Category Archives: Universal Credit

More than two million people pay £61-per-month Tory ‘poverty tax’

Sanctions imposed by Tories on people claiming Universal Credit mean 2.02 million people are paying an average monthly ‘poverty tax’ of £61 from their benefit payments.

DWP figures show 46 per cent of the money was used to repay loans that the Tories force people to take because they won’t pay UC to anybody for five weeks after they make a claim.

Another 19 per cent was used to repay Tax Credits that the government overpaid people in the past and is refusing to write off.

According to The Welfare Times,

The figures were uncovered by SNP MP Chris Stephens, who is also a member of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee [who] said: “This is essentially a Poverty Tax on people who are struggling to heat their homes and put food on the table.

“Universal Credit is meant to be a subsistence benefit that covers basic living costs. If £60 a month is being taken away from it, when living costs are rising rapidly, how are people meant to subsist?”

The article stated that Tory government rules mean single adults over 25 get £324.84 per month, with additional payments for housing, children, and disability – but up to a quarter can be taken to pay DWP-created debts.

Repayments for social fund loans, hardship payments, integration loans, and other benefit overpayments may also be deducted.

Astonishingly, a DWP minister – David Rutley – responded to Mr Stephens by claiming the deductions were not debts – right after saying the aim was to “seek to balance recovery of debt against not causing hardship for claimants and their families.”

Apparently the DWP reduced the maximum deductable amount from 40 per cent to 25 per cent of monthly UC payments, and made them repayable over two years rather than just one.

But it still isn’t enough and, with the cost of living skyrocketing because of Tory political decisions, people are going to suffer. What will this government do about it?

It’s just another example of the fact that the Tories find it easier to bully poverty-stricken UK citizens than to sanction billionaires who may be connected to a warmongering foreign regime.

Source: Over 2 million on Universal Credit hit by £61-a-month ‘poverty tax’

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50,000 UC claimants sanctioned per month but the Tories haven’t sanctioned a single Russian donor

With friends like these: One of the key figures in forging links with Boris Johnson’s Tories was Sergei Nalobin, a diplomat suspected of being a Russian spy. This Site has loads of photographs of Johnson with suspected Russian spies.

It doesn’t matter whether Boris Johnson and his cronies really are secretly siding with the Russians in an act of treachery against the West; you can still be sure that they aren’t siding with you.

This Site reported that, after face-to-face meetings resumed in March last year, the number of sanctions against Universal Credit claimants multiplied 15-fold, from 960 to 15,929.

Figure to November 2021 show the number of sanctions had risen to 49,944 by November – and this is not the total sanctioned across the whole month but only those under sanction on the day the official figure was taken.

It also excludes UC claimants who are not in “conditionality” groups, like severely disabled people.

So sanctions by the UK government against its own people multiplied more than 50 times in nine months.

Contrast that with sanctions against Russians who have stashed money in the UK – including giving donations to Conservative MPs – since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine:

That Tory co-chair would be Ben Elliot, who is facing calls for him to resign or be sacked (here are some details).

The classic example of a Russian who could have his assets seized is Roman Abramovich, who is currently hoping to sell Chelsea FC for £3 billion before shifting the money out of the UK, having been warned to do so within 30 days by the Boris Johnson Advice Bureau for Rich Russians:

And details of donations to top Tories from people and organisations with links to Russians – whether sanctioned or not – keep being revealed. For example:

People have been asking what Russian donors to the Tory Party/government have had in return for their money…

It seems possible to answer that question now – at least in part.

What did the Putin-linked Russians get in exchange for their huge Tory donations? Exemption from sanctions until they have taken their money out of harm’s way.

And the contrast between the government’s treatment of Universal Credit claimants and rich Russian donors proves something else:

Tories would rather stamp down hard on their own fellow UK citizens than take meaningful action against enemies of the nation who have given them some dirty money.

