Tag Archives: Frank Field

Grilling for DWP boss over Universal Credit – ‘the most error-riddled of all benefits’

After the DWP’s recent propaganda campaign on Universal Credit “myth-busting”, is it planning to run another, warning about fraud?

That is one of the questions sent to Peter Schofield, the senior civil servant at the Department for Work and Pensions after it was revealed that tens of millions of pounds are being fraudulently claimed in Universal Credit loans.

According to the Parliament.uk website, error and fraud at the DWP are now at their highest levels since records began – according to its own 2018-19 accounts.

Frank Field, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, has written to Mr Schofield with a series of questions about this matter and the revelations behind it.

He said: “In the Department’s fantastical predictions, Universal Credit was supposed to reduce error. Instead it is the most error-riddled of all benefits, and it’s only getting worse.

“DWP wasted billions of pounds of public money on error last year alone but that doesn’t begin to count the human cost. When will DWP get a grip on this escalating problem?”

The letter itself asks:

  • How much money the DWP has paid out in fraudulent Universal Credit advances – and how much it has recovered.
  • When Mr Schofield became aware of concerns about this fraud from frontline staff.
  • What actions his department has taken to prevent this fraud – and what he plans to do in the future.
  • Whether he is satisfied that the department does enough to listen to the concerns of staff and act on them promptly.

And he also raises a question about unfair treatment of the victims of this type of scam.

He writes: “Even when the department is informed that a claim for Universal Credit was fraudulent and made without the claimant’s knowledge or consent, it seems that claimants are being prevented from returning to their legacy benefits—even if they are worse off on Universal Credit.

“What operational guidance do you give to your staff about the handling of cases in which a claim for Universal Credit is made fraudulently, without the claimant’s knowledge or consent?

“What is the legal basis for refusing to allow claimants whose legacy benefits have been stopped because a fraudulent Universal Credit claim has been made in their name from returning to their legacy benefits?”

Tricky questions!

I’m sure we all look forward to Mr Schofield’s answers.

Source: Chair questions DWP on reports of UC fraud – News from Parliament – UK Parliament

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Will the DWP’s advertorials on the ‘facts’ of Universal Credit admit it forces people into ‘survival sex’?

Frank Field.

The chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, Frank Field, has had his say on the Department for Work and Pensions’ plan for a series of advertorials in newspapers extolling the (imagined?) virtues of the widely-condemned Universal Credit system.

And it is damning.

If you’re not up to speed with the Department’s plan to spread pro-UC propaganda covertly via a series of wraparound adverts on the Metro newspaper – intended not to mention the fact that they are paid-for adverts rather than news stories, in contravention of Advertising Standards Authority rules – the details are here.

The DWP has already tried to soften up readers with a series of articles in local newspapers where stooges sang the praises of the terminally (literally, in the cases of some claimants) flawed so-called benefit. Read about those atrocities here.

The Department is run by Conservative minister Amber Rudd, who exists in a state of public denial of the harm she is doing to millions of people every day. You only have to read her response to the United Nations’ report on poverty in the UK to realise the truth of it.

Mr Field confined his criticism to mention of only one harmful effect of Universal Credit – but it was a doozy: So-called “survival sex” – people prostituting themselves because it is the only way they can find to make ends meet.

This is not a new phenomenon; Ken Loach referred to it in his seminal critique of the benefit system I, Daniel Blake.

Mr Field said: “If the DWP wants to understand the facts about Universal Credit, it could look to the horrific, harrowing evidence we heard. People – mostly women, single mums, students – are telling us that they are forced through sheer desperation to exchange sex for the means to feed, house and warm themselves and their children. Instead of going out to get the evidence for itself, the DWP just dismisses this testimony as anecdote and brushes it aside.

“Rather than wasting huge chunks of desperately needed resources on 10 weeks of advertorial, why won’t the Government just take a look at the terrible reality of the facts we and so many others are showing them, for free, and instead spend that money on making some of its claims about UC helping people come true?”

The answer to his question is obvious.

Because then the Tories would have to admit that the criticisms are accurate and Universal Credit is a failure. And they enjoy crushing poor people far too much to allow that to happen.

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DWP’s letter to doctors means MORE people have been wrongly denied benefits

Sarah Newton: The Conservative minister for disabled people once said there was no “hostile environment” for benefit claimants. Her capacity for inaccuracy, thus demonstrated, seems to be proved again with this case.

The duplicity in the latest attack on the sick and disabled by the Conservatives is enough to make anybody ill – including the doctors it targeted.

People claiming Employment and Support Allowance because they are too unwell to work, but who have their claim turned down by assessors from the private company hired by the Department for Work and Pensions, are entitled to receive the benefit while they await their appeal hearing.

But they need ‘fit’ notes from their doctors, to prove they are too ill to work – and it has emerged that “ministers” (we don’t know which) have ordered changes to the standard letter sent to GPs, in order to make them think these notes are not necessary.

It’s clearly a scam to undermine the law; sick people can’t receive the benefit if they don’t have a note from their GP, so the government has told GPs to stop providing these notes.

Amazingly, the DWP has claimed that the removal of references that made it clear to GPs they may have to issue a medical statement if their patient wished to appeal against a WCA decision was not intended to dissuade GPs from issuing fit notes.

In that case, why change the letter at all?

And why are we told that the wording was changed by agreement with the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners (although it is significant that there appear to be no formal minutes of the meeting at which this agreement was made)?

According to The Guardian:

The standard letter, called an ESA65B, is sent automatically to the GPs of all claimants who fail a WCA and are declared fit enough to work. Until 2017 the letter advised GPs that if their patient appealed against the WCA decision they must continue to provide fit notes.

However, on ministers’ orders, the letter now states that GPs “do not need to provide any more fit notes for ESA purposes”. It does not mention the possibility that the patient may appeal, or that a fit note is needed for the patient to obtain ESA payments until the appeal is heard.

And what has been the result? Back to the Graun:

Advice charity Z2K said the effect of the revised letter could be devastating. “We have seen how our clients, who are seriously ill, suddenly have zero income, become reliant on food bank vouchers and loans, and face a very real threat of homelessness.”

There was national outrage over the case of Stephen Smith, 64, who was deemed fit for work despite suffering from multiple debilitating illnesses, having his weight plummet to 38kg (6 stone) and being barely able to walk. Smith won his appeal after waiting 12 months for a hearing.

Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, the chair of the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), said the lack of clarity over when GPs should issue fit notes could put patients’ finances and health at risk.

The reason for the change is obvious – it is well-known that 72% of claimants who appeal against their Work Capability Assessment decision are successful.

As readers of This Site know, the Conservatives like to persecute people with long-term illnesses and disabilities to their deaths. So they are trying to make it impossible for claimants to survive long enough to win their appeals.

It seems former minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton (ah, so that’s her name! I had forgotten it already) may have ordered the change. She certainly protested to the Work and Pensions select committee that the change had been to make the letter “simpler and clearer”.

Committee chair Frank Field’s acid reply was that the wording was “not having its desired effect”.

Do you think the DWP will change it back?

Source: ‘Misleading’ DWP letter causing ill and disabled people to lose benefits | Society | The Guardian


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Theresa May’s Brexit is collapsing around her – but she may have one small hope

Theresa May: Will Brexit bring her down?

Theresa May is in serious trouble over her plan for Brexit. In fact, there may be only one chance for her to put her plan into operation – but if she takes it, her humiliation will be complete.

Allow me to explain:

Tory Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab spent October 14 in talks with Michel Barnier, in a bid to resolve the “big issues” preventing agreement between the UK and EU27 on the terms of our separation at the end of March next year:

It did not go well:

Here‘s how The Independent covered the situation:

“A Brexit deal has not been struck despite “intense efforts” in Brussels on Sunday, Michel Barnier has said.

“Mr Barnier’s announcement immediately deflated speculation of a breakthrough in the difficult negotiations, following Mr Raab’s surprise trip to Brussels and the summoning of ambassadors to a meeting at EU headquarters.

“One of the most pressing issues is the Northern Irish backstop, a mechanism to avoid a hard border.

“The EU’s version of the backstop, which would see just Northern Ireland remain aligned with Brussels’ rules, has been called unacceptable by Ms May and is loathed by her DUP allies.

“Ms May’s counter-proposal is for a “temporary customs arrangement” for the whole of the UK, but Tory Brexiteers fear this could become an open-ended position which would prevent free trade deals with countries around the world.

“No further negotiations are planned before European leaders including Theresa May meet for a further summit in Brussels on Wednesday, according to a senior EU diplomat.”

