Category Archives: Poverty

Benefit Delays Set To Soar As Waiting Period Increases To Pay For Workfare

macmillanThe number of people dependent on food banks is likely to soar as the government have pushed ahead with plans to increase the waiting period for the main out of work benefits.

According to the largest food bank provider, the Trussell Trust, benefit delays are the reason almost a third of claimants find themselves having to resort to emergency food packages.  On the 27th October this year the length of time before a benefit claim can be made upon becoming sick, disabled or unemployed increased from three to seven days.

Astonishingly this nasty little move was not done to save money.  In a response to a damning report on the change by the Social Services Advisory Committee (SSAC) the DWP admitted they would be “using the savings from the waiting days change help fund the administrative costs of the broader package of initiatives.”  What they mean by these initiatives are the ever increasing range of Jobcentre harassment and workfare type schemes which are backed with punitive benefits sanctions – the other main reason people have to use food banks.  People will have to wait longer for benefits to pay to administer the sanction they get when they are finally able to claim.

Despite being stuffed with Iain Duncan Smith’s cronies, the SSAC slammed the increase in the waiting period for benefits, agreeing with charities consulted that this is likely to lead to increased food banks usage.  The  Committee said these changes should not proceed without a “robust analysis of the costs and benefits”.  The DWP claimed they have already done this and that the increased conditionality for benefits will mean everyone gets a job and that will save loads of money.  They concede the change will mean some people will suffer hardship when going through periods of ‘disruption’ but they don’t appear to really care.

As the report notes, that period of disruption could include being diagnosed with cancer.  Those with a terminal diagnosis are exempt, however not all cancer patients are eliguble for that exemption.  As a result of submissions made by healthcare charities the SSAC said there is a ‘compelling case’ that those on ESA – the out of work sickness and disability benefit – should not have to face the longer waiting period for benefits.  The DWP rejected this, saying it would create a ‘perverse incentive’ for people to claim sickness benefits rather than the dole so they could fraudulently claim four days benefit, around £40.

The SSAC also recommended that details of Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs) be published on the gov.uk website.  These are the small loans that can be claimed if benefits are delayed.  As reported yesterday, the DWP have done everything they can to hide the existence of these emergency payments.  This is confirmed by the government’s response to the SSAC in which they reject this proposal saying that STBAs are not a: “separate scheme to be advertised in the way that benefits are.”  Therefore they will not, at least as of Autumn this year, be making the existence of these payments known online.

The DWP say they will publish details of the change in the waiting period for benefits on the gov.uk website, which is very big of them.  Except they haven’t done.

Last week Iain Duncan Smith was pleading to anyone who would listen that he cares about people using food banks and will be doing ‘much more’ to raise awareness of emergency loans.  But this report reveals the truth about attitudes towards claimants who are hungry whilst waiting for vital benefits.  They really could not give a fuck about people forced to depend on food banks and are determined to make the problem worse.

You can read the report and the government’s response at:  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/social-security-jobseekers-allowance-and-employment-and-support-allowance-waiting-days-amendment-regulations-2014-ssac-report

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As Hunger Soars Iain Duncan Smith Is Still Hiding The Existence Of Emergency Benefit Delay Loans

IDS-malnutritionFollowing last week’s food banks report, which found delays in processing benefits are one of the key reasons for growing hunger in the UK, Iain Duncan Smith said to Parliament:

“Today I have announced that we shall be doing much more to raise awareness of interim payments for people who need them, particularly those who are in difficulty.”

These payments are called Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs).  These are repayable loans that can be accessed whilst waiting fot the Jobcentre to get round to processing a benefit claim.  And the shameful truth is, that whilst the number of people using foodbanks has soared, the DWP have done everything they possibly can to hide their existence.

There is no mention of these payments on the section of the gov.uk website which provides information on “Jobseeker’s Allowance and low income benefits”  or the section on “Benefits for families”.  In fact there is no mention of these loans on any government website at all except buried in policy documents.

This is not surprising.  When Short Term Benefit Payments were introduced, the jobcentre worker’s PCS Union warned that the DWP did “not intend to advertise the availability of STBAs to the public.”  When guidance on the Social Fund was later published, detailing the kind of help available from the government in an emergency, there was still no mention of these loans.

