Category Archives: Universal Credit

Worse Than The Poor Law, Universal Credit Slammed By Councils, Charities And Even Landlords

cih-poor-lawSavage new rules, which could leave newly unemployed, sick or disabled people with no money at all for six weeks, have been slammed in a consultation carried out by the DWP’s own advisors.

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) ran the consultation after the DWP warned that the seven day waiting period already introduced for current out of work sickness and unemployment benefits is being extended to Universal Credit. As the SSAC rightly point out this will leave most new claimants without any benefits at all for six weeks due to the monthly payment cycle of Universal Credit.  Perhaps most shocking of all, this will include payments intended to cover rents, meaning new claimants will not just face the trauma of losing their job but immediately be plunged into huge rent arrears.

The plans have been met with outrage by charities, housing associations, local authorities and even landlords.  One organisation, the hardly fucking radical Chartered Institute for Housing, points out that: “Even under the poor law that preceded the welfare state it was unlawful for the authority to refuse support to a person who had no income or savings even for a short period of time.”

The result of the consultation is that the SSAC recommended to the Government that this proposal should not proceed.  The DWP, predictably, have rejected this recommendation  on the basis that they think people will have enough money to tide them over.

According to the DWP, most people are paid monthly and so should receive a final salary payment if they leave work and it is ‘not unreasonable’ to expect them to budget this money to last the full six weeks.  They also claim that low earners will aready be on Universal Credit anyway, so they will not face a waiting period if they lose their job.

The truth is that a single person, with relatively low housing costs, will cease being eligible for Universal Credit if their earnings go above about £310 a week before tax.  This is the kind of ‘relatively higher-income employment’ that the DWP believe means a person will have a couple of months rent lying around somewhere, as well as enough cash to get them through the next six weeks.  It is fucking astonishing they can say this stuff with a straight face.  What is perhaps of most concern is that they might actually believe it.

The DWP have brushed aside concerns that many workers are not paid monthly, particularly in lower paid jobs.  McDonalds, for example, pay fortnightly, whilst lots of agency and cleaning jobs pay weekly.  Additionally not everyone comes onto benefits after leaving work – a failed business, the end of a relationship or someone leaving the parental home can also trigger a benefit claim.  The DWP merely say that these people might be able to apply for a benefit advance, although this will be conditional on whether they think the person can afford to pay it back.  With some people likely to face housing costs running to over a thousand pounds, and that’s before they eat, it is unlikely that a Short Term Benefit Advance will do anything to bridge the gap.

The SSAC also recommended that if this policy were not to be scrapped then exempting the housing element of Universal Credit from the waiting period might “mitigate against the harshest impacts”.  The DWP have responded that this would only confuse claimants and therefore not meet the aim of simplifying Universal Credit.

For the last five years we have been told that giving money to the very poorest will make only make them lazy and unhealthy.  Now apparently it will confuse them as well, as if they will not be able to cope with such riches as being able to afford to pay their rent.  There has rarely been more transparent bullshit spoken to justify what is nothing more than a simple transfer of wealth from people in poverty to line the pockets of the filthy rich.  According to the DWP the money saved by this policy will be re-invested in welfare-to-work support, meaning yet more lucrative contracts for the likes of G4S, Maximus and A4e and the multi-millionaires who run and own them.

You can download the SSAC’s report and the Government’s response at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-universal-credit-waiting-days-amendment-regulations-2015-si-2015-no-1362-ssac-report

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How Lord Fraud’s Benefit Rules For Self-Employed Workers Will Mean The End Of Enterprise

lord-fraud-freud1Fuck entrepreneurs.  Seriously.  Fuck them.  Most of them are are chinless jumped up idiots squandering their trust funds and boring everyone shitless with their latest wacky idea for raspberry fucking flavoured baked beans.  Or online spivs like Grant Shapps ripping off the public with fake websites and get rich quick schemes.

If you’re poor then the local entrepreneur is likely to be the person people buy their smack from, or your landlord, or someone you borrow fifty quid off knowing some bastard with a baseball bat will probably turn up if you can’t afford to pay it back on time.

Having said that, millions of people are now scraping an income as self-employed workers.  Whether being shafted by online micro jobs that pay 50p for an hour’s work, or working on building sites and forced to register as self-employed to save their employer money, a casualised, insecure and poverty paid working life is the reality of modern capitalism for many.

In his Autumn statement Geroge Osborne announced that from April this year self-employed people claiming Working Tax Credits will have to prove that their self-employment is genuine and likely to pay them the equivalent of 24 hours a week at the minimum wage.  This is called the Minimum Income Floor and when Universal Credit is introduced (stop laughing) it will increase to 35 hours for those without young children or a significant health condition.  A sinister bunch of ghouls called Concentrix have already been hired by the DWP to hound self-employed people claiming Working Tax Credits.  Thousands of people have received letters demanding they prove their self-employment is genuine or accusing them of fraud and expecting them to prove their innocence.

There is no easily found information on Government websites explaining when and how changes to Working Tax Credits for the self-employed will be introduced.  Not for the first time when it comes to Iain Duncan Smith’s shambolic welfare reforms, nobody, including claimants themselves, has a clue what is going on.

What we do know however is that the changes that are planned under Universal Credit will prove devastating for many self-employed people.

Claimants who want to register as self-employed will first have to pass a DWP Dragon’s Den style test with Jobcentre busy-bodies and persuade them that their self-employment is ‘gainful activity’ and expected to make a profit.  Just think about that for a second.  Imagine trying to explain a business concept like facebook or instagram to a DWP Work Coach who can barely work a smart phone.  The Mark Zuckerberg’s of the future will probably end cleaning the bogs in Poundland on workfare schemes rather than creating innovative online products.  Good.  Fuck entrepreneurs.

But think about people working in the creative sector, freelance journalists, actors or musicians.  Or those in the sex industry, or other fringe sectors which are not easily understood by Jobcentre Work Coaches.  Can we really trust that these groups are likely to be considered gainfully self-employed and granted the 12 month start up period during which claimants are exempt from the Minimum Income Floor?  And this is only the start of the bodged process set to be inflicted on the self-employed.

Once the initial 12 month start up period is over then the DWP wil assume earnings of 35 hours a week at the minimum wage when calculating benefits, including Housing Benefit.  That’s 35 hours every week.  No holidays, or periods of sickness will be considered in calculations.  If you have a bad month then the DWP will make it even worse by not paying you enough Housing Benefit meaning your home will be at risk.  It won’t take much.  An illness, personal crisis, a downturn, some shyster not paying on time, and people could be driven onto the streets.  How many people are likely to take that risk, when they could get more benefit by abandoning self-employment altogether and signing on the dole?

On top of this the amount of red tape is breath-taking.  Self-employed people, desperately trying to meet their Minimum Income Floor, will have to waste time sending the Jobcentre details of their income and expenses every single month.  This is in addition to their tax return.  Expenses or income cannot be carried over, so whilst if someone has a good month their benefits will be reduced, if they have a bad one then they will not be increased.  A single claimant who earns nothing in a month will have to find up to £950 to be able to pay their rent and survive for that period.  Or go on the dole.  That’s assuming the DWP will let them and don’t disallow them from benefits completely for giving up ‘gainful self-employment’.

It is genuinely astonishing that such a vicious attack on self-employed people is being launched by the party which once claimed to represent entrepreneurs and small businesses – and fuck small businesses as well, bunch of UKIP gobshites who pay their workers less than Tesco.*  These policies can only really be understood once you discover they were largely drafted by comedy toff and Minister for Welfare Reform, Lord Fraud.  Out of touch ex-bankers like Fraud don’t really believe working class people can run their own businesses.  They’d far rather we were all working for people like them.  They have no concept of what life is like for low earning self-employed people scrabbling around trying to gain an income wherever they can.  And they don’t care if their welfare changes could leave someone with no money at all, even to pay their rent.  Serves them right for not working hard enough that month they will chuckle to themselves.

Nobody knows how much of the so-called fall is unemployment is down to people registering as self-employed and claiming Working Tax Credits.  What we do know is that some of them will have been bullied into this option by grasping Work Programme companies who can claim a huge job outcome fee everytime someone becomes self-employed.  Hundreds of thousands of people could be hit by these changes and many could be left with barely any money at all to survive on.  They haven’t done anything wrong.  They are both working and claiming a much lower rate of benefit than Jobseeker’s Allowance.  They just aren’t earning enough so the government is intent on making them even poorer.  The less you have the less you get, which just about sums up the last five years of Tory Government.

There’s still more to come on this.  Meanwhile see what will happen to part time workers on Universal Credit: It Had To Happen. Soon You Could Face An In-Work Benefit Sanction … For Going To Work

*Fuck Tescos as well.

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It Had To Happen. Soon You Could Face An In-Work Benefit Sanction … For Going To Work

ids-anyonecanlivePart-time workers could face a benefit sanction for going to work under draconian new rules which force claimants of in-work benefits to constantly look for more, or better paid work.

When Universal Credit is fully introduced (stop laughing) Jobcentres will have the powers to dictate how many hours a claimant should be working to remain eligible for what are now called Tax Credits and Housing Benefit.  Those without children, who do not have a health condition, will be required to spend up to 35 hours a week either working or taking part in work related activity such as looking for additional work or even attending workfare.  Failure to comply will result in a sanction.

The implications are chilling.  Under the new rules part-time workers will have to attend a job interview with just 48 hours notice  or their benefits will be stopped.  This is likely to mean someone required to take time off their existing employment – at short notice – to attend a job interview somewhere else.  If they go to work instead of the interview they could face a sanction.  As anyone who has ever had a real job will know, this will place claimants in an impossible position forcing to them to make the choice between risking being sacked or sanctioned.  And unfortunately their boss will probably find out they are looking for a new job  whatever they do because part of their work related activity may include being mandated to set up an online profile to “draw attention to their availability” for alternative employment.

Claimants should not face a sanction if they can demonstrate a ‘good reason’ (pdf) for not carrying out work related activity such as attending an interview.  But no-one is likely to tell them this.  Anyone who thinks that these new rules will not lead to people being sanctioned for going to work has not seen the ever growing lists of sanctions handed out to claimants for petty, inappropriate and sometimes even bizarre reasons.  Not being able to carry out work related activity because your boss makes it impossible is not even mentioned in the decision maker’s guidance, the rule book for the faceless back office Jobcentre staff who impose sanctions.

Ministers had said that people would not face a sanction if it means giving up a part-time job to attend a temporary position with longer hours.  But even the guidance on this is vague.  Decision makers are advised that someone should not be forced to leave their job to take up a fortnight’s full time temporary work but beyond this it is left to them to take a “common sense approach”.

It is astonishing, and horrifying that Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with benefit sanctions could now actually cost people their jobs.  It is what will happen to those who are sanctioned however that reveals the breath-taking cruelty behind this policy.

Somebody working 16 hours a week on minimum wage and paying £90 a week in rent (around the average Housing Benefit award) will receive £104 a week in wages and £111 under Universal Credit, a total of £215.  If they are sanctioned they will lose the equivalent of a Jobseeker’s Allowance payment, currently £72.40, for each week the sanction remains in place.  Depending on where they live they will almost certainly have to pay some Council Tax from that sum, around here that would be £8 a week for someone living in the cheapest band.  After paying this, and their rent, the claimant will be left with just £44.60 a week to pay for food, clothes, bills and fares to work.  This sum will be enough to disqualify them from claiming Hardship Payments or any other form of additional help.

It is difficult to imagine how someone could maintain the level of health and hygeine necessary to hold down a job on such a paltry income, unless they stop paying their rent.  Homelessness or unemployment will be the stark choice facing sanctioned working claimants – although if they leave their job they will be sanctioned again, or possibly disallowed any benefit completely.  Even if they are able to increase their hours it will barely make a difference.  For every pound they earn they will lose 65p of what little benefit they have left whilst their Council Tax liability may also rise as they earn more.  Working another four hours a week would still not give them an income above £50 a week according to the turn2us benefit calculator.  There will be no escape.  People who are working will be condemned to desperate poverty and the longest sanctions can last for three years.

All of the main political parties support the principles behind Universal Credit, even if they are sceptical about whether the IT necessary for the system is genuinely achievable.  Few of them seem to have looked into the details of what they are supporting – and what will happen to people who are self-employed is even worse (watch this space).  These rules are aimed at people with jobs, not the unemployed.  The DWP is out of control under Iain Duncan Smith and the suffering that is yet to come unless someone puts the brakes on will dwarf anything we have seen so far.

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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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