Another Universal Credit fiasco

This appeared on my Facebook feed today:

“I asked to join this group to find out if my experience with UC is normal, I would be grateful of any advice offered.
I was made redundant at the end of February I phoned the helpline and was told I would be entitled to UC I had an appointment come through and followed every single patronising, degrading judgemental rule in the UC book, I attended every appointment with my “work coach” who although pleasant enough robotically told me how wonderful UC is for the likes of me.
I applied for so many jobs I lost count and despite not spending the ridiculous 30 hours per week job searching I had at least an interview a week, I received a payment for April eventually but this did not include a rent payment, although I had paid my rent for March obviously my last wage packet wasn’t enough to cover April, I hadn’t been on any benefits before I lost my job.
My landlord was less than sympathetic and it was a case of pay your rent or you will be evicted, I phoned UC they blamed the landlord for not returning verification of the rent, the landlord blamed me for losing my job. after 6 weeks I found a job and notified UC I am now in full time employment, I still had not received a payment towards my rent although I had a notification I would have a rent payment sent to my landlord on May 9th, this was for roughly 3 weeks rent, apparently this is all I am entitled to, however this still hasn’t been paid, I phoned to ask why and they told me I havnt attended my interview at the job centre!!!!
I once again explained I am now working full time and no longer need UC but I owe 6 weeks rent and will soon be evicted from my home if I do not pay it.
I had to take out a high interest credit card to pay as much as the limit would allow which still doesn’t cover the amount I am now in arrears, I am paid weekly and am having to pay the majority of my wages to my landlord and so my other bills are slipping.
I have now been told I have to attend a gateway interview at the job centre, I explained I work from 7.30am – 5pm 5 days a week, however they have said if I do not attend this interview they will not pay the rent that is owed.
I really cannot express my complete contempt for these people who now expect me to take time off from my new job to have an interview for what?? to hold my rent payment to ransom is despicable behaviour, no rent payment for 10 weeks is disgusting, I am at a loss to work this out.

From the Facebook page “Universal Credit Survival”

Tory policies will deny homes to hundreds of thousands of pensioners and disabled people, warn housing chiefs

‘If this is not fixed, it could be really disastrous for large numbers of older and vulnerable people’

Hundreds of thousands of pensioners and disabled people will be denied the homes they badly need because of a “disastrous” Conservative policy, housing chiefs are warning.

A shortage of sheltered and supported housing is set to mushroom because of “crazy” funding rules that are shutting services and crushing investment, ministers have been told.

But the National Housing Federation (NFH) is alarmed that housing associations are now refusing to build them because the Government has thrown their future funding from rent into jeopardy. Its forecast is a staggering shortfall of 300,000 homes by 2030, of which 240,000 are sheltered properties needed by pensioners.

David Orr, the NHF’s chief executive, told The Independent: “If this is not fixed, it could be really disastrous for large numbers of older and vulnerable people. The providers of these homes are saying, ‘we can get the money, we can find the land, we know there’s a need, but the funding is too uncertain’.

“If vulnerable people are not able to live there, they will either be in inappropriate homes they find difficult to manage, or in residential nursing care – or in hospital. The cost to them will be great and the cost to the state will be enormous. The last thing the NHS needs is more people falling over and breaking hips because their accommodation doesn’t meet their needs.”

The crisis was described as a “ticking time-bomb” by the former chairman of a Commons select committee that investigated it as the general election was called. It has been triggered by a policy switch dubbed a “backdoor bedroom tax” when it was first revealed by The Independent last year.

From April 2019, housing benefit in all social housing will be capped at the level of the Local Housing Allowance (LHA), used in the private rented sector. Crucially, the LHA is calculated – like the removal of the “spare-room subsidy” – on the basis of household size, rather than the size of the property. That means a single person, or a couple, living in a two-bedroom home will have their housing benefit capped at the one-bedroom LHA rate.

The impact will be severe across the Midlands and the North, where lower private rents will mean a lower one-bedroom LHA rate, threatening tenants with huge benefit cuts. They would lose at least £300 a year if their homes are deemed to be “underoccupied”, but some pensioners in the North could be a staggering £1,700 a year worse off.

Mr Orr described the switch as “crazy and frustrating”, adding: “It makes no sense – and the select committees agreed with no dissent, no argument.”

The crisis is deepening according to evidence presented to the joint inquiry carried out recently by the Communities and Local Government and Work and Pensions committees.

They uncovered a string of housing associations slashing investment – and even cutting existing services – because of the looming changes. The Riverside Group said a number of developments were on hold, including one in Colchester for people leaving the armed forces and a scheme for older people in Rochdale.

read more here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-housing-policy-disabled-pensioners-crisis-warning-a7720721.html

 

 

Osborne’s legacy: welfare cuts worth £2 billion begin this week

George Osborne might have been sacked as Chancellor nine months ago, but the poor and vulnerable are still paying the price for the decisions he took during his six years in Number 11 Downing Street.

And a whole raft of extra cuts announced by Osborne in the 2015 summer budget will enter into force from tomorrow.

We’ve put together this timeline of pain, showing how many people will be effected and how much they will lose, based on research by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG).

Cut 1: Housing benefit for young people

When: Tomorrow

Who will lose what: 18 to 21 year olds will lose their automatic entitlement to housing benefit

How much: £35 million

Cut 2: Employment and support allowance

When: Monday April 3

Who will lose what: New Employment Support Allowance claimants, deemed to be fit to do work-related activity, will lose £1,510 a year.

How much: £350 million

Cut 3: Two child benefit limit 

When: Thursday April 6

Who will lose what: New claimants to Universal Credit, child tax credits and housing benefit will not receive support for any more than two children. It will affect more than 500,000 families by 2019 and mean they will lose £2,780 for each ineligible child. CPAG says it “breaks the link between need and support” in the benefits system and will push up to another 200,000 families into poverty. 

How much: £1.2 billion

Cut 4: Child tax credit family element and first child element in Universal Credit

When: Thursday April 6

Who will lose what: Both benefits are being scrapped for new claimants. It will leave 970,000 families £545 a year poorer by 2019.

How much: £540 million

Cut 5: Bereavement benefits 

When: Thursday April 6

Who will lose what: The new “bereavement support payment” will mean 91% of bereaved parents will be supported for a shorter time and 75% will receive less money – by £12,000 a year for the average working parent.

How much: £100 million

In total that’s more than £2.1 billion worth of benefit cuts affecting hundreds of thousands of people landing in the next week.

 

But don’t expect to read about it in the Evening Standard…

https://politicalscrapbook.net/2017/03/osbornes-legacy-welfare-cuts-worth-2-billion-begin-tomorrow/

MPs say housing benefit is being wrongly stripped from jobseekers, threatening them with eviction and homelessness

The Public Accounts Committee cites evidence that one-third of people who were claiming housing benefit lost their money when they were given a sanction

Housing benefit is being wrongly stripped from jobseekers accused of failing to look for work, MPs say – threatening them with eviction and homelessness.

The “appalling situation” is condemned by a Commons committee which has told the Department for Work and Pensions to investigate the blunder urgently.

Government rules say benefit claimants who are sanctioned can be docked jobseeker’s allowance (JSA) and employment and support allowance (ESA) – but not housing benefit, which they may need to keep their home.

In evidence to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Sir Robert Devereux, the DWP’s permanent secretary, said: “The sanction is applied to the JSA and not to the housing benefit.”

But a survey by the housing charity Crisis found that a staggering one-third of people who were claiming housing benefit lost their money when they were given a sanction.

Meg Hillier, the PAC’s Labour chair, said: “Suspending people’s benefit payments can lead them into debt, rent arrears and homelessness, which can undermine their efforts to find work.

“A third of people surveyed by the charity Crisis who were claiming housing benefit had this stopped in error because of a sanction – an appalling situation to be faced with.”

read more here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/mps-housing-benefit-sanctions-jobseekers-meg-hillier-eviction-homelessness-report-a7589936.html

Early warnings about the lower benefit cap

Kirsty McKechnie from the Child Poverty Action Group highlights worrying examples of how the benefit cap reduction is hitting people in Scotland

The reduction of the benefit cap from £23,000 to £20,000 per household is currently being rolled out across Scotland.