Short Term Benefit Payments were brought in to replace Crisis Loans which Iain Duncan Smith scrapped in April 2013.  These were small interest free loans which could be taken out if benefit payments were delayed or in the event of a household emergency.  The average sized loan was about thirty quid and the repayment rate was almost 100%.  So blasé was the Secretary of State about ending this vital support that when he was interviewed a year later he seemed to have forgotten his petty and vicious decision and claimed that they still existed.

Crisis Loans were a well publicised part of the benefits system and could be accessed by calling a dedicated phoneline. Unlike STBA’s, Crisis Loans still even have their own webpage – which states they no longer exist in Scotland, England and Wales – but makes no mention of their replacement.  This is not an oversight as Iain Duncan Smith is now trying to pretend.  It is clear that as families with children have gone hungry whilst waiting for benefit claims to be processed, the DWP have pursued a strategy of hiding information detailing the emergency payments they are entitled to.

The reason for this has not been to save money or cut the deficit, these loans barely cost the tax payer a penny.  The existence of these payments was hidden out of pure spite – to deliberately make life harder for people in desperate circumstances to access the help they need.  Now we are seeing the results of that policy with unprecedented numbers of people dependent on food banks to survive this Christmas.  That means children going hungry and all because of a nasty and vindictive little move by Iain Duncan Smith – and one that he is now trying to hide.  Don’t let the bastard  get away with it.

Short Term Benefit Advances can only be accessed by speaking to Jobcentre staff.  Child Poverty Action Group have published details on how the process works.

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Custard Creams Are Cheaper Than Cous Cous, But You Can’t Expect A Fucking Baroness To Know That

custard_creams

The lowest priced flavoured Cous Cous, at £4.55/kg, costs five times more than a kilo of custard creams.

Anyone who claims that healthy food is a cheaper option has clearly never enjoyed the dubious nutitional delights of a pack of Everyday Value Custard Creams (35p, 1,972 calories).

They’ve also probably never been to a supermarket.  Or at least never been to a supermarket with less than a tenner to last until the end of the week and two kids to feed.  This hasn’t stopped a string of pompous twats from appearing in the media this week and telling us how much better they would be at being poor than the plebs using foodbanks.

The nearest supermartet, who shall remain nameless because they are bastards, sells a kilo of value oats for 75p.  This means you can, just about, make a large bowl of porridge for 4p, as Baroness Jenkins claimed at the launch of this week’s food bank report – although that’s porridge with water and ignores the cost of cooking it.  But it is bollocks that a bowl of sugary cereal will cost 25p as she also suggested.  A well known national discount retailer are currently knocking out 450g boxes of Sugar Puffs for a quid, which works out at just under 7p a serving.  A cheaper option to this would be supermarket value Rice Snaps, which are 10% sugar but come in at under 5p a bowl.  Value cornflakes are even cheaper at around tuppence per bowl.

The cheapest source of meat protein I could find in the supermarket this morning was a tin of value meatballs in tomato sauce for 40p, which works out about £1.06 a kilo.  Despite the sauce this still probably beats the price of the lowest cost unprocessed meat alternative, which is raw pigs liver for £1.50 per kilo.  According to their website this store does packs of cooking bacon for about 80p, or £1.60/kg, although there was no sign of them today with the cheapest bacon at £3.79/kg.  Frozen value chicken portions also come in quite cheap at £1.75/kg, as do chicken legs at a similar price, but much of that weight will be bone.   In terms of bang for your buck, or more correctly calories, then value chicken nuggets, at 72p a bag, or £2.25/kg are probably a more economical buy.  As are chicken burgers (£2.13/kg) and value sausages at £1.44/kg.  Avoiding meat altogether will not save you any money.  Vege-sausages of all types are a lot more expensive than the value range meat alternative whilst a kilo of lentils will set you back £1.80.

The humble carrot or a white cabbage can both be bought for 60p/kg.  Onions cost about the same, but the price of veg rises steeply after that jumping to £1.47/kg for loose broccoli, the next cheapest source of fresh green veg.

