Monthly Archives: June 2012

Street Homelessness Soars … and we haven’t seen anything yet

The number of people sleeping rough in London has soared by 43% in just 12 months latest figures reveal.  Homeless Charity Broadway said 5,678 people slept on the streets between March 2011 and April, up from 3,975 the previous year.

This shocking rise has happened in the year of the sacred Olympics despite Boris Johnson’s pledge to end rough sleeping in the capital by the end of the year.  Boris has also previously claimed that he ‘wouldn’t allow Kosovo style social cleansing on his watch’ and then proceeded to do fuck all as the housing benefit caps were brought in, creating an exodus of the lowest income families from central London.

Some homelessness project workers have reported a huge rise in those under 35 unable to find homes.  Under new Housing Benefit rules, those under 35 are only eligible for a room in a shared house.  No assessment was done to examine whether their were enough properties of this type, at an affordable level, to ensure this brutal change did not force people onto the streets.

The tragic reality is that these figures represent the tip of the iceberg and there is far worse to come.  The figures are based on a ‘street count’ by outreach workers and at best represent a rough guess of the minimum figures.  Those sleeping rough outside of Central London, in parks, derelict buildings or anywhere else hidden from view are not included in the figures.  The tens of thousands of people in hostel, night-shelter or B&B accommodation, in squats or sleeping on friends sofas are also not included and reveal that the homelessness and street homelessness crisis is only just getting started.

The Housing Benefit caps have still not been fully introduced for existing tenants, whilst even those who have faced the cut will not necessarily become homeless overnight.  The number of households applying for Local Authority support due to becoming homeless has risen recently by 16%.

Homeless Link, an umbrella organisation of homelessness charities, also report that 4000 emergency bed spaces for homeless people have been lost due to government cuts.

But still this toff Government aren’t happy.  The overall benefit cap, which will see London as a whole become unaffordable for larger families, will not take effect until next April.  Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit, set to be introduced in 2014 in his dreams, will reduce protection for owner-occupiers who find themselves unable to work, by stripping back support for help with mortgage interest payments.  The new sanctions regime could see hundreds of thousands of people, many with children, plunged into levels of poverty not seen in generations in the UK.  Next year the squatting ban will begin to take effect, whilst Cameron’s intention to cut Housing Benefit for those under 25 will create unprecedented youth homelessness.

Meanwhile rents are rising as no-one can afford to buy a home anymore.  It is possible that the influx of Housing Benefit claimants into less expensive areas is further driving up prices as demand for cheaper properties soars.  The Housing Benefit bill keeps getting bigger despite the savage cuts.  This Government seems intent on driving the low waged, disabled, unwell or unemployed from their homes whatever the cost.

A demonstration has been called by the Right To Work Campaign (I know) against the proposed Housing Benefit cuts for those under 25.

Bring placards and cardboard boxes and meet opposite Downing Street at 11am this Wednesday 4th July.

Tory Councillor Resigns Over Housing Benefit Threat To Young

“I now believe that this governments economic policies – cutting spending in a depression, reducing welfare benefits for the most vulnerable, removing employment protections and cutting taxes for the richest – are completely wrong, economically unjustifiable, and I cannot in good conscience defend their actions.”

Torbay  Councillor Matthew James  has resigned from the Tory Party after calling Cameron’s plans to slash Housing Benefit for those under 25 “the final straw”.

In a statement on his website Cllr James says he will remain as an independent but that a “a misguided and damaging commitment to austerity” means he must leave for the sake of his “own integrity”.  Basically he’s saying “I used to be Tory, but then I grew up.  Sorry about that.”

The proposal to end the vital benefit, which keeps a roof over young people’s heads, has met a mixture of condemnation and mockery from all sides of the political spectrum with even Daily Mail readers rejecting the plans outright.  Cameron was mauled in the polls shortly after giving the speech.

Cameron would expect to lose a few councillors on the way as he continues his rampant ideological destruction  – but losing one over proposed benefit cuts was not in the script.  This Government appear to be buying into the swivel-eyed fantasy that the reason people despise Cameron is because he’s not Tory enough.  As the country rejects austerity Cameron responds by lurching to the right with threats of yet more cuts.  The Prime Minister appears to have forgotten that he wasn’t elected.  You can almost hardly blame him with the lapdog Lib Dems disintegrating as a moral or political force.

Events this week show that Cameron can no longer distract people from his string of blunders and u-turns with ever more brutal attacks on those with least.  Meanwhile Labour remain virtually silent on the open goal that is Welfare Reform, showing that they would be little different if elected.

This whole shower of Oxbridge little shits needs to go, along with the City thieves that fund them and the bent cops that protect them.  It’s time to imagine a new world.  One without them in it.

How Universal Credit Will Create A Latchkey Generation of Hungry Children

The Tory Government’s war on women is to escalate even further when Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal new welfare regime begins in 2014.

The new Universal Credit scheme will replace Child Tax Credits and Income Support for both working and non-working parents alike.  The scheme is intended to ‘make work pay’, however in reality few will be better off than they are under the current system.  Already Universal Credit, which was intended to simplify the benefits system, is mired in complexity and running both behind schedule and over budget.  The vast computer database behind the scheme was originally planned to be in place by 2013, however recent reports reveal that date has now been pushed back to mid 2014.

A generation of latchkey kids, living in unprecedented poverty, will be one of the consequences of the new regime which will treat parents with older children exactly the same way it treats those with no childcare responsibilities  at all.

Universal Credit is under-pinned by a ‘claimant commitment’ which means that claimants will find themselves at risk of benefit sanctions or workfare if they are unable to find work for 35 hours a week at the minimum wage.  Part time workers will be forced to leave work at the drop of a hat to attend interviews for full time work, whilst self-employed claimants will face in-work benefit cuts if they fail to earn enough money in any given month.

It will be the treatment of single and low earning parents which is perhaps one of the cruellest aspects of the draconian new measures which will see children punished for the perceived sins of their parents and parents punished should they put their children’s interests before those of the Jobcentre.

Single mums whose children are over the age of 13 will be expected to work up to 35 hours a week.  Under the new rules, they will also be expected to travel up to 90 minutes to and from work.  This will mean that a single parents in a 9 to 5 job could find themselves having to leave the house at 7.30 am and not return until half past six in the evening.

Whilst Iain Duncan Smith talks of truancy being one of the defining factors in increasing child poverty, he intends to take young people’s parents away at precisely the time they need to be getting the kids up for school.

Some childcare support is available under the scheme, but for those on low incomes, forced to spend a fortune on fares to get to work and back, it will prove to be unaffordable.  Only 70% of childcare costs are to be met under the new regime.

Once again the toff Government reveal they know nothing of the lives of those on low income.  No doubt ministers will point to the hard working middle classes who commute into London and leave the kids with child minders to get to work.  What they won’t mention is that a season ticket for many commuters can cost well over £100 a week  It’s not laziness that stops minimum wage workers from travelling long distances to work.  It’s unaffordable rail prices that trap people in the area in which they live.

Single mums could be forced to abandon their children to take up work that barely covers transport and childcare costs.  If they refuse they will face sanctions.  If they refuse more than once they could find themselves facing sanctions for up to three years.

Jobcentre staff – or whoever replaces them in the new system, which is set to be ‘digital by default’  – are to be given some discretion is assessing what kind of work is suitable for parents.  Whilst travel time and costs may be a factor that can be considered, the current target based culture inflicted by managers on DWP staff mean there will be constant pressure on advisors to sanction claimants.  Already it is the most vulnerable who are at highest risk of sanctions.  Figures suggest that of the 10,000 sanctions handed out to sick and disabled people last year, almost half of those were aimed at people with a mental health condition.  The harsh reality is that vital benefits which put food in children’s bellies will be at the mercy of the whims of DWP management.

Sanctioning parent’s benefits on such a huge scale however will still be a new low for even the DWP.  Under the current system, out of work parents can be forced to attend ‘Work Focused Interviews’ once their children are in school.  Failure to attend these interviews can result in a sanction, however these are the only sanctions currently in place for parents.

This requirement is now to be extended to all those with a child over 1 year of age.  Once the child reaches school age then parents will be required to work during the hours whilst the child is at school.  When the child reaches 13 then the parents will be treated the same as any other childless claimant.

Parents will be subject to work related activity requirements, such as being sent on the Work Programme, or could be sent to carry out mandatory unpaid work  should Jobcentre staff decide they aren’t trying hard enough to find work.  Parents will be expected to take any job offered immediately, and will also face sanctions for leaving a job, failing to attend workfare, or missing a back to work style interview with fraud ridden parasites like A4e.

Like now, those sanctioned will be able to make a claim for Hardship Payments.  However the ‘work related’ requirements will be carried over to Hardship Payment schemes, meaning even these can now be stripped leaving families with nothing at all to live on.  Even with these payments, the new rules state they will only be only be intended to meet immediate costs in relation to accommodation, heating, food and hygiene.  There is no mention of children’s clothes, toys, fares to school, household items and all of the endless other expenses that having kids can bring.

The nightmare scenario will see parents torn between providing adequate supervision and support for their children, or being sent to work from dusk till dawn 50 miles away for the meagre minimum wage.  Mums who cut down hours, or refuse full time work, perhaps because their teenage child is going through a rough time, will be stripped of benefits.  If they continue to refuse to abandon their children to the street, then they will not even qualify for Hardship Payments, meaning children going hungry and homelessness as rent goes unpaid.

Sanctioning parents on this scale is unprecedented in the history of the Welfare State and there has been little thought as to the consequences, both for the children affected and wider society.  A study carried out by the DWP themselves (PDF), based on the small number of parents sanctioned for not attending Work Focused Interviews makes for grim reading.  The report found that “the most common causes of a lone parent failing to attend (Work Focused Interviews) were centred on caring responsibilities, ill health and the customer simply forgetting.”

Despite the repeated slurs aimed at feckless  single parents the report found that: “there was no evidence of lone parents making an active decision to not
attend a Work Focused Interview.”

Perhaps of most concern is that the study found that those sanctioned had “demonstrated higher levels of ill health, both of themselves and of their children” and that a “greater prevalence of debt” was found amongst sanctioned parents.

Significantly the study also revealed:  “In response to the key research question of this project, this study has found that amongst the lone parents in this sample, the sanction regime has had negligible effects upon labour market behaviour.”

In other words sanctions don’t encourage parents to find work and simply increase the crippling financial pressures they already face.

Despite all this sanctions are to get longer, tougher and be extended to hundreds of thousands more claimants.  Hardship Payments are now to be recoverable, meaning that even once the sanction is over, benefit payments will continue to be reduced until they have been paid back.  With Hardship Payments covering soaring rents, this could leave some claimants thousands of pounds in debt to the Government, to add to the debts most of them already have.

It is not just single parents who will be affected by the ruthless new system.  Under the new rules, couple with children will both be expected to work up to 35 hours a week if they are only earning minimum wage.  Claimant conditionality for Universal Credit, which means the aforementioned workfare and sanctions regime, will only stop when both parents are earning minimum wage in full time jobs.  This grotesque economic discrimination will mean that if one partner earns twice the minimum wage then his partner can stay at home and look after the children without constant harassment from DWP busybodies.  However should one partner only earn minimum wage then the other will be expected to go out and work full time themselves.  The right for one parent to stay at home, whilst still in receipt of Universal Credit to top up family earning, will only be for those better off.  Once again this toff Government is punishing those simply because they are not able to earn a higher than minimum wage.

Whilst millions of parents are likely to be affected by the changes when Universal Credit is brought in, in practice it will be single mums, and mums in low income families, who will face the most insidious aspects of the scheme.  It will be their children who suffer the most hardship as lives and futures are devastated, all because of Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with forcing mothers into full time work.  It has already been admitted that Universal Credit probably won’t save any money.  It is simply an ideological attack, executed by rich men, on some of the most vulnerable and poorest families.

Swivel eyed right wingers have often claimed there is no real poverty in the UK because children don’t go hungry.  Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal and ignorant reforms will mean that in future crippling debt, hungry children, forced labour and teenagers left on their own devices to prowl the streets, will be enshrined in social legislation.

The draft regulation for Universal Credit have just been published and are open to consultation at: http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/consult.shtml

Universal Credit, Self Employment and the Minimum Wage

Universal Credit’s Attack on Householders (and who really benefits)

How Universal Credit Will Destroy Part Time Work

Universal Credit’s Attack On Volunteers

How Universal Credit Will Split Up Families

Daily Mail Readers Back Benefits – Shock Poll Result

Over 80% of Daily Mail readers have slammed Cameron’s brutal plans to slash Housing Benefit for those under 25 reveals a poll on the paper’s website.

In a shocking blow to Cameron’s planned welfare reforms, it appears that the squeezed middle classes and now turning on the vicious benefit slashing agenda.  It is quite likely that many Daily Mail readers were horrified at the thought of having to accommodate their adult children should they be unable to find well paying jobs when they leave university.

Whilst the poorly thought through plans have been met with a mixture of ridicule and contempt elsewhere, Cameron might have thought the Tory press would stand behind him.  And (with the exception of The Sun) by and large they did.  The Sun knows that many of their readers will be in low paid work, or pensioners, and likely to be claiming Housing Benefits themselves.  It appears that the The Mail are not quite so in touch with their readership.

Housing Benefit is fundamental to the Welfare State.  Paid to those in and out of work alike, as well as parents, pensioners, sick and disabled people, it ensures, in most cases, that people have somewhere to lay their heads at night.  Cameron has assumed that people won’t understand that Housing Benefit is a crude sticking plaster for an out of control private rental sector.  It’s unlikely Cameron has ever even had a conversation that wasn’t stage managed with someone claiming Housing Benefit.

This is in stark contrast to the baby boomer Daily Mail generation, many of whom have working class parents, who may even now be claiming benefits towards their housing costs.  They are the generation that got lucky and in many cases benefited from soaring house prices.  They can see that their children are unlikely to be quite so lucky.

Slowly but surely the scrounger stories are being replaced by tales of homelessness, food banks and cancer patients being stripped of benefits.  Perhaps people are finally waking up to the stark reality, which is that the Welfare State is good value for all but the very rich and it won’t just be the poor who suffer should it be dismantled.

It’s not just Daily Mail readers who have rejected the ludicrous proposals.  The Daily Telegraph ran a similar poll the day before Cameron’s speech asking the same question.  Once again Cameron’s plans were roundly rejected.

So desperate were The Telegraph to prop up Cameron’s welfare onslaught that they ran the same poll the next day – changing the wording slightly in the hope of a more favourable result for the Tory Party.

It didn’t quite work out the way they hoped, with even more of their readership rejecting the plans – around 70%.

Unlike the Tory Party cabinet, most people aren’t multi-millionaires.  Even those on the political right seem to be waking up to the Bullingdon Boy’s onslaught.  Unlike Thatcher, with her council house give away, Cameron’s Tories have never had anything to offer the working class.  These polls reveal that even those in leafy suburbia are turning their back on the ex-etonian and his chinless chums.

One of the highest rated comments on the Daily Mail’s coverage of Cameron’s speech reveals what most decent hard working people think of this toff Government and their banker cronies:

“Demonising the poor to deflect attention from the scum that put our country in this financial disaster. Why aren’t these City Of London/Wall Street criminals in jail, yet?”

A statement that more and more people will agree with as the public school Oxbridge elite cause yet more havoc in the lives of all those who weren’t born with a silver spoon jammed down their throats.

Josef Fritzl Would Cheer Cameron’s Housing Benefit Massacre

Cameron’s latest benefit bashing speech contained all the hallmarks of this toff Government.  Brutal, dishonest, incompetent and desperately out of touch, it revealed the Tories have barely changed at all since their descent into the electoral wilderness just over 15 years ago.

Just like back then, this speech was intended to cover up the sleaze that infects not just the tax dodgers who pay the Tory Party’s bills, but also David Cameron’s morally bankrupt family.

When Tories are in trouble they have a go at single mums and many of Cameron’s new welfare proposals were precision targeted in that direction.  The slashing of Housing Benefit for under 25s in practice would be yet another Tory attack on women, children and those with least.

Over half of young people who claim Housing Benefit have children.  Some of them will be couples, some dads, but very many will be single mums.

Couples, under the new proposals will be expected to split up and go back to mum and dad themselves.  This is of course presuming they have a mum and dad.  Single parents will be forced to leave the homes they’ve built for their children and instead house them in over crowded and quite possibly unbearable conditions at their parent’s flats and houses.  This is assuming they have parents, who have a flat or house, and who is prepared to let them stay.

There is no details in these plans of what happens should the parents tell their children to fuck off.  Are single mums, and their children, to be forced to sleep on the streets if their parents don’t like them or can’t afford to have them back in their homes?

Cameron claims these plans will not apply to anyone who has faced domestic abuse, whilst Iain Duncan Smith piped up to plead that orphans might also be protected.  There are approaching 70,000 children in the care system, the vast majority of whom will start their adult lives in a housing benefit funded council flat.  If they are to not face the cuts to Housing Benefits then the £2 billion, which will allegedly be saved from the proposals, already starts to shrink significantly.

But it won’t just be kids leaving care who will suffer if these vicious proposals are ever actually implemented.  How does Cameron propose assessing whether domestic abuse has taken place?  Does this mean physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or all three?

Will abused children only be able to escape their homes should a social services intervention have taken place, or a parent has been convicted of abuse?

Abused children don’t generally grass up their parents, at least usually not at first.  They run, often at the first opportunity.  For huge numbers of young people who currently live in Housing Benefit funded hostels it may take many years before they are psychologically strong enough to come to terms with the abuse and even think about taking legal action.  Under David Cameron’s plans, a young woman who has been sexually abused will be forced to either begin the long and arduous process of confronting the abuser, who may be a parent, or face being sent back to continue being abused.  If Josesf Fritzl is ever released he’d do well to move to the UK before starting his next family.

The other side of this brutal coin are the children who leave home because the relationship with their parents or step-parents has broken down completely.  This can take years for families to fix.  The only escape for these kids will be to formally allege some form of abuse.  At the most vulnerable time in a troubled family’s development, Cameron wants to drive a meat cleaver between children and their parents.  Those unable to continue living at home will be forced into make some kind of case against their parents to government busy-bodies in the hope of being permitted to access meagre Housing Benefit payments.

Many commentators have pointed out that huge numbers of Housing Benefit claimants are actually working.  With wages at an all time low for young people it is clear that even finding work will be no way to escape a damaging home life.  Cameron has made this very clear.  Work is not the answer after all.  There is no deserving poor anymore.

But every policy should also be judged on how it will affect the most vulnerable.  Abused children, those from fractured families, single mums nursing new born babies, young people with mental health conditions  – these are just some of the people who will find themselves on the streets should these policies ever be implemented.

Cameron is burying his head in the sand over the upcoming homelessness crisis.  Come the next election it is quite likely to be top of the agenda and these plans will be long forgotten.  Yesterday’s speech was a botched attempt at clawing back some degree of credibility with swivel eyed right wingers after a string of shambolic policy u-turns.  With even The Sun rejecting the proposals, Cameron now looks as out of touch as ever.

It is quite possible that Cameron’s plan to cut housing benefit for those under 25 will never see the light of day.  But with communities still reeling from last year’s riots, this is an irresponsible and downright foolish provocation.  Not content with forcing the young unemployed to work for free and destroying the educational chances of all but the wealthy, Cameron now wants to remove the one safety net available for the most vulnerable young people.

It’s been questioned why young people should be forced to pay tax if they aren’t to receive the same protections in society as everyone else.  The real question, as the young face a sustained attack on both their current living standards and their futures, is why should they feel they have any stake in this society at all.  With increasingly little left to lose, the rage of the abandoned working class youth will resonate with ferocity throughout the generations to come.

Workfare in the Docks

Workfare in the Docks – show support for the two claimants challenging workfare!

9.30am – 26/06/12

The Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, WC2A 2LL London – nearest tube:  Holborn

Called by Boycott Workfare

This Tuesday and Wednesday, two claimants will take the fight against workfare to the High Court. Cait Reilly and an unnamed claimant will be challenging two of the government’s workfare schemes – the sector based work academies and the community action programme respectively. The Public Interest Lawyers who are representing the claimants state that ‘If it succeeds the court will quash the regulations under which the schemes are made and Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, will be sent back to the drawing board.’

