Tag Archives: collection

Help find this woman before sleeping in bins gets her killed

Have you seen the young woman in the picture above?

She was last seen in Deepdene Gardens, just off Brixton Hill in London – sleeping in a wheelie bin. If she had not been spotted, she may have been scooped up by a refuse collection truck and crushed to death.

This is the risk run by rough-sleeping homeless people if they sleep in these bins – although they may not know it.

I refer you to a story on This Site from December 2014 – four years ago:

“‘One of our clients was sanctioned. He had
no money for seventeen weeks. He was
scavenging in a bin, the lorry came, picked
him up and he was crushed to death.’

“The above is a statement by Vince Hessey, a member of the board of trustees at Birkenhead YMCA (listed as YMCA Wirral), given in evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom, printed in the section entitled The vulnerability of people relying on food banks.

“A decision by a UK government employee, following guidelines set down by UK government ministers, led to a man being crushed to death in a refuse collection lorry.

This was one of many incidents that would not have happened if UK government policy had been different.

The UK government clearly couldn’t care less.”

The young woman who was found in the wheelie bin might have suffered the same fate as the man in that previous story (and others – he wasn’t the only person to die in that manner), if she had not been found and recorded by a refuse collector, as the following clip, placed on Twitter by Chris Furlong, shows:

The clip was subsequently retweeted by @UnityNewsUK, whose author stated: “This girl was last seen sleeping in a bin in Deepdene just off Brixton hill in London. Please can we identify her and get her some help before it’s too late. Nobody should have to live like this.”

Predictably, the clip attracted criticism from some quarters – but it is welcome that the critic was satisfied with the response:

The fact that a person was discovered risking her life in this way has drawn horrified responses on the social media, along with vilification of the Conservative government who put her there with its cruel policies and indifference to the hardship they created.

@kandisholland18 tweeted: “THIS IS THE UK. This is what @theresa_may is ignoring this is what IS SEEN AS A NORMAL THING TO DO! Young and old left in the cold with nowhere to turn. They just want us poor to curl up and be lost forever. The uk government are evil and do not care about us

@nickylabour4eva added: “The Tories are destroying everything good and decent about British society. It’s about more than Brexit isn’t it?”

@DebsaDelight commented: “She was so resigned to her fate. What a monstrous time we live in.”

This was from @pincushion: “Heart breaking – thanks to everyone who are trying to help her. I hate this bloody government.”

For Sarah Harten (@LOVELFCTODEATH), this was the main issue: “So sad. And all these overpaid industries out there. People with more money then they know what to do with. Was the human race really put here to sleep in bins streets and doorways?”

And Pamela McIntosh made this appeal: “How can this be happening in our country? This is someone’s daughter. Please help.”

One person who wants to help all homeless people is Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. In the week when Housing Secretary James Brokenshire tried to say homelessness was nothing to do with Conservative government policies, Mr Corbyn released the following clip:

And in response to a BBC appeal for suggested ways to end homelessness, Labour-supporting Twitter account Tory Fibs sent the following:

But these changes can only happen when a Labour government, led by Mr Corbyn, is elected.

For now, people like the young woman in this story are endangering themselves by sleeping in refuse collection bins.

If you have seen this woman – or if you see her after reading this – there are many charitable organisations offering help for homeless people; please ask one to make contact with her. You’ll be helping save a young life.

And that’s more than the Tories will ever do.

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The reality of the Coalition’s crackdown on tax credits

Nothing more to say: This Tax Credits advert was intended to warn people to keep up-to-date with information they send HMRC about their Tax Credits claim; now it seems the message is much simpler - they want to stop paying you anyway.

Nothing more to say: This Tax Credits advert was intended to warn people to keep up-to-date with information they send HMRC about their claim; now it seems the message is much simpler – they want to stop paying you anyway.

A guest blog by ‘Mimismum’.

What follows was posted to Vox Political as a response to Tax Credits and Debt Collection Agencies: Peachy’s Comment. It details the facts of the situation for just one struggling family and as such was worth a larger audience than it would have received as a comment on another article.

This government scares the s**t out me. I don’t know how much more stress I can take now. It has gone beyond anything like “austerity” or “in it together” rhetoric and is now a witch hunt against the poor or low earners, sick and disabled – even going as far as blaming us for our own predicament.

We have seen our family income go from £800 from my other half’s wage back in 2009 to just under £350 now, due to successive redundacies. He works and has never had any unemployment in the past 12 years, and yet each time he calls tax credits to say there is a change in our income they lower the award (ha! thats a rich term for it now, its garbage to call it an award) based on his predicted income, even though its gone down and down.

