We’re scrapping right to buy in Wales to protect vulnerable families

People should be able to get on the property ladder without it depleting our social housing stock. We must ensure everybody has a decent place to live

Housing is about so much more than having a roof over your head. A decent home means having somewhere to feel safe and secure, somewhere warm and dry that improves health rather than compromising it, an environment where children can focus on learning to help them get on in the future.

The Welsh government is committed to making this a reality for everybody. That is why the first minister has announced that we will introduce a bill to abolish the right to buy within the next year.

The introduction of the right-to-buy policy in 1981 has led to Wales losing more than 138,000 of its social housing stock. That represents a 45% reduction and forces many vulnerable people to wait longer for a home. In addition, the Welsh government is committed to continue investing £100m every year to ensure our homes are safe, warm and energy efficient and I do not want this investment lost to the private sector. Decisive action is needed to protect our social housing to make sure it is available for those who need it most.

Some may see our plans as stifling social mobility. This is not our intention. Not everyone can take advantage of the private housing markets and many families, including the vulnerable, depend on us to provide a safe, secure and affordable home. Research indicates a significant number of homes bought under the right-to-buy scheme have ended up in the private rented sector, which usually costs local people more to rent and costs the public purse more in terms of higher housing benefit.

read more: https://www.theguardian.com/housing-network/2016/jul/06/wales-government-right-to-buy-policy-social-housing

Heroes’ insult to injury Wounded troops facing legal fight with Government for compensation : Sun. — DWPExamination.

Over 1,000 servicemen and women have had their injury claims rejected or slashed by Ministry of Defence. HUNDREDS of Brit troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan are locked in legal battles with the Government over compensation payouts. Up to 1,288 servicemen and women called in lawyers after their injury claims were rejected or cut by Ministry […]

via Heroes’ insult to injury Wounded troops facing legal fight with Government for compensation : Sun. — DWPExamination.

Government sneaks out report revealing 57,000 Bedroom Tax victims fell behind on rent

The report was slipped out in a mountain of more than 300 documents on the day MPs leave Westminster for their six-week summer holiday

More than 57,000 people fell behind on their rent in just one year after being hit by the Bedroom Tax, damning new figures revealed today.

Data buried deep in the government’s 2014/15 English Housing Survey shows the vast toll of people hit by Iain Duncan Smith’s most controversial policy. When the survey was taken 364,000 households in social housing were in rent arrears. Another 348,000 had been behind on rent in the previous year.

Among those, 22% (153,800 households) blamed problems or cuts in their benefits. And 37% of that group (57,485 households) said they had benefits cut for ‘under-occupying’ their home – the hated bedroom tax.

The report was slipped out in a mountain of more than 300 documents on the day MPs leave Westminster for their six-week summer holiday.

Another 24,000 people in social housing fell behind on rent due to new systems like Universal Credit or the benefits cap.

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams said it was “yet more evidence of the total failure of the Bedroom Tax. The Discretionary Housing Payment system, which was meant to be a short term stop gap, is clearly not working. People are having to make a choice about whether they keep a roof over their heads or feed their families. The discriminatory, unfair and divisive nature of the Bedroom Tax is why Labour has consistently called for it to be abolished.”

Former Labour housing minister John Healey added: “These figures are fresh proof of the terrible impact of the cruel bedroom tax.

Read more: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/government-sneaks-out-report-revealing-8467528

Poorest ‘hit hardest’ by state pension age rises, say Age UK

Groups with low life expectancy should be able to ‘get state pension early’, say Age UK.

The poorest and most disadvantaged are set to be hit the hardest if state pension age continues to rise based on life expectancy alone, Age UK has warned.

Increases in average life expectancy have led to a rise in the state pension age in recent years – it’s currently on course to reach 67 by 2028 for both men and women.

But while most people will live to 67 and beyond, there are many – particularly men in more deprived areas and lower social classes – who are unlikely to make it to state pension age in good health.

In Glasgow City, for example, additional figures show that healthy life expectancy at birth is just 55.9 years for men and 58.5 years for women – nearly 10 years below the current state pension age.

The evidence shows that it is those in manual work or with caring responsibilities who are most likely to be hard hit by state pension age increases.

That’s why Age UK is urging the government to fully consider the impact of extending working lives on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups before making further changes.

“Pension age changes must not be based on life expectancy alone”

With healthy life expectancies varying greatly across the UK, and inequalities widening between deprived and affluent areas, Age UK is arguing that further increases to the state pension age must not be based on life expectancy alone.

Allowing people with more than 45 years of National Insurance (NI) contributions to receive their full state pension early could enable up to a quarter of a million people to enjoy a much-needed retirement after decades of physically demanding, manual work, according to a new paper by the Pensions Policy Institute (PPI), sponsored by Age UK.

read more: http://www.welfareweekly.com/poorest-hit-hardest-by-state-pension-age-rises-warns-age-uk

DWP rejects Universal Credit Alternative Payment Arrangements applications

Hundreds of landlords’ applications for Alternative Payment Arrangements (APAs) under Universal Credit are being deleted by the Department for Work & Pensions. (DWP)

Universal Credit expert Bill Irvine said he has been contacted by hundreds of members complaining the DWP is refusing to deal with their applications claiming they ‘could not open attachments’ and as a result is entitled to delete them.

The department says the applications in question have either been sent to the ‘wrong’ email address or have been rejected as they included supporting evidence documents which should not have been attached.

The members affected were those operating in Universal Credit “live” areas, using the non-secure email system set up by the DWP itself.

Mr Irvine said: “In December I advised members of the DWP’s new e-mail facility.

“Designed to replace the original procedure, which required paper applications for APAs, sent by post to the Mail Opening Unit (MOU) in Wolverhampton, the electronic option was welcomed by social and private landlords alike –  and until a month ago everything seemed to be working reasonably well.

“However, in recent weeks, I have had an influx of member e-mails, which all referred to APAs being rejected; why, was not so clear.

read more: http://news.rla.org.uk/dwp-rejects-univdit-applications/

UK joins Greece at bottom of wage growth league

TUC found that between 2007 and 2015 in the UK, real wages fell by 10.4%, the joint lowest in OECD countries

Britain has suffered a bigger fall in real wages since the financial crisis than any other advanced country apart from Greece, research shows.

A report by the TUC, published on Wednesday, shows that real earnings have declined more than 10% since the credit crunch began in 2007, leaving the UK equal bottom in a league table of wages growth.

Using data from the OECD’s recent employment outlook, the TUC found that over the same 2007-2015 period, real wages grew in Poland by 23%, in Germany by 14%, and in France by 11%. Across the OECD, real wages increased by an average of 6.7%.

The TUC found that between 2007 and 2015 in the UK, real wages – income from work adjusted for inflation – fell by 10.4%. That drop was equalled only by Greece in a list of 29 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The UK, Greece and Portugal were the only three OECD countries that saw real wages fall.

The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, who was a vocal backer of the campaign to remain in the EU, said the figures highlighted the strains on household finances even before the vote for Brexit.

read more: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/jul/27/uk-joins-greece-at-bottom-of-wage-growth-league-tuc-oecd


Right To Buy abolished in Scotland, protecting more than 15,000 social homes

Housing Minister Kevin Stewart said the move “marks a major milestone in the Scottish Government’s efforts to build a sustainable housing policy for the future”.

The UK Government’s highly controversial Right To Buy policy will be officially scrapped in Scotland from this Weekend (midnight on Sunday), protecting more than 15,000 homes available for social renting.

Between the years 1979-80 and 2014-15 a total of 494,580 council and housing association homes were sold under Right to Buy in Scotland, a policy that started with Margaret Thatcher before being revamped and extended by David Cameron, with only 163,000 being replaced.

read more here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/right-to-buy-abolished-in-scotland-protecting-more-than-15000-social-homes/

EXPOSED: the companies profiting from forced labour in the UK

A shocking Freedom of Information (FOI) request has finally revealed the organisations who profited from free, forced labour in the UK – and it was all instigated by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)

“Essentially, these multinational corporations were getting free labour – at the expense of the taxpayer via benefits payments. Furthermore, solicitors from Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) in Birmingham commented in 2012 that individuals under the MWA were being forced to work against their will, amounting to a breach of their human rights under article 4 (2) of the HRA, which states: “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”

“The names on the list are staggering, but unsurprising: Asda, Boots, the Co-op, DHL, Morrisons, Nando’s, Poundstretcher, Sainsbury’s, Somerfield, Superdrug, Tesco, The Range and WH Smith.”

Read the full article here: http://www.thecanary.co/2016/07/29/exposed-companies-profiting-forced-labour-uk/


Parents of Scottish ‘fit for work’ suicide man back call for Iain Duncan Smith prosecution

The parents of a disabled man who took his own life after being wrongly found “fit for work” have backed attempts to persuade Scottish police to investigate the actions of former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

David and Maureen Barr have both told Disability News Service (DNS) that Duncan Smith and former employment minister Chris Grayling should be prosecuted over their failure to address serious safety concerns about the work capability assessment (WCA).

Their son, also called David, and also from Fife, was just 28 when he took his own life on 23 August 2013.

Despite his history of significant mental distress, David’s parents believe the healthcare professional who assessed him – employed by the government contractor Atos – failed to contact their son’s GP or his psychiatrist for further information about his mental health.

When questioned afterwards by the Procurator Fiscal’s office – which investigates sudden deaths in Scotland – the assessor claimed he couldn’t remember if he had made any phone calls, according to David’s father.

The Atos assessor completed David’s assessment by concluding, in June 2013: “He reports self harm in the past. He reports he attempted an overdose six weeks ago but he would not say what he took.

“He reports he has had no thoughts of suicide since. The evidence overall suggests that he is not at substantial risk.”

Despite David appealing against the decision that he was fit for work, and telling the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in a letter that he had “serious mental health problems that prevent me from doing everyday tasks which means I cannot work at this moment in time”, the Atos advice was rubber-stamped by DWP decision-makers.

The decision that he was not eligible for employment and support allowance (ESA) was confirmed in a letter to David on 17 July 2013. A month later, he took his own life.

His death is one of three cases contained in a dossier submitted to Police Scotland by disabled activist John McArdle, from the user-led campaign network Black Triangle, in an attempt to persuade the force to open an investigation into Duncan Smith and Grayling.

McArdle wants Police Scotland to investigate the two former ministers for the Scottish criminal offence of wilful neglect of duty by a public official, because they failed to take steps to improve the WCA in 2010 after being warned by a coroner that its flaws risked causing future deaths of people with mental health conditions.

read more: http://blacktrianglecampaign.org/2016/07/29/parents-of-fit-for-work-suicide-man-back-call-for-iain-duncan-smith-prosecution/

If you are feeling suicidal please, please call the Samaritans on their freefone number 116 123