Women biggest victims in coalition’s welfare blitz

The blitz of reforms to the welfare system by the Tory-led coalition has had a disproportionally negative impact on women, new analysis has revealed.

‘The Gender Impact of Welfare Reform’ report by the Scottish government found that many of the benefit changes have hit women hardest due largely to their greater caring responsibilities.

Child benefit, child tax credits and the childcare element of working tax credit, all which have come under the government’s axe, are paid to the main carer of children, usually a woman.

In April this year, 83% of in-work couples receiving child tax credits had a female payee. The income women receive from such benefits has been reduced in real terms as increases in some benefits have not matched inflation.

The key changes to benefits with a significantly larger impact on women than men are:

• Child benefit freeze from 2011 to 2014, and 1% uprating from 2014 to 2016.
• Reduction of child benefit for households where an individual earns above £50,000, and removal where one individual earns above £60,000.
• Reduction in the proportion of childcare costs covered by working tax credit.
• Removal of the baby element of child tax credits.
• Increase in the taper rate for tax credits.
• Requirement for lone parents on income support with a youngest child aged five or six to move to JSA.
• Abolition of the health in pregnancy grant.
• Restriction of sure start maternity grants to the first child only.
• Abolition of the child trust fund.
• A system of charges for those requiring access to the new statutory child maintenance service and collection charges where the payment of maintenance is not through voluntary agreement.
• The benefit cap, which is expected to primarily impact on households with children (89% of households affected) and lone parents (50% of households affected).

The report notes that women will also lose out under the forthcoming Universal Credit system.

Unlike the current system, where different benefits can be paid to separate members of a household, UC will be paid as one single household payment.

In couple households where this is paid to the man, this will represent a loss of independent income for women, concentrating financial resources and power in the hands of one person and possibly resulting in resources not being shared equally.

According to the report, money provided to women is more likely to be spent on children’s needs than money allocated to men, meaning the move to a household benefit payment could reduce spending on children.

The analysis also highlights growing concerns that other Universal Credit changes could mark the start of a return to a ‘male breadwinner’ model in dual headed households.

Launching the report today, deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “It is already clear that the UK government’s benefit reform programme unfairly impacts on some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

“However, this report also shows there are adverse consequences for women, particularly mothers and their children, who could be worse off due to Westminster’s welfare cuts.

“We are doing what we can, within the powers and resources we have, to help people in Scotland who are affected by these unfair reforms. This includes providing an additional £9.2 million towards our new £33m Scottish Welfare Fund. The new fund has already helped more than 20,000 people, and has the capacity to support around 200,000.

“However, mitigating the whole range of these cuts will simply not be possible. The only solution is for this Parliament to have full powers of independence so that we can devise policies to benefit the Scottish people and ensure fair and decent support for all.”

Learning disabled persecuted by job centre computerised systems

Unlike everything else in ‘Benefit Tales’ , which is copied form other sources, this is a personal story.

Had a distressing conversation with a couple of people suffering from learning disability and getting grief from the job center. The first doesn’t want to apply for ESA (even though he gets low rate DLA) because he has worked for 20 years and just wants to work again. But now the job center is insisting he does everything online, and he is not good with written words, is useless at form filling and cannot use a computer. The jobcenter staff tell him it is not their job to assist him with forms and applications. Their online job search systems form a barrier he cannot pass in order to look for a job.

The second is in a similar position but when she asked for help with the online system at the job center, the person she was speaking to laughed and mocked her. She is very distressed and frightened to go back, but if she doesn’t, she will be sanctioned and lose all income.

There must be hundreds of thousands of people in the same position, unable even to use help forums because of illiteracy, and with nowhere at all to turn.


Six disability assessments in just over two years

Finally got my sick note from my GP this morning to go with my ESA (disability benefit)  appeal, told him i`d had 6 (work capability) assessments in just over two years, he was flabbergasted when he heard, said to me I should only be doing one per year and said why don`t I report them for harrassment, said I had but it doesn’t make any difference, waste of time but at least my appeal is complete so what happens now i`ve sent my note in, does it guaranteed me a payment? thanks!

(comment) good luck, you’ll need it

(comment) Thanks, done 3 appeals in last two years, won 2 lost 1 and done 5 assessments in just over 2 years, ridiculous!

(comment) I am waiting for assessment 7, utterly ridiculous state of affairs. Now have home assessments, GPs, Consultants are livid…as it is not a fair system…and takes too much time away from their duties…my GP and I sat down together and completed GP statement, which is on file for DWP/ATOS requests…also attached is a written list of visits to GP, re depression/anxiety caused by ATOS process…so it is there every time it goes to appeal…I have been told it is bordering on harassment.! Last panel apologised and dismissed case before got to meeting.

Attacks on disabled people still rife – one year on from Paralympics triumph…

The Paralympic Games FAILED to improve the lives of disabled people or change the attitudes of the wider public, If anything it has done exactly the opposite, the uneducated wider public think all disabled people can perform like the Supa Crips that took part in the games whereas we know the real truth.

The Disabled participants at the games were used by the politicians and the media to continue the abuse of disabled people on an everyday basis, nothings changed,  a few supa crips have achieved their personal goals forgetting their fellow disabled citizens in the process.

Being abused in the streets and shops is now an everyday thing for disabled people, disabled people are now the new Blacks, how long will it be before abuse of the disabled is taken as seriously as being Black???

Paul Smith – Founder – Atos Victims Group


Success of GB athletes fails to alter attitudes, as poll shows widespread verbal and physical abuse

The vast majority of disabled people in Britain feel there has been no improvement in attitudes towards them a year after the Paralympics and many feel stigmatised as “benefit scroungers” while suffering hostility and abuse, a leading charity has warned.

Campaigners said the sea change in perceptions of people with disabilities generated by the London 2012 Games has been eroded by misleading rhetoric from politicians and within the media about welfare payments and a crisis in living standards for the disabled caused by spending cuts.

Twelve months to the day after the opening ceremony for the Paralympics, the host city for the Games – which thrust athletes such as Jonnie Peacock and Ellie Simmonds into the same spotlight as Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis – has one of the highest rates of attacks on disabled people.

Universal Credit ‘claimant commitment’: no choice, no law, no money – no appeal


IMPORTANT: this article is now here as a place-holder, pending clarification from the DWP – as even veteran DWP employees can’t agree whether the WRAG sanction information is accurate. See here for more information.


Please share widely.

In just a few short weeks, the new Universal Credit benefit system starts to roll out, albeit more slowly than originally planned (but already in operation in pilot areas). This new benefits system rolls a wide variety of benefits into a single process, including unemployment benefit – and crucially, it extends ‘conditionality’ even to people who are already working, so that penalties can be applied to people for not having enough hours, or if they are not considered to be trying hard enough to get more hours.

The government’s ‘policy aims’ for this new system state that:

Universal Credit is designed to ensure that for people who can, work is still the best route out…

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These disability deniers have no incentive to do the right thing

Mike Sivier's blog

Those of you who read the comments on this blog will be familiar with Nick. He’s a gentleman who has been ill for a very long time. The effects of his illness are readily apparent just by looking at him – he describes himself as having the appearance of an inmate in a Japanese POW camp during World War Two.

The Department of Work and Pensions still wanted to tell him he was able to seek work; they only stopped trying to cut his benefits because his MP intervened.

This is how he describes the attitude of the Coalition government: “David Cameron … is not to be trusted as he has a way of killing people in a very barbaric way, the way of silence, in the privacy of one’s home, to have a letter dropped on them to place that person in a deliberate panic, knowing and hoping it…

View original post 1,567 more words

Tenant slashes wrist in housing office after being driven to despair by bedroom tax

TORMENTED former miner attempted suicide in front of staff because he couldn’t cope with running up rent arrears as a result of the hated tax.

A MAN driven to despair by the bedroom tax attempted suicide in a council housing office yesterday.

Staff looked on in horror as tormented Lawrence Keane slit his wrists in a reception area after asking for help with rent arrears he had run up as a result of the hated tax.

The vulnerable 58-year-old said: “I stood up and asked them if they wanted my blood because that’s all I had left to give. I started hacking at both my arms.”

Former miner Lawrence made the suicide bid at Lochgelly Community Centre in Fife at 9am. After cutting his arms, he stood with his arms at his side, letting blood drip on to the floor. He was treated at Victoria Infirmary in Kirkcaldy and released.

Lawrence, who suffers from severe depression and anxiety attacks, fought back tears as he told how the bedroom tax and rent arrears pushed him over the edge.

Surrounded by his family, he said: “I got a letter from the council last week and I have stayed inside for 10 days worrying about it. It told me I owed a lot of money and that my rent was going up £28 a fortnight because I had an empty room in my flat. I didn’t know what to do. I was getting more and more angry and stressed about it. I woke, got a vegetable knife and went to the community centre.”