Source: DWP Universal Credit sanctions soar to 50,000 a month in ‘extremely worrying’ rise – Mirror Online

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Secret DWP benefits survey cherry-picks respondents – so it can lay blame on claimants?

Too much Coffey: the Work and Pensions Secretary (right) seems to have commissioned a survey of benefit claimants in order to say their failure to budget properly has put them into hardship – not her insistence on providing starvation-level payments and using the slightest excuse to cut them off. Meanwhile, she parties.

The Department for Work and Pensions has launched a secret survey – sent only to specially cherry-picked claimants.

The reason seems to be to blame benefit recipients for any hardship they suffer, claiming that poor budgeting skills are the root of the problem rather than the political decision to fix payments at starvation levels – and then to use the flimsiest excuses to stop them.

The survey asks about debts claimants may have, what effect the debts have had on them and what support they need. It is the last question that has raised concerns, as Benefits and Work, which hoisted the red flag on this apparent scam, pointed out:

The full question and list of options is as follows:

What types of help or support, if any, would be most useful in helping you manage your finances?

  • Help with working out what money I have left to spend each/day/week/month.
  • Advice on how to spread my spending so I don’t run out of money
  • Advice on how to reduce my spending
  • Advice on how to reduce my debt
  • Advice on how to increase my income
  • Help with setting up a direct debit/standing order
  • Help with opening a bank account
  • Other (specify)

In this context, advice to increase my income is most likely to relate to those in employment.  In general claimants cannot increase their income unless there is a benefit they could be claiming that they are not aware of.

What is entirely missing from these options are the ones that would actually make a difference to claimants, such as:

  • Pay benefits at a rate that is enough to live on
  • Remove the 5 week waiting time for UC
  • End the long delays for PIP assessments and WCAs

Because there are no such options, this survey will produce results that say that, of claimants who are in debt:

X% say they need advice on working out what money they have left to spend

X% say they need advice on how to reduce their spending

X% say they need advice on how to reduce their debt

Whilst some people may indeed say in the ‘Other’ box that the help they need is a higher rate of benefits, this will not be listed as a percentage in outcomes as everyone’s answers will be worded differently.

In other words, all the support needs will be around claimants not understanding how to manage their money, rather than it being impossible to manage on the money they receive.

See how it works?

Benefits and Work has made Freedom of Information requests to ask how the claimants taking part in this survey are selected, how many are taking part and whether the results of the report are going to be published.

The logical conclusion to be drawn is that the DWP has been stung by having to reveal the findings of its secret report on how people on sickness and disability benefits are struggling with unmet needs.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey had repeatedly refused to publish the DWP-commissioned report on disabled people’s experiences of the benefit system – so the Commons Work and Pensions Committee ordered its authors to provide a copy to Parliament. It has now been published.

The report, received by the government in September 2020, stated that many people are using disability benefits such as PIP, which is intended to meet the additional costs of disability, for very basic needs such as food, rent and paying debts:

“The participant had kidney failure, arthritis in his back, legs and arms, depression and bulimia which caused chronic stomach pains. He lived alone in a flat rented from a Housing Association, using Housing Benefit. He was in the ESA Support Group and received PIP. He made monthly repayments for utility bill arrears and had a £5,000 bank loan which he could not afford to repay. His debt repayments meant he could not afford essential day-to-day living needs and used a foodbank. He found it difficult to wash independently due to his arthritis and needed a walk-in shower but could not afford one and seemed unaware that he may be eligible for support through the local authority. He also needed support with cooking and cleaning and received help from a cousin. His cousin would like to claim Carer’s Allowance but neither of them knew how to make an application. He had no other support networks close by.”

It said claimants with invisible disabilities such as mental health conditions often struggle even more than those with physical conditions to meet their basic needs:

“Participants with mental health conditions tended to report a wide variety of basic needs, health and care needs and social needs that were unmet. In comparison, those with profound learning disabilities and severe physical disabilities were typically in the group that identified having fewer unmet needs. While the latter group experienced a high level of need across a range of areas, these were usually being met through a combination of local authority support and informal support networks, usually parents who provided a high level of care.”

