Single parents face £1,000 ‘love tax’ if they remarry or find new partner

Lib Dem peers will seek to overturn part of new Universal Credit system that could affect up to a million people

 

Peers will be urged to block controversial welfare reforms that will impose a “love tax” of around £1,000 on single parents who get married or find a new partner.

As part of the Government’s rollout of Universal Credit, ministers promised that no one moving to the new system of benefits would see a fall in their income.

But it has now emerged that this guarantee was limited and would not apply to any claimant whose circumstances had “materially changed” once they had moved on to the new system of payments.

As a result of the exemption any single parent who moves in with a partner or gets married will have their benefits reassessed at a new less generous rate after Universal Credit is introduced from 2017.

Research suggests that there are currently up to a million single parents who could be affected by the change – which would cost them on average £1,080 a year.

On Wednesday Liberal Democrat peers will attempt to overturn the new rules when they debate the Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords. Labour has tabled a separate amendment that calls for the Government to publish an impact assessment showing the levels of benefits reductions to claimants who are moving from tax credits to Universal Credit.

Read more here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/single-parents-face-1000-love-tax-if-they-remarry-or-find-new-partner-a6835596.html

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Tenants facing eviction ‘told to wait for bailiffs before leaving’

This story is from Grimsby, but this is common practice amongst some councils, including my local ones.

An alarming number of private tenants are being told by their local council to ignore eviction notices served by their landlords – and to wait for bailiffs to turn up before moving out – in order to qualify for rehousing support, according to new findings released today.

Almost half (49 per cent) of tenants who’ve been served with a section 21 notice by their private landlord say they have been told to ignore it by their local council or an advice agency such as Shelter or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB).

The figures shine a light on the scale of the issue, which was recently highlighted by The Daily Telegraph, and has been exacerbated by the increasing use of private landlords by local authorities to discharge their housing duties.

The NLA says that the advice is increasingly being offered because councils are refusing to accept tenants’ housing applications before an order for possession has been granted by a court, despite guidance from Central Government that confirms all housing applications should be accepted from the time notice is served on the tenant.

NLA Chairman Carolyn Uphill said: “We’ve always known that tenants receive this kind of advice and it’s a huge problem because it damages the confidence of landlords who work in the community to home those who aren’t able to access social housing.

“There is no justification for prolonging the stress and uncertainty brought by a possession case. Advice like this creates unnecessary strain on tenants, landlords, and the courts service, which must first hear the case and order possession before Councils are prepared to carry out their statutory duties.

“Nobody should ever be told to wait until the bailiffs turn up; it makes an already unpleasant situation much worse for everyone and creates a vicious cycle of misery and spiraling costs for all involved”.

The government denied me disability benefit because I could “probably make a sandwich”

I allegedly didn’t look tired enough at my assessment to convince them that my Multiple Sclerosis-induced fatigue is real.

 

It’s probably time for me to give up on Personal Independence Payment (PIP) – the non-means-tested benefit designed to support individuals with disabilities and long-term health conditions. I was deemed unentitled to PIP, despite having Multiple Sclerosis (MS), after a ten-month process, from initial application to the court appeal at which I represented myself, and lost.

The PIP benefit is renowned for being difficult to claim, and many applicants have waited much longer than I did, and faced extreme financial hardship as a result.

Which is why I contacted my local MP regarding my experience of the PIP assessment, and the impact it’s had on my life as a person with a serious health condition. My local MP, Andrew Turner, was very polite, and promptly secured a written response for me from his colleague, the Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomlinson.

While most people might feel excited to receive a fancy envelope with the House of Commons portcullis printed on it, I felt like burying myself in the garden (if only I didn’t have muscle weakness and ridiculous fatigue, right?). Unfortunately, the capability you might have to bury yourself in the garden isn’t one of the questions on the PIP application form, though it may as well be. And, spoiler alert, the letter didn’t give me any hope of claiming PIP, nor did it provide me with a cure for my incurable disease.

Read more: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/welfare/2016/01/government-denied-me-disability-benefit-because-i-could-probably-make

Savage Social Care Cuts A ‘Silent Catastrophe’ For Vulnerable People

Damning new report highlights the catastrophic human cost of social care cuts on vulnerable groups.

Cuts to social care spending in Cambridgeshire are intensifying the “catastrophe” for vulnerable people and families throughout the county, according to a new report from Cambridge Commons.

Cuts of £58 million a year made over the last two years alone are planned to escalate to £128 million a year by 2019, the report reveals.

Read more here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/savage-social-care-cuts-a-catastrophe-for-vulnerable-people/

 

 

Legal aid reforms scrapped by Michael Gove

A major restructuring of the criminal legal aid system in England and Wales has been scrapped, Justice Secretary Michael Gove has confirmed.

