Tales from the Universal Credit frontline

It’s more than the 6 week wait that makes Universal Credit a disaster. Here’s a few tales picked up from my Facebook feed.

…….

“My experience claiming UC can only be described as absolutely disastrous. Every month having to query delayed/late payments via their shambolic telephone system. Umpteen letters informing me my claim’s been suspended that were sent in error and tomorrow I’ll be contacting them again in regards to an overpayment. The issues never seem to subside . . . Teething problems??! No, the system’s unfit for purpose!”

“I am utterly distraught and have never been so poor in my life. I work ..for the NHS, hilariously!!! on minimum wage. Will run out of gas and electric tomorrow and I don’t know where to turn. Am soooo worried and stressed. Working on UC sucks”

“I work full time and am paid 4 weekly, so this month I have no UC, due to being paid twice in 1 assessment period, and my wage isn’t even enough to cover the rent and bills. Any journalists about?”

“When speaking to the council last week the guy said to me that the council tax system had changed. For those who get housing benefit automatically get council tax support, but with universal credits they take your housing element as a form of income, and calculate your income based on everything u get! This morning we received our council tax bill from now as just moved until April! 668! Wtf!!! So because I get more as I’m disabled and husband is my carer, we have to pay the full council tax amount!!! How can we even afford this?!?!”

“So iv just received my universal credit payment today of 5.77 as opposed to 250. It turns out I was sanctioned from 8/09/2017 But they thought it wasn’t at all necessary to notify me of this sanction. I phoned on the 15th to explain why i wasn’t there on the 8th and rescheduled another appointment for the 20th where i would present my evidence for the reason for not attending. However when i arrived on the 20th i was left waiting over 30mins and had other things to do that day. It was then rescheduled again to today which they canceled and then rescheduled to the 18th 
They are responsible for me not getting to work today.
A job I have ONLY just started. How I’m supposed to live on
5.77 for a whole month is simply beyond me.”

“Last year, two days before Xmas my benefits got frozen! I was gutted, what a time to skint a mother out with her child tax that was to cover me and my son through the week holiday! I remember feeling so upset, had to borrow money from people. No warning, nothing! Didn’t know what was going on or why my money was frozen two days before Xmas, universal fucking credit! And then got nothing till March!”

“Was homeless in a hostel but got kicked out as my universal credit not enough to cover it; what we supposed to do??? Government should re-think it as it’s causing so much grief that people can do without! !”

“I’m newly self employed. 
I have a year to get my income up to my minimum income floor which is 25 x £7.50 (minimum wage). This is because I have a child under 13. 
So after a year my earnings will be considered to be £750 per month whether they are or not!! I’ll loose council tax benefit and some housing. Plus free prescriptions and dentist!
This means I have to earn double that amount to be able to maintain my overheads.
This is really hitting us self employed people hard.”

Well once again I have been sanctioned!!! Fucking had enough of this! 2 months for not doing enough work search! I wrote it all down and she took it at the job centre I’ve applied for job after job. Going to every appointment and even going to work programme! I seriously can’t handle this anymore universal credit can have the money!!”

 

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Benefit sanctions shoot up 50% in six months

The number of benefit sanctions imposed on job seekers has shot up by 50% in the space of six months, Politics.co.uk can reveal.

The number of sanctions imposed on people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit rose from 18,994 last July to 33,860 in December, before falling back to the 30,000 mark by March this year.

In the six months to March, the most recent month for which data is available, the number of sanctions had risen by 50%.

“It is a matter of real concern that the number of people on Universal Credit being sanctioned is increasing,” shadow employment minister Margaret Greenwood said.

“This data shows further evidence of the Tory government letting vulnerable groups down, fuelling poverty and even destitution in the UK.

“A recent Public Accounts Committee report suggested that sanctions are being ‘applied inconsistently’ and used as a ‘blunt instrument’.”

Politics.co.uk has combined both published and unpublished data from the Department for Work and Pensions. While figures for the old Jobseeker’s Allowance benefit are routinely published, recent data for the newer Universal Credit system is much harder to come by.

The true sanctions figures are actually likely to be higher, as the Universal Credit data excludes claimants in numerous parts of the country. (also, these figures don’t include sanctions on people with disability  benefits)

read more here: http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2017/09/04/benefit-sanctions-shoot-up-50-in-six-months

 

Grenfell residents feared benefit sanctions – they are too used to being ignored

f you’ve followed the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire on social media, one disturbing revelation has stood out: the fear that victims could have their benefits sanctioned because they were not able to get to the jobcentre to sign on.

Incredibly, representatives of local residents who approached local Jobcentre Plus officials and Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff in North Kensington report being told that it could “not be guaranteed” that people caught up in the fire and its aftermath would not be penalised if they were unable to sign on.

Last night, when the Guardian approached them for comment, the DWP confirmed that normal jobcentre rules – including financial sanctions routinely issued to claimants who miss appointments – had been suspended indefinitely for former Grenfell Tower tenants and other local residents who claim unemployment benefits.

A local resident who said he was acting on behalf of the community claimed that the DWP only later moved to clarify the position because of pressure on social media. “Once it became clear that there was media attention focused on them, they have finally done the right thing,” he said. “Why should it take shame for them to act? Where is their humanity?”

As anyone who has been put through the Tories’ benefit system knows, “humanity” and the DWP are two things that do not tend to go together. Rather, it’s a department that in recent years has become synonymous with cruelty, where marginalised people are treated with total disregard – often at the very moment they are in crisis. In the last few days alone, we’ve had reports of a disabled woman who needs a bladder operation forced to sit in her own urine for two hours by a benefit assessor. And a woman who took her own life after her benefits were stopped when she missed a jobcentre appointment to go to the hospital. The DWP has since apologised for leaving a voicemail on the 42-year-old’s phone to say the sanction was being upheld – despite already having been told of her death.

read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jun/20/grenfell-tower-fire-residents-benefit-sanctions-dwp

Councils, housing associations and the DWP are crushing people with debt

From Kate Belgrave’s blog

While Brexit and Trump hoover resources and headlines, the state and so-called social landlords continue to get away with screwing people into the ground:

Last week, I spent several hours at the South Chadderton foodbank in Oldham speaking with people who’d come in for groceries.

We talked about the reasons why people needed to use the foodbank.

One explanation in particular came up, as it does a lot: Debt repayment plans are leaving people with no money.

People on benefits and low incomes are repaying arrears or loans money to councils, housing associations, the DWP, bailiffs and god knows who else – but they can’t afford it. The loss of the fivers and tenners that authorities deduct in repayments make a tolerable life impossible. People certainly don’t have the hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of pounds that are really needed to shift these debts. Simple equation, when you look at it. Debts grow and penalties grow, but income does not.

Read more here: http://www.katebelgrave.com/2017/02/councils-housing-associations-and-the-dwp-are-crushing-people-with-debt/#

Christmas at a food bank: ‘They’ve not eaten for three days

North Paddington food bank is in one of the wealthiest parts of London. That doesn’t mean that local people aren’t struggling to get enough to eat

There’s a Barbie sat among other dolls. A dancing monkey. Soft cuddly toys. In a food bank in Paddington, London, volunteer Jane is counting through the donated presents to hand out to children next week. Or, as she puts it to me, for “any who need one”.

For families who don’t have the money for bags of pasta or a tin of meat, Christmas means not only hunger but more costs they can’t afford. “I ask people who come in what they’re doing for Christmas and they look at me like, ‘I’m in a food bank. What can I do for Christmas?’” Jane says.

Look around the food bank’s neighbouring streets and you find yourself in the middle of two-tier Britain: in Jane’s words, a “posh” part of the capital that also runs emergency food parcels out of the local community centre. This month has seen the biggest surge in use in the food bank’s three-year history: last week about 100 people came through the doors in a couple of hours. Kensington and Chelsea – where there are streets where the average property can set a buyer back £8m – is about to shut its food bank. Its users are already coming to Paddington, Jane says.

Jane, 52, started helping at the food bank a year ago, after she was made redundant. She’s familiar with illness – she was a health journalist – but is struck by seeing people hungry. “Not a little bit peckish because they skipped breakfast or haven’t had lunch. But hungry because they haven’t eaten for around three or four days,” she says. “Literally nothing.”

As wages shrink, rents rise and benefits are cut, Jane sees the citizens who could be described as collateral damage: a stroke victim left with large lapses in memory sanctioned by the jobcentre for forgetting an appointment; a care worker earning barely a tenner a day because her travel costs come out of her pocket; a PhD student who lost his house and now lives in a Tesco car park. It’s the dark shadows under people’s eyes that stand out for Jane. Frequently they’re stick-thin; disoriented. Very often they’re on the verge of tears. “They feel they have to apologise for being here,” she says. “We had one pensioner shaking with embarrassment.”

read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/15/christmas-food-bank-not-eaten-three-days-paddington-london?CMP=fb_gu