From Daily Mirror: A family-of-three were expected to survive with less than a pound in their bank account for a week after a mistake over their benefits.
From Sky News: Former Universal Credit case manager Bayard Tarpley writes about his experience working in its Grimsby call centre for two years…
Have you ever wondered if the service person on the end of the phone is being deliberately being obstructive?
Well the answer is yes. And I should know – I worked as a Universal Credit case manager where agents were trained to get people off the phone without answering their query.
The answers were from a “deflection script”.
And they were not what you want to hear if you’re a single mother desperate to pay your rent or face being kicked out your home.
From HuffPost UK: Ministers have been accused of taking an “ideological” decision to make it harder for Universal Credit claimants to secure childcare.
Dalia Ben-Galim, Director of Policy at Gingerbread – a charity that helps single parents – said people receiving the new benefit struggled compared to those in full time work.
Speaking to the Commons Work and Pensions committee on Wednesday, she noted there were two systems of claiming back the costs of childcare – one of those on Universal Credit and one for people in full time work.
The tax-return scheme non-benefit claiming parents use only requires proof their child is registered with a care provider.
People on Universal Credit must provide a receipt as evidence for each payment made to a care provider – which often get rejected over small details.
Ben-Galim said: “I think that is ideological, that is an active decision that has been made about how people depending on where they are on the income scale are treated.”
From Daily Mirror: A Tory mental health chief has admitted her party’s rollout of Universal Credit risks “failing” the “most vulnerable in our society”.
From Daily Mirror: Esther McVey today admitted some Universal Credit claimants “will be worse off” in a car crash TV interview as Tory fury against the policy mounts.
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.
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.”
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Forcing people into hunger does not incentivise work”: Mhairi Black’s Commons speech on Universal Credit goes viral
SNP MP’s Mhairi Black’s fierce speech in the House of Commons on Universal Credit has gone viral on social media, with over 9 million views on Facebook alone.
“Plunging people into debt does not incentivise work. Forcing people into hunger does not incentivise work. Causing anxiety and distress, and even evicting some families from their homes, does not incentivise work.”
From the Guardian: Theresa May will not reduce the six-week delay faced by many Universal Credit claimants despite being warned by Conservative MPs that the policy is hurting vulnerable families, sources have told the Guardian.
On Wednesday, Labour will reveal new figures, that suggest Universal Credit cuts could push 1 million more children into poverty by 2020. Read more
From Southwark News: Demand at foodbanks in the London Borough of Southwark has surged due to waits of up to three months for people starting on Universal Credit to get their first payments, it has been claimed.
More than 4,000 Southwark residents have joined the Universal Credit system since it was introduced at local Job Centres in early 2016. Labour councillor Fiona Colley said claimants have “dropped off a cliff” for periods of twelve to thirteen weeks, forcing them into rent arrears.
Universal Credit (UC) – which groups six types of benefit into one payment – was touted as the Conservative Party’s big hitting welfare reform after they came to power in 2010. Read more
A DWP manager writes in the Independent: “Many of my colleagues feel out of their depth with the quantity of claims they manage, resulting in a vast amount of crucial work never being completed until claimants contact us when their payments are inevitably paid incorrectly or not at all.”
Tory Cabinet Minister is ill-informed and dismissive when questioned about the 55p-per-minute Universal Credit helpline
From The Independent: Liz Truss, the Tory minister who thought Britain’s level of cheese imports was a ‘disgrace’, had a paltry answer when it came to charging welfare claimants 55p-per-minute to call the government helpline.