Unpaid benefits at record level

A total of £1.7bn in benefits was not paid to those entitled to the money in 2015-16 owing to fraud and error, a new record rate of underpayment.

An increase led to 1% of benefits being unpaid during the year, Department for Work and Pensions figures reveal.

A year ago, a committee of MPs told the government that delayed benefits meant families were going hungry.

The government said it was providing more help to claimants to provide accurate information.

Nearly 65% of underpaid benefits – the equivalent to about £1bn a year – was the result of inaccurate information from claimants, it said.

People on Employment and Support Allowance – a benefit for those who are unable to work owing to illness or disability – were underpaid the most, with underpayments totalling £350m during the year.

read more here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38260831?SThisFB

Living in a tent in my house.

This appeared on my Facebook feed today:

a. Heating my home, not affording to pay rent and ending up homeless and living in a tent in a field
b. Not heating my home, paying my rent and living in a tent in my house and therefore keeping my home”

Last time I stated that I was living in a tent in my bedroom I got mixed reactions. Some people openly laughed, some people just thought I was aiming to get sympathy (a neighbour of mine treated me like I was begging ‘I’ll have to save my scraps for you’), some people empathised.

I’m not out for charity or sympathy and the neighbour is a Tory (so what else did I expect). I just want to highlight the terrible place Britain has become, and maybe give people who are struggling to heat their homes an idea that they may not have thought of. My problems are tiny compared to the other victims of this evil regime!

I work 19.5 hrs per week (reduced from full time due to mobility issues). I have no huge credit card bills etc (as I have already come to arrangements over my debts). I get no benefits except for HB.

I get hit by 2 x bedroom tax (so £25 lost from housing benefit). I applied for help with prescription costs (I need 2 per month) – refused as apparently I have ‘spare’ money so I have had no medication for the past 3 months to control and treat my mobility issues (medicines now seem to come under ‘luxury’ items).

My house runs on economy 7 so storage heaters charge at night and I get up in the middle of the night once per week to do batch cooking to freeze, so I can microwave the meals during the week. I am now vegetarian and part of this choice is due to the fact meat is expensive.

As I can’t afford to heat my home, after a lot of research on the internet I decided to put up a tent in my bedroom so I have a warm space (last year was unbearable spent most of the winter in bed with 2 x hot water bottles, thermal underwear, onesy, jumper, gloves, socks and hat when not at work and skin on face still felt like it would fall off! Couldn’t face that again!)

The tent has surpassed expectations! It was an old large tunnel tent I had in the attic and it was supposed to have been thrown away as it was no longer waterproof and I decided to adapt it. I have had to put hooks on the wall and nails in the floor where the pegs should go but it has worked out (a self supporting dome tent would have been easier but then there would have been the problem of how to get the bed in). I have covered it in fleeces and put draft excluders and rolled up blankets around the bottom edges to keep the cold out.

It is heated by a small storage heater. The whole front of this tent unzips and I have put it flush with the wall that the heater is on (the heater runs on number 3 out of 9 and it is just enough to keep the space warm). There is now no other heat on in the house (I will put another storage heater on if it goes below freezing to protect the water pipes). Bit nippy when I want to go out of the tent though brrr….

I suggest people try this if they are struggling to heat their homes. It’s better than paying for heating then finding yourself homeless and small children would find sleeping in a tent fun. I know that people shouldn’t have to live like this, it’s a disgrace that the Right wing politicians have caused this to happen, I’m just sharing my experience to get people thinking around the issue.

a. Heating my home, not affording to pay rent and ending up homeless and living in a tent in a field
b. Not heating my home, paying my rent and living in a tent in my house and therefore keeping my home

I know a lot of people can’t pay rent even without heating their homes and that is a testament to how despicable, heartless and evil this government is! In the scheme of things I am only just touching the hardship that is facing the poor and disabled in this country!


The DWP Has Lost Almost 60% Of Appeals Against Removing Disabled People’s Benefits

Campaigners said the new figures demonstrated, yet again, that the welfare system was failing people who were ill or disabled.

Almost 60% of ill or disabled individuals who have challenged a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) ruling that they are “fit to work” have won their case at tribunals.

The DWP’s own figures show 58% of people who appealed against the loss of the employment support allowance (ESA), a benefit awarded to people who are unable to work due to illness or disability, for claims started between July and September last year had the jobcentre’s decision later reversed on appeal.

These are the most up-to-date statistics on appeals available, due to the DWP only recording the outcomes of completed appeals – a process that can take months.

Earlier this year, statistics released in March showed 52% of appeals lodged between October 2014 to December 2014 were upheld.

The latest figures were condemned by disability charity Mencap, which told BuzzFeed News they demonstrated a “broken benefits system that continues to fail sick and disabled people”.