The court case will commence at 10.30am on Tuesday 26th June. Cait Reilly and her solicitor will be giving a statement on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice at approximately 9.45am. Boycott Workfare campaigners will be outside the Royal Courts of Justice from 9.30am. Dressed as judges and holding a banner declaring ‘the real crime is workfare’ the campaigners will show their support for the two claimants in their legal challenge against workfare.

http://www.facebook.com/events/489041871122439/

Also taking place tomorrow – Communications blockade – A4e Liverpool

“The aim is to shut down their phone lines as much as possible on this day in order to cause them disruption. They may not listen to individual complaints, but they will take notice when they can’t do their day-to-day activities for the sheer volume of calls coming in!

Tel: 0151 243 3670″

http://www.facebook.com/events/381484845247282/

 

The Welfare State is Good Value for the 99%

The war on welfare is little more than a confidence trick by the rich and private insurance industries, who are the only groups who will really benefit from further erosion of the benefits system.

David Cameron’s plans to cut Housing Benefit for under 25 year olds may be little more than political kite flying and will only happen should he win the next election.  It does however demonstrate the direction of travel that this Government of millionaires intend to pursue.  Support with housing costs is fundamental to the welfare state, meeting as it does most people’s biggest expense in times of difficulty.

Available, as it is, to those in and out of work alike, as well as pensioners, parents, sick and disabled people, Housing Benefit attempts to ensure that no-one faces homelessness due to old age, ill health or unemployment.

It doesn’t always work.  Street homelessness is testament to that.  But even though the cuts already implemented to Housing Benefits have barely begun to bite, homelessness is rising fast.  The social costs of this will be devastating, the personal costs for some almost unbearable to think about.  Yet still some will cheer every cut, as if the Government is finally acting in their interests and cracking down on the feckless and the workshy.

Housing Benefits, along with Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) schemes – also under threat, operate as a form of social insurance.  An attack on these benefits is an attack on the vast majority of us.  You don’t need to claim Housing Benefit or SMI to benefit from their existence.  Were these benefits to be abolished then other, far greater costs, would replace them.

According to the Daily Telegraph, someone on as much as £50,000 a year only pays out around £493  annually towards Housing Benefit payments, out of a total of £4,727 towards the welfare bill as a whole.

What the Telegraph neglects to mention is that two fifths of the total welfare figure is spent on pensions.  Just ten percent is spent on housing benefits.  A deeper analysis of the figures shows that this is similar to the sum spent on sickness and unemployment benefits.  So just one pound in every five of welfare spending is directed at housing costs, unemployment benefits or sickness benefits, the three payments that seem to infuriate most benefit bashers.

This means that someone on as much as £50k a year is paying around a grand a year towards these parts of the benefits system.  Of course, most people don’t earn £50k a year.  Someone on £25k a year pays around £400 a year.

Some will demand this is still too much.  That the benefits system is broken, and even that it broke Britain. That not one penny should be spent on these scroungers,chavs and layabouts.

But let’s look at what someone on £25k gets for that money.  A comprehensive system of social insurance, that will attempt to ensure you don’t lose your home, not just if you fall ill or face redundancy, but even if your income slips below a certain level.  Insurance that not just covers you, but your children, and your parents.  Forget any tree hugging hippy crap.  Think about yourself for once.

Without a Welfare State it would be a foolish and irresponsible parent who did not have insurance should they find themselves out of work for any reason.  No-one likes to think about worst case scenarios, but even those who consider their jobs secure or themselves permanently employable can fall ill, have an accident or develop a mental health condition.  Even those most assured of their own ability should remember what happened to the miners in the 80s and countless other workers before and since.  Sometimes even very specific and bankable skills can become redundant as politics, society and technology changes.

Income protection schemes vary in price, complexity and level of cover.  One of the larger companies, British Insurance has a handy online calculator.  Someone in their early forties, taking out income protection against redundancy, accident or illness, which would leave them with £1,500 a month, would be expected to pay around £80 a month in premiums.  To receive £750 a month, a level similar to the amount which might be received on unemployment benefits and a low Housing Benefit award, would cost just under £40 a month.

This is more than a wage earner on £25k a year pays for these protections from the Welfare State.  Unlike the benefits system, the payments from British Insurance only last a year.  Unlike Housing Benefit, British Insurance will not make any provision to meet housing costs should your salary drop below a certain level. All in all, their cover is a bit shit, and almost worthless should you develop a long term health condition.

There are many other insurance schemes, some cheaper but with less cover, some more costly but with better cover.  None of them matches the value of the Welfare State for all but the very richest.  Even our chap on £50k a year is better off with Government insurance than finding themselves and their family at the mercy of private insurance companies.

Less than the top 5% of earners would find themselves better off if the Welfare State were abolished completely.  The rest of us would be forced to take out costly and complex insurance policies that offer far less protection than offered by the current system.  Either that or we could chance our arm and live without insurance, knowing that a heart attack or accident could mean our children face starvation.

