Category Archives: Universal Credit

Don’t Believe The Hype: Universal Credit Is No Closer To Being Workable Than It Was In 2010

Universal-credit-nudgeJobcentres sources are suggesting that Iain Ducan Smith will attempt to roll out Universal Credit across the country in February 2015.  This will allow the Tories to pretend that the project is on track and functioning in the run up to the general election.

Don’t believe a word of it.  This is Iain Duncan Smith’s biggest benefit fraud yet.  The truth is that Universal Credit looks no closer to being a functional and scalable system than it did when the Secretary of State first scribbled down plans for wide-ranging reform of the benefits system on the back of an evelope in 2010.

Universal Credit will only be inflicted on new, single claimants on the  unemployment benefit Jobseeker’s Allowance.  This has already been the case in the pilot schemes for the new benefit, and represents the simplest, and easiest to process claims.  As reported by Channel 4’s Dispataches last night, should the circumstances of these claims change, such as someone moving in with a partner or starting part time work, then the system collapses into chaos.

Equally importantly is that a DWP insider says that behind the scenes local authorities are still administering much of the housing element of Universal Credit.  Whilst payments will come from the DWP, claimants are referred to their local council if they have any queries about their claim.  This is the replacement for Housing Benefit and by far the most complicated part of any claim – requiring large amounts of evidence and specialist local knowledge of housing markets.  How the DWP will eventually absorb this knowledge is anybody’s guess.  Meanwhile those who need help with mortgage interest payments instead of rents will not yet be eligible for Universal Credit and will remain on the current system.  As will people living in supported or temporary accommodation.

You do not need a fancy fucking computer system to pay everyone £72.40 a week – the current rate of Jobseeker’s Allowance for those over 25.  And that’s all that appears to be happening for new Universl Credit claimants.  All Iain Duncan Smith has achieved in four years of bungling the introduction of Universal Credit is to design a clunky online form to pay the most simple form of out of work benefit at the same rate it is paid now.  Or in the words of a DWP source: it’s still exactly the same just under a different name.

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Why The Tories Want To Ban Zero Hour Contracts … And It’s Got Nothing To Do With Workplace Rights

zero-hoursDavid Cameron’s conference pledge to scrap exclusive zero hour contracts – which prevent employees from working for anyone else – is not some sign that he actually gives a shit about the poorest and most exploited workers.

The real reason for the ban is to make those workers poorer and even more exploited when Universal Credit is finally introduced (stop laughing) and the DWP start inflicting benefit sanctions on people working part time.

For a long time now, DWP ministers  have been panicking about how Universal Credit and increased benefit conditionality can possibly work alongside zero-hours contracts.  Should Universal Credit ever actually be introduced then part time workers will face the same kind of Jobcentre harassment currently reserved for unemployed or sick and disabled people.  People working part time could even face being sent on workfare in the hours they aren’t at work, whilst they will be required to take on additional jobs at the drop of a hat or their Housing Benefit could be sanctioned leaving them homeless.

These nasty new rules will place anyone working part time on an exclusive zero hour contract in an impossible situation.  If they don’t take up an additional job when the Jobcentre tells them to they will lose their in-work benefits.  If they do, they will get sacked from their other job.  This is why the Tories want to scrap these kinds of zero hour contracts.  So the DWP can start sanctioning part time worker’s benefits.

The truth is that the Tories love zero hour contracts so much that the Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Fraud has suggested people should have more than one.  All they want is a little bit of re-jigging so that Iain Duncan Smith’s latest crazy scheme can go ahead as planned.  The end result will mean more insecurity for the lowest paid workers, with the DWP already boasting to bosses that Universal Credit will make it easier to sack staff.  And those who fail to meet endless petty Jobcentre conditions will find themselves sanctioned and unable to pay the rent.

Of course simply saying they are going to ban exclusive zero hour contracts is only half the battle, and it is one the Tories are likely to lose.  Even the suggestion reveals breath-taking ignorance of how business works.  Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Fraud may dream of low paid workers scurrying from one job to the next desperate to avoid the attention of sanction happy Jobcentre busy-bodies.  But if they really think that Tesco will let their part time staff go work at ASDA in their spare time then they are living in a fucking dream world.