Carrots are also one of the cheapest forms of tinned veg costing 19p a can, although you only get a measly 300g.  In contrast 420g of value baked beans are 24p, competing with a 300g tin of value mushy peas (16p) as the cheapest form of vegetable the local supermarket sells.  Cheaper still is a 420g tin of value spaghetti at 20p.  Stick that on a few slices of economy range white sliced bread and you’ve got dinner for two kids for about 30p, or the price of an apple.

This is far cheaper than the recipes that the Daily Telegraph helpfully published this week teaching us all how to make meals for 50p a portion.  One of those meals was a vegetarian chilli – which would actually cost over £2 for a single person because you can’t buy an eighth of a tin of chick peas.  This chilli, whilst undoubtebly nutritious, only contains about 250 calories.  Half a deep pan cheese value pizza provides almost twice that amount and costs the same price.  According to the NHS an 11/12 year old child needs around 2000 calories a day.  It would probably be healthier and cheaper to feed them a pizza and a vitamin pill for dinner than the Daily Telegraph’s suggestion.

As for afters, well you can usually pick up a banana for just short of 20p, if you really want to be the kind of person who gives their kid a banana for pudding.  A far lower cost option would be a value chocolate mousse for 4 and a half pence.

These are not isolated examples, everywhere you look it is the same.  A litre of pure apple juice is 65p, two litres of own brand coke is 55p.  14 tiny lunchbox size packs of raisins costs £1.89, whilst a multipack of 12 bags of crisps is 66p.  The cheapest mild chedder is priced at £5.40/kg whilst processed cheese slices come out at £3.53/kg.

One of the reasons for the constant sneering at those using food banks for not being able to cook is that there is little understanding of how poor some people actually are.  People with nothing will buy a pack of biscuits because it’s the only thing they can afford.  Someone with a quid left on a prepay meter cannot afford to risk turning on the hob to make porridge because that might mean the lights go out that night.

Unless you’ve been that poor you just won’t see how much cheaper it is to buy shit food.  You won’t notice that pound shops do big boxes of sugary cereals for a quid, or that value chicken nuggets are a cheaper source of protein than lentils. And that’s okay,  It doesn’t make you a bad person, just lucky.  But it does mean you should shut the fuck up about things you know nothing about.

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Shock New Figures: UK Spends Less On Healthcare, Benefits and Pensions Per Head Than Any Other Northern European Country

social-protection-spendingThe UK spends less on social security benefits, pensions and healthcare combined per head than any other northern European country figures released by the Office for National Statistics reveal.

In news which has sent the Daily Mail spinning out of control, the UK’s spending on ‘social protection’ is lower than France, Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland and in fact every country in Northern Europe, as well as Italy.  These figures are based on spending per person from 2012, before many of the benefit cuts were implemented.  With even more savage cuts to social security threatened, then the UK could soon slip even further down the ranking behind the beleagured economies of Greece and Spain.

Social protection covers a wide range of spending including benefits, pensions, healthcare and social exclusion.  In a worrying trend the Daily Mail has decided to lump all thse vital services under the banner of ‘welfare’ suggesting that pensioners and people who use the NHS may be next in line to face being smeared as scroungers by the right wing press.

Almost half (47%) of the UK’s social protection spend goes on pensions.  Just 2.5% of the total is spent on unemployment, just over half the European average, The UK also spends less as a proportion of the budget on disabled people and families with children.  Subsidies for landlords remain healthy however with 5.5% of the spend going towards housing costs reflecting the ever growing Housing Benefit bill.

Social protection spending works out at £6,959 per head each year but that doesn’t mean that’s how much it costs you as the Daily Mail implies.  It is how much you get.  People on lower incomes will pay considerably less than that, whilst corporation and other business taxes also contribute.  Depending on how long you live you will receive much if not all of what you have paid out back in your penson.  At least for now.  On top of that comes a comprehensive (for now) system of healthcare alongside now sadly less than adequate income protection insurance in the event of illness, accident or unemployment.  The welfare state is still good value though for everybody except the very rich and were it to disappear then we would be paying a lot more to line the pockets of insurance company spivs.  And it would be the rich who get the tax cuts were that to happen.  Don’t get mugged by the Daily Mail into thinking otherwise.

