Child Poverty Action Group Monthly News and Views

Shown below is the “News from CPAG – Child Poverty Action Group e-newsletter, a monthly round-up of our news and views”. If you would like to subscribe to CPAG news, please click here.

IFS: major surge in child poverty by 2020

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has predicted that relative child poverty will go up by a staggering 1.1 million children in the current decade, almost entirely due to tax and benefit changes introduced by the coalition government. Our response calling for a complete rethink of government strategy on child poverty was widely quoted by the media including the Daily Mirror, Evening Standard and Guardian.

Alison Garnham has blogged on why we must not abandon the child poverty targets and why making progress on poverty requires us to rethink public spending across the whole of government so that we get the fundamentals right – a fairer society and a stronger economy.

Universal Credit – will it work?

Our *new report published with the TUC looks at whether universal credit can deliver its objectives, and in particular whether it can ‘make work pay’. For a summary of the report findings see Alison Garnham’s blog for Liberal Democrat Voice.

Many thanks to the Orp Foundation for supporting our Universal Credit work programme.

Welfare rights conference 2013: Surviving Welfare Reform

We are now hosting our annual Welfare Rights Conference in both the north and south of the country. We hope this will give more people the opportunity to attend, keeping travel and accommodation costs to a minimum.

  • The Northern Conference in Manchester on Thursday 5 September.
  • The Southern Conference in London on Wednesday 11 September.
  • Further information and booking

Special offer – book your place before 1 July for an early bird discount.

Exhibition space: if you are interested in exhibiting your work, products and services at our conference, contact Naomi Jessop (njessop@cpag.org.uk).

Training note: our Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payment courses across the UK are selling fast, book your place now to avoid disappointment! Visit our website to find dates in Norwich, Plymouth, York, Liverpool, Newcastle, Manchester and Cardiff.

Conference: Tackling child poverty in your local authority

On Thursday 18 July, CPAG is hosting a free conference in Birmingham, supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, exploring ways local authorities and their partners can creatively work to meet their commitments under the Child Poverty Act despite facing significant financial challenges.

Topics to be addressed on the day have emerged from discussions with local authorities and will include workshops on Universal Credit, Social Fund schemes, and including the voices of children and young people in child poverty strategies.

Further information and booking

A new partnership with the Chartered Institute of Housing

We are delighted to be the chosen charity for CIH’s Presidential Appeal. It’s a welcome opportunity for us to partner with a great organisation with shared goals.

For anyone going to the Housing 2013 conference in June, come and see us on the CPAG exhibition stand!

See a full list of our other upcoming events.

CPAG: the movie

We are the lucky winners of a VoiceOver video donated by politics.co.uk. See their inside view of filming a CPAG campaign video on location. We’ll let you know when the final video is launched!

The latest Understanding Society report indicates that while the public endorses the importance of reducing child poverty, there is also a hardening of attitudes towards the welfare state and benefit claimants. Our new campaign video aims to counter the common stereotypes.

Do you know a great campaigner?

Are you speaking out and taking action on issues that matter? Or does this sound like someone you know? Apply or nominate now for an SMK Campaigner Award, which equips people to become more effective campaigners. It’s free to apply. For more information, or to apply or nominate, please visit: the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. Applications close at 1pm on 10 June 2013.

cpag banner

Open Email to Bournemouth Borough Council about the Bedroom Tax

The following email has today been sent to Bournemouth Borough Council:

On page 39 of the Spring 2013 issue of the Bournemouth Borough Council “Home News” it states:

“And now for something completely different! As mentioned elsewhere in this edition of HOME NEWS, April sees a radical overhaul of Housing Benefit. To clear up any concerns by disabled tenants, here’s a list of those tenants protected from the ‘bedroom tax’

Pensioners (those of state pension credit age).

People who are in receipt of high rate of the mobility or care element of disability living allowance

People who have a severely disabled child – parents or guardians who have a child that receives Disability Living Allowance.

People who are disabled and need a non-resident over-night carer”

We welcome any move by the Council to alleviate the burden of the unjust ‘bedroom tax’ which is a blatant attack on the poorest in our society. It states that the above people are ‘protected’. However it is unclear whether Bournemouth Borough Council are ‘exempting’ the above people or following government guidelines relating to Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs).

