Tag Archives: lord freud

DWP Are Trying To Hide The Truth But The Amount Lost To Fraud And Error Is At A Record High

lord-fraud-freudFigures released from the DWP show that benefit over-payments due to fraud and error remained at a record high of £3.3 billion in 2013/14, but you wouldn’t know this from reading the gushing press release that accompanied the statistics.

Instead the DWP boldly claims that Jobseekers Allowance and Income Support over-payments are at their lowest recorded levels.  But these represent just ten percent of the total amount lost through fraud and error.  The amount of Housing Benefit overpaid, for example, has soared to £1.38 billion and is by far the largest source of fraud and error in the system.  No-one seems to be checking how much of this figure ended up in the pockets of landlords.

With Iain Duncan Smith busy bungling the launch of Universal Credit, it was left to the Minister for Welfare Reform, the aptly named Lord Fraud, to defend the figures, which he did by if not lying through his teeth, then deliberately distorting the truth.  According to the minister: “It is encouraging to see that the level of fraud and error is now lower than before the start of the Parliament.”

The rate of over-payments dropped from 2.2% in 2009/10 to 2% in 2010/11 and has stayed there ever since.  According to the DWP themselves this is not statistically significant and could be due to inaccuracies in the data.  The cost of fraud and error however has risen since the start of this Parliament and it is this that the DWP is trying to hide.

On face value it looks like over-payments fell in the last year, from £3.5 billion to £3.3 billion.  But this is because Council Tax Benefit expenditure was not included in the figures after being scrapped in April 2013.  Over-payments in Council Tax support schemes are no longer the DWP’s problem, and so will no longer be included in the statistics.

The table below shows amount lost through fraud and error if Council Tax Benefit is also excluded from the previous year’s figures.  What it shows is that the cost of over-payments rose year on year since the election and then hit £3.3 billion for each of the last two years.  This was not explained in Lord Fraud’s press release and the real numbers can only be found in Annex 6 on the very last page of a 147 page DWP report (pdf).

fraud-errorThe truth about the amount lost to fraud and error in the benefits system is that’s it’s not very much and whilst it has risen slightly it hasn’t really changed significantly since this Government weren’t elected.  This is a huge embarrassment to Iain Duncan Smith who is currently squandering the best part of a billion pounds in an attempt to halve benefit over-payments by next year.  It is unsurprising that the DWP’s fraud and error strategy was this week given a red/amber rating (meaning it’s a fuck up) in the same Government report into major projects that revealed that Universal Credit has been ‘reset’.

The amount of money lost only to fraud in particular is very small – around a billion a year for all benefits, including pensions.  This is less than the amount of benefits which are underpaid, which stands at £1.4 billion.  The report which accompanies the over-payment statistics, contains some interesting details, such as the amount lost to fraud due to people on the dole working on the side being estimated to be as little as £59 million – about a quid a year for every person in the country.  Tax avoidance and evasion was about £35 billion in 2010/11, costing us each nearly £600 a year.  You won’t see that in a DWP press release.  Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Chilling Truth About Universal Credit: Bosses To Be The Gate-Keepers Of Benefits

lord-fraud-freudEmployers failing to provide tax information on time or going out of business could lead to vital in-work benefits going unpaid Lord Fraud confirmed in a speech this week.

When Universal Credit is finally introduced (stop laughing) it will replace almost all current in-work benefits including Child and Working Tax Credits, along with Housing Benefits.

Unlike the current system, benefit rates will be calculated monthly based on tax information sent to the DWP by employers.  This had led to concerns that if employers fail to send in PAYE information on time, or go out of business, then benefits will go unpaid or be paid at the wrong rate.  Lord Fraud confirmed that this would be the case in his speech this week when he said:

“the new PAYE in real time system has been designed to support Universal Credit payments. 99% of employers are now reporting their PAYE in real time every month. Not only does it prevent fraud, it ensures that every person who is in work on Universal Credit has their award automatically adjusted every month, based on these returns. So it’s absolutely crucial that you as employers report this accurately, as this will affect the payments of claimants.”

So should you have a dispute with your employer, or get the sack, then your boss will have the power to fuck up your claim for benefits.  For those with the most unscrupulous employers the implications are terrifying. Join a union, or complain about working conditions, and your employer will soon be able to stop your Housing Benefit and make you homeless.

