Thought the bedroom tax was bad? Let’s talk about cuts to council tax support

More than 2.3 million families have lost their council tax support

After fleeing domestic violence, Eve found a new job and a home for her three children. The youngest was two years old. The pay wasn’t great, as so many families find now, but the situation drastically worsened when her council tax support was cut after April 2013. Eve became one of millions suddenly liable for council tax payments, when previously she would have been exempt due to poverty. Once you miss a payment, within 14 days you can find yourself in court, as Eve did, with a fifth of her income confiscated each month. Then the bailiffs arrived. In a rented, furnished flat, there was nothing to take, but the visits made her contemplate suicide.

Much attention has been paid to the bedroom tax, but remarkably little to changes in council tax. Often they affect the same people: 380,000 have been caught by the bedroom tax and 270,000 by both the bedroom tax and cuts to council tax support. But the scope of the cuts to council tax support are extreme: more than 2.3 million families have lost out, and in the first six months of the policy, almost half a million people were issued court summons for arrears.

And as of yesterday, 250,000 low-income families will see their council tax payments increase substantially because they live in one of the 27 areas that are raising or introducing the minimum payment. Families are expected to pay between 5% and 30% of their total council tax liability – what sounds like a small sum cuts drastically into the day-to-day budgets of people already in entrenched poverty. One woman I spoke to only drank cold water and ate sandwiches rather than spend money making tea or cooking food.

read the rest of this article here: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/02/bedroom-tax-cuts-council-tax-support-poor-people

 

Cameron’s stealth cut to disability benefits is obscene – says the Telegraph

Axing the Independent Living Fund without a plausible alternative will hurt vulnerable people while saving very little money

“The test of a good society,” David Cameron said before the 2010 general election, was whether “you look after the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest”.

That test, he admitted, “is even more difficult in difficult times, when difficult decisions have to be taken.”

We are certainly living in difficult times, with plenty of difficult decisions to be made about Government spending. But while many of the welfare reforms have been popular with voters on all sides of the political divide, there is now a big question whether the latest decision passes the Prime Minister’s own personal “test of a good society”.

Today sees the end of the Independent Living Fund, a little-known benefit that affects only 18,000 people across the nation and costs taxpayers £320m a year.

The fund, started 30 years ago, makes payments of, typically, £450 to £500 a week to people with severe disabilities to enable them to live more independent lives. It funds the cost of carers and personal assistants to provide daily help with their everyday needs, even allowing some recipients to go out to work.

Yet, in these “difficult times”, the ILF will cease to exist at midnight tonight. Disability campaigners, who have fought hard against its end, say this will be catastrophic for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Their worries have been brushed aside by the Government as “scaremongering”. This is, Ministers insist, a mere administrative change that won’t leave anyone out of pocket. From tomorrow all the funds will simply be transferred to local councils for them to manage.

So why is this such a test of Mr Cameron’s good society? The answer is, as always, in the small print.

Yes, the fund’s cash is being transferred to local councils from tonight but, with just hours to go, those councils have not yet been told exactly how much money they will each get.

In addition to that, the money – which will come from the Department for Communities and Local Government rather than the Department for Work and Pensions – will not be legally ringfenced for the severely disabled. Indeed, only one third of councils have so far committed to spending the money as intended rather than simply adding the cash to their general budget.

And, given that the social care for the elderly provided by many cash-strapped councils is already scandalously poor, with carers able to spend only minutes with frail and vulnerable pensioners, we can hardly hold out much hope that the care given to the severely disabled will meet anything but their most basic needs.

Finally, to add insult to injury, the central Government funding is guaranteed for only another nine months. After that, who knows? The disabled recipients and their carers will have to wait for the next spending review to find out what their future holds.

read the rest of this story here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/politics-blog/11707492/Camerons-stealth-cut-to-disability-benefits-is-obscene.html

Half a million more children in ‘absolute poverty’ since David Cameron became Prime Minister

Half a million more children have plunged into “absolute poverty” since David Cameron became Prime Minister, figures showed.

More than four million youngsters now live below the breadline, the Department for Work and Pensions revealed.

