Category: DWP


jobcentre-benefits

Benefit sanctions are “devastating” for claimants and can lead to destitution, crime, suicide, and throw up barriers to employment, a wide-ranging report probing the effects of removing payments from Salford’s residents has claimed.

The internal research, commissioned by Salford City Council, suggests that a sudden loss of income by removing benefits could damage mental health, create tensions within family relationships and cause individuals to commit a crime such as shoplifting.

It adds that evidence provided by Salford Central Food bank, run by the Trussell Trust, shows that 62 per cent of referrals for emergency food in 2014 were made by claimants who had received a benefit sanction. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has always strongly denied a link between sanctions and food banks.

Contrary to the DWP’s insistence that the threat of sanctioning encourages social security claimants to move from benefits into work, the system at present causes “damage to the well-being of vulnerable claimants and can lead to hunger, debt and destitution”, the report’s authors claim.

“People on benefits are already struggling to afford food, heating and essential costs. They can’t save so they have no financial safety net. They live in dread of being sanctioned  which isn’t the right frame of mind for job hunting, volunteering or going back into education,” said City Mayor, Paul Dennett.

The new report also places a particular emphasis on the plight of Salford’s young people, claiming that the 18 to 25 age group are most the affected by sanctions. The council commissioned Connexions – the Government agency tasked with providing advice and guidance to young people – who highlighted “significant” numbers of young people were moving away from state support.

“This impacts on them financially but also denies access to programmes of education, training and employment therefore exacerbating the issue. Their families are also negatively impacted as they may be feeding and clothing the young person from a limited household income,” the report claims.

The report, DWP Benefit Conditionality and Sanctions in Salford – One Year On, continues: “Despite the drop in numbers in Salford receiving a benefit sanction for those who are sanctioned the impact is devastating”.

“A ‘financial shock’ such as a sanction causes both immediate and longer term impact as most people do not have the means to save, so have no safety net. This presents an emergency need for money to buy food, pay for heating and essential travel costs.”

The report says that the rate of people being sanctioned in the area has not reduced over the previous 12 month period. But, critically, it adds: “Register sizes are decreasing and we believe this is in part due to a growing number of ‘disappeared’. These are claimants who drop their benefit claim or who move off benefit but do not take up employment. The Government has refused to publish destination data.”

It concludes: “From the wide range of responses we have received from Salford agencies working with claimants, despite the fall in sanctions, the impact of sanctions both on claimants and services within the City cannot be overstated and the harsh regime will be expected to include additional groups as Universal Credit rolls out nationally this year.”

The report follows on from an interim study, published in October 2014, which suggested that sanctioning could lead to extreme hardship, reliance on loan sharks, shoplifting and depression. The fresh findings appear to reinforce this bleak picture of life on a benefit sanction in the City of Salford.

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “It’s only right that there are conditions attached to receiving benefits – this is nothing new. Sanctions are a long-standing part of the welfare system and are only applied where people fail to engage with the support on offer.

“The number of people sanctioned has fallen substantially in the past year.”

Rebecca Long Bailey, the Labour MP for Salford and Eccles, said to The Independent that the research “shows charities are increasingly having to step in to support claimants who are thrown into crisis due to delays and sanctions”.

Ms Bailey added: “As an MP, I have seen some truly horrific cases, where the effects have been severe damage to my constituents’ mental and physical health, as well as the tragic case of David Clapson, who was found dead in his flat from diabetic ketoacidosis, two weeks after his benefits were suspended. His sister discovered her brother’s body and found his electricity had been cut off, meaning the fridge where he stored his insulin was no longer working. They must know that sanctioning people with diabetes is very dangerous but the system treats people as statistics and numbers.

“This report shows where we are in Salford today, one year on from the original report. Sadly, it illustrates the devastating impact sanctions have on the lives of people who are already struggling to make ends meet.”

Source: Benefit sanctions lead claimants to suicide, crime and destitution, warns damning report | UK Politics | News | The Independent

The government’s flagship benefit reform has “serious design flaws” and has “veered off track” because of cost-cutting, a think tank has warned.

The Resolution Foundation said Universal Credit could leave 2.5 million families worse off, some by more than £3,000 a year.

It comes as the government announces a further expansion of the scheme.

Welfare Secretary Stephen Crabb said the payment was “transforming welfare” and getting people into work faster.

Universal Credit, championed by Mr Crabb’s predecessor Iain Duncan Smith, aims to provide incentives for people to move off benefits and into work.

Universal Credit replaces six current benefits, including Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance with a single payment.

After delays hit the original timetable, it is being gradually rolled out across the country and is now available to new single jobseekers in every job centre across the UK.

The latest target for a full roll-out is 2021.

The Resolution Foundation, chaired by former Conservative minister David Willetts, said it had long supported Universal Credit, which it said would simplify welfare and boost work incentives.

