Panorama documentary shows horror of Universal Credit

Panorama documentary shows horror of Universal Credit

The BBC’s Panorama documentary tonight gave a brief glimpse of the appalling experiences of claimants on Universal Credit.

Filmed in Flintshire, the programme focussed on the problems caused by not having housing costs paid directly to landlords.

One claimant ended up with around £4000 worth of rent arrears for his council property, and was one of two people spoken to who ended up facing eviction in the winter months.

Another spoke of having found a possible place to move to nearby – underneath a bridge in the area.

Landlords spoken to were also clear about the failure to have the rent money paid on time, by vulnerable people unable to budget the single monthly payment to cover all their costs.

Council tenants on Universal Credit have more than double the rent arrears than those on other benefits.

Tory minister Alok Sharma insisted that “Universal Credit is working well”, but that is an entirely false claim.

In areas where Universal Credit has been rolled out, there has been a 52% increase in those needing to use foodbanks.

Panorama also spoke to a single father, who had been forced to live on foodbanks for six months because of an error in his online account reporting.

Universal Credit has “put us in poverty, put us in debt”, and was “very, very stressful” said one female claimant.

Clearly Universal Credit is more than a complete failure; it is an appalling system that means utter misery for those forced to claim it.

The Panorama programme ended on a gloomy note about the many thousands more people across Britain who will eventually have to claim the benefit.

In its current form, Universal Credit is unfit for purpose. It must be scrapped; and this demand must go hand-in-hand with other demands.

• A £10 minimum wage now!

• No to precarious work! Full trade union rights for all workers!

• Proper support for those unable to work! An end to the need to use foodbanks!

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DWP u-turn over outsourcing core work to Capita

DWP u-turn over outsourcing core work to Capita

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The below article was written by Socialist Party members in the PCS union.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has ended up doing an about-turn and scrapped plans to outsource some of its core work to Capita.

The original plans would have seen the handling of new claims to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) being instead done by Capita staff, on a much lower salary.

This would have been disastrous for some of the most vulnerable in society – those unable to work due to sickness or disability – for whom ESA is intended. A high proportion of claimants will have mental health issues.

Capita’s previous failure to process Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) claims on time led to a backlog being built up – which DWP staff then had to go and help clear!

It is near impossible to avoid hearing the flood of horror stories about the private sectors’ handling of medical assessments for benefit claimants. ATOS – now along with both Maximus and Capita – became notorious for the callous way in which its medical assessors would lie about claimants’ conditions in reports, as well as resorting to ‘tricking’ claimants into failing their assessments.

Among the 4,000 submissions of evidence to the Work and Pensions Select Committee on the assessments, such examples were highlighted as suicidal claimants being asked why they had not already tried to kill themselves, and blind or visually impaired claimants reported as being able to walk dogs they didn’t actually have. It even came to light that some assessors would ask claimants “when they caught” Down’s Syndrome!

Nothing else could highlight so starkly the complete failure of the private sector to properly carry out work that should remain in-house.

This u-turn is of course a victory – but given the context against which it is set, it should only be seen as one step in a series of future victories against this weak, crisis-ridden Tory government.

Their list of climbdowns is almost embarrassing – far from any ‘strong and stable’ rule, replicating the ‘Iron Lady’, we have seen multiple u-turns and defeats, mostly brought from the pressure of trade unions and the seething anger amongst many in society.

From having to scrap employment tribunal fees, making benefit phonelines free, and even being forced to slash the amount of university tuition fees, there are more victories to be won if the pressure remains and increases!

The demand that all essential public service work be brought back in-house where it belongs is vital.

Fill in the form below if you are in PCS and want to link up with Socialist Party members.

Government to press ahead with Jobcentre closures

Government to press ahead with Jobcentre closures

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DWP workers take strike action in Coventry

By a Jobcentre worker and PCS union member

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has disgracefully announced that almost 1 in 10 Jobcentres nationally will be closed. Along with this, two other Jobcentres that were originally meant to stay open are also now due to close.

Of the original 78 Jobcentres earmarked for closure, only 6 will stay open, and 11 of the 80 planned to ‘co-locate’ have been spared – although this is only due to the lack of space in council buildings!

One of the Jobcentres which will close by the end of March next year is Coventry’s Tile Hill Jobcentre – with a government proposal/consultation response stating that it is reasonable for claimants to travel further on public to ‘sign on’, despite the threat of a sanction for missing or being late to an appointment!

The u-turn on the closure of some of the Jobcentres, such as Glasgow Castlemilk, is an example of the potential for victory that can come from a co-ordinated campaign involving trade unions, claimants, and other groups such as DPAC. This mass action is needed across the board to prevent the closure of any more Jobcentres – which will see hundreds of job losses and have a damaging impact on the most vulnerable in society.

Workers at Sheffield Eastern Avenue Jobcentre had a week-long walkout in June, and will be going out on strike between 17-21 July.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said:
“It is utterly disgraceful that DWP is pressing ahead with these closures.

“This Tory government is abandoning unemployed, sick and disabled people, making it harder for them to access the services they need, and putting jobcentre jobs at risk. We will continue to oppose these plans in every way we can.”

The Socialist Party says:

• Oppose all closures! For a mass campaign involving unions, claimants and other groups to end this attack on workers and claimants alike!

Did you see the #TUSC election broadcast?

Did you see the #TUSC election broadcast?

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) election broadcast with Dave Nellist was on TV tonight (Friday) – did you see it? You can watch it online here!

If you want to get involved in Coventry, fill in the form below – and come to our election launch rally with Irish MP Ruth Coppinger on April 30th!

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