Not to worry though because Lord Fraud suggested that under Universal Credit people could have multiple zero hours contracts instead of real jobs.  According to the minister these kind of contracts: “support business flexibility, they provide entry to work for young people and give people the flexibility to combine work with other commitments”.

In-work conditionality rules under Universal Credit will mean part-time workers face Jobcentre harassment and benefit sanctions to force them to constantly look for a better paid job or more work elsewhere.  They could even be sent on workfare in the hours they aren’t working.  This would make accepting many zero hours contracts – which require staff to be available for work at any time and at short notice – impossible for claimants.  Lord Fraud’s answer to this particular fuck up – which could see people sanctioned for failing to apply for a zero hours position, and then sanctioned again when they get the job and can no longer meet their claimant commitment – is that people can have more than one zero hours contract.  Which of course doesn’t solve anything, but Lord Fraud is hoping no-one notices.

The real reason for Universal Credit, which is to create a flexible, casualised workforce, was at the heart of Lord Fraud’s speech this week.  The new system will make it “easier to recruit – particularly when it comes to part time positions or for temporary work” and allow employers to find “more people willing to take on irregular work”.

Universal Credit is a blueprint for exploitation, forcing all low paid employees into a desperate competition for worst kind of insecure, casual work.  Step out of line for a second, and you will be sanctioned and face absolute destitution.  Despite the endless propaganda, this is not just an attack on those out of work, it is an attack on everyone’s pay and conditions.  As Lord Fraud’s speech confirmed this week, this is welfare reform designed to help your boss, not you.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Hostels and Women’s Refuges Still Under Threat As Lord Fraud Dithers

lord-fraud-freudWomen fleeing abusive relationships could be faced with the stark choice of sleeping on the streets or returning to a violent partner due to the benefit cap a leading charity has warned.

Meanwhile Lord Fraud’s dithering means that many women’s refuges and homelessness hostels may be forced to close when the benefit cap is introduced in July.  The cap on benefits, set at £500 a week for families, or £350 for single people, includes housing benefits which in some cases meet the cost of supported accommodation.

Last year Women’s Aid issued a stark warning that this change could potentially close every single one of their refuge’s for those fleeing domestic violence.  Homelessness hostels are also under threat.  Hostels and refuges charge high rents to pay for the cost of support staff, with most supported housing having 24 hour staffing cover and specialist support workers.

Astonishingly neither bungling Lord Fraud or Iain Duncan Smith appeared to know this.  In a panicky response the Government hastily u-turned, saying that the benefit cap would not apply to “supported exempt accommodation”.  Ministers also claimed that when Universal Credit is introduced, the system of Housing Benefits, administered by local authorities, would remain in place for this type of housing.

The problem is that the legal definition for “supported exempt accommodation” is several years old and does not apply to much of the supported housing available today.  This also seemed to come as a shock to Lord Fraud, who was forced to write charities promising not to worry,  he would have it all sorted out soon.

And that appears to be the last anyone has heard from the bungling old toff.  An important piece published on The Guardian website by Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, warns that with just one month to go until the benefit cap is launched nationally, many women’s refuges are still facing closure.

The charity also warns that many women who have already been housed after moving on from a refuge are likely to be affected by the cap and may “face eviction and be left with an impossible dilemma either to sleep rough or return to their violent partner”.

The truth is that the majority of those paying high rents and affected by the benefit cap are not people living it up in Chelsea mansions as the right wing press has attempted to portray.  In many cases they are people whose life has taken a desperate turn and who have been forced to take any housing they could find in an emergency.  Often this housing, despite being expensive, is sub-standard with grasping landlords charging a fortune for properties they couldn’t get away with renting to anyone who had a choice about where they lived.

The benefit cap is a truly nasty policy which punishes tenants for the greed of slum landlords.  A DWP impact assessment suggested almost 200,000 children could be made homeless due to the cap.  It is unlikely to even save any money.  All it will achieve if the expulsion of poor, often genuinely vulnerable families from rich local authorities into areas where councils are already struggling to pay the bills.

The end result will be lower council tax for the rich and cuts to public services for the rest of us.  And this, some would claim, is the Tory’s most popular policy.  If that is true then a lot of people need to have a serious fucking word with themselves.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Picket Lord Fraud In Manchester – 27th June

lord-fraud-freudMinister for Welfare Reform Lord Fraud and Housing Minister Mark Prisk will both be speaking at the national exhibition and conference of the social housing industry, Housing 2013, in Manchester on 27th June.