You can vew the figures on the ONS website.

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Savage Cuts To Benefits Go Ignored In Flagship Foodbanks Report – They Really Think We Are Fucking Idiots

foodbank-sanction-graphsHuge cuts to benefits are virtually ignored in the report into foodbanks published today by an unholy trinity of opportunistic Labour hasbeens, out of touch Bishops and austerity cheering Tories.

The growth in foodbanks dates back to before the current Government weren’t elected as Labour’s decimation of the social security started to take its toll.  The rise in benefit sanctions also began in the dying years of Labour’s administration as did the introduction of the despised Atos run Work Capability Assessment, designed to strip sickness and disability benefits from one million people.  Alongside this Labour’s normalisation of workfare led to unprecedented numbers of people forced to work without pay.

And then, as if things weren’t bad enough, along came Iain Duncan Smith.  With him came the bedroom tax, council tax benefit cuts, the benefit cap, housing benefit cuts, freezes of almost all in and out of work benefits, more Atos tests for disability benefits, the scrapping of Crisis Loans and countless other measures all precision targeted at cutting the incomes of the poorest.

Yet to read today’s report into foodbanks, you would think that none of  this had ever happened. Instead it insists that the growth in people going hungry has been caused by market forces and modern economic conditions – beyond the control of us mere mortals and simply something that is here to stay no matter what we do.

It is true that alongside the slow dismantling of the welfare state, the minimum wage stagnated whilst the cost of living for the very poorest soared. The erosion of social housing meant the greedy private rental sector became out of control as competition for low cost housing became ever more intense.  As supermarket dominance grew, small local shops closed and with them out of the way food prices began to rise.  A privatised energy market did exactly what you would expect from profit hungry vultures and fleeced their most voiceless customers, often elderly or disabled people who have no choice but to try and keep the heating on.  Payday lenders and pawn shops started to appear on every high street.  In some areas wherever you look you will see companies owned by the rich dressed up in pauper’s clothing as they attempt to wring every last penny of profit they can from the poor.

All of these things are a direct result of government policies supported by all the major parties to allow the parasites of capital – landlords, supermarkets, energy companies and legal loan sharks – to run rampant in the name of the free market.

But you won’t read that in today’s report either.  Instead it proposes tinkering with the rules on prepay gas and electricity metres, vague and unspecific policies to slightly edge up the minimum wage and yet more patronising fucking garbage about cooking lessons and budgeting skills.  Meanwhile calls for benefit payments to be made quicker are redundant when the government is planning a waiting period of up to six weeks for Universal Credit.  This is not even mentioned in the report.  They are not just willfully ignoring the cuts to social security that have already happened, but also the ones that are still set to come.

The huge rise in the number of people who face benefits being stopped or sanctioned has mirrored almost exactly the growth of foodbanks.  An ever more complex and draconian system now forces unemployed, sick and disabled claimants into pointless and irksome ‘work related activity’ for days, weeks and even months on end.  Any breach of the rules means benefits are stopped.  The report endorses this increased “responsibility to look for work”, calling it a “welcome move”.

Instead it merely makes the same calls for improvements in communications with claimants and access to hardship payments that we have heard before.  These bastards really think it is okay to leave someone in desperate poverty for missing a meeting with the Jobcentre as long as you write them a nice letter explaining why.  This comes with a proposal for a condescending ‘yellow card’ warning system, which was first suggested by the Tory think tank the Policy Exchange.  You can see their thinking on this one.  Poor people like football after all, so it will be easy for our little minds to understand.

Even this comes with conditions attached.  Whilst they recommend claimants be given a warning with the chance to explain “their offence” before a sanction is applied, it suggests that this could come with an “additional requirement” to be met.  This might as well be to go outside and hop on one leg for half an hour whilst quacking like a duck for all the good most Jobcentre requirements do to help people find work.  Punishing people for their poverty is behind this idea, not helping them find jobs.

Those behind the report are adamant that nothing can be done to halt the rise in the use of foodbanks.  But abolishing benefit sanctions completely would slash the number of people going hungry in the UK overnight.  As would scrapping the bedroom tax, council tax reform and halting George Osborne’s benefit freeze.  In time honoured tradition however, politicians are clubbing together to say a functioning welfare state is over, time to move on and bring food parcels into the social security system.

That is the real reason for this report.  It wasn’t written because Frank Field and his vile Tory counterparts really give a shit about people going hungry.  Instead it is an attempt to sign off Iain Duncan Smith’s vicious reforms as part of the political landscape and move the argument on to how we can best hand out tins of Tesco value baked beans to the starving and destitute.  They will argue about that forever now.  We cannot let the bastards get away with this.  The growth of hunger in the UK did not happen by accident, it has been socially engineered.  And the people who did that are the same vermin politicians who write reports telling us how terrible and inevitable it is.

You can read the report at: http://foodpovertyinquiry.org/

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What Lies Behind The Archbishop’s Demand For State Run Foodbanks Is Every Bit As Nasty As Iain Duncan Smith

archbishop-welby

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. Dressed like a tit as usual.

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby will launch a report in parliament this week which calls on the government to fund the growing network of foodbanks – many of which are coincidentally run by churches. This is his toxic solution to the growing hunger crisis which has emerged after the string of vindictive and bungled welfare reforms implemented by Iain Duncan Smith.

It is shameful that so many people are now dependent on foodbanks just to be able to feed their children, but to enshrine this charity within the social security system would be a disaster.  What poor people need is more money, not more foodbanks.  This is just common  sense.  But you won’t hear calls for an end to vicious cuts to social security from the clowns behind Welby’s report.

One of the authors of the report is Frank Field.  This vile piece of shit was asked to think the unthinkable on welfare reform back in 1997 before being sacked a year later for talking such incomprehensible drivel that even Tony Blair called his ideas “unfathomable”.  Sadly this did not shut him up and he has been  whinging from the sidelines ever since.

Shortly after the current government weren’t elected Field accepted a job with them as a Poverty Tsar, whatever the fuck that means.  He also sits on the advisory board of the right-wing Centre for Social Justice who first proposed many of the coalition’s welfare reforms.  In 2009 he said that the most important task for the dying Labour administration was “to build up a system of workfare” and called for stricter benefit sanctions.  In 2011 he was still at it and demanded more sanctions on the Tory Work Programme to tackle “recidivist, workless claimants” who he claims are “barely able to read or write”.

Now the bastard has got what he wanted – with approaching one million benefit claims sanctioned in the last year – he wants to further undermine social security by entrenching emergency food supplies within the system.  Field has gone on, and fucking on, for years about ending what he calls means tested welfare.  This means benefit payments given to people because they have no money.  Instead he has devised an elaborate semi-privatised insurance based model that no-one but him seems to understand.  You can see why he is so pally with fellow messianic crank Iain Duncan Smith.

Field’s plans would mean an end to social security for vast swathes of the population who are unable to find work.  He knows that to achieve this then something needs to be done to stop bodies piling up in the street.  His vision no doubt is queues of the undeserving poor lining up at state run foodbanks to be handed out of date food thrown out by supermarkets.  This will be suitable punishment for their fecklessness.

And he has found a useful fucking idiot in the Church of England to do his dirty work for him.  A man whose incisive understanding of poverty was no doubt first gained in the torrid dormitories of Eton where he was educated.  An Archbishop who has presided over a redundant church which has had nothing meaningful to say about the breath-taking greed of the rampant rich which is defining the modern era.

The sad truth is, that with some notable exceptions, the response from prominent Christians to Iain Duncan Smith’s relentless war on the poor has often been contemptible.  When disabled campaigners gathered in the grounds of Westminster Abbey in outrage at the abolition of the Independent Living Fund, the reaction from the Dean of Westminster was to stand back whilst police violently assaulted, kettled and abused the protesters.  The Salvation Army have been praised by the DWP for holding the ‘line on workfare’ when other more decent charities have pulled out in horror at the suffering caused by the sanctions which underpin the regime.  Archbishop of York John Sentamu pretends to oppose workfare, but is still president of the YMCA, another government funded defender of forced work and benefit sanctions.  Whilst those on the lowest incomes have seen their lives destroyed by this Goverment, the response from many of Jesus’ most important little helpers has been hypocrisy, cowardice and even naked profiteering.

