Care for elderly ‘close to collapse’ across UK as council funding runs out

Theresa May under pressure as doctors urge funding U-turn and cross-party alliance warns millions of people are at risk.

Theresa May is under intense pressure from senior doctors and a powerful cross-party alliance of politicians to avert a collapse in care for the elderly, as shocking new figures show the system close to meltdown.

The medical profession, together with Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat leaders in local government, have demanded a funding U-turn, warning that the safety of millions of elderly people is at risk because of an acute financial crisis completely overlooked in chancellor Philip Hammond’s autumn statement.

read more here:

Benefit sanctions leaving people destitute says Birkenhead MP Frank Field

Benefit sanctions that can plunge claimants into hardship, hunger and depression are being handed out with little evidence they work – a scathing report by the public spending watchdog has found.

Use of the penalties also varies “substantially” across the country and referral rates have changed significantly over time, according to the National Audit Office.

It accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of not doing enough to find out how sanctions affect people on benefits.

MPs said the findings showed it was “pot luck” which people were sanctioned and demanded ministers “get a grip” of the “discredited” system.

Birkenhead MP Frank Field said: “Sanctions are being applied at a scale unknown since the Second World War and the operation of sanctions on this scale has made for the most significant change in the post-war social security system.

“Yet the Government holds no information on what has happened to large numbers of people who have had their money withdrawn”

Benefits sanctions: a policy based on zeal, not evidence

The devastating National Audit Office report exposes Iain Duncan Smith’s project as an ineffective and hugely damaging racket

The quietly devastating National Audit Office (NAO) report shreds five years of ministerial bluster, misinformation and spin about the purported virtues of benefit sanctions, arguably one of the most brutal, controversial and ineffectual social policies of recent times.

Sanctions are a punishment applied to benefit claimants adjudged to have infringed jobcentre rules. If claimants fail to turn up for appointments or to apply for enough jobs, officials effectively fine them by stopping their benefit payments for a minimum of four weeks (around £300). Between 2011 and 2015, almost one in four of all jobseeker’s allowance claimants were sanctioned. In 2015 alone, sanctions led to an estimated £132m in benefits being withheld from some of the UK’s poorest citizens.

Anti-poverty campaigners, food banks, academics and MPs have warned for years that sanctions were dangerous: they can lead to debt and rent arrears, depression, hunger, food bank use, survival crime, destitution and worse. Sanctions, they have pointed out, can be handed out capriciously or cynically to meet jobcentre targets. In some cases, such as that of diabetic former soldier David Clapson, found dead in his flat in 2013, starved and penniless, the potentially lethal consequences of benefit sanctions have seemed incontrovertible.

The Department for Work and Pensions has imperiously dismissed those warnings throughout. It has regularly assured us that sanctions “work”. They provide a deterrent effect to the half-hearted job seeker, and a kick up the backside to the lazy and feckless to make them “focus and get on”, the DWP insists. Sanctions, claimed the former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith in March, were “the reason why we now have the highest employment levels ever in the UK”.

The NAO reveals that those assertions were essentially baseless. The DWP had no clue whether sanctions worked, and zero interest in finding out. When the scope and severity of sanctions were increased in 2012, leading to a rapid rise in the number affected, it had no evidence to justify the change and no idea what the likely effect on claimants would be. It did not know the financial costs of sanctions or the wider knock-on impact on health services, let alone any potential benefits, and actively resisted any attempt by others to find out. Last year the DWP summarily rejected calls from both an all-party committee of MPs and its own social security advisory committee for a formal review of sanctions.

Benefit sanctions ‘hurt but don’t work’, finds watchdog report

Benefit sanctions that can plunge claimants into hardship, hunger and depression are being handed out with little evidence they work, a scathing report by the public spending watchdog has found.

Use of the penalties also varies “substantially” across the country, and referral rates have changed significantly over time, according to the National Audit Office.

It accused the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) of not doing enough to find out how sanctions affect people on benefits. MPs said the findings showed it was “pot luck” which people were sanctioned and demanded ministers “get a grip” of the “discredited” system.

Labour’s Meg Hillier, who chairs the public accounts committee, said: “Benefit sanctions punish some of the poorest people in the country. But despite the anxiety and misery they cause, it seems to be pot luck who gets sanctioned.

