“Scrap Pensioner ‘Perks’ And Spend More Cash On Young People, House Of Lords Committee Urges”

“Pensioner ‘perks’ such as free bus passes, TV licences and inflation-busting pensions should be scrapped and more money spent on young people instead, a new parliamentary report has urged.

The House of Lords Committee on Intergenerational Fairness called for stronger worker rights for those in the ‘gig’ economy and new policies to create more affordable homes for sale and for rent.

Age impacts of all government policies, including a regular assessment in the Budget, should also be introduced in a bid to end the growing gaps in income between the young and old, the peers said.

The committee – whose members have an average age of 66 – warned that “mutual support and affection” between the generations had been “undermined” by years of unfairness on basic tax and benefits and housing and other public services.

Among the key recommendations in its report are:

ending the ‘triple lock’ on pensions, phasing out free TV licences based on age and restricting winter fuel payments and free bus passes to only five years after retirement age.

wealthier pensioners who keep on working past 65 should pay national insurance, ending the tax-free perk they currently receive.
a massive increase in affordable housing, as well as a radical new system of rent regulation

a default assumption of employment status of ‘worker’ to protect young people from exploitation in the ‘gig’ economy

a substantial increase in vocational and further education spending, plus Intergenerational Impact Assessments for all draft legislation

Committee chairman Lord True said that young and older people have strong bonds because they recognise the contribution the other makes and the challenges they face.

“However, there is a risk that those connections could be undermined if the government does not get a grip on key issues such as access to housing, secure employment and fairness in tax and benefits.

“We are calling for some of the outdated benefits based purely on age to be removed. Policies such as the state pension triple lock and free TV licences for over-75s were justified when pensioner households were at the bottom of the income scale but that is no longer the case.

“Young people told us they feel short changed by the housing market, so we are recommending policies to deliver a significant increase in the supply of social and private housing and recommend protections to give renters long term security be backed a new regulatory framework.”

Frank Field, who chairs the Commons work and pensions committee, said: “The committee has hit the bull’s eye. The injustices in both the housing and labour markets have served to torpedo younger people’s living standards in recent years.

“Will the government now seize this report and use it to forge a new contract with younger people?”

The Association of Colleges said: “The cuts to the education system have had big implications over the last decade. Many young people are leaving education without the qualifications needed to get on in life. Some of the ones who are gaining degree qualifications are often finding themselves in low-skilled jobs.”

But Anna Dixon, of the Centre for Better Ageing, said: “Headline grabbing proposals like abolishing free TV licenses based on age risk distracting from the big structural changes needed across housing, work and communities.”

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/scrap-pensioner-perks-and-spend-more-cash-on-young-people-house-of-lords-committee-urges_uk_5cc0c597e4b0764d31dc3aa5

Universal Credit: a cancer sufferer’s story

“A single mum with breast cancer was left with just 84 pence after a Universal Credit nightmare.

Teacher Gillian Sykes found out she had cancer in January and is preparing to have a double mastectomy operation in the summer, Liverpool Echo reports.

She has had to quit work as a supply teacher but says she has been left to ‘fight for survival’ with the Department of Work and Pensions.

Gillian explained how she has been turned down for support and was even made to take bank statements into the job centre just two days after her first draining bout of chemotherapy.

She said she also had money taken away because of the DWP made mistakes over dates – and was eventually left with just 84p to live on, forcing her to rely on hand-outs from family and friends.

Gillian was also told she needed to be looking for work – which the DWP later said was just an ‘automated response.’

The 45-year-old, who lives in Ashton-in-Makerfield with her two teenage children, spoke about the devastating moment she discovered she had cancer.

She said: “I found the lump myself on the 28th December when I was going to bed – and I cried myself to sleep.

“We’ve got a family history of it – its the 20th anniversary of my mum’s death this year.

“I was in an absolute panic and got an appointment shortly after – then two weeks later I was sent to see an oncologist who confirmed what I already knew, that it wasn’t a cyst, it was a solid mass.

“A week later I got given the news and things progressed quite quickly from there. I’ve now had three rounds of chemotherapy. My hair is coming out in handfuls daily.”

“This summer I will be having as double mastectomy – which is not nice.”

Gillian began a lengthy, draining battle with the Department of Work and Pensions to get the benefits she needed to help her through an incredibly difficult time.

After her cancer diagnosis, Gillian said she was never told she qualified for Limited Capability for Work Related Activity – which is supposed to provide extra cash for those who are unable to work.

She was left battling with the department for weeks in a bid to get the extra support.

Gillian said: “To be going through that is enough, only to then to deal with this – after paying into a system as a teacher system that I desperately need help from.

“I’m having battles left, right and centre with Universal Credit – and issues with not being told what I can and can’t claim.

“I’ve had more support from Macmillan nurses than the government.”

“Two days after my first chemotherapy session, I was told I had to take my bank statements in to the job centre to prove that they had taken money from me that they shouldn’t have.

“I’ve had statutory sickpay penalised – I complained and complained. I spoke to a different person on the phone every time.

“I just feel like I’m fighting for survival with benefits, that I shouldn’t be fighting with right now. I’ve got enough stress.”

After spending weeks waiting to find out if she could get the vital extra LCWRA payments, Gillian decided to apply for what is known as a Universal Credit budgeting loan – used to help those who are struggling.

She said: “This particular month was really hard, I rang them to be told by someone that nothing was available to me because ‘all the buttons were greyed out – and we don’t know why.”

“Someone else told me nothing was available because I had earned at least £2,600 in the last six months – well of course I did, I’m a teacher, I was working full time with my agency up until Christmas – so I’ve been punished for actually going to work.

“What I do get from Universal Credit, I’m paying a mortgage, I’ve got two kids. I didn’t expect this to happen to me.

“I have suffered with depression for several years, which has been greatly under control and I have been able to work – and this is now what’s happening on a daily basis when I find out the next step, the next fight.”

After she spoke to the Liverpool Echo, the Department of Work and Pensions told her she did in fact qualify for the extra cash.

The following day she was told she would be backpaid hundreds of pounds that were owed to her, and an apology from the DWP followed.

A spokesman told the ECHO: “We have apologised to Gillian Sykes for the distress caused by this delay and are paying her full arrears.

“She has been placed in the long-term health condition group, meaning she receives a higher level of support and will not be required to seek work.

“We want to ensure that anyone with a health condition gets the support they need, which is why the Government is rolling out a recovery package to support people diagnosed with cancer and over 300,000 people will benefit every year by 2020.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/mum-needing-double-mastectomy-left-14312002

“Second-hand uniform banks” for poor children

“Two million children in England have been sent to school in dirty, ill-fitting or incorrect uniform, a children’s charity has said.

A Mirror probe has uncovered a surge in cash-strapped families who rely on handouts from uniform banks for school kit, including basic essentials such as coats, shoes and even underwear.

Figures last month revealed 4.1 million children are in living in poverty and 70% of those are in working families.

An estimated 13% of UK children live in families who are getting into debt to pay for school kit, with 17% cutting back on basic essentials, including food, to dress children for school, according to Children’s Society research.

In response, dozens of uniform banks and exchanges have been set up across Britain.

Sam Royston, of the Children’s Society, said: “These community groups… are clearly in high demand, but it is distressing so many families are getting to this point in the first place.”

Kate France founded the Uniform Exchange, in Kirklees, West Yorks, which provides kit for pupils at 181 schools.

Requests have surged from 600 in 2017 to 800 last year.

This year they are on track to clothe 1,200 children.

Kate said: “We have seen a huge growth. I have also seen a rise in underwear requests from families who need socks, tights, pants and vests.

“I can’t believe that families haven’t got the basics – I find it really sad.”

Nicola Roderick, 25, of Holmfirth, who uses the Exchange, said: “Spending £20 for a jumper is hard when your disposable income is very little…”

A Government spokesperson said: “We’re helping parents to move into full-time work to give families the best opportunity to move out of poverty.

“Meanwhile we have made clear to schools that when setting uniform policies they should keep costs to a minimum and be mindful that they are affordable for everyone.”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/demand-donated-uniforms-spikes-two-14249909

Tax changes: Poor loose out big time, rich gain

“… In total, there are 35 tax, benefit and pension changes coming into effect on 6 April, plus the increase in the minimum wage from 1 April. The winners are those in higher income bands – up to £100,000 – who will gain significantly from the rise in tax thresholds, although some of that will be pegged back by NI rises.