We are extremely concerned that DHP’s are made from a budget-limited, non ring fenced discretionary fund and often limited to just a few months to provide temporary help. We feel they are not a viable long-term solution as they fail to give people with disabilities the assurance that their housing needs are secure. DHPs will also be needed as a result of other aspects of welfare reform (such as the benefit cap and the changes to council tax benefit).

In the long term, it is likely there will be insufficient resources to help all disabled people who need to remain in their current home. We feel DHPs are not suitable to mitigate the effects of the policy on disabled people. Their discretionary nature means claimants cannot appeal against apparently unreasonable or irrational allocations.

More than three-quarters (77%) of people claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) choose to live in the social sector as it provides the additional space and security with many properties having been significantly adapted for their needs. The Government has exempted DLA recipients from the household benefit cap, ‘in recognition of the additional financial costs that can arise from disability and that disabled people will have less scope to alter their spending patterns or reduce their housing costs.’ However, the same principle has not been applied to DLA claimants who are expected to be hit by the Bedroom Tax.

Please could you provide clarification on the following:

Is Bournemouth Borough Council exempting all people stipulated in the Home News article from the ‘Bedroom Tax’?

Where it is determined that people are entitled to DHP, will funds be made available for all cases irrespective of whether the money allocated by central government is exhausted?

Will DLA income be taken into account when assessing a family’s income?

Where parents or guardians of children receiving DLA no longer live together, will both households will receive DHPs?

Thank-you for your time in considering these issues and we look forward to receiving your response.

Regards
Mike Cracknell
BPACC Chair
Bournemouth & Poole Anti Cuts Coalition

The boom in UK food banks

Demand for food banks in the UK is ‘booming’ with over 500,000 people forced to use them to stave off hunger and destitution. Half of those helped are children. They are among the victims of sweeping austerity which is cutting welfare, services and programs precisely when they are needed most.

The following has been republished with kind permission from Gareth Hill

Food bank manager in Bournemouth blames welfare reform for rising demand

The manager of Bournemouth Food Bank has blamed welfare reform and changes to Job Seekers Allowance for a rising need for food handouts.

Debbie Bramley said that the charity she runs in Charminster is struggling to keep up with demand as George Osborne outlines *planned spending cuts for 2015.

Bournemouth East MP, Conservative Tobias Ellwood, did not respond to a request to discuss accusations that government policy is forcing people to rely on food banks.

Victory as judges rule controversial disability benefits procedure is unfair

Republished from False Economy

Sent from Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society:

Wednesday 22 May 2013 – Three judges have ruled that the procedure currently used by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to decide whether hundreds of thousands of people are eligible for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) disadvantages people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism.

The judgment, which was made public at a high court hearing today, is the result of a judicial review brought by two anonymous claimants with mental health problems.

The charities Rethink Mental Illness, Mind and the National Autistic Society intervened in the case to provide evidence based on the experiences of their members and supporters.

The case centres on how evidence is gathered for the controversial Work Capability Assessment (WCA), the process used to determine whether someone is fit for work.

Under the current system, evidence from a professional such as a GP or social worker is expected to be provided by people themselves. There is no obligation for the DWP to collect this evidence, even on behalf of the most vulnerable claimants, apart from in some rare cases.

Seeking evidence can be very challenging for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities or autism whose health or condition can make it hard for them to understand or navigate the complex processes involved in being assessed.

As a result, those who need support the most are frequently being assessed without this important evidence being taken into account.

It was ruled that the DWP had breached its duties to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 and that the Department must do more to ensure this sort of evidence is collected and taken into account. This means the current procedure for the WCA puts some groups at a substantial disadvantage.

The three charities have hailed the ruling as a victory for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and autism who are being put through a process which puts them at a disadvantage.

Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said: “This ruling proves once and for all that this cruel and unfair process is unlawful. The judges have independently confirmed what our members have been saying for years – the system is discriminating against some of the most ill and vulnerable people in our society, the very people it is meant to support.