Last year he worked overtime for two weeks, got paid an extra £20 in the month and they hammered us by cutting his Working Tax Credits by £30 a week for the entire year! He recently got made redundant again and is now working two temp jobs (one of which is zero hours) and he has got hours bouncing around all over the joint. Family life has been shot to s**t, and when he rang Tax Credits to tell them they just said, “Oh well, as long as it’s over the 24 a week you are okay.”

Today they shoved some money in the bank. He rang to ask what the hell it was for; they can’t tell him because “We haven’t had the renewal paperwork in.” For goodness’ sake, we just wanted to know what this extra money is, it’s not rocket science! The guy refused to tell us!

My other half had to use it to pay bills because his wages were short due to the zero hour contract job changing how they pay wages now – because of that stupid pension scheme c**p the government forced on everyone. Even though he already has one from his previous job, this company took money for their pension and said they wouldnt pay into his! Oh, and because his old employer forgot to send his P45, he had to pay emergency tax as well!

We can’t do this any more. The stress of him working two jobs, my disability, and having children is driving a wedge between us. One of our children has autism, and I am struggling to maintain a routine that they desperately need – and I can’t. The other half is now on National Minimum Wage for both crappy jobs; both want exclusivity out of him and now keep rostering him on during the other job’s time. Both knew he had a second job when they took him on, and now we find out that tax credits can send debt collectors and bailiffs around for money they say anyone owes, just like that.

I wish to god Tony Blair had not invented tax credits, because it gives employers a get-out clause for paying decent wages. I can’t get hospital transport fees out of the NHS for trips I have had to make and even though they were claimed within the time allowed – no payment has been forthcoming because “it’s too late now” for them to pay out. I have another appointment in two weeks’ time which I have to cancel as I cant get there, because my other half can’t take time off work from either job – and my physio is about to strike me off for the same reason.

I am sick of this mess; we dont deserve this, and if we find out Tax Credits have overpaid us as well I don’t know what we would do. We have an income of less than average and we pay our own rent; we don’t claim Housing Benefit because the council stuffs it up and we get into arrears so we manage on our own.

We claim less of what we are entitled to because I am scared they will want it back, and now they are playing this game with tax credits.

I don’t want to be punished any more for being disabled, a parent or married. I have had enough of being poor and scared. All I want is for my other half to have a decent job with a decent wage, and there is nothing out there now.

No jobs, nothing, and it’s getting worse.

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Tax credit debt collection is a double-edged attack on the poor


There’s more than a little of the piscine about the fact that our Conservative-led has set debt collection agencies onto poor families who have been overpaid tax credit due to errors made by HM Revenue and Customs.

Firstly, the move undermines the principle behind the tax credit system – that it is there to ensure that poorly-paid families may still enjoy a reasonable living standard. Tax credits are paid on an estimate of a person’s – or family’s – income over a tax year and the last Labour government, knowing that small variances could cause problems for Britain’s poorest, set a wide buffer of £25,000 before households had to pay anything back.

By cutting this buffer back to £5,000, the Conservatives have turned this safety net into a trap. Suddenly the tiniest overpayment can push households into a debt spiral, because their low incomes mean it is impossible to pay back what the government has arbitrarily decided they now owe.

And the sharks are circling. Instead of collecting the debt on its own behalf, HMRC has sold it on to around a dozen debt collection agencies who are harassing the families involved with constant telephone calls, mobile phone messages and letters to their homes.

In total, HMRC made 215,144 referrals to debt collectors in 2013-14. Of the working families involved, 118,000 earned less than £5,000 per year.

This takes us to our second area of concern. Remember how the Department for Work and Pensions has been encouraging people – particularly the disabled – to declare themselves as self-employed in order to avoid the hassle and harassment that now go hand in hand with any benefit claim? You know – the refusal of benefits based on arbitrary ‘descriptors’ that were originally devised by a criminal insurance company as a means to minimise payouts, and the constant threat of sanctions that would cut off access to benefits for up to three years unless claimants manage to clear increasingly difficult obstacles.

And do you remember how the DWP reported earlier this year that more than 3,000 people who were subjected to the government’s benefit cap have now found work? This blog suggested at the time that many of them may have been encouraged to declare themselves self-employed in order to escape the hardship that the cap would cause them.

Both of these circumstances are likely to lead to a verdict of overpayment by HMRC, as the self-employment reported by these people is likely to be fictional, or to provide less than required by the rules – either in terms of hours worked or income earned.

Suddenly their debt is sold to a collection agency and they are suffering government-sponsored harassment, alarm and distress (which is in fact illegal) far beyond anything they received from the DWP; debt collection agencies are not part of the government and, as Dame Anne Begg pointed out in the Independent article on this subject, “The tactics they use to collect the debt are not tactics a government should use.”

Maybe not. So why employ such tactics?

Let’s move on to our third, and final, worry. By setting sharks on the hundreds of thousands of minnows caught in the government’s trawler-net (that was formerly a safety net – and I apologise for the mixed metaphor), the Tory-led administration is creating a handy distraction from the huge, bloated, offshore-banking whales who donate heavily into Conservative Party funds and who are therefore never likely to be pursued for the billions of pounds in unpaid taxes that they owe.

The government has promised to clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance, but ministers would have to be out of their minds to attack the bankers and businesspeople who pay for their bread and butter.

George Osborne suffered huge – and entirely justified – derision last year when HMRC published a list of its top 10 tax dodgers, which revealed that public enemy number one was a hairdresser from Liverpool who had failed to pay a total of £17,000.

It seems likely that the Conservatives have decided that future announcements will involve the reclamation of far larger amounts, and from far more people…

Innocent people who were either cheated by Tory-instigated changes to the system or by Tory-instigated misleading benefit advice.

Meanwhile the guilty parties continue to go unhindered. Their only payouts will continue to be made to – who was it again?

Oh yes…

To the Conservative Party.

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‘Scrap maternity pay’ – how Tories see the future of ‘welfare’ reform

[Image: The Guardian]

[Image: The Guardian]

Yesterday (February 11) we had a chance to see what the Tories – or at least some of them – want to do to state benefits.

Charlie Elphicke, Tory MP for Dover, launched a debate in the Westminster Hall in which he called for the axing of maternity pay – and other in-work benefits – to make way for a new insurance system into which employers and the self-employed would pay, and from which the costs of maternity leave and other benefits would be met. He suggested that participating employers would see a corresponding cut in their National Insurance contributions.

He said he wanted this system to pay out at minimum wage levels, rather than at the current £137 per week maternity rate. The state would back the scheme, but it would be entirely funded by businesses.

The taxpayer would not fund any of this scheme – at least, not the way the visionary Charlie put it during the debate. It would be “paid for by the workplaces of the nation”.

This is how (some) Tories want the system to be: Insurance schemes-a-go-go, with people and businesses standing or falling on their ability to meet the requirements of the system.

Obviously he has not considered the drawbacks of such a scheme. One is very simple: If employers are paying everything towards in-work benefits, why not simply pay the Living Wage, whether a person is working, on maternity, or whatever? The cost would be the same or lower – because there would be no government administrative burden.

Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions minister Steve Webb put some more of them into words.

“As the system currently works… 93 per cent of the cost of statutory maternity pay is refunded to employers. In fact, more than 100 per cent is refunded to small firms,” he said.

“If an employer is reluctant to take on a woman who might have a child, therefore, the pure finances should not make a huge difference.

“I am not therefore sure that having a collectivised… system of insurance is any different substantively for the employer. Either way, employers are getting reimbursed — the costs are being met and are not in essence falling on the employer.”

In other words, there would be no benefit to employers.

He continued: “Whenever we set up a new scheme, we have new infrastructure, bureaucracy and sets of rules. If we had the levy—the at-work scheme that he described — we would have to define the new tax base, have a new levy collection mechanism, work out who was in and who was out, have appeals and all that kind of stuff. There is always a dead weight to such things. Simply setting up new infrastructure costs money. I would have to be convinced that we were getting something back for it.”

In other words, the scheme proposed by the intellectual Mr Elphicke would be more expensive than the current system.

“He then says that he wants the rate not to be some £130 a week, but to be £200 and something a week,” said Mr Webb.

“I was not clear where that extra money would come from. If we pay women on maternity leave double, someone must pay for it. If he does not want that to be an extra burden on firms, paying for it will simply be a tax increase.”

In other words, the scheme might be doubly more expensive.

In addition, he said the proposal created issues around whether it distorted the choice between becoming an employed earner or a self-employed person.

And he pointed out that Mr Elphicke’s proposal was based on a belief that women taking maternity leave would not return to their previous employment – but this is no longer true. Mr Elphicke’s proposal is based on an outdated understanding of the market.

Mr Webb said: “The norm now for an employer who takes on a woman who goes on maternity leave is that — four times out of five — he will come back to the job for which she was trained, in which she is experienced and to which she can contribute.

“We now find that three quarters of women return to work within 12 to 18 months of having their baby… We need to educate employers about the fact that, if they do not employ women of childbearing age, they are depriving themselves of talented people who contribute to the work force. Not employing such women is clearly a bad thing, not only from a social point of view, but from an economic point of view.”

There you have it. Mr Elphicke’s proposal was defeated by a member of his own Coalition government; it was archaic, it was expensive, and it offered no profit for the people who were to pay for it.

That won’t stop him pushing plans like this. You will have noticed that a keystone of his scheme was that businesses would pay for in-work benefits – not the state. Charlie Elphicke is a Tory, and Tories cut taxes for very rich people like themselves. He’ll go on pushing for it in one form or another, for as long as he remains an MP.

Even if it is expensive, harmful nonsense.

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