The Department for Work and Pensions has refused to stop taking money from already-inadequate benefit payments – and has hidden the decision by releasing it while the media were focused on the Queen’s funeral.
MPs on the Commons’ Work and Pensions Select Committee called for the DWP to stop debt repayments being deducted from benefits, back in July.
They said deductions should be restarted only when inflation eased or benefit levels caught up.
It seems DWP chiefs have spent around two months waiting for “a good day to bury bad news”, as the saying goes.
[MPs] said the debt deductions were causing “hardship” for “households currently struggling with huge financial pressures”, and people needed “breathing space”.
Nearly half (45%) of people on Universal Credit are currently having deductions taken out of their benefits to repay debts, at an average of £62 a month. The debts are typically caused by historic overpayments and other errors, advance payments made during the five-week-wait for Universal Credit, and by arrears on energy costs and other priority bills. Currently the government can deduct up to a quarter of someone’s benefits each month to repay these debts.
MPs heard from charities including the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that these deductions were “a key factor in destitution”. The Trussell Trust said the practice was pushing “people into destitution and needing to turn to a food bank”.
Now brace yourself for the DWP’s nonsense justification for putting people into destitution:
the Department for Work and Pensions said it did not believe pausing deductions was “necessarily in the claimant’s best interest”. It said that if that deductions were paused between now and the April 2023 rise, people might then not notice the impact … when it comes … and people might “feel no better off”.
But they’re not going to feel better-off anyway if the whole uplift has to go towards servicing debts that could be avoided if the DWP simply paused these deductions for a while.
The government also rejected MPs’ calls to bring forward the uprating of benefits, currently not due to take effect till April 2023. In April this year, benefits were increased by an inflation rate that was seven months out of date – rising 3.1%, at a point when inflation was already running at 9%.
So already, people on benefits are receiving far less than they should, simply to keep up with inflation.
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.
Keir Starmer: he never looks sure of what he’s doing, does he? One has to wonder if he’s being worked from behind.
It’s looking bleak for Keir Starmer as unions and constituency Labour Party organisations turn against him.
Skwawkbox provides an excellent chronicle of the conflict in Labour between the socialists who represent the soul of the party and the right-wing entryists, led by Starmer, who are working hard to wreck it, and This Site would like to direct you to the information that may be found there, such as the following:
The operative part of this is the wording of the motion that has won unanimous support from Bootle CLP:
Bootle CLP strongly condemns the party leader Sir Keir Starmer for his decision to renege on his promise to the people of Merseyside made during his leadership election campaign, to not speak to the S*n newspaper.
Therefore Bootle CLP calls for the resignation of the Leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer, on the grounds we no longer have any confidence in his leadership, as he says one thing, and then does the other.
Well, you can trust Starmer to do the dirty on the Labour left – but of course he would never admit it.
Still, isn’t it strange that, days before the election of a new chairperson for the party’s National Constitutional Committee, which is still its only quasi-judicial disciplinary body (even if it doesn’t work properly, as This Writer knows too well), its newest left-wing member was suddenly suspended under suspicious circumstances.
who is a solicitor and a member of the [Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers], was suspended by Labour last week over years-old and entirely accurate posts on social media and in a private group.
The Haldane Society posted a statement on Twitter condemning the attack by Starmer and his administrative sidekick David Evans on Ms Davies and on member democracy… In February, Haldane banned Keir Starmer from membership, saying that he was ineligible because he is ‘demonstrably not a socialist’ and condemned him ‘in the strongest possible terms’ for his conduct since winning the Labour leadership election on a set of false promises.
Perhaps Starmer thinks we should be grateful that he – well, Rachel Reeves actually – has finally announced a policy. But it’s a stinker!
The party plans to ‘pause’ VAT on fuel in response to soaring energy costs. But VAT on fuel is at 5% and the average energy bill for a family of four adults at the moment is around £30 a week.
At a 5p saving in the pound, that’s just £1.50 per week – or 35p a week for each of the four household members.
Starmer’s other idea is a cut in business rates. Businesses pay 20% VAT and most can claim this back in full routinely anyway.
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.
Theresa May is coming under pressure over the rollout of Universal Credit [Image: REX].
The problem with Universal Credit won’t be solved by “pausing” its rollout.
The system is inherently flawed, in that it allows Conservatives to harm benefit claimants by – for example – delaying their payments or inflicting unreasonable conditions on them.
