“Watchdog bans DWP’s ‘misleading’ [aka lying] universal credit adverts”

“A series of government ads extolling the virtues of universal credit and purporting to bust negative myths about the flagship Conservative welfare policy has been banned because it is “misleading”.

In an embarrassing indictment of the policy before next month’s general election, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that a claim that people moved into work faster on universal credit (UC) than under the old system could not be substantiated.

Two other claims – that jobcentres will pay an advance to people who need it and that rent can be paid directly to landlords under UC – were also found to be unsubstantiated.

The adverts, part of a £225,000 Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) campaign to detoxify UC, appeared in print in the Metro newspaper and on its website, as well as on the MailOnline, in May and June.

They attracted 44 complaints, including from the Motor Neurone Disease Association, the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and the anti-poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K), who have called for the DWP to apologise in light of the ASA ruling.

The Z2K chief executive, Raji Hunjan, also demanded an investigation into working practices at the department.

“If it has misled the public on UC, its flagship policy, what else is it misleading us on?” Hunjan said. “The next government must engage with the compelling evidence that points to the harm UC is causing, leaving many people reliant on food banks and others destitute. Enough is enough.” …”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/nov/06/dwp-misleading-universal-credit-uncovered-ad-banned?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“Food bank users in Devon reach a record high”

And remember – you can’t just turn up at a foid bank: you have to be referred by a doctor, social worker and the like. And many recipients are from working families.

“The number of people using food banks in Devon has hit a record high, and Universal Credit has been blamed for contributing to the problem.

Figures provided by the Trussell Trust, a charity that works to end the need for food banks in the UK, more than 24,000 emergency food parcels were issued to people in need across our county in 2018/19.

One in three of these food parcels, or 8,242, was for a child.

Campaigners say “enough is enough” and warned Universal Credit is adding to the huge numbers of people who don’t have enough money to “cover the basics” such as food. …”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/food-bank-users-devon-reach-3422071

94-99% of rented accommodation too expensive for those on benefits

And remember this includes working people whose wages are so low they are entitled to benefits (effectivelya subsidy to employers).

“The government must increase the levels of housing benefit given to people in the private rented sector as families are being priced out of homes, according to a trade association.

The National Housing Federation analysis has found that 94% of homes for private rent – and up to 99% in some areas – are too expensive for those on housing benefit.

The Local Housing Allowance – used to calculate how much benefit households in the private rented sector will receive – when introduced in 2008 was worked out from the bottom 50% of market rents and later reduced to 30% under the coalition government.

In 2013, rates of LHA were separated from market values and eventually frozen in 2016 leaving working families unable to afford a place to live, the federation said.

NHF said the benefit – for which there are 1.3 million claimants – is inadequate and is leading to increasing levels of poverty and debt.

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the NHF, said: “Low income families are being punished two-fold, no longer able to access social housing because of the dire shortage of it, they now can’t access enough housing benefit to rent privately either.

“The crippling effects of the housing crisis and significant cuts to benefits have forced thousands of parents into impossible situation in order to keep a roof over their children’s heads, many having to choose between crippling debt, overcrowding or homelessness.”

The number of homeless children in temporary accommodation has increased by 83% since 2011 to 126,020, the report added.

The federation has urged the government to end the freeze on LHA and increase it so that it covers 30% of private rent homes in any local area. It also repeated its recommendation to spend £12.8bn each year on new social housing.

The NHF analysed 75,000 rental homes advertised on Zoopla in July 2019 and compared the cost of rent for each property with the rate of LHA that a family requiring that sized property would be entitled to.

A government spokesperson said: “Providing quality and fair social housing is an absolute priority. The government increased more than 360 Local Housing Allowance rates this year, by targeting extra funding at low-income households.

“We’ve helped councils and housing associations to speed up the delivery of more homes, including social housing, through our £9bn Affordable Homes Programme – delivering over 430,000 affordable new homes since 2010.”

Housing minister Esther McVey told the Conservative Conference last week that the government would prioritise brownfield land for new builds.”

https://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2019/10/nine-out-10-families-priced-out-private-rented-sector

Could you afford to rent a home in East Devon if you were on Universal Credit?

To afford the cheapest 30% of rented accommodation in East Devon, you would need £72 per month more Universal Credit than you would get (assuming landlords would be prepared to rent to you):

https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/afford-to-rent-housing-benefit-calculator_uk_5d95be48e4b0f5bf796fba8f?

With many retail outlets closing and big companies like Thomas Cook goung under, some families in East Devon are closer to homelessness than they might imagine … through no fault of theirs.

“More than 4m in UK are trapped in deep poverty, study finds”

“More than 4 million people in the UK are trapped in deep poverty, meaning their income is at least 50% below the official breadline, locking them into a weekly struggle to afford the most basic living essentials, an independent study has shown.

The Social Metrics Commission also said 7 million people, including 2.3 million children, were affected by what it termed persistent poverty, meaning that they were not only in poverty but had been for at least two of the previous three years.

Highlighting evidence of rising levels of hardship in recent years among children, larger families, lone parent households and pensioners, the commission urged the new prime minister, Boris Johnson, to take urgent action to tackle growing poverty.

The commission’s chair, Philippa Stroud, a Conservative peer, said there was a pressing need for a concerted approach to the problem. “It is time to look again at our approach to children, and to invest in our children as the future of our nation,” she said.

Campaigners said the commission showed austerity had undermined two decades of anti-poverty policy. “By cutting £40bn a year from our work and pensions budget through cuts and freezes to tax credits and benefits, the government has put progress into reverse,” said Alison Garnham, the chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group.

The commission’s membership is drawn from experts across the political spectrum, and includes representatives from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner. It was set up in 2016 to develop a new way of measuring poverty.

It found that of 14.3 million in the UK in poverty, 4.5 million were in deep poverty – a third of all those on the breadline, and 7% of the population. In cash terms this means a couple with two children would have an income of less than £211 a week after housing costs, and a single parent with one child would be on less than £101.50 a week. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/29/uk-deep-poverty-study-austerity?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“Destitute children unlawfully denied support by local councils”

“Local councils are unlawfully denying destitute children support because their parents’ immigration status is under suspicion, the Guardian can reveal.

Families whose immigration status becomes insecure can quickly become destitute because they lose their right to work and access benefits. Such families who have dependent children can seek support under section 17 of the 1989 Children’s Act, which states that local councils have a duty to provide cash or accommodation to ensure a child’s immediate needs are met.

Hundreds of these families have been unlawfully denied this support since 2010 because local authorities have focused on the parents’ immigration background.

Many of the children affected are either British or entitled to British citizenship, and campaigners say it has now become normal practice for them to threaten local authorities with legal action in an effort to ensure a fair assessment. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/may/26/destitute-children-unlawfully-denied-support-local-councils-immigration-status?

“UN poverty expert hits back over UK ministers’ ‘denial of facts’ “

“… Alston, an eminent New York-based human rights lawyer, said the government response amounted to “a total denial of a set of uncontested facts” and that when he first read its public comment “I thought it might actually be a spoof”. He said he feared it showed ministers were not willing to debate official figures that showed 14 million people were living in relative poverty and therefore consider what he believes are essential changes to the welfare system.

“The statement is as troubling as the situation,” he said. “There is nothing that indicates any willingness to debate over issues which have generated endless very detailed, totally reputable reports across the political spectrum in the UK. All of these are dismissed.”

Alston’s report compared Conservative policies to the creation of Victorian workhouses. Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, felt it was politically biased and alleged that Alston did not do enough research, only visiting the UK for 11 days. The government said it would complain to the United Nations and the UK’s ambassador in Geneva is understood to have this week requested a meeting with the UN high commissioner on human rights over the matter.

When Alston said the Department for Work and Pensions had created “a digital and sanitised version of the 19th-century workhouse”, some commentators said he had gone too far. Writing in the Daily Mail, the historian Dominic Sandbrook said it was “simply ridiculous” and “an insult to our national intelligence”.

But far from backing away, Alston, who describes his politics as progressive and left-of-centre, has pushed his argument harder.

“I think breaking rocks has some similarity to the 35 hours of job search [required per week to receive universal credit] for people who have been out of work for months or years,” he said. “They have to go through the motions but it is completely useless. That seems to me to be very similar to the approach in the old-style workhouse. The underlying mentality is that we are going to make the place sufficiently unpleasant that you really won’t want to be here.” …”

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/may/24/un-poverty-expert-hits-back-over-uk-ministers-denial-of-facts-philip-alston