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…]

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…]

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…]

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…]

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.

Read more

“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

Read more

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…]

“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.”

SNP MP #MhairiBlack gives a fierce speech in the House of Commons on #UniversalCredit:"Plunging people into debt does…

Posted by Stop The Tories Channel on Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tory Government won’t reduce the six-week wait for Universal Credit despite MPs’ warnings

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

Surge in demand at foodbanks in Universal Credit trial borough as claimants wait 13 weeks for cash

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

DWP Universal Credit case manager: “What I’ve witnessed is shocking”

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.”

[Read full article on the Independent website…]

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.

[Read full story with video on the Independent website…]

Universal Credit: Theresa May flannels when asked “How are people going to eat?”

The BBC’s Andrew Marr asks Theresa May about the rollout of Universal Credit, which is denying many destitute people any money at all for six weeks: “How are people going to eat?”

To paraphrase May’s rambling response: “We’re looking at it.”

Britain under the Tories. A Prime Minister unable to answer the question: 'how are people going to eat?'

Posted by Durham Miners' Association on Sunday, October 1, 2017

Universal Credit claimant: “I don’t even have 4p to my name”

Kelly tells the BBC she applied for Universal Credit two weeks ago, and has been told her first payment will be on 28th October. She has no money at all. She says: “It’s a lot of weeks to wait. I’m relying on food banks. My friends have had to wait 12 weeks.”

Gail says: “I knew that it would be at least six weeks before I got any money. I knew I’d be without money… [Debt] ruins your life. It spirals out of control so fast when you’re in debt.”

[View video on BBC Online…]

Universal Credit: a personal story

A personal story sent in over the recent Bank Holiday weekend by a #StopTheTories Channel reader who doesn’t want to be named…

“I’m on universal credit. I’m currently unable to work, same with my partner, and we have a 3-year-old son and are expecting our next just after Christmas.

“We only get £723 in benefits between the three of us for a month. We tend to spend that on food, gas and electric for the month on the day we get it and are usually left struggling by the last week or so before our next benefit payment.

“I’ve recently had to sell most of my possessions just to get us through those last weeks. We’ve got nothing left to sell and our refrigerator broke down during the night on Monday. We were able to salvage the frozen food but all fridged goods were lost. As a result we currently haven’t eaten [for nearly three days] (we have food for our child). Read more