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Zero-hours Contracts and Universal Credit Are Still A Car Crash Waiting To Happen

DWP officials meet to discuss the implementation of Universal Credit

DWP officials meet to discuss the implementation of Universal Credit

Comments this week by the barely employable Employment Minister Esther McVey are so out of touch with the realities of work that they could only have been made by someone who’s never had a real job.

Forcing claimants to take on zero-hour contracts will be unworkable under upcoming changes to the benefit’s system and is likely to lead to huge numbers of people having benefits sanctioned and facing homelessness.  This will not be ‘enabling’ as McVey claimed.

For a long time now DWP Ministers have been panicking about how Universal Credit and increased benefit conditionality can possibly work alongside zero-hours contracts.  When the new benefit is fully introduced (stop laughing), claimants working part time will be forced to carry out ‘work related activity’ in the hours they are not working or have their in-work benefits stopped.  The DWP appear to have confirmed that this will include Housing Benefits, meaning that homelessness is to be added to forced work and child poverty as yet another weapon to police the poor.  Work related activity might mean attending a private sector company for shoddy job search sessions or CV workshops, signing on at the Jobcentre everyday, or in many cases workfare.

Claimants will also be expected to give up their current job for one with more hours at the drop of a hat, or take on an additional job until they are earning the equivalent of the minimum wage for 35 hours a week (or slightly less for lone parents).

What this means is that nobody will be able to sign a contract with irregular hours which expects the worker to be available at any time and not to work for anyone else.  With 1.4 million employees now on zero-hours contracts, that will mean unemployed people will not be able to take these kinds of jobs and stay within the new benefit rules.

The Government have said they are looking into banning ‘exclusive’ zero-hour contracts which tie workers into one employer.  They will have a fight on their hands with some of the greediest and most powerful companies in the country. They also say claimants will not be forced to take up these kinds of contracts.  But none of this will make any difference in practice to people in low paid insecure jobs under pressure to be at work at short notice.

As anyone who’s ever had a real job will know, most bosses are wankers.  You just try telling some jumped up supermarket manager that you can’t take a shift because you have to go and do your other zero-hours contract job instead and see how long you last.  It won’t matter if they are banned from saying in your contract that you can’t work for other people.  They’ll just sack you if you can’t go to work one day because your shift clashes with your other job.  The whole point of most zero-hours contracts is that workers are expected to be available to turn up at any time or at short notice after all.

Comedy toff Lord Fraud had already suggested that people could have two zero-hour contracts when he begged the business community not to use exclusive contracts and change their business practices to fit in with the Universal Credit regime.  He seems to think employers care more about implementing Iain Duncan Smith’s latest crazy scheme than they do about making money out of ripping off their workers.  But at least he realises there is a problem.  McVey is either in complete denial or is just plain ignorant about how the business world now works.

Universal Credit long ago became a bad joke, and one that will have desperate consequences.  Jobcentre advisors will soon have more power over workers than their bosses as people are forced into an endless juggle to keep one, two or more employers happy and maintain their ‘work related activity’.  Whether someone gets sacked or sanctioned, or both,  the outcome will be the same.  Thousands of people, some with children, left without any money to buy food and unable to pay the rent.

Above pic from here

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Universal Credit Boss Has Been On The Sick For Nearly Five Months! Where’s Atos When You Need Them?

atos_dr_nickThe man in charge of bungling the introduction of Universal Credit is currently only working a day a week after being on the sick since last Christmas.

Howard Shiplee is the builder that Iain Duncan Smith brought in to rescue his doomed project to reform benefits last year.  He is the sixth boss Universal Credit has had in the last two years and after just a few months in the job went on long-term sick leave.  According to Computer Weekly, who uncovered the story, he was suffering from bronchitis which has now developed into something more serious.  The publication claims the DWP are looking for someone to replace him behind his back.

Of course Shiplee, like everyone else, has the right to take time off if he is unwell.  But 20,000 people with respiratory conditions have been found fit for work since the Atos assessments began.  Under Universal Credit some of those claimants could be sent on workfare, or will face endless ‘work related activity’ to bully them off benefits.  This is the system that Howard Shiplee is being paid huge amounts of tax payer’s money to introduce, or at least he is when he actually turns up to work.  So fuck him.  Send him a pack of fags as a get well soon present.

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The Unemployment Timebomb At The Heart Of Universal Credit

self-employed-earnings-graphIain Duncan Smith’s response this week to soaring low paid self-employment shows he remains as clueless as ever about what is really going on in the jobs market.

According to IDS, figures showing that the number of self-employed workers has jumped by 600,000 is a sign of “entrepreneurial spirit” and proves that his bungled and reckless policies are working. What is really going on is very different and lays the foundation for an unemployment time bomb at the heart of Universal Credit.

Some of the rise in self-employment is almost certainly down to falling living standards.  People who have taken early retirement are  setting up small businesses in an effort to pay soaring bills, along with so-called mumpreneurs – parents forced out of the workplace due to huge childcare costs and shit wages. The rise of the internet has also allowed some of those who are unemployed to generate a small income from self-employment, such as an ebay shop, or by carrying out small amounts of paid work online through micro-job sites.  Many companies use flaky self-employment contracts for sporadic or casual work to help them dodge minimum wage laws, or providing other benefits such as holiday pay.  These are some of the reasons self-employment is soaring, but of these precarious workers are really making much money.

Alongside this Jobcentre staff and Welfare-to-work companies are known to have encouraged unemployed people to claim Working Tax Credits and set up as self-employed, even if there is little chance of them earning a livable income. This gets them off the unemployment figures and onto a lower rate of benefits, although it may be a risky move for the claimant.  A claim for Working Tax Credits demands that those without children spend  30 hours a week working as part of their self-employment.  If they are unable to prove this then at some point the Tax Office may decide to take back the money that the DWP advised them to claim.

According to a report released late last year, the average annual income for self-employed workers (who earn less than £100,000) was just under £10,400 in 2011, a fall from from £15,000 in 2000.  There are currently four and a half million people who are self-employed.

£10,400 a year works out at £200 a week –  less than somebody working 35 hours a week on the current minimum wage would earn. That means that many, if not most, of these workers will be unable to claim the upcoming (stop laughing) Universal Credit as self-employed earners.

When Universal Credit is fully introduced, only those earning the equivalent of a full time minimum wage salary will be eligible for self-employment part of the new benefit which replaces Working Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.

Claimants will be given a year to achieve these earnings – although first they will have to pass the planned Jobcentre Dragon’s Den assessment to prove their self-employment is financially viable. If after 12 months they are not hitting the required earnings they will see benefits slashed as they will be assumed to be earning the full-time minimum wage when their claim is calculated.  Many will be forced to forsake self-employment at this point, and some will be told to do so by the Jobcentre.  Instead they will become ‘unemployed’ and expected to spend 35 hours a week carrying out ‘work related activity’ such as attending endless courses on how to write a CV or even full time workfare. They may even have to give up the work they are doing which makes them a small income because – astonishingly –  Jobcentre busy-bodies will have the power to sentence claimants to unpaid work instead of allowing them to carry out paid work on a self-employed basis.

Iain Duncan Smith may have convinced himself he has created a new spirit of entrepreneurship, but seems to have forgotten that even if this were true – and it isn’t – he plans to kill it stone dead.  And then all those self-employed workers will suddenly be back on the dole, and we will see the true extent of unemployment in the UK.

Above graph from the Tax Research report on plummeting earnings for the self-employed.

For the latest red tape ridden rules planned for self-employed Universal Credit claimants visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/254254/uc-and-self-employment-quick-guide.pdf

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A Truly Chlling Move: Part Time Workers To Face Housing Benefit Sanctions DWP Confirms

what-nextIn breath-takingly savage news, it has been reported that the DWP plans to stop Housing Benefit payments to low paid part time workers if they fail to carry out ‘work related activity’.

When Universal Credit is finally introduced, those earning less than the equivalent of the minimum wage for 35 hours a week will be forced to constantly look for more or better paid work to qualify for in-work benefits such as Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.  Part time workers could face being sent on workfare in the hours they are not at work and will have to prove to Jobcentre busybodies that they are constantly looking for another, better paid job.

Currently sanctions are usually only inflicted on unemployed people, lone parents or those on sickness or disability benefits.  Sanctions are often imposed for the most trivial reason such as being a few minutes late for a meeting with the Jobcentre.  At present Housing Benefits, which allow people to at least keep a roof over their heads, cannot be sanctioned.