“The Work Capability Assessment process is deeply unfair for people with a mental illness – it’s like asking someone in a wheelchair to walk to the assessment centre. The Government is setting people up to fail.

“Now that the court has ruled that these tests are unfair it would be completely irresponsible to carry on using them. The Government must halt the mass reassessment of people receiving incapacity benefit immediately, until the process is fixed.

“This ruling will help improve one aspect of the Work Capability Assessment, but there are still many other problems with it. We will keep campaigning on behalf of everyone we represent until the whole process is fair for everyone.”

Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Mind welcomes the tribunal’s judgment, which has found that the claims process for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is unfair to people with mental health problems and that it has to change.

“The judgment is a victory, not only for the two individuals involved in this case, but for thousands of people who have experienced additional distress and anxiety because they have struggled through an assessment process which does not adequately consider the needs of people with mental health problems.

“Following this judgment, Mind hopes changes will be implemented quickly to ensure the claims procedure is fairer and more accurate.

“Mind has campaigned to improve the assessment process for many years and we will monitor the situation closely to ensure people with mental health problems receive the benefits they are entitled to.”

Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the National Autistic Society said: “The court’s decision is a victory for fairness. Now that the tribunal has ruled that the Work Capability Assessment process disadvantages people with autism, the Government must stop putting them through it until a more equitable system is in place.

“Those who devised this process failed to understand the complexities of conditions like autism. By the nature of their condition, people with autism can struggle to understand and articulate how their disability affects them – which is just what this current system requires them to do, by placing the burden on them to collect their own evidence.”

Read more:
The controversy around Atos Mental Function Champions
The judicial review taken by people with mental health illnesses

false economy

Independent Living Fund recipient interviews

Reproduced from False Economy

The videos on this page are interviews made, by False Economy, with people who are directly affected by the government’s atrocious recent decision to close the Independent Living Fund (the ILF).

The ILF was set up as a standalone fund to pay for extra carer hours for people with severe disabilities. That additional funding made it possible for people to pay for enough care to continue to live independently in their homes, rather than in residential care. At the end of last year, the government made an extremely unpopular decision to close the fund and devolve it to local authorities. A recent attempt to challenge the closure was lost, but claimants plan to appeal.

In these videos and linked case studies, ILF recipients around the country explain how vital the fund is to them and what will happen if they are no longer able to pay for the high levels of care that they require.

Mary Laver

In this video, Mary Laver, who lives in Newcastle, talks about the life that she leads with carer hours paid for by the Independent Living Fund. The ILF pays for about 46 of Mary’s carer hours a week. With that support, she does everything and a lot more: last year, for example, she raised money for the Royal British Legion by travelling from Lands End to John O’Groats in her electric wheelchair and went to London as a 2012 Olympic volunteer. Without that funding, things will change drastically:

Gabriel Pepper

Gabriel is 41. He began his working life as an archaeologist after completing a Phd. He has had three brain tumours and has sight, speech and mobility impairments. The ILF pays about two-thirds of his care costs. Waltham Forest council pays for the rest. His view on the importance of taking legal action to fight to save the ILF fund in court (he was in the group of ILF recipients that took the recent court action): “I don’t believe the Tory party will ever hang their heads in shame, because they don’t have shame.”

He also talks in the video about the effort that he’s had to make to convince MPs to sign early day motion 651 – an EDM which called for the government to “look at ways of expanding the Independent Living Fund to provide needs-based support to all adults in the UK who require it.”

Sophie Partridge

Sophie is an actor, writer and workshop artist from Islington:

“My PAs [carers] do everything for me – everything physically that I can’t do for myself. It’s all aspects of personal care – like getting up, going to the loo, washing, dressing, cooking for me, cutting my food up, cleaning, laundry, driving me in my van. I still need the same levels of assistance whatever I’m doing, so if I’m working or round at a friend’s house, I need them with me to do all those things.

Fighting the cuts has been difficult. [In their arguments against benefit cuts], people do use this word “vulnerable” a hell of a lot. I actually wrote a letter to David Cameron – and I’m still waiting for a reply – in which I said: ‘It’s not my impairment which makes me vulnerable. It is your cuts. It is your policies. Give us decent resources and we will add to your economy. We can’t be cast as victims all the time. It’s difficult, because we do have to fight the good fight without appearing pathetic cripples. It’s hard to find the right balance.”

Penny Pepper

Penny Pepper is an Islington writer and journalist: “The reason I get the independent living fund (ILF) is that I’m judged to have a severe disability with severe levels of mobility impairment. I’m assessed as needing 24/7 care. The ILF pays for just under half of my care costs(and Islington council pays the rest. I need support to do most things of a physical and practical nature – from getting out of bed, using the bathroom, getting dressed and food preparation to moving from A to B, getting into my wheelchair and getting out of my wheelchair. I would not be able to work without that funding. This is what is terrifying to me. Council funding alone, for carers, would not be enough to retain my personal assistants.

There is this bizarre idea coming our way that you can eat sandwiches, lie in bed and use incontinence pads. If that happens, then that is, in effect, the end of my career. Now, we’re being forced backwards into having to go on about how pathetic we are as individuals – you know, with your poor legs and your this and your that. If the council ever tries to put me in a care home [because it cannot afford to fund independent living costs ] I will take it to court.”

Kevin Caulfield

Kevin lives in West London, works in Brixton and is training to be a barrister.

“For my care, I need two people during the day at some points during the day, so my care package totals 25 hours. It’s quite significant. It’s enabled me to stabilise my health and it’s improved quite a lot. I’ve been able to work during the last 15 years. I’ve been able to go to college. I’m training to be a barrister – things that I would have been able to do in my life if I wasn’t a disabed person, but certainly things that I couldn’t do without this support.

Hammersmith and Fuham council pay for about 60% of my care package and about 40% of the pacakge comes from the Independent Living Fund. For disabled people to be included as equal members of society, [the great thing about the ILF is that the assessment really is based on your needs and you don’t feel that someone has come in with a cash register next to them.”

There are more testimonies from people on the Disabled People Against Cuts site:

What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Mary’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Justine’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – John, Paul and Evonne’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people –Roxy ’s story
What the Closure of the Independent Living Fund means to disabled people – Kathy’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Richard’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Penny’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Anthony and David’s story
What the Closure of ILF means to disabled people – Kevin’s story
Template letter to MPs to stop ILF Closure
What Local Authorities said about the Closure of ILF

false economy

Demos against the Bedroom Tax – Tuesday 18th June – 6pm

We are calling on Bournemouth and Poole councils to give assurances that no social housing tenants will be evicted due to arrears accrued through the Bedroom Tax and will be holding demonstrations outside both town halls prior to full council meetings on Tuesday 18th June. Please show your support and assemble outside either Bournemouth Town Hall or Poole Civic Centre from 6pm. Thank-you

bedroom-tax-demo-flyer-front x500
Download flyer (pdf) A4A5

The Bedroom Tax – What it is and why it’s unfair

As part of the government’s Welfare Reform Act 2012, the Bedroom Tax came into effect in April 2013. It is also known as the spare room subsidy, social sector size criteria or under-occupation penalty. The changes mean that Housing Benefit will be cut for people who rent from a council or social landlord if they are considered to have a spare bedroom. Strictly speaking it is not a tax but that is the name it was given and it has stuck.

The Bedroom Tax is a cynical attack on the poorest in our society. Only those claiming benefits are affected. Anyone who lives in social housing but does not claim housing benefits will not have to pay any extra. This highlights that it is not about freeing up scarce social housing.

If a property is deemed as having spare bedrooms, the following applies:

  • One spare bedroom means you will lose 14% of your entitled housing benefit
  • Two or more spare bedrooms means you will lose 25% of your entitlement

According to Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) analysis, the average claimant will see their housing benefit cut by £14 / £16 per week although 7% of people will face a cut of £31.

The Bedroom Tax affects anyone of working age who rents from a council or social landlord, ie Housing Association, and is in receipt of Housing Benefit. There are a number of different rules about what counts as a spare bed room and what rooms will result in a reduction of Housing Benefit revenue:

  • Children of both sexes under 10 are expected to share a bedroom. If they currently do not share and they remain in separate rooms, one of their rooms is considered as a spare bedroom
  • Children of the same gender under 16 are expected to share a bedroom
  • Couples and adults are entitled to have bedrooms of their own
  • If a bedroom (with or without furniture) is kept free for when a child comes to stay with a parent that they do not normally live with, this room is considered as a spare bedroom
  • Bedroom Tax allowance for a child can only be claimed by one parent, even where they share access to the child
  • Extra bedrooms for medical reasons is not allowed and considered as a spare bedroom e.g. a couple using separate bedrooms because one of them is ill or recovering from an operation will be liable to the bedroom tax

Around 660,000 people will be effected and thousands of families and single people are at risk of losing their homes. Families will loose their neighbourhood, their community, children will have to change schools and teenagers will lose their friends. In Bournemouth and Poole, 1224 social housing tenants are affected by the bedroom tax.

It has been estimated that up to 420,000 of those affected are disabled or chronically sick. Many of these properties have been modified by social housing landlords to assist people in daily living and unless they can prove that they require ongoing overnight care, disabled tenants are trapped in a situation where they will have to pay more rent.. It is highly unlikely that people forced to move through financial difficulties, will find private landlords willing to spend money to modify properties.

The government claims that the Bedroom Tax will encourage more efficient use of social housing. However the reality is, not only are many people in need of their ‘extra’ rooms but, there are simply not enough one and two bedroom properties for those affected to move into. Across the country there are already 1 million people on council waiting lists for one bedroom properties.

The vast majority of those who are forced to ‘downsize’ will switch from social housing to the private rented sector which will inevitably lead to higher rent costs and local authorities paying out more in Housing Benefits. The solution to a lack of social housing is not to punish those who live in social housing but to build more council homes.

Please also see Some ideas to fight the bedroom tax

Statement from Boycott Workfare: Stop the Sanctions!

Boycott Workfare call on the PCS to take action on conditionality, workfare and sanctions

Public sector workers, including at the DWP, will soon face sanctions under Universal Credit unless we take action now

Public sector workers, including at the DWP, will soon face sanctions under Universal Credit unless we take action now

The PCS conference takes place in Brighton later this month. Join a rally urging delegates to support a position of non-cooperation with sanctions against welfare claimants at 12.30pm on 21st May.

We are extremely disappointed that PCS leadership have decided not to allow debate at their conference on two motions which called for the union to move from theoretical to practical unity with claimants in challenging sanctions.

Current welfare policies and reforms represent an unprecedented attack on claimants and on the welfare state itself. Conditionality, workfare and the huge rise in sanctions are driving claimants further into poverty and destitution. At the same time a vicious campaign of hatred driven by the media and political classes has stigmatised those on benefits and poisoned public debate.

Workfare forces claimants to work without wages under the threat of sanctions. Those on workfare are exempted from legislation that protects the rights of people at work and denied access to union membership and representation. Sick and disabled people claiming ESA can now be forced onto workfare. Workfare drives down wages and conditions for all workers and it is in all our interests to end it completely. Between 2009 and 2011 the number of sanctions handed out to claimants tripled to reach over half a million. In January this year 85,000 people were sanctioned, suggesting that the number of sanctions could reach one million this year. People are now having benefits withdrawn for up to three years (including for failure to participate in workfare). As the PCS have said this increase in the number and severity of sanctions is purely a political decision.

As conditionality and sanctions have increased and become more severe so the range of claimants subject to them has been extended. Sick and disabled people found “fit for work” by the hated Work Capability Assessment are now subject to this regime as are single parents with young children. Plans for in-work conditionality will see sanctions applied to part time workers and the self employed. The introduction of Universal Jobmatch and a requirement for claimants to spend 35 hour each week on jobsearch or workfare will inevitably lead to more sanctions and is intended to do so. Plans to make hardship payments a recoverable loan will force those who are sanctioned into debt. Housing benefit is increasingly being suspended where people are sanctioned. This systematic removal of welfare support is causing sharp increases in homelessness and the use of food banks.