Journalist and commentator Paul Mason paints an accurate word-picture of the situation, I think:

As the reports indicated, Mr Raab’s – and Theresa May’s – problems are not limited to disagreement with the Eurocrats:

The article refers to Mr Johnson’s latest column in the Daily Telegraph, in which he urged Mrs May to “stand up” to “bullies” in the EU. It also points out that Mr Johnson is the most likely to benefit from Mrs May’s humiliation, as he is considered the most likely to replace her as Tory leader (what a horrible thought).

On the other side…

This article refers to a tweet by Anna Soubry, who is currently an outspoken Conservative backbencher. She states:

This is – of course – a view that is diametrically opposed to that of Mr Johnson.

So we can see that the Tories are as bitterly-divided over the EU as they ever were, even though the referendum of 2016 was intended to end this conflict.

Clare Hepworth is right, but I would go further. She will never be able to reconcile the differing point of view.

So what’s her “one small hope”, that I mentioned in the headline?

Simple:

Named in the article are Gareth Snell, Ruth Smeeth, and Caroline Flint – to whom we may reasonably expect to add Kate Hoey, John Mann, Graham Stringer, and Frank Field – who resigned the Labour whip after a vote of ‘no confidence’ in him by constituency party members, prompted by this very issue.

But Aaron Bastani is correct – nobody who is serious about Labour regaining office can countenance this.

Labour’s pro-Brexit rebels (who also appear to be very much anti-Jeremy Corbyn) know that party members are keen to end the Parliamentary careers of MPs who do not support current policies, and may use the selection process in the run-up to a general election to choose new candidates.

Supporting Mrs May might seem a wise tactic – but another general election must take place sooner or later, and party members will not forgive what they will see as treachery.

Remember: The NHS is being sold off piecemeal, its patients’ health treated as commodities to be bought and sold; Universal Credit and the sickness and disability benefit system are leading to the deaths of many thousands of people; privatised utility companies are failing to deliver the services required at a reasonable price… The list of infamy goes on and on.

We need a change of government as soon as possible. Anybody in the Labour Party who helps prevent that will be signing a death warrant for their political career.

As for Mrs May – she’ll take all the help she can get, but the fact that she might have to get it from Labour rebels will be humiliating for her. Mortifying.

But she’s a Tory. She’ll accept any embarrassment if it keeps her in a position to inflict harm on you.

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The real reason Frank Field won’t trigger a by-election any time soon

Staying put: Frank Field.

He may have resigned the Labour whip, but Frank Field won’t be giving his constituents the luxury of a by-election – no matter what his partner-in-propping-up-the-Tories, Kate Hoey, says.

Responding to a claim by Owen Jones that Mr Field chose to sit as an independent because his constituency party wanted him deselected after he helped save Theresa May’s government in a crucial Brexit vote, Ms Hoey – who supported the Tories alongside Mr Field – said he would be re-elected easily because his constituents support him:

But the facts are against her. As Tom Clark of Another Angry Voice points out – it didn’t work out very well for Simon Danczuk when he tried:

People vote for Labour candidates because they support Labour policies. They don’t support people who betray those policies. That is why Mr Field’s constituency party turned against him – and it why the constituents of Birkenhead would turn against him too:

And of course, if Ms Hoey is so sure of herself, why doesn’t she try it? Her own constituency party called for the withdrawal of the Labour whip and her deselection as a Labour MP in a vote of ‘no confidence’ after she voted to support Tory Brexit.

We know why:

https://twitter.com/sphenefan/status/1035511014035468293

Talk is cheap. Judge these people by what they do – not what they say.

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Don’t be fooled by fake news: Frank Field left Labour rather than be kicked out

Frank Field: He knew his days in Labour were numbered so he left.

Does Frank Field really think we are all that stupid?

He did not leave Labour because of the way the party is dealing with anti-Semitism.

He resigned the whip because his constituency Labour Party in Birkenhead overwhelmingly supported a vote of “no confidence” in him as their MP and called for the withdrawal of the party whip, after he propped up the Conservative government by supporting it in a crucial Brexit vote.

And he had the sheer barefaced cheek to accuse his fellow Birkenhead party members of taking part in “a culture of intolerance, nastiness and intimidation”!

His claim that this fake culture “is being driven, in part, by members who in previous years would never have been able to claim Labour Party membership”, coupled with the other assertion, should be justification for members of his CLP to take legal action against Mr Field.

The claim by Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson – that Mr Field’s resignation is a “wake-up call” for the party – a “serious loss” that “reflects the deep divisions in the party and the sense of drift engulfing us” is bilge of the smelliest water.

Have the mass media forgotten that this is a man who demanded that his own party disregard its disciplinary procedures and abandon action against Margaret Hodge and Ian Austin – for no very good reason – after they accused party leader Jeremy Corbyn of anti-Semitism… for no very good reason?

To me, this smacks of Mr Watson trying to make good on his threat to plunge the party into “a vortex of eternal shame and embarrassment”.

But it won’t work. We all know he’s talking through his hat.

Mr Field cannot remain a member of the Labour Party. He must resign his membership within 14 days or be expelled. He will not be allowed to remain a party member and represent Birkenhead as an independent Labour MP. He is out – for good.

And the possibility of other Labour MPs splitting off and sitting as independents, or even forming a new party? Negligible.

Without the party’s endorsement, they are nobodies. If they resign the party whip, they know they are guaranteeing the loss of their Parliamentary seats at the next general election – which may not be that far away.

Birkenhead CLP is now free to choose a new candidate for election next time – one whose values concur with those of the party in general. And yes, that includes opposition to anti-Semitism.

Mr Field will sink back into the obscurity he deserves.

Remember: He saved the Conservative government – a racist administration which has caused huge harm with the Windrush scandal, with its blatant Islamophobia, with its support for Saudi Arabia’s war against civilians in Yemen, and with its support for the apartheid regime in Israel.

The Labour Party does not need MPs who prop up racist governments.

Jeremy Corbyn has been warned that the resignation of the veteran MP Frank Field from the Labour whip, over antisemitism and what Field called a culture of nastiness in the party, must be treated as a wake-up call.

In a blistering letter to Labour’s chief whip, Nick Brown, Field wrote: “It saddens me to say that we are increasingly seen as a racist party” and added that antisemitism alone would have been enough to prompt his resignation.

The MP for Birkenhead, who recently faced a vote of no confidence from his local party over his support for Brexit, highlighted what he called a “culture of nastiness, bullying and intimidation”, saying this was at best ignored and at worst tacitly tolerated.

Source: Frank Field resigns Labour whip over antisemitism crisis | Politics | The Guardian

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Brexit rebels should go if their local Labour members say so, says Owen Jones

Kate Hoey: For the heave-ho.

Owen Jones is rightly under fire over his his knee-jerk demand for Pete Willsman to quit Labour’s NEC despite not having done anything wrong.

But he’s right about this.

Kate Hoey, Frank Field, Graham Stringer and John Mann defied the Labour whip to vote in support of a Tory government motion – saving the Tories from defeat in doing so.

If members of their constituency Labour Parties say that this defies the values that bind the organisation together, then they are within their rights to vote the Brexit rebels out of any future party candidacy.

So, according to Mr Jones, Hoey must go. The only thing keeping Field, Stringer and Mann around is the fact that their CLPs haven’t voted for their deselection…

Yet.

The objection should not be whether Labour MPs defy the whip – each should have the right to act according to their conscience. But Labour members should surely have greater power to decide whether those actions defy the values that bind the party.

Labour members should have the power to adjudicate on MPs’ voting records, and “not propping up a catastrophic Tory government” should be regarded as a bare minimum.

Source: Deselection has its place in our democracy. Kate Hoey must go | Owen Jones | Opinion | The Guardian

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Birkenhead CLP overwhelmingly votes no-confidence and withdrawal of the whip from Frank Field

Frank Field at a previous censure vote against him by his local Labour Party.

Following its report on Vauxhall CLP’s censure of Kate Hoey, Skwawkbox now reports on a decision on Frank Field’s future, by Birkenhead Constituency Labour Party:

Birkenhead CLP similarly voted overwhelming no-confidence in veteran right-winger Frank Field and called for the withdrawal of the whip. More than eighty percent of the votes cast supported the motion.

Skwawkbox also echoed the sentiment of This Site, when I reported its story about Ms Hoey:

Will similar moves be mounted against John Mann and Graham Stringer, the remaining pair?

Source: Breaking: Birkenhead CLP’s overwhelming no-confidence/withdrawal of whip vote v Field | The SKWAWKBOX

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Brexit trade debate turns into farce because May doesn’t understand her own plan

Backroom bunko: Theresa May.

Let’s get this straight:

Theresa May proved she did not understand her own ‘Chequers plan’ for a future relationship between the UK and the European Union on Sunday (July 15). Andrew Marr demonstrated to her that it would prevent the UK from making trade deals with other nations because it would tie us into a ‘common rulebook’ with the European Union.

She compounded this misunderstanding in the House of Commons yesterday (July 16) when she caved in to four Trade Bill amendments by Jacob Rees-Mogg’s far-right-wing European Research Group (ERG). The change in the most controversial of these would effectively rip up the so-called ‘common rulebook’ and demand that, if the UK collects duties and VAT on goods for the EU – and at EU rates, then the EU should reciprocate, collecting UK duties and VAT at UK rates.

The ERG amendment was intended to wreck Mrs May’s plan for a customs compromise with the EU27, in the belief that Brussels would reject the measure – but Mrs May then argued that the EU had only ruled out collecting UK duties and tariffs at its border, and it would be necessary to have other reciprocal financial systems with the EU to refund businesses in the event that there were differing customs arrangements. She said the amendments were “consistent” with the Brexit White Paper – even though they weren’t.

If it looks like fudge and tastes like fudge, it probably is fudge. That is what the 14-strong group of Conservative Remain-supporting MPs decided after learning of Downing Street’s decision to support the four ERG amendments – whipping Tory MPs to vote against the government’s own proposals.

This group had already been betrayed by Mrs May over the EU Withdrawal Bill, so it is unsurprising that its members voted against the ERG amendments as supported by the prime minister yesterday.

But – and this is where it gets really bizarre – the amendments passed anyway, with the support of three current Labour MPs and former Labour MP Kelvin Hopkins, and due to the absence of Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable and that party’s former leader Tim Farron.

Labour MPs who turn down a chance to defeat the Conservatives are, of course, traitors to their party and their voters – and the Liberal Democrats have once again shown their Tory-supporting colours by betraying their own anti-Brexit position.

Mr Farron was giving a speech in Sherborne about how he reconciles his evangelical Christian beliefs with being a Liberal Democrat politician, and Mr Cable was at a meeting off the Parliamentary estate. The Liberal Democrats said both were absent because nobody had expected the vote to be so close – except it had been all over the news for days.

Labour MPs Frank Field, Kate Hoey and Graham Stringer have no excuse at all. I await a decision on their punishment from the Labour whips’ office.

The whole farrago means that the government won its votes with nothing more than luck.

And Theresa May knows it – that is why she has proposed bringing forward the Parliamentary summer recess to Thursday (July 19) – five days early. There currently seems little hope that any Brexit deal currently on the table could command the support of a majority of MPs, and this makes a ‘no confidence’ vote in Mrs May’s leadership more likely.

Going to recess on Thursday would cut the time available to call a confidence vote, and then Mrs May would have the long summer recess in which to try to talk her MPs into giving her yet another chance.

This is not principled politics – it is backroom bunko.

If Mrs May does any deal with her rebellious MPs, it will be to give them something they want in order to push a bad deal on the people of the UK that will make us all much worse-off.

But remember: There will be no referendum on whether Brexit should go ahead. Mrs May has been adamant about that. Clearly she sees an advantage in it for herself.

And in Theresa May’s world, she is all that matters. The rest of the UK can rot. And that’s no way to run a country.

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Crocodile tears: Heidi Allen’s emotional response to effect of Universal Credit is negated by her voting record

It would have been such a nice story – a ‘coming together’ of Labour and Conservative to make Universal Credit better. What a shame it isn’t true.

Here‘s Evolve Politics:

Labour’s Frank Field moved a Conservative MP to tears during a debate on Universal Credit in Parliament today.

During an incredibly emotive speech, Field recounted several horrifying stories of the devastating effects the new all-in-one Tory benefit, Universal Credit, has had on several of his constituents.

Field’s stories, which included a constituent who he had attempted to persuade not to commit suicide, and another family whose child had cried with hunger, were so heart-wrenching that Conservative MP Heidi Allen was left too emotional to continue her reply to the Labour MP.

See the exchange for yourself:

The trouble is, they were crocodile tears from Ms Allen, who makes a very good show of caring when she is in front of the Commons cameras, but relentlessly troops through the lobbies in support of the Conservative government policies that have caused the misery that apparently moved her.

The information from TheyWorkForYou.com states clearly that Ms Allen has voted “against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work due to illness or disability” and “generally voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits”. [Boldings mine.]

https://twitter.com/Barkercartoons/status/938156811215044610

 

And some commenters have paused to remind us all that the architect of Universal Credit was Iain Duncan Smith – and he deserves to be punished for the harm he has inflicted on innocent citizens of the UK:

https://twitter.com/susieharris19/status/938125378190790658


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