Tag: Universal Credit

Universal Credit cuts will leave some people in work worse off

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Despite Ian Duncan Smith’s persistent claims that “nobody loses a penny” under his flagship Universal Credit reform, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has contradicted him and admitted that some claimants will be worse off. There seems to be a pattern emerging. Whenever the word “reform” is used by the Conservative government, it is always as a euphemism for “cuts to lifeline support.”

Guidance released this week by the DWP outlines how some working people will lose almost £900 a year. The memo supplies guidance on legislative amendments made in 2015 to the regulations which provide for the amount of earned income that is deducted from the Universal Credit maximum amount.

From 11.4.16 the range of work allowances available to Universal Credit claimants is reduced from seven to two (some rates are also reduced and some are removed completely). Consequently a work allowance will only be available where the claimant or either joint claimant is responsible for a child or qualifying young person and/or has limited capability to work (LCW).

On page three, the memo uses a case study – “Bella” – a 26-year-old shop worker who is single and lives with her parents. She works eight hours a week and earns £50, according to the DWP example. But at an hourly rate of £6.25, Bella apparently earns less than the legal minimum wage, which is £6.70 an hour for workers aged 21 and over. From April 1, the minimum wage is rising to £7.20 for employees aged over 25. The DWP guidance admits Bella, who is fictional, will see her monthly UC award plunge from £253.70 to £181.55 – a loss of £72.15 adding up to £865.80 a year.

There is no transitional protection for Universal Credit claimants whose work allowance is reduced or removed by this change.

The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith said: “Iain Duncan Smith has spent months trying to pretend that ‘no one is going to lose a penny’ as a result of his Universal Credit cuts.”

“That’s now been blown out of the water by his own officials, who’ve produced a guidance note for DWP staff on how to implement the cut.

“Duncan Smith should read his own department’s guidance and call on the Chancellor to drop the Universal Credit cuts in the Budget.”

A DWP spokesman said: “Universal Credit (UC) is revolutionising welfare, with claimants moving into work faster and earning more than under the previous system.”

“As part of moving to a high-wage, low-tax society we are simplifying the work allowances under UC and giving those affected extra help to progress in work and earn more.”

“Even after the changes, UC claimants will know they are better off in work.”

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was based on the “principle of less eligibility,” which stipulated that the condition of the “able-bodied pauper” on relief be less “eligible” – that is, less desirable, less favourable – than the condition of the very poorest independent labourer. “Less-eligibility” meant not only that the pauper receive less by way of support than the labourer did from his wages but also that he receive it in such a way (in the workhouse, for example) that made pauperism less respectable than work – to stigmatise it. Thus the labourer would be discouraged from lapsing into a state of “dependency” and the pauper would be encouraged to work.

The less eligibility principle “made work pay”, in other words.

The current government is going even further, and applying the same punitive approach to people in low-paid employment, presumably to serve as a deterrent to poor wages. Personally, I think unions do that much better through collective bargaining, by addressing those actually at fault – exploitative employers, rather than poor, exploited employees.

This post was written for Welfare Weekly, which is a socially responsible and ethical news provider, specialising in social welfare related news and opinion.

Why I strongly support Trade Unionism

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Trade Unions are fundamental to a functional democracy. Research shows that Trade Unionism is linked with higher levels of social equality and better public services, as well as better working conditions and rates of pay that ensure people have a decent standard of living. The Conservatives have always hated Trade Unions because Tory governments tend to value, perpetuate and endorse inequality and poor pay. We currently have the highest levels of social inequality in the EU, and it’s even greater than in the USA. We also have the biggest wage drop, pay hasn’t fallen this much since the 1800s. Tories like cheap labor, and profit for big business

That isn’t in ordinary people’s best interests. The largest study of UK deprivation shows that full-time work is no longer a safeguard against poverty. Yet Conservatives claim to be the party for “hard-working people.”

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In a democratic society, governments don’t attempt to oppress opposition by using partisan policies to restrict their funding in order to turn a first world nation into a one party state. This government has established quite an impressive track record of punishing its critics to silence them. The proposed abolition of the Lords’ right to vote on or veto secondary legislation, delivered by the Strathclyde Review, but written in the rancorous and authoritarian hand of David Cameron, is another measure of draconian decision-making to stifle dissent, a tactic commonly deployed, it seems, when the Conservatives are faced with challenges and the prospect of not getting their own way, regardless of how unpopular and unreasonable their own way is.

Cameron’s rancour arose following the defeat in the House of Lords of a sneaky legslation in the form of a Statutory Instument that would have removed in work support for workers on low pay – tax credits. The defeat and ensuing publicity of the Lords debate and the exposure of an underhand legislative move forced the government to back down. But the shadow secretary for Work and Pensions, Owen Smith, has pointed out that cuts to benefit in-work entitlements being introduced through Universal Credit mean that the controversial tax credit reductions have been simply been “rebranded” by the government rather than reversed.

Secondary legislation is unamendable and is allocated 90 minutes debate in the Commons at best, by the Conservatives. Secondary legislation in the form of Statutory Instruments was only ever intended for non-controversial and small tidying up legislative measures. A Tory aide admitted that the Government are trying to get as much unpopular legislation in through the secondary route as possible. But this has been very evident anyway. The government is intent on dismantling any inconvenient piece of the constitution.

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Then there are the electoral reforms and proposed constituency boundary changes which are aimed at decreasing opposition votes and increasing Conservative seats. These are all examples of a very worrying authoritarian approach that the Conservatives have adopted to stifle challenges and concerns regarding the ideological basis and the impact of their policies without any democratic dialogue whatsoever.

Trade union funding is the cleanest money in politics: it comes from you and me, and therefore will ensure our interests are reflected in policy-making, rather than just those of big business tax-avoiding Tory donors.

It’s very worrying that vulture capitalists like Adrian Beecroft, a longstanding Conservative donor, has been permitted to re-write our employment laws as part of the government’s wider “labor market “reform.” Amongst Beecroft’s known personal investments are Gnodal, a computer networking company, and Wonga.com, an eye-wateringly high interest, opportunist loan company, that commodifies the poorest people with low credit ratings for massive profits. Beecroft has donated more than £500,000 to the Conservative Party since 2006.

The Beecroft Report caused considerable controversy because it recommended that the government should cut “red tape” in order to make the hiring and firing of employees much easier. In the report, Beecroft claimed this would help to “boost the economy” although no evidence for this was provided. It was alleged that significant sections of the report had been doctored. It was also reported that some recommendations had been removed from the original draft of the report.

The (then) Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable, condemned the report, saying it was unnecessary for the government to scare workers. Beecroft responded by accusing Cable of being “a socialist who does little to help business” and cited his own personal experience of “having to pay out” £150,000 for unfairly dismissing an HR employee as one of the reasons he included the idea in the report. In an excellent article, James Moore, writing for the Independent, said that the Beecroft report contained “the seeds of the ruthless social Darwinism” and he connected the recommendation to Beecroft’s career of cutting jobs, and highlighted Beecroft’s long history of “wholesale attacks on workers’ terms and conditions.”

In a society that puts profit before people; where employees are regarded as a disposable cost and not an asset to employers; where noone but the powerful have rights; where wages are kept to the bare minimum, there can be no economic growth. Instead we are witnessing increasing economic enclosure and widespread exclusion – small pockets of privilege characterised by stagnant, accumulated wealth and increasingly widespread poverty elsewhere. With little public spending to stimulate small business and general growth, there can be no economic security.

All Conservative politics pivot on a fundamental commitment – the defence of privilege, status, and thus sustaining social inequality. But it is only by shifting money from the high-hoarding rich to the high-spending rest of us, and not the other way around, that investment and growth may be stimulated and sustainable.

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Despite their recent rhetoric, the Conservatives are not and never have been the “party for workers.” New measures under Universal Credit will make benefit payments to people who are in work, but on low earnings, conditional on them taking “certain steps” to increase their pay or hours.

Many people in work are still living in poverty and reliant on in-work benefits, which undermines the libertarian paternalist/Conservative case for increasing benefit conditionality somewhat, although those in low-paid work are still likely to be less poor than those reliant on out-of-work benefits. The Conservative “making work pay” slogan is a cryptographic reference to the punitive paternalist 1834 Poor Law principle of less eligibility.

The government’s Universal Credit legislation has enshrined the principle that working people in receipt of in-work benefits may face benefits sanctions if they are deemed not to be trying hard enough to find higher-paid work. It’s not as if the Conservatives have ever valued legitimate collective wage bargaining.

In fact their legislative track record consistently demonstrates that they hate it, prioritising the authority of the state above all else. There are profoundly conflicting differences in the interests of employers and employees. The former are generally strongly motivated to purposely keep wages as low as possible so they can generate profit and pay dividends to shareholders and the latter need their pay and working conditions to be such that they have a reasonable standard of living.

Workplace disagreements about wages and conditions are now typically resolved neither by collective bargaining nor litigation but are left to management prerogative. This is because Conservative aspirations are clear. They want cheap labor and low cost workers, unable to withdraw their labor, unprotected by either trade unions or employment rights and threatened with destitution via benefit sanction cuts if they refuse to accept low paid, low standard work. Similarly, desperation and the “deterrent” effect of the 1834 Poor Law amendment served to drive down wages.