If someone is entitled to benefits and tax credits in excess of the cap, they will have their housing benefit reduced.

As the person who gathers case evidence for CPAG in Scotland’s Early Warning System (which looks at how welfare reforms impact on families) I can tell you about some of the people who are already being affected by the lower cap.

The DWP announcement regarding the lower cap, stated the intention behind the reduction was to make work pay more than ‘welfare’, at the same time as supporting those who cannot work.

However, in practice, it appears that not everyone who cannot work is exempt from the cap; and that the support pledged for those who are affected by the cap may not be available.

The case studies we have received include:

  • A refugee with six children who will be affected when they move into their permanent tenancy shortly.
  • A homeless person staying in local authority temporary accommodation with a rent of £305 a week. (The cap for a single person is £257 a week, which is all they will receive to cover their housing costs and all other living expenses)
  • A couple, with children, who work from October to February, are affected by the cap in the months that they are not working. They would need to have worked for 50 weeks out of the previous 52 before they would be exempt.
  • A young couple with two children of their own, who also have their nephew living with them, are subject to the benefit cap and the local housing allowance cap on their private sector tenancy. Any financial support they receive for the child they provide kinship care for is having to be paid towards their rent.
  • A lone parent has four children between the age of one and ten, the youngest of whom has recently been diagnosed with a severe disability, but is not likely to be entitled to disability living allowance (and therefore exempt them from the cap), until the child is older. The parent was already subject to the higher benefit cap, receiving a discretionary housing payment, but still having, and struggling, to pay £120 a month from income support and child tax credit towards her £900 a month rent. The lower benefit cap limit means she will now be required to pay £172 a week! To be able to work the client would require childcare for her four children, including someone who is specially trained to look after the child who is disabled.

Announcing the lower cap, the DWP assured: “to support those affected by the benefit cap, over £1 billion of discretionary housing payments will have been provided to local authorities by the end of this parliament.”

However when one client applied for a discretionary housing payment after their housing benefit was reduced by £33 a week, the response stated:

“due to funding constraints within our discretionary housing payment budget and the increased number of cases, we are not in a position to award discretionary housing payments for cases affected by the benefit cap.”

With the Scottish Government anticipating that 4,000 families will be affected by the new benefit cap level in the first year, that is a lot of families facing difficulty paying their rent, who may not be able to work, or access discretionary housing payments.

Read more here: http://www.scottishhousingnews.com/13556/blog-early-warnings-about-the-lower-benefit-cap/#

This is how much the bedroom tax is costing your council

The money was supposed to last a year – but new figures show 84 per cent was spent in the first six months

Councils in the West Midlands are in danger of running out of cash to help poor residents hit by government housing reforms.

Birmingham has spent 35% of its £3.8 million handed out to help deal with housing issues like the “bedroom tax” – meaning more than £1.3 million has been shelled out.

Meanwhile, Dudley council was given an extra £672,883 by ministers last April to help deal with problems caused by the so-called ‘bedroom tax’, the introduction of a benefits cap, and reforms to other housing benefits.

The money was supposed to last a year – but new figures show £564,556, or 84%, was spent in the first six months.

Some £432,800 went on helping people hit by the bedroom tax, which removed extra help with rent for those deemed to have a ‘spare’ bedroom.

Wolverhampton council had spent 47% of its £806,530 allocation by September, while Sandwell had spent 41% of its £1,029,913 and Coventry 41% of its £788,669.

Read more here: http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/how-much-bedroom-tax-costing-12437382#ICID

 

 

How the Universal Credit bureaucracy can screw your chance of paying rent

From Kate Belgrave’s  blog

This story will give you an idea of some of the reasons why people can end up with rent arrears when they’re trying to set up a Universal Credit claim.

It should also give you an idea why some jobcentre meetings drive me to the brink.

So.

I recently attended a meeting at Croydon jobcentre with a woman who has been trying to sort out the housing component of her Universal Credit claim for several months (I’ve posted a short transcript from the meeting below).

You’ll see from the transcript that the meeting was ludicrous.

Read more here:

http://www.katebelgrave.com/2017/01/how-the-universal-credit-bureaucracy-can-screw-your-chance-of-paying-rent/