Fitch Ratings a top credit ratings agency has warned the government that mortgaged homeowners in the UKare now more at risk of falling into arrears than in any other major developed country.
They also warn that the share of mortgaged homeowners missing more than three months of mortgage payments is most likely to double in 2023 to 1.5% as a result of high rates being charged to borrowers.
These figures are based upon the current number of residential mortgages in the UK which adds to approximately 135,000 households facing mortgage repayment arrears.
Research conducted by Fitch reveals Thar banks in the UK are more exposed to the housing market than in any of the 10 developed markets ranked by Fitch which include Canada, the USA, Germany, Australia and Italy.
A statement issued by Monsur Hussain at Fitch reveals “The UK scores the worst in terms of borrower risks.”
Fitch have also forecasted that the Bank of England will most likely raise the Bank Rate to a peak of 4.75%, up from 4% currently by May this year.
Jessica Hinds, director of economics at Fitch, said: “We have seen much bigger increases in mortgage rates, the Bank of England started tightening much earlier, and we have shorter mortgage terms than in other countries.”
Rather shockingly British borrowers fix for short periods of time either two or five years, buyers in the US commonly fix for around 25 years.
Mr Hussain from Fitch went on to say that in the year to November 2022 the average mortgage rates in the UK jumped by 4.5 percentage points compared to 3.5 points in the US.
As a result of this the UK’s housing market has come under immense pressure after mortgage rates increased dramatically when Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget was revealed inciting chaos in financial markets.
Even though rates have since started to fall concerns about the cost of living crisis and ever increasing energy bills have deeply impacted employment stability and less money available to pay mortgage and everyday household costs.
This has already had a massive effect upon mortgage repayments and is undoubtedly resulting in many being forced to sell their homes with many being repossessed and then becoming homeless.
Although this might not be seen as an important issue for some it is indeed a massive problem for not only people becoming homeless but for local authorities that are already massively underfunded being forced to bear the burden of this.
I can’t see this getting better and a housing recession could well be on the cards in the near future.
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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 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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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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The new DWP minister Mel Stride recently announced that he is happy with the levels of UC (Universal Credit) sanction rates.
Upon taking his new job as secretary of state for work and pensions (DWP), Mel Stride, quickly proved that he will not be making any changes in any harshness inflicted upon the most vulnerable at the hands of the DWP.
Upon answering MP’s questions on the 31 October 2022, Stride made it very clear that he’s happy hat the level of UC sanctions is now double the rate it was before the pandemic.
Stride went on to say “People are sanctioned only if they fail to attend appointments without good reason, and fail to meet the requirements that they have agreed to meet.”
However stride failed to offer any acknowledgement nevermind explanation as to why claimants are now twice as likely to break claimant commitment agreements than they were two years ago.
Upon questioning Stride ignored yet another request to publish a DWP report on the effectiveness of sanctions.
As previously reported in an earlier blog his predecessor also refused to do so.
Stride also claimed there “is a long tail” of 2.5 million long-term sick claimants who want to return to work and that it will be “a prime focus” for the DWP to “support them back into the workplace.”
It’s no coincidence that this figure is exceedingly similar to the total number of claimants that are long-term sick, the majority of whom are not able to work because their condition makes it impossible.
It appears that like his predecessors Stride is either mistaken or believes that every long-term sick person could be moved into work.
Whatever happens there appears to be no plans to treat claimants better, I suspect it will become worse.
A new DWP minister certainly doesn’t bring any changes for the better and until there’s a change of government I very much doubt that there will be.
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As reported by Benefits And Work the EHRC (Equality And Human Rights Commission) has broken its promise to investigate the role that the DWP (Department of Work And Pensions)have played in the deaths of vulnerable claimants. This has left the DWP not needing to answer any questions as to the role that they played in their deaths
Instead the EHRC are now asking the DWP to create new policies in relation to claimants with mental health issues and learning difficulties. This will replace the promised investigation.
This is despite promises made by the EHRC in 2019 that they would start an investigation into the deaths of vulnerable claimants.
The EHRC used the pandemic as an excuse to not start the investigation.
The Commission has now declared that it only intends to enter into a Section 23 agreement under the Equality Act 2006. This will oblige the DWP “to commit to an action plan to meet the needs of customers with mental health impairments and learning disabilities.”
Keep in mind that the DWP are a much larger organisation that receive more funding than the EHRC. This will no doubt result in the DWP will dragging their heels in creating so called policies that will be nothing more than good intentions that probably won’t be actioned upon.
Whilst I don’t have any details as to why the EHRC have changed their minds I can say that at best they’re very niave putting far too much trust in the DWP to do the right thing.
The DWP has an appalling track record of discrimination against vulnerable claimants, ignoring their basic human rights and making life extremely hard for them.
Despite my disappointment with the EHRC’s decision I’m not surprised. The DWP will do anything to avoid any actions taken against them making promises that they’ve got no intention of keeping whilst doing the bare minimum to comply.
Once again thanks go to Benefits And Work for their hard work and inspiring this article.
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It feels strange to be writing this blog post this week because I’ve actually been able to return to my weekly demo and advice session outside Ashton Under Lyne Jobcentre.
The DWP and local council might have mistakenly thought that I had stopped doing the weekly demos. I haven’t and dependant on my health I’m back.
This week I decided to stand outside the old Jobcentre building that had been shut down and moved to the new swanky council building. The truth is they underestimated the demand for the Jobcentre and were forced to re open the old one as well.
The old building has had a bit of a makeover, Laurence Llewellyn Bowen has nothing on this transformation. The doors have been repainted, a new carpet put down and what looks like cattle pens with numbers on installed.
Obviously this transformation wasn’t made to make the people that use the Jobcentre feel at ease, I can bet it has the opposite effect.
This week I was on my own accompanied by my daughter and two lovely men filming for french tv. They’re making a programme about the UK’s benefit system and have interviewed the amazing Debbie Abrahams, myself and they’re going to interview the dark lord himself David Cameron.
I was asked many times about my opinion of him, I answered that he’s got the blood of thousands of vulnerable and disabled people on his hands. Along with Ian (I’ll hide in car boots) Duncan Smith there’s a special place in hell for them.
Back to the demo. I chose the old Jobcentre because it’s actually very busy full of people coming and going looking rather stressed whilst doing so.
It wasn’t long until I had a conversation with a man who wasn’t far from retirement age. He had been given an appointment to attend a ‘Working Well’ interview despite being disabled and unable to work.
The DWP with all their infinite knowledge sent him a text message without an address to go to. Basically he didn’t know where his appointment was.
He walked to a building down the road and was told that his appointment wasn’t there and he had to go back to the Jobcentre.
Back at the Jobcentre he was told that he had to get back to the other building and they’d changed the time of his appointment without informing him. Typical DWP communication failure once again. Call me cynical but I’m sure that they do this on purpose sometimes.
To say that this gentleman was distressed was an understatement. He said ” Why can’t they leave me alone? I can’t work and no one will employ me”.
It wasn’t long before I spoke to a young woman that is completely fed up with the DWP. She’s started her own photography business and she’s doing her best to promote it and to find work
The DWP won’t leave her alone though. Every two weeks she still has to attend a back to work interview and she can’t cancel the appointment even if she’s working.
The DWP once again making it very hard for anyone to succeed by themselves. Her business is called WJ Photography and I think she’s on Instagram and Ticktok.
As it became notably colder, probably because we had been standing there for a while we spoke to a man that looked like he was going to start crying at any time.
His story his hard, but sadly not unusual.
As is often the case he had been living in substandard social housing. His home was full of damp and unsuitable to live in.
After a few years of struggling to get the housing association to take action they finally attempted to fix it. This left him without electricity and sleeping at his son’s place on the floor.
He explained the situation to the DWP who were totally unsympathetic telling him that he still had to look for work online for 35 hours a week.
He’s been looking for work since 2018 and can’t find a job, this isn’t without trying because he’s tried damned hard.
I then had a conversation with a chap that I used to speak to on a regular basis outside the Jobcentre. He told me that he was stressed because his mobile phone and internet are due to be cut off because he can’t afford to pay the bill.
Being aware that he needs to search for work online and has to have a working phone number for the DWP to contact him on has resulted in him feeling extremely stressed.
He told me that he’s found an old sim card that’ll work for the DWP to phone him on but he’s worried about his job searching.
I advised him to use the internet at the library or Ikea, but life shouldn’t be like this for a person who’s 60 years of age.
The universal credit system was created to punish people for being poor and for being disabled, never ever forget that.
I really hope that they’re ok , telling them that I’d be back again next week if they want some advice or someone to talk to. After all kindness costs nothing and it makes a massive difference to a person’s day.
I’ll be returning again next week and I’ll be publishing a blog post tomorrow about the new Jobcentre closures.
I need your help though. I need people to share this blog post and my others as much as possible. I want to continue to report about the impact that DWP decisions have on people and how this is still happening.
It would be amazing if I could be joined by some other like-minded people. It’s a big ask I know but it’s essential that we can remind the DWP that we are still here and we are still reporting on their misdoings.
If anyone could donate towards buying someone a cuppa etc I’d be eternally grateful. It’s winter and it’s cold here. A nice hot cuppa keeps the morale going.
If anyone would like to donate towards the campaign and my blog there’s a donate button at the top and side of this blog post.
I’m intending to continue with the weekly demos which are dependant on my health. I’ve still got long covid and a lung that’s not functioning as it should be. Thanks covid.
If I have to cancel a week it’ll be for health reasons only. Apologies in advance.
A huge thank you to everyone that has and does support my blog and campaign. These past two years have been extremely challenging for us all and I really do appreciate it.