1. The True Impact of the Bedroom Tax
The Independent broke the news that there had been a 338% increase in the number of people applying for emergency handouts as a result of the bedroom tax introduction last month.
25,000 applications were made for discretionary housing benefit (DHP) in April, across 51 councils, to help cover rent. In the same month last year there were 5,700.
Every council saw a rise in claimants, and many reported a massive shortfall in funding given to deal with the influx, leading some claimants who would otherwise be helped, to be turned away. Some councils had to hire extra staff in order to cope with the increase in applications and to help give advice.
According to the DWP, the rise is down to better publicity of DHP by local councils. Somehow, we’re not convinced.
2. The Universal Credit system is not working, according to official review
A report released by the Major Projects Authority which reviews the 170 most expensive projects set by government has put the Universal Credit system on an ‘amber-red’ status meaning it is in danger of failing.
The MPA works on behalf of the taxpayer to ensure the biggest and most expensive government projects are reviewed, creating better transparency and improve efficiency and delivery.
The DWP said that the findings were out of date and that through close consultation with the MPA, they have strengthened their plans to put the system back on course. However, the release of the data came on Friday evening, raising questions on whether there was an attempt to ‘bury bad news’.
3. Iain Duncan Smith faces judicial review over ‘benefits cap’
The DWP seems to be forming a close relationship with the courts, as another summons was brought to them this week. This time, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, is challenged on the ‘benefits cap’ by four families.
The policy, brought in last month in some boroughs, caps the amount of benefits claimable for those who do not work enough hours to claim Working Tax Credits. It is set at £500 for lone parents and couples and at £350 for single adults.
For two of the families, the £500 will not cover their current rent, leaving them no money for food, clothing or necessities. The cap will force them into arrears, eviction and probable homelessness. The other two families have escaped domestic violence from a spouse upon whom they relied financially. The cap will have equally devastating effects on their lives.
The government say the cap will affect 56,000 families by the time it is rolled out nationally in September this year.
4. Working Capability Assessment ruled unfair on sufferers of mental health problems
There was some well-earned victory for welfare campaigners last week, as three judges ruled that the Work Capability Assessment was unfair on those suffering from mental illness.
Charities such as Mind, Rethink Mental Illness and the National Autistic Society took part in the case to give evidence on the experiences of its members, explaining that the task of gathering all of an individual’s paperwork and information from GPs, social workers and hospitals was simply too much for some sufferers.
Camapaigners are now calling for an all out review and suspension of the WCA in order to assess its overall suitability and compliance.
The DWP said it will appeal against the decision.
5. Disabled workers stop traffic in Central London
Ahead of the National Day of action on 1st June, attendees at the TUC Disabled Workers conference abandoned the last part of their day to take to the streets in a passionate and spontaneous protest that halted traffic along London’s Tottenham Court Road.
Protesters had spent the Wednesday vowing to fight against welfare reforms that are severely affecting their lives in terms of employment, housing and benefits.
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass