An increase in homeless figures is “nothing short of a tragedy,” a charity has said after a Government report showed the number of households in temporary accommodation has surged by 65 per cent since 2010.
Local authorities accepted 15,290 households as being statutorily homeless between 1 July and 30 September, up 6 per cent from 14,390 on the previous quarter.
It is also an increase of 2 per cent from 14,930 on the same quarter of last year.
Across England, on September 30, the number of households in temporary accommodation was 79,190, up 6% from the same date last year – and a 65% increase from a low point of 48,010 on December 31 2010.
Of those 79,190 households, 61,090 included dependent children and/or a pregnant woman, within which there were 121,360 children or expected children.
Some 132 households with children were former residents of Grenfell Tower or Grenfell Walk, within which there were 261 children, the report said.
Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, said in a statement sent to The Independent: “Knowing that nearly 80,000 households will find themselves homeless and living in temporary accommodation this Christmas is nothing short of a tragedy.
“Temporary accommodation is often cramped, unsuitable, and sometimes even dangerous, and no place for anyone to call home.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) report said that between July and September, 214 homeless acceptances were reported by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for the residents of Grenfell Tower and Grenfell Walk.
It said acceptances were not reported in the second quarter of 2017 because the household level information still needed to be collected and processed. There were a further 181 households living in temporary accommodation from areas surrounding the Tower and Walk.
Of the total 395 affected households, 300 were living in hotels, 75 households were in self-contained and serviced apartments, nine were living with friends and family under their own temporary arrangements and 11 had moved into permanent settled accommodation, the report said.
Paul Noblet, head of public affairs for Centrepoint, said: “We’re facing a crisis in homelessness and these worrying figures provide only a limited picture of a much larger problem. We know thousands more young people are approaching their councils for help, data which the government chooses not to collect.”
He added: “Young people not much older than many of our children and grandchildren are being confronted with impossible choices that no one should have to make.
“Homelessness does not need to define a young person’s life if they receive the support they need at the right time.”
Across England, local authorities also took action to prevent and relieve homelessness for 52,190 households between July and September 2017, down 1 per cent on 52,880 in the same quarter of 2016.
Nearly half of disabled people reassessed under Government’s new benefit system had financial support withdrawn or reduced
Government accused of ‘slashing away at welfare’ after new figures show 47 per cent of disabled people see benefits reduced or stopped altogether
Almost half of disabled people reassessed under Government’s new benefit system last year had financial support withdrawn or reduced, new figures show.
Government statistics published on Wednesday show 47 per cent of people who were formerly receiving Disability Living Allowance (DLA) saw their support fall or stop altogether when they were reassessed for Personal Independent Payment (PIP).
Of a total of 947,000 claimants who were reassessed in the year to October 2017, 22 per cent saw their support reduced, while a quarter were disallowed or withdrawn altogether — meaning 443,000 people will have had their claims reduced or removed.
Thirteen per cent had their benefit left unchanged and 39 per cent had their support increased, according to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) figures.
A breakdown of claimants shows people claiming benefit for psychosis saw the highest proportion of cases either reduced or disallowed or withdrawn, at 58 per cent, while psychoneurosis and back pain also had high rates, at 52 per cent and 49 per cent respectively.
Opposition leaders and MPs accused the Government of “slashing away at welfare”, saying ministers were trying to balance “increasingly precarious” accounts on the backs of the most vulnerable.
It comes after figures obtained through Freedom of Information laws revealed that the amount paid to the private companies that carry out the assessments, Capita and IAS, has increased by an average of 30 per cent.
Responding to the new DWP figures, co-leader of the Green Party Jonathan Bartley said: “By slashing away at welfare, the Government is heading in totally the wrong direction. It is weaponising welfare against those it should help.
“It is time it recalibrated it’s moral compass and steered it’s policies in a new direction. We need a new, modern vision for the welfare state – one that removes barriers for those who want to work, while giving real choices and opportunity to everyone.”
Mr Bartley suggested that this could start by piloting a universal basic income that supports every person, with extra payments made available to those – like the disabled – ensuring everyone can lead the pursue the life they want.
On the considerable rise in the amount private companies tasked with carrying out PIP assessments are paid, the politician said: “The Government is taking food from the mouths of disabled people while laying on a banquet for private companies.