Boycott Workfare welcome the fact that the PCS have spoken out against workfare and the huge rise in sanctions. We also understand that the primary role of the PCS is to represent their members including around 84,000 staff in the DWP. It should be obvious that there is a tension here where the PCS are campaigning against policies that their own members are required to implement. But there is also the possibility that the PCS could take concerted action to defend the welfare state in the interests of both claimants and their members. Government policies cannot be implemented without workers to implement them.

At meetings with the PCS we have raised the possibility of action being taken. Sadly the PCS have been dismissive of our suggestions and they have been met with arguments for inaction. PCS leadership have argued that anti-strike laws prevent action being taken in solidarity with claimants. But the interests of claimants and PCS members are intertwined and these policies directly impact on the working conditions of PCS members. Increased aggravation between PCS members and claimants put both at risk. And under Universal Credit many DWP staff will themselves face conditionality and sanctions. The right of workers to withhold their labour is fundamental. Laws which undermine this right do not comply with international obligations and should be challenged. Without those prepared to take risks and challenge injustice we would not have unions or a welfare state.

This is not about blaming those PCS members tasked with implementing unjust policies. We know that the blame lies elsewhere. This is about the role that unions could and should take in building solidarity between workers and claimants and in empowering workers to take action. If the PCS are sincere about campaigning for social security justice then they should refuse to cooperate with the implementation of unjust policies. Words are not enough. Boycott Workfare therefore calls on the PCS to take action to protect welfare provision and to frustrate the imposition of policies designed to undermine it.

Boycott Workfare would like to thank those PCS branches who have signed our pledge and those members who have taken part in our actions. We are grateful to members of the PCS in the Civil Service Rank and File Network who put forward a motion to this year’s PCS conference. We urge all PCS members to call for proper debate and practical action on challenging sanctions and to support the emergency motion calling for non-cooperation with sanctions to be debated as well as the rally on the 21st May.

© Copyright 2013 | Boycott Workfare | All Rights Reserved

Some ideas to fight the bedroom tax

The bedroom tax can be stopped by people and communities standing together. Many local groups have mushroomed all over the UK and are raising awareness, challenging social landlords and building solidarity within communities.

1) Set up a local campaign group – talk about the Government’s Bedroom Tax with your family, friends and neighbours – you don’t need many people to organise a first local campaign meeting. you can even get a few people together in your own front room or find out if there are free meeting spaces in a local community centre or library

2) Petition for no evictions – launch a public petition to the council and / or your local housing association demanding that rent arrears caused by the Bedroom tax won’t cause evictions

3) Raise Awareness – raise how unfair the Bedroom Tax is in your local media – the letters page of your local paper will be well read. Use Twitter and Facebook to spread the word. Creative protest actions are also good.

4) Build up a broad coalition of resistance – will your local churches, mosques, community organisations support your group. Contact your local anti-cuts group and Unite Community branches.

5) Lobby your local MPs and councillors – send them letters / emails, and pay them a visit at their monthly surgeries.

  • Bournemouth East – Tobias Ellwood (Conservative) Email: tobias.ellwood.mp@parliament.uk – 01202 397047
  • Bournemouth West – Connor Burns (Conservative) Email: conor.burns.mp@parliament.uk – 020 7219 7021
  • Poole – Robert Syms (Conservative) Email: guyn@parliament.uk – 01292 718078
  • Christchurch – Christopher Chope OBE (Conservative) Email: office@christchurchconservatives.com – 01202 474949
  • Borough of Poole councillors contact details
  • Bournemouth Borough councillors contact details

6) Block evictions – by taking direct action. During the Poll Tax people stood together to physically stop bailiffs from evicting tenants. Build up a group of local residents that will become a human barrier and stop the bailiffs from evicting you or your neighbours. Set up a phone tree where people can quickly put the word out to bring out people when bailiffs arrive.

7) Do some research – build awareness of the law regarding bailiffs and monitor bailiffs to ensure they don’t use intimidating tactics.

For more information about local campaigning visit www.unitetheunion.org/growing-our-union/communitymembership/

Click here for Unite Community ‘Stop the Bedroom Tax’ resources

say no to bt rsz

Unite_CommunityLogo_HiRes rsz

Benefits in Britain: Separating the facts from the fiction

Fiction: Welfare reforms are just about benefit cuts
Fact: Simply not true. The attack on our welfare state is hitting a whole range of services – privatising the NHS, winding up legal aid for people in debt and closing SureStart centres and libraries. All this will make life poorer for every community.


