Tag Archives: Universal Credit

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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The Staggering Cost Of One Man’s Delusions: £25 Billion Squandered On Bungled Welfare Reforms

iain-duncan-smithThe recent report from the Major Projects Authority, which revealed that Universal Credit is such a fucking disaster they had to invent a whole new category to describe it, also laid bare the astronomical cost of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms.

Just under £11 billion is budgeted to be squandered on some of the DWP’s largest projects, and that figure doesn’t include Universal Credit.  The cost of this hare-brained experiment is shrouded in mystery now it has been classed as ‘reset’, but last year the Major Projects Authority reported that the bill would reach £12.8 billion.

Even this is far from the whole story.  Community Work Placements, the latest mass workfare scheme, will cost almost a third of a billion.  The costs of other Jobcentre schemes, such as Mandatory Work Activity, are not included in the above figures.  At the very least the budgeted costs of welfare reform exceed £25 billion pounds.  The true figure is likely to be much higher as reforms such as the Bedroom Tax unravel and start to cost the tax payer even more money.

The good news is that not all of this budget has been spent.  It had been assumed by the DWP that the Work Programme would actually help some people get jobs.  They thought wrong.  Such has been the dismal performance of the payment by results scheme that it is one of the few of Iain Duncan Smith’s pet projects that is actually running under budget.

The bad news is that this kind of crazed optimism has led to ludicrous spending projections in which IDS has decided his reforms will lead to the cost of Jobseeker’s Allowance falling by over a third by 2017.  This is likely to be because of all the new jobs that he thinks will be magically created by Universal Credit.  What it means is that there is a time bomb in the social security budget for whichever bunch of bastards manages to win the next election.

With all this money being thrown around to bully and harass claimants off benefits it might be expected that spending on social security would fall, especially as those benefits themselves have been subject to huge cuts.  This is not the case however and total spending on social security this year is forecast to be £10 billion higher than before the cuts began.  This figures includes pensions, but spending on unemployment benefits, housing benefits and tax credits has reached record levels under this Government.  Even spending on sickness benefits seems back on the rise despite Atos and the DWP’s attempt at curing people with endless assessments and workfare.  It turns out people are still getting sick.

It is genuinely astonishing that a Government obsessed with austerity has given a blank cheque-book to a fucking idiot like Iain Duncan Smith.  The real tragedy is that if some of this money had actually gone into to those who needed it then some of the worst impacts of the economic downturn could have been avoided.  Instead the opposite has happened.  The very poorest have been driven to destitution whilst billions has been shovelled into the pockets of grasping crooks in the welfare-to-work industry like A4e and G4S.

We are all paying the price of this reckless spending spree, and the social costs of child poverty, homelessness and despair that Iain Duncan Smith has spent billions creating will last for generations.  One day people will look back in horror that one man’s folly was allowed to run rampant through so many lives.  But for now the horror show continues unabated, and the financial cost is nothing compared to the tragedy of future’s destroyed and lives demolished.

To view the Major Project Authority report visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/dwp-government-major-projects-portfolio-data-2014

To see benefit expenditure and projections download the spreadsheet: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/310483/outturn-and-forecast-budget-2014.xls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Food Stamps Abandoned … For Now

foodstampsThe bill to introduce a food stamps style scheme has been abandoned by the attention seeking wannabe spiv,  Alec Shelbrooke, who dreamed up the scheme.

Shelbrooke has attempted to make a name for himself by proposing all benefits should be paid on ‘smart cards’ with the Government having control over how claimants spent the money.

This ludicrous idea came despite Iain Duncan Smith’s insistence that all benefits be paid in cash on a monthly basis.  Both ideas are equally stupid.  Under Shelbrooke’s plans claimants would have been unable to access telephones, stationary, hair dressers, launderettes, and crucially internet access – making it not just impossible to look for work, but also use the new ‘digital by default’ benefits systems.  Under Iain Duncan Smith’s obsession with ‘direct payments’, even those with drug, alcohol or gambling problems will be given Housing Benefit – the payment which claimants can now have sent direct to landlords – in a monthly cash sum.

Shelbrooke’s bill was due for its second reading in early March but has now been withdrawn by the MP.  This follows revelations that Lord Fraud’s smart card and jam jar schemes for so called ‘vulnerable’ claimants have also been abandoned.

Whilst some local authorities are considering smart cards and vouchers for the soon to be scrapped Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants, it seems that any national roll out of a food stamps style scheme will not be happening this during Parliament at least.

The inept clowns at the DWP can barely manage to run a website or welfare to work scheme without fucking it up as publicly as possible.  The last thing Iain Duncan Smith needs is back-benchers like Shelbrooke trying to make a name for themselves by proposing a system that manages to be both the direct opposite of the Government’s current welfare policies, but is also equally shit.

Shelbrooke will now disappear back down the sewer he came from.  With any luck Iain Duncan Smith, Lord Fraud and the skiving Employment Minister Mark Hoban, will not be far behind.

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Has Lord Fraud Bungled the Universal Credit Launch?

lord-fraud-freudEvidence is emerging that a vital component of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms –  intended to protect vulnerable tenants and social landlords alike – has been bungled by Minister for Welfare Reform Lord Fraud.

The ‘financial products’ which Lord Fraud promised would support low income tenants with budgeting when the new payment structure is introduced don’t appear to actually exist.

To much fanfare Lord Fraud announced last September that private companies were being invited to create ‘financial products’ to help claimants manage their money under the new regime.  A tender was issued which astonishingly revealed that claimants were to be charged for this service and also seemed to include a possible entry point for High Street loan sharks to trap claimants in debt.

The successful bidders were supposed to be announced last December.  They weren’t and no explanation was ever given why.  The only clue as to what’s actually going on comes from allpay.net, a company eager to get their greedy hands on some tax payers cash via the welfare reforms.

According to them“allpay was one of a number of financial providers that attended the DWP’s procurement day and had been expecting the DWP tender in November. However, following a revised timetable for the procurement, allpay is not expecting to be updated on the DWP’s position until January. The department has also warned suppliers not to expect a tender in either January or February.”

Universal Credit is due to be begin in April, which means that the protection for so called vulnerable claimants that Lord Fraud has long promised, will not be ready for the launch.

This may come as a shock to Social Housing providers who have repeatedly warned that they anticipate losing millions due to the change in the way benefits are paid.  This will create a homelessness double whammy as more tenants are evicted for rent arrears, and social housing providers have less money to build new houses.

When Universal Credit begins in April this year, claimants will receive payments monthly as opposed to fortnightly or weekly as most do now.  Housing Benefit payments, which many claimants currently have paid direct to landlords, will in future be paid to tenants.

This has led to concerns from Social Housing providers that many tenants – already struggling under the tsunami of cuts – will find it difficult to balance budgets and are likely to slip into rent arrears.  A series of pilots of the new payments system has revealed these fears to be well founded, with rent arrears doubling in areas where the new system was trialled.

Up until recently Lord Fraud’s new ‘financial products’ were the answer to all these problems as he claimed:  “Accounts that provide people with extra budgeting services could help to ensure people’s essential bills are covered – helping them to build up their credit rating and break the cycle of financial exclusion.

“We are anticipating the call for new financial products may open up a new market place, where competition is strong.”

In a downbeat speech this week Lord Fraud did not even mention the bodged procurement, instead garbling:  “we recognise that there will always be some hard cases. Where this is the case vulnerable claimants could be made an exception to the payment rules for a period of time. Budgeting support will also be made available to support these individuals so that they can make a successful transition over time to the Universal Credit standard monthly payment.”

Not for the first time, it sounds like he’s making it up as he goes along and his ‘financial products’ seem long since forgotten.

Lord Fraud hasn’t been given much to do when it comes to the nitty gritty of welfare reform.  Iain Duncan Smith may be stupid, but he’s clever enough to know that all the old fraud is good for is standing round looking posh.

But these financial products were his chance to show that he isn’t just some comedy toff with a pervy grandad. And he fucked it up.  The truth is the Minister for Welfare Reform couldn’t run a bath without flooding out the building and getting his knob stuck in the plug hole.

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Mark Hoban Begs For Help With Floundering Welfare Reform

mark-hoban-scroungerSkiving Employment Minister Mark Hoban resorted to begging the corporate sector for new ideas to harass benefit claimants in his speech to the Policy Exchange this week.

In a rare appearance,  Hoban tried to do butch and turned his attention to self employed and part time workers.  When Universal Credit is launched these workers will be forced to continually look for ‘more or better paid’ work as a condition of receiving in work benefits.  Over a million people are set to be affected by the change, which could mean part time workers forced to leave jobs to take up temporary positions, or self employed people forced to turn down work to attend workfare.

Single parents, sick and disabled people are also to be forced into endless job searching meaning already over-stretched Jobcentre staff could see workloads almost tripled.  With no large scale recruitment at the DWP on the cards, many have asked whether this kind of mass state intrusion is even possible.

Universal Jobmatch was one answer, the online job seeking site recently set up at the cost of millions.  Unfortunately Monster Jobs – who designed the site – pulled a fast one on bungling Iain Duncan Smith and it’s rubbish and probably illegal.

With computers proving too complicated for DWP Ministers, Hoban’s latest crazy scheme is to police the ‘toughest ever’ benefit conditionality regime by the medium of text.

Plans have been announced to taunt part time workers with texts, informing them of the astounding fact that if they got a full time job they’d have more money.   For the millions already desperate to increase hours this senseless provocation will be accompanied by a monthly letter, telling them the same thing.  There will even be an online calculator, just like there is now, so claimants can work out that if they earn more money then they will have more money.

Lord Fraud is even going round bull-shitting that these magical texts will somehow create 300,000 new jobs!

With Universal Credit descending into a shambles, the DWP are looking desperate for ideas.  So much so that Hoban and Lord Fraud have launched a consultation begging for help from charities and the welfare to work sector.

Hoban obviously isn’t interested in doing any actual work himself.  If this week’s speech is the best he can come up with, then it’s probably best for the entire country that he goes back to his bed and draws the curtains.

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