It is inherently flawed because in households with more than one earner, the taper rate – the amount of Universal Credit withdrawn as earnings increase – is greater than under the current system of tax credits.
And of course, it is inherently flawed in that it was originally intended to be entirely computerised and in that sense it simply doesn’t work at all.
Put those issues together and the reputational damage to UC – and to the Department for Work and Pensions that spawned it – is too great.
Both should be scrapped.
Britain’s biggest foodbank charity has demanded a temporary halt to a benefits shake-up that’s leaving people stranded without cash for months.
The Trussell Trust said problems with Universal Credit had forced demand on one of its centres up by 67%.
The mammoth all-in-one system is slowly replacing six benefits including jobseekers’ allowance and Tax Credits.
But not only has it been delayed seven times, it’s sparked fury by delaying initial payments [to claimants] who transfer onto the benefit.
MPs have repeatedly heard of people waiting three months for payments to come through.
The Trussell Trust gave out nearly 1.2million emergency food parcels last year, its highest number ever and up from 61,000 in 2010/11.
Chief executive Mark Ward said: “Foodbanks tell us that Universal Credit is inadvertently leaving people without any money for six or more weeks, leading to debt, rental arrears, and poor mental health.
“We are concerned this will only get worse as winter approaches and more pressure will be put on stretched voluntary groups left to step in and help in the absence of other practical support.”
The Trust has joined a call already made by Citizens Advice for the roll-out to be halted “until appropriate emergency financial support is available and accessible to all people left with no income or food in the cupboard.”
Part of the ESA application form. A House of Commons debate has called for a pause to the planned £29-a-week cut to ESA [Image: Alamy].
This was a symbolic vote, sending a message to a government that simply won’t listen.
If the Tories who called for a “pause” in the planned cuts to ESA and Universal Credit had simply voted against them in the first place, they would not be about to take place.
Work and Pensions minister Penny Mordaunt said proof that the Tory government has listened and understood will be in its actions.
If so, then I predict that the Tory government will do…
And the cuts will go ahead.
This is about torturing the poor and nothing else.
Conservative MPs have called on the chancellor to reconsider welfare cuts ahead of the autumn statement, after a backbench motion to pause the planned cuts passed unanimously in the House of Commons.
No MPs voted against the motion to stop the planned cuts to employment support allowance (ESA) and universal credit, with 127 voting in favour. However, the motion is purely symbolic, intended only as a method of sending a message to government.
During the debate, called by the SNP’s Neil Gray, MPs across the house called for Philip Hammond to pause a planned £29-a-week cut to ESA, which applies to those not in employment through illness or disability but who have been judged fit to prepare to return to work.
The universal credit cuts will also mean a reduction in the amount people are able to earn before their benefits are withdrawn.
Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Secretary: He’d rather listen to real doctors than spin doctors.
The title of this article should seem brutally ironic, considering that the Coalition government famously ‘paused’ the passage of the hugely controversial Health and Social Care Act through Parliament in order to perform a ‘listening exercise’ and get the views of the public.
… Then again, maybe not – as the Tories (with the Liberal Democrats trailing behind like puppies) went on to do exactly what they originally wanted, anyway.
Have a look at the motion that went before the House of Commons today:
“That this House is concerned about recent pressure in Accident and Emergency departments and the increase in the number of people attending hospital A&Es since 2009-10; notes a recent report by the Care Quality Commission which found that more than half a million people aged 65 and over were admitted as an emergency to hospital with potentially avoidable conditions in the last year; believes that better integration to improve care in the home or community can relieve pressure on A&E; notes comments made by the Chief Executive of NHS England in oral evidence to the Health Select Committee on 5 November 2013, that the NHS is getting bogged down in a morass of competition law, that this is causing significant cost and that to make integration happen there may need to be legislative change; is further concerned that the competition aspects of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 are causing increased costs in the NHS at a time when there is a shortage of A&E doctors; and calls on the Government to reverse its changes to NHS competition policy that are holding back the integration needed to help solve the A&E crisis and diverting resources which should be better spent on improving patient care.”
Now have a look at the amendment that was passed:
“That this House notes the strong performance of NHS accident and emergency departments this winter; further notes that the average waiting time to be seen in A&E has more than halved since 2010; commends the hard work of NHS staff who are seeing more people and carrying out more operations every year since May 2010; notes that this has been supported by the Government’s decision to protect the NHS budget and to shift resources to frontline patient care, delivering 12,000 more clinical staff and 23,000 fewer administrators; welcomes changes to the GP contract which restore the personal link between doctors and their most vulnerable patients; welcomes the announcement of the Better Care Fund which designates £3.8 billion to join up health and care provision and the Integration Pioneers to provide better care closer to home; believes that clinicians are in the best position to make judgements about the most appropriate care for their patients; notes that rules on tendering are no different to the rules that applied to primary care trusts; and, a year on from the publication of the Francis Report, notes that the NHS is placing an increased emphasis on compassionate care, integration, transparency, safe staffing and patient safety.”