Rossanna Trudgian, Mencap’s head of campaigns, said it was those most in need – who “desperately rely” on ESA – that were being failed. Without it, they would struggle to remain part of society and maintain their often fragile health.

“Behind these numbers, though,” she said, “are real people who live in fear of being assessed for their disability by people who don’t have full understanding of their condition” and “continue to incorrectly assess disabled people as being fit-for-work”.

Mother of two Charlie Foulkes, 43, was left without her full support after an assessor ruled she was “fit for work” in January of this year. Eventually, in May, a tribunal took the decision to restore her ESA entirely.

“I know this sounds melodramatic but you kind of just end up thinking, Do they just really want people to die, just to get rid of them?” she told BuzzFeed News. “It’s vile.”

The former university worker, who suffers from psoriatic arthritis, psoriasis, and migraines, had been on welfare for 10 years before her reassessment. “They said that I looked fit and well,” she noted. “They just don’t listen at all. They tell a lot of lies.”

She appeared in front of a tribunal in May. “Within 20 minutes the judge had decided that she didn’t want to hear any more and gave me full marks for just the first two descriptors, based on my mobility,” Foulkes said, “so that was it.”

But, she said, she remains very worried about the future, and has been left with severe anxiety and stress as a result of the appeals process. “It just seems that the government doesn’t care about anyone’s medical problems,” she said. “It is all just how many people they can get off benefits.”

read more here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/rosebuchanan/the-dwp-has-lost-xx-of-appeals-against-removing-disabled-peo?utm_term=.pevoo68MO#.ds0XXWBJG

As temperatures drop, Lily’s charity is working to keep homeless people alive –

By Frances Ryan in the Guardian:

“It’s the increasing numbers that shocks people,” says Lily Axworthy, 25, from the Greater Manchester Winter Night Shelter (GMWNS). “I walk to work and see eight or nine people sleeping in doorways. There’s people sleeping in the car park where I leave my car. And that’s only what you can see. People are under bridges, in parks, in tents.”

The story of GMWNS – set up by Lily, a charity worker, in 2015 – could be a snapshot of poverty in modern Britain. The scale is spiralling, austerity has fostered it, and – miles away from ministers in Westminster – it’s a team of volunteers left to pick up the pieces.

In January, the shelter ran as a small pilot project to help a few dozen street sleepers. “The need was obvious,” Lily says simply – and six weeks ago, the shelter began a six-month stretch to get hundreds of people through the cold weather.

GMWNS gets no statutory funding. All money comes from charity, grants and the public (even the camp beds are donated), and it is staffed by volunteers – almost 200 of them: nurses, solicitors, teachers, students and ex-street sleepers.

The shelter itself is seven different “donated” venues – mainly churches – that open nightly on rotation through the week (it keeps costs and red tape down). Twelve beds are set up in each of them. Lily knows that’s nowhere near enough for the number of rough sleepers in Manchester. “But it’s 12 more than there would be otherwise,” she says.

The youngest men they see are in their early 20s (“With the cuts to housing benefit, I think we’ll get more soon,” Lily says) but ages range up to late 60s. “They’re waiting for the pensions, hoping that will be some income,” she says.

What hits hard is that the men coming to the winter shelter aren’t people who have been homeless for 10 or 20 years. It’s that so many are new now. As Lily puts it: “They never thought in a million years they’d be homeless.”

Few give details about why they’re here. Embarrassment and shame are common. “They say ‘I’ve fallen on hard times’,” Lily says. “The thing is, the welfare system is designed for hard times. And it’s not functioning now.” Many she sees have been hit by benefit and housing problems, high private rents (“they’re evicted for rent arrears and can’t afford anywhere else”), relationship breakdown and the lack of social housing.

At the same time as it’s becoming harder for people to keep a roof over their head, the services that once would have helped them – debt advice, mental health centres or mediation support (be it between landlords and tenants or families) – have been cut as well. “They just don’t exist any more,” Lily says. “Your local Citizens Advice isn’t there so you have to go to a neighbouring city, but there’s twice as many people queuing who need help.”

read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/08/manchester-homeless-crisis-cocktail-cuts-charities-shelter

Big disability charities ‘are selling out disabled people’ by seeking DWP contracts

The country’s largest disability charities have been accused of “selling out” disabled people, as they look set to play a significant role in providing back-to-work services under the government’s new Work and Health Programme.

read more here: http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/big-disability-charities-are-selling-out-disabled-people-by-seeking-dwp-contracts/

Watchdogs snubbed by minister after raising concerns over UN ‘violations’ report

Four human rights and equality watchdogs have been snubbed by the minister for disabled people after raising serious concerns about how her government dismissed a report that found it guilty of “grave or systematic” violations of the UN disability convention.

The UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD) said last month that the UK government had discriminated against disabled people across three key parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

But the government responded to the report by dismissing its conclusions and all 11 of its recommendations.

read more here: