Iain Duncan Smith tells disabled people to work their way out of poverty

The DWP secretary says benefits should not be a route out of poverty

Disabled people should have to work their way out poverty and not simply be taken out of it by state financial assistance, Iain Duncan Smith has said.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said it was not the role of government to pay the disabled enough to stop them being poor and that the correct way to escape poverty was by working.

“We don’t think of people not in work as victims to be sustained on government handouts. No, we want to help them live lives independent of the state,” he told the annual Conservative party conference in Manchester.

“We won’t lift you out of poverty by simply transferring taxpayers’ money to you. With our help, you’ll work your way out of poverty.”

Mr Duncan Smith argued that many sick and disabled people wanted to work and that the Government should give them support to find jobs and make sure the welfare system encouraged them to get jobs.

The Work and Pensions Secretary criticised what he dubbed Labour’s “something for nothing culture”, and also dismissed protests against his policies, which his party’s conference has been subject to.

In his wide-ranging speech, Mr Duncan Smith also criticised the old Employment Support Allowance benefit for signing people off work when they were judged by doctors as too sick to work.

“The ESA has Labour’s essential mistake at its heart – that people are passive victims. Of course if you treat people as passive that’s what they’ll become,” he said.

“It’s no wonder, when the system makes doctors ask a simplistic question: are you too sick to work at all? If the answer is yes, they’re signed off work – perhaps for ever.”

The disability charity Scope said it agreed that disabled people needed better help to get into work, but warned that cutting financial support would actually undermine this goal.

“The Secretary of State is right to say that many disabled people can, and want to, work. If we are going to halve the disability employment gap, we need to remove the barriers disabled people still face when finding, staying in and progressing in work,”  said Mark Atkinson, the organisation’s interim chief executive.

“However, we are deeply concerned that lowering the financial support unemployed disabled people receive, will push people further from the workplace. Those in the Work Related Activity Group who receive Employment Support Allowance are disabled people who’ve been independently assessed as being unfit for work. It is not a passive benefit. Everyone in the Group must take steps towards finding work.”


Crippling court costs force poverty-stricken people to ‘plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit’

Poverty-stricken people are being encouraged to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit out of fear they will face crippling costs imposed by new financial penalties, leading lawyers, magistrates and campaigners have warned.

Legal experts have called for an urgent review of the criminal courts charge, which has been compared to “18th-century” forms of justice after being implemented earlier this year.

The new levy was introduced by the former Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, to make criminals pay for the upkeep of the courts. Because the charge can be up to 10 times higher if someone is found guilty after pleading innocence, critics say it is undermining the justice system by encouraging impoverished defendants to plead guilty even if they have done nothing wrong.

The charge is not means-tested or adjusted according to the seriousness of the crime. In the magistrates’ court it is fixed at £150 if someone pleads guilty, but it can rise to £1,000 if they are found guilty. Campaigners also say it has created an extra hardship for those whose crimes are motivated by poverty – and makes the punishment for small crimes disproportionate.

Many of those affected are homeless or unemployed, with no hope of paying. Recently subjected to the charge were a man who stole three bottles of baby milk, a woman who pinched a £2.39 bottle of shampoo and a homeless man who took a 99p can of Red Bull.

The Independent has learnt of a case this week where a man from Portsmouth was made to pay the £150 charge – as well as a £250 fine and a £25 victim surcharge – after pleading guilty to stealing a £1 bag of chocolate buttons from WHSmith. The charge was levied just a month after his application for bankruptcy was accepted.

The new policy was introduced on 13 April but since the charge can only be imposed on those whose crimes were committed after that date, the courts are only just beginning to see the full effect. At least 30 magistrates – many of them among  the most experienced – have already stepped down from the bench over the changes and many more are predicted to resign as further cases come through.

read the rest of this article here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/crippling-court-costs-force-povertystricken-people-to-plead-guilty-to-crimes-they-didnt-commit-10466451.html

6,500 children in Plymouth ‘no longer poor’ after Government redefines child poverty

MORE than 6,000 children in Plymouth will no longer be classified as poor after the Government decided it will ignore those who have parents who work.

Labour called it an attempt to cover-up the damaging effects of further welfare cuts on the city’s poorest.

The £12billion of welfare reforms, some of which are expected to be revealed in tomorrow’s emergency budget by Chancellor George Osborne, could make life even harder for families struggling to make ends meet, says the council’s communities chief.

Work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, confirmed last week that he was scrapping the target of eradicating child poverty by 2020 and changing how it was measured.

Mr Duncan Smith said he would get rid of Labour’s definition, enshrined in the Child Poverty Act 2010, of a child being poor when he or she lived in a household with an income below 60 per cent of the UK’s average. He called the measure “deeply flawed” and said he would look to replace it with recordings of household “worklessness” and levels of “educational attainment” amongst children.

The decision means 61 per cent of the 10,760 children living below the poverty line in Plymouth will no longer be classified as needing added support as they live in homes where a parent or guardian works for a living.

Councillor Chris Penberthy said those 6,563 children won’t be forgotten by the council, however – but conceded that the reduced figure could make it harder for Plymouth City Council (PCC) when applying for central funds to boost its poorest.

“Iain Duncan Smith has ‘reduced’ child poverty by 61 per cent by saying ‘Those in work shouldn’t be poor’,” said Cllr Penberthy. That does not change the lives of any of those children. For us to discover that the finance element for how you measure child poverty is being stripped-out is unhelpful – and that is putting it politely.”

Cllr Penberthy said looking at social mobility and incorporating a range of factors when measuring child poverty could be beneficial – but scrapping income measurements was a step in the opposite direction.

The Labour cabinet member said the changes meant the full detrimental effect of Mr Osborne’s possible cuts to in-work tax credits would not be recorded in official figures – because those youngsters most affected would no longer be classified as living in poverty.

DWP brushing health under the carpet of universal credit

This is from the Rev Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers against Poverty
This letter is being sent to the Prime Minister today 22 June 2015.
Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP 21st June 2015
The Prime Minister
10 Downing Street
London SW1 0AA
Email copy to MPs and Peers
DWP brushing health under the carpet of the Universal Credit.
I wrote to you on the 19th May highlighting the negative impact on the health of the men, women and children in the UK when incomes are set so low, and living costs particularly rent and council tax too high, that debt is inevitable. I raised the impact on health of sanctions, of the chaotic housing market, of council tax enforcement and of the increased risk of low birthweight leading to permanent developmental brain disorder. I noted the lack of a governmental estimate of the cost to the taxpayer of poverty and debt related illness in the NHS and the schools. I cited independent evidence supporting all my concerns.
My letter was sent to the DWP by your office, “so they may reply in detail on the matters you raise”. I replied it should have been sent as well to several other departments whose policies have a negative impact on the health of the employed and unemployed.
The DWP wrote me a long letter to me about the Universal credit. It started with;
“Situations such as you describe highlight the urgent need for reform of the current benefit system. Key to this Government’s reforms is the introduction of Universal Credit. There are two fundamental problems with the current welfare system: poor work incentives and complexity.”
The words “health” or “debt” or “nutrition” or “rent” or “maternal” or “sanctions” do not appear even once in the DWP’s letter to me of the 17th June. It does not cite even one example of independent evidence about the impact on the health of the employed and the unemployed who engage with the current or future systems of social security.
I would be very grateful for an answer to my letter to you of the 19th May that shares the widespread concern for the health and wellbeing of the men, women and children of the UK with the lowest incomes. The impact of government policies on their capacity to buy minimum quantities of food, utilities, clothes, transport and other necessities is damaging their health, education, fitness for work and the wider economy.
I hope too you will commission an independent assessment of the impact on the mental and physical health of men, women and children of benefit cuts, caps and council tax since 2010 and of the Universal Credit.
from the Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

Too Poor To Die – Funeral Poverty Soars


Soaring funeral costs have left thousands of low-income families in the dire situation of being ‘too poor to die’, according to research.

Research by SunLife Direct reveals that ‘funeral poverty’ rocketed by a shocking 125% in the first four years since 2010, with the average cost of dying up 10.6% to £8,427 from 2013-14 – seven times the rate of inflation. This includes death related costs such as probate, headstones and flowers and the basic cost of a funeral.

Actual funeral costs – which account for less than half of the total cost of dying – have also risen by 3.9% since 2013 and a staggering 87% since 2004. The cost of a funeral now stands at an average £3,590.

SunLife warns that the situation will only continue to deteriorate over the coming years. Their research suggests that funeral costs will continue to rise, reaching an estimated average…

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Businesses paying employees poverty wages are costing taxpayers eleven times the amount benefit fraud cost last year

Taxpayers spend £11bn to top up low wages paid by UK companies

Research published last week by Citizens UK found that companies in the UK are paying their workers so little that the taxpayer has to top up wages to the tune of £11bn a year. The four big supermarkets (Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons) alone are costing just under £1bn a year in tax credits and extra benefits payments.

This is a direct transfer from the rest of society to some of the largest businesses in the country. To put the figure in perspective, the total cost of benefit fraud last year was just £1bn. Corporate scrounging costs 11 times that.

Worse, this is a direct subsidy for poverty pay. If supermarkets and other low-paying employers know they can secure work even at derisory wages, since pay will be topped up by the state, they have no incentive to offer higher wages.

None of this makes sense. We are all, in effect, paying a huge sum of money so that we can continue to underpay the 22% of workers who are earning below the Living Wage – the level at which it is possible to live without government subsidies. The only possible beneficiaries are business owners.

Read the rest of this Guardian article here: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/apr/20/taxpayers-spend-11bn-to-top-up-low-wages-paid-by-uk-companies?