“This comes only a week after Philip Hammond revealed his biases by labelling disabled people a drain on UK productivity. It shows just how twisted the Government’s priorities have become.”
Stephen Lloyd, the Liberal Democrats’ DWP spokesman, claimed his party had fought “tooth and nail” in the House of Lords to stop Government cuts to PIP, but that the Government had still “ploughed ahead”.
He said: “These shocking figures show what I and others have believed for a while; a primary objective behind PIP is to cut costs rather improve the lives for disabled people.
“The chancellor had a chance in last month’s budget to reverse the £12 billion worth of welfare cuts still to come, but instead he chose to continue trying to balance the Government’s increasingly precarious accounts on the backs of the most vulnerable. A bad business.”
Phil Reynolds, senior policy and campaigns adviser at Parkinson’s UK, said it was “unacceptable” that despite our many warnings to the Government about the impact of PIP, almost a quarter of people were continuing to lose vital support.
“This means that around a thousand people living with a condition that will only get worse are losing out, and in many cases, having to return cars that keep them independent.
“With around a year to go until the Government aims to move everyone over to PIP, this nonsensical, head in the sand approach needs to stop. It is urgent that the Government recognises the system is failing people and makes changes now, by fixing the broken assessment process and improving assessors’ training before more lives are ruined.”
PIP, which was was introduced in 2013 to replace DLA, brought in a new face-to-face assessment and regular reviews of a claimant’s ability to wash, dress, cook and get around as well as reading and communicating.
The system has come under fire on numerous occasions, accused of denying benefits to those who need them.
A DWP spokesperson said: “We introduced PIP to replace the outdated DLA system. PIP is a better benefit which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s health condition or disability impacts them on a daily basis, and is tailored to suit each individual’s needs.
“Under PIP, 29 per cent of claimants receive the highest rate of support, compared to 15 per cent under DLA.”
They also urged that decisions for PIP were made after careful consideration of all the evidence provided by the claimant and their GP or medical specialist, and that the “large majority” of reassessed DLA claimants had received an award of PIP.
Bethen Thorpe greeted her assessor the traditional way and promptly had her support axed. It seems people with disabilities now have to kiss cheeks instead
Do you shake hands? I do – with people I’m meeting for the first time, and often meeting up with people I already know really well. But the classic handshake is now not the single accepted greeting, and even with strangers you must awkwardly negotiate the possibility of the kiss on one or both cheeks, or bro shake with optional shoulder bump.
But I’ve been trained to think of the unhesitating handshake as simple good manners. The same, I suspect, is true of former pub landlady Bethen Thorpe from north London, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October 2014. She had to apply for disability benefit, filled in a 35-page application form, and then travelled to Chelmsford, Essex, for an assessment meeting. She was turned down because she shook the DWP assessor’s hand, which was taken as evidence of her fitness for work.
The handshake, that historic gesture of good faith, was turned against her. Since then, Thorpe has had the handshake-dismissal overturned on appeal. But what lessons are to be drawn? Only this. If you’re disabled and meeting your DWP assessor for the first time – or any time – just offer up your cheek for a delicate, feather-light kiss.
A woman with mental health difficulties is waiting to hear whether she has won a High Court fight after questioning the fairness of a state benefit designed to help disabled people maintain independence.
The woman says regulations governing personal independence payments – a benefit designed to cover some of the extra costs run up by people who need help with everyday tasks or with getting around – are discriminatory.
She claims that people who suffer from “overwhelming psychological distress” are treated less favourably than people with other conditions when their ability to make journeys is assessed.
Woman takes legal action against Work and Pensions ministers over “discriminatory” benefits for disabled people (John Stillwell/PA)
Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke is disputing her claims.
A judge finished analysing evidence at a hearing in the High Court in London on Wednesday.
Mr Justice Mostyn said he would publish a ruling in the near future.
He says the woman, referred to in court as RF, cannot be named in media reports.
The woman is being advised by legal charity the Public Law Project.
A spokesman for the project said the regulations at the centre of the case came into force in March and personal independence payments had replaced disability living allowance.
“RF is an individual who has significant mental health impairments and is affected by the change in regulations,” said the spokesman.
“RF is bringing the case on public interest grounds as it will affect lots of benefits claimants.”
He added: “(She) argues that the regulations are discriminatory because people who suffer from overwhelming psychological distress are treated less favourably when assessed on their mobility than people with other conditions.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman disagreed.
