The economic horror yet to come: Shocking report from Barnardo’s on family poverty

Jeremy Hunt – cutting benefits in the cost of living crisis

Yesterday Jeremy Hunt, the new chancellor, announced the biggest Budget U-turn in history, throwing out nearly all of Liz Truss’s and Kwame Kwarteng’s tax cuts and announcing a big curb on help for those with rising energy bills.

But this only the half of it. In less than two weeks time big cuts will be announced for public expenditure in a wealthy country and there will be more grim news for the poor – whether pensioners or low income families whatever pledges are given for compassionate Conservativism. But what is the position now before the axe falls on public spending amid a cost of living crisis?

This is the answer given in a well researched report by Barnardo’s the children’s charity, drawing on work done by the polling organisations, Yougov, and the non Tufton Street think tanks, the Institute for Public Policy Research and IPPR North. See Barnardo’s press release here.

Barnado’s logo

More than half the parents contacted have ALREADY cut back on food for the family and one in five parents have struggled to supply sufficient food. Over a quarter of parents say their children’s mental health has been affected and one in five taken out new credit cards – boosting the profits of the banks just as curbs on bankers’ bonuses have been lifted. Sadly a quarter have had to sell some of their possessions to make ends meet and a small number have had to return pets to animal rescue centres because they can’t afford to keep them.

Among the professions, three out of five people are supporting a child, young person or family experiencing poverty and three in five practitioners have either given food or pointed families to food banks. The Mirror today gives a dramatic account from other charities backing up this food crisis.

Barnardo’s calls for more benefit help not less

The charity is calling for an extension of free school; meals to all families; help for all vulnerable children to be able to participate fully in school life; strengthen targeted social security payments to help young people and families manage better; improve mental health services to help children and introduce more family hubs to support people and children.

The problem is what journalists are hearing is likely to be the opposite – real cuts to social security – a mental health service starved of resources and no compassion to extend free school meals.

Banardo’s doesn’t cover issues facing pensioners but given comments on my site the most likely changes for them are the end of the triple lock, the raising of the pension age again- and using the excuse that families are struggling in work to say pensioners can’t have a good deal.

What can’t be exaggerated is that more and more people are being driven into poverty whatever the government says ( they claim the opposite). So unless you are banker or a very highly paid executive getting a big national insurance reduction or an MP or minister life this winter is going to be very grim.

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Revealed: The £200,000 food bank warehouse in Amber Rudd’s Hastings constituency caused by the Universal Credit debacle

amber rudd

Amber Rudd- former home secretary and MP for Hastings as the Universal Credit debacle rolls out in her constituency

CROSS POSTED IN BYLINE.COM

The  billion pound plus failure of the implementation of Universal Credit is rightly condemned by the National Audit Office in a report published today.

Aimed to save money, get everybody back to work, simplify a complex benefit system and to be easily implemented.  Instead it is going to cost more, is years behind schedule, discriminates against disabled and poorly educated people, and the government has plans to force the elderly not entitled to a pension to have to use it when it  changes entitlement to pension credit ( see my earlier blog here)

But it is also having appalling consequences for food banks, landlords, council and housing association tenants – as the example in Amber Rudd’s constituency ( details down below show).

In the meantime ministers today were patting themselves on the back today how successful it is while senior civil servants behind  it were awarded  bonuses worth up to £20,000 each for its botched introduction ( see an earlier blog  here and  an article in the Sunday Mirror).

The statistics are appalling. According to the NAO :

“In 2017, around one quarter (113,000) of new claims were not paid in full on time. Late payments were delayed on average by four weeks, but from January to October 2017, 40% of those affected by late payments waited in total around 11 weeks or more, and 20% waited almost five months. Despite improvements in payment timeliness, in March 2018 21% of new claimants did not receive their full entitlement on time with 13% receiving no payment on time.

The Department does not anticipate payment timeliness to improve significantly in 2018. On this basis, the NAO estimates that between 270,000 and 338,000 new claimants will not be paid in full at the end of their first assessment period throughout 2018. Those with more complex cases are more likely to be paid late.

The Department expected most claimants would have enough money to cope over the initial waiting period after their claim is submitted (previously six weeks, now five). In reality, nearly 60% of new claimants (around 56,000 a month) receive a Universal Credit advance to help them manage before receiving their first payment.But they have to pay it back which means deducting an average £43 a month from their benefit. 

But while the statistics are bad, the examples are worse.

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Hastings Foodbank

Appendix 5 of the report  reveals In  Amber Rudd’s Hastings  constituency for example, according to the NAO Hastings foodbank has increased its opening hours, needs around two tonnes of stock each week to meet demand, and is considering building more storage space, costing £200,000.”

Hastings Citizens Advice pays staff to deliver Universal Support delivered locally. It therefore needs to pay providers regardless of the number of people
that are referred for support. But its income from the Department is not guaranteed so it can’t plan

Hastings Citizens Advice is considering scaling back on what it does in order to cope with increased demand.

Similarly NHS Hastings and Rother Clinical Commissioning Group funds its local advisory services. But this takes time to identify and secure. This hampers the ability of organisations to employ high-quality advocates because of the uncertainty of future funding.

.Hastings and Rother Credit Union no longer accepts Universal Credit claimant because of the complications in dealing with the new benefit and the long time waiting for people to be paid it.

Other areas have also got problems.Landlords are carrying extra debt – Croydon’s rent
collection rate has fallen from 92% to 58%, and its bad debt provision has doubled to £8 million.
Sedgemoor Council  in County Durham reported an increasing unwillingness, even with social landlords, to take on low-income tenants or those claiming Universal Credit.

So the government has piled on misery upon misery for the claimants,. voluntary organisations, food banks, landlords, credit unions, local authorities and health services. Meanwhile ministers on excess of £100,000 a year go home to expensive houses, enjoy fine wines, expensive meals out and luxury holidays while boasting how they are helping the poor. Some sick joke. As Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said today:

“The Department has pushed ahead with Universal Credit in the face of a number of problems, but has shown a lack of regard in failing to understand the hardship faced by some claimants.

“The benefits that it set out to achieve through Universal Credit, such as increased employment and lower administration costs, are unlikely to be achieved, yet the Department has little realistic alternative but to continue with the programme and hopefully learn from past mistakes.”