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BENEFITS

I’m a DWP call handler and have no time to care about your disability claim

A woman in a telephone headset at a call centre.

I don’t know what happens when I send a claim off, so I can’t answer questions about what happens next. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

This morning I spoke to a cancer patient, a woman with kidney failure, and a young man who had just lost the mother of his children. Each of them thought I was trying to help them. I wasn’t really though, because helping them would take longer than 23 minutes.

Twenty three minutes is how long it should take me to help you make a benefit claim, according to my bosses. I work in a Department for Work and Pensions contact centre and take calls from people who are at their lowest point.

These are people who need my help to navigate the complex claims system so that they can get a meagre payout. They’re often vulnerable and desperate by the time they reach me. My job is to fill in a new claim form for employment and support allowance based on the information people give me and then send that form off to the benefit centre where the claim is processed.

The headset beeps and I launch into my scripted greeting. The caller wants to tell me about her recent cancer diagnosis, what type it is, what the treatment will be, the reasons her employer has given for not offering sick pay. But I don’t have time to listen to her story. “I’m afraid we need to stick to yes or no answers” I say, and I feel horrible because this poor woman wants to tell someone about this huge awful thing that’s happening to her, she wants a friendly listener to make her feel reassured that she will at least get financial help.

But for me, the only thing that’s really important is how long each call takes. We are measured on our average handling time (known as AHT) and if this slips beyond 23 minutes per call we face performance management, which is code for “you’ll get in trouble”. This involves anything from stern words and increased micro-management from your line manager right up to written warnings and dismissal.

full story at:The Guardian

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many homeless in England have no right to real help from state – study

© Dylan Martinez

Many homeless people in England are not entitled to vital help under UK law even if they are sleeping on the streets, a damning report shows.

A coalition of social justice campaigners and lawyers fighting homelessness in Britain is calling for councils across England to intervene sooner to prevent people from ending up on the street.

They made the demand in a review of homelessness legislation, published on Monday. The report, which was written by representatives from Crisis, Shelter, councils across England, and the Chartered Institute of Housing and the National Housing Federation, demands prompt legal reforms.

The study argues local authorities could and should intervene in crisis situations, and rehouse citizens deemed to be in jeopardy of losing their home.

Figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government in February 2016 revealed that the number of England’s rough sleepers soared by 30 percent with a 12-month period. In a climate of rising inequality and accusations of social cleansing, ministers are considering a policy change. Critics say it should have been implemented long ago.

As it currently stands, adults without children who are judged to be healthy, single and not particularly vulnerable are not categorized as high-priority cases by local authorities. As a result, the most councils can do is give them advice if they are threatened with homelessness.

In many instances, campaigners warn these individuals are just handed leaflets and abandoned by the authorities.

The review of homelessness legislation, published Monday, argues English law should be amended to take on dimensions of the Welsh system.

The study says local authorities should have a more robust duty to stop people from becoming homeless. It also suggests councils should have to act within 56 days of someone facing homelessness, and should be compelled to find accommodation for those who have local connections.

While these proposals differ slightly to policies currently seen in Wales, campaigners say they could be helpful in tackling England’s homelessness crisis.

Since December 2012, councils in Scotland have been legally obliged to secure settled accommodation for all eligible applicants that find themselves unintentionally homeless.
Britain’s Local Government Association (LGA) said it is vital that the government honor its commitment to replace high-value homes sold on to fund Westminster’s extended Right to Buy scheme.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said that ministers had promised £139 million to homelessness programs and a further £100 million for housing in the budget.

“This report makes interesting reading and we will continue work with homelessness organizations and across government to explore options,” the spokesman told the BBC, adding that legislation “to prevent more people from facing a homelessness”would be factored in.

 Source RT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Death of Ian Duncan Smith’s Dream  by Ellenor Hutson

Just yesterday, we described the proposed changes to PIP assessment as part of an “unstoppable force of welfare reform”. Since then Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has resigned and the policy has been “kicked into the long grass.”

Events have moved at an astonishing pace, and today we find ourselves covering Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation. Some have described it as a change of heart, and the internet is full of people understandably doubting his sincerity.

Why would he draw the line at PIP cuts, they reason, when he has pushed through reductions to ESA, championed the work programme and staked his reputation on Universal Credit? These are all measures seemingly designed to make life immeasurably more difficult for sick and disabled people.