‘Veered off track’

However, it said recent changes, “which have been driven by the government’s desire to secure further savings in the welfare budget… have taken it too far from its original purpose”.

Unless design flaws are eradicated, it said, Universal Credit “risks being reduced to little more than a very complicated vehicle for cutting the benefits bill”.

It urged Mr Crabb to “reclaim” the reform from the Treasury.

The report said while some of the current system’s “disincentives” to return to work had been removed by the reform, the opposite was true for many families, particularly “second earners” in couples.

While it predicted 2.5 million would be worse off, it said almost two million would fare better under the new regime.

David Finch, the think tank’s senior economic analyst, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that, while the benefit provided financial incentives to work, the incentives for people to increase their earnings were “particularly weak”.

He said people kept about 35p from each pound they earn and benefits were withdrawn when people started to work as little as five or 10 hours a week.

Mr Finch added: “There’s a risk that people, particularly single parents, get trapped at quite low levels of pay and fail to progress.

“So while there may be an incentive for them to get into work, that incentive for them then to boost their earnings and progress in work is weak.”

‘Milestone’

Mr Duncan Smith resigned as work and pensions secretary in March this year, citing pressure to “salami-slice” welfare.

In his resignation letter, he said: “There had been too much emphasis on money saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government’s vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced.”

The government said more than 450,000 people had made a claim for Universal Credit so far, with more than 9,500 new claims made every week.

Mr Crabb told the Today programme there had been changes to the scheme since it was launched in 2010, but said measures such as an increased tax allowance and the National Living Wage had “transformed the landscape” and would “override” the losses outlined by the Resolution Foundation.

Mr Crabb said the latest expansion marked an “important milestone”.

He added: “Universal Credit is transforming welfare and is central to our vision for our society where people of all backgrounds can earn a decent wage and provide for their families, with claimants moving into work faster and earning more than under the old system.

“Our focus now is on continuing its expansion to all claimants.”

Labour’s shadow welfare secretary Owen Smith said cuts to Universal Credit had “fatally undermined” incentives to work.

“The Tories should stop slapping themselves on the back for delivering cuts to working families right across the country and instead listen to Labour’s calls for an urgent U-turn.”

Source: Universal Credit veering off track, Resolution Foundation says – BBC News

Sanctions imposed on thousands of benefit claimants for not taking part in the DWP’s so-called “back-to-work” schemes are unlawful, a court has ruled.

Three Court of Appeal judges upheld an earlier decision by the High Court, potentially paving the way for millions in refunds to people who had their incomes cut while they were unemployed.

After a previous Supreme Court judgment ruled some sanctions unlawful the Government passed a new law to make them legal.

But ministers argued that the new law also retroactively applied to people whose sanctions had been imposed before the law was passed.

The High Court and Appeal Court have now both ruled that the retroactive legislation is not lawful, however.

“We have … held – upholding the decision of the High Court – that in the cases of those claimants who had already appealed against their sanctions the Act was incompatible with their rights under the European Convention on Human Rights,” Lord Justice Underhill said.

“Under the Human Rights Act that ‘declaration of incompatibility’ does not mean that the 2013 Act ceases to be effective as regards those claimants; it is up to the Government, subject to any further appeal, to decide what action to take in response.”

Source: Benefit sanctions handed out to thousands of people ‘unlawful’ | UK Politics | News | The Independent

More on the French outsourcing Giant Atos and it’s crude and inaccurate health assessments (lmfao) that have left many of the most vulnerable people in society without the benefit payments they need (Eyes Passim).

Those with mental health problems have faced particular problems with Atos’s univeral tick-box system, which does not take proper account of the views of medical experts.

The worst case to have reached  the EYE so far is that of Alice Traynor (not her real name), 29, who suffers from bi-polar disorder and bordeerline personality disorders. During periods of crisis she has attempted suicide and self-harmed and required periods in a psychiatric hospitals.

Earlier this month she was told she was losing her Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and needed to undergo an Atos medical review over her Employment Support Allowance (ESA). The news coincided with a crisis and later that day she took a knife, started slashing her throat and was admitted to hospital.

Alice’s community psychiatric nurse and psychologist contacted Atos and it agreed not to contact Ms Traynor again because of the fragility of her mental state. Benefit regulations state that those who suffer from heightened anxiety, fear or depression should not be approached or informed of Benefits being stopped or reduced if this might cause or exacerbate their psychiatric condition.

Four days later Alice was released from hospital. The following morning she received another letter from Atos and began slashing her throat again. She was taken straight back to hospital….

(Ms Traynor’s case was taken up by BUFFERZONE)

 

Private Eye: 08 March 2012: Wapping crisis issue..
In the Back, p, 29.

Atos. Pandora’s box ticking,

‘Benefit regulations state that those who suffer from heightened anxiety, fear or depression should not be approached or informed of Benefits being stopped or reduced if this might cause or exacerbate their psychiatric condition..’

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