Mr Gove said he had “decided not to go ahead” with plans to cut duty solicitor contracts at police stations and magistrates’ courts by two thirds.

He also suspended for 12 months a second 8.75% cut in legal aid fees.

Labour shadow justice secretary Lord Falconer said the government’s plans had “descended into utter chaos”.

The proposed cuts – drawn up by former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling – would have reduced the number of legal aid contracts from 1,600 to 527.

However, Mr Gove said there were “real problems” in pressing ahead with the proposals.

The Ministry of Justice currently faces 99 separate legal challenges, Mr Gove said in a written ministerial statement.

“My decision is driven in part by the recognition that the litigation will be time-consuming and costly for all parties, whatever the outcome,” he said.

“I do not want my department and the legal aid market to face months if not years of continuing uncertainty, and expensive litigation, while it is heard.”

‘Doomed endeavour’

BBC legal correspondent Clive Coleman said the decision was “another reversal of a Chris Grayling policy” by Mr Gove.

Mr Gove has already eased restrictions on the access to books for prisoners and reversed previously planned cuts to barristers’ fees.

Solicitors’ associations had opposed the reforms to legal aid, warning the so-called “dual contracting” system and cutting the number of contracts would lead to inadequate access to legal advice for defendants.

A legal challenge to the reforms was heard in the High Court last year – ruling in the government’s favour.

However, Lord Falconer said the Ministry of Justice had been told the policy “would be a disaster”.

“This is a staggering admission from the Tory government and represents a final confirmation that their plans to reform criminal legal aid have descended into utter chaos.

“The government must now come clean about how much public money has been wasted on this doomed endeavour, so that ministers can be held fully accountable for this fiasco.”

Mark Fenhalls QC, from the Criminal Bar Association said it had been the right decision to abandon the “flawed plans”.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35432581

A look back at the startling failure of the bedroom tax

Yesterday’s ruling should see the policy abolished

To those who have campaigned against the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ from the beginning, Wednesday’s decision by the appeal court to rule the policy discriminatory and unlawful will come as no surprise. To those who continue to defend the policy, this ruling should act as a stark reminder of its remarkable failure.

When it was first introduced by the coalition government in 2013, the bedroom tax aimed to cut the welfare bill and free up in-demand housing. The policy works by cutting the benefits tenants receive by 14% if they have one spare bedroom and a staggering 25 per cent if they have two or more.

At first, it may seem reasonable to some to cut people’s benefits if they are living in a house with one or more spare bedrooms. The idea is that this significant reduction in income will encourage the occupant to move to a house where all the rooms are used, therefore freeing up the larger property for those who require more than one room.

However, when you begin to look at the implications of the policy, as well as the failure to achieve one of its main goals, it becomes clear that the bedroom tax has been a disaster from the off.

According to the government’s own research published in 2014, almost 60 per cent of those affected by the bedroom tax were in rent arrears as a result of the policy. Furthermore, according to a survey carried out by the National Housing Federation in the same year, around one in seven families had received eviction letters and faced the prospect of losing their homes.

Even more worryingly, research carried out by the government’s Department for Work & Pensions found that three-quarters of those affected by the policy have had to cut back on food, while 46% had to cut back on heating and 33 per cent on travel. Clearly, the bedroom tax is having an extreme impact on those who are already struggling, forcing them to scale back on the essentials. Such a situation is simply unacceptable and confirms the fears many raised when the policy was first introduced.

In addition, many have also criticised the bedroom tax for discriminating against vulnerable people. For example, Wednesday’s ruling by the appeal court dealt with a case involving a seriously disabled child who requires overnight care in a specially adapted room. The other case involved a single mother living in a three-bedroom council house fitted with a secure panic room to protect her from a violent ex-partner. In both cases, judges ruled that the bedroom tax amounted to unlawful discrimination

Read more here:http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/a-look-back-at-the-startling-failure-of-the-bedroom-tax-a6838596.html

The health and wellbeing of children

Amendment to Welfare Reform and Work Bill requires DWP to report annually on
the health and wellbeing of children

The following amendment has been tabled and will be put to a vote by Lord Ramsbotham and Baroness Meacher on Monday at the report stage of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.

​It is a ​vital begin​​n​ing, if passed, to linking welfare to health as the word “welfare” implies

The poorest families with children in the UK are being forced deeper and deeper into debt and hunger, mental and physical illness.

Rent and council tax arrears are being enforced against shredded benefit incomes in work and unemployment.

Ever increasing rents take an ever higher proportion of incomes needed for food, fuel and other necessities.

The DWP should think about its role in the prevention of ill health rather than create ever increasing demands on the NHS for treatment.

Rev Paul Nicolson

http://www.taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk/