Justice ‘only for the wealthy’: Law Society condemns legal aid cuts

From The Guardian: It is increasingly difficult for defendants and claimants to find solicitors prepared to represent them due to government legal aid cuts, the Law Society has warned.

In a fiercely worded attack on funding restrictions, Christina Blacklaws, the society’s president, said British justice now existed “only for the wealthy, or the small number on very low incomes lucky enough to find a solicitor willing and able to fight a mountain of red tape to secure legal aid.”

Public access to justice and the right to a fair trial has never been so restricted, according to the organisation that represents solicitors across England and Wales.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

Esther McVey misled MPs over Universal Credit, watchdog says

From The Guardian: Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, has been forced to apologise to parliament after making misleading statements about the government’s faltering welfare changes.

The MP for Tatton’s statement followed the release of a damning letter from Sir Amyas Morse, who told the minister she had misinterpreted a report by the National Audit Office on Universal Credit to make it look as if the new welfare system was working well.

McVey should not have claimed universal credit was being rolled out too slowly when the NAO had said the DWP should ensure it was working properly before transferring any more people on to it from previous benefits, she was told.

She should not have said universal credit was working when the report said this was not proven, Morse said. She should not have claimed that the report had not taken into account recent improvements in welfare, when it was signed off days earlier by her department, he added.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

The number of homeless pensioners is the highest it’s been for a decade

From The Big Issue: The number of pensioners being accepted as homeless has skyrocketed by 40 per cent in five years, according to new figures.

A total of 2,520 people aged 60 and over were classed as ‘without a safe and secure home last year’ – the highest number for over a decade.

The government figures for January to March of this year also uncovered a 54 per cent rise in single parent families forced to turn to temporary accommodation.

There has been a three per cent increase on the number of families waiting for a permanent place to stay with 79,880 altogether in hostels and B&Bs. This figure has risen by 56 per cent since the onset of austerity measures in 2010.

[Read full article on The Big Issue website…]

‘Two-child policy’ cuts benefits of more than 70,000 families

From The Guardian: More than 70,000 low-income families lost at least £2,800 each last year after having their entitlement to benefits taken away as a result of the Tory government’s “two-child policy”, official figures show.

The statistics reveal that during the first year of operation, 59% of the 73,500 families who lost financial support for a third child were in work. Nine per cent of UK claimant households with three or more children were affected.

Campaigners said the number of families affected by the policy would drive up UK poverty levels, putting an estimated 200,000 children into hardship.

The policy means households claiming child tax credit or universal credit, who have a third or subsequent child born after 6 April 2017, are unable to claim a child element worth £2,780 a year for these children.

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The New York Times: In Britain, austerity is changing everything

From the New York Times: A walk through this modest town in the northwest of England amounts to a tour of the casualties of Britain’s age of austerity.

The old library building has been sold and refashioned into a glass-fronted luxury home. The leisure center has been razed, eliminating the public swimming pool. The local museum has receded into town history. The police station has been shuttered.

Now, as the local government desperately seeks to turn assets into cash, Browns Field, a lush park in the center of town, may be doomed, too. At a meeting in November, the council included it on a list of 17 parks to sell to developers.

[Read full article on New York Times website…]

Most DWP frontline staff “say Universal Credit should be scrapped”

From HuffPost UK: Two-thirds of frontline Department for Work and Pensions staff have said the roll-out of crisis-hit Universal Credit should be stopped, a Channel 4 investigation has revealed.

Some 70% of DWP staff say the roll out of Universal Credit should be stopped according to a survey carried out by a trade union.

The Public and Commercial Services Union poll found 79% of respondents felt there was not sufficient staff to meet demand from claimants.

The union, which represents frontline DWP staff, many of whom work in high street job centres, polled 550 of its members for a Dispatches documentary.

A whistleblower who currently works for the #DWP told the programme: “Sometimes we’ll have a couple of people on our team on leave or off sick and then the work really piles up at that point and these claims have not been given the due attention they deserve.

“A lot of [claimants] can miss their payments… It could mean that they won’t be able to eat for another couple of days, it’s very tough on them.”

[Read full article on HuffPost UK…]

Universal Credit wait ‘left mum thinking of giving up her two childen so they could eat’

From Daily Mirror: Stories collected by food bank charity The Trussell Trust included a mother “who considered giving up her own two children while she waited for her Universal Credit to come in so that they could finally get some food”.

[Read full story on Daily Mirror website…]

Thousands of Universal Credit claimants suffer 40% cuts to pay back debts

From HuffPost UK: Thousands of people on Universal Credit are having 40% of their benefit deducted to pay back outstanding debts. In January, 6% of all “full service” claims had 40% deducted from their standard allowance, according to stats released in response to a written parliamentary question.

