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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Let us not help Theresa May bury the bad news about Universal Credit rollout, suicides and homelessness under a Brexit General Election

Yesterday's Kwug Blog carried a 'guest blog post' from Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty.(1) Even in his mid-80's, Revd Paul is extremely prolific with his offerings and far quicker to respond than this disabled person. The best I can do to 'catch up with him' is generally to forward e-mail notifications of the Taxpayers Against Poverty (TAP) website on to the Kilburn Unemployed e-list, but even then be selective so as not to give vulnerable list members a sense of melt-down and information overload.(2)

The Kwug Blog 'guest contribution' posted yesterday, — A Universal Credit case study — however, included tabulated data that proved difficult to transmit by e-mail and provided valuable information about Universal Credit that the general public are largely ignorant about, and corporate mass media generally keeps buried while Universal Credit-related rent arrears can catapult the number of evictions from social housing.(3) It can take up to 12 weeks for a Universal Credit claim to be processed and thus for the claimant to get any Universal Credit income; yet under English Law, eviction proceedings can begin after just eight weeks or rent arrears.(4)

Revd Paul Nicolson does not keep his incisive light buried under a bushel, and though his latest offering by e-mail has not yet made it to the TAP website, I can help here to get the message out as soon as possible even while I was hoping to prioritise other things just now.

Referenda and General Elections are too often based not on real knowledge of issues, and the results are mangled in an unrepresentative 'first past the post' electoral system that is too influenced by the wealthy. Whatever the result of an 8 June General Election, it will not really be a mandate for what the people have heard too litlle of. I should add that while the KUWG focus is mainly on the benefits system while housing law is too complex for us to handle, TAP has a more extensive overview of things, and more specific to LB Haringey where Revd Paul lives.

With that, I shall just bring in Revd Paul's latest offering.

During election TAP will do what we do



--
HARINGEY COUNCIL TAXES BENEFIT INCOMES OF ITS POOREST RESIDENTS OF UK'S MOST DEPRIVED WARDS WITH 
LOW LIFE EXPECTANCY AND HIGH RISK OF LOW BIRTH-WEIGHT.

from the Reverend Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
No citizen without an affordable home and an 
adequate income in work or unemployment. 

93 Campbell Road, Tottenham, London N17 0BF, 0208 3765455, 07961 177889, 


Link references

http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/a-universal-credit-case-study-by-revd-paul-nicolson.html
http://taxpayersagainstpoverty.org.uk/
http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/a-universal-credit-case-study-by-revd-paul-nicolson.html 
https://scottishunemployedworkers.net/2016/07/15/sharing-knowledge-in-the-face-of-further-attacks/

Polls close 5pm on Weds 19 April in Unite the Union General Secretary 2017 election

Today is Tuesday 18 April. Polls close 5pm tomorrow in Unite the Union General Secretary Election 2017.

Some members of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group are members of Unite the Union's Community Section. If you are a Unite the Union member you are likely to have had your ballot paper through the post with reply envelope for sending off your vote with 2nd class postage prepaid. I sent mine off last Thursday, adding 10p stamp to bring the postage up to 1st class.

For something of my personal views on this election, see my previous posting
Unite Community General Secretary Elections 2017.(1) That posting gives links to the three candidates' campaign websites.

Link reference

  1. http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/unite-community-general-secretary-elections-2017.html

Monday, 17 April 2017

A Universal Credit case study by Revd Paul Nicolson

Guest blog post by Revd Paul Nicolson of Taxpayers Against Poverty

Universal Calamity 

Struggling to survive in Tottenham, with a history of depression.

Paid one penny to last next month because he earned £1109 last month. The Universal Credit is a nightmare for zero hours contract workers.

£317 a month UC standard allowance is the equivalent of £73.10 a week IS/JSA/ESA

The council charges him council tax at £3.40 a week or £14.75 a month

He has rent and council tax arrears due to a three month benefit sanction and irregular work. 

He is threatened with eviction when he inevitably gets behind.

We know that £73.10 a week IS/JSA/ESA has reduced in value since 1979, the increase was frozen at 1% in 2011 and it has not been increased since April 2015.




Link reference

--
HARINGEY COUNCIL TAXES BENEFIT INCOMES OF ITS POOREST RESIDENTS 
OF UK'S MOST DEPRIVED WARDS WITH 
LOW LIFE EXPECTANCY AND HIGH RISK OF LOW BIRTH-WEIGHT.

from the Reverend Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
No citizen without an affordable home and an 
adequate income in work or unemployment. 

