Tag Archives: Iain Duncan Smith

Is Iain Duncan Smith Bullshitting About Universal Credit? Of Course He Fucking Is

uc-surveyIain Duncan Smith has been back to his bull-shitting best with a string of wildly optimistic claims about the wonders of Universal Credit.

Alongside the Secretary of State’s rare appearances in the media this week, the DWP released a gushing report claiming that Universal Credit was already a huge success.  This document was based on cherry-picked information from two recent evaluations of the pilot scheme currently running in the North West of England which looked at the impact of the roll out of Universal Credit.

The truth is that there is really nothing useful that can really be learned from how Universal Credit (UC) will work across the board from the tiny amount of data so far available.  Only around 50,000 people have claimed UC so far, and there were far fewer than that when these evaluations were carried out.  More importantly, they are based on new claims only from single unemployed people with no significant health conditions.

One of these evaluations was a survey which compared the views of 900 people who had claimed UC against the same number of claimants on mainstream Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).  In the DWP’s gushing summary of the evidence they declare that Universal Credit claimants were more likely to believe the benefits system is encouraging them to find work and that they were spending more time looking for work.  The DWP also claim huge support for the Claimant Commitment, the agreement unemployed people are now forced to sign which contains a list of largely pointless activities which people must carry out as part of their jobsearch.

As the table above shows, most claimants did believe that ‘some’ of the activities in their Claimant Commitment would help them find work.  But that’s just fucking obvious.  If it says in a Claimant Commitment that you must look for a job, then you are more likely to find work than if you don’t look for a job.  What is important is how the Claimant Commitment is viewed as a whole.  What the survey then shows it that 55% of people appear to have thought that some or all of the measures in the agreement were a waste of time, 59% of claimants thought that some or all of the measures did not take into account their personal circumstances and 46% of claimants thought that some or all of these actions were unachievable.  Disturbingly almost all of them, 76% of claimants, thought that Jobcentres would be checking up on whether they had carried out these pointless, unachievable activities.  What this suggests is that many claimants seem to have been concerned that they were being set up to be sanctioned.  95% of claimants were all too aware that their benefits could be stopped if they did not prove they were looking for work with 89% being aware they could lose benefits for being late to a meeting.

The DWP’s summary of the two reports, which was used for this week’s media offensive, failed to mention two other findings in the survey.  Claimants of UC were less confident that they would find work within three months, with only 76& agreeing compared to 78% of JSA claimants.  They were also significantly more likely to report that there were not enough jobs in the local area, with 36% of UC claimants agreeing this was the case compared to 30% of those on JSA.  This was not expected by the researchers who said it was “surprising as the JSA comparator areas were chosen on grounds that they have similar labour market conditions to the UC areas.”

Which brings us nicely on to the second evaluation which delved into the tax records of those who had been on Universal Credit as a means of finding out whether they had gained work or not after being on the benefit.

The problem facing researchers in carrying out these kinds of evaluations are finding two sets of claimants that are more or less the same in all areas except the one being examined – in this case whether they were claiming UC or JSA.  As noted above, the local labour market is important.  If one group is in an area of especially high unemployed compared to the other then this will skew the results.  Timing is also vital, unemployment goes up and down, so it is important to establish whether the claims were made at more or less the same time.  Another question is whether the claimants are the same – are they equally employable?  Perhaps most importantly is the experience they received.  Did Jobcentre advisors spend more time with UC claimants and provide more ‘help (stop laughing)?  Was the sanction and conditionality regime the same?  Was anyone put off claiming UC by the increased conditionality, such as someone with a health condition who may have decided to try and claim sickness benefits instead?

Sadly the researchers pretty much ignored the last few details, but there was an effort made to establish whether the claimants were roughly the same in terms of age, gender, histories of claiming benefits, sanctions applied etc.  Ethnicity was ignored, perhaps wrongly as the survey evidence showed that UC claimants were 10% more likely to be white.  Unemployment is around twice as high amongst people from ethnic minorities, this could be one small factor in why those on UC were more likely to get jobs.

And it’s fair to say that’s what this evaluation found.  Those who had claimed UC were a bit more likely to have found some work.  But this data is so noisy, with so many bodges, averages and assumptions, that this could be a fluke.  Or it could be down to a whole host of other factors which the researchers couldn’t control for, such as whether someone was pregnant – meaning they would be ineligible for UC, but would still be counted in the JSA group.

It could also mean that the fear of sanctions, as outlined in the survey evidence, might have led some claimants to take up jobs they would not otherwise have done.  This would no doubt please Iain Duncan Smith but it is a toxic scenario.  The people covered by these studies were largely the newly unemployed, and therefore the most employable.  Losing a job can be traumatic, and a recently sacked teacher or electrician does not usually run straight out to take a part time cleaning job on a zero hour contract.  People take a bit of time, not because they are workshy, but because they want a job they have studied or trained for.  If all Universal Credit is doing is bullying the most employable into low paid shitty jobs then it is failing everybody.  The tax payer doesn’t spend a fortune training nurses so they can stack shelves in Poundland.  This also means those who depend on those entry level jobs, who do not have large amounts of experience, stay long-term unemployed.

The results of these two evaluations suggest that Universal Credit could be the blueprint for a low waged, low skilled economy that we all feared.  But we don’t know that for sure.  Until people with kids, the self-employed, those working part time and people on sickness and disability benefits are brought into the mix we know nothing at all about how Universal Credit will function and that won’t be for years. The chances are that all it will do is shift unemploment around, with the most marginalised sanctioned and everyone else bullied into low paid work as soon as possible.  This whole reckless experiment could drag Iain Duncan Smith’s bungling legacy far into the future.  And to what end?  No-one knows.

You can read the survey evidence at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-claimant-survey-nov-to-dec-2014-interim-findings

The evaluation based on tax records is at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-estimating-the-early-labour-market-impacts

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No Statistics On Benefit Uptake Published In Five Years, What Have The DWP Got To Hide?

What the Institure for Fiscal Studies thought about scrapping statistics on benefit uptake rates

What the Institure for Fiscal Studies thought about scrapping statistics on benefit uptake rates

The DWP are trying to hide the truth about the collosal sums of benefits that go unclaimed by using endless statistical meddling as an excuse for no longer revealing this vital information.

Back in the days before the current government weren’t elected the DWP used to publish statistics on an annual basis showing the number of people who were eligible for a particular benefit but didn’t claim it.

The numbers were often used to embarrass the government by showing that far more people do not claim the benefits they are entitled to than falsely receive payments.  They showed for example, that in 2009/10 that the amount of  Jobseeker’s Allowance that went unclaimed was between £1.28 billion and £1.95 billion.  Housing Benefits were under-claimed by between £1.85 billion and £3.10 billion, whilst out of work sickness and disability benefits were under-claimed by anything from £0.75 billion up to £2.04 billion.

Unfortunately, these figures – which were published by the Tory administration but cover Labour’s last year in office – are the last we have.  In 2012, Iain Duncan Smith published a consultation on scrapping these statistics on the grounds that it would save some money and that no-one really cared anyway.  The response to the consultation was clear – some organisations cared very much indeed.  A host of think tanks, charities and academics condemned the plans and the DWP relented and agreed to continue publishing this information.  Or at least that’s what they said they would do.

Initially the department said they would publish the figures for 2010/11 and 2011/12 in February 2014 and then didn’t.  After four years of pretending to tinker with the statistical methods they were expected to finally publish the information this month.  But they aren’t doing that now either.  The latest news is that the statistics are “provisionally due to be published in May or June 2015″.  Which conveniently is after the general election.

So after five years of welfare reforms we will not know whether the brutal cuts have made any difference to the number of people who take up benefits.  We won’t find out whether sanctions and increased conditionality are driving people away from claiming unemployment benefits, or whether the vicious assessments for sickness and disability benefits are putting people off accessing the help they need when they are too ill to work.  We won’t know what the impact of Universal Credit has been, or the changes to Housing and Council Tax benefits.  We won’t know much very much at all, which is exactly what Iain Duncan Smith wants.  Anyone would think they’ve got something to hide.

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As Hunger Soars Iain Duncan Smith Is Still Hiding The Existence Of Emergency Benefit Delay Loans

IDS-malnutritionFollowing last week’s food banks report, which found delays in processing benefits are one of the key reasons for growing hunger in the UK, Iain Duncan Smith said to Parliament:

“Today I have announced that we shall be doing much more to raise awareness of interim payments for people who need them, particularly those who are in difficulty.”

These payments are called Short Term Benefit Advances (STBAs).  These are repayable loans that can be accessed whilst waiting fot the Jobcentre to get round to processing a benefit claim.  And the shameful truth is, that whilst the number of people using foodbanks has soared, the DWP have done everything they possibly can to hide their existence.

There is no mention of these payments on the section of the gov.uk website which provides information on “Jobseeker’s Allowance and low income benefits”  or the section on “Benefits for families”.  In fact there is no mention of these loans on any government website at all except buried in policy documents.

This is not surprising.  When Short Term Benefit Payments were introduced, the jobcentre worker’s PCS Union warned that the DWP did “not intend to advertise the availability of STBAs to the public.”  When guidance on the Social Fund was later published, detailing the kind of help available from the government in an emergency, there was still no mention of these loans.

Short Term Benefit Payments were brought in to replace Crisis Loans which Iain Duncan Smith scrapped in April 2013.  These were small interest free loans which could be taken out if benefit payments were delayed or in the event of a household emergency.  The average sized loan was about thirty quid and the repayment rate was almost 100%.  So blasé was the Secretary of State about ending this vital support that when he was interviewed a year later he seemed to have forgotten his petty and vicious decision and claimed that they still existed.

Crisis Loans were a well publicised part of the benefits system and could be accessed by calling a dedicated phoneline. Unlike STBA’s, Crisis Loans still even have their own webpage – which states they no longer exist in Scotland, England and Wales – but makes no mention of their replacement.  This is not an oversight as Iain Duncan Smith is now trying to pretend.  It is clear that as families with children have gone hungry whilst waiting for benefit claims to be processed, the DWP have pursued a strategy of hiding information detailing the emergency payments they are entitled to.

The reason for this has not been to save money or cut the deficit, these loans barely cost the tax payer a penny.  The existence of these payments was hidden out of pure spite – to deliberately make life harder for people in desperate circumstances to access the help they need.  Now we are seeing the results of that policy with unprecedented numbers of people dependent on food banks to survive this Christmas.  That means children going hungry and all because of a nasty and vindictive little move by Iain Duncan Smith – and one that he is now trying to hide.  Don’t let the bastard  get away with it.

Short Term Benefit Advances can only be accessed by speaking to Jobcentre staff.  Child Poverty Action Group have published details on how the process works.

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Jobcentre Busy-Bodies To Outrank Healthcare Professionals In Treatment For Addictions

Iain_Duncan_Smith_pissedJobcentre busy-bodies could soon have the power to force people in treatment for drug or alcohol problems to take up full time ‘work related activity’ if they are unable to beat their addictions quickly enough.

The DWP has published guidance on the support (stop laughing) that will be offered to people claiming Universal Credit who have a dependency on drugs or alcohol.  Claimants will be given six months to undergo what the Jobcentre calls ‘structured treatment’ during which period they may not be required to look or prepare for work.  After this has elapsed however it will be a very diferent story.

The guidance warns that any further treatment will only be taken into account in a Claimant Comitment if Jobcentre advisors agree this if the best way for a claimant to achieve their ‘employment goals’.  This truly chilling move means that the newly named ‘work coaches’ will be able to demand someone attends workfare raher than continue with treatment for their condition.  Jobcentre staff have no adequate training to make these decisions but they will now have more power over patients than the medical professionals treating them.  It is not hard to imagine some jumped up sanction happy Jobcenre twat deciding someone who has relapsed needs a short sharp shock of forced work which they will possibly fail to attend and end up being sanctioned for.

Of course the Jobcentre cannot actually stop anyone attending treatment.  But if a counselling or support sessions happens to clash with what they’ve decided you should do that day then you may face benefits being stopped for choosing getting better over ‘work related activity’.

The good news is that Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to force people into treatment seems to have been quietly abandoned, at least officially.  The document states that: “You will not be forced by your work coach into receiving treatment.”