The losers are those on very low incomes, who gain little from the increase in the personal allowance, and whose benefits will be frozen again. An ongoing work and pensions select committee inquiry suggested affected households will be between £888 and £1,845 worse off in real terms in the coming tax year as a result of the various caps and freezes since 2010-11. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/apr/06/new-tax-year-personal-allowance-benefits-national-insurance-pensions

“Government accused of promoting inequality by stealth”

“More generous tax relief means the government is providing more in-work cash support to Britain’s richest households than poor families are receiving, according to a left-leaning thinktank.

A study by the Fabian Society said nearly half the savings made in welfare payments in recent years had gone on increases in the tax-free personal allowance, rather than being used for deficit reduction.

The thinktank accused the government of increasing inequality by stealth and called for a five-year freeze on tax-free allowances to “rescue social security”.

The Fabian Society added that the first priority for any money saved from freezing tax allowances should probably be using it to make universal credit more generous, but said consideration should also be given to a basic income – a payment given unconditionally to all citizens.

Both the chancellor, Philip Hammond, and his predecessor, George Osborne, raised tax allowances while keeping a tight rein on benefits.

The result of this approach, according to the thinktank, is that on average, households in the fourth and fifth income quintiles (the top 40%) receive more in tax relief than households in the poorest fifth get in means-tested benefits.

The Fabian Society study showed the cost of tax allowances had increased by 43% from £95bn to £136bn from 2012-13 to 2017-18. Over the same period, social security payments to working-age adults and children fell from £95bn to £94bn. As a share of national income, tax allowances rose from 5.6% to 6.4%, while payments to working-age adults and children fell from 5.5% to 4.4%. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/inequality/2019/apr/05/government-accused-of-promoting-inequality-by-stealth

“Inheritance tax loopholes allowing super-rich to pay lower rates”

“The UK’s super-rich pay half the rate of inheritance tax paid by the merely very rich, according to an analysis of HMRC data that throws fresh focus on how billionaires’ advisers use a “kitbag” of tricks to reduce heirs’ tax bills.

Estates worth £10m or more paid an average of 10% tax to the exchequer in the 2015-16 tax year compared with an average 20% tax paid by estates worth £2m-£3m, according to data released by HMRC following a freedom of information request by asset manager Canada Life.

The law states that estates should pay 40% tax on assets above £325,000 – or above £450,000 if the family home is given to children or grandchildren. But Neil Jones, the market development manager at Canada Life, said the richest of the rich often did not pay anywhere near that rate because they had access to “a myriad of potential solutions in an adviser’s kitbag to help mitigate IHT [inheritance tax]”.

“This difference in the net tax rates paid by estate isn’t always down to the value of the estate or the different type of assets held in an estate,” Jones said. “It’s often about a willingness to plan.”

The heirs of the late sixth Duke of Westminster paid no inheritance tax on the bulk of his £8.3bn family fortune following his death in 2016. Probate records show that Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, who died aged 64 in August 2016, left a personal estate of £616,418,184 after payment of debts and liabilities.

The rest of his wealth had already been transferred to family trusts which largely passed on to his son Hugh, 28, without incurring inheritance tax. His son also inherited the title, becoming the seventh Duke of Westminster and the world’s 108th richest person with a £9.2bn fortune, according to estimates by Bloomberg Billionaires

The Resolution Foundation thinktank has been campaigning for a radical shakeup of the inheritance tax system to make it fairer for those inheriting smaller sums. Its research director, Laura Gardiner, said the findings showed that “inheritance tax is no longer fit for purpose”.

She said: “Inheritance tax has both a terrible record of raising revenue, despite record levels of wealth across Britain, while still being widely despised, even by people who are never likely to pay it. At the very minimum, there are billions of pounds of worth inheritance tax loopholes that need to be closed. But ultimately we should scrap inheritance tax altogether and replace it with a far fairer lifetime receipts tax [cumulative across a person’s life], which would be harder for the super-wealthy to avoid.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/apr/03/inheritance-tax-loopholes-allowing-super-rich-to-pay-lower-rates

Dying for a profit

“Burial and cremation fees have soared by up to 124 per cent in four years – forcing some ­families into debt, research shows.

The biggest increase is in Poole, Dorset, where burial costs have shot up by 124 per cent from £1,450 to £3,255.

But the most expensive place to be laid to rest is Wandsworth, South London, which charges £4,861 per plot.

The figures were revealed by insurance giant Royal London, which says town halls are ramping up prices to make up for government budget cuts. …”

https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/families-plunged-debt-burial-fees-14209449