Tag Archives: Inside Housing

Coalition to impose sanctions on housing benefit


Part-time workers who are judged to be doing too little to find full-time work could have their Housing Benefit sanctioned by the government when Universal Credit comes into full force, according to Inside Housing.

The revelation is the latest in a long line of benefit betrayals to be inflicted on the poor by the Coalition government. The new development also means landlords stand to lose out.

The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed to Inside Housing that under Universal Credit, where a tenant is working less than 35 hours per week at minimum wage and is not eligible for JSA or ESA, then the housing element can be sanctioned instead.

It seems clear that the government is determined that it should be able to take income away from everyone who is not being properly paid by their employer. Does this seem fair to you?

Under the present system, Housing Benefit is paid direct to landlords, meaning sanctions against tenants can only be applied to out-of-work benefits like Jobseekers’ Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance. The aim is to use Universal Credit to spread the threat of sanctions so that it covers people in low-paid work as well. Would you consider any government that did this to be standing up “for hardworking people”?

The article quotes a DWP spokesperson who said: “It is only right that people claiming benefits should be aware that not sticking to the rules can have a consequence.”

This, of course, assumes that a person is breaking the rules if their employer refuses to improve their working conditions… but we know that the government has altered working conditions to ensure that employers are under no pressure to do so; the benefit cap, and the one per cent limit on the annual uprating of benefits have ensured that people without jobs will become continually worse-off, so those who are in work cannot demand pay increases for fear of being handed their P45s and told that someone else will do their job for less.

Are these the actions of a government that believes we are “all in it together”?

If anybody thinks they can find justification for this behaviour, please get in touch.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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DWP: Denial With Prejudice?


Despite being beleaguered with defeat in the courts, the threat of further legal action for a different reason, and criticism that a flagship project is likely to fall flat on its arse, the DWP denial machine steams onward.

The fact that it continues to do this flies in the face of logic – but then, this blog has consistently argued that logic has nothing to do with DWP decisions. How can it? This is the government department with Iain Duncan Smith at the helm.

We all know that the Department of Welfare Persecution lost a court case last week, when High Court judges found that the regulations covering assessment of the mentally ill for Employment and Support Allowance break the Equality Act.

Yesterday it was reported – in Inside Housing, because none of the mainstream media would dream of reporting anything that criticises our alleged government – that no fewer than four families have launched a judicial review against the government’s benefit cap on grounds that it is “discriminatory and unreasonable”

They will argue that Mr… Smith did not take into account the impact of the policy on women, children, the disabled, racial and religious minorities, and carers when formulating the policy. Two of the families are expected to immediately fall into rent arrears and face eviction and street homelessness, because their rent exceeds the level of the cap – £500 a week.

And two of the families have fled domestic violence in circumstances where they were financially reliant upon their abusive partners and now risk losing their homes.

The DWP says the benefit cap sets “a fair limit” on what people can get from the state, which is not more than “£500 a week, the average household income”.

The average household income, once state benefits to which they are entitled is taken into account, is currently £605 per week.

On the same day that this new legal challenge was reported, the government itself revealed that it considers the Department of the Wastefully imPracticable’s flagship Universal Credit scheme to be in serious difficulty.

The Major Projects Authority has given it “amber-red” status, which denotes a project in danger of failing – and it wasn’t alone. Also in danger were the department’s fraud and error programme and its plan to introduce the new Personal Independence Payment, which is intended to replace Disability Living Allowance.

The DWP has argued that the rating is out of date, reflecting where the project was eight months ago – but this is clearly nonsense. Eight months ago, the government was telling us that Universal Credit was on track. Now it is saying this is no longer the case.

Also, any fool can say that the evidence is out of date because all statistics used in such reports are from a point in the past. That doesn’t mean they are inaccurate.

In the United States they have – or had – in their justice system a convention known as the “three-strikes law”. This was a statute enacted by state governments which demanded harsher sentences on habitual offenders who are convicted of three or more serious criminal offenses.

Since we in the UK seem to be adopting more and more American policies (their rubbish health system springs immediately to mind), perhaps we should adopt this system. Iain Duncan Smith has already lost in the courts on workfare and on the work capability assessment.

If he loses on the benefit cap, that will be the third strike against him and he should be ejected from government (if this has not already happened by then) along with all the silly so-called ministers who support him.

With new minds at the top of the DWP, its possible that Universal Credit would then be halted and we could see a return to something approximating sanity.

I doubt it, but hope springs eternal.

UK policy on refugees: Let Them Starve

As a nation, we should be ashamed of this story in so many ways.

Firstly, we should be ashamed that a family of three asylum seekers from abroad came to the UK, believing that they would be treated well.

Then we should be ashamed that this group became dependent on charity handouts – despite their successful claim for asylum – because of ‘significant problems’ transferring them from Home Office administration to mainstream welfare support. This meant they had to be on the streets before local authorities – in this case the Conservative flagship Westminster Council – could offer help.

It is bitterly shameful that the child of this family, living in destitution on British streets, was allowed to starve to death.

Even worse is that, after this happened, the government axed its funding for the Refugee Integration and Employment Service (RIES)- which paid transitional support for successful asylum seekers like this family. This means others will find themselves in an even worse situation, as soon as they arrive in the UK.

Most damning of all is the fact that this is a major news story across the world – but in the UK both the BBC and Sky News have ignored it, apart from a link on the BBC website to a report by Inside Housing.

Why is that?

Is it because our Coalition government doesn’t want us to know it is letting asylum-seekers starve?

Is it because, even in a country where anti-immigration and anti-asylum-seeker feeling has been stoked by the right-wing press, ministers know that letting them die will still upset the British sense of fair play that many of us still (perhaps surprisingly) have?

Is it because the government has no intention of changing its ways?

Westminster Council warned the government to fix the flaws in its support system for successful asylum seekers, by letter, in March 2011. Support for RIES was cut six months later. It seems clear that the government never paid serious attention to the council’s comments.

The Refugee Council has said stories like this are increasingly common, and Refugee Action says more and more asylum-seekers are being forced onto the streets.

And guess who is partly responsible for this, alongside the Home Office?

Yes, yet again it is the Department for Work and Pensions, which seems to have set itself the task of causing the most avoidable deaths ever, within a single Parliamentary term.

The International Criminal Court has already been asked to consider charges against Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, alongside his former cronies Chris Grayling and Maria Miller, both of whom have moved on to bigger Cabinet portfolios, where presumably they can cause even more havoc.

Perhaps this latest scandal could be added to the list.