In the Conservative’s view, Trade Unions distort the free labor market which runs counter to New Right and neoliberal dogma. Since 2010, the decline in UK wage levels has been amongst the very worst in Europe. That isn’t a coincidence. It’s an intended consequence of Conservative policy.

The Conservatives talk a lot about the need for citizen responsibility, but seem to have exempted themselves. They also seem to have forgotten that responsibities are generally balanced with citizen rights. The right to withdraw labour as a last resort in industrial disputes is fundamental to free societies, as the European Convention on Human Rights recognises.

Not that this government concerns itself with international human rights laws. We are currently the first country to face a UN inquiry into serious disability rights violations. Conservative policies are also in breach of the human rights of children and women. Conservatives operate from within a non-cooperative, competitive individualist, relatively non-altruistic framework . Their anti-humanist, social Darwinist, anti-welfare policies reflect this. 

The government’s proposed changes to Trade Union laws are a major attack on civil liberties. The Conservative’s proposals have been criticised by Liberty, Amnesty International and the British Institute of Human Rights, amongst others. The three organisations issued this joint statement:

“By placing more legal hurdles in the way of unions organising strike action, the Trade Union Bill will undermine ordinary people’s ability to organise together to protect their jobs, livelihoods and the quality of their working lives.

“It is hard to see the aim of this bill as anything but seeking to undermine the rights of all working people. We owe so many of our employment protections to trade unions and we join them in opposing this bill.”

Trade unionists are at the forefront of the struggle for human rights; they are committed to social justice and international solidarity, and typically have strong community roots. These values make them prime targets of this government’s repression. 

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“I oppose the government’s Trade Union Bill and I will stand up for rights and freedom at work.” Sign the petition here.

Universal Credit “in-work progression” inquiry launched – call for evidence

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The Work and Pensions Committee opened an in-work progression in Universal Credit inquiry on the 9th December.

Background of the inquiry

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) intends to establish an “in-work service”, designed to encourage individual Universal Credit claimants on very low earnings to increase their income. Benefit payments may be stopped if claimants fail to take action as required by the DWP. The DWP is conducting a range of pilots to test different approaches but there is very little detail about these. The new regime might eventually apply to around one million people.

The Committee is considering the Department’s plans and options for a fair, workable and effective approach.

These measures will make benefit payments to people who are in work, but on low earnings, conditional on them taking certain steps to increase their pay or hours.

Scope of the inquiry:

Written submissions are invited addressing the following points:

    • DWP’s plans for in-work progression pilots in 2015/16, and how they should be evaluated
    • Which organisations are best-placed to deliver the in-work service for DWP e.g. Jobcentre Plus/other providers from the private, public or voluntary sectors?
    • What should in-work progression support entail and how should it be delivered (e.g. regularity and nature of contact with claimants)?
    • Which groups of claimants should be included and which should be exempt?
    • How should employers be encouraged to facilitate progression?
    • In what circumstances would it be appropriate to sanction a Universal Credit claimant who is in work?
    • Is there any UK or international evidence on effective ways of encouraging in-work progression?

The deadline for submissions is Monday 18 January 2016.

Chair’s comment

Rt Hon Frank Field MP DL, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said:

“The welfare-to-work strategy of successive governments has begun to crack the dependency on out-of-work benefits that had appeared to be an almost intractable problem. Efforts now also need to be focused on a welfare-to-work strategy that not only moves claimants off out-of-work benefit, but more importantly helps them move up the pay ladder and out of poverty. Too many people on low benefit incomes have been encouraged into low-paid jobs whose rewards are only brought up to a more acceptable income level by tax credits and other in-work benefits. I hope our Committee therefore will examine the available evidence and carefully develop an approach to in-work support which is effective, and which people accept as fair.”

I will publish my own submission, prompted by Frank Field’s spectacularly misguided and conservative statement, in due course. Here are a few of the issues and concerns I will be raising: 

Field refers to the Conservative “dependency” myth, yet there has never been any empirical evidence to support the claims of the existence of a “culture of dependency” and that’s despite the dogged research conducted by Keith Joseph some years ago, when he made similar claims. In fact, a recent international study of social safety nets from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard economists categorically refutes the Conservative “scrounger” stereotype and dependency rhetoric. Abhijit Banerjee, Rema Hanna, Gabriel Kreindler, and Benjamin Olken re-analyzed data from seven randomized experiments evaluating cash programs in poor countries and found “no systematic evidence that cash transfer programmes discourage work.”

The phrase “welfare dependencydiverts us from political discrimation via policies, increasing inequality, and it serves to disperse public sympathies towards the poorest citizens, normalising prejudice and resetting social norm defaults that then permit the state to target protected social groups for further punitive and “cost-cutting” interventions to “incentivise” them towards “behavioural change.”

Furthermore, Welfare-to-Work programmes do not “help” people to find jobs, because they don’t address exploitative employers, structural problems, such as access to opportunity and resources and labor market constraints. Work programmes are not just a failure here in the UK, but also in other countries, where the programmes have run extensively over at least 15 years, such as Australia.

Welfare-to-work programes are intimately connected with the sanctioning regime, aimed at punishing people claiming welfare support. Work programme providers are sanctioning twice as many people as they are signposting into employment (David Etherington, Anne Daguerre, 2015), emphasising the distorted priorities of “welfare to work” services, and indicating a significant gap between claimant obligations and employment outcomes.

The Conservatives have always constructed discourses and shaped institutions which isolate some social groups from health, social and political resources, with justification narratives based on a process of class-contingent characterisations and the ascribed responsiblisation of social problems such as poverty, using quack psychology and pseudoscience. However, it is socioeconomic conditions which lead to deprivation of opportunities, and that outcome is undoubtedly a direct consequence of inadequate political decision-making and policy.

It’s worth bearing in mind that many people in work are still living in poverty and reliant on in-work benefits, which undermines the libertarian paternalist/conservative case for increasing benefit conditionality somewhat, although those in low-paid work are still likely to be less poor than those reliant on out-of-work benefits. The Conservative “making work pay” slogan is a cryptographic reference to the punitive paternalist 1834 Poor Law principle of less eligibility.

The government’s Universal Credit legislation has enshrined the principle that working people in receipt of in-work benefits may face benefits sanctions if they are deemed not to be trying hard enough to find higher-paid work. It’s not as if the Conservatives have ever valued legitimate collective wage bargaining. In fact their legislative track record consistently demonstrates that they hate it, prioritising the authority of the state above all else.

There are profoundly conflicting differences in the interests of employers and employees. The former are generally strongly motivated to purposely keep wages as low as possible so they can generate profit and pay dividends to shareholders and the latter need their pay and working conditions to be such that they have a reasonable standard of living.

Workplace disagreements about wages and conditions are now typically resolved neither by collective bargaining nor litigation but are left to management prerogative. This is because Conservative aspirations are clear. They want cheap labor and low cost workers, unable to withdraw their labor, unprotected by either trade unions or employment rights and threatened with destitution via benefit sanction cuts if they refuse to accept low paid, low standard work. Similarly, desperation and the “deterrent” effect of the 1834 Poor Law amendment served to drive down wages.

In the Conservative’s view, trade unions distort the free labor market which runs counter to New Right and neoliberal dogma. Since 2010, the decline in UK wage levels has been amongst the very worst in Europe. The fall in earnings under the Coalition is the biggest in any parliament since 1880, according to analysis by the House of Commons Library, and at a time when the cost of living has spiralled upwards. And whose fault is that?

It’s certainly not the fault of those who need financial support to meet their basic survival needs despite being in employment.

Send a written submission through the in-work progression in Universal Credit inquiry page.

Don’t forget the deadline is Monday 18 January 2016.

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Specialist Disability Employment Advisors in Jobcentres cut by over 60 per cent

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Full-time specialist disability employment advisors who are posted in jobcentres have been radically reduced since 2011. The full-time advisors are employed to help disabled people navigate the support system and find employment. Over the last four years, the number of specialist advisors fell by over 60 per cent, from 226 to just 90.

The government says that the advisors will be replaced by unqualified  non-specialist “work coaches” as part of its Universal Credit programme, which also extends welfare conditionality, entailing sanctions, to people in part-time and low paid work.

We reported last week that the work coach scheme is to extend from jobcentres to GP practices, to prevent sick and disabled people from “leaving the job market” and “claiming Employment Support Allowance” (ESA), with pilots already underway.

The latest figures on jobcentre advisors were released by ministers in response to a Parliamentary question by Labour MP Emily Thornberry.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pension said the fall in advisor numbers was consistent with Government policy.

“With the introduction of Universal Credit disabled people looking for work now have access to Work Coaches who are trained to provide tailored support specific to their individual needs. As we continue to make our mainstream services more accessible to disabled jobseekers it is expected that the number of Disability Employment Advisors will continue to decline.”

“The Government is committed to halving the disabled employment gap and the most recent disabled employment figures show that 226,000 more disabled people found work over the past year.”

Charities have responded, saying that the specialist advisors are absolutely crucial for people with disabilities who have to navigate the support system and that their reduction will undermine the Government’s own claim of “supporting people in to work.”

The government have also cut in work support for disabled people, such as the Access to Work fund, which helps people and employers cover costs of disabilities that may present a barrier to work. Under the Equality Act, employers are obliged to make “reasonable adjustments” to the workplace to support people with disabilities.

