According to statistics released by the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) the rate of universal credit recipients hit an all-time high of 6.86% in October 2022.
This total decreased slightly to 6.51% in November 2022.
The statistics released by the DWP show that sanctions have risen by 4.16 percentage points in the last 12 months.
Sanctions given to universal credit recipients can be and are not excluding other reasons for failure to attend or participate in a mandatory interview, failure or inability to complete their online journal or being seen as not to be looking for work enough in their time allotted to do so.
Over the last year over half a million claimants were sanctioned which includes a total of 98.4% of all sanctions given for not attending an in-face or telephone interview.
Needless to say most universal credit recipients do not purposely miss important interviews and there is usually a good reason for doing so which are often not taken into consideration by the DWP.
At a time when most people are struggling because of the current cost of living and energy cost crisis the DWP continues to financially punish the most vulnerable.
It’s abhorrent that the DWP continues to do this, they extend a person’s punishment to such an extent that they can’t see a way out.
It needs to stop before even more people die as a result of the DWPs actions and decision making.
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I’d like to say I was surprised upon hearing about a new sanction trap for Universal Credit (UC)) claimants but I’m not, afterall it’s not exactly the first time they’ve done this to unsuspecting claimants.
This time it’s been disguised as supposed help to move claimants into work.
The new scheme which has surprisingly been condemned by members of the DWP staff union PCS despite jobcentre workers are being offered a £250 ‘incentive’ to implement it.
The newly named Additional Jobcentre Support scheme requires UC claimants being forced by the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) to attend their allocated Jobcentre 10 times over a two week period.
Claimants that are unable to attend or failing to participate in one session will highly likely to lead to a sanction.
Undeterred however by the cruelty of this new scheme the DWP are being ‘trialed’ at 60 jobcentres across England and Scotland.
As already proven by myself and many other like-minded campaigners these so called trials are usually the start of a national roll out regardless if they’re successful or not.
To add incentive to roll out this terrible scheme the DWP are offering a £250 bonus in the form of a voucher “to recognise and reward jobcentre teams who furthest exceed their aspirational targets.”
These vouchers will be given to each member of staff in the best performing jobcentres.
No explanation has so far been given as to what the alleged “aspirational targets” consist of and if this involves taking people off benefitif claimants have failed to comply for whatever reason. Nor has the DWP commented if it involves sanctioning claimants or forcing claimants into unsuitable and insecure work.
The PCS union, which represents DWP staff commented saying that they have no doubt that the main purpose of the scheme is to make life harder for claimants, saying:
“Our members will see through this pilot for what it is – a government hellbent on making it more difficult for people to claim benefits and which will increase the risk of poverty for those customers who fall foul of this pilot. Asking more customers to travel more often into jobcentres does nothing to help our staff or their workloads and does nothing to help the customers find the work that they need.”
However as I have already stated this isn’t the first time that the DWP have issued financial targets to incentivise cruelty.
Previous examples of this are ‘Sandras Stars’ which consisted of a Jobcentre manager giving DWP employees a star on a leaderboard for every employee that ‘offloaded’ sanctioned a claimant.
The charity the Dogs Trust has reported a huge rise in the number of people trying to rehome their pets.
The RSPCA have also seen that animal shelters and rehoming organisations have also seen a massive rise in animal rehoming saying that they are ‘drowning’ in animals as the cost of living and energy crisis continues to hit hard.
According to figures given by the Dogs Trust the number of pet owners attempting to rehome their dogs had risen hugely last year and continues to do so. Many shelters are now experiencing long waiting lists. Also seen is an increase in setting up pet food banks to help prevent people from having to re-home their pets.
Between 1 January 2022 and 31 October 2022 the Dogs Trust received 42,000 inquiries from dog owners about rehoming which is a rise of almost 50% on the same period in 2021. Sadly these figures show no sign of decreasing.
Amanda Sands, centre manager at Dogs Trust Leeds, said she had never seen such high demand in three decades of working at the shelter.
There’s people bringing in their dogs that at one time would’ve said: ‘I will never give my dog up.’ And they meant it,” she said. “And now they’re faced with the situation where they have no choice. To have to say goodbye to your friend, it’s unbearable. It’s unthinkable.”
