Category Archives: Welfare Reform

Pauline Got Promoted! DWP Management Psychobabble Is Turning Jobcentres Into Cults

pauline-pensIf you want an example of the glassy-eyed idiots currently handed senior positions at the DWP then the twitter feed of the regional manager responsible for 149 Jobcentres in Central England is a good place to start.

When not attending tax payer funded leadership and emotional intelligence workshops, Sandra Lambert seems to spend most of her day tweeting ‘inspirational’ claptrap from her feed @CEDirector_WSD

The most disturbing thing is that she is not alone. This nonsense seems to extend across DWP management.

The Jobcentre is starting to look more like a cult than a public service.  And like most cults behind the bubbly and uplifting facade lies cruelty, exploitation and abuse. Here’s some more of Sandra’s motivational tweets, along with some words from the victims of the current sanction happy regime in Jobcentres.

“I have been told by staff at the Jobcentre that people like me are ‘scrounging scum’, and told ‘you don’t look sick, you’re lying’” 

MIND report into the impact of benefit conditionality on people with mental health conditions: Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

“When some [staff] talk to you on the phone it is in such a derogatory way that you end up walking away wanting to end your life. Confidence and assertiveness takes a real hit.”

Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

“losing my benefits brought back that feeling of insecurity and struggling… it brought me back to the behaviours that I was used to in addiction.”

High Cost To Pay Homeless Link report into benefit sanctions.

“I explained to my Jobcentre adviser that I suffer severe anxiety and IBS and cannot always leave my home; I gave doctors letters but she said if I didn’t attend [Work Programme provider] she would sanction my money. I had no choice but to go as I cannot pay for food and heat already. I attended the twin training centre and had an anxiety attack. I had to leave and find my way home feeling very ill and frightened; a horrific experience.” Fulfilling Potential? ESA and the fate of the Work Related Activity Group,

Caller E is being threatened with a sanction by her work programme provider. She is unable to leave her two daughters alone – one of whom has health problems – to attend back to work courses in the summer holidays. No help with childcare costs has been offered.

Gingerbread report: Single parents and benefit sanctions, November 2014 (PDF)

“My mum has been taken to court and fined for not being able to pay the shortfall in council tax and is struggling to pay the rent arrears accrued when I was sanctioned and the strain has quite literally smashed our family to pieces – I feel like a burden on her and have felt suicidal on more than one occasion.”

“My partner also cares for me so he was left incredibly stressed and upset from this situation [being sanctioned] due to firstly no money (he has to look after me full time pretty much) and secondly my conditions and mental state became so hard to cope with (it also affected his mental health, he attempted suicide when he could not cope).”

“Starved and lived off what I had [due to sanction]. Scrounged food from bins and only left the house after darkness fell. Had no electric or gas so had to get ready-to-eat food. Struggled and went without nothing for 3 days with just bread and a block of cheese that my friend kindly gave me as it was past its sell by date.”

“The stress put us both in hospital with stress-related problems. We were refused hardship payments but later got this [revoked] because we went to CAB and Shelter. It had a massive effect on our son, who at one point was being considered for going into care because we couldn’t provide for him.”

“I wasn’t long out of a safe house for domestic abuse I tried to commit suicide and my doctor had to put my medication up and I have to get someone to collect them weekly.”

All from Punishing Poverty, Manchester CAB report into the impact of benefit sanctions.

h/t @screenedout @lynnfriedli @boycottworkfare

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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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Come And Clean Our Mansion For No Pay … Just One Of Many Exciting Opportunities On Government Job Seeking Website

ujscreenshot3A cleaning job advertised on the government’s Universal Jobmatch website is asking potential candidates to carry out ‘volunteer shifts prior to engagement’ in breach of minimum wage laws. (H/T @AtosMiraclesfb)

The vacancy is at Thornton Manor, a stately home in Wirral which has been converted into a luxury wedding and conference centre.  According to one intrepid jobseeker who inquired about this job, potential recruits are expected to carry out a voluntary shift in case they don’t like it.  It was then admitted that actually this unpaid work is for the benefit of both parties although in some cases potential employees may not have to carry out a full shift.

This is the latest example of grasping employers using ‘try before you buy’ schemes to minimise the cost of recruitment.  Taking on staff involves a level of risk, and greedy companies are now trying to push the cost of that onto unemployed people by forcing them to work for free before they are given a proper job.  Of course starting a new job can also be risky.  There are no shortage of abusive and exploitative employers out there after all.  But there is little in place to protect unemployed people against that.

Thornton Manor are almost certainly acting unlawfully – they are not a charity and if people are expected to work then they are entitled to be paid the minimum wage.  Astonishingly however some companies running government workfare schems are openly advertising this kind of exploitation.  And it’s legal.

Those sent on unpaid work schemes by Jocentres have little or no workplace rights, including the right to a wage.  Welfare-to-work company Ixion Holdings are currently offering employers unpaid workers on Traineeships for up to six months with ‘nominal risk or cost implication’.  ixion-trybuy2

Ixion were also recently caught lying to potential employers that forced unpaid workers Community Work Placements are ‘volunteers’.  They are wrong about the time Traineeships are expected to work without pay as well.  The latest guidance states that the work experience element of a Traineeship should be 240 hours, or eight weeks.

What is taking place is a simple wealth grab from the very poorest to the rich.  Unemployed people being expected to bear the cost of risks associated with recruitment means fatter salaries for company directors.  It also means that under the cover of so-called work trials like these, unscrupulous companies can  maintain a rolling stock of free workers and never actually pay any of them.  And the DWP will cheer them on because making the life of unemployed people as miserable as possible is now far more important than helping them get jobs that pay a wage you can survive on.

Thornton Manor are on twitter @thorntonmanor and have a facebook page.

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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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