Lawrence, who has a grown-up son, was speaking with the full support of his furious family.

In the letter, Lawrence was told he owes Fife Council £399 and that his rent for his two-bedroom flat has increased because he lives alone.

Like many others, he just can’t afford to pay the bedroom tax. Lawrence is on disability allowance and receives a small miner’s pension. Once he’s paid his utility bills, he has very little left to live on. He has lived alone in his ground-floor flat for 14 years. He has few possessions and his tiny home is sparsely decorated and furnished. He rarely drinks and “treats himself” to a roll-up cigarette and a small bottle of beer “every now and again”.

When our reporter visited, Lawrence’s fridge was virtually empty. He didn’t even have tea bags or milk to make a hot drink.

Last night, his brother Michael, 60, and sister-in-law Harriet, 57, said the bedroom tax and welfare cuts were hitting vulnerable people the hardest.

Michael said: “We support Lawrence as best as we can. I don’t know what I would have done if he’d succeeded in his suicide attempt. The extra rent he was asked to pay was the final straw. He was so stressed he couldn’t even tell us about it. We’ve been trying to get him help for weeks – medically, psychologically and through the council – but no one has really listened. How many Lawrences will it take for the Government to realise how dangerous and unfair the bedroom tax is?”

Harriet added: “We asked the council to move him to a single-bedroom bungalow but they haven’t. They now hit him with this new rent demand. The bedroom tax targets the weakest in society. Lawrence and other vulnerable people like him are just names and numbers on a computer screen.”

by James Moncur in the ‘Daily Record’, 30th August 2013. Read more here: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/tenant-slits-wrist-housing-office-2237582

Bedroom tax could cause Christmas homelessness crisis, Plaid warn

Landlord possession claims and court orders issued after the introduction of the tax in April saw double digit rises in the three months to June

Welsh families are being driven out of their homes by the UK Government’s bedroom tax, Plaid Cymru has said, as official figures show an increase in the number of houses repossessed by landlords since the controversial levy was introduced.

Landlord possession claims and court orders issued after the introduction of the tax in April saw double digit rises in the three months to June. Possession claims by landlords climbed by 11% and court orders rose by 16%, according to Ministry of Justice data.

Up to 78% of the claims came from the sector affected by the bedroom tax – the social housing sector, which includes council and housing association owned properties.

But statisticians stress the possession action figures are not a concrete guide to how many homes have been repossessed as not all court orders result in repossessions. Also repossessions can occur without a court order being made.

But Plaid Cymru’s Housing and Regeneration spokesperson Jocelyn Davies warned the tax could bring devastation to many families by Christmas as their savings are used up and they face bigger heating and energy costs.

She said: “I am extremely concerned that by Christmas we are going to be at crisis levels. Just how bad does it have to get before the Westminster Government realises the devastation their policies are inflicting upon the poorest in society?”

Ms Davies called on the Welsh Government to mitigate the impact of the tax through a policy of no evictions for those who find themselves in financial difficulties as a result of it.

The bedroom tax, imposed on working age social housing tenants, sees a 14% reduction in rent payments for those with one spare room and 25% for two. UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith has said it is unfair to expect taxpayers to subsidise people to have homes with spare rooms they do not need. Critics suggest there is not enough social housing to move them all to smaller accommodation.

John Puzey, director of homelessness charity Shelter Cymru, said the bedroom tax is causing “huge stress and disruption for families and communities across Wales”.

Mr Puzey said tenants who have their benefit cut for a spare bedroom in social housing would get the full costs covered of smaller accommodation in the private sector, even though the rent is almost always higher. He added: “However, we know that many social tenants are going to try to struggle on, cutting back on food or heating in order to try to make up the difference.

“But even this isn’t enough as these increases in repossessions and court orders suggest and, unfortunately, we are likely to see many more tenants facing the risk of losing their family home.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said around 40,000 households in Wales are worse off since the introduction of the bedroom tax and councils are suggesting more people than ever are applying for emergency help to pay the rent. Up to £750,000 is being offered by the Welsh Government for advice, landlord liaison and face-to-face contact with tenants having problems meeting their housing costs.

“We are committed to doing all we can to find ways of helping tenants to mitigate the effects of this damaging policy,” the spokesman said.

By Darren Devine in ‘Wales Online’, 29th August 2013. Read the rest of this article here: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/bedroom-tax-could-cause-christmas-5799195