93 Campbell Road, Tottenham, London N17 0BF, 0208 3765455, 07961 177889, 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

The colonisation of 'lifestyle choices' in the name of 'welfare reform'

All too frequently in matters of 'welfare reform' that are really about the privatisation of the welfare state, we hear that poor people are poor because they/we have made 'poor lifestyle choices'.(1) The reality is more that the 'key decision makers' are completely ignorant at best, calous liars with their own agendas -- leading to huge lobbyist salaries for likeminded global corporations -- at worst.

An example of this is given in the false promises of Disability Minister Penny Mordaunt in persuading fellow-Conservative MPs to back new legislation that cuts to Jobseekers Allowance levels the amount of money people in the [sickness and disability benefit] Employment & Support Allowance Work-Related Activity Group have to live on each week.(2) These are people who are so disadvantaged by sickness or disability that they require more financial support to compensate for reduced chances of getting waged employment, while those advocating this cut in benefit level claim that the real problem is this group's lack of 'incentive' to do paid work.

As Disability News Service reports:(3)
... Penny Mordaunt had ... promised fellow MPs on the work and pensions select committee in November (pictured) that she was working on a package of measures to “mitigate the £30”, which she said would be in place “before April”.(4)

Facing fierce criticism over the cut, Mordaunt told the MPs that she was working at “ensuring that someone’s outgoings can be managed”, and at reducing their “non-work-related costs”, such as energy, broadband and phone bills.(5)

She told them: “I know what I need to do and I have put a large amount of resource in the department behind it, and I can only repeat that the more reassurance I can give on this the better.

“I am not in a position to outline chapter and verse, but I hope to be soon, and I very much understand what I need to do.”

She also said that she was “talking to energy suppliers, mobile phone companies and broadband suppliers”.

But when Disability News Service (DNS) asked this week what Mordaunt had managed to achieve in the four months since November, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) suggested that her only success was ensuring that new WRAG claimants would be told by their jobcentre work coaches how to secure the cheapest BT telephone tariff....
[A Department for Work & Pensions Spokesperson] declined to comment when asked if working with businesses “to harness the power of technology to ensure disabled consumers are better informed about the accessibility and inclusivity of products and services available” was another way of saying that Mordaunt was helping businesses to market their products to disabled people.
So, essentially, such bad government can be regarded as colonising disadvantaged groups for the benefit of global capitalism.

Understand 'the benefits jungle'

By contrast, London Green Party is hosting an event on Sunday 23 April toward helping caring people better understand 'the benefits jungle':(6)

Description

An information, casework and campaigning base about Universal Credit, the bedroom tax, benefit caps and cuts for disabled people. You can book your free place any time now.

The main speaker will be Barb Jacobson, who is a benefits adviser and coordinator of Basic Income UK and member of the board of Unconditional Basic Income Europe.

Background docs are on https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Mueihb7UdXJfgH91zjGYR7Cr-NWOzmghKGXPkkpfyHQ/edit?usp=sharing

Date and Time

Sun, April 23, 2017
2:30 PM – 5:00 PM BST

Location

Chadswell Healthy Living Centre
Lower ground floor, Chadswell Flats
Harrison St (off Grays Inn Rd)
London
WC1H 8LD
View Map


Though hosted by London Green Party, the event is open to non-Green Party members and members of other politicall parties who want to help people get what they require from the benefits system and to make the benefits system serve vulnerable people more than global corporations.

Even if we do not ourselves do casework as such, for whatever reason, we can gain insights that help us campaign better for social and economic justice.

Link references

  1. https://uk.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=%22welfare%20reform%22%20%22lifestyle%20choices%22&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-100&type=newtab
  2. http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/exposed-mordaunts-false-promises-on-wrag-cut-mitigation/ 
  3. ibid.
  4. http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/mordaunt-working-on-urgent-plans-to-reduce-living-costs-ahead-of-wrag-cuts/ 
  5. http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/work-and-pensions-committee/disability-employment-gap/oral/44058.html 
  6. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/london-green-parties-understanding-the-benefits-jungle-tickets-33261650492



Thursday, 13 April 2017

Unite Community General Secretary Elections 2017

By Alan Wheatley as Kwug Blog Editor expressing personal preference that does not necessarily represent the views of KUWG members as a whole


At least a few Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group members are also members of Unite the Union's Community section, and Unite the Union currently has a General Secretary election for which the postal polls end on 19 April at 5pm.

The Islington branch at least has supported retention of Len McCluskey as General Secretary, and I seem to get official e-mail from Unite the Union backing Len McCluskey for my vote, and that does not really give much encouragement to find out about the other candidates.

So I post below a youtube video of candidate Ian Allinson from Manchester speaking about his candidacy, that is in favour of strengthening Unite Community and opposing reliance of jobs on wasteful nuclear industries and weapons production.