A coalition of 100 disability charities had warned that the government cuts threaten disabled people’s rights earlier this year, and last month, especially those with learning disability and mental health problems, charities also called for a halt in the government’s cuts to ESA, which will be reduced, removing the work-related activity component, so that people will receive the same amount as jobseekers with no disability, which will make it more difficult for disabled people to find work, and may have an adverse impact on people with health conditions.

The cuts to specialist employment support for people with disabilities flies in the face of  Iain Duncan Smith’s comments during the Tory conference – that sick and disabled people need to see work as their route out of poverty. It’s difficult to see how that can be achieved when the government is busy closing down the transport system, as it were.

Duncan Smith commented at the Conservative conference: “We don’t think of people not in work as victims to be sustained on government handouts. No, we want to help them live lives independent of the state.

“We won’t lift you out of poverty by simply transferring taxpayers’ money to you. With our help, you’ll work your way out of poverty.”

We can’t help wondering what “help” actually means to Conservatives, because there is every indication that they don’t use the word in a conventional sense. Usually when Tories use the word “help” or “support”, it indicates some sort of penalty or punishment: a reference to the extended draconian benefit conditionality and  sanctions regime

Elliot Dunster, group head of policy, research and public affairs at disability charity Scope, has said that the fall in specialist assistance was concerning:

“Disability employment advisors make a huge difference in supporting disabled people into work – providing expert, personalised advice and guidance.

“We’re very concerned to see this drop in the number of job centres that have fulltime specialist advisors for disabled people. Disabled people are pushing hard to find work, but continue to face huge barriers, ranging from inaccessible workplaces to employer attitudes. 

“Disability employment advisors help tackle these barriers. The Government has set out a welcome ambition to halve the disability employment gap. To do this disabled people must have access to specialist, tailored employment support.”

Dan Scorer, head of policy at Mencap, has warned that the replacement generalist advisors would “simply not have the training” required:

“People with a learning disability find the demands placed upon them difficult while claiming Job Seekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.

“Some find them impossible and we are worried that there is not the right support in Jobcentres to help them. Families tell us that a lack of learning disability training and cuts to DEAs is leading to many people with a learning disability being unfairly sanctioned and receiving insufficient support to appeal decisions, or the right support to find employment.

“Even if the reduction in DEAs in some part of the country is due to the rolling out of Universal Credit and part of a strategic move to generic advisors, we are concerned that these advisors will simply not have the training to fully support claimants with a learning disability.

“The problems with the administration of benefits and changes in the benefits system, combined with future cuts to benefits and social care, is causing fear and anxiety among the 1.4 million people with a learning disability and their families in the UK who are scared they could be isolated in their local communities.”

Mind have already warned that the transition away from specialist help under Universal Credit would make the benefits system more difficult for people with mental health issues. Policy manager, Tom Pollard told the Independent:

“We’re pretty sceptical of the ability of those jobcentre advisors to be able to understand the barriers that people with mental health issues face.” 

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams recently challenged Priti Patel, the employment minister, during work and pensions questions in the Commons recently to raise concerns about the negative impacts of social security sanctions on the mental health of claimants.

During the session the Patel had claimed: “Our staff are trained to support claimants with mental health conditions and there is no evidence to suggest that such claimants are being sanctioned more than anybody else.”

Mrs Abrahams, Shadow minister for Disabled People, responded: “The minister may have inadvertently slipped up there. There is clear evidence from last year that 58 per cent, more than half, of people with mental health conditions on the employment and support allowance work-related activity group were sanctioned.”

A recent Freedom of Information request showed that between April, 2014, and March this year there were almost 20,000 benefit sanctions received by people who were out of work because of their mental health.

However, in this same period only 6,340 of the group were successfully supported into employment during the same period by the Work Programme.

Tom Pollard said: “Figures obtained by us show that people with mental health problems are more likely to have their benefits stopped than those with other conditions.

“Last year, the Department of Work and Pensions issued more sanctions to people with mental health problems being supported by Employment and Support Allowance than they did to those with other health conditions.

“Stopping somebody’s benefits, or threatening to stop them, is completely the wrong approach to help people with mental health problems find work — it’s actually counterproductive.

“In continually refusing to listen to calls for a review of the use of sanctions, the Government is not only undermining its ambition of helping a million more disabled people into work, but is also failing its duty of care for the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people with mental health problems.”

The Department of Work and Pension’s own research shows that the threat of sanctions does ensure that people who need support from social security comply with benefit rules, but that doesn’t actually help them to find work. It also tends to undermine confidence, and many jobcentre advisors have expressed concern that people with mental illness are more likely to be sanctioned simply because they would have greater difficulty meeting the strict conditionality criteria and because of the greater pressure to sanction “non-compliance” from government. (page 54)

But we deeply suspect that sanctions are precisely what the government are referencing when they use the phrase “helping people into work.”

This post was written for Welfare Weekly, which is a socially responsible and ethical news provider, specialising in social welfare related news and opinion.

Conservatives in disarray as Osborne signals raid on Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit funds

Chancellor George Osborne

George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith have clashed over the chancellor’s plans to soften the impact of tax credit cuts by raiding the budget for Universal Credit.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), which was founded by Iain Duncan Smith, insists that the Chancellor could use this month’s Autumn Statement to ease the impact of the controversial changes without risking his drive for a budget surplus.

In a critical report, the thinktank warned against taking money from Duncan Smith’s flagship Universal Credit scheme to sweeten the tax credit pill. Duncan Smith said that he’s concerned that the raid will serve to “undermine people’s incentive to work.”

The CSJ said in their report that the UC reforms meant by 2020 only 9% of those currently getting tax credits would still be receiving them.

Instead, it was suggested that the Government could “help people to work more hours” or introduce a transitional fund for those hardest hit.

But Osborne is nonetheless preparing to fund plans to soften the impact of tax credit cuts by making people claiming Universal Credit forgo as much as 75p of every extra pound they earn. At present Universal Credit recipients lose 65p for every extra pound they earn. Osborne is thought to be examining plans to increase the figure, known as the “taper”, to 75p.

The most expensive course of action would be to only impose the tax credit cuts on new claimants – but the authors note that it would have the “least social and political cost”.

The chief executive of the Centre for Social Justice, Baroness Stroud, who is a former special adviser to the Work and Pensions Secretary said:

“There are no easy choices, but these are the options the Chancellor has. What he should not do is raid Universal Credit to pay for any transitional changes or he will be recreating the same problem there.

“The projected savings through changes to tax credits is £4.4 billion, the Government plans to turn a surplus of £10 billion in 2019-20 and of 11.6 billion in 2020-21.

“Why have a surplus if we can’t protect those on the lowest pay, doing the right thing by taking work?

“The Chancellor can protect these workers and have a surplus by 2020.

“This Government is set to achieve its historic aim to make sure work always pays more than welfare, we shouldn’t put that at risk.”

Paul Johnson, the Director of the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies, questioned whether the move would raise enough to limit the impact of tax credits. He said: “If you are also increasing the taper rate then you are losing quite a lot of the key design of Universal Credit.”

Both the Treasury and the Deparment for Work and Pensions have declined to comment, but Conservative Tim Montgomerie, a columnist for The Times and founder of the Conservative Home website, said he believed George Osborne “could be forced to resign” over his tax credit omnishambles, and he warned that the chancellor faces a “massive rebellion” from his own party because the policy  is “terrible politics”.

“You cannot fight an election saying you are standing up for hard-working families then you cut benefits for hard-working families,” he said.

Perhaps it is time for the Conservatives to recognise that policies are not an ideological tool designed to ensure the government gets its own way in exercising traditional Tory prejudices towards the working and non-working poor.

However, in fairness there has been a series of right-wing backbenchers that have aired their disquiet at the cuts, although that unease may have be motivated by a pragmatic rather than an any ethical objection. The proposed tax credit cuts do make a mockery of the Tory claims to ensuring that “work always pays,”and presents the public with an incoherent narrative that has now lost any credibilty.

Montgomerie said:

“I don’t think George Osborne will tweak,” he said. “If he does just try to get away with this, he will not just be defeated in the Lords, he will be defeated in the Commons.”

539627_450600381676162_486601053_n (2)Courtesy of Robert Livingstone

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This post was written for Welfare Weekly, which is a socially responsible and ethical news provider, specialising in social welfare related news and opinion.

Government told Universal Credit roll-out plans are “not credible”

66864_464287263640807_1896397853_nCourtesy of Robert Livingstone

The Government has been warned that their plan to see it’s flagship welfare policy – Universal Credit (UC) – implemented within five years is not “credible”. The benefit is to replace six of the main welfare benefits, and tax credits, with a single monthly payment. The aim is to save billions of pounds of taxpayers money.

UC, championed by Duncan Smith with David Cameron’s full support, received royal assent in 2012 with initial plans for a full roll-out by the 2015 general election.

David Freud, who was being questioned by MPs on the Work and Pensions Parliamentary Select Committee, said he was “quite confident” the plan would succeed, despite the fact that previous governments have said that the streamlining process is too complicated to implement unproblematically.

Lord Freud who is the government welfare adviser and somewhat controversial Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said that he wants seven million people receiving the new Universal Credit by the “end of 2020”, despite only 146,000 people being on the system to date.

He said that the project was following an “S-curve”, which involved a “careful start, big ramp, and then a tail at the end”.

Asked at what stage the scheme was at, he said: “We are coming up to the approach trajectory.”

However, Labour’s Steve McCabe, who serves on the Committee, questioned whether the target was realistic given the modest number of people on it since the programme was “re-set” two years ago.

The MP said: “If we’re at 146,000 and we’re at the bottom of the S as it begins to rise, and you want to get to 7 million by May 2020, that would suggest by any standard you’ve got to be near 3 million in less than 18 months time.

“You’ve got to have a massive escalation at some point. How is that credible? I’m wondering how on earth you seriously believe you’ll hit that figure.”

Speaking to the HuffPost later, he said : “This matters because if you can’t get your projections right what does it mean for your projected savings and does that mean people will suffer? You’re left with a fragmented benefits system and a recipe for chaos.”

In response, Lord Freud insisted there would be “a massive escalation” once the system has been tested fully.

He defended Universal Credit for “producing benefits of £7 billion to society a year”, adding: “I will not hurry the department to do something that is so big.”

“It’s the most incredible programme. It’s much more efficient way of getting money to the poorest people,” he said.

Freud was questioned by the Committee regarding the prospect of the Chancellor raiding the Universal Credit budget and asked  if this would delay its roll-out, to which he replied: “It doesn’t give me cause for concern about the roll-out. That’s a slightly different issue.”

He added that changes to tax credits would mean “parallel changes” to the so-called working allowance element of Universal Credit.

He also said  he would “doubt it” if tax credits still existed in 2020, meaning they would be “replaced” by then.

“We will go on talking (with the Treasury) because the two systems are in parallel,” Lord Freud said.

A coalition of major Churches has warned the UK Government’s Welfare Reform and Work Bill will make some of poorest families in Britain even poorer. 

Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church and author of the report, said: “No child should be left without enough in order to motivate their parents.

“If children live in a family which doesn’t have enough money they are more likely to die young, do worse at school, and experience worse health.

Commenting on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill and the Government’s proposed cuts to tax credits, Mr Morrison said: “Many of these families are already in work and working very hard.

“Any policy that claims that taking £1,000 from a family will enhance the life-chances of its children, as the Bill does, is not only supremely questionable but morally flawed.”

The study also shows that government policies are out  of step with public opinions, too, revealing that 61% of the general public believe benefits should be set at a high enough level to cover basic living costs, rather than too low to deter people claiming lifeline support when they need to.

Perhaps the focus on timescales and the problems with implementing UC has allowed the continuation of a dangerous myth: that the problems facing UC are all about delivery, rather than design.

In the universal credit white paper (pdf), the government argued:

Welfare dependency has become a significant problem in Britain with a huge social and economic cost.” The new benefit will be “leaner” and “firmer”.

The UK has one of the highest rates of children growing up in homes where no one works and this pattern repeats itself through the generations. Less than 60% of lone parents in the UK are in employment, compared to 70% or more in France, Germany and the Netherlands … Universal credit will start to change this. It will reintroduce the culture of work in households where it may have been absent for generations.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published a study that debunked  the notion of a “culture of worklessness” in 2012.  I’ve argued with others more recently that there are methodological weaknesses underlying the Conservative’s regressive psychopolitics based on behaviourist theories, especially a failure to scientifically test the permanence or otherwise of an underclass status, and a failure to distinguish between the impact of “personal inadequacy” and socio-economic misfortune and for failing to factor in political decision-making.

The theory which UC is premised on is not supported by empirical research – the idea of the cycle of “worklessness” has become “common sense.” Clearly, common perceptions of the causes of poverty are (being) misinformed. The individual behaviourist theory of poverty predicts that the same group of people remain in poverty. This doesn’t happen.

However, the structural theory predicts that different people are in poverty over time (and further, that we need to alter the economic structure to make things better). Longitudinal surveys show that impoverished people are not the same people every year. In other words, people move in and out of poverty: it’s a revolving door, as predicted by structural explanations of poverty.

And then there is the fact that in-work poverty is rising. Over the last five years, the UK has become the most unequal country in Europe, on the basis of income distribution and wages. If that increase in inequality arose because of individual failings, as the Conservatives are claiming, we need to ask why have those “personal failings” only become apparent so suddenly within the past five years.

The Conservatives are claiming that poverty arises because of the “faulty” lifestyle choices of people with personal deficits and aim to reconstruct the identities of poor people via psychopolitical interventions, but surely, it is only through a wholesale commitment to eliminating poverty by sincerely addressing unemployment, underemployment, job insecurity, low paid work, inadequate welfare support and institutionalised inequalities that any meaningful social progress can be made.

It could be argued that unemployment and in-work benefit claims are generally a measure of how well or poorly the government is handling the economy, not of how “lazy” or “incentivised” to work people are.

This post was written for Welfare Weekly, which is a socially responsible and ethical news provider, specialising in social welfare related news and opinion.

Some problems with the design of Universal Credit

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Monthly payments
The government thinks this will help promote good budgeting and more closely replicate monthly salary payments.  Campaigners are worried that the shift from weekly and fortnightly payments to this new regime may push claimants recipients into debt. The Social Market Foundation says:

Most households in our sample opposed the idea of a monthly payment. This was the case for the majority of households, who tended to budget on a daily, weekly or fortnightly cycle.

One of the most controversial aspects of Universal Credit is the introduction of a new seven-day waiting period before an individual qualifies for benefit.

What is more, people on Universal Credit will have to endure a wait of one calendar month whilst their entitlement is calculated, and then a further seven-day wait for payment into their account, which will produce a total wait of at least five weeks before people already in hardship  receive any money.

Benefit payments will go directly to one member of a couple
In cases of domestic abuse and violence, this could give perpetrators command of household income, further enabling them to control and isolate their partners. As Sandra Horley from Refuge points out:

The housing benefit on which refuges depend is the lifeblood of the national network of services that keep women and children safe. But this vital source of income is now at risk. Many of our refuges do not meet the official definition of “supported exempt accommodation”, which means that a lot of the women we support will fall foul of the benefit cap.

This will be particularly damaging for women who pay two rents – one for the refuge they are living in temporarily, and the other for the home they have fled. Women who move on from refuges and resettle in areas of high rent may also be plunged into debt as a result of the cap. Those who accumulate rent arrears may face eviction and be left with an impossible dilemma either to sleep rough or return to their violent partner.

Direct payments
The prospect of stopping housing benefit payments to landlords and directly paying the claimant is causing a lot of unease. The National Housing Federation says the shift from paying landlords to paying claimants direct for the housing benefit element could trigger unprecedented levels of arrears and increased rent collection costs.

Of all the reforms, the introduction of direct payments to tenants is expected to have the biggest impact – more than 80% of housing associations say it will affect their organisations a great deal or a fair amount,” an NHF report warns. “84% of associations believe that rent arrears will increase as a direct result of welfare changes. The average increase expected is 51%, which, if replicated across the sector, would mean an additional £245m of arrears.

The government has said that “vulnerable” tenants may be excluded (pdf) and has devised an “automatic switchback mechanism” – paying rent to the landlord when a tenant’s arrears hit a threshold level – but there are currently very few details of what constitutes a vulnerable tenant.

There are concerns that more people could be evicted as a result. The BBC obtained figures that showed when the direct payments were piloted in six areas of the country there was a big rise in rent arrears as some tenants failed to pass that money on, with arrears rising from about 2% to 11%.

Conditionality and sanctions
The government says:

Entitlement to UC is subject to a strict regime of ‘personalised’ conditionality (ie mandatory activity to prepare for and obtain work), backed by tough benefit sanctions (ie loss of benefit) for non-compliance.

The Child Poverty Action Group warns:

The need for more conditionality comes across as a moral crusade, rather than being evidence based … There are concerns that some vulnerable claimants could face repeated sanctions for failing to comply with the demands of the system and that personal advisers and the Work Programme (within a culture of ‘payment by results’) will have too much power and discretion to impose unreasonable requirements on claimants.

The charity warns in a UC training document:

Sanctions, in the form of loss of benefit, are designed to incentivise claimants to meet their work-related requirements and punish them for unreasonable failures. The regime is harsh, and there is concern that some claimants who repeatedly fail to comply with the system could be sanctioned and forced to survive on below subsistence income for long periods. This could include vulnerable claimants with mental health or social functioning problems, who find it difficult to comply with directions.”

A high level sanction can be imposed if, for example, a claimant fails for no good reason to take up an offer of paid work. The higher level sanction is the loss of the standard allowance of 91 days for a first failure, 182 days for a second higher level sanction within a year, and 1,095 days (three years) for another failure within a further year (disregarding “pre-claim” failures).

Hardship payments will be available of 60% of the sanctioned amount for those who cannot meet their “immediate and most basic and essential needs for accommodation, heating, food and hygiene”.

Lone parents could lose out
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) calculates that “because of the way the parameters of universal credit have been chosen, couples, and particularly those with children, look set to gain by more, on average, than single-adult families, particularly lone parents, who will lose on average according to our analysis”.

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For a more detailed critical account of Univeral Credit please see: It’s the design of Universal Credit and not the delivery that presents the biggest concern: from striking to altercasting

544840_330826693653532_892366209_nThanks to Robert Livingstone for the illustrations

It’s the design of Universal Credit that presents the biggest concern, not just the delivery

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Universal Credit was originally presented to the public as a positive facet of the otherwise draconian Tory welfare “reforms.” Designed to simplify the benefit system, introducing more flexibilty, and to ensure that benefit claimants were “always better off in work” –  by removing “disincentives” to employment.

Of course, in tandem with this are the much more punitive, coercive and cost-cutting policies – cuts to disability benefits, the introduction of an overall benefit cap and the extended and increasing use of sanctions, as a key part of a stringent and increasingly coercive conditionality regime. 

You have to wonder how the Conservatives have avoided the criticism levelled at the Thatcher government of the 1980s: that it sacrificed and condemned millions who desperately wanted to work to mortify on benefits as a “price worth paying” for ‘economic recovery’ following the recession that the Thatcher administration created in the first place. 

After all, Cameron’s government are still sacrificing those with the least, no matter how much he enlists the support of the media in constructing folk devils to divert and manipulate public attention, to justify a withdrawal of state responsibility, and by using the ensuing media generated moral panic and outrage to justify the draconian welfare “reforms.

To hear Iain Duncan Smith speak, Universal Credit holds some kind of mystical power that will address all manner of social problems from unemployment and the “undesirable” attitudes of benefit claimants to child poverty.

Critics, especially in the media, tend to invoke the dismal consequences of IT contracting and the stunted progress of the policy’s roll-out.

This said, the Department for Work and Pensions are not well known for their cooperation and forthcoming when it comes to sharing pertinent information. But all of this has allowed the continuation of a dangerous myth: that the problems facing UC are all about delivery, rather than design.

It also means that UC becomes an impossible project to manage well. It seems that none of the programme leaders can take big problems to Iain Duncan Smith because he is in desperate denial that big problems can exist. He has clearly invested much ego equity in this vanity project. The Department has therefore a fostered a “good news” front. Staff are undoubtedly sent off to some of the same courses as jobseekers, to learn the powers of positive thinking and other such magical thinking schemes.

As the new generation of cognitive behaviour therapists would have us believe, the world is really ok, it’s just the way you think about it and respond to it that is the real problem… Gee, and I thought that was called ‘gaslighting.’

Staff set to strike in protest of delivery and administrative burdens, not the policy design burdens on claimants

The Mirror report that Universal Credit staff are to strike in protest against oppressive culture under the Tory welfare reforms. However, once again, the focus of contention for the staff is mostly on the delivery and not the design of the policy.

Some 1,500 Universal Credit workers are complaining of staff shortages, poor training and money squandered on IT that wasn’t used. They claim they’re being given unrealistic targets as the government’s flagship reform is rolled out across Britain – over its original deadline and budget.

The cost of Universal Credit has soared to almost £16bn and it will now take at least 5 years to implement, according to a damning watchdog report last month, from The Major Projects Authority (MPA).

The scheme, championed by Duncan Smith with David Cameron’s full support, received royal assent in 2012 with initial plans for a full roll-out by the 2015 general election.

A pilot scheme has been introduced in selected areas, but only 65,000 people in the UK are currently claiming UC, according to government data.

Huge costs include £40m which was spent on computer code which then wasn’t used – with officials admitting in 2013 it would end up having no value.

And a Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) survey earlier this year found 90% of staff still had concerns the IT system wouldn’t be adequate.

Next week’s walkout will be followed by an overtime ban running until August 18.

The union says that the Department for Work and Pensions isn’t giving the scheme enough resources and has performed a “massive scaling back” of flexible working hours.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said:

“The introduction of Universal Credit has been a textbook example of how not to reform essential public services.

The DWP’s handling of every aspect of it has been disastrous.”

But my own concerns extend well beyond mere financial costs of administration and implementation issues. Universal Credit is designed to cut even more from the amount of support that people get. Many people are struggling because of the cuts that have happened already to ‘legacy’ benefits, such as the cap and bedroom tax.  Further cuts are going to bring devastation to the very people who, as a society, we should be supporting the most. 

Universal Credit is highly likely to inflict more hunger, fuel poverty and destitution on people who are already struggling to meet their basic living costs. The numbers needing to use food banks will certainly rise substantially, and homelessness, too. Universal Credit is not especially designed to accommodate disabled people, too. The conditionality is even more punitive, and it’s likely that the use of sanctions will rise. There is no clarification regarding the carrying over of the various disability premiums from legacy disability benefits to Universal Credit, for example.

One undercover reporter in the Bolton call centre, where workers are now going on strike next week, said he was told not to mention an emergency fund unless callers asked about it.

“Worryingly, the undercover journalist claimed he was told his call centre was “like Fight Club.” A trainer was recorded telling him: “It’s a bit like Fight Club – we don’t discuss what happens in Fight Club.

So you don’t talk about flexible support fund either.”

This kind of repressive withholding of information about support for claimants now permeates job centres, along with an oppressive culture of secrecy imposed on staff more generally.

Altercasting –  authority and compliance‐gaining strategies 

The oppressive welfare “reforms” have a profoundly negative impact on those people who the policies are aimed at. Job Centre Plus’s predominant focus is now on compliance monitoring with less attention given to meaningful and in-depth employment advice and support for claimants. This effectively transforms welfare into a system designed to administer discipline and punishment to people who need support.

Perhaps the major contributing factor to an increase in workplace oppression among DWP staff is the collective behaviours of the current government, which has fashioned, perpetuated, permitted and endorsed traditional prejudices against social groups, such as disabled and unemployed people, together with a complicit media. Tory policies have historically embedded a punitive approach towards the poorest social groups.

This in turn means that those administering the policies, such as staff at the Department for Work and Pensions and job centres are also bound by the same  punitive, authoritarian behaviours directed at a targeted group.

As established figures of authority and role models, their behaviour establishes a framework of acceptability. Parliamentary debates are conducted with a clear basis of one-upmanship and aggression rather than being founded on rational exchange. Indeed, the prime minister sneers at rationality and does not engage in a democratic dialogue, instead he employs the tactics of a bully: denial, scapegoating, vilification, attempts at discrediting, smearing and character assassinations. This in turn gives government departments and indeed wider society permission and approval to do the same.

Much government policy aimed at marginalised groups is about imposing conformity whilst enforcing the systematic removal of publicly funded state support.

The set of underpinning assumptions that Universal credit is founded on are wrong. The New Right have formulated individualistic psychopolicy interventions aimed at the most excluded social groups. These coercive and punitive policies are dressed up and paraded in a populist, pseudo-language of psychology, poorly defined and flawed concepts such as “lack of motivation” and “psychological resistance to work” are being used by politicians and job centre staff to allocate claimants to more or less arduous workfare regimes, for example.

Such policies are not aimed at supporting people: instead they act upon people, objectifying and dehumanising them. And instructing them how to be.

Welfare has been redefined: it is pre-occupied with assumptions about and modification of the behaviour and character of recipients rather than with the alleviation of poverty and ensuring economic and social wellbeing. 

For example, Jobcentre “nudge” posters, designed by the Government Behavioural Insights Team are used to “encourage” claimants to expand the area of job search to increase their chances of finding work. The posters are designed “to challenge claimant attitudes that had been identified as barriers to work.”Aimed at Universal Credit and Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants, the posters used the idea of  “loss aversion” (an economics and decision theory  which, in basic terms, claims that disincentives are more effective than incentives in modifying behaviours,) by highlighting the potential job opportunities that claimants might miss out on by not widening their job search area. Of course the most powerful application of loss aversion theory is in benefit sanctions for non-compliance.

And to meet Jobcentre targets. 

The Behavioural Insights Team have also prompted the use of “altercasting” (a technique of persuasion, aimed at manipulating identity, (to be assumed by other(s) with whom one interacts with, which is “congruent with one’s own goals”) to establish a social dynamic based on the authority of Jobcentre staff  and an obedient counter-role of claimants.

All of the Tory psychopolicies are authoritarian, they are aimed at coercing compliance, ultimately. Altercasting is a method of persuading people by forcing them into a social role, so that they will be restricted to behaving according to that role.

 

It’s worth considering that the Authority-Agent altercast was also used by Stanley Milgram in 1974 in an experiment to prompt people to give electric shocks (increasing in potency) to other people (in a fake learning experiment that was really about social obedience) under orders of the authoritative experimenter.  The participants were actually administering fake shocks to acting confederates, but they were unaware of this deception. 65% of the participants were compliant in administering what they took to be near-lethal shocks.

The stigmatisation of people needing welfare support not only demoralises those it is aimed at,it is also designed purposefully to displace public sympathy for the poorest citizens, and to generate moral outrage, which is then used to further justify the steady dismantling of the welfare state. Such stigmatising –  by using negative affiliation and outgrouping rhetoric – is another type of altercasting. It serves to stabilise benign conceptions of the “authority”, to structure social threat perceptions of others and to legitimate what are ultimately cruel and punitive policies.

But the problems of austerity and the economy were not caused by people claiming welfare, or by any other powerless, scapegoated, marginalised group for that matter, such as migrants. The problems have arisen because of social conservatism and neoliberalism. The victims of this psychocratic government’s policies and decision-making are being portrayed as miscreants – as perpetrators of the social problems that are caused by government decisions.

In the Universal Credit white paper (pdf), the government argued:

“Welfare dependency has become a significant problem in Britain with a huge social and economic cost.” The new benefit will be “leaner” and “firmer”.

The UK has one of the highest rates of children growing up in homes where no one works and this pattern repeats itself through the generations. Less than 60% of lone parents in the UK are in employment, compared to 70% or more in France, Germany and the Netherlands … Universal Credit will start to change this. It will reintroduce the culture of work in households where it may have been absent for generations.” May have?  Despite the claims from government about the existence of families with three or even two ‘workless’ generations, researchers have been “unable to locate any families in which there were three generations in which no-one had ever worked.”

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation published the study that debunked  the notion of a “culture of worklessness” in 2012.  I’ve argued with others more recently that there are methodological weaknesses underlying the Conservative’s regressive positivist/behaviourist theories, especially a failure to scientifically test the permanence or otherwise of an underclass status, and a failure to distinguish between the impact of “personal inadequacy” and socio-economic misfortune.

Back in the 1970s, following his remarks on the cycle of deprivation, Keith Joseph established a large-scale research programme devoted to testing its validity. One of the main findings of the research was that there is no simple continuity of social problems between generations of the sort required for his thesis. At least half of the children born into disadvantaged homes do not repeat the pattern of disadvantage in the next generation.

Despite the fact that continuity of deprivation across generations is by no means inevitable – the theory is not supported by empirical research – the idea of the cycle of “worklessness” has become “common sense.” Clearly, common perceptions of the causes of poverty are (being) misinformed. The individual behaviourist theory of poverty predicts that the same group of people remain in poverty. This doesn’t happen.

However, the structural theory predicts that different people are in poverty over time (and further, that we need to alter the economic structure to make things better). Longitudinal surveys show that impoverished people are not the same people every year. In other words, people move in and out of poverty: it’s a revolving door, as predicted by structural explanations of poverty.

And then there is the fact that in-work poverty is rising. Over the last five years, the UK has become the most unequal country in Europe, on the basis of income distribution and wages. If that increase in inequality arose because of individual failings, as the Conservatives are claiming, why have those “personal failings” only become apparent so suddenly within the past five years?

The Conservatives are claiming that poverty arises because of the “faulty” lifestyle choices of people with personal deficits and aim to reconstruct the identities of poor people via psychopolitical interventions(state ‘therapy’), but it is only through a wholesale commitment to eliminating poverty by sincerely addressing unemployment, underemployment, job insecurity, low paid work, inadequate welfare support and institutionalised inequalities that any meaningful social progress can be made.

Unemployment and in-work benefit claims are generally a measure of how well or poorly the government is handling the economy, not of how “lazy” or “incentivised” people are.

___

Here are some key problems with the design of Universal Credit:

Monthly payments
The government thinks this will help promote good budgeting and more closely replicate monthly salary payments.  Campaigners are worried that the shift from weekly and fortnightly payments to this new regime may push claimants recipients into debt. The Social Market Foundation says: “Most households in our sample opposed the idea of a monthly payment. This was the case for the majority of households, who tended to budget on a daily, weekly or fortnightly cycle.”

One of the most controversial aspects of Universal Credit is the introduction of a new seven-day waiting period before an individual qualifies for benefit. What is more, people on Universal Credit will have to endure a wait of one calendar month whilst their entitlement is calculated, and then a further seven-day wait for payment into their account, which will produce a total wait of at least five weeks before people already in hardship receive any money.

Benefit payments will go directly to one member of a couple
In cases of domestic abuse and violence, this could give perpetrators command of household income, further enabling them to control and isolate their partners. As Sandra Horley from Refuge points out:

“The housing benefit on which refuges depend is the lifeblood of the national network of services that keep women and children safe. But this vital source of income is now at risk. Many of our refuges do not meet the official definition of “supported exempt accommodation”, which means that a lot of the women we support will fall foul of the benefit cap.

This will be particularly damaging for women who pay two rents – one for the refuge they are living in temporarily, and the other for the home they have fled. Women who move on from refuges and resettle in areas of high rent may also be plunged into debt as a result of the cap. Those who accumulate rent arrears may face eviction and be left with an impossible dilemma either to sleep rough or return to their violent partner.”

Direct payments
The prospect of stopping housing benefit payments to landlords and directly paying the claimant is causing a lot of unease. The National Housing Federation says the shift from paying landlords to paying claimants direct for the housing benefit element could trigger unprecedented levels of arrears and increased rent collection costs.

“Of all the reforms, the introduction of direct payments to tenants is expected to have the biggest impact – more than 80% of housing associations say it will affect their organisations a great deal or a fair amount,” an NHF report warns. “84% of associations believe that rent arrears will increase as a direct result of welfare changes. The average increase expected is 51%, which, if replicated across the sector, would mean an additional £245m of arrears.”

The government has said that “vulnerable” tenants may be excluded (pdf) and has devised an “automatic switchback mechanism” – paying rent to the landlord when a tenant’s arrears hit a threshold level – but there are currently very few details of what constitutes a vulnerable tenant.

There are concerns that more people could be evicted as a result. The BBC obtained figures that showed when the direct payments were piloted in six areas of the country there was a big rise in rent arrears as some tenants failed to pass that money on, with arrears rising from about 2% to 11%.

Conditionality and sanctions
“Entitlement to UC is subject to a strict regime of ‘personalised’ conditionality (ie mandatory activity to prepare for and obtain work), backed by tough benefit sanctions (ie loss of benefit) for non-compliance,” the government says.

The Child Poverty Action Group warns: “The need for more conditionality comes across as a moral crusade, rather than being evidence based … There are concerns that some vulnerable claimants could face repeated sanctions for failing to comply with the demands of the system and that personal advisers and the Work Programme (within a culture of ‘payment by results’) will have too much power and discretion to impose unreasonable requirements on claimants.”

The charity warns in a UC training document: “Sanctions, in the form of loss of benefit, are designed to incentivise claimants to meet their work-related requirements and punish them for unreasonable failures. The regime is harsh, and there is concern that some claimants who repeatedly fail to comply with the system could be sanctioned and forced to survive on below subsistence income for long periods. This could include vulnerable claimants with mental health or social functioning problems, who find it difficult to comply with directions.”

A high level sanction can be imposed if, for example, a claimant fails for no good reason to take up an offer of paid work. The higher level sanction is the loss of the standard allowance of 91 days for a first failure, 182 days for a second higher level sanction within a year, and 1,095 days (three years) for another failure within a further year (disregarding “pre-claim” failures).

Hardship payments will be available of 60% of the sanctioned amount for those who cannot meet their “immediate and most basic and essential needs for accommodation, heating, food and hygiene”.

Lone parents will probably lose out
The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) calculates that “because of the way the parameters of universal credit have been chosen, couples, and particularly those with children, look set to gain by more, on average, than single-adult families, particularly lone parents, who will lose on average according to our analysis”.

Universal Credit is designed to ensure that the government’s aim is fulfilled: that our social insurance and social security provision is dismantled. 

facade-welfare

 


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An open letter from Rachel Reeves to Iain Duncan Smith: Universal Credit questions that need answering

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By Rachel Reeves 

At your party conference you announced your intention to “accelerate the delivery of Universal Credit … from the New Year, bringing forward the national roll-out through 2015/16 to every community across Great Britain”.

As 985,920 fewer people receiving are Universal Credit than you originally said would be claiming the new benefit by April 2014, acceleration is clearly necessary.

However, given the litany of problems with the delivery of this scheme to date, and the £130m of public money wasted on IT, it would be extremely worrying if even the limited expansion of the scheme you have announced was being driven more by a political  timetable than by due concern for effective and efficient delivery.

Yesterday I visited the North West to find out first-hand how the Universal Credit pathfinders had been working in practice. I met with local authorities, the voluntary sector, housing providers and work programme contractors as well as staff and managers at the Jobcentre in Ashton-under-Lyme, which as you know has had the longest experience of handling Universal Credit claims. I would like to take this opportunity to record my gratitude and appreciation for the time they took to meet me and I am grateful also to you and officials at the DWP for helping to arrange this.

These meetings confirmed to me that the principle of Universal Credit is a good one that could bring real benefits to claimants, communities and taxpayers. It was also very clear that professionals across the public, private and voluntary sectors in these areas are working extremely hard to make Universal Credit a success.

However it was also clear that there remain a range of serious problems with the current operation of Universal Credit which risk being replicated and multiplied across the country on a far larger scale if Universal Credit unless they are resolved.

The serious problems that were raised with me included:

  •  the IT systems and related work processes around Universal Credit claims remain “clunky”, poor at handling complex or dynamic circumstances, and prone to delays and mistakes in processing claims and making payments.
  •  a significant level of system error which currently needs to be identified and corrected through costly manual checks.
  •  particular problems and high rates of error associated with the incorporation of the housing costs element of Universal Credit.
  •  concerns that claimants had not been informed of, or had difficulty in accessing, budgeting support, advance payments or alternative payment arrangements.
  •  an extremely high incidence of rent arrears that implied very substantial financial and administrative burdens for housing providers as caseloads increase.
  • the meaning of “in-work conditionality” and how in-work support will be delivered by jobcentres remains extremely unclear despite the fact that numbers of Universal Credit claimants in work will increase as the caseload expands and matures and the integral importance of this element to the programme’s aim of providing a different set of incentives to progress in work and increase working hours
  •  joint-working between the DWP and relevant local partners is patchy and there is poor data-sharing between the two, with little automatic integration of information on claimants and their circumstances.

The problems which I was told about during my visit are leading to concerns about the risks to claimants and additional costs to the public purse when Universal Credit is rolled out in other parts of the country. Therefore I am writing today to ask that you give us clarity and assurance on the following key issues:

1. What guarantee can you give that the IT systems for Universal Credit will not increase levels of error and delays in processing claims, payments and changes of circumstances?