Big difference, isn’t it?
From the wording that won the vote, you would think there was nothing wrong with the health service at all – and you would be totally mistaken.
But this indicates the sort of cuckooland where the Coalition government wants you to live; Jeremy Hunt knows what the problems are – he just won’t acknowledge them. And he doesn’t have to – the media are run by right-wing Tory adherents.
So here, for the benefit of those of you who had work to do and missed the debate, are a few of the salient points.
Principal among them is the fact that ward beds are being ‘blocked’ – in other words, their current occupants are unable to move out, so new patients cannot move in. This is because the current occupants are frail elderly people with no support in place for them to live outside hospital. With no space on wards, accident and emergency departments have nowhere to put their new admissions, meaning they cannot free up their own beds.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had nothing to say about this.
Andy Burnham, who opened proceedings, pointed out the huge increase in admissions to hospital accident and emergency departments – from a rise of 16,000 between 2007 and 2010 to “a staggering” 633,000 in the first three years of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government.
Why the rapid rise? “There has been a rise in people arriving at A and E who have a range of problems linked to their living circumstances, from people who have severe dental pain because they cannot afford to see the dentist, to people who are suffering a breakdown or who are in crisis, to people who cannot afford to keep warm and are suffering a range of cold-related conditions.”
He said almost a million people have waited more than four hours for treatment in the last year, compared with 350,000 in his year as Health Secretary; the statement in the government amendment that waiting times have halved only relates to the time until an initial assessment – not total waiting time. Hospital A and Es have missed the government’s targets in 44 of the last 52 weeks.
Illnesses including hypothermia are on the rise, and the old Victorian ailments of rickets and scurvy are back, due to increased malnutrition.
Hospitals are filling up with the frail elderly, who should never have ended up there or who cannot get the support needed to go home because of a £1.8 billion cut in adult social services and support. This, Mr Burnham said, was “the single most important underlying cause of the A and E crisis”; ward admissions cannot be made because the beds are full. The number of emergency admissions of pensioners has topped 500,000 for the first time.
Ambulances have been held in queues outside A and E, unable to hand over patients to staff because it is full. That has left large swathes of the country — particularly in rural areas — without adequate ambulance cover.
The government is downgrading A and E units across the country into GP-run clinics, while pretending that they are still to be used for accidents and emergencies – in the middle of the A and E crisis.
People in England are reducing the number of drugs they are taking because they cannot afford to buy them. Families are choosing between eating, heating or other essentials, like prescriptions.
Competition rules have been stifling care, Mr Burnham said: “The chief executive of a large NHS trust near here says that he tried to create a partnership with GP practices and social care, but was told by his lawyers that he could not because it was anti-competitive.”
He added: “Two CCGs in Blackpool have been referred to Monitor for failing to send enough patients to a private hospital. The CCG says that there is a good reason for that: patients can be treated better in the community, avoiding costly unnecessary hospital visits. That is not good enough for the new NHS, however, so the CCG has had to hire an administrator to collect thousands of documents, tracking every referral from GPs and spending valuable resources that could have been spent on the front line.”
And the health trust in Bournemouth wanted to merge with neighbouring Poole trust, but competition rules stopped the merger taking place.
Mr Burnham demanded to know: “Since when have we allowed competition lawyers to call the shots instead of clinicians? The Government said that they were going to put GPs in charge. Instead, they have put the market in charge of these decisions and that is completely unjustifiable. The chief executive of Poole hospital said that it cost it more than £6 million in lawyers and paperwork and that without the merger the trust will now have an £8 million deficit.
“The chief executive of NHS England told the Health Committee about the market madness that we now have in the NHS: ‘I think we’ve got a problem, we may need legislative change… What is happening at the moment… we are getting bogged down in a morass of competition law… causing significant cost and frustration for people in the service in making change happen. If that is the case, to make integration happen we will need to change it’ – that is, the law. That is from the chief executive of NHS England.”
The response from current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt needs to be examined carefully.
