Universal Credit roll-out leading to ‘a vicious cycle of debt and despair’

SNP MP calls for the roll-out of Universal Credit to be ‘halted now’, as mounting evidence shows the new benefit is causing significant hardship.

Universal Credit is pushing vulnerable claimants into “a vicious cycle of debt and despair”, says an MP who is calling for the roll-out of the Government’s flagship welfare reform to be halted with immediate effect.

SNP MP Stuart McDonald says Universal Credit, which is replacing a number of existing social security benefits with a single monthly payment, is forcing some people to turn to loan sharks and food banks to make ends meet.

The new benefit is in the process of being rolled-out across the country but has been beset with numerous delays and IT problems, and has faced heavy criticism over payment delays and an arbitrary six-week waiting period.

read more here: http://www.welfareweekly.com/universal-credit-roll-out-leading-to-a-vicious-cycle-of-debt-and-despair/

Unconnected and out of work: the vicious circle of having no internet

Jobseekers must spend up to 35 hours a week on online applications, or risk losing benefits. When you can’t afford a computer, this is no mean feat

….In Wigan, Lisa Wright, 47, a former factory worker who has been unemployed for three years after the food processing plant she worked for closed, is doing a mandatory six-month community work programme. Alongside 30 hours of community service each week, she has to put in 10 hours on Universal Jobmatch.

“I can only get to a computer in Wigan library on Thursday evenings, Fridays and Saturday mornings,” she said. “There’s sometimes a queue so you can hang around for up to an hour. That’s the only time I can check my emails, which means if I get sent a reply to a job application on Monday I don’t see it for days. It feels like you’re constantly doing things wrong and struggling just to keep up. I met a kid last week doing 200 hours’ community service for robbing a shop. I’m doing 780 hours’ community service and my only crime is being unemployed.”….

read more here: https://amp.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/09/unconnected-and-out-of-work-the-vicious-circle-of-having-no-internet

 

By abandoning ‘hardworking families’ to poverty, have the Tories finally gone too far?

From child tax cut restrictions to universal credit, the government has crossed its own red lines. Soon millions more children will go hungry

Exactly four years since Britain’s first wave of cuts came into force – and as this month’s new measures begin to take hold – we’re entering what we may call the next stage of austerity. Where, at first, particular sections of the poor and marginalised – the disabled, people with mental health problems and the unemployed – were targeted, now it’s free rein on anyone who’s struggling.

While the policies of April 2013 – the bedroom tax, for example, or the original benefit cap pilot – were sold by politicians as protecting “hardworking” families, the policies of April 2017 – from child tax credit restrictions to the impact of universal credit – cross even the line the Conservatives themselves have spent years creating. This is no longer a case of “tough love” against the coalition’s so-called shirkers but, on top of further cuts to out-of-work disabled people, it is the gutting of support for the low paid and their children.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the reduced aisle in supermarkets, 19p for spaghetti and 20p for chopped tomatoes,” says Cydney, 23, from Bournemouth. Six months ago, Cydney’s partner left her and their four-year-old boy, Oscar, and she’s since been struggling to afford regular meals. Cydney had a wage coming in – she worked part time in marketing for an insurance broker, as well as caring for Oscar – but 80% of it went on childcare alone. The rest had to stretch for all her bills: rent, utilities, phone, and council tax. Her £20 a week child benefit helped but barely made a dent. Often, after all her outlays, there’d only be £5 left for a whole week’s food shop.

To be able to feed her son, Cydney ate one or two meals a day: skipping breakfast, eating lunch at work, and then going without dinner. “I’d give Oscar baked beans on toast,” she says. “There were times I’d go to bed early because I was hungry.” With her mental health suffering and no way to pay the bills, Cydney’s only choice was to give up her job to move back in with her mum in Buckinghamshire.

Cydney’s is not a rare case of course, but rather a snapshot of reality for families all over the country. Research by the Young Women’s Trust last month found that half of young mums are now regularly skipping meals because they’re struggling to afford to feed their children. A quarter have had to use a food bank. This is even before this month’s benefit measures kick in. It is part of the same normalisation of hardship that means there are now 11 million people in this country who are not only living far below what the wider public view as “socially acceptable” living standards but who are on the precipice of what the Joseph Rowntree Foundation call “severe poverty”.

read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/13/cuts-hardworking-families-tories-child-tax-cut-universal-credit

‘Two-Child’ Benefits Limit Could Push 200,000 Children To Poverty, Charities Say

Major changes to the benefits system coming into force today will condemn hundreds of thousands more children to poverty, charities have warned.

 

The Children’s Society called on the Government to think again over imposing a new “two-child limit” on Universal Credit and child tax credit as the move will impact on three million children.

 

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) made a similar plea as it cited independent research forecasting that 200,000 children may be pushed into poverty by the changes.

The Children’s Society calculates that a nurse with three children, earning £23,000 a year, who becomes a single parent stands to lose £2,780 a year if he or she makes a claim for tax credits or universal credit under the move.

Read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/two-child-benefits-limit-could-push-200000-children-to-poverty-charities-say_uk_58e5ecefe4b0fe4ce0884024

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 launch official inquiry into universal credit as criticism grows

Investigation into benefits system comes amid mounting evidence that payment delays have left thousands facing eviction

MPs have launched an official inquiry into universal credit amid growing concerns that design flaws in the new benefits system are leaving thousands of low-income claimants facing eviction and reliant on food banks.

The Commons work and pensions committee said it was compelled to launch a full investigation after mounting evidence that built-in payment delays and administrative blockages were creating severe problems for claimants and landlords.

A Guardian investigation this month found widespread evidence that thousands of tenants on universal credit were running up rent arrears and debts because they could not manage the minimum 42-day wait for a first payment.

Landlords have also criticised the system, with private landlords warning that they will not let to universal credit claimants because of the high risk of rent arrears and problems navigating byzantine official bureaucracy.

Surveys by housing associations have found that up to nine in 10 tenants on universal credit either run up rent arrears or increase the level of pre-existing arrears because so few are equipped to cope with long waits without income.

Frank Field MP, chair of the work and pensions committee said: “Huge delays in people receiving payments from universal credit have resulted in claimants falling into debt and rent arrears, caused health problems and led to many having to rely on food banks.”

The inquiry will ratchet up the pressure on the Department for Work and Pensions to review the design of universal credit. It has played down the impact of the 42-day waiting time, arguing that its research carried out two years ago suggests arrears levels fall after three months once tenants get used to the new system.

But the former welfare minister Lord Freud admitted to MPs last month that at least a quarter of tenants on universal credit had run up rent arrears as a result, and he suggested that ministers should consider shortening waiting times for payment.

The MPs inquiry was announced on the same day that the universal credit full service was rolled out to a handful of new areas, including Poplar in east London and Warrington. The rollout is not due to be complete until September 2018.

read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/feb/22/mps-launch-official-inquiry-universal-credit-benefits?CMP=share_btn_fb