Benefits have been cut again today, as the annual 1% cash terms increase is effectively a cut as it is still below the rate of inflation.
The real terms cut today is due to last year’s introduction by MPs of the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill, which aimed to cut £5 billion from the welfare bill.
Work and pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who guided the bill through Parliament, told MPs that the move would be a “fair settlement” for workers and people on benefits.
However, the below-inflation rise means people relying on things like jobseeker’s allowance or housing benefit will feel a continued squeeze. Only disability benefits and the state pension will be protected.
At the time of the bill’s passing, critics warned that the cuts would “punish the poorest”, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown exactly that in this graph.
The IFS calculates that 2.5 million households without anyone in work will lose an average of £215 per year in 2015-16, while seven million households with someone in work will lose an average of £165 per year.
Oxfam’s director of UK poverty, Chris Johnes, said: “Yet again, working-age benefits, which poor families rely upon, are bearing the brunt of the Government’s cuts. The benefits budget seems to be the child constantly picked on, whose unpopularity makes it easy fodder for the axe.
“Already, compared to average earnings, benefits are at their lowest levels since the welfare state was founded. On top of this, inequality will deepen as the proposed changes in the Bill are undoubtedly going to hit poor families hardest.”
This comes after official figures disproved David Cameron’s claim that the number of households without work doubled under the last Labour government.
The prime minister said claims by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, that recent changes to the benefits system had left many facing hunger and destitution were “simply not true”.
Cameron said the reforms were not just about “making the numbers add up”, but were intended to bring “new hope” to people who had previously been written off by the system.
“Society is screwed and the Economy is screwed” The Economics of Revolt: An Interview With Paul Mason
Global Uprisings Conference Interview #2:
Paul Mason is a British journalist and broadcaster. He is the current Culture and Digital Editor of Channel 4 News, having previously been economics editor of BBC2′s Newsnight. He is the author of several acclaimed books including Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed, Live Working or Die Fighting: How the Working Class Went Global, and Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions. He is also a visiting professor at the University of Wolverhampton.
The following interview is the second in a series of interviews conducted at the Global Uprisings conference in Amsterdam, NL, that occurred during the weekend of November 15-17th, 2013. View more interviews and online documentaries at globaluprisings.org.
AN INDEPENDENT review of the benefits system in York has claimed Government sanctions have caused suffering to vulnerable claimants in the city.
The review was carried out by Advice York – made up of Citizens Advice Bureau, York Food Bank, Castlegate and York Housing Association and City of York Financial Assistance Scheme – in response to changes to Job Centre Plus.
The changes allowed authorities to stop benefits for between one and 26 weeks to claimants who had not met certain conditions, including failing to attend Job Centre interviews, failing to take part in back-to-work schemes, or not actively seeking work.
“Rather than encouraging clients into employment, the way sanctions are currently applied, discourages and gets in the way of people applying for jobs and can result in hardship once employment is found.”
The report highlighted a number of case studies from claimants around the city including one woman Job Seeker’s Allowance claimant who suffers from depression and asthma, and was sanctioned for four months for missing her work programme.
The case study said: “The client explained that the reason she has missed her work programmes is because of how down she is and is finding it difficult to go out of the house.
“The client is now receiving hardship payments, but she has debts that she is now unable to pay. She is generally struggling to live on her income of £86 per fortnight. Both these issues are exacerbating her depression, making her less able to look for work and fully engage.”
The report suggested Job Centre advisors could undergo better training to take individuals’ needs into account, rather than automatically apply sanctions.
It also said the problem with the sanctions was “a lack of flexibility and understanding”, recommended a further review into sanctions and whether they were effective in encouraging and enabling people to look for and get back into employment, and said claimants’ ability to use the internet to apply for jobs should also be considered.
In another case study, the report looked at a man who has been unemployed for two years and was sanctioned for missing an appointment at the Job Centre.
It was later revealed he was not receiving post at his home as his visiting girlfriend’s dog was attacking the postman and the Post Office declined to make deliveries to his house. They sent him a letter to say so, but it was kept at the post office.
He challenged the sanction imposed on him, but it was upheld. He has no income, electricity, gas or food, and has had to visit a local community church centre for breakfast. Advice York issued him a food bank voucher, but his sanction is still set to last for several weeks.
