New report shows more working families in poverty

2/3 of children in poverty have a working parent

new report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that most poor people now live in households where someone is working and that those over 60 are now the least likely group to be in income poverty.

The report shows that the old link between worklessness and child poverty has reduced, with the proportion of children living in workless households decreasing from 1 in 4 in 1994/5 to 1 in 6 in 2014/15. However, the report continues that as of 2014/15, two-thirds of children classified as living below the poverty line had at least one parent who was working.

Dubbed by the report as “the new poor”, this section of middle income families with children, now receive up to 30% of their income from the state; an almost 50% increase in 20 years. Additionally, half of these middle income families also live in rented accommodation instead of being owner-occupiers.

One reason for this growing income gap between young and old was that pensioners have experienced a “strong growth” in benefits and more people over 60 are still working. Since 2010 the state pension has risen according to the “triple lock” – whichever is the higher of inflation, earnings or 2.5%. Pensioners are also entitled to non-means-tested winter fuel payments, free bus travel and free prescriptions. By contrast young people have failed to benefit from an improving jobs market as quickly as some other age groups.

Turn2us Comments

Turn2us Chief Executive Simon Hopkins commented: “We welcome this report from the IFS which shows that, despite record levels of employment, more and more working people are living in poverty. Clearly, employment is no longer a bar to poverty and it’s crucial that there remains a sustained effort to ensure that people are aware of the practical help that is available.

read more: https://www.turn2us.org.uk/About-Us/News/New-report-shows-more-working-families-in-poverty

Care should be based on assessed need, not resources says LGO

Councils should ensure that their care provision is determined by an individual assessment of needs despite financial pressures, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has ruled.

The LGO’s recommendation came in response to an investigation into Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council’s attempts to make blanket reductions to the support it gave to vulnerable people without first assessing their needs.

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council decided to cut the hours it offered for respite care in order to make budgetary savings, and applied a blanket restriction of four weeks’ per annum respite regardless of the individual needs of carers in its area.

The LGO was contacted by a couple who care for their sister with learning disabilities and dementia. They complained their respite care allowance had been halved by the council from eight weeks a year to just four, without social workers first conducting a needs assessment.

The couple were told by social workers that the decision affected all users and after complaining to the council, they contacted the Ombudsman.

The LGO wrote to the council asking for information about the case. Instead of providing the information requested, the council acknowledged it had reduced the respite in error and offered to settle the complaint, reinstating the couple’s respite to eight weeks a year and also awarding any respite owed.

Further clarification was sought, and the council accepted it had reduced respite care without carrying out a full needs assessment and recognised the instruction given to social work teams had been too rigidly applied and without proper regard to people’s individual needs and circumstances. The LGO’s investigation identified others may have been affected by the application of the policy.

Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman, said: “Councils have a duty to assess people’s care needs and provide services at a level appropriate to those needs regardless of the limited budgets they may have.

read more here: http://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=27796%3Acare-should-be-based-on-assessed-need-not-resources-says-lgo&catid=52&Itemid=20

Disabled man left with malnutrition after waiting EIGHT MONTHS for benefits he was owed

Thomas O’Donnell, who suffers from epilepsy, depression, arthritis and memory loss became suicidal because of the delays, his local MP said

A disabled man was left with malnutrition after waiting EIGHT MONTHS for benefits he was due.

The shocking case of Thomas O’Donnell was revealed in Parliament by Liverpool MP Luciana Berger, who said she was “ashamed” to live in a country where desperately ill people are facing serious delays in getting help.

She told how Mr O’Donnell suffered from epilepsy, depression, arthritis and memory loss – yet was made to wait eight months for his Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

The payment is intended to cover the additional costs claimants face because of their condition, such as taxi fares to hospital, higher utility bills, or specialist equipment.

Ms Berger said: “Thomas O’Donnell originally made his claim for PIP in August 2013. The months went on without him getting an assessment, and he fell into real financial difficulty.

“He was struggling to pay his rent, and he couldn’t afford his bills. By time he came to me in March of this year, Thomas was suicidal.

“Eight months on and he was still waiting for a decision. His epilepsy was causing him to have daily, violent fits, and he was surviving on just £30 a week.

“He didn’t have cooking or washing facilities in his home. And he didn’t have any food.

“After months of helping Mr O’Donnell navigate an impossible system and raising his case on the floor of this House, he was eventually awarded the money that he was entitled to.

“But eight months of waiting and the hardship and strain had taken its toll – his doctor confirmed that he was suffering from malnutrition…

“I am appalled that my constituent was suffering from malnutrition here in the United Kingdom in 2014.”

She also revealed the case of her constituent Trudie Ann Birchall who was forced to wait five months for her PIP payments after being diagnosed with cervical cancer, the Liverpool Echo reports.