Fiction: There are families living on benefits where generations have never worked
Fact: Despite research from various organisations, no evidence has been found of families with three generations which had never worked. Less than 1% of families have two such generations which have never worked, although such families had wide ranging problems which made it both difficult for the parents or the children to find employment. Contrary to government claims about endemic worklessness, four in five people who claim JSA come off the benefit within six months.


Fiction: People believe that some 27% of the Welfare Budget is claimed as a result of fraud
Fact: The actual figure is 0.8 % whilst tax avoidance and evasion is estimated at anywhere from £30bn to £120bn.


Fiction: Those on benefits have made a lifestyle choice and are shirkers
Fact: 20.3 million families, (64%, of all families) are in receipt of some benefit, 8.7 million of them are pensioners. These benefits include Child benefits, Working / Child Tax Credits, unemployment, disability and sickness payments plus State Pensions. There are currently around 6.1 million people looking for full time work; this figure consists of 2.6M registered as unemployed; 1.3M “underemployed” adults who are in part-time work because they cannot find full-time work; 2.2M unemployed people who want work but have not actively sought it for six weeks. At the same time, there are only around 460,000 job vacancies. Contrary to government claims about endemic worklessness, four in five people who claim JSA come off the benefit within six months.


Fiction: More of the Welfare Budget is being spent on the jobless than on the needy
Fact: Since the global credit crunch crisis in 2007/8 and ongoing economic depression the percentage of welfare spending up has been pushed up. The biggest increases have been due to Pensions and Housing Benefits. The £54BN increase from 2001 to 2011 is mainly due to inflation linked benefits, such as Pensions, Housing Benefits. This period has also seen the introduction of many ‘in work’ benefits.

Of the 1,008,000 benefit claimants that have been out of work for three of the last four years, around 40 per cent have been claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA), a further 30 per cent are lone parents with children under seven claiming Income Support (IS) while the remaining 30 per cent are either claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or are in the process of being assessed. All ESA claimants are unable to work. Those on the work-related activity group are expected to be able to work eventually but are not-yet-fit-to-work.


Fiction: The benefit cap of £26,000 per annum will help reduce the overall Welfare Bill
Fact: The cap will only affect a small number of people with some 58,000 seeing their benefits reduced by 2014/5. Many more families are losing a range of benefits irrespective of the cap.


Fiction: The welfare reforms are targeted at the ‘shirkers’ not the ‘workers
Fact: There are 2.8 million workless families of working age. Due to welfare cuts, 2.5 million will face a reduction of £215 per annum. There are 14.2 million working families and 7 million of these will lose some £165 per year. There will be reductions in Child Benefit and Council Tax relief which will increase the costs of non- working families by £140 and working families by £132. So “they are all in it together. Workless and working poor alike.”


Fiction: Reducing the welfare bill and the ‘dependency culture’ will improve the growth rate of the country
Fact: There is no evidence to support this. What is needed is to target the State Support in such a way that it creates opportunities for training, improves mobility, provides adequate child care but above all we need to see a living wage and some degree of rent control if the housing benefit and the working Tax credit is to be controlled. The welfare bill has not increased as a result of a growing ‘welfare dependency’. The number of people on unemployment, lone parent and incapacity benefits is over a million less than in 1990.


Fiction: Too many people have too many children
Fact: In 2011 there were just 130 families in the UK with more than 10 children. Only 8% of benefit claimants have three or more children. The UK spends much less on unemployment that France or Germany and is at the same level as the EU average.


Fiction: Osborne claimed that there are families receiving more that £100,000 in benefits
Fact: There were no more than five families receiving such a sum. No doubt they are living in London with large families and disabilities.


Fiction: Benefits are too generous
Fact: Really? Could you live on £53 a week as Iain Duncan Smith is claiming he could if he had to? Then imagine handing back 14% of this because the government deems you have a “spare room”. Could you find the money to pay towards council tax and still afford to eat at the end of the week whilst at the same time paying all the utility bills etc? JSA Payments are £71.70 a week for single people (single person under 25 gets £56.25); £71 a week for lone parents over 18 (under 18s receive £56.25); £111.45 a week for couples aged over 18.