Photo credit: Roger Blackwell

Photo credit: Roger Blackwell

In fact, IDS is probably completely sincere and no “change of heart” was needed. This is about the death of his dream. In the very first line of his resignation letter IDS stands by his record, stating how proud he is of “welfare reforms” motivated, he claims, by his desire for “social justice.”

The association of Universal Credit, PIP and the Work Programme with “social justice” is one that fills me with anxiety and disgust, but it is completely consistent with IDS’s politics. In his world, people are poor because they are lazy or have flawed characters. Work is the answer and poor people can be bullied into prosperity. This is his idea of “social justice.”

IDS saw the social security system as a barrier to this project: a complex and slow-moving tangle of inducements to sit about and do nothing. He even viewed Tax Credits – brought in, let’s remember, to incentivise low paid work – as part of the problem. Theoretically, it could allow working families could coast along on a minimum of part time work, rather than strive to be more productive.

IDS’s solution was to abolish all means tested benefits and replace them with one “Universal Credit” which would put everyone under the cosh of their own “claimant commitment”, subject to benefit sanctions if they failed to meet its demands. Depending on the claimant’s circumstances this could be anything from occasional work focused interviews to several weeks of unpaid labour.

This regime would apply to everyone: unemployed, low waged, single parents, carers, sick and disabled people. Only the most severely disabled would be exempt. Administration of this “support into work” would be outsourced to private companies under the flagship “Work Programme”

A moment’s thought will tell you that this sort regime is not a “cut”. It is complex to set up and expensive to administer. IDS should not be thought of primarily as a hatchet man. We should think of him instead as a sort of anti-Beveridge.

Sir William Beveridge was the man who, fuelled by personal ambition and indignant at not being put in charge of war production, laid the foundation for the welfare state by massively overreaching his brief to “just do something with workman’s insurance.”

Instead his famous “Beveridge Report” proposed an elegant, internally-consistent system of cradle-to-grave coverage encompassing healthcare, education, social security and legal aid. He is remembered as a hero.

IDS imagined his trajectory in similar terms, except that instead of creating the welfare state, he would take the bloated system that the welfare state had become, strip it down and recreate it as neoliberal machine for behavioural change, priming working class people for their role in a deregulated and casualised economy.

IDS refers to this in his resignation letter:

“A nation’s commitment to the least advantaged should include the provision of a generous safety-net but it should also include incentive structures and practical assistance programmes to help them live independently of the state. Together, we’ve made enormous strides towards building a system of social security that gets the balance right between state-help and self-help.”

IDS refers to his vision being “compromised” and this is exactly right. You cannot implement a punitive welfare panopticon at the same time as budget cuts. His plan is in tatters. So-called “Universal Credit” is now so universal that only 175,000 claimants receive it nationally. IDS himself is bitterly angry that the Work Programme has been “salami sliced” and refers to it in his letter of resignation.

There is also a very telling reference to his team being “pressured in the immediate run up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working age benefit bill.”

This rings true. What kind of a person would invent a new benefit and then cut it, before it has even been implemented, unless external pressure was at work.  IDS has done this twice: with Universal Credit and then again with PIP.

IDS is not concerned about disabled people, but he has not claimed to be. On his own account, he is resigning due to the impossibility of implementing “the government’s vision of a new welfare-to-work system” during a period of self-imposed austerity.

His resignation letter rings true, and cuts to the heart of this Tory government’s failure: needless cuts are even undermining the pet projects of the party’s right wing.

Bella Caledonia

“Stop naming us” say MPs who voted for disability benefit cuts

disability benefits

Conservative MPs who voted for £30 a week cuts in benefits for disabled people have asked today for people to stop naming them on social media so they can continue to claim huge expenses and lie about giving a shit.

London Mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith angrily hit back that there were any conflicts of interest in his patronage of a disability charity. “What’s £30 anyway? I claim that for my pre-dinner drinks on a week-night. But putting it on twitter makes it look like a lot. It’s completely unfair and unrepresentative. People need to stop noticing these things.”

Indeed the sentiment has been echoed throughout the country amongst MPs made to feel mean by people noticing that they voted to effectively withdraw support from some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Nick Boles MP who claimed over £140,000 in expenses last year said that he was shocked, outraged and appalled that his name had been plastered over Facebook.

“Facebook should be ashamed of themselves. What about that tax deal we did for them? I’m off to voice my indignation to other like minded people over an evening of publicly funded champagne and canapés.”

Portsmouth South MP, Flick Drummond, said “I care deeply. When I was out having dinner in a Michelin starred restaurant recently, on parliamentary business and subsequently claiming the whole thing on expenses, I considered the plight of disabled people and one solitary tear rolled down my cheek, at least metaphorically. I had to ask the waiter to wipe it from my cheek with a gold embossed napkin. Then I came up with a snide comment about them probably causing the 2007 credit crunch through their laziness, threw my head back and laughed like a horse. But that’s no reason to put my picture on Facebook along with facts about my voting habits.

source:News Toad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zero-hours contracts: 801,000 workers on zero-hours terms

Worker

The number of workers on a zero-hours contract for their main job stood at 801,000 in late 2015, up by 104,000 from a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.

That meant 2.5% of the employed UK workforce was on such a contract.

ONS statistician Nick Palmer said some of this rise could reflect greater recognition of “zero-hours” contracts.

However, he added: “There’s also nothing to suggest this form of employment is in decline.”

In its report, the ONS said there were about 1.7 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of hours in November, meaning that many workers had more than one zero-hours contract.

The previous estimate, for May 2015, was 2.1 million, but the ONS said that the estimates could be affected by seasonal factors and should not be directly compared.

Those on zero-hours contracts were more likely to be young people, part-time workers, women, or those in full-time education when compared with other people in employment.

Someone on a zero-hours contract worked an average of 26 hours a week. About a third of those on a zero-hours contract wanted to work longer, with most wanting more hours in their current job, as opposed to a different job that offered more hours.

In comparison, only 10% of other people in other types of employment wanted more hours, the ONS said.

The TUC condemned the rise in zero-hours contracts as “a nightmare for workers”.

TUC research found that average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers were £188, compared with £479 for permanent employees.

source:BBC NEWS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lords forced to accept ESA cuts

The Lords have chosen not to introduce new amendments to the Welfare Reform and Work Bill today.

Members of the Lords discussed MPs’ amendments on Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance. With reluctance, the House bowed to Parliamentary procedure and has accepted the primacy of of the House of Commons, because the Bill concerned finance.

Lord Low called it a black day for a half a million people.

The cuts to Universal Credit and Employment and Support Allowance will now go forward as the Bill will receive Royal Assent.

read the full story and video at Disability Rights UK

Why is the welfare state under attack when happiness economics shows it is the system most conducive to human wellbeing?by Benjamin Radcliff

Header radcliff happiness rtx19lfe

Most of us are Stoics. We think that happiness is something that individuals find for themselves: the key is to work hard for a good life, and to face adversity with defiance. This ‘rugged individualism’ might fit the American ethos, but it is at odds with a growing body of empirical research that shows that some kinds of societies produce a great deal more satisfaction with life than others. Happiness, in other words, is more social than psychological.

If so, then the obvious step, as Albert Einstein put it, is to ‘ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible’. Economists, political scientists and other social scientists in the growing field of the political economy of wellbeing, or ‘happiness economics’, are using empirical rather than speculative methods to better understand what makes for satisfying lives. Happiness economics is not to be confused with ‘positive psychology’, which approaches happiness as a matter of individual attitudes. In contrast, scholars of ‘happiness economics’ maintain that, in the aggregate, a satisfying life is rooted in objective conditions, such that the economic, political and social aspects of societies are strong predictors of individual happiness.

The policies most conducive to human wellbeing turn out to be essentially the same ones that Einstein himself originally suggested: those associated with social democracy. In reviewing the research in 2014, Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn, a political scientist at Rutgers University-Camden in New Jersey, found that ‘societies led by leftist or liberal governments (also referred to as welfare states)’ have the highest levels of life satisfaction, controlling for other factors. Looking across countries, the more generous and universalistic the welfare state, the greater the level of human happiness, net of other factors.