She added: “Since the introduction of PIP, thousands of cancer patients have been left in the dark, with at least 4,500 cancer patients waiting six months or more to find out whether they will even be awarded the benefit.”

read more: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/disabled-man-left-malnutrition-after-3795893

Shameful and shambolic: the worst of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare legacy

The former Work and Pensions Secretary’s legacy to the welfare system is one of inefficiency, division, and cruelty.

When Iain Duncan Smith – or IDS, as we know him – first took over the reins at the Department for Work and Pensions many believed the failed party leader had finally found his niche. “A round peg in a round hole,” a BBC profile described the newly appointed cabinet minister at the time.

The “Easterhouse epiphany” nearly a decade earlier had framed IDS as having “converted” to fighting for social justice, so moved was he by the poverty he encountered on the Glaswegian estate. Duncan Smith, the Great Social Reformer, his friends declared. And now, 14 years after his epiphany, he is attempting to cement a legacy following a dramatic resignation.

Allies of Duncan Smith have come out in their droves portraying a man with the poor and vulnerable in society at the centre of his heart. But over his five-year “fiefdom” (his colleague’s word, not mine) at the DWP, both the policies and rhetoric are at odds with this description.

Sanctions help claimants “focus and get on”, IDS claimed just two weeks ago during a meeting with a councillor in Belsize Park. He didn’t, however, confirm whether those were the claimants his department invented and attempted to pass off as genuine people in the summer of 2015.

Duncan Smith will say that he inherited benefit sanctions from his predecessors. But during his five-year term, the sanctions regime has become increasingly bureaucratic and excessively punitive. Claimants can now have their benefit payments stopped for anything between four and 156 weeks.

While I can’t say I’ve met people who confess a sanction has helped them to “focus and get on”, I have met a man who was forced to walk seven miles to the nearest foodbank for three days’ worth a food. Another who, over the 2014 Christmas period, had to beg on the streets of Manchester city centre and search through bins for food, after being sanctioned. And I was told by an adviser at one emergency food centre that a family, who couldn’t afford nappies for their child, was forced to improvise with a carrier bag and kitchen paper.

Then there’s David Clapson – the man who died 18 days after his benefits were sanctioned.

When his body was found by his sister Gill in July 2013, his fridge was almost bare – and because his electricity had been cut off it was useless for storing the insulin that he needed. He had just £3.44 in the bank and 5p credit on his phone. The 59-year-old former Lance Corporal died of diabetic ketoacidosis just two weeks after Job Centre staff stopped his benefits for missing two appointments. Close to his body his sister found a pile of printed CVs.

Just two weeks ago his grieving sister carried a banner to the DWP headquarters, engraved with the names of 96 people she claims to have died while on a benefit sanction. In her opinion, she told me, the sanction her brother received was a “death sentence”.

His story is not uncommon.

We’re also aware of the peer reviews the Department has undertaken. A Freedom of Information request, in 2015, revealed that 60 reviews following the death of a claimant had been carried out. A peer review, according to the DWP guidance for employees, must be undertaken when suicide is associated with DWP activity to ensure that any DWP action or involvement with the person was appropriate and procedurally correct.

Duncan Smith’s personal vanity project, Universal Credit, has also been delayed at every corner. It is the legacy he wanted to secure at the helm of the DWP, but never achieved. A policy that was supposed to have been rolled out in October 2013 and three years later, fewer than 200,000 are on its register. The latest guesstimate is now autumn 2021 – though, with his resignation, the political willpower to proceed with Whitehall’s IT nightmare could well be fading.

His Department’s removal of the spare-room subsidy – more commonly referred to as the Bedroom Tax – has caused misery for vulnerable people across the country. On the last day of parliament before the Christmas recess, the DWP quietly published, alongside 380 other government documents, an assessment of the Bedroom Tax. It found the central aim of the policy, which is to get claimants to move to smaller residences if they have an unoccupied bedroom in their home, had largely failed. Only one in ten had escaped the Bedroom Tax by moving to a smaller property.

The study added that three-quarters of the people affected had said they had cut back on food, 46 per cent had cut back on heating, 33 per cent on travel and 42 per cent on leisure.

But the most damaging legacy will be the rhetoric espoused by the Department during IDS’s tenure. Speaking last month at the Centre for Social Justice, a London-based think-tank he co-founded, he said Labour’s legacy of benefits “entrapped individuals . . . and created a growing underclass”. He added that his benefits cap “said the welfare system is not a bottomless pit of cash . . . the system was there to help if you need it, but we would not tolerate excessiveness from those who wanted to take advantage.”

This “work-shy” fallacy, the myth of the scrounger, the epidemic of the so-called welfare dependent, seems to have informed and laid the foundations for a whole raft of policies at the Department for Work and Pensions. It is the idea that there are thousands of lazy, feckless people who have one intention: to sponge off state hand-outs from the comfort of their living room sofa.