[Read full article on HuffPost UK website…]

Millions of families on brink face deepest benefit cuts in years

From The Guardian: Families struggling to make ends meet will be hit by the biggest annual benefits cut for six years, according to a new analysis that exposes the impact of continuing austerity measures on the low paid.

a further public spending squeeze will see the second largest annual cut to the benefits budget since the financial crash. According to new research by the Resolution Foundation thinktank, the changes from April will save around £2.5bn and dent the incomes of the “just about managing” families that Theresa May has vowed to help.

The cuts will affect around 11 million families, including 5 million of the struggling families that the prime minister stated she would focus on.

[Read full article on the Guardian website…]

John Redwood admits it: there never was a reason for austerity

From Tax Research UK: John Redwood has admitted there is no need for a government to balance its books. He has admitted QE cancels debt. He has then admitted the whole ‘passing debt to the next generation’ phobia is wrong. And he has admitted as a result that there was no reason for austerity, the imposition of which served no economic purpose.

As a result he has, in two paragraphs, shredded the whole economic rationale on which he has been elected to Parliament.

And in so doing he has driven coach and horses through all those who still say that austerity must continue, because what he has done is make clear that if this is economically unnecessary then  it can only be driven by incompetence, or a hatred of government, or class warfare, or all three.

[Read full column on Tax Research UK…]

Councils forced to fund emergency help for universal credit claimants

From The Guardian: Cash-strapped councils are being forced to set aside extra resources to cushion the blow of switching to universal credit for vulnerable households, according to analysis by Labour.

Responses to a series of freedom of information requests submitted by the party have revealed many local authorities are allocating significant funds to support tenants with rent arrears and provide advice to help them navigate the new system.

Newcastle city council reported that it was spending £390,000 supporting UC claimants, almost a quarter of which was for additional rent arrears support.

Liverpool city council said it had spent £175,000 from its local welfare provision scheme on UC claimants, while Shropshire council said it had set aside £20,000 to help food banks to “diversify the type of help they are able to give specifically to suit universal credit.”

In London, Tower Hamlets council said it had set aside £5m over three years to help those affected by the shift to UC, while Barking and Dagenham is budgeting £50,000 from January 2018.

In total, 26 councils said they had set aside extra resources or anticipated increased demand for welfare support as the UC rollout reaches their area.

[Read full article on Guardian website…]

DWP officials pocket £44 million in ‘performance’ bonuses despite Universal Credit debacle

From Welfare Weekly: Civil servants working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have been handed over £40 million in performance-related bonuses, despite serious problems with the rollout of Universal Credit and a startling increase in the number of successful disability benefit appeals.

Figures show DWP staff were awarded £44 million in “good performance” bonuses in the last year, while thousands of new universal credit claimants were forced to a wait a minimum six weeks for their first payment and left at risk of becoming homeless because of rent arrears.

According to the figures, 240 senior DWP officials pocketed a total £760,000 in bonuses, while a further 88,300 junior staff were each handed an extra £1,750 in their pay packets.

[Read full article on Welfare Weekly…]

Sam Allardyce brands UK’s reliance on foodbanks a ‘disgrace’

From The Guardian: Sam Allardyce has branded the growing number of foodbanks in Britain a national disgrace, after visiting one in his role as Everton FC manager this week.

Allardyce, together with his assistant Sammy Lee, donated food on behalf of the club to the North Liverpool foodbank on Thursday. Supporters of Everton and Liverpool have held regular collections for the facility, one of 428 operated within the Trussell Trust Network, having set up the Fans Supporting Foodbanks initiative. Three wards surrounding Goodison Park are among the poorest in Europe, with up to 42% of families living under the Living Wage Foundation’s poverty line.

After praising the patients, parents and staff at Alder Hey, he said: “It’s extremely depressing that a country of this magnitude, and where it thinks it lies in itself, can allow so many food banks to be operating in this country.

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Protesters rally in Gloucester city centre in opposition to controversial Universal Credit roll-out

From Gloucestershire Live: Protesters were out in force in Gloucester city centre on Saturday as part of a ‘national day of action’ in opposition to Universal Credit, the controversial new benefits system that will be rolled-out across Gloucestershire in February.

The protest was organised by the local Unite branch, part of Britain’s biggest union, and saw campaigners deliver soapbox speeches outside the Guildhall on Eastgate Street.

Sue Powell, a Unite Community Activist said ‘the effect of Universal Credit will be felt for years to come’.

She said: “Universal Credit is a failed system. Seven million households will be affected by the introduction of Universal Credit, including over one million low paid or part-time workers, as well as the growing number of self-employed.

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“My benefits were stopped after I came out of hospital”: The story of a food bank user

#ToryBritain #FoodBankBritain

Posted by Stop the Tories Channel on Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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Government announces £1.5 billion U-turn on Universal Credit

From Metro: The Government has bowed to pressure on the controversial Universal Credit roll-out. During his 2017 Budget announcement, Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced that a £1.5 billion package will be allocated to deal with the issues and delays caused by the controversial roll-out of the one size fits all benefit.

[Read article on Metro website…]

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