The phrase ‘welfare state’ is pejorative to many Americans, but it would be less so if they had a better understanding of what it implies to the rest of the world. In the abstract, a welfare state means a society that has created a system of protecting people against the insecurities of everyday life by socialising risk and reward. This implies not only the staples of social protection – guaranteed access to healthcare, unemployment insurance, and pensions – but benefits unknown in the United States, such as state-mandated sick days (in Germany, six weeks at full pay, and then up to 78 weeks at 70 per cent) and guaranteed vacation days (four weeks at full pay in Germany). More surprising perhaps are ‘family allowances’, or grants paid to all families with children, regardless of income – every German family receives 184 euros (or around $205) per month, per child. Minimum guaranteed earnings are also much higher in countries approaching the welfare state ideal – Denmark’s effective minimum wage is about $20 per hour. It is this sense of shared risk and shared prosperity that prompted the late Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme to observe that: ‘With all its faults, the welfare state remains the most humane and civilised system ever created.’

It is public policies that are humane and civilised that foster the conditions which allow people to actually enjoy being alive. That conclusion is provocative and profound, suggesting that if human wellbeing is the appropriate metric by which to judge, then the choice of left over right public policies is justified on objective, ‘scientific’ grounds. But what is this ‘science of happiness’ and how has it come to such dramatic conclusions?

read the full story over at Aeon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Osborne’s economic plan flawed, Britain may need more austerity – IFS

British Finance Minister George Osborne. © Alessandro Bianchi

Chancellor George Osborne’s new fiscal regime is deeply flawed and will either have to be suspended or will involve more punitive austerity, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has warned.

The think tank made the assessment during its annual “Green Budget” event held in central London on Monday.

The event, which was organized in association with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, involved discussions on the government’s austerity agenda, related risks to public finances, the state’s corporate taxation policy and welfare reforms.

The new fiscal regime, which has been sharply criticized by economists, is called the Charter for Budget Responsibility. It requires the government to run a budget surplus by 2020 and works to maintain a surplus in “normal” economic times – or when GDP growth is higher than 1 percent.

Full article at RT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Over Half Of All Businesses Launched On Government Enterprise Scheme Would Be Shut Down Under Universal Credit

Precariously self-employed?  The Minister of Death is coming for you.

Over half of all small businesses launched under the DWP’s flagship New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) scheme will be ruthlessly closed down when draconian new benefit conditions for self-employed people are introduced as part of Universal Credit.

New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) is the Jobcentre scheme under which claimants receive a small allowance for starting a small business for the first six months as long as they agree to occassional harassment from some dickhead advisor from the local welfare-to-work company.  It has been a huge success according to a gushing press release published by Minister of Death Priti Patel today, who claims that 80% of those who started out as self-employed on the NEA are still trading, with nine in ten of them having been in business for over 12 months.

Patel was responding to a survey carried out amongst NEA participants examining the success of the scheme.  A total of 1,500 of those who had taken part were questioned and the vast majority had been sucessfully self-employed for over one year.  The so-called support offered by NEAs was not so popular however.  Of those still trading at the time of the survey 70% had not accessed any help from their provider after the initial launch of their business.  They appreciated the money though, despite it being the miserly amount of £65 a week for the first three months on the scheme and then falling to just £33 for the remaining period.  This is because skint people need money, not lectures from some DWP busy-body whose entrepreneurial flare is so astounding that they ended up working in the fucking Jobcentre.

According to the survey the majority of these businesses were sole traders, with some of the most common sectors including cleaning, health and beauty, IT repairs or gardening.  In other words these are largely precariously self-employed workers, struggling to get by from week to week.  And this is reflected in the amount of money they are making.  Over half of small businesses (58%) questioned at the time of the survey had a monthly turnover of less than £1000, and for 37% it was under £500.  Almost of all these businesses will be forced to close when Universal Credit is fully introduced.

Savage new rules for in-work benefits are soon to mean that after one year self-employed people will be expected to be earning the equivalent of the national minimum wage for 35 hours a week if they have no young children or health condition.  That means profit, not turnover, of at least £985 per calender month at the current minimum wage rate – and as that rises this will become ever more difficult for self-employed people to achieve.  Those who do not meet this threshold will not be classed as ‘gainfully self-employed’ by the Jobcentre and so will be forced to claim mainstream unemployment benefits*.  They will then be expected to carry out ‘work related activity’, which means looking for a job, for up to 35 hours a week.  Self-employed activity may not be counted towards this and they could be stopped from doing it at all and forced to attend full-time unpaid workfare instead.  From budding entrepreneurs starting out as their own boss  to benefit scroungers at the stroke of DWP Minister’s pen.

full article at The Void

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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