2. What is your estimate of the current cost of manual processes for identifying and rectifying system errors, and how will you prevent this increasing as the caseload expands?

3. Will you publish a full evaluation of the impact of including new claims with a housing cost element in current Pathfinder areas before introducing Universal Credit to new areas?

4. Will you guarantee that all Universal Credit claimants will be fully informed of their options for budgeting support, advance payments and alternative payment arrangements, and set strict and published limits for the time taken to process and deliver on requests made?

5. What are the current levels of awareness and take up of options for budgeting support, advance payments and alternative payment arrangements among current claimants?

6. What increases in levels of rent arrears and related proceedings do you anticipate with the increasing incorporation of housing cost elements into the Universal Credit caseload?

7. How has “in work conditionality” been delivered in practice so far? What are the outcomes and lessons of its implementation so far? How will it be rolled out nationally?

8. What information on claimants and the circumstances and their partners is currently shared automatically between the DWP and relevant partners, and what can only be shared manually? What information cannot be provided even on request?

9. What steps will you take to ensure that joint working between the DWP and relevant partners is improved before introducing Universal Credit in new areas?

10. Will local authorities and voluntary sector partners in every area receive the same level of additional funding and support from the DWP for supporting the introduction of Universal Credit as has been available to Pathfinders? What has been the cost of this, and what will be the cost of extending it to all areas of the country?

And following your written ministerial statement of 13 October:

11. What IT system will underpin the full national roll-out, if, as you have stated, testing of the “enhanced digital service” is to start “later this year” in a “limited local area?

12. What exactly has been “assured by the Major Projects Authority and signed off by HM Treasury”, especially give the statement that “we will keep all longer-term plans under review.

13. When will a long-term plan for the full-implementation of Universal Credit be published?

14. How many people will be on universal credit by 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018?

15. By what date will universal credit be rolled out entirely across the country?

16. By what date will the migration of all legacy benefits have been completed?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Rachel Reeves MP is shadow secretary of state for work and pensions.

Related: We can reduce the Welfare Budget by billions: simply get rid of Iain Duncan Smith

377683_445086432227557_1770724824_n (1)Pictures by Robert Livingstone

Employment Support Allowance claim update: Exceptional Circumstances – Regulations 25 and 31 and Universal Credit.

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Regulations 25 and 31 will replace the old Special Regulations 29 and 35 when Universal Credit is rolled out.

However, the old Regulations 29 and 35 still apply to ongoing cases that are not yet affected by Universal Credit, and will remain in place indefinitely for all Contributions-based ESA. This means that most of you will use Regulations 29 and 35 at this time.

Income-based ESA will be replaced by Universal Credit, as it is rolled out, but there will be the same additional financial components added as we currently have for ESA – either the work-related activity or the support component.

The contents of both sets of Regulations are essentially the same. They are applied in the same way. 25 and 29 are for those who are not capable of work, and would usually be placed in the Work-related Activity Group, and 31 and 35 apply to those not capable of work-related activity, and would normally be placed in the Support Group.

Here are the new Universal Credit Exceptional Circumstances Regulations in full:

Regulation 25

25.—(1) A claimant who does not have limited capability for work as determined in accordance with the limited capability for work assessment is to be treated as having limited capability for work if paragraph (2) applies to the claimant.

(2) Subject to paragraph (3), this paragraph applies if—

(a) the claimant is suffering from a life-threatening disease in relation to which—

(i) there is medical evidence that the disease is uncontrollable, or uncontrolled, by a recognised therapeutic procedure; and

(ii) in the case of a disease that is uncontrolled, there is a reasonable cause for it not to be controlled by a recognised therapeutic procedure; or

(b) the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and, by reason of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work.

(3) Paragraph (2)(b) does not apply where the risk could be reduced by a significant amount by—

(a) reasonable adjustments being made in the claimant’s workplace; or

(b) the claimant taking medication to manage the claimant’s condition where such medication has been prescribed for the claimant by a registered medical practitioner treating the claimant.

(4) In this regulation “medical evidence” means—

(a) evidence from a health care professional approved by the Secretary of State; and

(b) evidence (if any) from any health care professional or a hospital or similar institution, or such part of such evidence as constitutes the most reliable evidence available in the circumstances.

Regulation 25 outlines exceptional circumstances in which a person will be treated as having limited capability for work, but may be capable of work -related activities. People in these circumstances are placed in the ESA work-related activity group (WRAG)

However, there are further exceptional circumstances in which a person  will be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity in addition, and will therefore be placed in the ESA support group. These are outlined by Regulation 31.

Regulation 31 

31.—(1) A claimant is to be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity if—

(a) the claimant is terminally ill;

(b) the claimant is—

(i) receiving treatment for cancer by way of chemotherapy or radiotherapy;

(ii) likely to receive such treatment within six months after the date of the determination of capability for work-related activity; or

(iii) recovering from such treatment, and the Secretary of State is satisfied that the claimant should be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity;

(c) in the case of a woman, she is pregnant and there is a serious risk of damage to her health or to the health of her unborn child if she does not refrain from work-related activity; or

(d) the claimant is entitled to universal credit and it has previously been determined that the claimant has limited capability for work and work-related activity on the basis of an assessment under Part 5 of the Universal Credit Regulations 2013.

(2) A claimant who does not have limited capability for work-related activity as determined in accordance with regulation 30(1) is to be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity if—

(a) the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement; and

(b) by reason of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work-related activity.

___________________

Advice regarding EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES – Regulations 25, 29 31 and 35. 

Because of the tick-box nature of the ESA50 form, it is likely that people will fall below the number of points required to be declared incapable of work – it doesn’t take into account variable illnesses, mental illness, or the effects of having more than one illness.

However, the Exceptional Circumstances Regulations may cover us – they both state that the claimant should be found incapable of work (Regulation 29 for ongoing ESA claims, 25 for U.C. ) or work-related activity (Regulation 35 for ongoing ESA claims, 31 for U.C.).

These two essential paragraphs are an important part of both the old and new Regulations, and can be used in the same way, if:

  • “they have an uncontrolled or uncontrollable illness, or “the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and
  • by reason of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work/work-related activity.”

If you feel this is your circumstance, then we suggest adding something like this, where you put “other information” on the ESA50:

“If the scoring from my answers above is insufficient, then I believe applying the Exceptional Circumstances Regulations would be appropriate due to the severity and interaction of my conditions, and my inability to reliably, repeatedly and safely encounter work-related situations and/or safely perform work-related tasks.

I am taking all available and appropriate medication as prescribed by my doctor(s), and there are no reasonable adjustments to a workplace which would mitigate my medical condition(s).

Therefore I believe being placed in the Support Group would be appropriate, because there would be a serious substantial risk to mental and/or physical health if I were placed into a workplace environment or in the work-related activity group.”

Please change the wording to fit your situation, delete “mental” or “physical” if appropriate, leave both in if necessary. If your illness cannot be controlled at all, or medication can’t be used to control it, add that instead.

Legally, both of these exemptions must be applied to all cases where a “serious” or “substantial” risk of harm is likely, should the person be found to be either capable of work, or capable of work-related activity. This is the statutory interpretation.

Regulations 25 and 29 cover people who might be put in the Work-Related Activity Group (WRAG), which has work-focused activities, sometimes it has workfare placements, and sanctions may apply if you are unable to meet the conditions of eligibility for your ESA, while Regulations 35 and 31 cover people who are not fit for any kind of work activity. This is for people who might be placed in the Support Group. There are no conditions placed on you for getting your ESA, such as workfare, if you have limited capability for work-related activity.

So do bear in mind that Regulations 31 and 35 are specifically related to limited capability of work-related activity, and that you will need to invoke 35, (or 31 if you are now claiming Universal Credit, and not eligible for contributions-based ESA,) if your circumstances are such that the support group is appropriate, rather than the work-related activity group (WRAG), as work-related activity would present a substantial or serious risk of harm.

You can ask your doctor to support you with this, as stated in the regulations:

“(b) evidence (if any) from any health care professional or a hospital or similar institution, or such part of such evidence as constitutes the most reliable evidence available in the circumstances” may be presented to support your case.

This is based on the Statutory Interpretation of the Regulations.

Here are some links to download and print some documents that you can give to your GP to support your claim or appeal. You ought to submit copies of these to the DWP as soon as you can. (Make sure that you keep a copy).

In some cases, this may mean that your case will be reconsidered in your favour without having to wait for a tribunal hearing:

Please remember: Regulations 29 and 35 still apply to all ongoing cases, and will remain in use for all contributions-based ESA claims. Regulations 25 and 31 apply to Universal credit.

These templates are for ongoing ESA claims and Contribution-based ESA:

(CLICK)    Cover letter for your GP

(CLICK)    ESA Appeals Letter for your GP

(CLICK)     Legal Advice of Counsel for GPs: Prevention of Avoidable Harm Interpretation and Application of ‘Substantial Risk’ ESA Regulations 29 & 35

With many thanks to the Black Triangle Campaign for sharing these very helpful documents.

If you are one of the few claiming Universal Credit in one of the pilot areas, and you are not entitled to contribution-based ESA then Regulations 25 and 31 now apply, and you will need to amend the templates, as they currently reflect the Regulations most likely to be applicable at this time.