And the wellbeing of disabled claimants often depends primarily on being in a household in which another member has a well-paid job:

“The participant has recently moved in with her mother and sister, she had previously lived alone in a council-rented flat but had begun to feel isolated and found paying the rent and bills difficult so decided to move in with her mother. She has a range of health conditions and disabilities including Asperger syndrome, anxiety, ADHD, joint stiffness and IBS. She works 28 hours a week and receives PIP. Before moving to live with her mother she was concerned about how her income would cover essential day-to-day living costs. She also struggled with maintaining her personal hygiene and found it difficult to leave the house as she did not like going out alone. Moving in with her mother has helped her to meet all of her health-related needs.”

The reason Coffey and the DWP kept the report secret seems clear when one notes that last October – more than a year after receiving it – the Work and Pensions Secretary was lying to the public about the system it damns.

As Benefits and Work (again) details:

Coffey was telling the Conservative party conference that:

“PIP has certainly grown in a way that was not anticipated when it was introduced.

“To give you an example, three out of four young people who claim PIP have their primary reason being mental ill health.

“That in itself is 189,000 young people who currently receive benefit focused on that. There may be other benefits they receive as well.

“. . . people can think the benefit system is fair.

“And I think by being able to target that even more so to people who really need that support, may improve that prospect of public perception.”

Having been forced to release a report that shows – even in its watered-down form – that the benefit system is forcing hardship and related physical and psychological torture on claimants, including those who already have significant mental health problems (leading to a threat to life itself?), it seems Coffey has commissioned this new survey in order to manufacture a false justification for herself.

I think I’ll write her a letter. Let’s see how she justifies this web of deceit.

Source: DWP secret survey set to blame claimants for going cold and hungry

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#LevellingUp, #Tories? By cutting #taxes for the rich and heaping them on the poor?

Michael Gove: this Tory has been part of the government for 10 of the last 11 years and says levelling-up is needed because poor communities have been undervalued for years. Wasn’t that his doing? He’s not providing enough. And he’s busily giving tax breaks to bankers while punching working people down with the biggest tax burden in decades.

Michael Gove’s “levelling up” project is already an embarrassment to the Tories and the UK – and he’s only just provided any details?

The plan is to close the gap between rich and poor areas by 2030 through improving services such as education, broadband and transport.

The Tories say they’ll provide £11 billion for projects between now and 2030, including:

  • £100m of new investment for innovation centres to boost research and development in Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and Glasgow
  • A £1.5bn fund to give loans to small and medium-sized house builders for new homes mostly outside London and the South-East
  • £5bn in bus services and active travel
  • £1.8bn invested in new housing infrastructure, turning brownfield land into projects across the country
  • £230m extra in grassroots football
  • £30m allocated to improving parks and urban green spaces
  • An extra £560m in activities for young people
  • An additional £150m in a safer streets fund

Does that seem generous? Not when compared with other countries, as critics have pointed out:

It doesn’t even compare with the amounts the Tories have wasted:

But there is a solution!

Some have pointed out that Gove has been a poor choice to front this project:

But the biggest flaw in the Tory plan for “levelling up” is that party’s own ongoing project to overbalance the nation’s wealth in favour of people who are already super-rich.

On the same day as Gove announced this project, the Tory government pushed through a plan to cut taxes for rich bankers – by £1 billion per year. This is at the same time as they are inflicting a 10 per cent increase in National Insurance on working people, after cutting Universal Credit for the same workers by more than £1,000 per year.

Ultimately we come to the big question: why is there a disparity between “rich” and “poor” areas that needs “levelling up”?

One-word answer: Tories like Michael Gove.

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Work and Pensions Secretary DEMOLISHED in TV interview on her work and Johnson’s lies

Time of her life: Therese Coffey danced (badly) and sang (off-key) as her government removed the Universal Credit uplift that has been a lifeline for millions of people.

Bizarrely, Therese Coffey probably thought that she did well in her interview with Kay Burley on Sky News today (January 27).

For the rest of us, the message was very different: stonewalling doesn’t work when the evidence is on a screen behind you.

On Boris Johnson’s party lies, the woman who raved it up (legally, but in extremely poor taste) as her policy to remove the Universal Credit uplift was inflicted on millions of people said she was not aware of any parties happening in Downing Street.

On his admission that if he had broken the Ministerial Code he should resign, she evaded.

On the evidence that he had lied about authorising the transport of an animal charity from Afghanistan instead of people, she denied the evidence on the screen behind her.

On the UK’s abandonment of that country, with people being forced to sell their kidneys in order to eat, she displayed indifference; she couldn’t have cared less.

On child poverty in the UK, she showed similar indifference while claiming to be working to ease deprivation.

And when she was challenged on her plan to cut people’s benefits to force them into jobs, she showed no concern at all.

The performance was an indictment against a government that allows people like Coffey to be elected into Parliament, let alone high office.

And Burley may have felt that Coffey’s answers were like spitting in her face; Sky took her off-air for an extended period after she was found to have held a birthday party during lockdown, and she said she works in a food bank on Fridays where she sees the results of Coffey’s impoverishment strategy for working people.

But this is where we are. The people of the UK elected this creature into government in 2019 and should not be surprised that she behaves according to her vile nature.

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Embattled Tories kick down hard – they want to make benefit claimants suffer

Sanction centre: the Tories are giving unemployed Universal Credit claimants just four months to get a job in the sector they want before demanding that they take what they’re offered or face sanctions. But who will profit? The jobseeker – or the employer?

This Writer has never understood why working-class people vote for the Conservatives when the Tories always attack them.

This is especially true when the Tories are themselves under attack, so it should be no surprise to anybody that they are victimising benefit claimants again.

This time it is unemployed people on Universal Credit who are taking the brunt of the pain:

Unemployed workers will be forced to take up a job in any sector or face swift financial sanctions under a crackdown designed to fill hundreds of thousands of vacancies.

Claimants will be given just four weeks – down from three months – to find a job within their preferred sector. After that point, if they fail to make “reasonable efforts” to secure a job or turn down any offer, they will have part of their universal credit payment withdrawn.

The move, which is part of an initiative to get 500,000 people into work by June and fill 1.2m job vacancies nationally, comes as Boris Johnson seeks to reassert control over the political agenda amid the “partygate” crisis.

See? It’s a distraction tactic.

The important question is: how much do these jobs pay?

Unemployed people aren’t likely to care if they take a job in their preferred sector; the priority for anybody at times of hardship is to get one that pays the bills.

And this is the problem.

The Conservatives have spent nearly 12 years, since they slithered back into office in 2010, pushing wages down – so the average is now thousands of pounds less than it used to be (in real terms).

And people are struggling.

Do these 1.2 million new jobs pay a living wage?

Or will anybody taking them still be claiming Universal Credit, simply to survive?

That’s a government subsidy for employers, of course – not a benefit for the employee.

It’s not acceptable and, as the government, the Tories should be ensuring that it doesn’t happen.

But they won’t, because they haven’t bothered at any other time since May 2010.

The remarkable thing is that, knowing the Tories are victimising the electorate, voters still send them back to Parliament. In the name of all that’s sane, why?

Do middle-class voters really think that these punitive moves against vulnerable people are saving the rest of us from supporting scroungers, benefit cheats, and people who are just too lazy to work?

Do working-class voters – the ones this police attacks – really think a Tory government provides an opportunity for them to become billionaires, by hard work and struggle? Has it not occurred to them that they work much harder than those people and still get nowhere because the system is stacked against them?