Moreover, he regards such 'welfare reforms' as benefit sanctions and repeated summonses of disability benefit claimants to reassessment interviews as part of a broader attack on the working class. Such attacks aim a making the workplace more oppressive, as people too ill to work are forced to apply for any kind of work.



The full list of candidates and their websites


Ian Allinson http://www.ian4unite.org
Gerard Coyne http://www.votegerardcoyne.co.uk/
Len McCluskey http://www.unite4len.co.uk/



Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq stands with Kwuggies against government-driven-suicides

Tulip Siddiq joined Kwuggies outside Kilburn Jobcentre on Monday 3 April 2017, on our demo against austerity-driven suicides.
Tulip outlined her voting record against nasty right wing 'welfare reforms' that are driving more and more people to suicide.

Discussion and explaining around the role call of austerity-related suicides



More at

Kilburn Job Centre protest 3/4/17 ' Demonstrate and Commemorate'

Sunday, 2 April 2017

DWP cast as serial litigant in 2012

This Kwug Blog editor has just come across the below New Law Journal article by way of a hyperlink in a January 2012 e-mail.(1) What the Department for Work & Pensions does nowadays is to change the law to suit its own standpoint, as in the case of people getting or not getting 'Personal Independence Payments' on mental health grounds.(2)

The article below is reprinted here by copy and paste from New Law Journal.(3)

Making the polluter pay

Date: 15 January 2012

Tom Royston makes no excuses for bad government decision-making


A serial litigant is trying the patience of judges across the nation. This litigant habitually refuses to settle cases or give serious thought to the weaknesses in his arguments. He loses a lot, of course, but it’s hard to know whether he appreciates the gravity of his situation, for he has virtually given up attending or being represented at the hearings.

Surprisingly, the judges are powerless to penalise him in costs, however unreasonable his behaviour. So there is no sign of the situation improving. His cases clog up the legal system in astonishing and increasing number, producing about 265,000 final hearings last year alone. To put that into context, all the county court non-family civil litigation in England and
Wales produces only 63,000 final hearings per year.

This litigant is the secretary of state for work and pensions (SSWP), and these cases are appeals against social security decisions, in the First-tier Tribunal’s social entitlement chamber. This article suggests that a significant number of benefit appeals could be avoided if that tribunal was given the power to award costs against public authority parties where they have behaved unreasonably.

Why are there avoidable appeals?

Bad decision-making is cheap
At my first social security tribunal, I represented an arthritic client subject to a government decision that he had no difficulty walking—so was not entitled to benefit—because he managed daily to walk his dog. The decision not only flew in the face of compelling evidence from the client’s doctors, it also ignored the fact that the client did not possess a dog.

That was no isolated case. One judge writes extra-curially of “decisions which are an affront to any sense of fairness or reasonableness” (Nick Warren, “The adjudication gap” [2006] 13 JSSL 110, 114).

Once a bad decision has been made, the SSWP frequently refuses to change it without the intervention of a tribunal. The proportion of decisions revised pre-hearing is not published, but a freedom of information request for sickness benefit reconsideration statistics in one area showed pre-hearing revisions in fewer than 4% of appeals. Yet half of all oral tribunal hearings eventually result in defeat for the government.

In any commercial setting, a litigator who only managed to settle one in 25 of their cases would not likely be long in their job. However, in the social security system, this tendency is not really the fault of the overworked decision-makers. Rather, it is a perversely economically rational outcome.
Losing tribunal hearings is cheap
The First-tier Tribunal is not a cheap system to run. Its judges are paid more than £100,000 a year; its medical members not much less. The average cost to HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) of a social security appeal is £293. There is a further cost to the state in legal aid cases of at least £167, the social security fixed fee.

The amount spent by the SSWP defending an appeal, in contrast, is about £55 (HC Deb, 2 November 2010, vol 517, c794W). Therefore, where an unreasonable decision is made, his department may bear only around one tenth of the cost to the state of its consequences. The SSWP’s budget does make a contribution to HMCTS towards the cost of tribunals, but it bears no direct relation to the quality of his decision-making.
Losing cases no longer embarrasses the secretary of state
There has, in recent years, been a substantial decline in the proportion of First-tier Tribunal hearings where the SSWP is represented. The president of the social entitlement chamber has deprecated this: “There is a crucial gulf because the department [for work and pensions] does not know what goes on in the hearing and so is at a complete loss to understand where it may have gone wrong…It also has a bearing on the volume of appeals because the department loses the ‘embarrassment’ factor. [The SSWP] is absolved from someone going back to the office and [saying], ‘We made a mistake here. I felt very embarrassed trying to defend a hopeless decision’.” (Work and Pensions Committee, Decision-making and Appeals in the Benefits System (2009-10, HC 313)).

Budgetary pressures probably preclude any return to routine respondent appearances. Some alternative means must be found of restoring the “embarrassment factor”.

Can costs orders reduce appeals?

Costs rules have a normative effect on litigation behaviour
In the mainstream English legal system, the principle that costs follow the event is regarded as of “fundamental importance in deterring plaintiffs from bringing and defendants from defending actions they are likely to lose” (Roache v News Group [1998] EMLR 161).

In tribunal litigation, permitting a hopeless decision to proceed to tribunal costs the SSWP little or nothing. In contrast, scrutinising it pre-hearing costs money. It is rarely economically rational for the SSWP to expend resources making the right decision in the first place, or to investigate later settlement.

If losing carried costs risks, the balance would shift. It would become economically rational to investigate settling. The “embarrassment factor” of facing a costs award might also be influential. Fewer cases would proceed to hearing. So costs powers would tend to reduce the volume of appeals.
The rationale for costs orders applies to public bodies, not natural persons
If costs orders encourage rational litigation, why not make unreasonable individual appellants liable too? This would be neither effective nor just—for three reasons:
  • First, lay appellants are in an inferior position to government decision-makers when attempting rational litigation decisions in the “enormously complex” field of social security law (Kerr v DSD [2004] UKHL 23, [2004] 4 All ER 385). The threat of costs, potentially ruinous to a low-income individual’s finances, could cause nervous appellants with good cases to withdraw. Yet it might well be inadequate to modify the behaviour of unreasonable appellants.
  • Second, costs risks work best against serial litigants (insurers, government, large companies), because they can learn from repeated experience. Most social security appellants are one-time litigants.
  • Third, many social security appeals concern means tested benefits. Appellants are generally extremely poor. Costs awards would often be unrecoverable, or expensively slow to recover.

How tribunals costs powers could work

The kinds of costs which would be covered by orders

While most of the expense of mainstream civil litigation is lawyers’ fees, it is rare for appellants to pay for legal representation in social security cases.

The major cost of unnecessary tribunal litigation is the cost of holding the hearings. In civil proceedings, losing defendants pay this indirectly, by compensating the claimant for having paid court fees, but social security tribunals do not charge fees.

The potency of reform would be considerably weakened if there were no way of making unreasonable public authority parties pay such costs, for in the many cases where an appellant does not seek advice, the hearing cost is the only financial cost to anyone.

One solution might be to introduce fees for public authority respondents’ submissions to a tribunal, reimbursing them where the respondent is found to have acted reasonably. This model is increasingly popular in modern dispute resolution schemes. A similar arrangement is employed by the legal services ombudsman.
Tribunal costs orders consistent with speed and informality

The advantages of the tribunals system have long been said to include “cheapness, accessibility, freedom from technicality, [and] expedition” (Gillies v SSWP [2006] UKHL 2, [2006] 1 All ER 731). None of these are words one might associate with the worst excesses of civil costs litigation, which “[fill] one with despair”, as lamented in Carver v BAA [2008] EWCA Civ 412, [2008] 3 All ER 911. Is there a risk of importing that plague? No.

The social security costs orders could justly be “rough and ready”, since they would usually be redistributing money around different agencies of the state, or state funded bodies. The principal “cost” awarded would be the “case fee” paid to the tribunal, not the victorious party’s legal costs. So reform would not encourage “those looking for profit rather than justice”, to borrow the words of Ken Clarke.

The tribunals system already has experience in making costs orders without sacrificing its traditional strengths. Three of the six First-tier Tribunal chambers have costs powers. So does the employment tribunal. They have not experienced substantial problems with satellite costs litigation.

In addition, it is not proposed that costs orders would become the rule. Costs powers would be modelled on those of the other chambers, directed at unreasonable conduct only. Losing a case would by no means automatically produce a costs penalty.

Reform not revolution


This is reform not revolution. It will not eliminate bad government decision-making. But it could bring a degree of market discipline to an area where government decision-makers have a perverse financial incentive never to settle litigation.

There would be a saving to the public purse. Fewer appellants would have to undergo the stress and inconvenience of litigation. It would also draw social security tribunal procedure into closer alignment with that of other courts and tribunals. And the changes suggested above should not require primary legislation.

The SSWP might not be keen, for it would transfer to his department costs presently borne by others. But can it really be desirable for departmental sectionalism to prevail over the broader interests of the state and its citizens?

Tom Royston, Kirklees Law Centre


Sources

  1. https://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/content/making-polluter-pay
  2. http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/pip-cuts-will-be-debated-and-voted-on/ 
  3. https://www.newlawjournal.co.uk/content/making-polluter-pay