The Association of Dogs and Cats Homes (ADCH), in conjunction with ITV’s Tonight programme, surveyed more than 60 animal shelters across the country about how they were responding to the cost of living crisis.
The figures showed 92% of shelters were seeing more people wanting to hand over a dog compared with pre-pandemic levels, and 88% were seeing more people wanting to hand over cats.
More than half were planning on opening pet food banks to respond to the crisis, and 30% were thinking about providing low-cost or free veterinary care.
Sadly these numbers are increasing as people can no longer afford to buy food for their pets. They are also finding it near impossible to pay for any vet bills that may occur.
The RSPCA also reported in 2022 a 24% increase in pets being rehomed as shelters report that they can’t keep up with rehoming requests.
Also back in 2022 75 families were using a food bank at the Blue Cross Animal Hospital in Grimsby every week.
Mark had been using the food bank for several months to help pay for specialist dog food for his staffordshire bull terrier Roxy. This has helped him save £60 a month on food. “She’s part of the family. We’d sooner go without ourselves then give Roxy up,” he told the Tonight programme.
Meanwhile a YouGov and Dogs Trust poll that was made in conjunction with the Tonight programme found that 48% of dog owners were saying they now are now finding it more difficult to provide their pets everything that they need because of the cost of living crisis.
Understandably vet bills topped the list of concerns which was followed by the rising cost of dog food and pet insurance costs.
Roll forward to 2023 I can only imagine that these figures are rising. It’s difficult to find a foodbank that provides dog and cat food although there are some that do.
No one wants to rehome their pets, it’s a decision that is usually made when they’ve exhausted all other means of providing the essentials for their pets.
As the cost of living and energy cost crisis continues there’s no doubt that the most vulnerable will undoubtedly pay the highest price.
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Financially it’s a huge struggle for me this week I’ve had £5 to last me and my daughter a week after paying my bills.
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First published a few years ago but nothing much has changed.
I notice a young homeless girl living on the street. She has her blankets and bags next to her ready for the night ahead. She should be excited about life but instead she looks lost. She has a can of beer next to her, she says to numb the pain and cold.
She’s sat with a group of men, also homeless but seems detached from them. I ask her if she is ok, and she says that she is and that there’s safety in numbers. She needs to keep safe. As a woman living on the streets life can be very dangerous. Even if you don’t like the people you are sitting next to you stay with them she says. They are her protection.
She wants to make enough money for a b&b for the night, but says she has given up all hope of finding a permanent home because she has addiction issues and feels unable to deal with them. She will one day she says. After saying this her facial expression changes as worry weighs down heavily on her mind. A weight that she feels can’t be lifted at the moment.
Whilst we are talking a young man rushes past, earphones on looks anxious. Perhaps late for an appointment. He doesn’t notice the homeless girl sat near him. He’s self consumed with himself and his journey. She says that she sees this all the time.
Her wish, she says is that people would be nice to one another. She would like more people to say hello, but they don’t and she looks down again.
A lady walks past walking her dog. People stop and compliment her on her dog. They don’t notice the young girl, but they notice the dog. I feel that this is rather sad. A vulnerable human life appears to be less important.
A teenage boy stands next to the homeless girl. He says hello to her and asks her if she would mind if he plays some music and starts rapping. She welcomes it.
His rapping consists of the story of his life, that he has encountered prejudice, loss and also some lovely things. People start to give him money, but instead of keeping it himself he gives it to the homeless girl. He tells her that she is important, that she is loved and not to give up.
He tells her that one day, life will get better because his did. She smiles and thanks him. Maybe, just maybe that one act of kindness gave her the strength to carry on. I’d like to think that she kept warm for that night.
As the never ending cold winter and the ever increasing cost of living and energy costs continues once again I took to the streets and interviewed several people in my local town Ashton Under Lyne.
Ashton Under Lyne is a typical northern working class town, drained of money by the government and the majority of people living in differing stages of poverty.
Mortality rates are amongst the highest in the UK and there’s a higher rate of people either being unwell or living with some type of disability.
