Earlier this month (May) the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) released their latest Universal Credit sanction statistics. The statistics reveal that 541,000 UC claimants were sanctioned in the year to January 2023.
The greatest majority of those (530,000) were shown to have been sanctioned for failing to attend or failing to participate in a mandatory interview.
However these figures represent a very small fall from the previous peak sanction rate and the number of claimants sanctioned is shown to be still more than double the figures pre-pandemic.
In January 2020 18,462 claimants were sanctioned.
In January 2023, the figure was 44,888.
However the non attendance of mandatory interviews are mostly for genuine issues such as not recieving a letter or notification of having to attend an interview, I’ve blogged about this many times.
Other reasons for non attendance can be Not being able to get to their nearest Jobcentre for their interview because of cost, illness and appointments clashing with childcare obligations.
It is then that the claimant is left to the discretion of their work coach as to if they’re sanctioned or not.
This is incredibly worrying especially because the DWP is now planning to give work coaches the power to decide who is capable of work. Please see my previous blogs for details about this.
Please note that as already blogged it is planned that medically unqualified work coaches could be given the responsibility of making life changing decisions on behalf of UC claimants.
Decisions such as if a disabled or ill claimant is in their opinion able to take part in work-related activities.
Based upon their decision they could be given the power to recommend sanctions and suchlike.
As a result of not being medically qualified such decisions will be based purely on opinion and not fact.
Upon being sanctioned a claimant can try to show their work coach good causes for not attending a planned meeting. They can also do this if their work coach decides that even though they’ve attended a meeting but have failed on their eyes to participate as well as expected.
This can be for many reasons such as their disability preventing them for doing so or illness.
However the work coaches decision is purely based upon their decision or mood so it’s clear that unfair sanction decisions can be sent to the decision maker leaving the claimants payments being sanctioned.
Sanction decision can be appealed and their is an appeal process. Whilst the majority of appeals are successful the whole process is very long and extremely stressful, leaving the claimant in great distress and under enormous financial pressure.
The whole benefit sanction process is heavily biased against claimants, the balance of power unfairly being in the hands of work coaches and decision makers.
Once a sanction has reached the end of the appeal process and a decision made in the claimant’s favour the damage has already been done and many claimants never fully recover both mentally and physically from this.
Sadly this won’t be changing for the better any time soon and it would be nieve to expect this.
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An ever increasing number of children are now living in poverty as a result of the cost of living crisis, increasing energy costs, result of parents losing their jobs and DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) issues such as benefit sanctions.
As we are seeing this huge increase of people living in poverty little has been said about the effects of hunger upon children and their learning abilities.
It sounds like commonsense that childhood learning and hunger are both interconnected issues that are faced by many children in the UK. If you’re hungry it’s very hard to concentrate on anything else.
Recent studies have shown that hunger and malnourishment can have a severe impact on a child’s mental and physical development, which can ultimately affect their academic performance and life opportunities.
According to the End Child Poverty coalition, 4.2 million children in the UK are living in poverty, 2.4 million of whom are living in severe poverty. Poverty is a significant driver of hunger and food insecurity, with many families struggling to afford and find healthy and nutritious food.
Research by the Trussell Trust food bank network found that over 1.2 million emergency food supplies were given to children in the UK in 2020. This highlights the extent of hunger faced by children in the country and the need for action from the government.
The effects of hunger and malnutrition on a child’s learning can be very profound. Children who experience hunger often find it difficult to concentrate and focus, affecting their memory and cognitive abilities.
This can also lead to behavioral issues, affecting their interactions with others and their overall development.
Moreover, poor nutrition can significantly affect a child’s physical development, leading to a lack of energy, poor growth, and an increased likelihood of illness.
One recent study found that children who experienced hunger were more likely to have lower academic performance and to struggle with basic literacy and numeracy. Children who eat more healthily and more varied diets also have better cognitive abilities, and in many cases have better academic outcomes.
There is evidence, however, that basic interventions can help address these issues. Breakfast clubs at schools have been shown to improve pupils’ behaviour and academic performance. This is particularly noticeable with children that come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Whilst charities and organizations are also working to provide food parcels and other forms of support to families and children who are struggling with hunger, the food offered to them are usually of low nutritional standards but they do quench their hunger.
Childhood hunger and malnutrition in the UK continues to have a huge impact on a child’s learning and development.
Whilst there are interventions such as breakfast clubs and food banks that can help alleviate these problems, and it is vitally important for policymakers, schools, and charities to work together to ensure that all children have access to the resources they need to thrive.
Sadly at the time of writing the government is very reluctant to help at all. Instead the cost of living crisis and rising energy costs are continuing to increase plunging more children and their families further into poverty.
Is the government doing this purposely? It certainly makes me suspect this. The health and wellbeing of working class children appears to be unimportant to them and the less they learn the better for them.
DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) minister Tom Pursglove admitted that claimants are waiting over half an hour on average for PIP and DLA helpline calls to be answered.
He also claimed that he is going to recruit extra staff to cope with the volume of calls on the helplines but gave absolutely no indication of how many are being employed and for how long they’ll be employed.
Nor has he confirmed if the extra staff he plans to employ are qualified to do so.
At the time of writing the average wait for a PIP enquiry to be answered is 37 minutes and for DLA enquiries it is 33.5 minutes.
However it is imperative that Tom Pursglove reveals the amount of callers that don’t get an answer at all because their calls are disconnected.
Earlier this year the DWP revealed that in March almost 90% of half a million callers to the Future Pensions Centre were faced with being call-blocked because they couldn’t cope with the rising call demand.
Implementing Call-blocking results in calls not being allowed to go on the call waiting queue because the queue is too long and they get cut off.
This is also happening to callers contacting the PIP helpline as reported to Benefits And Work by claimants trying to contact the said helpline.
We cannot ignore the fact that the claimants trying to contact these helplines are all vulnerable and are in great need of getting their enquiries answered.
The question also needs to be answered as to how many of these vulnerable people have given up trying to contact the departments. This could in some circumstances result in their payments being stopped leaving them more vulnerable than they already were. .
There’s no excuse for the DWP’s lax attitude towards the whole situation.
It’s clear that they don’t care about how this can impact upon the claimants lives and it is totally unacceptable.
Thanks to Benefits And Work for disclosing this information.
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It’s been revealed in the publication of a government white paper and a subsequent report by John Pring from Disability News Forum that job coaches with no academic qualifications could be tasked with making life changing decisions as to whether a disabled person must carry out work related activities as part of their DWP commitments.
This is dependent upon whether the government goes ahead with its plans to scrap the “fitness for work” test.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has told Disability News Service (DNS) that there are no minimum academic qualifications required to undertake the role of a work coach in a Jobcentre.
It has also been revealed that it will be these work coaches who will be given the task of deciding if disabled claimants in receipt of universal credit are able to carry out tasks such as attending training courses or work-related interviews.
Back in the day I remember when the UK had a fully functioning NHS dentistry system that many in the UK were entitled to be given treatment by an NHS dentist.
People are still entitled to this and are dependent on certain benefits, pregnant women, women who had recently given birth and some pensioners had access to the NHS free service.
As a whole the system worked well and appointments to see a dentist and to get treatment was fairly easy. If you had a toothache or dental abscess it was also easy to get a dentist to treat you before complications set in.
Roll forward to 2023 it’s near impossible to find a dentist that’s willing to take on NHS patients and a person’s condition isn’t taken into account.
Many NHS dentistry patients have also found themselves taken off their dentists patient lists. This happened to me, if you get a toothache like I get often or a dental abscess it’s tough and difficult to cope with.
Finding an NHS dentist is near impossible though.
Most doctors and a&es won’t treat people with dental problems and trying to find a local dentistry hospital can be near impossible.
It’s become very clear that the government is actively destroying the few NHS dentistry services that are still available. They clearly don’t care about the public’s health.
Basically as stated by George Monbiot the state of our mouths truly does reflect the state of the nation.
Many people find themselves without an NHS dentist because their circumstances change such as house moves and relationship changes and dentists take NHS patients off their lists.
I live in an area of the UK where there are hardly any, if any at all dentists accepting adult NHS patients I was lucky enough to find a dentist to treat my teenage daughter who needs extensive surgery in the near future. My fear is that she’ll age out before any date for the operation becomes available. She was one of the lucky ones.
Currently at the time of writing 80% of practices in the UK are no longer taking on new child NHS patients, and about 90% are refusing new adult patients.
Sounds horrific doesn’t it and it gets worse. Some dentists do offer a waiting list for NHS appointments but they’re years long and of no use for urgent appointments.
Often accessing emergency services requires finding a dentistry hospital, being able to travel a long distance and being able to afford to do so.
Idon’t know anyone can afford to pay for private treatment. Those that have in the past can’t afford to do so again.
However the reasons why dentists are refusing to treat NHS patients are pretty simple and it’s easy to understand why.
When dentists treat patients on the NHS, they actually lose money, because the government funding package doesn’t cover their costs of doing so.
Since 2006, dentists have worked for the NHS under contracts that are shockingly designed to fail NHS dentists.
Dentists undertaking NHS work are paid in units of dental activity’ which is shortened to(UDA). This method of payment doesn’t take into account the cost of treatment which bears no relation to the costs of treatment. Under this system treating a patient earns a dentist three points regardless of the length and expense of each procedure.
Under this contract each and every NHS dentist also has to meet annual UDA targets
Absolutely no regard is given to dentistry prevention work which is in great need.
Dentists are paid at the UDA rate no matter how skilled they are and their experience.
Add the above to the government cuts that are hitting hard.
In reality NHS dentists as well as other health systems The NHS as a whole requires approximately 4% a year to keep up with it.
However NHS dentist services receive 1.2%. Add this up that they are requiring 4% to function but funding for NHS services have been cut by 4% a year.
It’s also important to take into account rising costs of energy, , energy, wages and materials which accounts to about 11% a year.
Dentists working for the NHS simply cannot stay in business unless they use their income from private practice to subsidise their public practice.
Parliament’s health and social committee stated in 2008 “it is extraordinary that the public health department did not pilot or test the UDA payment system before it was introduced.”
Rather typical isn’t it.
Since then successive governments have apparently tried to change an already broken system but haven’t made any improvements.
In 2022, the government produced a so called reformed contract in England which apparently is supposed to allow better access to NHS dental services. This however hasn’t prevented the decline of NHS dentistry because they’re still going to be losing money when treating NHS patients.
Rishi Sunak recently told parliament that there are now more NHS dentists across the UK with more funding, making sure people can get the treatment they need.
He’s got the nerve to even suggest this. The number of NHS dentists is decreasing daily. If you need a dentist you’ve got virtually no chance of seeing one.
As a result of this most if not all dental practices treating NHS patients have found themselves unable to reach NHS contract targets. . If dentists deliver fewer than 96% of UDAs that they are contracted, they find themselves in a position similar to being fined by the government.
It look’s as if they will take a record hit. The dentists undertaking NHS work were forced to pay back as much as £400m from a total English dentist budget of some £3bn. This is effectively destroying remaining NHS dentistry, obviously they can’t afford to work at a loss and on top of having to pay back the government.
It’s hard to believe that as the UK is in one of richest nations that people can’t access dentistry services.
It’s horrific that people are so desperate to get rid of their pain they’re resorting to pulling their own teeth out, buying temporary fillings and suffering in pain.
People are also accidentally overdosing on painkillers which is very dangerous both to health and life. We must also take into account the adverse health effects of dental abscess and suchlike which at worse can cause death.
Cruelty is what the conservative government does best though, most of their systems are designed to punish working class people for their very existence. How dare they ask for dental treatment.
Something needs to change and soon before more people suffer and also unfortunately die.
Will this happen though? No not a chance and it’s pointless trying to appeal to them for sympathy and help because the government clearly don’t care.
This is Mike’s comment about his quest in finding an NHS dentist.
There are two dentists where I live but, after extracting all of my own teeth and wanted dentures, I could only find one NHS dentist within 20 miles that accepted new patients. York and Leeds are both within 20 miles! Reason I wasn’t previously registered was returning from Australia where I didn’t need to register.
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After many months of waiting and pressure from organisations and campaigners the DWP finally relented and published the secret sanction report that I’ve reported on previously.
This report concerned itself into the effectiveness of DWP (Department of Work and Pension) sanctions, afterall it’s a cruel tool used by them for a long time.
However in true DWP style they released it hours before the UK was closed to business for the Easter bank holiday.