DWP advertising campaigns, promoting their telephone hotline and encouraging members of the public to report suspected benefit “cheats” have fostered a climate of hostility between neighbours: where people on the same street are made to feel a degree of patriotism if they peek through their curtain windows to find the next benefits fraudster.

“I will not be shedding any tears for the evangelical, aggressive and routinely failing welfare reforms that were the personal fiefdom of the Secretary of State for the DWP,” said the Conservative MP Stephen McPartland, shortly after Duncan Smith handed in his resignation on Friday evening. My feeling is that many people across the country, and those on the Glaswegian estate where IDS first had his epiphany, will share McPartland’s sentiments.

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2016/03/shameful-and-shambolic-worst-iain-duncan-smith-s-welfare-legacy

Dying boy’s family who nearly lost their home because of harsh benefits rules win High Court battle against government

The DWP’s decision not to pay Disability Living Allowance to children in hospital long term was defeated in the Supreme Court thanks to one brave dad

At Alder Hey specialist children’s hospital in Liverpool, five-year-old Ethan Wheeler is flying down a colourful slide. The hospital and its parents’ centre, Ronald McDonald House, is as familiar to him as his home 70 miles away in Shrewsbury.

Born three months premature at his local hospital, Ethan spent the first 18 months of his life here, including three months in intensive care, and six months in a high-dependency unit. Now, regularly returning as an emergency admission, he is greeted like an old friend by doctors and nurses.

“Because of being born so early, Ethan had necrotising enterocolitis which led to him losing most of his bowel,” his mum Mell, 36, explains. “He has learning difficulties. He is non-verbal and has mild cerebral palsy. He has to be fed intravenously by me at home, and he often suffers with septicaemia and a host of other complications.”

Even so, at the beginning of Ethan’s life, his frightened, struggling family weren’t entitled to any Government support. A brutal Department for Work and Pensions ruling stated that children who had never been home from hospital, or who had spent more than 84 days as an in-patient, should not receive Disability Living Allowance.

Last year, parents Lynette and Craig Mathieson won a four-and-a-half year fight against this injustice in the Supreme Court in the name of their son Cameron, who died aged five at Alder Hey.

Thanks to Cam’s Law, which came into effect just a few days ago, over 1,000 parents have already been given the support they desperately need.

Today, Mell and Ethan have returned to the hospital to thank Craig. “You don’t need to thank me,” he says. Ethan’s big smile is all Craig needs to see.

Real Britain first took up Craig’s campaign two years ago.

While Cam had been bravely battling a rare ­combination of Cystic Fibrosis and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, his parents told me they had come close to destitution. In 2010, desperately sick Cam spent his 84th night in hospital, meaning their state support was abruptly cut off. In total, their son had spent over three years of his life at Alder Hey.

“We came close to destitution, and being on the street,” Craig, from Warrington, told me. “I will fight this policy in every court in the land until the Queen herself tells me there is nothing more I can do.”

I believed him.

Cameron had died in 2012, but his parents were carrying on his fight for other families.

read more: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/dying-boys-family-who-nearly-8466615

‘No money for over a month’: how benefit delays lead to hunger

A new study finds errors and delays in the benefits system forces many claimants to turn to food banks

Some useful reading for the new work and pensions secretary Damian Green: another report providing compelling evidence that the most significant factors driving UK food bank use are problems caused or exacerbated by the welfare system he oversees.

Still Hungry, a detailed study published this week by West Cheshire food bank, says benefit-related issues accounted for 41% of all referrals to its services over two years. Its findings are in line with national food bank research, and it reaches similar conclusions to other studies as to why people end up in food banks.

Most of West Cheshire’s six recommendations on how to reduce the rising numbers of people dependent on its charity food handouts focus on welfare policy: more efficient jobcentre administration, a less punitive sanctions system, adequate levels of benefit payment, and a properly functioning local welfare safety net.

The study shows how benefits error, delays and sanctions cause chaos and misery by effectively shutting off income to vulnerable claimants already teetering on the financial brink. Here’s the experience of Alice, a West Cheshire food bank user:

“Alice’s husband (51 years old) was on ESA as he previously had a stroke and an epileptic fit. A few weeks ago he was told he was fit for work and he should sign on for JSA. As a result of this he was sent on a work programme to college in Ellesmere Port, had another stroke and epileptic fit at college and was taken to hospital where the doctors said he wasn’t fit for work. Jobcentre Plus agreed he should be on ESA. He had no money for over a month. It will be another two weeks before Alice gets any money. Alice is legally responsible for her grand-daughter.”

read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/patrick-butler-cuts-blog/2016/jul/22/no-money-for-over-a-month-how-benefit-delays-lead-to-hunger