Department of Work and Pensions – Food Banks

As the word has got out about my blog I was approached by a local family, who I will not be naming, as they have seen all the news reports about the so-called Bedroom Tax and wanted to share their opinions on the current benefit system and the facts.

The Family

First thing you should know about the family is that they are a couple who have no children, one of the couple is unable to work full time due to illness. What that meant was that they were receiving Employment Support Allowance or ESA in order to help find the right work and help with training. This meant they were able to also receive help towards their rent, and as they rent privately they have been in receipt of Local Housing Allowance for a number of years, they also receive working tax credit..

The main income earner has found it difficult to find work due to the continued economic climate and hence the need for benefit support.

The Benefits

Employment Support Allowance / ESA – is the replacement for several benefits including Income support, the aim of ESA is meant to be that the government help towards some of your living costs by in effect paying half your salary, as you are able to work up to 16 hours and still claim ESA. This means that if you are unable to work a fulltime job due to illness, instead of just claiming 100% of your income from the benefit system you are earning half of it. The idea in the long term is that the government are meant to help you find the right job and right employer so that you will be able to work fulltime, with the right help and get off benefits.

ESA is supposed to provide the claimant with the following

  1. Guidance and help with finding the right job and the right employer, with an aim to your earning increasing so your are no longer reliant on benefits.
  2. Provide training to help the claimant get in the right employment
  3. General support with work related issues

All these points are with an aim of getting the claimant off ESA and into fulltime employment.

Local Housing Allowance – This is the private sector equivalent of Housing Benefit this is paid to benefit claimants who rent in the private sector, that’s not from a housing association or the local council. I thought I would also fill you in on some facts about LHA.

  1. LHA claimants DO NOT get all their rent paid – It is a misconception that all LHA claimants get all their rent paid, this is not the case.
  2. The so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’ has always applied to LHA – The rates of LHA have always been lower than Housing Benefit, ever since it was introduced around 5 years ago, the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’ rates have always been applied to claimants renting in the private sector on LHA. So although housing benefit claimants are pleading that are being treated unfairly, the new Housing Benefit rules are only bringing into line what other benefit claimants are getting.

The Families Situation

Due to the continued economic crisis the main income earning is finding it difficult to secure work.

As you can see although the family were getting help with their rent and were in receipt of ESA as well as tax credits, all this meant was that they were able to pay their bills and put food on the table, their was no money left to go on holiday, buy expensive things or any luxuries at all. This is the families view was right, after all the benefit system is not there to pay for your luxuries, if you want them you have to earn them.

I will also put my opinion here before you say this family are just your typical benefit scroungers, before David Cameron came to power, this family were actually high rate tax payers and have been for years. They have paid into society far more than your typical over weight benefit scrounger, you know the sort say they cant work and aren’t getting enough money. Yet they can afford to go on holiday every year, and can manage to climb over boxes, play with the kids, do the gardening, and many other tasks, their only problem is they don’t want to work!! You know who I am talking about, fat tattooed people with tons of kids!!

So What Happened?

Firstly thanks to the current economic climate, mainly caused by greedy home owners, the main income earner continues to not be able find any work.

Well thanks to the wonderful government, they decided to tell the ESA claimant to attend a medical, with your friends and mine, NOT, ATOS and you guess it they stated she was fit for work and immediately stopped paying the ESA, the couple appealed and her ESA was reinstated at the lower appeal rate pending a Tribunal hearing. During this time she had to continued to send in wellness notes (formally known as sick notes) from her doctor.

Then if things for the couple could not get any worse they were forced to move house, not through their own choice but due to a landlord selling the house, then lovely people at the Department of Work and Pensions / DWP, decided to forget about one of the members of the couple, even though the DWP had sent a letter with details of his working and the fact that his partner only claimed for herself. They decided to stop their ESA saying he is working, even though he had had no income for several years and they were claiming income based ESA.

The couple also appealed against this and about 18 months later a tribunal over turned the decision about the ESA claimant being fit for work, they agreed she could do some work but not fulltime, which is the actual point of ESA, yet due to the wording on the forms by the DWP they could not agree her partner was a volunteer, although he never said he was, they agreed he could not be classed as being in remunerative work but said due to process another hearing would need to take place.

Whilst all this time the couple continued to receive no ESA at all.

Then another Tribunal hearing was finally arranged and the couple attended, and this time the judge was a total knightmare, thinking it was her place to give career advice, saying that if the man had not had work for years, he will never to able to get work in the same field ever again, she even said that if all he was doing in looking for work was sending off CV’s then he should be on Job Seekers allowance, now although you cant claim job seekers allowance and be in ‘remunerative work’ the judge still said she classed him as being in remunerative work and refused to over turn the decision stopping the ESA.

Again the couple have appealed against this decision.

So Where are They at now.

Well the couple are now in the position that their only income is Working Tax Credit of around £80 per week, and they receive LHA at a rate of £75 per week. Thanks to their previous landlord selling their house, this means that they rent a house which costs £450 per month, that means they are only left with £170 per month to pay for all household bills including putting food on the table, and to add to their problems their home heating costs them around £150 per month.

This has meant that they have been forced like so many families, to use food banks and family in order to be able to eat.

In Closing

I found this couple the nicest and most honest couple you couple ever meet, and what I found really annoying is the following

  1. Other families think the ‘so-called’ bedroom tax has hit them hard, yet they have never worked a day in their life, or if they have they have paid very little into society. Typical people that come to mind are the ones with tons of kids, over weight, tattoos and can afford all the luxuries in life, yet complain when the government refuses to give them extra money for rooms they don’t need – That is nothing compared to this couple who have been on the LHA rate for several years.
  2. This couple have had no help at all from the government, and they want to work and if they were given the right help the woman would be able to find the right job and eventually get off ESA all together, as she feels she would need training to be able to do certain types of jobs. She has had no help, training or Guidance from the government at all.
  3. The man of the couple when he finds more work will once again be a higher rate tax payer, yet he has been treated appallingly by the government and the DWP.
  4. This couple are expected to use food banks and family to be able to survive. How is this not a breach of their human rights.

I find it really annoying that this country under David Cameron is allowing people like this be treated this way, the DWP, David Cameron and his pal Iain Duncan Smith are classing all benefit claimants the same, not everyone who is claiming a benefit wants to stay that way for ever. Granted there are benefit claimants who don’t want to work, but in my view the government should do the following.

  1. Stop treating all benefit claimants the same, I agree there are lots of people on benefits who don’t want to work, but there are also lots of people that do.
  2. Offer training to people on benefits in order that they can get a job, after all you get free education being in prison
  3. I think the government should give people on certain benefits a training allowance, so instead of simply stopping peoples benefits, they should instead allow the claimant to continue on the benefit, such as ESA for say another 12 months, during this time they are given an allowance to spend on training. With a view that in 12 months time they will be able to get into work. Instead of simply cutting benefits, which makes people appeal, which costs money and turning down appeals making people go to tribunal which costs more money.
  4. Stop treating illegal immigrants and asylum seekers better than your own citizens, I fail to see why someone seeking asylum in the UK has a right to be housed and have food on their table, whilst honest UK citizens are made to go homeless and hungry.

So my message to David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith and the DWP is simple, get in touch and I guarantee I can help you reduce the benefit and welfare bill.

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