The report shows that sanctioned claimants do take longer to move into paid employment and when they do so they’re most likely going to accept lower paid jobs than claimants that haven’t been sanctioned.
It also reveals that there’s no evidence that sanctions are effective in any way at all.
According to the report claimants that have been sanctioned also have 8% shorter UC claims than claimants who were not sanctioned.
The report proves that the majority of claimants with shortened claims disappear, they do not move into paid employment which is very worrying.
Claimants who are sanctioned and who eventually move into PAYE work then take longer to do so than those were not sanctioned and earn an average of £34 a month less than those not sanctioned.
The DWP rather unexpectedly argue in a ‘context note’ within the report that the research cannot be relied upon because it did not take into account the value of the ‘deterrent effect’ of the sanctions regime.
The DWPs ongoing theory is that claimants are more likely to meet their obligations because they fear being sanctioned thus sanctions are an effective tool.
In the three years since the draft report was created the DWP have chosen not to commission any independent research to test the truth of their deterrent effect theory.
Instead they intend to introduce a much harsher sanctions regime, when the only hard evidence they have about sanctions proves that they don’t work.
DWP Sanctions can and should be appealed however this takes a great deal of strength and determination of which not many have due to being completely worn down by the system.
So there we have it, the DWP once again ignoring important information that have a direct negative effect upon sanctioned claimants and their well-being.
The amount of people that decide to take themselves off the system when sanctioned is very concerning.
Don’t expect the DWP to care though, this is exactly what they want to happen and a claimants well-being isn’t even thought about let alone be a concern.
How many more deaths will there be as a result of being sanctioned before the cruel sanctioning system is forced to stop.
I predict thousands because not one political party is willing to campaign against this and apart from a few good MPs such as Debbie Abrahams they’re silent
Sanctions do kill and this report needs to be acted upon ASAP. One death is a death too many.
No one should be forced to suffer in this manner it’s inhumane and cruel.
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This week I’ve heard some truly awful stories of people suffering and I’ve done everything I can to help those that need it.
According to statistics released today by CPAG (Child Poverty Action Group) 350,000 more children are in poverty in the U.K than last year.
This shows that 29% of all children in the UK are growing up below what is regarded as the breadline. In total that’s 4.2 million children in the UK, I’ll repeat this again 4.2 million children in the UK are growing up in poverty.
One of the main contributors to this sudden rise since 2022 is the stopping of the £20 universal credit uplift that happened half way through 2022.
At the same time £3.1 billion has been spent on Pupil Premiums and Early Years Entitlement for two-year olds that were introduced in 2008 has risen since 2021 from £2.5 billion to £2.7 billion a year whilst spending on the Early Years Entitlement for two year olds has fallen from £0.5 billion to £0.4 billion.
Forecasts of continued growth in child poverty mean that the current estimated £39.5bn annual cost will reach £40.4 billion in 2027 in today’s prices.
Commenting on today’s DWP’s child poverty statistics and CPAG’s own research on the economic costs of child poverty, Chief Executive of the charity Alison Garnham said:
“Children pay the highest possible price for poverty – they pay with their health, their well-being and their life chances. Our research shows the country also pays a heavy financial price.
Today’s DWP figures show that investing in social security is the way to remove children from poverty. Indeed, the Government did lift many kids from poverty with the £20 universal credit increase, but it plunged them back again with a subsequent cut.
In the face of today’s grim figures, and with another rise in inflation, it’s inexcusable for Ministers to sit on their hands. The Government must extend free school meals, remove the benefit cap and two-child limit and increase child benefit. The human cost for the children in today’s figures is incalculable. The economic fallout for all of us is vast. But if the political will is there, child poverty can be fixed.”
Meanwhile as the cost of living and energy price crisis continues to worsen even more children will be plunged into poverty leaving many to go hungry and at the same time foodbank donations are falling as the price of groceries increases leaving many having to close their doors to those in need.
It takes a truly evil and callous government to knowingly put the health and wellbeing of those most vulnerable at risk whilst they continue to profit from doing so.
The sooner this government has left office the better, to deliberatlty cause the suffering of 350,000 children and more is totally unforgivable.
Those responsible for making these decisions sleep well at night because they don’t care one bit and it’s pointless reaching out to them for sympathy.
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