People need to think about what Tory policies actually do – and ignore the propaganda. Then they need to vote accordingly.

Source: Universal credit claimants face tough sanctions in UK job crackdown | Benefits | The Guardian

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MPs bypass #DWP to publish controversial report on claimants’ experience of #benefits

Boris Johnson isn’t the only Tory minister facing serious consequences for their actions this week. It’s looking bad for Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey too.

Coffey has repeatedly refused to publish a DWP-commissioned report on disabled people’s experiences of the benefit system – so the Commons Work and Pensions Committee has given orders for its authors to provide a copy to Parliament, which will then be published.

The report, The Uses of Health and Disability Benefits was received by the Government in September 2020. The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) had interviewed disabled people about their experiences of receiving PIP, ESA and Universal Credit.

The committee last month gave the Secretary of State one final chance to publish the report, which she herself admitted fell within the Government’s own protocol for publication.

But Coffey said she would not be reconsidering her decision.

Why not? It seems likely that researchers at NatCen, who wrote the report, found that people on disability and other health-related benefits were overwhelmingly negative about their experience of the system under Tories including Coffey and her forerunners, going right back to Iain Duncan Smith.

NatCen has been ordered to provide a copy of its report by January 27.

“After repeated obstruction from the Secretary of State to keep from public view a piece of work that falls within the Government’s own protocol for publication, we have reached the end of the road,” said Work and Pensions Committee chairman Stephen Timms.

“We would have much rather the DWP had done the right thing and published the report itself, so it is with regret that we must now take the highly unusual step of using our parliamentary powers to obtain a copy from NatCen and publish it ourselves.

“We have been forced to do this to ensure that the reality of disabled people’s experiences of the benefits system can see the light of day.”

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Secret #disability #benefits report WILL be published whether #ThereseCoffey likes it or not

Therese Coffey: it seems she’s been too busy having a good time (in line with many of her Cabinet colleagues, we’ve learned) to publish a report on the quality of her work as it relates to people with disabilities who claim benefits.

Tough luck, Therese!

The Tory Work and Pensions Secretary has been sitting on a report on how claimants are affected by the way she runs disability benefits – presumably because it is damning, even though (allegedly) watered-down.

The benefits concerned are those received by people with long-term illnesses and disabilities: Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC).

Well, she won’t be able to warm her backside on it for very much longer because the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, sick of waiting for her to pull her finger out, has given her an ultimatum.

It is: publish the report by January 11 or we will publish it in spite of you.

The report falls within the government’s protocol for publication so there really is no legitimate reason for any delay.

Committee chairman Stephen Timms (Labour) said:

The Secretary of State has consistently failed to give the Committee a good reason why this piece of research should not be made public. She even admits that it falls within the Government’s own protocol for publication.

The continued refusal to publish the results of the research, as promised to the participants who gave up their time, will do further damage to disabled people’s trust in the Department—which is already in short supply.

The Secretary of State now has a final opportunity to think again and publish the research. If not, the Committee is firmly agreed that we will be left with no choice but to publish the report ourselves.

Source: Coffey ordered to publish secret disability benefits report or MPs will do it for her

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Why IS the #DWP refusing to release report on claimants’ experience of #PIP, #ESA and #UC?

[Image: Black Triangle Campaign].

The Department for Work and Pensions is stalling for time to bury important information on the way its benefit regime treats recipients – again.

It is now six years since I won my battle for the DWP to honour a Freedom of Information request on the number of people who have died after being denied ESA (thousands within two weeks; they hadn’t bothered to collect information beyond that time limit) – and still its officers obstruct requests.

Currently the DWP is refusing website Benefits and Work‘s request to see a report on 120 claimants’ experiences of receiving Personal Independence Payment, Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.

The department is also refusing to allow the Commons Work and Pensions committee to see the report, even in complete confidentiality, raising questions over what ministers are trying to hide.