As yet we don’t know for sure when and even if Universal Credit will be rolled out in full. I will update this article when we know more about this.

For all ongoing cases where Universal Credit does NOT apply, (which is the majority at present) and for ALL Contributions-based ESA claims:

Regulation 29

29.—(1) A claimant who does not have limited capability for work as determined in accordance with

the limited capability for work assessment is to be treated as having limited capability for work if:

paragraph (2) applies to the claimant.

(2) This paragraph applies if—

(a) the claimant is suffering from a life threatening disease in relation to which—

(i) there is medical evidence that the disease is uncontrollable, or uncontrolled, by a recognised therapeutic procedure; and

15(ii) in the case of a disease that is uncontrolled, there is a reasonable cause for it not to be controlled by

a recognised therapeutic procedure; or

(b) the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement and, by reasons of

such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work.

Regulation 35

35.—(1) A claimant is to be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity if—

(a) the claimant is terminally ill;(b) the claimant is—

21(i) receiving treatment by way of intravenous, intraperitoneal or intrathecal chemotherapy; or

(ii) recovering from that treatment and the Secretary of State is satisfied that the claimant should be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity; or

(c) in the case of a woman, she is pregnant and there is a serious risk of damage to her health or to the health of her unborn child if she does not refrain from work-related activity.

(2) A claimant who does not have limited capability for work-related activity as determined in accordance with regulation 34(1) is to be treated as having limited capability for work-related activity if—

(a) the claimant suffers from some specific disease or bodily or mental disablement; and

(b) by reasons of such disease or disablement, there would be a substantial risk to the mental or physical health of any person if the claimant were found not to have limited capability for work-related activity.

Some thoughts on the implications of the other changes.

30.—(1) For the purposes of Part 1 of the Act, where, by reason of a claimant’s physical or mental condition, at least one of the descriptors set out in Schedule 3 applies to the claimant, the claimant has limited capability for work-related activity and the limitation must be such that it is not reasonable to require that claimant to undertake such activity.

(2) A descriptor applies to a claimant if that descriptor applies to the claimant for the majority of the time or, as the case may be, on the majority of the occasions on which the claimant undertakes or attempts to undertake the activity described by that descriptor.

(3) In determining whether a descriptor applies to a claimant, the claimant is to be assessed as if—

(a) the claimant were fitted with or wearing any prosthesis with which the claimant is normally fitted or normally wears; or, as the case may be

(b) wearing or using any aid or appliance which is normally, or could reasonably be expected to be, worn or used

___________________

Two broad concerns arising in light of the Regulation changes are that there is significant scope for the assessor to speculate and make assumptions about those being assessed, and there is a limitation regarding what symptoms can be considered in which parts of the assessment (as is evident in the new descriptors.) Such consideration has been narrowed in focus and subdued by the amendments, which clearly and strictly polarise illnesses into physical or mental categories. Both of these problems may lead to an over-estimation of a person’s capability for work.

The exceptional circumstances provision originally in Regulation 29 has been changed. Trying to demonstrate that a person would be at “substantial risk” in a workplace will now also involve considering whether any “reasonable adjustments” in the workplace or if prescribed medication would significantly reduce such a risk. The amendments would allow any potential risk resulting from a person being found fit for work to be ignored if a reasonable adjustment, or taking prescribed medication would hypothetically offer significant reduction of that risk.

The Atos assessor has previously been able to assume that a person could use some aids that they do not actually use, and theoretically determine what the person’s capability would be using those aids. Many people have experienced the difficulties presented by the “imaginary wheelchair test” – the assessor decides they would be mobile with a manual wheelchair, often contrary to the appropriateness or availability of a wheelchair for that person. The amendments to the Regulations have extended this to include imaginary prostheses and guide dogs under the “could reasonably be used” criteria to most parts of the assessment.

Any “reasonable adjustments” to “the workplace” are very hypothetical and can never be guaranteed. Nor may they necessarily be effective in the event that they are actually carried out. The assessor does not know the person claiming ESA or their long term medical circumstances, or whether the use of such aids would be consistent with their current management programme, or whether any theoretical aids would be suitable in reality.

There is no guarantee that in the event of a person obtaining these aids  they would actually be capable of work. This imaginary exercise will not be discussed with the person making the claim; they are simply going to be refused benefit on the basis of hypothetical aids and appliances. “Reasonable adjustment” may include cases where the risk is still considerable, if it is significantly reduced by hypothetical adjustments, it can be ignored. There is no explicitly stated requirement to take into account side-effects of medication.

This is worrying for more than one reason. There seems to be an implicit suggestion that medication ought to be enforced. For obvious reasons that is very troubling. It has serious implications for issues of medical consent, and patient rights.

The amendments made to the Work Capability Assessment descriptors will mean that claimants can only score on either the physical descriptor for a physical illness or the mental descriptor for a mental illness. Part One of the Work Capability Assessment activities will only accommodate the effects of “a specific bodily disease or disablement,” while Part Two of the WCA  will only allow consideration of the effects of “a specific mental illness or disablement.” Similarly, only side-effects of treatment for physical conditions will be considered in Part One, and side-effects of treatment for mental illnesses only in Part Two.

Using prescribed medication as a purely theoretical “reasonable adjustment” provides scope for a lot of speculation presented as “evidence” regarding the efficacy of medications. For many of us, medication is “experimental” and often trialled initially, and effectiveness and side-effects vary hugely from person to person. Medications for mental health problems produce physical side-effects, and vice-versa. A person who suffers severe chronic pain from physical illness or injury may take strong pain medications that severely compromise their cognitive ability, but it would seem the amended regulations would require that this effect is disregarded.

Many illnesses that are not yet well-understood have a full spectrum of physical, mental and cognitive symptoms. Examples include autoimmune illnesses such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, MS, ME and Fibromyalgia. There is often a fundamental interconnectedness of physical and mental health, yet the amendments demand a clean separation of physical, mental and cognitive effects of illness.

As stated, medications for these illnesses are invariably “experimental”, and the efficacy of treatments is widely unpredictable, as are the potentially severe and often “black box” side-effects. For example, a common treatment for autoimmune illness such as Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chemotherapy called methotrexate, usually given in a weekly dose, by injection or taken orally. Side-effects commonly include nausea and vomiting, ulcerative stomatitis, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, hair loss, blurred vision or sudden loss of vision, seizures, confusion, weakness or difficulty moving one or both sides of the body, loss of consciousness, vulnerability to overwhelming infections such as pneumonia.

Less common side effects of methotrexate include sudden death, liver failure, kidney damage and lung fibrosis. There is no way of predicting most of these side-effects. Of course this treatment is not handed out like sweets by doctors, and there is very careful consideration given to the risks carried with the drug, which are carefully weighed against the substantial risks presented by the serious illness to be treated.

Many autoimmune illnesses may also cause death, lung fibrosis, kidney and liver damage and blindness. How can it be that a person so ill, and taking such a risky medication could be deemed even remotely capable of work, and that such a treatment could be seen as a “reasonable adjustment” to allow that judgement?

A grave concern is that this will mean additional challenges for many sick and disabled people at a time when the Tribunal Service is hugely overworked and struggling to accommodate the sheer volume of appeals regarding wrongful decisions, and the waiting times for Hearings are stretching out, leaving very vulnerable people without the essential support they need to live. Now there is the additional requirement for providing evidence regarding the “reasonable adjustments” amendment, and I doubt that hypothetical evidence will suffice.

It seems that the Government have simply extended legislative opportunities to further reduce “eligibility” for ESA. I don’t believe these changes and omissions are casual: they are about limiting successful claims and appeal outcomes.

From the moment we begin a claim by filling out the form, we know that every single question asked is designed to justify ending our claim for ESA and aimed at passing us as “fit for work.” That is what Atos are contracted to do by the Government. This is not a genuine medical assessment, but rather, a created opportunity for the Government to take away the financial support that we are entitled to. Every change in legislation related to benefits and support for sick and disabled people that has been made by the Coalition has been aimed at limiting successful outcomes for claims for those benefits.

It’s therefore important that we explore the implications of legislative changes like this, because the additional information helps us to pre-empt potential new difficulties we are likely to encounter with the claim process, it allows us to plan in advance how we can find effective ways around anticipated problems, and so improve the outcomes of our ESA claims.

Further information:
The Black Triangle Campaign:  Applying ESA Regulations 29 and 35 (see note for 25 and 31)

Employment and Support Allowance: 2013 Regulations in full Explanatory memorandum to all benefits 2013: Full legislation document  Exceptional circumstances: Employment and Support Allowance Regulation 25
Exceptional Circumstances: Employment and Support Regulation 31
Changes to the work Capability Assessment : Regulation 15
Rapid response EDM: 
Commons’ motion to annul the Employment and Support Allowance regulations
The new Work Capability Assessment 2013:DWP Guide
The Employment and  Support Allowance Regulations 2008 (as amended) – judiciary.gov.uk Clause 99 and important changes to the appeal process: Clause 99, Catch 22 – The ESA Mandatory Second Revision and Appeals

V-STARTU

Written by Sue Jones.

With huge thanks to Jane Clout for her considerable support with this in clarifying the circumstances regarding which Regulations may be used. It’s important to know that the new Regulations won’t be applicable to most people until Universal Credit has been rolled out.

With many thanks to The Black Triangle Campaign for sharing their work on the GP support letter template, and covering legal and explanatory documents