“Personal independence payment looks specifically at how someone’s life is affected by their disability or health conditions, including mental health conditions, unlike the old system which did not sufficiently recognise mental health problems,” she said.
“In fact, there are now more people with a mental health condition receiving the higher rates of personal independence than there were under disability living allowance.”
Members of a number of campaign groups staged a demonstration in support of the woman prior to the start of the hearing on Tuesday.
“The Government is discriminating against people with serious mental health conditions who are unable to plan or undertake a journey because of overwhelming psychological distress,” said a spokeswoman for one group, Women with Visible and Invisible Disabilities.
“You can’t score enough points to get full mobility benefit unless you also have physical mobility problems.”
I seriously doubt that much will change because PIP/ESA isn’t about disability/sickness it’s about getting as much money off the disabled that they can – Govt Newspeak
In response to pressure from the Work and Pensions Select Committee the Department for Work and Pensions has announced that its target for upholding original PIP and ESA decisions at the first stage of appeal, known as Mandatory Reconsideration (MR), will be dropped.
On 28 November the Committee wrote to DWP with concerns about MRs, which had come up in the Committee’s current inquiry into the medical assessments carried out by ATOS, Maximus and Capita to inform DWP’s decisions on awards of disability benefits PIP and ESA.
Pressure to turn out numbers
The Committee had heard of “pressure to turn out numbers” in relation to both the original decision and at MR stage, and that MRs simply “rubber stamp” the original decision. The DWP revealed in an FOI request in May 2017 that one of the performance indicators for MRCs was that 80% of the original decisions are to be upheld. The Committee queried how a target for upholding original decisions could be compatible with ensuring that questionable reports are thoroughly investigated, and erroneous decisions identified and corrected. MR should be an important extra safeguard, but instead appears to be creating another “hurdle” in a process that is already arduous and stressful for many claimants, as the Committee has heard directly in nearly 4,000 individual accounts submitted to it.
The Department’s response “categorically state(s) that there has never been a Mandatory Reconsideration target for upholding original decisions”, and that the 80% target, “an internal measurement only used to indicate areas” where there were problems with the original decisions being made, will be dropped.
Victory for PIP and ESA claimants
Commenting on the response, Rt Hon Frank Field MP Chair of the Committee, said
“It is great news that the target has been dropped and we congratulate the Department on this response. This is a great victory for the thousands of PIP and ESA claimants who have responded to our inquiry, and for anyone going through this process, who can now go to the first stage of appealing a benefits decision with more confidence that the reconsideration will be fair and impartial.”
Motability car loss ‘left me suicidal’ says disabled man
A disabled man was left feeling “suicidal” after he had his adapted car taken away following changes to disability benefits.
Charlie Evans, from Carmarthen, has relied on the Motability scheme since 1992 after being paralysed down one side following brain damage.
The scheme entitles disabled people to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair using part of their benefit.
He said: “Without a car I couldn’t go anywhere. It left me suicidal.”
Mr Evans, 58, told BBC Wales: “It was my independence.
“I was so depressed. I didn’t want to see anybody or talk to anyone for weeks. It’s like taking away a member of my family.
“I couldn’t go out shopping, I couldn’t go anywhere.”
After being unable to get a taxi or public transport to Cardiff, Mr Evans said he had had to buy his car for £10,000, and needed help from his partner.
Asked if it had been expensive to buy with only benefits as income, he said: “It is, but I used up what savings I had.
“It was taking my life away. My car is my life.”
Mr Evans, who suffered brain damage as a young man and struggles to express himself, appealed against the decision and had it overturned, so will be able to sell his car and return to the Motability scheme.
But Disability Wales said up to 100 disabled people a week are having to return their adapted vehicles since the changes to disability benefits.
The organisation said people who were no longer eligible were losing their independence.
Changes in 2013 to disability benefits by the UK government scrapped the Disability Living Allowance and replaced it with a new working age benefit for disabled people, Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
Those who qualify for the higher level of PIP support can lease a car, scooter or powered wheelchair in exchange for their mobility allowance.
It also includes free insurance, servicing and maintenance, breakdown cover and replacement tyres.
Miranda Evans, director of Disability Wales, said: “Public transport is often inaccessible to disabled people.
“A vehicle is a must; without that they lose their independence.”