It seems even the interviewees themselves have not been allowed to see the report, which leads This Writer to question whether its information is accurate. Disability News Service has suggested that it isn’t, after being told by a whistleblower that, after the first draft was produced, ministers told the authors to cut the number of references to “unmet needs” and delete some analysis.

I tend to agree with Charlotte Hughes, who reported on this in her blog The Poor Side of Life:

So even the diluted final version of the report is apparently too scandalous to see the light of day.

From years of past experience we know that the DWP don’t put the needs of disabled people first or even anywhere. Their target is to force people into work regardless of them actually being able to do so.

In the past I’ve seen disabled people forced onto Universal Credit by deception and then forced onto DWP courses with the aim of getting them ‘ready’ for work.

We can’t let the government and the DWP get away with ignoring report requests and also implementing rules that are at best cruel.

We need to remember that the government and the DWP are masters of deception and we must continue to see past their lies. There’s more of us than there are of them and I alongside others will continue to hold them accountable for their actions.

Charlotte’s blog runs entirely on donations and if you want to contribute, follow the link to her site and press the “Donate” button.

With the DWP trying to hide a potential harm to people with long-term illnesses or disabilities, or who are unemployed, all social commentary sites have a responsibility to keep the facts of this matter within the public gaze, which is why I am publishing this information.

Please feel free to pass it on to as many people as possible – either by sharing this article or by referring to the information in conversation, should you get the opportunity.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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Child charity says DWP is unlawfully demanding Universal Credit repayments

Any opportunity to persecute: the DWP has found a way to force suffering onto people who had to claim Universal Credit because of Covid-19.

This is another classic con from the Tory-run Department for Social Security.

Last year, the DWP suspended face-to-face identity checks for Universal Credit, in anticipation of a glut of claims as Covid-19 bit into people’s jobs.

But now the government department has reinstated identity checks – retrospectively – even demanding ID from people who have closed their claims and could not receive the notification.

As a result “significant” numbers of people have failed to provide this information within the DWP’s 14-day deadline and have been judged to have been overpaid amounts up to £13,000.

Worse, people who have uploaded proof of their identity to their online Universal Credit journal have discovered that their claim has still been terminated and demands made for repayment.

And to top it all off, the DWP has arranged with employers to have money deducted from claimants’ pay packets at a rate of up to 20 per cent of their earnings.

The Child Poverty Action Group is helping some of the people affected and said many of the cases involved people who were unaware the DWP wanted retrospective evidence because they were no longer claiming universal credit, and no longer checked their online journal for DWP messages.

CPAG said the DWP had presumed that claimants’ failure to respond to a request for evidence a year after they claimed meant they were not entitled to the award in the first place.

The charity says this behaviour by the DWP is unlawful.

The Guardian approached the DWP for comment and – in typical style – it avoided the issue.

A spokesperson asserted that it is “right and lawful” that the department seeks to recover payments to which claimants were not entitled.

It seems the DWP has nothing to say about the possibility that it is wrongly taking money from people who did not know that any attempt to contact them or prove their identity had been made – until money started disappearing from their bank accounts.

If cash went missing from my bank account, I would call it theft and take appropriate action.

But the best advice, for any of the 99,000 people who claimed Universal Credit and didn’t have a face-to-face interview, who hasn’t – to their knowledge – been contacted, is to get in touch with the DWP yourself.

Contact them by the fastest possible method to find out whether they want proof of ID. Provide some ID pre-emptively if you feel like it. And keep a personal record of the information you send, in case it is (accidentally?) deleted from the Universal Credit journal or a correspondence file.

Then, if anyone tries to deduct cash unilaterally, you’ll be able to provide evidence that you have done your part and it is the DWP that is at fault.

Turn the tables on them. That’ll be fun, won’t it?

Source: Universal credit claimants were sent unlawful demands to repay, says charity | Universal credit | The Guardian

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