The report claimed this showed decisions made by Job Centre staff had not been reasonable, and showed “the long term consequences of a sanction can be severe”, with claimants borrowing money to live, then falling into further hardship repaying the loans when benefits are reinstated.
You could not make this up. #Atos awarded contract for #NHS records: The #LibDems #Conservatives coulldnt give Atos
Atos has been given the contract to extract patient records, MPs are told
By Laura Donnelly and agenices 7:30PM GMT 25 Feb 2014
The Commons health committee heard that the firm has been given responsibility for removing personal data from medical records, as part of the national programme, which has been delayed for six months amid an increasing backlash.
Last week NHS England ordered the delay after pressure from patients groups, doctors’ leaders and privacy campaigners, who argued that the national plan had been poorly communicated, and that the public had not been properly informed about their right to opt out.
Yesterday, health service officials disclosed that a key contract for the controversial project has been handed to the firm Atos, which has faced criticism over its handling of “fitness for work” tests on disabled benefit claimants.
Last week, the company confirmed it was seeking an early exit from its contract with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in the face of persistent death threats to staff.
During a three-hour select committee hearing yesterday there were bad-tempered exchanges between MPs, officials and ministers about the handling of the NHS data-sharing scheme so far.
MPs repeatedly expressed concern about disclosures in The Daily Telegraph that hospital data has previously been sold to a society of actuaries which provided advice to insurance companies about how to “refine” their premiums.
Ministers and officals said such transactions would never be allowed in future, insisting that rules had been tightened up since the sale of the data in 2012.
But MPs expressed further concern when Max Jones, director of information and data services, for the Health and Social Care Information Centre, disclosed that the contract to extract data from GP records will be held by Atos, a firm which has attracted previous controversy.
Posted: 24 Feb 2014 07:51 AM PST
“In an urgent memo obtained by Benefits and Work, the DWP have told staff that due to a growing backlog at Atos all current employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants will be left on the benefit, without further medical checks, until another company can be found to do repeat work capability assessments (WCAs).”
“The number of cases currently with Atos Healthcare has grown. A decision has therefore been taken to control the referral of repeat work capability assessments. Therefore, with effect from 20 January 2014, further routine repeat assessments referrals to Atos will be deferred until further notice.”
You can read more HERE
We warned MPs repeatedly that ESA would implode. We even pressed Mark Hoban very hard on this issue when we met him last year. We suggested that it was repeat assessments causing ESA to grind to a halt and suggested that he pause the national of Incapacity Benefit claimants until the backlog could be cleared.
And now they’ve done just that!!!So rejoice my friends. YOU did this. Moments of pure satisfaction only come along once in a while, so promise me you’ll celebrate.
Created on Monday, 24 February 2014 14:1 Category: Latest news
In an urgent memo obtained by Benefits and Work, the DWP have told staff that due to a growing backlog at Atos all current employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants will be left on the benefit, without further medical checks, until another company can be found to do repeat work capability assessments (WCAs). The memo, dated 20 January, goes on to say that this will reduce the number of claimants moving off ESA, but that there are no plans to inform claimants or MPs about the change.
Benefits and Work obtained the memo from the DWP via a Freedom of Information request. It is headed: ‘FOR URGENT CASCADE. Control of the Referral of Repeat work Capability Assessments’.
The memo explains that back in July a ministerial statement announced that:
“in the drive to continually improve the Work Capability Assessment process and bring down waiting times for claimants, DWP had decided to seek additional capacity to deliver Work Capability Assessments.
“We are working towards having new provision in place – it will of course take some time for that to become fully operational.”
However, the memo goes on to explain that:
“The number of cases currently with Atos Healthcare has grown. A decision has therefore been taken to control the referral of repeat work capability assessments. Therefore, with effect from 20 January 2014, further routine repeat assessments referrals to Atos will be deferred until further notice.
“Controlling the volume of repeat Work Capability Assessments should help us to reduce delays for new claimants and those that have already been referred.”
The memo goes on to say that staff must still refer claimants for reassessment where there has been a reported change in condition, giving the example of a claimant placed in the Work Related Activity Group whose condition worsens and who might be expected to move into the Support Group.
Aside from this, however, reassessment of existing claimants is to end until further notice, with no new cases being referred to Atos from 20th January.