It does not say what will happen if you refuse treatment.  It all sounds a bit like so-called voluntary unpaid work schemes.  There is a danger that if someone doesn’t agree to go into treatment then they may end up being sent on workfare instead.

Whilst some people with dependencies can lead functional lives the stark fact is that the most chaotic drug and alcohol users are not fit for work.  And they won’t get fit for work within six months.  Some people have to wait that long to get into rehab.  Whilst the pampered rich may be able to check into a plush private clinic and then go back to their warm homes and affluent lifestyles, the poorest face long waiting lists, shit housing, and now, the likelihood of benefit sanctions.

If there were any grown ups at the DWP then they would understand that addiction is a serious and complex health problem which cannot always simply be fixed in six months.  An adequate social security system needs to accept this and not drive people into the ground if they are unable to work.  Employers are hardly rushing out to hire people with current drug and alcohol problems anyway.  There are two million people without these problems desperately looking for work after all.

But a realistic approach to how society handles addiction would not get Iain Duncan Smith any pats on the head from the Daily Mail.  So instead the Government is adopting policies based on lazy tabloid stereotypes which will do more harm than good.  And cost more money in the long run.  It’s enough to drive you to fucking drink.

You can read the guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-support-if-you-are-dependent-on-drugs-or-alcohol

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Take The Class War To Iain Duncan Smith’s Front Door … It’s Time For The Reckoning

ids-reckoning

Iain Duncan Smith is hosting a Jobs Fair at Chingford Assembly Hall, Station Road, Chingford, E4 this Friday November 14th.  Class War will be welcoming him from 10am and are planing to make a day of it.  Speakers including the future Chingford MP Marina Pepper, – the local Class War candidate – along with John McArdle from the Black Triangle campaign are expected to speak at noon.  Expect vengeance.  Please spread the word and help make this big.

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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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Snouts In The Trough: Legal Loan Shark Firm Cosies Up To Iain Duncan Smith At Tory Dinner

snouts-in-the-troughA company which harasses people in their homes to take out small loans with huge interest rates enjoyed a slap up meal with Iain Duncan Smith at the Tory Party’s Winter fundraising dinner.

The Bureax of Investigative Journalism revealed over the weekend that three executives of a doorstep lenders CLC Finance shared a table with the Secretary of State at the glitzy event where attendees were reported to have a combined wealth of £22 billion.  According to the website, they enjoyed a ‘wide-ranging discussion’with IDS on matters including Universal Credit.  Perhaps they discussed the propsed five week waiting period for the new benefit or the current benefit sanctioning regime which is forcing hundreds of thousands of people into debt and destitution.

CLC Finance are the kind of bastards who persuade you to take out a hundred quid loan and then want a hundred and fifty back from you over the next five months.  Their vile business model is based on the real poverty trap – the stark fact that if you are hungry, or your kid needs shoes, then you will be forced to make short term decisions that have negative consequences in the future.  This doesn’t just lead to poor people staying poor, it makes people in poverty poorer.

There has been no better friend to loan sharks, whether legal or otherwise, than Iain Duncan Smith.  One of his most vindictive welfare reforms was scrapping Crisis Loans, small advance payments which were repayable out of benefits and barely cost the tax payer a penny.  What they meant was that if someone’s oven broke down, they were a vicitm of crime, or faced a similar emergency, then they would not be dependent on scum like Wonga or CLC Finance.

The DWP’s first move was to divert the funding for Crisis Loans to Local Authorities and tell them they could do as they please with it.  Many set up foodstamp style voucher schemes, whilst some abandoned their poorest residents completely and simply sat on most of the money.  Then, at the beginning of this year and around the time of the Tory Fundraising Dinner, the Government announced they would be ending even this scant funding.  This decision prompted many councils to say they would no longer provide any emergency help at all.

A Judicial Review brought by Child Poverty Action Group has prompted the DWP to ‘rethink’ this decision, pending a recently launched pulic consultation.  Of course the real consultations take place around expensive dining tables where private sector poverty pimps cosy up to ministers and discuss ways to make themselves richer at the expense of the rest of us.

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