1) Failed austerity plan spells more cuts in Spending Review 2013
Chancellor George Osborne announced further cuts in the Spending Review on Wednesday, blaming the slow recovery on ‘lower than expected’ growth.
In a bid to save £11.5bn in 2015, cut-backs will be made on most of the country’s already reduced departments, with only education, defence and intelligence escaping the axe.
Some of the new measures for welfare included a 7 day wait in between a job loss and a claim (which could mean a wait of up to 38 days because Universal credit is paid monthly), weekly sign-ons and more time with job centre advisors, a national welfare cap set every four years by the government (taking into account inflation) and a requirement for all claimants to learn English before being eligible.
The review has been met with criticism from campaigners who say the reforms will increase poverty, use of food banks and also short term loan use, and also that the Chancellor was making political moves with the reforms, as they lie close to the next election.
2) Independent campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts, releases report on the DWP’s mis-use of statistics
Independent organiusation DPAC released a report that listed 35 cases where the DWP and it’s representatives gave false or mis-leading statsitsics relating to welfare and the benefits system.
They said in the report:
“We believe that this demonstrates a consistent pattern of abuse of official statistics by Ministers of the present Government to paint a false picture of benefit claimants in the UK in support of policies which are aimed at cost cutting to the detriment of jobless, sick and disabled people.”
Each case is presented, sourced and then dis-proven in the report. A ‘culture of truthlessness’ in the DWP perhaps?
3) Job centre tells staff to sanction 30% of claimants each week
A post made by Anti Bedroom Tax Protest In Scotland has raised serious concerns over the targets given to Job Centre staff over sanctions.
The post said:
“I’ve just got back from Leith Job Centre in Edinburgh and have been told unofficially that a new manager started this week and she has instructed staff to put 30% of claimants on sanction EACH WEEK. The staff are up in arms but can’t do anything about it.
“I just want to warn everyone signing on to make sure their paperwork is in order so they have no excuse to catch anyone out. I’ve emailed my MP because as far as I know, they should not be working to sanction targets.”
Sanctions can dock or entirely remove benefit payments for up to two months, leaving claimants with no income. Since the coalition came to power there has been around 2.25 million sanctions brought against claimants raising fears that powers have been abused and sanctions imposed without reasonable condition.
4) Lord Freud offers direct payment ‘guarantees’ to social landlords
In a talk at the Chartered Institute of Housing in Manchester, the minister for welfare, Lord Freud, agreed to concessions and guarantees for social landlords in a bid to appease them in light of the controversial policies introduced by the coalition government.
Lord Freud commented that ‘collaborations’ between the government and housing associations were essential to making the Universal Credit system successful, and revealed plans to identify tenants who should be exempt from direct payments. In these situations, benefits would be passed directly to landlords to prevent tenants from falling into arrears.
Thousands of tenants have already fallen into debt since the bedroom tax was introduced a couple of months ago. However, while the plans offered up by Lord Freud will see landlords paid correctly, tenants will still fall into poverty, and direct payment may be abused by landlords who want to charge a rent as close to the top bracket of housing benefit as possible.