Manchester Against The Bedroom Tax have called morning picket to greet the Tory filth outside Manchester Central Conference Centre from 9am.  Facebook event 

A protest has also been called earlier in the week on the 25th June to Lobby the Landlords, the social housing providers who will be present at the three day beano.  Facebook event

Those not in Manchester can join in on twitter, where the conference organisers will be tweeting from @CIH_Housing2013 using the hashtag #housing2013

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Thatcher Death Party, UK Uncut and DPAC Make It Personal

dpac-idsUp to 3000 people from across the UK flocked to Thatcher’s Death Party in Trafalgar Square last night for a boisterous celebration despite the pouring rain.

The long awaited party finished off a day of anti-Tory action which also saw the street containing Lord Fraud’s posh Highgate townhouse occupied whilst Disabled People Against Cuts took the fight against welfare reform to Iain Duncan Smith’s front lawn (pictured above).

Not to be outdone, George Osborne’s constituency office was picketed in Cheshire whilst protests also took place in Brixton, Chelmsford and Birmingham.  Meanwhile anti-workfare protesters took on Homebase over their continued use of unpaid labour with protests outside their stores in London and Bristol.

A theme of all these events is accountability, whether that be taking companies to task for exploiting government policies to get free labour, or personally challenging the politicians who made those policies.

For too long a barely elected political class have remained immune to the consequences of their actions.  Hidden away in their countryside mansions, they barely ever meet the victims of their policies.  The national joke which is the House of Commons resembles little more than a public school debating society.  When a simpering idiot like George Osborne condemns millions to poverty he should be stricken with terror that a member of the opposition will leap across the house and stove his head in with the mace.  Instead Ed Balls makes silly gestures with his hands and his chums gaffaw at the hilarity of it all.

And then they all have drinkies, in the same bars and the same clubs, safe in the knowledge that they are with people just like them.

UK Uncut and DPAC made it personal yesterday and helped to burst the bubble of privilege that politicians have come to take for granted.  The Thatcher Death Party showed that even in death they will be held to account.

Much of the media – who drink in the same bars and clubs as MPs and went to the same schools and universities – have played down last nights raucous events in Trafalgar Square.  Yet three thousand people coming out onto the streets at short notice in the pouring rain to celebrate the death of a former Prime Minister is unprecedented in modern history.  And despite some petty police provocation, the event remained what it was intended to be, a celebration of the end of a rancid tyrant’s life.

The handful of EDL stragglers called out by the Daily Telegraph failed to make an impact on the festivities whilst any attempts at aggressive policing were firmly dealt with by the crowd.  But this didn’t spoil the mood and the drink flowed until late into the night until the constant rain caused even the hardiest to head for the pub.

As austerity really begins to bite this year, it will be Thatcher’s legacy, not her corpse, that draws mass protest and civil disorder.  But for all who suffered under her government, it was good to know that even in her passing she was still despised.

There’s more action to come this week aimed at stopping welfare reform, with a protest against the benefit cap in Stratford tomorrow (Monday 15th) whilst Liverpool begins a week of action against workfare.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Telling Truth About Universal Credit Would Be ‘Mental’ Admits DWP Chief

universal-credit-shambles“I’m not going to give you anything other than the official line. I’m not mental.” Graham Mowat from the DWP Universal Credit directorate.

A senior member of the DWP team currently bungling welfare reform suggested he would be ‘mental’ to say anything other than the official line when questioned whether Universal Credit would really be rolled out in October this year according the public sector website 24dash,

Mowat made the shocking statement whilst speaking at the National Housing Federation Finance Conference. People with mental health conditions are likely to be some of those worst affected by the new social security regime as the use of ever more punishing benefit sanctions are inflicted on those judged not trying hard enough to find work. Mowat’s choice of language reveals the flippant attitude at the DWP towards those whose lives are set to be plunged into chaos by the new system.

Mowat also reportedly gave an explanation for the apparent disappearance of Lord Fraud’s budgeting support for so-called vulnerable claimants – first reported on here over a month ago.

It seems that the Treasury has finally cut off the money supply – which is particularly revealing in the wake of accusations that work has stopped on building the complex IT system that underlies Universal Credit. 

One thing seems certain, which is that the very visible chaos at the DWP is nothing compared to what’s going on behind the scenes as Iain Duncan Smith’s endless brutal and bodged schemes unravel.

Bodged Government Spam Site to be at the Heart of Benefit Reforms

Universal-creditDWP documents confirm that the Universal Jobmatch website, the government job search site plagued by spam, scams and spoof vacancies, will be at the heart of the new conditionality for claiming benefits.

Lord Fraud’s recent begging letter to local councils asking for help with the Universal Credit shambles reveals the first scant details of how the new benefit system may (or may not) work in practice.

The document features a “claimant’s journey” which details how people will access the new benefit.  Claimants, many of whom will have never used a computer or don’t have access to broadband, will first need to open an online Universal Credit account.  It is anticipated many people may have to attend some form of training or support from local authorities or other agencies to learn how to make an initial claim.

Claimants will then be expected to provide the necessary documents for the claim, such as proof of identity, information on sickness or disabilities, details of children and any income or savings.  This is also likely to include the vast reams of evidence required to claim Housing Benefits, such as Tenancy Agreements and in some cases even bank statements.  It has not been explained how claimants will be expected to provide this information, but it sounds like another trip to the Jobcentre.

After the claim has been submitted claimants will be scheduled to an interview.  At this interview they will lectured on what they need to do to look for work and be “made aware of the support available to them including Universal Jobmatch”.

Only then will a decision on a Universal Credit claim be made.  This is Lord Fraud’s idea of simplifying the benefit system, by moving:  “claimants towards self service and automation and away from face to face delivery”.

universal-jobmatchThe document also gives information on what will be expected of claimants to maintain a claim.  This gives the clearest indication yet that DWP snooping via the bodged Universal Jobmatch website will be at the heart of the new benefits regime. Lord Fraud’s currently non-existent advisors are encouraged to:

“Ensure claimants are aware their obligations in receiving UC eg to look for work, and of all the support available to them to assist them in finding work including helping them to set up a jobmatch account and create a CV/sign up for job matching”

When Universal Credit is launched, five million people will face the same job-seeking conditions as those currently on unemployment benefits.

Part time or low income self-employed workers will be expected to constantly look for ‘more or better paid work’.  There will be unprecedented powers for the DWP to force single parents and sick or disabled claimants into endless ‘job related activity’ – which could include workfare.

The only possible way the DWP can police this draconian regime is to spy on people’s job seeking activity via the Government jobs website, Universal Jobmatch,

It is currently not mandatory for claimants to register with Universal Jobmatch, although Iain Duncan Smith has said that it will become so at some point this year.  Even then however,  unless Iain Duncan Smith changes privacy laws, claimants will not have to give the DWP access to their accounts.  According to the department’s own figures, only around half of claimants so far have ticked the box which allows jobcentre staff to monitor use of the website.

It is believed that the DWP will attempt to subvert privacy and cookie laws by expecting people to use computers inside Jobcentres to look for work on the website.   These are Jobcentres and computers which will already be overwhelmed by people making initial Universal Credit claims and forwarding their monthly income details to the DWP.  It is also expected that unemployed claimants will still be expected to continue to sign on fortnightly as they do at the moment.

The upcoming chaos is hard to imagine, even for those who have followed the shambolic welfare reforms.  Imagine a busy Jobcentre, seeing three times the number of people than they do currently, many of whom will be seriously unwell, or have kids running round.  Then cram in your local civic centre or Housing Benefit office.

On top of that throw in a packed internet cafe full of people who in many cases have never used a computer.  Some of these people may have literacy difficulties, some may not be able to read or even speak English, some will have drug or alcohol problems, many will no doubt be furious due to missed payments or delays.

Lord Fraud, with his gilded toff’s existence, knows nothing of this world.  For the rest of us it is already all too familiar.  There is no mass recruitment planned at the DWP to deal with this extra workload.  Jobcentres and benefit offices are already creaking under the strain of recession.  Many of the agencies Lord Fraud expects to help so-called vulnerable people make claims for Universal Credit have closed due to cuts.

Many have expected the IT behind the new welfare system, which depends on the largest and most complex database ever constructed by a government, to be the main obstacle facing Universal Credit.  In truth, even if it works (stop laughing),  it is only the beginning of the DWP’s problems.

Read Lord Fraud begging local authorities for help at: http://www.dwp.gov.uk/docs/uc-local-service-support-framework.pdf

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid