New Disability Tests Are Even Worse Than First Feared, Join The Fightback On July 13th

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Disabled people have called a day of action against notoriously crap Capita on July 13th

Vital benefits – designed to meet the additional costs of living with a disability – have been stripped away completely from over 120,00 people DWP statistics revealed this week.

Over a quarter of those previously claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) have lost their benefits after being re-assessed by a private company as no longer having sufficient care or mobility needs to qualify for help.  Savage new benefit eligibility tests have been introduced as part of the switch to Personal Independence Payments (PIP), which is gradually replacing DLA.  So far 27% of those facing this re-assessment have lost their benefit with hundreds of thousands of people still to be tested.  Originally the government claimed 20% of people would lose their benefits due to the change-over.  Chillingly it now appears it could be much worse.  For newly disabled people the situation is even more dire, with only 48% of new claims for PIP being successful.

The shocking statistics come after disabled people announced a day of action against Capita, one of the companies who administer the tests – the other being the despised Atos.  Disabled People Againsts Cuts (DPAC)Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and Winvisible have joined forces to call for demonstrations in towns and cities across the UK on July 13th aimed at bringing these vile assessments to an end.

In London demonstrators will gather outside Capita’s offices at 71 Victoria Street, SW1 from 13.15.  An online protest will also be held on the day.  Please join and share the facebook page for the latest details of all events.  As the protesters say:

“ATOS and Capita are making a killing from conducting sham PIP assessments which are seeing thousands of legitimate claimants having their benefits reduced, their incomes slashed and their motorbility cars removed.”

It is time to up the struggle and to demand that the corporate assessors #DoNoHarm”

The latest PIP statistics can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/personal-independence-payment-april-2013-to-april-2016

This blog is likely to remain sporadic until after the referendum, and possibly a bit after that.

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How Eric Pickles Acted To Protect The Empty Penthouses Of The Global Super Rich

real-estate-forum

Join Class War, 1pm, 14th June, Berkeley Square outside the London property developer’s forum.

Imagine if there was a law that prevented the rich from leaving luxury properties empty as investments.  Even better, imagine if this law ensured that if a home was left vacant for over six months then local authorities could take over the management of the property and use it as part of their own housing stock to provide temporary accommodation for homeless people.  That would be a good fucking law, and that’s a rare thing.  And it is a law that the Labour Party accidentally introduced, although their target was not the rich, but squatters and those they claimed were involved in anti-social behaviour.

Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) came into effect in 2006 to tackles the problem of empty homes which the government said were “magnets for vandals, drug users, squatters and even arsonists”.  They operated exactly as described above, with powers for councils to take over vacant properties and rent them out to those waiting for permanent housing.  Of course this being Tony Blair’s Labour Party the new powers were awash with bureacracy and caveats to protect the rich.  Second homes were to be sadly exempt from the legislation, as were many other empty properties such as holiday homes.  Councils would have to make legthy application to a tribunal and property owners were given wide-ranging rights of appeal.  This didn’t stop the right wing press going into meltdown over the legislation with The Sunday Times declaring Britain had become a communist country.

In the end just 43 EDMOs were issued between 2006 and 2010.  The great expropriation had not happened and the rich continued to horde land and housing as much as ever.  This didn’t stop Eric Pickles rushing to change the laws within months of the Tory’s stealing power in 2010.

Pickles, who was Communities Secretary at the time, announced in early 2011 that he was bringing to an end these ‘heavy handed’ rules.  This news was barely reported at the time.  Now EDMOs can only be issued if a property has been empty for over two years, and more importantly only when local councils can prove the property is being used for anti-social purposes.  Pickles said he did this to protect civil liberties.

There seems little doubt that EDMOs could have been issued against rich investors who buy up luxury properties and leave them empty – a phenomena that is now extending to other cities besides London.  It would have been difficult, and might not have worked – oligarchs have good lawyers – but it would have been worth a try for an imaginative local authority facing growing homelessness.  But now that option has been shut down, to protect the civil liberties of the global super rich who see the booming housing market in the South East as nothing more than an exclusive casino where they always get to win.  And so the number of empty homes in London is now back on the rise despite a desperate housing crisis and record numbers sleeping on the streets.  That’s what this government calls freedom.

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Shocking New Figures Reveal The Collapse Of Social House-Building In London

mayfair

London’s housing crisis is set to escalate even further as figures show the construction of new socially rented homes in the capital is collapsing.

Statistics from the Department of Communities and Local Government reveal that the number of new socially-rented homes that began to be constructed in the city fell below 5000 in the most recent year for the first time in over a decade.  There were just 4,790 new social home-build starts in 2015/16 compared to 7,860 in 2010/11.  London’s population soared by around half a million in that period.

The figures for the most recent quarter are especially troubling, recording just 660 new starts in the latest period, a fall from over 2000 in the first quarter of 2015/16.

As alarming as these statistics are, they only tell half the story.  Many of these new homes will be ‘affordable’ rather than priced at social rents.  This means that rents could be as high as 80% of those in the local private sector, whilst they may also be let on fixed five years tenancies.  Some local authorities are now prioritising these homes for what they call ‘key workers’ – meaning teachers, coppers and social workers.  This is not social housing in a form that anyone would recognise.

Astonishingly London borough’s are also selling off social housing stock leading to a loss of 4000 homes in 2014/15, many due to Right To Buy.  The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham flogged 418 social houses between 2010 and 2015 and replaced them with just 170 new homes.  Construction did not begin on one single socially rented home in this borough in 2015/16, and the same applies to Kingston Upon Thames, Harrow and the City of London.

Homelessness is soaring in the capital with the number of people sleeping on the streets at record levels.  Appallingly the number of empty homes has also hit a seven year high, no doubt due to luxury flats being built as investments and then left unused.  And what are our elected officials doing about this crisis?  If they were doing fuck all that would be bad enough.  The truth is most of them, Labour or Tory, are making things worse.

Next week will see Labour councillors joining the the Tory Housing Minister Brandon Lewis to suck up to property developers and estate agents at the London Real Estate Forum.  The event is backed by the new Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and is being held in Mayfair – the multi-millionaire’s ghetto where the rich live in total isolation of the chaos they are creating in the lives of many Londoners.  They will not be there to discuss growing homelessness, soaring rents or the demise of social housing.  Instead they will be discussing how to further lines their pockets from the carnage.  Every fucking vulture in the world has their eyes on London’s last remaining social housing estates.  Deals will be done, the right people paid off, and our communities will be smashed up even further.  It is vital that these parasites are opposed.

A day of protest against the event is emerging beginning with a morning demonstration outside at 8.30am.  Then at 1pm Class War are calling for revenge with a mass noise protest outside the forum in Berkeley Square.  If you want your kid to have somewhere to live when they grow up then be there.  If you would like to be able to retire in the city you have lived in all your life be there.  If you are worried your council home is under threat or are sick of paying eye-watering rents to private landlords, be there.  If you just hate fucking toffs, be there.  Advance to Mayfair.  Bring the fucking noise.  Spread the word – June 14, 1pm Berkeley Square.

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Social Cleansing In London Is All Too Real, To Deny It Is Irresponsible

social-housingSome things need nippng in the bud.  So here’s a long and probably quite boring explanation of why Dave Hill’s recent claims in the Guardian that social cleansing is not taking place in London are a load of bollocks.

Hill based his recent piece on research carried out by the New Policy Institute think tank which examined the number of moves made by housing benefits claimants both within the capital and from London to other parts of the UK.  It found that the number of London claimants who moved house has changed little between 2010 and 2015.  As such the report’s authors conclude that housing benefit cuts have not caused the social cleansing of the city that many feared.

This led the Hill to declare that we should forget about social cleansing and instead focus on the poverty that has been caused by housing benefit cuts, saying that households had not been forced out of London but were staying put and making up rent shortfalls themselves.  To some extent this is true, many Londoners are now living in desperate poverty due to soaring rents and benefit cuts.  But to dismiss social cleansing, on the basis of this report, is a big mistake.

The first significant error in this research is that it examined all of those on housing benefit, not just those in the private sector.  Almost 70% of London housing benefit claimants are in social housing and unlikely to be subject to the benefit cap due to much lower rents.*  This means that large chunks of their data could be meaningless when analysing the impact of cuts on private sector tenants – and they don’t know which chunks.

There are many reasons why tenants might not move in such a brutal housing market.  With the number of London landlords who will accept those claiming housing benefits growing ever smaller, the sensible thing to do if you have found somewhere is to stay put.  Some social housing tenants may be hoping to buy eventually –  especially now that right-to-buy is being extended to Housing Association properties.  This could impact on the number of social housing transfers to outside the capital.  These factors would both offset any exodus due to benefit cuts.  But these assumptions, like the conclusions of the report, are speculation.

A further error in the research is that it treated claimants as one never-changing mass rather than examining flows on and off benefits.  This means that if someone comes off housing benefits as a result of moving to a cheaper area they will not be included in the figures. The report fails to show whether the number of private sector Housing Benefit claimants is falling or rising in any given area.  This leaves the question of whether people moving are being replaced by someone in similar economic circumstances.  You would expect this if the number of poor people was not decreasing overall as the researchers claim and you can find out by looking at the Housing Benefit caseload statistics.  They tell a very different story to the one told by the New Policy Institute.

The social cleansing of London did not begin when the Tory government first stole power in 2010.  Gentrification had already hollowed out much of inner London with both rents and house prices soaring even in once largely working class areas such as Hackney and Lambeth.  In more prosperous boroughs the eradication of the poor was almost complete except for those in social housing.  There were just 7,790 private sector Housing Benefit claimants in the City of Westminster in 2010 – and Westminster is big, with a population almost as large as Hull and with areas which would not have been described even as middle class a couple of decades ago.

According to the most recent figures, the number of Housing Benefit claimants in Westminster now stands at 5,001, a drop of over a third since 2010.  This trend is repeated throughout inner London – both the boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea and Islington have also lost around a third of private sector housing benefit claimants. In Camden, Hammersmith & Fulham and Southwark the number has dropped by around 20%, whilst Lewisham, Lambeth, Wandsworth and Tower Hamlets have all seen over 10% of private sector housing benefit claimants disappear.  In the largely uninhabited City of London there were 100 private sector housing benefit claimants in 2010 and now there is only 20.  The only inner London borough during the period to see a rise in this claimant group was Newham, by far the poorest and the least central borough.  In total there are over 11,000 less private sector housing benefit claimants in inner London since 2010, and there weren’t many to start with.  In many ways the Benefit Cap was simply a mopping up exercise, driving out the hangers-on that gentrification hadn’t yet managed to displace.

Despite plummeting number of private rented sector claimants in inner London the reverse is taking place further afield.  Almost every outer London borough saw a rise in the number of private sector Housing Benefit claimants between 2010 and 2016, with only Waltham Forest, Merton and Richmond seeing a fall – and the last two are both posh.  The main reason for this is soaring rents and a huge rise in the number of people in work who are claiming Housing Benefit.  The overall number of Greater London Housing Benefit claimants, including social tenants, is higher now than in 2010 despite falling unemployment.  The overall number of inner London claimants has fallen however.

The trend is plain to see. The richer and more central a borough is, then the more likely it will have seen a drop in the number of private sector housing benefit claimants.  In outer boroughs the opposite is happening.  London’s poor are being displaced to the margins

In some boroughs, such as Westminster, the process of social cleansing is near complete for almost all those without social housing.  And for those clinging on the situation is chilling. Westminster spent around £3 million on Discretionary Housing Payments in 2014/15 specifically to mitigate the impact of the Benefit Cap.  Assuming an average award of £50 a week – and this is a guess, there are no available figures – that’s enough to pay for over 1,000 of Westminster’s dwindling private sector claimants to remain in their homes.  These are emergency payments, which can be withdrawn at any time, and will eventually stop.  These households have simply been given a stay of execution.

In addition to this Westminster has 2,435 households who are homeless and in temporary accommodation.  Around half of this number have been relocated outside the borough.  Those still in Westminster will be in some form of private accomodation, whether that’s a hostel, B&B or in a temporary placement with a private landlord.  They are also likely to be claiming Housing Benefit.  So of Westminster’s 5000 private sector Housng Benefit claimants up to a quarter could be homeless, and possibly another fifth are receiving Discretionary Housing Payments which will eventually be stopped.

The Benefit Cap is just one, very small part of what is driving social cleansing.  London’s failure to build enough social housing is also displacing the poor from the capital.  Despite a population increase across Greater London of almost half a million between 2010 and 2014, the number of new social houses was just 7,455.  Housing stock estimates from the Department of Communities and Local Government show that Islington, Camden, Kensington & Chelsea, Wesminster and the City of London have all seen a reduction in the number of socially rented homes since 2010.  As numerous campaigners around the capital will tell you, they are now coming for the housing estates as well.

It seems astonishing that there would be those who refute that London’s poor are being gradually forced out of the city when the evidence is so visible.  Take a walk round Hackney and you will see streets that have been not just socially, but also ethnically cleansed.  This is not to undermine the sufffering of those still living in the capital who have been forced into poverty and  destitution.  That is part of social cleansing too, as the poor are sliced out of civic, economic and social life, even if they manage to cling onto their homes.  Those that are left become as invisible as the departed.  With further benefit cuts on the way and the near eradication of social housing it is irresponsible, and just plain inaccurate to deny what is taking place.

*this post was corrected on 28/5/16 due to previously saying social housing tenants are exempt from the Benefit Cap.  This was a daft mistake, they are not exempt, but due to much lower rents in social housing then very few claimants are affected.  H/T  @nearlylegal who pointed it out.

Above pic from Turbulent London

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How Consent Has Been Manufactured For In Work Benefit Sanctions

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Same old Labour, committee headed by Frank Field says DWP should be congratulated for in-work benefit sanctions.

There are many thing which could be done to tackle in-work poverty.  The most obvious being to raise in-work benefit levels.  Other measures such as rent caps or free public transport would make an immediate difference whilst longer term solutions could include a mass social house-building programme and the recreation of a militant trade union movement that was prepared to strike for better wages.  The restoration of student grants or free training in bankable qualifications that are currently only available at huge cost would also make a huge change in how people choose to develop their working lives.

More radical ideas might include the collectivisation of private (profit-making) property and a seizing of the wealth of the rich.  There’s plenty of stuff, and space, for everybody to live well.  The problem is some people are greedy and have too much.  There’s more of us than them.  We could just take it.  That’s what they did.

None of these ideas were mentioned in the recent inquiry by the Work and Pensions Commitee into ‘in-work progression’, the latest DWP initiative designed to force part time workers to constantly strive for more pay or more hours or face benefit sanctions.  From the radical to the mundane, these concepts are outside of current acceptable, neo-liberal conversation.  Even calling for a reverse to recent reforms such as the Bedroom Tax, or the restoration of full council tax benefit, have now slipped outside of the acceptable agenda.  Instead all solutions must be market based, individualised, and place the blame for poverty squarely at the feet of the poor.  And austerity and cutting government spending have now become aims in themselves, as if they were a moral force.

With a couple of exceptions, this ideology informs every single response to the Work and Pensions Committee’s recent inquiry.  This has allowed the committee’s final report to call the reforms potentially ‘revolutionary’.  Which they don’t mean in a good way.

The depressing truth is that consent had been manufactured invisibly before the committee even began, simply by the type of people they involved, and the narrow spectrum of beliefs they represent.  If you don’t share these views you will not become one of those people, the listened to people.  As such the submissions by Boycott Workfare, and even the PCS Union whose members will be expected to implement any changes, are completely ignored in the committee’s final report.    Instead it was the likes of Matthew Oakley who were called to give evidence in person, the chinless knobend who began his barely working life at the hard right Policy Exchange think tank.  Oakley has made a lucrative career out of pretending to be an independent expert whilst telling the government exactly what they want to hear.

Of course it helps that there was a financial incentive for most of those who responded to the consultation to support the DWP’s plans in the form of juicy government contracts to run the scheme.  And it does no harm that of the eleven people who sit on the Work and Pensions Commitee, six of them are Tories and one of the others is Frank fucking Field.  This is no doubt how they came to the appalling conclusion that the current government should be congratulated for these sweeping changes to the benefit’s system that will see low paid workers consigned to desperate poverty if they fail to meet the endless humiliating demands imposed on them by Jobcentres.  The committee even suggests that in-work progression could be extended to those further up the earnings scale, although it is unclear whether they support this on a voluntary or mandatory basis.  How to sanction people’s benefit when they aren’t on benefits is likely to prove a challenge.

There were two issues really that were being examined by the commission – that of in work ‘progression’ and also in work ‘conditionality’.  The first simply means mild harassment masquerading as help from Jobcentres or welfare to work companies to encourage claimants to look around for better paid work or be confident enough to ask for a pay rise.  Almost all of the organsations who responded said yes, we’d like some money to do that.  In-work conditionality however means benefit sanctions for not complying with demands placed on claimants to improve their earnings, which under current legislation could even include workfare or mandatory job search sessions in the hours people aren’t working.

This conditionality was rejected by some organisations who called for a purely voluntary scheme whilst many others warned that so-called vulnerable people should be excluded.  None of the responses were enthusiastic about sanctions, although one, from welfare-to-work company Prospects, did say they believed people should “not be allowed to settle for working only a few hours each week indefinitely”.  This was probably the most extreme statement out of all the responses to the committee and was duly included in the final report to help demonstrate ‘strong support’ for an ‘in-work service’.

A fair analysis of the evidence would be that there was support for a voluntary service, although it was not unanimous and largely came from organisations with a vested financial interest.  And there was opposition to and wide ranging concerns about sanctioning claimant’s benefit for non-compliance.  The committee’s report acknowledges some of these concerns and even agrees that inflicting a financial penalty on someone could, in some cases, work against the aim to increase their earnings.   But even this doesn’t mean they oppose sanctions.  In conclusion the report merely calls for people to be sanctioned less often than those currently on unemployment benefits.

The DWP’s attitude to sanctions for part time workers is already clear.  Evidence submitted to the enquiry included a training document for Work Coaches currently carrying out pilot schemes into in-work conditionality.  They inform Jobcentre workers that “Conditionality is an important element in driving greater independence and ensuring that claimants take greater accountability to earn and work more” and that “sanctions play a vital role in supporting the conditionality regime”.  The committee do not comment on this overt encouragement of enforcing strict conditionality on working claimants, despite it being current practice already for those unlucky enough to be selected for the pilot.

In-work sanctions may have been dreamed up in the feverish mind of Iain Duncan Smith, but everyone has played their part.  From the charities too greedy or spineless to condemn these plans and say they will take no part in the scheme to the grasping welfare-to-work sector who are facing huge funding cuts and are desperate to rinse yet more money from the tax payer.  From the think tank’s fake experts who’ve never had a proper job to Frank Field’s committee and their skewing of the evidence in favour of the government’s demands.  The DWP have now been given a green light to carry on as they always intended and launch an onslaught on the low paid which will cause the same devastation in the lives of the poorest workers that has already been inflicted on the unemployed.  Everyone, who they consider important, has said it’s a good idea after all.

There has been no demand from the electorate for these measures, in fact most are horrified when they hear of it.  There have been no calls from part time workers, or the unions that represent them, for a Jobcentre run in-work service, whether mandatory or otherwise.  As the committee’s final report points out, there is no evidence that this scheme will be effective and nothing similar to it has ever been tried anywhere in the world.  That is probably because it’s such a shit idea.  But this shit idea is now going ahead as support has been gently fabricated at every stage to ensure that there is no serious, or even visible opposition to the DWP’s plans.

In a few years, even criticising the concept that in-work benefits should be conditional will be outside of acceptable thought for the listened to people.  This is how neoliberalism marches on.  The long, great theft of our labour and the demolition of our living standards is decided in committees, by reasonable people, who do not even notice the political agenda they are pursuing.  They barely even know they are doing politics.  Their cut-throat capitalist ideology is so entrenched that it is all that they can see or imagine.

You can read the committee’s report at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news-parliament-2015/in-work-progression-report-published-15-16/

h/t Noam Chomsky who first used the phrase manufacturing consent in an analysis of the US media, there’s a film about it here.

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Like Feeding Time At The Fucking Zoo – Workfare Industry Hijacks In-Work Sanctions Inquiry

snouts“ERSA believes it would be more appropriate to utilise the skills and experience which exists in the employment provider community”  The Employment Related Service Association (ERSA – the trade body established to lie on behalf of the employment provider community – better known as the workfare industry)

“We strongly believe that such in-work support should be contracted out, and would suggest that the existing work-based learning infrastructure would be in a prime position to achieve the results required.”  Association of Employment and Learning Providers (also ERSA, more or less).

“Stronger alignment and integration of housing associations into Universal Support and in-work employment support would help engage those facing complex barriers and improve outcomes” – National Housing Federation who represent housing associations.

“The Government should take a holistic approach to in-work progression, ensuring that employers, skills providers and employment support organisations are all involved.” Remploy, better known as Maximus, who can handily claim to be an employer, a skills provider and an employment support organisation.

“National Numeracy can help identify, assess and address poor numeracy …  among job seekers …” – National Numeracy

“The Department for Work and Pensions should therefore look to other organisations who deliver specialist job retention and in-work services with a strong track record.” Mental health charity MIND (hint, hint)

“If Universal Credit is to be truly ‘universal’ then no claimant groups should be exempt.” – Workfare company Learn Direct

“We think that charities could play an important role in the delivery of in-work progression.”   –  lone parent charity Gingerbread

“Specialist organisations already providing support to vulnerable claimants are a key resource. “ Homelessness charity Centrepoint .

“Delivery of pilots, research, consultation and communication could be achieved in partnership with BITC and its business membership base.”  BITC (Business in the Community)

It’s like feeding time at the fucking zoo.  The above quotes come from submissions to the recent government inquiry into changes to the social security system which will see benefit sanctions for part time workers.  This means that when Universal Credit is finally introdeced then claimants without a full time job will face payments being stopped or reduced for non-compliance with Jobcentre demands to  constantly look for more or better paid work.  They could even be sent on workfare in the hours they are not working.   The Work and Pensions Select Committee, a group of MPs who scrutinise DWP policy, carried out the enquiry into these measures which are already being piloted in some parts of the UK.

The responses to the inquiry from the welfare-to-work industry  – the toxic mixture of private companies and so-called charities involved in mandatory workfare and training programmes – were united in one demand.  They all want some money in the form of juicy government contracts to run any future scheme.

This is despite them almost all acknowledging that introducing benefit conditionality for part time workers has never been tried anywhere in the world and that there is no evidence it will be effective.  It is also despite the fact that the proposed system is to be backed by a horrifying benefit sanctions regimes which will see even those with jobs living in unprecedented poverty if they are sanctioned.  And of course it ignores the stark reality that it is near certain that no part-time worker in history has ever wished they could be sent on an unpaid work scheme or mandatory CV workshop in the hours they are not working.

It is true that many charities say they are opposed to sanctions for part-time workers whilst even the more naked profiteers such as private companies like Maximus raise concerns.  ERSA, who represent the industry, have used the enquiry to lobby for all in-work conditionality to be managed outside of Jobcentres – a long standing aim from an organisation which seeks to place all DWP services in private hands.  Others call for sanctions to be fair, or to not affect those they call vulnerable too badly.

Some are transparent in their self-interest such as the National Housing Federation who want ‘stronger integration of housing associations’ into any future scheme suggesting they could act as formal contractors and sub-contractors..  Their only concerns about benefit sanctions are focussed on those with rent arrears or special rent payment arrangements who they say should be excluded from conditionality.

A few submissions call for any in-work conditionality to be voluntary such as the one from Gingerbread, who want working lone parents to be exempt from sanctions.  They also insist however that charities should be involved in running the scheme and it is this that reveals the cynicism that now exists within the voluntary sector.  Gingerbread also oppose benefit sanctions for unemployed single parents.  That didn’t stop them running a lucrative Work Programme scheme where they were contractullay required to report lone parents to the Jobcentre for sanctions in cases of non-compliance.  We hate this, they say, it is unethical and counter to our charity’s objectives.  So we want a lot of money for doing it is the real message.

Of course some submissions to the inquiry were harsh in their criticism.  Boycott Workfare say no claimants should face sanctions whether in work or not and that the record of organisations running mandatory schemes is “a catalogue of corruption, violation of work and safety standards, and abuse.”  Oxfam warn that in-work sanctions are overly punitive, fail to take into account employer behaviour and could drive people into poverty. Parkinson’s UK say that neither the voluntary or the private sector should be involved in any future scheme and slam the ‘systemic failure’ of current benefit related health assessments.  The University of York who have a team studying benefit sanctions say “in practice, in-work conditionality can be counterproductive – undermining work incentives and opportunities rather than reinforcing them.”  And the PCS Union demand that “under no circumstances would it be appropriate to sanction an in-work claimant”, adding “but don’t expect us to do anything about it”.  Actually I added that bit.

The difference between these organisation, and those mentioned previously, is that none of them have been involved in welfare-to-work programmes.  As such there is no financial incentive for them to modify their demands. They have no need or desire to sell out their principles for thirty pieces of silver from the DWP.  So they are rightly damning of these proposals which are based on some horseshit Iain Duncan Smith scribbled down on the back of an envelope one day and new Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb is too cowardly to scrap.

In-work benefit sanctions could leave those working part time abandoned to survive on just a few pounds a day, for months, or even years at a time.  They are perhaps the most vicious social security legislation yet, from this or any previous government.  Those sanctioned will face a desperate choice between eating, or paying to get to work.  Homelessness, destitution and unemployment will be the likely outcome for many.  All of the organisations that responded to this enquiry know this.  Some don’t care.  A few oppose it outright and are prepared to say so.  But most are content to whinge a bit and then use the enquiry to make sure that if this system is to be widely introduced then at least they will make some money from it.  Those whopping charity chief executive salaries won’t pay themselves after all.