Fiction: Benefits are going up
Fact: They’re not. A 1% “uprating” cap is really a cut. Inflation is at least 2.7%. Essentials like food, fuel and transport are all up by at least that, in many cases far more. Benefits are quickly falling behind the cost of living.


Fiction: The bedroom tax won’t hit army families or foster carers
Fact: Yes it will. Perhaps most cruel of all, the tax will not apply to foster families who look after one kid. If you foster siblings, then tough. But these kids are often the hardest to place. Thanks to George Osborne and IDS, their chances just got worse. And even if your son or daughter is in barracks in Afghanistan, then don’t expect peace of mind as the government still has to come clean on plans for their bedroom.


Fiction: Social tenants can downsize
Fact: Really, where? Councils sold their properties – and Osborne wants them to sell what’s left. Housing associations built for families. In Hull, there are 5,500 people told to chase 70 one-bedroom properties.


Fiction: Housing benefit is the problem
Fact: In fact it is rental costs. Private rents shot up by an average of £300 last year. No wonder 5 million people need housing benefits, but they don’t keep a penny. It all goes to landlords.


Fiction: It’s those teenage single mums
Fact: An easy target. Yet only 2% of single mums are teenagers. And most single mums, at least 59%, work.


Fiction: We’re doing this for the next generation
Fact: No you’re not. The government’s admitted at least 200,000 more children will be pushed deeper into poverty because of the welfare changes.
Sources:
Benefits in Britain separating the facts from the fiction
10 lies we’re told about welfare – Guardian
Work and Pensions Secretary guilty again of peddling benefit myths – TUC
‘True’ UK unemployment is 6.3m – TUC

Appealing against the Bedroom Tax

The Bedroom Tax, as part of the Welfare Reform Act came into force in April 2013. It reduces housing benefit by between 14% and 25% for those in social housing (council housing or housing association housing) if they are deemed to be ‘under occupying’. Plain and simple, the bedroom tax is an unjust attack on the poorest members of our communities.

‘Under occupying’ includes:

  • Having one more room for each single person or couple (even if the ‘extra’ room is a box room or for storing disability equipment)
  • Having more than one room for two children under 16 of the same gender
  • Having more than one room for two children under 10 of the same gender
  • Having a room for a foster child

The government claims that this change will encourage more efficient use of social housing. However the reality is not only are many people in need of their ‘extra’ rooms but there are not enough properties for those affected to move into. Across the country there are already 1 million people on council waiting lists for one bedroom properties. The vast majority of those who do ‘downsize’ will switch from social housing to the private rented sector which will inevitably lead to higher rent costs and local authorities paying out more in Housing Benefits. The solution to a lack of social housing is not to punish those who live in social housing but to build more council homes.

It has been estimated that nationwide, 660,000 people will be liable for additional rent costs and of those around 420,000 are disabled or carers. Many of their properties have been modified by social housing landlords to assist people in daily living. It is highly unlikely that people forced to move through financial difficulties, will find private landlords willing to spend out to modify properties.

All those affected should have already received Notices stating the amounts they are liable to pay. Any appeals against these decisions must be made within one month of the notices being sent. So in most cases, the deadline will be May 1st

Whilst it is unknown what proportion of appeals will be successful, it is strongly recommended that those affected exercise their democratic right to appeal, as the alternative is simply to pay up and fall further into poverty.

It is also strongly recommended that you apply for Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) from your local council.

If you decide to appeal, click here to access a good source of advice compiled by Initiative Factory

Whether people are affected or not, it is important we all campaign to put pressure on our local councils and housing associations to:

  • Publicly oppose the bedroom tax and join the campaign to have it abolished
  • Promise NOT to evict any tenants who fall into arrears as a direct result of these cuts
  • Start building thousands of new social rented homes

And with this mind, BPACC will soon be announcing details of protests at Bournemouth and Poole town halls.

Sources:
Appeal Letter – Initiative Factory
What is the ‘bedroom tax’? – Hands off our Homes