Universal credit is a shambles

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Fishnut
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Universal credit is a shambles

Post by Fishnut » Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:02 pm

Universal credit, that great attempt at "simplifying" benefits "incentivising work" is not fit for purpose. This has been known for a long time. Yet still the government persists with its rollout. At the beginning of the year the Guardian reported on how prescriptions have no option to say that you are eligible for free prescriptions due to UC, so patients are being forced to "tick the wrong box" in order to obtain free prescriptions and are then being penalised for "lying". And now we find out that the £300 bonus that Greggs has given its employees may be eaten up in repayments for those members of staff on UC.

It amazes me that we have working people who need to be on benefits. I get that there'll always be some who only work a few hours for various reasons and may need assistance but 33% of people on UC are working according to government data which suggests to me that something has gone quite wrong. For these people, UC seems to be simply a way of subsidising companies, rather than making them pay a living wage. I don't think it's any surprise that the majority (55%) of people on UC are women - they are the ones who predominantly end up doing part time work (41% women compared to 13% men in 2019) in order to care for dependents.

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by discovolante » Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:10 pm

Yes it's terrible. End of thread ;)

(Not really end of thread. I might try and see if I can get together some stuff about the connection between UC and housing and stuff another time but not sure if I will manage it, although you can probably guess what it is likely to say)
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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by Fishnut » Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:16 pm

discovolante wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:10 pm
Yes it's terrible. End of thread ;)

(Not really end of thread. I might try and see if I can get together some stuff about the connection between UC and housing and stuff another time but not sure if I will manage it, although you can probably guess what it is likely to say)
That would be really interesting if you do have the time.

It's not directly related, but it's about stiffing the poor as much as possible so is in the same area. I just saw this story, which says that the government has rejected an application to extend a scheme by Liverpool council that required landlords to apply for a licence before a property could be let.
The scheme, introduced in 2015, means all private landlords must obtain a licence for their rented properties and prove they are 'fit and proper'.

Licensed landlords’ properties must meet fire, electric and gas safety standards and be in a good state of repair and the scheme allows the council to deploy a team to carry out regular inspections and bring bring rogue landlords to book...

The local authority said the shock decision will severely hamper attempts to drive up standards in the private rental sector and keep vulnerable tenants safe – particularly in relation to fire safety in rented properties.

Overall, 70% of inspected properties in Liverpool have been found to be in breach of their licence condition since the scheme was launched in 2015, uncovering serious hazards such as fire, electrical safety and excess cold...

“This Government has already taken away £436 million of our funding since 2010 and is now weakening our power to improve housing standards for those who are part of generation rent to the bare minimum.

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by mediocrity511 » Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:42 am

There's also some stuff in Universal credit which is a really significant cnge from the old system, which seems to get glossed over. In work conditionality is huge change, previously so long as you were working then you were fairly immune from job centre hassle. Then there's been a lowering of the age that lone parents are required to seek work. There's been a change in the way income from Maternity Allowance is treated, meaning families with new babies are worse off. Tax credits recipients used to be able to save as much money as they liked, under Universal Credit they get their benefits reduced if they have savings. It is a much harsher system for people who go to university too. The minimum income floor makes much self employment now non viable.

Lots of it to me seems designed to keep people trapped in poverty. Under tax credits, low paid workers could save for a deposit on a house (admittedly this was only realistic in areas with lower housing prices) or have an emergency fund for when their car broke down etc, people could go to university for retraining. There were opportunities for people to run their own businesses. UC makes people much more insecure and closes down avenues for people to better their situation.

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by cvb » Tue Jan 14, 2020 8:43 am

mediocrity511 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:42 am
There's also some stuff in Universal credit which is a really significant cnge from the old system, which seems to get glossed over. In work conditionality is huge change, previously so long as you were working then you were fairly immune from job centre hassle. Then there's been a lowering of the age that lone parents are required to seek work. There's been a change in the way income from Maternity Allowance is treated, meaning families with new babies are worse off. Tax credits recipients used to be able to save as much money as they liked, under Universal Credit they get their benefits reduced if they have savings. It is a much harsher system for people who go to university too. The minimum income floor makes much self employment now non viable.

Lots of it to me seems designed to keep people trapped in poverty. Under tax credits, low paid workers could save for a deposit on a house (admittedly this was only realistic in areas with lower housing prices) or have an emergency fund for when their car broke down etc, people could go to university for retraining. There were opportunities for people to run their own businesses. UC makes people much more insecure and closes down avenues for people to better their situation.
It's almost as if those who thought up this didn't really care about the poor.

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by P.J. Denyer » Tue Jan 14, 2020 10:36 am

mediocrity511 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:42 am
There's also some stuff in Universal credit which is a really significant cnge from the old system, which seems to get glossed over. In work conditionality is huge change, previously so long as you were working then you were fairly immune from job centre hassle. Then there's been a lowering of the age that lone parents are required to seek work. There's been a change in the way income from Maternity Allowance is treated, meaning families with new babies are worse off. Tax credits recipients used to be able to save as much money as they liked, under Universal Credit they get their benefits reduced if they have savings. It is a much harsher system for people who go to university too. The minimum income floor makes much self employment now non viable.

Lots of it to me seems designed to keep people trapped in poverty. Under tax credits, low paid workers could save for a deposit on a house (admittedly this was only realistic in areas with lower housing prices) or have an emergency fund for when their car broke down etc, people could go to university for retraining. There were opportunities for people to run their own businesses. UC makes people much more insecure and closes down avenues for people to better their situation.
One of the changes I find troublesome is that while separate housing benefit was paid directly to the landlord under UC it's all bundled up and paid into the recipient's bank account, meaning that someone going under financially could find that they're unable to get that most important payment out. (Especially after six weeks or more with no income)

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by discovolante » Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:00 am

P.J. Denyer wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 10:36 am
mediocrity511 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:42 am
There's also some stuff in Universal credit which is a really significant cnge from the old system, which seems to get glossed over. In work conditionality is huge change, previously so long as you were working then you were fairly immune from job centre hassle. Then there's been a lowering of the age that lone parents are required to seek work. There's been a change in the way income from Maternity Allowance is treated, meaning families with new babies are worse off. Tax credits recipients used to be able to save as much money as they liked, under Universal Credit they get their benefits reduced if they have savings. It is a much harsher system for people who go to university too. The minimum income floor makes much self employment now non viable.

Lots of it to me seems designed to keep people trapped in poverty. Under tax credits, low paid workers could save for a deposit on a house (admittedly this was only realistic in areas with lower housing prices) or have an emergency fund for when their car broke down etc, people could go to university for retraining. There were opportunities for people to run their own businesses. UC makes people much more insecure and closes down avenues for people to better their situation.
One of the changes I find troublesome is that while separate housing benefit was paid directly to the landlord under UC it's all bundled up and paid into the recipient's bank account, meaning that someone going under financially could find that they're unable to get that most important payment out. (Especially after six weeks or more with no income)
There are some circs when it can be paid direct to the landlord.

Gov website info here https://www.gov.uk/housing-and-universal-credit
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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by P.J. Denyer » Wed Jan 15, 2020 12:35 am

discovolante wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 11:00 am
P.J. Denyer wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 10:36 am
mediocrity511 wrote:
Tue Jan 14, 2020 7:42 am
There's also some stuff in Universal credit which is a really significant cnge from the old system, which seems to get glossed over. In work conditionality is huge change, previously so long as you were working then you were fairly immune from job centre hassle. Then there's been a lowering of the age that lone parents are required to seek work. There's been a change in the way income from Maternity Allowance is treated, meaning families with new babies are worse off. Tax credits recipients used to be able to save as much money as they liked, under Universal Credit they get their benefits reduced if they have savings. It is a much harsher system for people who go to university too. The minimum income floor makes much self employment now non viable.

Lots of it to me seems designed to keep people trapped in poverty. Under tax credits, low paid workers could save for a deposit on a house (admittedly this was only realistic in areas with lower housing prices) or have an emergency fund for when their car broke down etc, people could go to university for retraining. There were opportunities for people to run their own businesses. UC makes people much more insecure and closes down avenues for people to better their situation.
One of the changes I find troublesome is that while separate housing benefit was paid directly to the landlord under UC it's all bundled up and paid into the recipient's bank account, meaning that someone going under financially could find that they're unable to get that most important payment out. (Especially after six weeks or more with no income)
There are some circs when it can be paid direct to the landlord.

Gov website info here https://www.gov.uk/housing-and-universal-credit
only you live in Scotland it appears. Makes sense, Scotland seems more interested in helping people in difficulty.

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by discovolante » Wed Jan 15, 2020 7:18 am

It's available 'automatically' in Scotland but you can do it in E&W too in certain circumstances (including rent arrears) which I agree isn't as helpful.
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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by discovolante » Wed Jan 15, 2020 7:41 am

Just to add though that IME there can sometimes be pretty long delays between the UC award itself and the housing costs reaching the rent account. I have to admit (and I probably should know this tbh, sorry) I'm not sure if that is because for say, social landlords with lots of tenants on UC, then a bunch of payments get paid to them in a big lump sum and it takes them a while to sort through it or if the DWP just sits on it for ages anyway, or a bit of both. Fortunately social landlords tend to be aware of this but nevertheless it has caused problems and i suspect even more so if the tenant doesn't provide evidence of their claim being paid to the LL.

If anyone knows exactly what is going on and can tell me (with references of any kind would be even better!) then I'd be really grateful. It's something I ought to know...
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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by raven » Wed Jan 15, 2020 5:48 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:02 pm
It amazes me that we have working people who need to be on benefits. I get that there'll always be some who only work a few hours for various reasons and may need assistance but 33% of people on UC are working according to government data which suggests to me that something has gone quite wrong. For these people, UC seems to be simply a way of subsidising companies, rather than making them pay a living wage.
It amazes me that we don't seem to have realised that if you subsidise wages some employers will just pay less. One of the few things I remember from O level History is the 3 judges meeting at Speenhamland in 1795, setting up a system that topped up agricultural workers wages to a formula based on how many dependents they had to feed and the cost of bread.

This, we were taught, resulted in wage depression. Which seemed a fairly logical consequence to me.

ETA: Didn't know about all the other changes with UC, but when I first heard about it I did wonder if having one payment would make the system less transparent. If you don't know what you're being paid for, you can't check it's right.

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by discovolante » Wed Jan 15, 2020 7:41 pm

raven wrote:
Wed Jan 15, 2020 5:48 pm
ETA: Didn't know about all the other changes with UC, but when I first heard about it I did wonder if having one payment would make the system less transparent. If you don't know what you're being paid for, you can't check it's right.
You do get a breakdown of how the award is calculated, sort of. It tells you the total amount that gets transferred to your bank account, in a nice big blue box.

Then underneath it tells you your standard allowance (which I think is up to a whopping £317.82 pcm for an adult over 25, varies on age/if you're in a couple etc). Then it says how much you get for your kids and rent and so on and gives you the total benefit.

Then underneath it lists the deductions. So, if you worked a bit, it says it's taking off x because of the amount you earned (which it states, so you can check it). Then it lists other deductions e.g. advances, overpayment recovery etc, and it counts direct payments to your landlord as a deduction as well. If the housing costs are paid to you directly, it says how much they are going to pay you.

What it doesn't show is exactly how these figures are arrived at. So e.g. if you work, it doesn't show the calculation of a 63p reduction for every £1 earned. Not being able to see the calculations really isn't great if you don't know the rules already. However contrast this with housing benefit letters which are often absurdly lengthy strings of gobbledegook that take ages to decipher. However I'm sure it'd be possible to have a separate section showing a full breakdown somewhere if people wanted to check.

The five week waiting period is an absolute pile of sh.t. Aside from it being a problem when you claim for the first time: imagine you're in and out of work, or your hours fluctuate or whatever. If you earn too much to get UC and then your incomes goes down again you have to make a new claim. The impact of it is totally devastating.

There is also this doozy:
If you’re paid once a month on the same date and nothing changes in your earnings, then your Universal Credit amount should stay the same.

Your Universal Credit can be affected if you receive more than one set of wages during some assessment periods. This could happen if:

you’re paid weekly, every 2 weeks or every 4 weeks
your monthly payment date changes, for example you get paid on the last working day of each month
This means your earnings might be too high for Universal Credit. You’ll be told if they are and whether you’ll need to reapply to continue to get Universal Credit.


How often you’re paid by your employer The impact
Every 4 weeks Once a year, you’ll get 2 sets of wages in one assessment period
Every 2 weeks Twice a year, you’ll get 3 sets of wages in one assessment period
Every week Four times a year, you’ll get 5 sets of wages in one assessment period
https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit//how-youre-paid
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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by raven » Thu Jan 16, 2020 7:05 pm

Well, that's more transparent than I feared it might be at least. The delay is utter shite though, and I'd read somewhere there's problems if the claimant get paid weekly and there's 5 Fridays in a month.

Who the heck designs a system that can't cope with weekly wages? I mean, really? No-one thought that might be a problem?

This was the problem with Tax Credits too. You'd gone from a system of calculating benefits weekly, which everyone understood, to a system that used monthly salaries and looking at the last tax year's income. Which is less good for overtime, or casual work, or weekly pay, or even people changing jobs mid-year. Hence lots of overpayments and people being asked to pay back when they didn't realise they'd overclaimed.

It's like no-one thought to check how the real world works before they designed the system.

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by P.J. Denyer » Thu Jan 16, 2020 8:43 pm

Another issue (read in Private Eye, any mistakes are down to my memory) is that UC is calculated on a calender month basis so that four months a year weekly paid employees have five paydays in one month and get penalised for it their wages were 25% higher.

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by discovolante » Thu Jan 16, 2020 8:48 pm

P.J. Denyer wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 8:43 pm
Another issue (read in Private Eye, any mistakes are down to my memory) is that UC is calculated on a calender month basis so that four months a year weekly paid employees have five paydays in one month and get penalised for it their wages were 25% higher.
viewtopic.php?p=15215#p14958
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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by discovolante » Thu Jan 16, 2020 8:51 pm

raven wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 7:05 pm
Well, that's more transparent than I feared it might be at least. The delay is utter shite though, and I'd read somewhere there's problems if the claimant get paid weekly and there's 5 Fridays in a month.

Who the heck designs a system that can't cope with weekly wages? I mean, really? No-one thought that might be a problem?

This was the problem with Tax Credits too. You'd gone from a system of calculating benefits weekly, which everyone understood, to a system that used monthly salaries and looking at the last tax year's income. Which is less good for overtime, or casual work, or weekly pay, or even people changing jobs mid-year. Hence lots of overpayments and people being asked to pay back when they didn't realise they'd overclaimed.

It's like no-one thought to check how the real world works before they designed the system.
Yeah tax credits were a PITA and the April/May period was a total hassle to deal with. Without defending that daftness and the consequences of it though, at least they weren't absolute floor subsistence benefits as such...it's like UC has rolled up all the different possible problems with all of the 'legacy' benefits into one. Funnily enough!
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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by mediocrity511 » Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:00 pm

discovolante wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 8:51 pm
raven wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 7:05 pm
Well, that's more transparent than I feared it might be at least. The delay is utter shite though, and I'd read somewhere there's problems if the claimant get paid weekly and there's 5 Fridays in a month.

Who the heck designs a system that can't cope with weekly wages? I mean, really? No-one thought that might be a problem?

This was the problem with Tax Credits too. You'd gone from a system of calculating benefits weekly, which everyone understood, to a system that used monthly salaries and looking at the last tax year's income. Which is less good for overtime, or casual work, or weekly pay, or even people changing jobs mid-year. Hence lots of overpayments and people being asked to pay back when they didn't realise they'd overclaimed.

It's like no-one thought to check how the real world works before they designed the system.
Yeah tax credits were a PITA and the April/May period was a total hassle to deal with. Without defending that daftness and the consequences of it though, at least they weren't absolute floor subsistence benefits as such...it's like UC has rolled up all the different possible problems with all of the 'legacy' benefits into one. Funnily enough!
Tax credits also switched to HMRC receiving data about pay monthly in the past few years too, which has minimised that insanity. There's also issues with UC claimants having massive deductions for tax credit debts that seem to have been magicked up out of the ether.

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by discovolante » Thu Jan 16, 2020 9:05 pm

Ooh I didn't know that, thanks.
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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by P.J. Denyer » Sun Jan 19, 2020 12:45 am

discovolante wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 8:48 pm
P.J. Denyer wrote:
Thu Jan 16, 2020 8:43 pm
Another issue (read in Private Eye, any mistakes are down to my memory) is that UC is calculated on a calender month basis so that four months a year weekly paid employees have five paydays in one month and get penalised for it their wages were 25% higher.
viewtopic.php?p=15215#p14958
My bad, not paying enough attention.

The link you provided is really mindblowing. "How your employer chooses to pay you might screw everything up. If it does, meh. Go back and fill in more forms up to four times a year"

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by discovolante » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:53 am

I've been waiting for a time to post this with more detail but it ain't happening so here's a link to a Scottish government report on welfare reform. Note that rent arrears had increased by an average of 14.1% in UC areas compared with 4.1% in non-UC areas.

https://www.gov.scot/publications/housi ... re-reform/
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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by plodder » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:57 am

f.ck me that's dreadful

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Feb 13, 2020 10:03 am

plodder wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:57 am
f.ck me that's dreadful
Yes.

The rollout of UC has been phased over several years, and the problems it causes, such as rent arrears and increasing homelessness, were apparent from the beginning. Everybody in charge of it knows that it doesn't work properly, and that it puts vulnerable people on the streets, but they've pushed on with it anyway for political gain.

There is no level of stupidity or incompetence that would explain it - the Tories are obviously just sick c.nts.
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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by plodder » Thu Feb 13, 2020 10:08 am

An opposing view would be that it's at root a sensible idea*, there were bound to be issues, and those issues will eventually get sorted, but as it's not possible to predict all issues in advance, and neither is it possible to roll something out without something going wrong somewhere, there comes a point where you just have to hit the green button and go for it.

In this case, it was probably IDS needing to stick to some promise about a go live date or something.

Just because f.ckups are inevitable doesn't mean you shouldn't try new things. What's unforgivable here is that the back-up plans appear to be very poorly resourced, meaning people are left in the sh.t for far longer than they needed to be.


*the old system was well messy, and I understand it was also very inefficient to deliver.

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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by discovolante » Thu Feb 13, 2020 10:24 am

plodder wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 10:08 am
An opposing view would be that it's at root a sensible idea*, there were bound to be issues, and those issues will eventually get sorted, but as it's not possible to predict all issues in advance, and neither is it possible to roll something out without something going wrong somewhere, there comes a point where you just have to hit the green button and go for it.

In this case, it was probably IDS needing to stick to some promise about a go live date or something.

Just because f.ckups are inevitable doesn't mean you shouldn't try new things. What's unforgivable here is that the back-up plans appear to be very poorly resourced, meaning people are left in the sh.t for far longer than they needed to be.


*the old system was well messy, and I understand it was also very inefficient to deliver.
No, it's existed since 2013, we have known full well what the problems would be for years, some of them would have been easily foreseen if they had bothered to think about it properly, but they continue to press ahead anyway.
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Re: Universal credit is a shambles

Post by plodder » Thu Feb 13, 2020 10:33 am

Well, OK, you're right to the extent that there have been loads of issues that still haven't been dealt with, and you're also right to criticise this.

I'm only pointing out that it's impossible to have a perfect plan. So then there's a matter of judgement and imperfection about when to start something up, which will often contain elements of expediency.

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