Motability does offer support packages of up to £2,000 for long-standing scheme members to buy their own cars back, and help towards the cost of fitting new adaptations.
But the costs are still considerable for those on a low income.
George Lockett, 63, from Nantlle, near Penygroes in Gwynedd, said the reassessments were “destroying people’s lives”.
He used three credit cards to buy his own vehicle back at a cost of £6,500, and says he has spent an additional £1,000 in servicing costs since he had to leave the scheme.
Mr Lockett has been waiting 18 months to have his second appeal heard.
“I’m pretty certain it’s costing the UK government more with all the appeals and all the stress that it causes,” he added.
Appeals against PIP payments now make up the largest number of social security tribunal cases dealt with by the Ministry of Justice.
In 2016-17 there were 79,943 cases heard and 65% of those decisions found in favour of the claimant.
The Department for Work and Pensions said: “PIP is a better benefit which takes a much wider look at the way an individual’s disability or health condition impacts them on a daily basis.
“Under PIP, 29% of claimants receive the highest rate of support compared to 15% under DLA.” What comfort is that to the disabled that have their benefits removed!
Volunteers at one of the city’s biggest foodbanks fear their shelves will be emptied by a sharp increase in the need for emergency food if the roll-out of Universal Credit continues.
Bosses at B30 Foodbank – which has seen a staggering 200 tons of donations since it launched four years ago – are concerned their warehouse will be emptied by a huge increase in demand.
The facility, based at Cotteridge Church, has fed almost 7500 adults and children in the B30 postcode and surrounding areas over the past year.
Ministers have claimed evictions, homelessness and debt will all rise if the government’s Universal Credit roll-out continues across Birmingham.
The Trussell Trust, a charity which provides foodbanks, said demand had risen in areas where Universal Credit was introduced.
Within the last month, the three main Jobcentres operating within the B30 Foodbank’s catchment area have introduced the scheme.
Primary schools with washing machines to wash children's uniforms, where teachers charge parents phones who have no electricity, and give coats, shoes and food to their pupils. The GP who is treating kids for rickets. This poverty in the North West in 2017 pic.twitter.com/481e1ocVIf
It rolls six types of benefit – including housing, jobseekers’s allowance, working tax credit, income support and child tax credit – into one single payment.
In November, Birmingham South West Jobcentre rolled out Universal Credit, swiftly followed this month by Selly Oak Jobcentre Plus and Kings Heath JCP.
Critics claim some recipients end up in debt because there is a delay before payments are received and claimants are unlikely to have significant savings.
Bob Jefford, volunteer and steering group member at B30 Foodbank – which operates under the Trussell Trust – told the Mail: “Christmas is the perfect time for everybody to think about people who can’t afford to feed themselves.
“The volunteers at B30 Foodbank are always amazed at how generous our donors are – every can of beans is desperately needed.
“But it is important to remember that a foodbank is not just for Christmas – we have provided emergency food for 7,500 adults and children in the last year and we hear heartbreaking stories from people in need every single week.
“Universal credit is our next big headache.
“We are extremely worried that our shelves and warehouse will be emptied by a sharp increase in need for emergency food.
The @Conservatives just voted to press ahead with a Finance Bill that hands nearly £5 billion to the bankers, rather than accept Labour’s demands and invest in our children’s services instead. Disgraceful. #HeartlessHammond
“Other foodbanks have seen an average 30% rise in areas where universal credit is established – if that happens to us, we will not be able to cope.
“It’s a desperate prospect.
“If B30 Foodbank suffers a similar increase in demand, our reserves will quickly disappear and we will run out of food.
“From our experience, we think a sharp increase in demand is inevitable.”
Volunteers at the foodbank have now launched a new campaign in a bid to increase donations.
They are looking for 100 small local businesses to pledge £1 a week to the foodbank – giving them enough cash reserves to cope with an increase in demand of around 10 per-cent.
A Government spokesman previously said: “We are spending an extra £4.2 billion on pensioners, carers and disabled people next year, and continue to spend around £90 billion a year supporting people of working age, including those who are out of work or on a low income.
“Since 2010, the number of people in absolute poverty has fallen by over half a million, pensioner poverty remains close to historically low levels and we are supporting parents with the cost of bringing up children by doubling free childcare.
“We have given the lowest earners a significant pay rise through the National Living Wage, and are introducing Universal Credit to make sure it pays to be in work.”