It comes as no surprise that it should be the Mail of Sunday who have given space to Archbishop Welby to air his views.  They must be pissing themselves.  This is how the welfare state is lost.  By the liberal arm of the establishment hijacking the argument away from us and presenting their watered down demands as the compassionate solution.  Yet there is no compassion in the insecurity and desperation of people without enough money to feed themselves and forced to rely on the state for food parcels.

By all means support your local foodbank this Christmas.  Kids can’t be left to go hungry because of a point of principle or long term political aim.  We are not bastards like them.  But state funded foodbanks as part of the social security system are a line that must not be crossed.  Don’t buy into this fake fucking concern from zealots like Frank Field who helped to create the current sitaution.  And let’s leave Welby to slink away back to doing what he does best.  Like lying to small children that they will be tortured for eternity if they don’t pretend to love a non-existent man in the sky.

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Don’t Give Money To Beggars At Christmas Say Bastards Who Run Homelessness Charities

Nasty posters like these have become a regular feature in some cities in over the Christmas period.

Nasty posters like these have become a regular feature in some cities in over the Christmas period.

Homelessness charities in two cities have decided to spread some Christmas love by urging people not to give money to homeless beggars in the cold Winter months.

A campaign spearheaded by Liverpool Council, with the backing of some local charities and the police, warns that “Your Kindness Could Kill” because many homeless people spend all their money on drugs or alcohol.  Elsewhere in Bath the message is more explicit, warning that the city has a reputation for being “easy to beg in” which could harm the town “socially and economically”.

These nasty campaigns began in 2003 when several London charities including Thamesreach and St Mungos teamed up with Tory Westminster Council to produce posters warning that beggars spend all their money drugs.  The message from the charities was clear, give the money to us instead.  Those whopping charity Chief Executive salaries won’t pay themselves.

There was a time when homelessness charities fought against this kind of lazy stereo-typing of homeless people who often face verbal and even physical abuse on the streets.  They might even have argued that addiction is an illness and not one that will be cured by making life even harder for those affected.  These days however they are squarely behind the ludicrous notion that the very worst thing you can do for someone in poverty is give them what they need – which is some money.

No-one’s life is going to be saved by a hot mug of soup or a quid from a passer by.  But it might just mean that person has a mildly less shit day because of the kindness of strangers.  And that applies whatever they spend the money on, which is as likely to be hostel service charges as drugs or alcohol.  Benefit sanctions and brutal social security cuts mean that more people than ever are likely to be begging for food or to put the heating on this Christmas.  They are just collateral damage however in this moral campaign to hide homelessness away and stop shoppers being bothered.

If these campaigns are successful and less money is given to beggars over the Christmas period then all that will mean is that those who were begging for food will go hungry and people with substance dependencies will have to beg for longer.  Or turn to other far more dangerous ways of making money, such as sex work or crime.  Nobody is going to suddenly come off heroin because of a few bad days begging.  Addiction doesn’t work that way, as these charities are well aware.

The sad truth is that Killing With Kindness campaigns have little to do with getting people off the streets and more to do with fundraising over the lucrative festive period.  Homelessness organisations, in particular the Big Issue who back the Bath campaign, are in direct competition for funds with people begging on the street.  They know that some people don’t trust charities and would rather give direct help.  They are using these campaigns to try and guilt trip the public into changing their behaviour in the nastiest way possible by pretending that if you give some money to a beggar it will kill them.

It’s never even occurred to the Ned Flanders wannabes running homeless charities that some people don’t care if beggars spend their money on drink or drugs.  Few people are heartless enough to begrudge a homeless person a drink at Christmas, even if they are a fucking alcoholic.  It’s not like those in charge of these charities are planning on opening up emergency detox centres on Christmas Eve. They’ll be too busy getting pissed along with everyone else.

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