“While studies suggest sanctions do encourage some people back into work, other people stop claiming but do not start working and the DWP has no record of them. If vulnerable people fall through the safety net, what happens to them?”

More than one million unemployed benefits claimants have to meet conditions, such as showing they are looking for work, to receive their payments. The report found the use of penalties differs across Jobcentres and employment schemes. Some Work Programme providers make more than twice as many sanction referrals as others dealing with similar groups in the same area, it said.
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “This report is a civil service equivalent of a character assassination. “The government are not assessing the impact of sanctions, using their own data to see what is going on and they are not even tracking the ­benefits. Ministers need to get a grip.”


Just About Managing? Tens of thousands of us are sinking.

This was posted on Mumsnet:

“Last week, I reached crisis point.

It feels like this has been looming since I was sanctioned in 2013. Following my sanction, I struggled with depression and agoraphobia brought on by anxiety. I started overeating and put on weight. It’s been a long road back to work and full health – I now work part-time, but my income is not always enough to pay my bills. Bit by bit, I have been sliding into debt.

Then a delayed benefit payment due to a computer error led to bank charges, which put me overdrawn. When it came to going shopping I had no money for food. With no opportunity to get help from family I turned to my housing association. I was given a voucher for the local foodbank, but it didn’t open for a few days so I had to wait. That afternoon, my electric ran out so I sat there in the dark, feeling very alone, with no food to eat, and memories of my sanction filling my mind.

I was sanctioned for not looking for work. Fair punishment you might think, but the reason I wasn’t job hunting was because I was doing a two-week training course in a neighbouring town, leaving home at 7am and returning home at 7pm. I had been instructed not to jobsearch or sign on during that time, but later another adviser disagreed. I lost my £71 a week Jobseekers Allowance for four weeks.

I went without electricity, heating and food for most of the sanction. It climaxed on Christmas day. I spent it watching happy families walk past my window, while I sat silently, dealing with diarrhoea and waiting for it to get dark so I could try to sleep. It wasn’t until I received a Christmas card from a relative with £20 in it that I was able to eat and buy electric for the meter.

Less than two weeks later, I was told by the same Jobcentre adviser that I needed to learn a ‘work ethic’ – something clearly not demonstrated by my 20-year work history. She put me on mandatory work activity – workfare – which meant working full-time for free for four weeks in order to receive my benefits. Effectively, I was being punished for being sanctioned. I didn’t argue with her. Instead I went home, emptied the bathroom cabinet of the various pills I had stored away and tried to end my life. Less than a year before I had been earning £35k at a university in London.

The papers are filled with news about so-called JAMs. These six million families who are ‘just about managing’ will no doubt be hoping that the government will fulfil its promise to make their lives better. But there is another group of families who have lost that hope.

In the run-up to the Autumn Statement, the papers were filled with news about so-called JAMs. These six million families who are ‘just about managing’ will no doubt be hoping that the government will fulfil its promise to make their lives better. But there is another group of families who have lost that hope. They are the ones who have been on the receiving end of harsh cuts to their income, through austere welfare cuts. Most of them also work but live in fear that the government will make their lives even harder.

I am not alone in receiving a sanction. Since the Conservatives were elected in 2010 until June this year around three million individuals have received eight million sanctions. Some may have been able to overturn the decision, but more wouldn’t. The 3m figure doesn’t include family members – mostly children – who are also affected by sanctions. For children living in sanctioned households, schools and foodbanks have become a lifeline, with teachers reportedly using money meant for education to buy food and clothing.

read more here:

Ex-soldier Darren Veal loses Universal Credit after failing to make JobCentre meeting because he had found temporary employment

A former soldier claims he has been “punished for getting a job” after having his benefits sanctioned for missing an appointment.

Darren Veal, 33, has had £83.20 deducted from his Universal Credit after he had to miss a meeting at the JobCentre in August because he had found temporary employment as a wagon loader.

Mr Veal insists he called the JobCentre in advance to inform them, a claim that centre staff later acknowledged, but the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has sanctioned him nonetheless.

Mr Veal, who is originally from Hornsea, came out of the armed forces in 2006 and is currently living at the Hull Veterans Support Centre in Beverley Road.

Since moving to Hull last year he has been between short-term jobs and is now working as a delivery driver for Gift Aid, although he is still in receipt of in-work benefits to support his income.

Mr Veal said: “I keep getting jobs here, there and all over the place. I don’t enjoy being out of work. As soon as I get out of one job I want to be straight into another as soon as possible.

“When I realised I was losing the money I went to the JobCentre to ask about it. The staff said their computer records showed that I’d rung up to tell them but there was nothing else they could do to help.

“They gave me a number to ring at the DWP but I spent two and a half hours on the phone before being told the money was still coming off.

“The way I see it, they’re punishing me for getting a job.”

read more here:

Universal Credit causing growing problems in Sedgemoor

A DAMNING report on the chaotic implementation of Universal Credit in Sedgemoor says claimants are being forced to use food banks to survive and are running up rent arrears as they wait for claims to be handled.

Universal Credit replaced other benefits for all claimants in Sedgemoor this summer. The district is a pilot area, before Universal Credit is implemented nationally.

But the impact on people in Bridgwater and the rest of Sedgemoor is already making worrying reading.

Members of Sedgemoor District Council’s community scrutiny committee are meeting on Monday (November 28, 2016) to discuss a report put together by council staff, Citizens Advice Sedgemoor and Digilink – an organisation that helps people with online access – about the impact of Universal Credit in Sedgemoor.

The report does not make pleasant reading.

The CAB has said:

Long delays in payment are forcing people to rely on food banks to survive.

Many claimants face “digital exclusion” – with no internet access they struggle to make claims and are not being told they can claim in other ways.

Clients without bank accounts are frozen out.

During the waiting time for claims to be paid, claimants are running up rent arrears. When the first payment comes it is often used to pay the rent, leaving nothing for living costs.

Processes are unclear and clients are receiving conflicting information from Job Centre Plus.

The report highlights the problems faced by people struggling to deal with the online system and says there is inadequate support for the most vulnerable.

Labour says Universal Credit is not working and people are being forced into destitution.

Cllr Mick Lerry, leader of the Labour Group on Sedgemoor Council, said: “I welcome the work undertaken by Sedgemoor District Council, to highlight the impact of the roll out of Universal Credit in the district.

“The evidence shows that Universal Credit is not supporting the most vulnerable people and the inadequate administration of the programme is forcing many into debt and reliance on loan sharks and food banks.

“Case studies show that the roll out of UC is not working and the Department of Work and Pensions must understand how the people in need are being forced into destitution.NEWS FROM SEDGEMOOR: Major problems with Universal Credit in Sedgemoor

“I have sent the report to Debbie Abrahams, Labour Shadow Secretary of State for DWP, so that she is aware of what is happening to people locally and can challenge the Government, with the evidence in the report.”

Sedgemoor District Council’s experiences of Universal Credit mirror those of both Citizens Advice and Digilink particularly in terms of the level of support required.

Digilink said the most vulnerable 15 to 20 per cent in society was really struggling with a lack of confidence in using computers and the internet, while lots of clients did not have a bank account, an address or access to a telephone – a major problem as Universal Credit is “digital by default” and there is no other route into accessing it.

“The biggest problem was reported as clients being pushed from pillar to post,” said a Digilink spokesman. “There is a lack of understanding – clients don’t understand why they’re filling things out, what they’re applying for or what the end result will be.

“By not understanding the process we’ve found that some clients have difficulty explaining themselves and their individual circumstances.

“As a result we have seen an increase in frustrated clients and are concerned about the impact on their emotional wellbeing. In some cases they vent their frustrations and sometimes anger at the volunteers.”


What to do if DWP disregard medical evidence saying you can’t do Work Related Activity #ESA

From the Disabled People Against Cuts  website . DPAC wish to thank John Slater for this article
Some claimants placed in the Work Related Activities Group of ESA  (WRAG) find that their medical condition has worsened, possibly because of the Work Related Activities (WRA) they must undertake. But when they notify the DWP to tell them, even if they have supporting medical evidence from their GP or consultant, the DWP work advisor or coach disregards the evidence and still insist for the claimant to undertake WRA because they are in the WRAG.
What follows is an explanation of why the DWP advisor/coach may be acting unlawfully, and of what claimants might be able do in this situation.
Read more here:

Work Capability Assessment: a toxic failure for the disabled

Originally posted by Anonymous here

The main sickness benefit for disabled people is Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). Eligibility is assessed via the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). The WCA is a rigid points system, that assesses your ability to carry out very basic tasks. In order to be classified as unfit for work, you need to ‘score’ at least 15 points.

John Hutton laid the groundwork for ESA in 2006 (in the interim he considerably harshened the criteria for Incapacity Benefit).  By 2008, ESA had replaced incapacity benefit for new claims. From the outset, the draconian WCA caused severely ill people to be deemed fit for work. Londoner, Vincent Nestor had incurable stomach cancer, and additionally, he was waiting for a triple heart bypass operation, yet he scored zero points and was declared “fit for work”.

Despite such cases as these Yvette Cooper introduced an even more draconian WCA.  A few days before the 2010 General Election, coroner Tom Osborne, wrote to Cooper, stating that the WCA had caused 43-year-old Stephen Carre to take his life, and the continued programme would lead to further suicides. The incoming coalition Tory-Lib Dem government ignored his concerns.

The WCA exists to deny benefit to as many people as possible.

In theory, it focuses on what people can do, rather than on what they cannot. This enables the DWP to ignore the reality of disability. The WCA assesses deafness by people’s ability to read, and determines blindness by people’s ability to hear.

It omits any reference to bending and kneeling, as apparently this is no longer part of the workplace. Amputees are assessed by their ability to lift empty cardboard boxes with their stumps and most bizarrely of all, WCA assesses mobility problems with an imaginary wheelchair. Consequently, if you can use a wheelchair to whatever they deem a ‘qualifying’ degree, you score zero points for mobility problems.

There are many accomplished wheelchair users (e.g. 11-times gold medal winner Tanni Grey-Thompson), but the reality is, a wheelchair does not equate to a functioning set of legs. There are many problems with using one; the main one being getting your wheelchair and yourself into a car. Other than having a carer or someone to lift the wheelchair into the boot and then help you into your seat, there does not seem to be any other viable solution. Furthermore, in my experience disabled lifts are generally locked; and finding someone to get the key takes up time and energy (or requires a carer). Using a wheelchair can also cause fatigue and pain.

The WCA does not relate to the world of work as it requires people to carry out a very narrow set of tasks such as lifting a 0.5 litre carton or using a pen to make ‘a meaningful mark with either hand’. It goes without saying that the average two-year-olds would be capable of performing these tasks. I was frequently bullied by school teachers over my illegible handwriting, however as I can make a ‘meaningful mark’ (assuming this means a squiggle or adding my name to a birthday card), I would score no points for this.

Criteria for dexterity is ludicrous: someone with Parkinson’s disease, a condition that causes shaking, could score only nine points for dexterity simply because they could push a button with one finger (once). This could ultimately deem them fit for work simply for having the same level of dexterity as a dog.  The threshold for reaching is, ‘Cannot raise either arm as if to put something in the top pocket of a coat or jacket.’  I cannot find any jobs that place emphasis on reaching. Most jobs that involve reaching, tend to involve lifting as well (e.g. shelf-stacking) or co-ordination (e.g. decorating).

It goes without saying none of these ‘skills’ improve a person’s employment prospects. When I did careers advice at school, no-one ever suggested we should list the ability to operate an alarm clock on a CV or job application.

The reality is that in the world of work, people get turned down for jobs if they do not qualify for them. If a person without a medical degree applies to be a doctor, the hospital will not give them the job simply because they can take someone’s pulse.

And I’m pretty sure employers would not overlook the fact I am mostly bed-bound simply because I can pick up a pound coin.

Work Capability Assessment: a toxic failure for the disabled

Resist Guinness Evictions: Campaign for Beti

Architects for Social Housing (ASH)


Last night I met up with Beti, a former tenant of the Loughborough Park Estate in Brixton, which was demolished by the Guinness Partnership last year, resulting in the loss of 180 homes for social rent. Having been evicted from her secure tenancy, Beti lost her business, and is now claiming housing benefit to pay the rent in her new place, where she lives with her two boys. Strange as it might seem, though, she was one of the lucky ones. Having been one of the key figures in the campaign of resistance to the demolition, and having fought Guinness housing association to the last, she was rehoused in Lambeth, unlike many of her fellow secure tenants, who were moved to the outer boroughs of London. Beti’s new tenancy, however, is for ‘affordable rent’, meaning her rent has been raised from £109 per week to £265 per week for a…

View original post 1,166 more words