You can read all the submissions to the inquiry at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/universal-credit-15-16/publications/

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Fraud And Error Soaring In Universal Credit And Benefit Underpayments Hit Record High

lord-fraud-freud

The UK’s biggest benefit scammer Lord Fraud.

Fraud and error in the Universal Credit system is soaring whilst the rate of benefits going unpaid overall has hit a ten year high national statistics released last week have shown.

Statistics examining fraud and error within the benefit’s system are released annually and this is the first year that Universal Credit has been included. Almost 250,000 people are currently claiming the new benefit which is set to eventually replace all mainstream out of work benefits along with tax credits and housing benefit. One of the reasons given by ministers for such sweeping changes to social security was that Universal Credit would help cut fraud and error within the system. Last week’s statistics show that the opposite is happening.

Over-payments due to fraud and error make up 7.3% of Universal Credit’s total expenditure – higher than any other benefit the DWP administrates. The over-payment rate for Jobseeker’s Allowance, the benefit with the nearest comparable caseload of claimants, is just 5%.

Universal Credit’s performance is equally woeful when it comes to people being underpaid their benefits with 2.6% of expenditure not going to those entitled to it. Almost all of this is down to offical rather than claimant error, and once again, it is higher than any other DWP benefit.

Underpayments across all benefits hit 1% last year, the highest figure since comparable figures began in 2005.  And in another record for the DWP, the rate of benefits claimed fraudulently also hit a ten year high – although there is more to be said about this below.

To read lying bastard Lord Fraud’s gushing press release which accompanied these statistics you would not know any of this. Fraud and error combined is at a record low according to the Minister for Welfare Reform, when the truth is that the figure is unchanged since last year. The department also points out that both claimant and official error have fallen to record lows and makes no mention of the rise in fraud that has offset this. Neither do they mention the rise in under-payments.

The truth, as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) explains, is that in 2013/14 a change in how fraud and error were recorded resulted in many cases which were previously viewed as being an error being re-classified as fraud. This is the reason that errors in the most recent period are at record lows and also the reason that fraud over-payments are at record highs. According to the ONS this change means that “results post 2013/14 cannot be directly compared with the earlier results”. Yet that’s exactly what the DWP has done in an attempt to hide the truth about fraud and error within the system.

Despite all this, what the figures show is that fraud within the benefit’s system is very low, at just 0.9% of total expenditure. And even then these figures are rigged to maximise the chances of payments being recorded as claimant fraud rather than error.

The fraud and error statistics are collected by carrying out ‘benefit reviews’ on a small percentage of claimants and then using the outcomes of these reviews to calculate an approximate figure across the entire benefits system. What this means is that a claimant will receive a letter and then be expected to attend an interview where they will be interrogated about their benefit claim. These reviews are carried out at random, so if you get a letter about it don’t shit yourself and try to establish if this is a fraud ivestigation or a benefit review. Fraud investigations are usually carried out under caution, whereby anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.  You should be informed of this.

Two of the more common outcomes to these reviews are that the claimant is untraceble or found to be abroad. This is automatically viewed as being fraud when it could simply be that the claimant has moved house, informed the DWP and it has not been correctly recorded. It could also mean a landlord is still picking up housing benefit payments for a tenant that has long since moved out. Not all benefit fraud is carried out by benefit claimants.

Sometimes when a claimant is scheduled for review they report a change in circumstances or end their claim during the process. Again this is automatically recorded as fraud when it could just be a coincidence and simply mean they got a job. The same applies when there is a ‘loss of claimant contact’ meaning the benefit review is not completed for some unspecified reason. For the purposes of these statistics, an outcome of fraud does not mean someone has been prosecuted, or that a fraud has been admitted. It simply means that benefits were reduced or stopped as a result of the review and the DWP believes that the claimant was deliberately acting fraudulently.

Even with this calculated book-cooking the statistics show one stark fact. The total amount of money lost through fraud in 2015/16 was £1.6 billion and this is less than the amount of benefits which were underpaid which stands at £1.8 billion. Someone’s getting shafted alright, but it’s not the DWP, it’s us. Check your claim, make sure you’re getting every fucking penny you are entitled to.

Read the most recent Fraud and Error statistics and the background notes on how they are calculated (pdf).

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