government austerity measures

The Tory response to the pain of austerity: carry on regardless

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Slashing welfare has achieved nothing but pushing people deeper into poverty. Still, the Conservatives promise more of the same

People entering a jobcentre

‘We are one leaked document away from charging jobseekers entry to the jobcentre.’ Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Iain Duncan Smith may still not know where the Conservatives’ proposed £12bn of social security cuts would come from but his civil servants seem to. A list of “very, highly or extremely controversial” potential cuts to benefits have been drawn up by officials at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), as seen by the Guardian, which amount to the gutting of disability, housing, and child support to an unprecedented level.

Read through the plans and even the most fervent coalition supporters would have to start wincing – and if they didn’t, you would be forgiven for wondering what exactly it would take. The DWP’s new proposed cuts include abolishing statutory maternity pay, barring under-25s from claiming incapacity or housing benefit, limiting benefit payments by family size, and making it harder for people with chronic illnesses to receive help. Another idea is increasing the bedroom tax in certain cases – the political equivalent of pointing to one of the biggest failures of the past five years and deciding to extend it. We are one leaked document away from charging jobseekers entry to the jobcentre.

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#LibDems #Conservatives Social Cleansing: Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents

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Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents

Exclusive: Councils are currently moving homeless mothers and children out of their boroughs at a rate of close to 500 families a week

Can’t get a passport in time for your holiday? This is austerity in action

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Can’t get a passport in time for your holiday? This is austerity in action

Passport Office workers are striking today to demand proper resources to ensure the massive backlogs do not happen again
Passport Office workers on a 24-hour strike. ‘The problem firmly lies with the home secretary and the government, who have cut hundreds of jobs over the past few years.’ Photograph: Vickie Flores/LNP

The crisis in the Passport Office and massive backlogs are the result of government austerity measures that seek to run down public services. Thousands of Public and Commercial Services union members in the Passport Office are striking today to demand the government puts proper resources in place to ensure the massive backlogs, which are all too common, do not recur year after year.

Strike action is a last resort but this government gives our members little choice. The problem firmly lies with the home secretary and the government, who have cut hundreds of jobs over the past few years.

There has been a huge amount of overtime in the Passport Office for months, a sure sign that the service does not have enough staff to deal with workloads, with offices opening from 7am to midnight just to cope. This is costing the taxpayer far more as people are now being paid double time for working overtime.

We need more jobs – around 600 – and we need the Passport Office to seriously look at the option of reopening the application processing centre in Newport.

According to Home Office figures, staffing levels stood at around 14% lower in 2013-14 than in the first year of the coalition government.

What we want is a permanent solution where permanent jobs go back to the Passport Office. This will ensure that thousands of people who have been struggling to get passports this year will not suffer in the future and we won’t see this problem continuing in years to come.

The last time the Passport Office increased staffing was after the union’s 2012 dispute over jobs in the Home Office. At that time, the shortage was most obvious at the borders, with queues building up at airports and under-trained staff being drafted in from across the department and other government departments.

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#DWP: Housing benefit will be sanctioned

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DWP: Housing benefit will be sanctioned               From INSIDE HOUSING 27 February 2014

 Part-time workers judged to be doing too little to find full-time work face having their benefit for housing costs sanctioned by the government for the first time under universal credit.

Under the present system housing benefit is paid direct to landlords and sanctions can only be applied to out-of-work benefits, such as jobseeker’s allowance or employment support allowance.

Landlords, already concerned by the prospect of universal credit being paid directly to tenants, have been lobbying the government to exempt the housing element of the single payment from sanctions in all circumstances.

However, the Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed to Inside Housing that under the government’s flagship welfare reform, where a tenant is working less than 35 hours a week at minimum wage and is not eligible for JSA or ESA, the housing element can be sanctioned instead.

Landlords are concerned that by extending ‘in-work conditionality’ to the housing element, if the DWP deems claimants to not be doing enough to find full-time employment and applies sanctions, rent arrears could increase.

Sue Ramsden, head of policy for neighbourhoods at the National Housing Federation, said that until now, it has been unclear whether the DWP would allow housing costs to be exempt. ‘We are pressing for DWP staff to have regard for the need for an alternative payment arrangement to be put in place at the same time that the sanction is imposed,’ she said.

Sam Lister, policy and practice officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said there was concern about the effect of sanctions on arrears at a time when the housing benefit caseload for in-work claimants continued to rise, but much depended on how the policy was implemented. He added: ‘It will depend on the instructions given to DWP administrators about how strictly the sanctions are implemented in the case of part-time workers who are in receipt of benefit as a contribution to housing costs.’

No research has been carried out on the impact sanctions could have on arrears. More than 1 million people are currently in work but reliant on housing benefit to meet their housing costs, up from 691,000 in 2010.

A DWP spokesperson said: ‘It is only right that people claiming benefits should be aware that not sticking to the rules can have a consequence. Any reductions to benefits as a result of a sanction are applied to the universal credit benefit as a whole rather than a particular element of it.’

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Disabled people ‘feel terrorised’

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February 27, 2014 2:00 pm

Disabled people ‘feel terrorised’

Disabled people feel terrorised by the Government’s welfare policies and want the truth on how their lives have been affected, MPs have heard.

John McDonnell has criticised the impact of the Government's welfare reforms.
John McDonnell has criticised the impact of the Government’s welfare reforms.
A petition started by comedian Francesca Martinez, who has cerebral palsy, attracted 104,741 signatures to trigger a Commons debate, which called for an independent assessment of the coalition’s welfare system changes.

Excess deaths of welfare claimants, Universal Credit’s IT roll out, the use of Atos to conduct work capability assessments and the Remploy factory closures are among the issues in need of investigation, according to a motion from Labour’s John McDonnell.

The MP for Hayes and Harlington said many people felt “hounded” just for being disabled.

Moving the debate, Mr McDonnell told the Commons: ” We met some of the campaigners this morning. Some of them said these expressions: ‘Do they realise that many of us feel terrorised by what the Government is doing?’

“One disabled campaigner said to me: ‘Can you tell them that they call their programme fulfilling our potential but we feel many us of simply won’t survive this round of cuts. A generation is going to be lost.’

“That’s why the central demand of this petition is very straightforward. Today’s motion is to call in essence for a cumulative impact assessment of all the welfare changes that have been introduced by this Government.

“And the argument they’ve put forward is if politicians and society only knew the full effect of these changes on the lives of disabled people and their families surely they would not let this happen in a civilised society.

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Sheila Holt: Woman who was told to find work while in a COMA receives apology

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Sheila Holt: Woman who was told to find work while in a COMA receives apology

Sheila Holt’s harrowing story was told in the Mirror a fortnight ago. Today the minister for disabled people said: “That family has every right to be angry”

Apology: Sheila’s plight has finally been recognised by the Government

The minister for disabled people apologised “unreservedly” today to a woman pursued by the Work Programme even though she is in a coma.

Sheila Holt’s harrowing story was told a fortnight ago in the Mirror’s Real Britain column – and has twice been raised in the Commons by her MP Simon Danczuk.

Mike Penning’s apology came at the end of an historic three-hour debate calling for the government to properly assess the effect of welfare changes on Britain’s 11 million disabled people.

He said that he would personally look into every case raised today by MPs in the House – and offered his personal apology to the family of Sheila Holt.

“That family has every right to be angry,” he said.

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