a film/media student looking for something to build their CV.”

Yet it came just days after Theresa May claimed to champion “ordinary” workers who “haven’t had a decent pay rise” in her speech to the Tory conference.

When he was attacked online the Mansfield MP initially defended the decision, saying: “It’s not slavery, if you don’t want to do it, don’t do it.

“No doubt you’d equally be moaning if I claimed expenses for a promotional video.”

But the Facebook post containing the advert has since been deleted. And this morning the Tory MP’s Twitter account appears no longer to exist either.

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More Ben Bradley scandals [if you have the stomach for it]

 

People Suing The Government Were Denied Legal Aid After The Government Was Briefed On Their Cases

Exclusive: Internal emails seen by BuzzFeed News show officials in ministers’ private offices discussed legal aid applications with supposedly independent decision-makers before they were rejected.

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Tories are now a party of ‘far-right ideology & intolerance’ [YOU THINK!]

Conservatives are now party of ‘far-right ideology and intolerance’ says leader of Tory MEPs under David Cameron. Richard Ashworth criticises vote to side with Orban government.

Theresa May withdrew the whip from two Tory MEPs over Brexit

Theresa May withdrew the whip from two Tory MEPs over Brexit 

The MEP who was leader of the Conservative group in the European Parliamentunder David Cameron has said the party has now drifted into “far-right ideology and intolerance”.

Richard Ashworth was expelled from the Tories this week, along with his colleague Julie Girling, after previously having the whip removed for defying it on Brexit.

Last month the two MEPs voted the opposite way to their Tory colleagues to censure the far-right government of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, along with a large majority of other MEPs in the European Parliament.

Theresa May had withdrawn the whip from both the MEPs last year, but they continued to be members of the Conservatives until this week. A statement by the MEP said his expulsion had been “consequent” to the vote on Hungary, though the party says it was unrelated.

“Having been a party worker for over 30 years and, having been a former group leader and party board member, I find this extremely disappointing,” Mr Ashworth said.

“I always have been, and always will be, a Conservative. However, I am surprised that the party does not apply the same standards in Westminster and I am extremely concerned that this once broad church, pragmatic Conservative party has deserted the centre ground in favour of far-right ideology and intolerance.”

Mr Ashworth was previously leader of the Conservative Party in the European Parliament from March 2012 to November 2013 and was first elected as an MEP in 2004.

The MEPs have been expelled from the Conservative party, having previously lost the whip 

The Tories faced criticism back in the UK for siding with Hungary’s government in the vote because of its governing party’s record of antisemitism, Islamophobia, crackdowns on freedom of expression, and abuse of the rule of law.

Jewish and Muslim leaders in the UK criticised the decision, while John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, called on Theresa May to distance herself from the MEPs’ votes. She did not do so, and the Conservative party was sent a letter of thanks for its “solidarity” by the Hungarian government. Mr Orban also said he would work to get the UK a good Brexit deal.

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The party said it voted as it did because it did not believe it was the European Parliament’s place to censure Hungary’s government. Mr Ashworth and Ms Girling earlier this year left the European Conservatives and Reformists political group in which the Tories sit and joined the mainstream centre-right grouping, the European People’s Party.

Ashley Fox, the current leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, said Mr Ashworth “was expelled for leaving the ECR group and joining the EPP”.

The two rebel MEPs will now sit as independents in the European People’s Party group. Britain is set to lose all its members of the European Parliament after Brexit in March 2019 when it is expected to leave the European Union.

The next elections to the body will take place in May of that year, with Britain’s places redistributed amongst other countries and also used to reduce its overall size.

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Universal Credit roll-out ‘could lead to a significant increase in foodbank use’

A near empty food cupboard. Photo: Oxfam.

A near empty food cupboard. Photo: Oxfam.

The Trussell Trust says the next stage in the roll-out of Universal Credit is likely to lead to a “significant increase in foodbank use”. The Tory Government’s flagship Universal Credit reform is likely to lead a “significant increase in foodbank use”, the UK’s largest foodbank network has warned.

Trussell Trust, who currently operate hundreds of foodbanks across the UK, has published new research suggesting that the next stage in the roll-out of the new benefit will result in a “major increase in the proportion of foodbank referrals”.

Universal Credit is replacing a number of existing social security benefits, including tax credits and housing benefit, as part of the UK Government’s widespread reforms of the UK’s social security system.

The new benefit has faced fierce criticism since it was introduced by the former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, not least from the National Audit Office (NAO) whose independent research has found that it fails to deliver value for money for taxpayers.

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The independent Resolution Foundation thinktank has warned that Universal Credit is at risk of collapse if widely-reported flaws in the new system aren’t resolved ahead of a mass roll-out starting in July of next year (2019). And charities have warned that Universal Credit, in its current form, is failing to support claimants with the greatest needs.

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Under Universal Credit, even those who are severely unwell and at crisis point are still being required to look for work or risking losing their benefits. “We’ve also seen a real lack of support for people who aren’t well enough to manage an online claim or monthly payments.

“While some people with mental health problems are able to manage their money well, for others receiving one payment and being responsible for ensuring rent and bills are paid can be problematic. “Taken together these problems are driving too many people into a cycle of debt, housing problems, and deteriorating mental health.”

Trussell Trust has noticed an increase in referrals to its many foodbanks of people in receipt of Universal Credit between April 2016 and April 2018, especially while people are waiting for their first payment to come through.

The Government has reduced the waiting time for an initial payment from six to five weeks, but Trussell Trust say people are still experiencing financial hardship, particularly among those with the greatest needs.

These findings come as the DWP finalises its plans for the next stage of Universal Credit to take to Parliament later this month. “Until now, only people making a new application for benefits in certain areas have been able to apply for Universal Credit”, the charity says.

“This next stage – ‘managed migration’ – will see the three million people currently receiving tax credits or benefit payments under the old system sent a letter telling them to reapply for these payments under Universal Credit.”

Anyone who fails to meet the deadline in applying for Universal Credit, for whatever reason, will see their benefit payments stop immediately and will not be assisted by “transitional” protections.

Trussell Trust highlights the fact that research shows that half of people at foodbanks have a disability or health condition, or live with someone that does, suggesting they are already more likely to need a foodbank’s help.

Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, explains: “We created our benefits system in this country to free people from poverty, not lock them into it. As we look at the current plans for the next stage of Universal Credit, we’re really worried that our network of foodbanks could see a big increase in people needing help.

“Leaving three million people to wait at least five weeks for a first payment – especially when we have already decided they need support through our old benefits or tax credits system – is just not good enough.

“It doesn’t have to be like this. We know the problems people are likely to face as they move over to the new system, so we can learn from them.

“The Department for Work and Pensions has shown they can act on evidence from the frontline to make a real difference to people who need our benefits system’s vital support. Now is the time for our Government to take responsibility for moving people currently on the old system over, and to ensure no one faces a gap in payments when that moves happens.

“Universal Credit needs to be ready for anyone who might need its help, and it needs to be ready before the next stage begins.”

Trussell Trust is calling on the Government to ensure there is no gap between old and new benefits payments and says the DWP should publish “a schedule for the next stage of Universal Credit, ensuring there are opportunities to review the process and make changes whilst it is underway if needed”.

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UN Experts tell UK: Austerity is so devastating it breaks international law

UK austerity is so devastating it breaks international law, experts tell UN

Human rights experts have told the UN that its austerity policies violate international law, the National reports. The claims come as the UN receives submissions detailing the impacts of austerity on people in the UK.

Investigating poverty in the UK

The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, will be visiting the UK for 11 days in November 2018.

Calling all experts

An army of lawyers, doctors, professors, local councillors, human rights and civil society organisations, and individual citizens have all submitted reports to Alston ahead of his visit.

The Canary has already reported on the deep personal misery outlined by individual submissions to Alston.

Austerity ‘violates international law’

Submissions by the Scottish Human Rights Commission (drafted by Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights – SNAP) describe violations of people’s rights under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR):

evidence from the Trussell Trust [food bank]… demonstrates that a ‘significant number of individuals is deprived of essential foodstuffs’ and this as a direct result of interference with the availability, accessibility and adequacy elements of the ICESCR Article 9

 

ICESCR - Article 9

SNAP quotes the Equality and Human Rights Commission:

The most affected protected group [by austerity] is disabled people, driven largely by reforms targeting disability benefits directly. Families with disabled adults and disabled children have faced the largest financial loss in cash terms compared to any other household type.

SNAP says that the sum total of the deprivation it describes also leads to violations of people’s right to an adequate standard of living (ICESCR Article 11).

ICESCR - Article 11

‘Two child’ policy disaster

Other experts have also made submissions. Dr Ben Warwick from Birmingham University has described how the UK’s:

 fiscal polices continue to violate a wide range of human rights standards.

These include the “two child” limit that:

engrains stereotypes, violates rights to social security, sexual and reproductive health rights and an adequate standard of living and is retrogressive.

Labour practices

In another submission, law professor Deirdre McCann argues that the increase in “highly casualised”, zero-hour jobs with “unpredictable incomes” also breaks the law. This is because such jobs ‘deprive’ workers:

of the ‘just and favourable’ conditions of work required by Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 23 Right to Work Underline in Red

A “human catastrophe”

In 2017, a UN committee accused UK welfare cuts of creating a “human catastrophe” and breaking international law by:

 totally neglecting the vulnerable situation people with disabilities find themselves in.

The Canary has detailed these findings and how the Conservative government continues to ‘whitewash’ them.

‘Poverty is a choice’

On his website, Alston says:

 Poverty is not inevitable; it is a political choice.

The site then displays a wheel linking “political choices” such as privatisation, limiting social protections, inequality, austerity with poverty at the centre:

 

Poverty Wheel Round 1

It is clear, that after nearly a decade of austerity, the pain, suffering and miserycaused in Britain is no accident. They are the inevitable consequences of political and economic choices made by politicians. We must come together and promote better politicians and better policies that empower people, rather than destroying them.

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Also see

  1. In Britain, Austerity Is Changing Everything [for the worse for the poor]
  2. Theresa May pledges end to austerity in Tory conference speech
  3. May’s end of austerity claim ‘not credible
  4. Local councils will be pushed to failure if austerity continues – the government needs to provide a solution fast