Category Archives: Universal Credit

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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Labour is so shifty it won’t commit to help anybody

Clueless: when Starmer was talking up Labour’s barely-scraped-together win in the Batley and Spen by-election, who knew that this gesture was his explanation of his policies – a shrug.

Isn’t it the job of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition Party to say what it would do if it was running the UK?

Here’s Labour’s Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury – also known as James Murray – taking nearly two minutes to avoid giving a straight answer to a straight question: whether Keir Starmer’s newly right-wing party would reinstate the £20/week Universal Credit uplift:

He said: “I’ve been really clear.. it’s really important to be clear about this.”

Then he said three times that Labour opposed the cut, but he wouldn’t say if the party would reinstate it. That’s shifty, not clear.

His problem is that Labour is now sympathetic to the miserly billionaires who store all their cash in offshore tax havens, and this means it has no tax option to fund the £6 billion/year that would be needed to make it viable.*

For the same reason, Labour can’t commit to a higher-than-inflation public sector pay rise after Tory Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that he was ending the current pay freeze:

Weak.

It makes Labour look like the Tories poorer little sister – unable to offer even a more imaginative alternative to big brother’s failed plans.

*We all know that the UK government can use the Bank of England to create as much money as it needs, but to be responsible it must prevent inflation via tax, right? Labour’s normal policy is to redistribute the nation’s funds (all money belongs to the government via the Bank of England, remember) by taxing the rich to pay for large-scale public services, but Keir Starmer wants to change that to a Conservative approach, and this means no cash for badly-needed social changes.

See:

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Rock Bottomley: MP complains about £82k salary while millions starve after Universal Credit cut

Bottomley: the Father of the House of Commons doesn’t think MPs earn enough and says they should have as much as GPs. In the interests of “levelling up”, perhaps Boris Johnson should consider making their £100k-a-year the National Living Wage?

What an inconsiderate narcissist Peter Bottomley is!

On the day Universal Credit – the main unemployment benefit but also the subsidy paid to working people to make up for the failure of businesses to pay them a living wage – was cut, plunging 4.4 million people into poverty, he complained that his £82,000 MP’s salary isn’t enough.

He thinks he should get around the same amount as GPs – slightly more than £100,000 a year. Average salary – which is skewed upwards by the top 10 per cent of earners – is £31,000.

Strangely, he admitted that he is not suffering financially himself:

Although he said he currently is not struggling financially, he believes the situation is ‘desperately difficult’ for his newer colleagues.

The representative of Worthing West in West Sussex added: ‘I don’t know how they manage. It’s really grim.’

That didn’t stop people like his former colleague Michael Portillo leaping to support him on TV, with what can only be seen as a false argument:

Portillo was saying it must be hard for older MPs to put up with receiving the same amount as their younger colleagues, when Bottomley was saying it must be harder for younger MPs.

They can’t even get their story straight!

And the comparison with GPs doesn’t work, either, because doctors are paid according to the amount of time they work and MPs aren’t:

This Writer doubts it would work if we paid MPs by the hour; it would just give them another opportunity to submit false claims (expenses scandal, anybody?).

Bottomley deserves all the sympathy he received from satirical songwriter Mitch Benn:

It isn’t impossible – at 77, Bottomley is younger than at least one driver the government is desperate to put back in a cab:

For most of the rest of us, £82,000 a year is an impossible dream. That’s why Bottomley has received a huge amount of criticism for his selfish words. Here’s one of the milder rebukes.

Still, Boris Johnson likes to talk about “levelling up” and he’s currently waffling about wages to anybody who can still be bothered to listen.

So, what about it, Boris? The Father of the House thinks wages should rise.

How about accommodating him, and increasing the National Living Wage to £100k all around?

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Therese Coffey had ‘Time of Her Life’ cutting Universal Credit and wrecking the economy

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.

This was more ‘dirty dealing’ than Dirty Dancing:

Yes, it’s true:

Here’s a longer clip, if your ears can stand it:

The move not only shows astonishing hypocrisy on the part of the Work and Pensions Secretary…

… it was also utterly illiterate in economic terms:

On a national level, the cut tells us much about the Conservative government’s priorities…

… but it is on a personal level that the cut will hit home – and this is what the Tories are hoping because it means those who won’t lose cash because of it won’t be bothered by it, and they probably won’t associate it with harm to the economy that will attack them too.

Spokespeople from the Labour Party have spoken up against it…

… too late to make any difference…

… and in any case, Labour leader ‘Little Keir’ Starmer has apparently said he would not restore the uplift if elected into government:

Meanwhile the Tories and their allies in the media are building a false impression that the cut is a good thing…

… even though the experts tell a different story:

Some Tories are saying other systems are in place to take the bite off the cut. Nadhim Zahawi has pointed to a £500 million fund available to local authorities…

… but councils are facing an economic squeeze of their own; the Tories aren’t giving them enough to run their services properly. In any case, the UC uplift cost around £4.5 billion per year – nine times as much as is on offer in the scheme Zahawi mentioned.

In the iNews article (link above), Tory backbencher Steve Baker says it would cost £10 billion to sort out all the problems created by his own government’s mishandling of UC.

And what of the prime minister?

Boris Johnson once described the quarter of a million pounds he received alongside his salary as an MP, writing a column for a Sunday newspaper, as “chicken feed”. Is that why he doesn’t seem to think the UC cut matters?

The facts – for those of us who have to work in Johnson’s post-Brexit, passed-out Britain – are enormously different from his distorted viewpoint:

He has certainly said he wants wages to rise. He just hasn’t said how he proposes to do it.

And there is a much easier way to raise the kind of cash needed to set UC at a rate that won’t plunge millions of people into poverty:

Johnson won’t do it.

His entire plan – if he can be said to have had a plan at all – appears to be to bleed every last penny out of the UK’s working people and give it to the idle rich, who squirrel it away in offshore tax havens (see the Pandora Papers for details).

It seems the aim is to turn the nation into a zombie economy where working – and working-class – people are worked like slaves to service an ever-increasing national debt, while the super-rich members of his own class live it up on the profits and put nothing back.

Does it seem that way to you?

Footballers are now the opposition to the Tories: Gary Neville destroys Edwina Currie on TV

Notably absent from this year’s Conservative conference has been any opposition to it from the Labour Party. Keir Starmer has abdicated his responsibility.

Into the breach steps former footballer Gary Neville. He – along with others of his profession like Marcus Rashford – has become the de facto opposition to Tory tyranny, in the absence of Starmer and his cronies.

It was Neville who responded to the cancellation of the £20 Universal Credit “uplift”, plunging millions of people into poverty and insecurity at a time of hugely-rising costs.

Tory grandee and food poisoning expert (ha ha!) Edwina Currie told ITV’s Good Morning Britain:

“What we have to realise is that we have got something like a million vacancies advertised in this country. We have record numbers of vacancies. We have whole industries desperate for people to come in from catering, to the care industry. Businesses are desperate and pushing up wages so it doesn’t make any sense to pay people to stay home.”

When presenter Susanna Reid pointed out that 40% on Universal Credit are already in work, the former health minister said: “We are taking about very large numbers of people not in a job.

“We need to train people to make better choices about how they live and how they spend their money. There are 30 million people out there who I would tell ‘the best benefit is a job’.

“It is wrong for us to pay people to stay at home when the economy needs people to get into work and we need to get people into better jobs and we need to push employers to pay their workforce better.”

Here’s Neville’s response:

He’s absolutely right. But he should not have had to say it.

Source: Gary Neville destroys Edwina Currie and Tory policy on Good Morning Britain – Wales Online

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Starmer’s protest against Universal Credit cut forgets that sick and disabled people have suffered worse

What a pathetic excuse for an Opposition leader Keir Starmer is!

He has (rightly) come out against the removal of the £20 Universal Credit “uplift” that was introduced to protect people from the effects of Covid-19.

But his claim that it is the “biggest overnight cut in the history of the welfare state” is a long way off the mark!

Here’s Sue Jones to explain:

It tells us much about Starmer and his priorities.

Once again under the control of neoliberals, StarmerLabour couldn’t care a fig about people who cannot work because of illness and/or disability.

As Starmer’s Shadow Chancellor once claimed, Labour is once again oriented only towards working people. Anybody else can go hang.

And let’s be honest: even if you’re working, Starmer is only really interested if you can hand him large amounts of cash in donations, to shore up his party’s failing financial position. Everything else – including his stance on Universal Credit – is just a pose.

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Work and Pensions secretary LIED: Universal Credit claimants must work an extra DAY to make up for loss of ‘uplift’ £20

Therese Antoinette: £20 per week means very little to her, because she is a member of Parliament and has been receiving enormous pay rises ever since she was elected there. The situation is very different for the people whose benefits she has been deliberately cutting.

Tory parasite Therese Coffey has been caught in a huge – and hugely significant – lie while trying to justify the cut in Universal Credit.

While trolling through the morning media round yesterday (September 13), she claimed that the loss of the Universal Credit uplift means claimants would have to work only two hours more to make it back, at minimum wage.

It is a particularly nasty double-lie.

Firstly, for many claimants the minimum wage (what the Tories mockingly call the National Living Wage, even though you can’t live on it) is not £10 an hour as she was claiming, but £8 and change.

Secondly, the 63 per cent “taper rate” on Universal Credit means for every hour’s money earned above the basic amount of £293 a month, claimants take home just £3.30.

They would have to work more than six hours – nearly an extra day – simply to make up the £20 loss.

And then they’d have to pay National Insurance – which is increasing, of course, and they would also have to find ways to pay for other goods whose prices are increasing because of Conservative incompetence in government.

Do you think that’s fair?

Here’s Peter Stefanovic to explain the situation on video – and he doesn’t pull his punches!

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which works to solve poverty, has demonstrated that cutting £20 from Universal Credit will make a mockery of Boris Johnson’s claim to be “levelling up” the UK and of his ambition to “build back better”:

Particularly worrying is the fact that none of the TV or radio presenters interviewing Coffey had the presence of mind to point out her error.

Were they not properly briefed – or were they specifically told to ignore any such lie and let the public think the liar was telling the truth?

At least ITV’s Paul Brand managed to make one decent point:

Yes indeed. And carers aren’t the only ones propping up a UK economy that is overbalanced in favour of the rich by working far too hard.

Her excuses

Perhaps the main problem is simply that Coffey does not understand the value of £20, being – as she is – an overprivileged Tory lackwit.

Personally, This Writer is looking forward to seeing a motion in Parliament, tabled by any of Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition parties, to establish that Therese Coffey would reasonably have known that she was providing false information and should retract and correct it – publicly, in the same places she told the lies (because that’s what newspapers have to do when they publish false information).

It’s what Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle has demanded, after refusing to accept that legislation is required that would impose harsh penalties on any government minister found to be knowingly misleading.

After a few dozen such motions (per week?) he’ll get the message and we might see the change we need.

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Universal Credit cut: did the Tories fail to assess the harm it will do because they already know?


This is fairly straightforward.

First:

But other people have assessed the impact and this is what they say:

Here’s another take on it:

So poverty will rocket and the sick will take the biggest hit.

And the Tories are hoping to avoid criticism by saying they haven’t done an official impact assessment.

It’s like children looking away from a huge mess and telling their parents they don’t see anything wrong.

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Boris Johnson’s lie-ridden social care proposals are a disaster for workers – and pensioners

“I’m going to apply the pincers and drag every last penny out of the poor”: Boris Johnson explains how he’ll make sure rich people don’t have to pay a penny towards their social care, so they can pass their millionaire mansions to their kids [no, he didn’t really say that. But it is what he intends to do].

Boris Johnson’s announcement of a rise in National Insurance, claiming it will pay for social care, was expected. It seeks to camouflage a new catalogue of his lies and hide the fact that he is making the poorest pay for the care of the richest.

Let’s think about what we know:

Firstly, Johnson was lying in 2019 when he said he had a plan to overhaul social care. It is clear now that he didn’t. His current proposals are to fund the existing – predominantly privately-owned and poorly-functioning – system rather than replace it with one that actually works.

Yes indeed: he is imposing a 10.42 per cent increase on National Insurance contributions that are paid by people earning between £9,500 and £50,000 per year. People earning more will pay nothing extra.

Do not be confused: this is a 1.25 percentage point increase – NI contributions will rise from 12 per cent of earnings to 13.25 per cent – but this represents a rise of more than 10 per cent in the contributions themselves.

He is also imposing a 10.42 per cent increase on profits from shares in companies, saying that this means rich people will pay a significant amount towards the cost of social care. This is a lie. Shareholders will merely pass the cost onto employees by denying them wage increases. It means the de facto increase in payments for people earning between £9,000 and £50,000 is 20.83 per cent (the slightly lower-than-double figure is due to roundings-up and -down).

The changes are expected to raise around £12 billion a year – a paltry pittance in comparison to the amount that would have been raised by former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who had proposed a tax on the UK’s wealthiest people.

Johnson has said that none of the money raised will go towards social care for three years after the NI increase is imposed in April 2022. Instead, it will be used to ease the backlog of NHS treatments that has been caused because Johnson’s Tory government had weakened the health service so badly that it could not cope with Covid-19 and continue to carry out these procedures at the same time.

Johnson has not said how much of the annual £12 billion will eventually be diverted to social care. Nor has his health secretary, Sajid Javid.

After April 2023, this extra payment will become a separate tax – called the Health and Social Care Levy – on earned income. It will show up separately on payslips.

Unlike NI, people who work beyond retirement age will also pay this Health and Social Care Levy, meaning Johnson’s already-broken promise to keep the pensions ‘triple lock’ is smashed to smithereens and pensioners will be punished hard.

The government says people earning £20,000 a year will pay £130 to the new levy. Those on £30,000 will pay £255; those on £50,000 – £505. It provides figures for people on £80,000 (£880) and £100,000 (£1,130) but these must be notional amounts as their NI payments will be unchanged. People with shares that provide those amounts in dividends (as already noted) will merely pass the burden onto employees.

Johnson has said the increased payments will fund changes meaning that, from October 2023, nobody will pay more than £86,000 for care costs (excluding accommodation) in their lifetime. Is that a permanent commitment? So even as inflation means £86,000 is worth less and less as years pass, people will still have to pay no more than that amount? This Writer doesn’t think so. I reckon Johnson was lying again.

Once people have paid this amount, their ongoing costs will be paid by local authorities. Those with between £20,000 and £100,000 in assets will get means-tested help from their council; those will less than £20,000 won’t have to pay from their assets but might have to contribute from their income – an additional burden for low-earners.

It means people are still likely to have to sell their houses to pay for care – unless they are rich.

As far as I can see, the exception if spouses still live in the family home still applies.

That’s a lot to take in. It is likely that Johnson is hoping ordinary people will not recognise the enormity of the impact his plan will have on poor and working people.

Fortunately, we have clever people available who are able to work out the facts.

Here’s the headline:

So, for example, here’s the impact on graduates:

So such a graduate would take home slightly less than £16,000 a year.

And do you remember that measly three per cent pay rise for NHS workers? It is now, once again, a pay cut:

And people employed in the social care system – such as it is – will now pay more towards it than their bosses, who profit from it:

Average earners lose a lot too…

… and if you earn less than the average, you get hit by the Universal Credit cut as well…

… and this means child poverty will increase:

Johnson has tried to justify this new attack on low earners by claiming that the Covid-19 crisis has cost the nation billions of pounds. That could not have been foreseen when he promised no tax increases in the run-up to the 2019 election, and that is the reason this measure is necessary. He was – of course – lying.

The government created new money to pay for the Covid crisis; there was no cost to the nation at all. So the situation now is exactly what it was in 2019, as far as tax increases are concerned.

And there is the issue of what Johnson did with all the money that was created to handle Covid – like blowing £37 billion – more than three times what he expects to raise every year with his NI increase – on Dido Harding’s ‘test and trace’ service that did not work at all.

And what happened to all that Brexit money?

Back in 2016, Johnson campaigned for the UK to leave the EU, in a big red bus emblazoned with the message, “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund the NHS instead”. The UK has now left the EU and not a single penny of that so-called “Brexit bonus” has reached the National Health Service. Instead, Johnson is taxing the poor on the pretext that they will pay for it.

Johnson’s apologists have leapt up to praise him for doing something about the social care crisis in the UK – but they haven’t been able to hide the fact: what he has done is worse than nothing.

They don’t mention facts like this, either:

The failure of the mainstream, mass media to hold Johnson and his government to account has been monumental – if expected. That doesn’t mean it should be accepted:

Particularly damning has been criticism of Labour leader Keir Starmer, whose feather-light opposition to the proposals makes a mockery of his party.

The best he had to offer was an attack on Conservative claims to be the party of low taxation…

… but Labour’s philosophy has always been that tax is fine, as long as it has a purpose and is fair. Johnson’s plan for social care demonstrates neither of those traits but Starmer couldn’t – or wouldn’t – see it.

He has become a sick joke, as critics have been quick to point out:

Worse, Labour had solid plans for a well-funded National Care Service – along NHS lines – under former leader Jeremy Corbyn – as he, and some Labour MPs, remember:

Do you know how much a wealth tax would bring in? See for yourself:

But Starmer has thrown Corbyn’s plans away because they would lift people out of poverty – and he seems uninterested in helping poor or working people (a strange stance for a Labour leader).

Another Twitter user, @aconda_an, added – referring to Corbyn: “They had someone with solutions and meaningful policies. They didn’t want it. Shame on them.”

And shame on everybody who voted Conservative in 2019 because they believed Johnson’s lie that he wouldn’t tax them. He’s a Conservative – it is his nature to lie.

You only have yourselves to blame, and you have dragged the rest of us down with you.

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Help for benefit claimants as DWP changes tune on hardship payment clawback

Benefit claimants facing poverty because the DWP is threatening to claw back hardship payments they claimed – after being sanctioned – have a ray of hope after a recent court case.

The Department for Work and Pensions has now admitted that any action to take back these payments is discretional and it may waive its right to do so.

The DWP has written an open letter to explaining how Universal Credit (UC) claimants can apply for recoverable hardship payments after a sanction, and the process by which claimants can request that hardship payments are waived.

The change follows a successful judicial review by a client of the Public Law Project (PLP).

The organisation explains the main points of the new process, with important points from DWP’s letter in bold, and PLP’s additions in italics:

  1. When a sanction is imposed the DWP should inform the individual of the details of the sanction(s) in a letter uploaded to the UC journal, along with the option to claim hardship payments. If the individual thinks the sanction is wrong, they can request a mandatory reconsideration from the DWP. If that is unsuccessful, the claimant can appeal the DWP’s sanction decision to the tribunal. There is guidance on challenging a sanction from Citizens Advice and Mental Health & Money Advice
  2. A claimant that receives a sanction can apply for hardship payments by calling the UC helpline. On the call, the DWP official will ask about the individuals’ living costs, so the individual should make a note of these in advance. The individual will need to explain why the sanction has made it hard for them to meet their basic needs (such as food or utilities costs) and what they have done to find other sources of financial support. Citizens Advice have published useful guidance on getting a hardship payment.
  3. Hardship payments are recoverable (meaning the DWP can ask for them to be repaid), and when a claimant applies for a hardship payment the DWP official will ask them to agree a ‘declaration’ that they will repay it once their sanctions are lifted. If  a claimant’s application for hardship payments is refused, this decision can be challenged by making a mandatory reconsideration request to the DWP. 
  4. Once the claimant’s sanction has ended the DWP will take steps to recover the hardship payment by making deductions from the individual’s UC. However, importantly, DWP does have a choice not to recover hardship payments. This choice applies in all cases, including where the individual’s sanction has been subsequently overturned, for example following mandatory reconsideration or a tribunal appeal.
  5. If the claimant cannot afford to repay the hardship payment they can ask DWP for the deductions to be reduced and / or request that the hardship payment be waived in full. This is not affected by the fact that the claimant has agreed a declaration that they will repay the hardship payment.

Getting hardship payment debt waived

PLP has produced a note on how to request a waiver of hardship payment debt and what to do if the DWP refuses.

Source: DWP publishes letter on Universal Credit hardship payments – Public Law Project

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.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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