We are all benefit scroungers.  Like with all insurance policies, many people will hope never to be in the position of having to rely on welfare, but all will thank fuck for its existence should the worst happen.

Yet with every cut, this cover is being eroded.  Until recently you were unlikely to be forced to move should you lose your job.  With the Housing Benefit caps now in place, many in rented accommodation will face homelessness should they be unable to work.  Should you fall ill, then you will be forced to undergo demeaning and punitive health assessments, based on those already carried out by the private insurance sector.  Should you become unemployed then you may be sent to work somewhere for no wages.

The Government is planning to erode support for mortgage interest payments, currently paid to those unable to work, often temporarily,to allow them to avoid facing repossession.  In the clearest intention of their policies yet, it is made clear in new regulations that home owners are to be expected to take out some form of income protection insurance.  Already Mr and Mrs £50k are getting shafted, as are those on £25k and those on much, much less.

Sure there have been anomalies and abuse.  A handful of large families placed temporarily in expensive London properties, or people claiming when they shouldn’t.  But these cost us pennies.  Far less even than the rampant abuse of tax loopholes, often by the very same people who want to strip the Welfare State away.  More money is lost to official error than fraud in the welfare system, which is not something that can be said about the tax system.

If the welfare state was removed completely, and if the Government knocked every last penny it cost from the tax bill (which they wouldn’t), then whatever form of private sector protection that replaced it would cost far more and deliver far less than is currently the case.

That the Welfare State also makes a notional attempt to keep children out of poverty, provide protection for sick and disabled people and help elderly people pay their heating bill, is beside the point.  Get selfish.  Welfare is the best value social insurance that money can currently buy.  Let’s not let insurance company spivs and the rich trick us into believing anything else.

Universal Credit, Self Employment and the Minimum Wage

The new rules for self-employed people on Universal Credit are to set to be some of most complex ever designed and will prove devastating for the lowest earning workers.  Self-employed people could find business ideas rejected by panels of government busy-bodies or face having to cancel organised work to attend workfare, all whilst attempting to battle unprecedented levels of red tape.

Under current rules, low paid self-employed people who work 30 hours a week can claim Working Tax Credit.  This is a lower amount of benefit than Jobseekers Allowance and is removed at a lower rate when wages increase.  Housing Benefit can also still be claimed, at a reduced rate dependent on earnings.  This has meant that self employed workers can take work, or develop a business, without being forced to sign on and off unemployment benefits everytime they earn anything.  Much like Working and Child Tax Credits, which are payable to those with children working a certain number of hours a week, this ended the situation for parents and the self-employed which left some people better off on benefits than on taking up low paid work.

A removal of the 30 hour limit would have been a cheap and swift way to ensure that everyone could benefit from Tax Credits.  The payments could have functioned as a lower rate of benefits for those who are able to obtain some form of work, the stated aim of Universal Credit.  This Government have done the opposite and in April removed the right to working tax credits for parents working part time, plunging tens of thousands of families into immediate poverty.

Some have claimed that the Tax Credits system has been abused, with people working 30 hours a week on businesses or self-employment which earn very little.  This misses the point.  By and large these are people who would be paid the higher rate of Jobseekers Allowance were their Tax Credits removed.  As well as costing more, this would have meant it would be practically impossible for people to declare small amounts of income from self-employment without having benefits slashed or removed completely.

There are reports that Welfare to Work companies have been bullying people on the Work Programme to leave Jobseekers Allowance and claim Tax Credits instead.  This may account for the recent fall in unemployment, which saw a huge rise in the number of people registering as self-employed during the same period.  Welfare to Work companies can pick up large payments from the DWP for those they claim to have supported into self-employment.  Should that self-employment turn out not to be genuine, then those claimants could face not just being stripped of Tax Credits, but also forced to repay any money they have previously received under the system.

Despite this potential abuse by private sector poverty pimps, Working Tax Credits have been a cheaper and less complex way to support those in self-employment than previous schemes.  Those who have benefited are not just grasping entrepreneurs, – tradespeople, casual labourers, child minders and even artists, actors and writers are some of the sectors that depend on Tax Credits for survival.

This is all set to be brought to an end by Universal Credit, which will introduce a staggering amount of complexity into the system and will stifle the chances of both the self-employed and the entrepreneurial alike.

According to the recently published draft regulations: “claimants who declare that they have income from self-employment, or who are self-employed with no income, will be invited to a “Gateway” interview.”

This appears to be some form of Stalinist Dragon’s Den, whereby people will be forced to prove to the DWP that their business, or their trade is: “done with the intention of increasing the income received to the level we could expect the claimant to make if working full time”

Claimants will be expected to provide reams of evidence at these interviews which will no doubt be carried out by people with so much entrepreneurial know-how that they’ve ended up working in the Jobcentre.

Should the claimant pass this government test, then they will be granted a year’s start up period, during which they will be largely left alone.  After that they will be subject to the ‘Minimum Income Floor’.  This means that self-employed people will be expected to earn a certain amount a week, or lose eligibility for benefits or self-employed status.  The Government are not telling us exactly what that Minimum Income Floor will be in the consultation  documents, however it has previously been suggested that people will be expected to earn at least the minimum wage for any self-employed activity.