This will all change for part-time workers who will now face possible eviction if they upset the Jobcentre according to Inside Housing who warn this could affect up to a million workers.  The number of people in work reliant on Housing Benefits has soared in recent years as social housing has been eroded, whilst wages stagnated and private sector rents climbed to eye-watering levels.

It is chilling to imagine how this vicious move may play out in practice, particularly given this week’s news that evictions are at an all time high.  That it is to be inflicted on those in work just shows the depths that Iain Duncan Smith will stoop to in his attempt to bully the poor out of benefits.  More children will become homeless because of this measure, their lives destroyed before they have even really begun.

Astonishingly one of the groups most affected by this policy is likely to be Jobcentre workers themselves who will now be forced to make each other homeless.  If this doesn’t drag the so-called fighting PCS Union off their knees then nothing ever will.  Don’t hold your breath though – motions passed at the PCS Conference instructing the union to take a tougher line on benefit sanctions have been brushed under the carpet by the leadership.

Visit Boycott Workfare’s website to join the fight against workfare and benefit sanctions and sign the petition to scrap all benefit sanctions without exceptions at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/benefit-sanctions-must-be-stopped-without-exceptions-in-uk

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The Benefit Sanction Debt Trap: Is this Iain Duncan Smith’s Nastiest Move So Far?

sanction-sabsUnemployed and disabled people could find themselves owing the Government hundreds, or even thousands of pounds, if they fail to attend workfare or miss a meeting with the Jobcentre.

Details are emerging (thanks to @refuted) of a horrifying regime planned when Universal Credit is introduced which will see emergency Hardship Payments converted into repayable loans.

These payments will be all that is available to people who have had benefits sanctioned for not meet the draconian and ever-changing conditions for claiming benefits.  Claimants can face benefit sanctions for being late to an appointment, missing a meeting or failing to turn up for unpaid workfare placements.  In some cases sanctions can last up to three years.  Hundreds of thousands of benefit sanctions each year are now inflicted on some of the poorest people in the country by Jobcentres.

Hardship Payments, currently set at just over £40 a week for unemployed people, are not available to everyone.  Claimants must show what the DWP considers to be genuine ‘hardship’, have no savings and will be quizzed about whether they can borrow money from family or friends instead.

Changes to the benefits system mean that most claimants now will have to pay Council Tax out of these meagre payments, with many also subject to the Bedroom Tax.  This means that someone who doesn’t apply for Hardship Payments will not only go hungry, but may face eviction and even prosecution for non-payment of Council Tax.

Under Universal Credit all Hardship Payments will be converted into loans.  An unemployed person, who is sanctioned for six months, will face a bill of over a thousand pounds at the end of it.  Someone who is sanctioned for the full three years will face owing the Government over £6000.

This vicious debt trap will be virtually inescapable for many claimants.  Jobcentre staff work to unofficial targets to sanctions as many claims as possible.  Under this toxic regime it is often the most marginalised claimants, who find it hardest to obtain work, who are vulnerable to benefit sanctions.  Most claimants on sickness and disability benefits can also face sanctions, even though their own doctors – along with the despised Atos – agree that they may not be well enough to work at present.

A Citizens Advice report warned recently that benefit sanctions have led to people attempting suicide, begging and going through bins to find food.  It is hard to imagine how people in poverty this desperate can even consider looking for work – and afford the expenses which come with it such as internet access, smart clothes, stamps, newspapers and phone calls.  Instead everyday becomes a desperate struggle for survival, the next meal more important than the next job application.

Benefit sanctions are the ultimate poverty trap and are causing horrific suffering.  Not content with this, Iain Duncan Smith now wants to plunge this group into huge debts when the sanction is over.  A near life sentence in some cases of poverty and debt.  This is beyond nasty, even for the Tory Party, this is a Government out of control.  And the victims, who are being kicked and kicked again, are some of the poorest people in the UK today.

Join the fight back against the war on the poor at the Welfare Reform Gathering this Saturday February 15th.

Sign the petition to scrap all benefit sanctions without exemptions: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/benefit-sanctions-must-be-stopped-without-exceptions-in-uk

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