Like any other northern working class town it doesn’t have a lot for people to aspire to despite the positive changes that Tameside Council are implementing and trying to introduce.
Years of government forced austerity policies has been and continues to cause a lack of funding for essential services with most things already stripped to the bare minimum.
As I headed off into the cold I spoke to a young woman that had two young children with her. I introduced myself and asked her how she is coping with the cost of living and the ever increasing energy crisis.
As I asked her this I could see that she was upset, telling me that she thinks that she’s failing her children because she can’t give them the things that she used to be able to do.
“We’re living in a cold house trying to keep turning the central heating on at a bare minimum. I usually turn the heating on for an hour in the morning and again in the evening at bedtime, that’s if I’ve got credit because I’m on a prepaid meter”
She went on to say that her health is suffering most likely because she’s cold and because she often doesn’t eat meals, if she does it’s a bare minimum. “I can’t afford to eat as well as my children and they always come first”
I asked her how she keeps warm when the heating isn’t turned on. “I wear layers of clothing and I have a thick blanket that we all snuggle under. I’ve got a little fan heater that I use just to keep the chill off because I don’t want the children to become ill and even that’s a struggle. Once I run out of credit on my meter that’s it it’s gone and I can’t afford for that to happen”
She told me that she often takes the children to the library that has a warm area and her children can have a look at some books and she can have a free cuppa.
However she continued to say that sometimes she found this very difficult because she doesn’t always want to be around other people..
I asked her if she had visited a food bank recently and she said yes she has and is now dependent upon them even though it’s still a struggle saying that they’ve been a lifeline for her and her children.
But despite getting help from food banks they don’t cover all of her food and every day living costs so she has to try and fill the gaps in.
“I’m always topping up my energy meters, I’ve never had this problem before. It’s bad, really bad I just wish that it wasn’t like this”
I signposted her to several organisations that might be able to help her but this is only a sticking plaster.
Whilst the government sits back and causes the suffering of those most vulnerable her experience is going to be repeated time and time again
Their inhumane policies will undoubtedly cause malnutrition and hypothermia related illnesses and worse.
Undoubtedly there will be recorded deaths of those suffering like this but how many will actually be reported as so.
Every death related to this needs to be reported and spoken about in parliament. The government is knowingly causing the suffering of thousands if not millions and they need to be reminded of this every single day.
This shouldn’t be happening at all.
I will continue to share the experiences of those that I interview in future blogs, hopefully weekly.
If you would like me to use your story get in touch I’m happy to do so.
Let’s be clear no one should be forced to live like this.
Please read, share, tweet and email this blog, it’s vitally important that we get these stories out there in the public domain.
Believe it or not there are still people that aren’t aware that this is happening.
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A 87 year old woman died after developing hypothermia at home after expressing concerns that she was worried about paying her energy bills.
Barbara Bolton, 87, had previously told relatives she had felt cold after they had visited her at her home in Bury to check on her wellbeing. Sadly as a result she was rushed to Fairfield hospital where she was then diagnosed with hypothermia.
However despite the good care given by NHS medical professionals, her condition sadly deteriorated and as a result of her worsening condition she sadly died several weeks later.
Hospital notes given to the inquest indicate that her illness and subsequent death was linked to the fact she couldn’t afford to put her heating on.
Her son, Mark Bolton, 61, said his “proud” mum had refused his offer to help to pay her power bills as reported in the Mirror. She had been heating her home by using a single gas fire in her living room and used portable electric heaters to warm the rest of her two-bedroom house.
Ms Bolton had previously worked as a pharmacy assistant at her local Tesco until the age of 82 and she had lived at her home on Dawson Street in Bury for several decades.
Her son Mark told the inquest that he spoke to his mum every night and that she had told him that she was worried about her heating bills, despite assurances from him that he would cover the costs.
Mark said “She was concerned about all her bills because she was a pensioner. She was careful, she was mindful of the prices and worried about them going up,” he said.
Mark told the coroner that he had always told her to ‘just keep your heating on’ and ‘don’t worry about the bills mum.’ “But she was very stubborn and proud about paying her own way,” he said.
He told the hearing that his mum had ‘felt cold’ when she was found sat at her kitchen table by one of her grandchildren, who had gone round after the family had not been able to contact her.
Police coroner’s officer Jane Scullion told the hearing: “Barbara was admitted to hospital on December 11, 2022, with hypothermia, and a chest infection.
“During that time she continued to deteriorate. After a discussion, she was placed on end of life care and passed away.”
Assistant coroner for Manchester North Julie Mitchel adjourned the inquest and has requested statements from her doctor and asked for a medical cause of death to be provided.
“Her death was particularly accelerated by hypothermia and there is a possibility of self-neglect due to the lack of heating so her death has been referred to the coroner,” she said.
Hypothermia is caused by prolonged exposures to very cold temperatures and requires immediate medical intervention. Causes include not wearing warm clothes in winter, falling into cold water and living in a cold house.
Sadly I fear that her death caused by living in a cold house isn’t the first and will certainly not be the last. Thousands if not more people are being forced by an uncaring, cruel government to live in cold and in many cases, damp houses as a result of the ever increasing energy costs.
For those saying that she should have jut accepted the help offered, it isn’t always as easy for various reasons. Admitting that you’re poor and can’t afford to heat your home is a very difficult thing to have to admit, and as a parent this can be even harder.
Society deems that parents should look after their children and not the other way round, and asking your children for help can make a parent feel like an absolute failure, and she wouldn’t have made her decision lightly.
This nightmare isn’t going to end soon, I wish it was.The reality is that thousands, including myself are counting down the days until spring arrives and warmer weather returns, it can’t come a minute too soon.
The government has absolutely no intention of changing things for the better, they prefer to spend their time trying to cover up senior ministers deception and lies rather than help those in need.
It’s one rule for them and one for us and the death of Ms Bolton and others won’t bother them in the slightest.
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The DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) Independent Case Examiner also known as ICE has revealed that they are overwhelmed by a huge amount of complaints from claimants.
This was revealed when they responded to an MP’s written question recently in parliament.
ICE is an organisation used by the DWP to deal with claimant’s complaints against the DWP. This is the next step when a claimant has exhausted the DWP’s internal complaints procedure and is still not satisfied with the response given.
Complaints against the DWP can be for various reasons including and not excluding others;
A failure by the DWP to follow proper procedures
Excessive payment delays for benefits
Sub standard customer service given to claimants.
It’s also noted that there has been a 17% increase in the number of complaints made to ICE in the year 2021to March 2022.
In itself may not be seen as a huge increase, however it is an increase and should be dealt with in the utmost urgency
However the huge increase in complaints arises in the proportion of cases that ICE has agreed to look into. This has increased by an astonishing 68% in the last year.
This therefore means that ICE is receiving a huge increase in complaints where it believes that there is a case to answer than in previous years.
As a result of this increase there are now 1,249 cases waiting for an ICE investigator to be allocated. The average time for a complaint to be dealt with currently takes is 53 weeks,so in total this means that it takes over a year before an investigation begins.
Personally I don’t know any person making a complaint against the DWP that can afford to wait that long albeit for financial and other complaint reasons.
It takes a great deal of courage to make a complaint against the DWP and as a result many don’t make complaints when they should do.
The complaints procedure is complex and very stressful for everyone making a complaint against the DWP and as a result it can impact a person’s health and ability to manage their daily life’s.
It comes as no surprise that legal justice that claimants are entitled to is subject to long indefensible delays without question.
It’s also noted that the DWP can make a decision to apply cruel, harsh and often unwanted sanctions on the most vulnerable and in need of help whilst their real and valid complaints.
Once again it’s one rule for claimants and yet another for their oppressors.
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I couldn’t do it without you.
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It has recently been revealed by Benefits And Work that PIP (Personal Independence Payments) appeal figures have risen by 119% in 2022, this is compared to the same quarter in 2021.
The rate of UC (Universal Credit) appeals has also risen by 28% the latest official figures show.
The number of cases that were dealt increased by only 18% in the same time period compared to figures from 2021.
Figures show that there were 63,000 outstanding cases by the end of September 2021 which adds to an annual increase of 96%.
The average wait time for an appeal averaged at 31 weeks. This shows that it is 8 weeks down from 2021 figures , but is likely to increase over the coming quarters as the backlog rises inexorably.
The success rate for PIP appeals remains unchanged at 68%. This shows that the vast majority of those who appeal are correct in their decision to appeal however the wait time for appeals to be heard continues to rise.
For UC claimants it is revealed that the appeal success rates are now at 49% which is an increase of 7% on the previous year.
DLA (Disability Living Allowance) success rates are now at 61% which is down 6%.
Meanwhile ESA (Employment and Support Allowance success rates are now 53%, down on the previous year at 1%
Appealing against any DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) decision is always daunting and extremely stressful. Not only is the appeal process hard to navigate, the waiting times for appeals and tribunals to be heard is increasing.
The success rate shows that those making the decision to appeal have made the right decision in doing so.
Sadly many people that are entitled to appeal fail to do so because they can’t afford to wait a long time for their appeal to be heard and also can’t cope with the stress involved, many having no support network to rely upon.
I don’t need to tell you that the downright discrimination and hatred given to disabled and unemployed people is totally unfair and discriminatory.
This cruelty combined with the increasing cost of living and energy prices is making life extremely difficult for those that are most in need of financial help.
In an ideal world this wouldn’t be happening at all but there won’t be any positive changes made to the system whilst there’s a Tory government in power.
The conservative party is doing what they do best, punishing the most vulnerable and poor for their very existence, they need to be stopped and soon before more people suffer and die as a result of their actions.
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I don’t get paid for any of the work that I do and it’s a massive struggle.
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It was recently announced during a Commons debate in parliament that Universal Credit sanctions (UC) are “back with a vengeance”. This comes after the figures for the last quarter have been revealed.
According to the released figures the sanction rates are now 250% higher than they were for the three months before the pandemic.
It’s extremely worrying that the figures have risen so much in such a short amount of time makes me very concerned about the welfare of UC claimants.
The huge increase allows for the ever increasing number of UC claimants. In layman’s terms it amounts to 2.5% of UC claimants being sanctioned each month which is almost double the amount when compared to 1.4% before the pandemic.
Let’s not forget that in June 2022 £34 million was taken away from claimants as a result of being sanctioned. This was followed in July 2022 by £34.9 million and then in August taking the total to over £36 million.
When you do the maths this totals to £100 million which has literally been taken from vulnerable claimants that were already struggling to pay for basic necessities.
Upon questioning these figures Guy Opperman minister for employment speaking on behalf repeatedly avoided answering a question which asked why the number of sanctions had increased so rapidly.
The only other possibility being that the DWP may have changed its policy on applying sanctions but neglecting to inform everyone that would be affected by this. After all it’s not the first time that they’ve done this.
The only answer that Opperman eventually gave was “The hon. Gentleman asked specifically about the rise in the number of sanctions. Some 98.2% of sanctions are for missing a meeting with a work coach.”
Opperman declined to give an explanation as to why twice as many claimants are now supposedly choosing to miss appointments with their DWP advisor.
Of course this makes no sense because claimants are desperate to receive their UC payments. Methinks Opperman’s not being honest which comes as no surprise at all.
However Anne McLaughlin, SNP MP for Glasgow North East didn’t hold back from being honest in informing the commons the advice that she gives every UC claimant that has come to her after being sanctioned.
She went on to say;
“If you have your benefits sanctioned, do not take it lying down. Contact me and I will fight this for you, because this is wrong and nobody should have to live on less than the minimum income.”
This is of course correct, everyone that finds themselves in this position should fight it. The reality is that many don’t because they don’t have the strength to do so.
I have spoken to many people that had taken the decision to stop claiming UC because they can’t cope with it leaving them with little or no income to live on.
More MPs need to speak up about this in parliament but I won’t hold my breath. Only a few MPs including Debbie Abrahams actually speak up about this but others need to follow.
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A huge thanks to everyone that has and does support my blog and campaign. I don’t receive any payment for the work that I do and every penny enables me to continue with my work.