And the number of pensioners living in poverty increased by 100,000 in a year, statistics revealed.

Families are braced for a fresh £12billion Tory raid on the welfare fund, with the fresh assault due to be unveiled in just 12 days.

But stats revealed 4.1million children are in “absolute low income” when housing costs are counted.

Kids in absolute poverty live in homes where income is less than 60% of the 2010-11 average, adjusted for inflation.

Number crunchers said 3.6million children were in absolute poverty in 2009-10, the last full year of a Labour government.

But as rent costs have soared and benefit cuts bite, the figure has climbed by 14% – and efforts to cut the number of children in relatively poverty have stalled under the Conservatives.

A total of 2.3million children – almost one in six – were in households where income is less than 60% of current average income – the same as 12 months earlier.

It means the Conservatives are set to miss a key target to abolish child poverty by 2020.

 

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/half-million-more-children-absolute-5950345

Facing psychological coercion and manipulation has become a daily part of claiming benefits

Politics and Insights

https://theconversation.com/assets/logos/logo-06bb368c6cefc24489deacdf1b92722fe048d510a19f90fade0ba79c5fb6d90d.png

Authors: Felicity Callard and Robert Stearn. Republished here with thanks.

Curing unemployment is a growth market for psychologists. Job Centres are becoming medical centres, claimants are becoming patients, and unemployment is being redefined as a psychological disorder.

Made-up ailments such as “psychological resistance to work” and “entrenched worklessness” feature in ministerial speeches and lucrative Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) contracts, without attracting a murmur of protest from professional psychologists.

Psychological explanations for unemployment – the failings of the maladjusted jobseeker – isolate, blame, and stigmatise unemployed people. They reinforce myths about “cultures of worklessness”; they obscure the realities of the UK labour market and the political choices that underpin it. The same is true of psychological prescriptions for treating unemployment.

Interventions

People claiming benefits are already subject to psycho-interventions through mandatory courses designed to promote “employability” and “job readiness”. And as we show in a new…

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DWP failed to consider welfare reform risks, says spending watchdog

Report by the National Audit Office says Department for Work and Pensions must get better at spotting potential problems with big schemes

The Department for Work and Pensions struggled to identify potential pitfalls before trying to make major changes to the welfare system, the public spending watchdog has concluded.

A report by the National Audit Office, published this morning, finds that while DWP has dealt with an “unprecented number of major programmes and reforms” since 2010, it has sometimes failed to spot risks or think about how best to measure performance.

The department has cut its administrative and programme spending by 18% since 2010, with staffing levels down 23% on 2011 levels. In spite of those cuts, the NAO points out that DWP has “introduced many reforms without significant operational problems”, and says it “deserves credit” for doing so at a time of major organisational change.

However, the watchdog says DWP has “relied too heavily on uncertain and insufficiently challenged assumptions” when introducing changes, and warns that it must be more prepared “for the possibility of failure” in future schemes.

“The department has thought too late about the management information and leading indicators it needs to monitor progress and performance,” the NAO’s report says. “The department should consider information requirements when designing how programmes will work. It has not always developed or interpreted leading indicators for major risks within programmes.”

The NAO points out that it took DWP “several weeks” to spot a backlog of claims for Personal Independence Payment, the replacement for the Disability Living Allowance benefit that provides help to meet the extra costs of being disabled.

It says the department initially made overly “optimistic assumptions” about the assessment process for claimants, and “did not leave enough time to review performance” before extending the availability of PIP.

“The challenge for the department is not to avoid ambitious targets and introduce all programmes slowly, but it should have an appropriate assessment of the risks that timetable decisions create and be explicit on the trade-offs resulting from decisions to change timetables,” the NAO says.

“The department introduced Personal Independence Payment quickly, partly to achieve projected savings to benefit spending. This limited the time available to engage with stakeholders and test assumptions. Even where the department slows down implementation to reduce operational risks, the impact of these decisions needs to be evidence-based and transparent.”

read more here: https://www.civilserviceworld.com/articles/news/dwp-failed-consider-welfare-reform-risks-says-spending-watchdog