He said more than 96 per cent of patients were seen within four hours – but this conforms with Mr Burnham’s remark; they were seen, but not treated.
He tried to rubbish Mr Burnham’s remarks about scurvy by saying there had been only 26 admissions relating to scurvy since 2011 – but this misses the point. How many were there before 2011? This was an illness that had been eradicated in the UK – but is now returning due to Coalition policies that have forced people into malnutrition.
He dodged the issue of competition rules strangling the NHS, by saying that these rules were in place before the Health and Social Care Act was passed. In that case, asked Mr Burnham, “Why did the government legislate?” No answer.
As stated at the top of this article. he did not answer the question of the frail elderly blocking hospital beds at all.
The vote was won by the government because it has the majority of MPs and can therefore have its own way in any division, unless the vote is free (unwhipped) or a major rebellion takes place among its own members.
But anyone considering the difference between the Labour Party’s motion and the government’s amendment can see that there is a serious problem of perception going on here.
Or, as Andy Burnham put it: “This Secretary of State … seems to spend more time paying attention to spin doctors than he does to real doctors.”
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The Coalition government’s latest attack on democracy has been halted before it reached the House of Lords, after ministers realised peers weren’t going to put up with it.
The ‘Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration’ Bill was due to be discussed by peers this week, but the part dealing with third-party campaigning such as that carried out by charities and popular organisations has been put back until December 16 after a threat to delay the entire bill for three months.
The government wants to “rethink” its plans to restrict campaigning by charities, it seems. Hasn’t it already done so twice before?
Andrew Lansley tabled a series of amendments, including one reverting to wording set out in existing legislation, defining controlled expenditure as any “which can reasonably be regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success”, on September 6.
But the plan was still to “bring down the national spending limit for third parties, introduce constituency spending limits and extend the definition of controlled expenditure to cover more than just election material, to include rallies, transport and press conferences”, as clarified by the government’s own press release.
Remove the additional test of “otherwise enhancing the standing of a party or candidates”. This is to provide further reassurance to campaigners as to the test they have to meet in order to incur controlled expenditure. A third party will only be subject to regulation where its campaign can reasonably be regarded as intended to “promote or procure the electoral success” of a party of candidate,
Replace the separate listings for advertising, unsolicited material and manifesto/policy documents with election “material”; this is the language used in the current legislation that non-party campaigners and the Electoral Commission are already familiar with, and on which the Electoral Commission have existing guidance,
Make clear that it is public rallies and events that are being regulated; meetings or events just for an organisation’s members or supporters will not be captured by the bill. “We will also provide an exemption for annual events – such as an organisation’s annual conference”,
Ensure that non–party campaigners who respond to ad hoc media questions on specific policy issues are not captured by the bill, whilst still capturing press conferences and other organised media events, and
Ensure that all “market research or canvassing” which promotes electoral success is regulated.
But this blog reported at the time that anyone who thinks that is all that’s wrong with the bill is as gullible as Lansley intends them to be.
New regulations for trade unions mean members could be blacklisted – denied jobs simply because of their membership.
Measures against lobbyists – the bill’s apparent reason for existing – are expected to do nothing to hinder Big Money’s access to politicians, and in fact are likely to accelerate the process, turning Parliamentarians into corporate poodles.
Where the public wanted a curb on corporations corruptly influencing the government, it is instead offering to rub that influence in our faces.
In fact, the Government’s proposed register would cover fewer lobbyists than the existing, voluntary, register run by the UK Public Affairs Council.
And now a bill tabled by Andrew Lansley has been given a “pause” for reconsideration. Is anybody else reminded of the “pause” that took place while Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act was going through Parliament? In the end, the government pushed it through, regardless of the screams of outrage from the medical profession and the general public, and now private health firms are carving up the English NHS for their own profit, using Freedom of Information requests to undermine public sector bids for services.
In the Lords last night, according to The Independent, ministers were pressured to include in-house company lobbyists in the proposed register, if it is to have any credibility.
But Lord Wallace said the proposed “light touch” system would be more effective and the register was designed to address the problem of consultant lobbying firms seeing ministers without it being clear who they represented – in other words, it is intended to address a matter that isn’t bothering anybody, rather than the huge problem of companies getting their chequebooks out and paying for laws that give them an advantage.
We should be grateful for the delay – it gives us all another chance to contact Lords, constituency MPs and ministers to demand an explanation for this rotten piece of legal trash.
If they persist in supporting this undemocratic attack on free speech, then they must pay for it at the next election.
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