Under the new proposals self-employed people will be expected to work at least 18 hours a week.  It is unclear whether those in self-employment working at this level will be expected to abandon self-employment to take up full time work, or workfare, should the DWP deem it appropriate.  Those working part time are now to be forced to continually look for full time work, attend interviews at the drop of a hat and hand in their notice immediately should they be offered even a temporary full time job.

If these requirements are not inflicted on self employed workers, then for many people simply under reporting their hours will mean they are able to qualify for the full Universal Credit award.  If this all sounds confusing that’s because it is.  Once again a key piece of legislation, set to go before Parliament in Autumn, has not been thought through or adequately explained.

It is likely that the Minimum Income Floor will mean that self-employed people are expected to earn the equivalent of the minimum wage for 35 hours a week or face a cut in benefits.  As Housing Benefits are now to be lumped in with Universal Credit, this may mean homelessness for some.

Another aspect of the new regime will punish people who invest in tools, stock or other business expenses in order to increase earnings.  Self employed people will now be required to report all income and business expenditure on a monthly basis as opposed to annually as under the present system.  Expenses will not be carried over to the next month.  This will mean if someone spends a couple of grand on stock this will only be reflected in their earnings for that month.  The new system will make it impossible for self-employed people to invest on any significant level to improve their earnings.

It will not just be businesses that have large outlays, such as small shops or tradespeople, that will be affected by the monthly reporting.  A freelance journalist who spends a month writing a piece in anticipation of it being sold will be penalised for not earning minimum wage during that period.  Self employed people will be punished for injecting both time and cash into their business.  The harder you work, the less you get.

And these are the lucky ones who have passed their DWP Dragon’s Den.

People who fail to impress the Government with their self-employment plans will still be permitted to earn money from self-employment, and will face the same monthly requirement to report any earnings.  They will also however be given a Claimant Commitment, meaning they will not be treated as self-employed.  This will mean that there will be a requirement to attend Mandatory Work Activity or attend pointless courses and workshops with Welfare to Work companies like fraud ridden A4e any time the DWP sees fit.

This will destroy people’s ability to take on small amounts of work on a casual basis.  Should someone be offered a few days work on a self-employed basis they will not be in a position to guarantee they can turn up.  They could be sent to work in a charity shop with no pay that week instead.  Far from the stated aim of making all work pay, short periods of self-employed work will be a commitment that claimants can no longer make under the new regime. The DWP will decide how you spend your time and if you fail to comply you could face sanctions for up to three years.

It is the subtle shift in the meaning of the minimum wage though which is perhaps the most revealing indicator of the direction of this toff Government.  For too long greedy employers have forced people to work on a self-employed basis to avoid having to pay employees the minimum wage.  Many cleaners, au pairs and child minders are paid less than minimum wage and registered as self-employed, as are people on building sites around the country along with people working in shady commission only sales jobs.  Whilst in some cases this is illegal, it is common practice in many sectors.

Iain Duncan Smith is attempting to usurp the minimum wage by making it not an employers responsibility to pay it, but a workers responsibility to earn it.  If someone is working on a self-employed basis on a building site for less than minimum wage, it will be the worker who is punished by the benefits system for not earning enough.

The sets the groundwork for the abolishment of the minimum wage, whilst retaining a requirement on those in receipt of vital benefits to earn it.  It is obviously wild scare-mongering to suggest that the Tories want to do away with the requirement on employers to pay the minimum wage, however there is nothing in these new regulations that would prevent that.

The proposed regulations state: “In order to meet a given work availability requirement claimants must be available to immediately take up, (or attend an interview for) work/more work/better paid work.

Were Tories to bow to pressure in their own party to scrap the minimum wage for certain groups, such as disabled people, there would be no need to amend Universal Credit legislation.  If you don’t earn minimum wage it will be your own fault, not the fault of those paying you.  For those in self-employment this is already to become a reality under the new regime.  Whether this punitive arrangement is laying the groundwork for the minimum wage to be scrapped for everybody -  whilst attempting to minimise the resulting cost of in work benefits – remains to be seen.

The draft regulation for Universal Credit have just been published and are open to consultation at: http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/consult.shtml

Universal Credit’s Attack on Householders (and who really benefits)

How Universal Credit Will Destroy Part Time Work

Universal Credit’s Attack On Volunteers

How Universal Credit Will Split Up Families

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Holland & Barrett Communications Blockade – Today!

Liverpool Solidarity Federation have called a communications blockade of workfare exploiters Holland & Barrett to coincide with their action against workfare in Liverpool today (Saturday 23rd June).

This will be the third weekend of action against workfare in the city this month and they have called for people around the UK to contact the snake oil salesmen and let them know what you think about their use of unpaid labour.

Holland & Barrett have just turned up on twitter.  You can keep them busy @holland_barrett

Spread the word!

From facebook: http://www.facebook.com/events/152414588215933/

Holland & Barrett have been a target for action because they market themselves as an “ethical” retailer, all the while using unpaid labour to shore up their profits. There has been considerable pressure against them for this, and pickets across the country will continue until they stop. But even if you can’t make it to a picket, you can still take part!

The aim is to shut down their phone lines as much as possible on this day in order to cause them further disruption. They may not listen to individual complaints, but they will take notice when the sheer volume of calls coming in makes it harder to get things done!

Holland & Barrett Liverpool – Whitechapel
Tel: 0151 236 8911

Media enquiries: 01903 219 426
Fax: 02476 215497
Send Free faxes via http://www.freepopfax.com/

Email: customerservices@hollandandbarrett.com recruitment@hollandandbarrett.com

A national week of action against workfare begins on the 7th July: http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=1154

Universal Credit’s Attack on Home Owners (and who really benefits)

Many home owners, already struggling to pay mortgage repayments, may find themselves facing repossession and homelessness under new benefit rules.

Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) payments are designed to help those who find themselves out of work – whether through redundancy, sickness or disability-  to continue to make interest payments on their mortgage.

Payments are limited to two years except for those over 60 or those judged unable to work due to sickness or disability.  Payments are currently only available to those working less than 16 hours a week and in receipt of Income Support, ESA, Job Seekers Allowance or Pension Credit.

As the recession began to bite in 2009 and house repossessions soared, the waiting period for SMI was cut to 13 weeks.  Despite the Tories plunging the country back into recession, the Tories are consulting on increasing this to 39 weeks in January 2013.

This change was quietly announced in a consultation document published at the end of last year (PDF).  It will mean householders who face unemployment will now have to wait nine months before receiving any support with housing costs.  Few mortgage companies will be prepared to wait so long before calling in the bailiffs.  The capital limit, which is the size of the mortgage that can have payments claimed against it, is to be halved from £200,000 to £100,000.

The document also reveals that the Government is considering making payments recoverable, should the householder die or sell the property.  Currently those who are long term sick, have children or are pensioners can have mortgage interest paid indefinitely.  Those who are simply unemployed have payments stopped after two years.  The Government plans to extend this two year limit to include those with children or those who have been moved from disability benefits to job seekers allowance.

The new death tax will see these payments recovered when the claimants dies.  The consultation document even reveals that the Government is considering making all SMI repayments recoverable on death.

SMI is to be bundled into Universal Credit, Iain Duncan Smith’s hugely expensive and ludicrously complex overhaul of the benefits system.  The draft regulations, which have just been published, explain how the above changes will be enshrined in law, although as yet the Government is too squeamish to tell us the exact figures.  So the Universal Credit regulations say that there “is to be a waiting period of [x] months before owner occupier claimants can receive help with their housing costs.”

It is only by referring to the previous document on SMI reform that the Government reveal their true intentions.  However the next sentence in the Universal Credit regulations do contain one key phrase which tells us everything we need to know about where welfare reform is heading:

“This is based on the principle that it is reasonable to expect owner occupiers to make some provision, whether by insurance or savings, to fund their housing costs for a period in the event of a change in their circumstances such as unemployment or sickness.”

The inference is clear.  Decent people will be expected to take out redundancy or income protection insurance as the Welfare State is whittled away.  The uninsured squeezed middle may now find themselves plunged into mortgage arrears and repossessions should they lose their job or fall ill.

This dovetails with George Osborne’s bungled Child Benefit cuts for higher earners.  The intention to undermine the Welfare State is clear.  A universal system means that everyone has a stake in the Welfare State.  This is being eroded.  When the changes to SMI are introduced – which will also see SMI stopped for those who take on a few hours of work a week whilst looking for a full time job – huge numbers of people will no longer have a safety to ensure they can keep their home should they have to give up work.

With incomes continuously squeezed and prices soaring, many families, including those with mortgages, are already close to the breadline.  Few will have the means to fund mortgage interest payments for up to nine months should they become ill or unemployed.  Those who take out income protection schemes will resent even more than now that their tax and National Insurance payments are funding a Welfare State for other people.

Of course all of this will be cheered by the insurance industry sharks who have lurked in the shadows of welfare reform.  It couldn’t be better news for the likes of Unum, the huge income protection insurance firm, who last year launched an advertising campaign for their income protection services.  A leaked powerpoint presentation shows how Unum are training up their sales force on the benefit changes they helped design, warning that “benefits will fall significantly short of what most households need to pay their bills.”

Under the current system, those on an average salary get a good deal from the Welfare State.  Income Protection schemes are expensive and far less comprehensive that the current benefits system, far from generous as it is.  As the Welfare State is further eroded then the income protection racketeers will raise prices.  The undermining of the welfare state is a huge confidence trick designed to fleece tax payers.  Insurance companies will see their profits increase with every cut to welfare, especially those which attack the slightly better off, such as people affected by changes to Mortgage Interest Support.

The end result, if they succeed, will mean people paying more money for welfare insurance than they ever paid through the tax system, whilst receiving far less comprehensive protection.

All the benefit bashing, the suicides, the disability hate crime, as well as the poverty, homelessness and ill health that has been inflicted by welfare reform has had one key aim in mind.  A big fat payday for private sector sharks like Unum.

The draft regulation for Universal Credit have just been published and are open to consultation at: http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/consult.shtml

How Universal Credit Will Destroy Part Time Work

Universal Credit’s Attack On Volunteers

How Universal Credit Will Split Up Families