Theresa May faces backbench rebellion over universal credit roll-out

Prime Minister Theresa May was facing the very real prospect of a backbench rebellion from her own MPs last night, as news broke that a dozen Tory MPs have written to the Work and Pensions Secretary calling for a pause in the roll-out of Universal Credit.

The flagship welfare reform has so far only been rolled out in around five areas per month, but controversial Government plans will see the new benefit reach fifty areas per month from October this year.

Universal Credit merges six social security benefits and tax credits into one single monthly payment, but it’s roll-out has been beset with delays and other problems since its introduction by former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who resigned his position after the government proposed severe cuts to parts of the new scheme.

Now a backbench rebellion led by Tory MP Heidi Allen, supported by one of Mr Duncan Smith’s former aides, Andrew Selous, threatens the continued roll-out of the new system, which DWP ministers argue rewards those who move into work and has been more successful in delivering this outcome that the benefits it’s replacing.

It is believed that twelve Tory MPs have signed a letter sent to DWP boss, David Gauke MP, citing concerns over delays in Universal Credit payments, including a minimum six week wait before claimants receive an initial payment.

This could potentially lead to the Government being forced to rethink its plans if Labour, or another party, decide to force a vote on the issue in the House of Commons.

The call echos those made by numerous charities and a growing number of MPs from across the political spectrum, who warn that claimants are being pushed into poverty and debt and left at risk of becoming homeless.

Citizens Advice recently warned that plans to accelerate the roll-out of Universal Credit is “a disaster waiting to happen“, and evidence submitted by the housing charity Shelter to the Scottish Government said Universal Credit, together with other welfare reforms, “directly threaten tenancies and risk pushing more people into homelessness”.

Social housing organisations and local authorities have also expressed serious concerns, in the wake of strong evidence showing that Universal Credit is already leaving thousands of low-paid workers unable to pay their rent and at risk of homelessness.

Meanwhile, Labour says new data published by the DWP shows that Universal Credit is in “total disarray”, and even the Tories’ former allies in Government, the Liberal Democrats, who helped to bring in the new system, say the roll-out of Universal Credit has become a “train wreck” and must be halted.

Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “I am glad that Conservative MPs are waking up to the disastrous effects of Universal Credit, and backing Labour’s call for a pause to the programme.

“The rising debt and arrears under Universal Credit are a direct result of the six week wait for payment introduced by this Government. This policy can be changed.”

“Labour is again calling on the Government to halt the roll out of Universal Credit and remove the punitive elements of the programme which are pushing so many families into poverty.”

Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, Frank Field MP, who earlier this month called for a “Christmas truce” on the Universal Credit roll-out, told the Telegraph: “The new secretary of state knows that the dribbling out Universal Credit has been beset by problems”.

However, the DWP continues to defend the plans, despite mounting opposition. A spokesperson said: “The vast majority of claimants are comfortable managing their money, and for anyone who needs extra help, we have budgeting advice and benefit advances.

“Continuing to roll-out Universal Credit in a safe and controlled way will mean many more will benefit from moving into employment.

“Universal Credit lies at the heart of our commitment to help people improve their lives and raise their incomes.

“It does that by providing additional, tailored support not available under the old benefit system, including more help for those in work so they can eventually stop claiming benefits altogether, and under Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the previous system.”

Employers still discriminate against disabled people – it has to stop

The findings of a new survey reveal the shocking extent to which disabled people are still discriminated against by employers, as a leading disability charity warns businesses are missing out on valuable talent due to ‘workplace bias’.

An Opinium survey of 2,000 disabled people on behalf of the disability charity Scope found that people with disabilities apply for 60% more jobs than non-disabled people in their job search, with more than a third (37%) believing employers won’t hire them because of their impairment or medical condition.

The survey also found that only half of applications made by disabled people result in an interview, compared to 69% for non-disabled applicants. Two in five disabled people said they don’t feel confident in being offered a job in the next six month, as Scope says unemployed disabled people have lost faith with the labour market. Of these, 27% believe they are less likely to be hired than a non-disabled candidate, while 38% believe employers see them as a risk not worth taking.

Scope says this has resulted in disabled people applying for jobs they know they are overqualified for. One in three of these say they did so ‘because they felt their disability makes them a less attractive candidate than non-disabled applicants’.

Lauren Pitt, 24, from Gloucester, is registered blind after losing most of her sight in childhood. She told Scope: “When I graduated with a 2.1 degree in theology, I was under the illusion that with a good degree, a strong CV due to all of the volunteering I’d done, and a lot of determination, I would find a job with minimal difficulties. This couldn’t have been further from the truth.

“I applied for over 250 jobs in a variety of roles but I had no response from about half of them.

“I think a lot of recruiters underestimated what I could do because of my impairment. In interviews, I spent most of my time explaining that I could do the job just as well as anyone else.

“Eventually I received an extremely positive email from an employer, inviting me for an interview and asking how they could make it best for me and if my guide dog would need any water.

“After the interview I was offered the job as an administrator for a social enterprise. It just shows how employers’ misguided attitudes can be a real barrier preventing disabled people finding work.”

Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive at disability charity Scope, said: “We have a huge amount of work to do to tackle the disability employment gap. At the current pace of change, the Government is set to fail on its pledge to get a million more-disabled people into work.

“Disabled people with all the skills to do the job are being repeatedly passed over for roles, while others are being forced to apply for jobs which they know they are overqualified for.

“Employers are missing out on the talent they badly need because they don’t have the right support in place or because of outdated attitudes towards disability.

“At Scope we want disabled people, colleagues, line managers, employers and others to get behind the Work With Me campaign and work with us to ensure disabled people have an equal opportunity to work.”

Scope has now launched a new campaign, supported from Virgin Media, with the aim of helping one million disabled people with employment information and support by the end of 2020.

Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media CEO, said: “Working with Scope has been eye-opening and we’ve had to face some hard truths to better understand and address the challenges disabled people face.

“It’s inspired us to launch the ‘Work With Me’ campaign with Scope. Together, we’re asking industry, Government and the public to join us and support more disabled people get into and stay in work.”

Return of the Tory milk snatchers

SNP MSP Emma Harper has called on the Tory Government to commit to funding school milk subsidies after Brexit, echoing similar calls from the NFU this week.

The EU School Milk Scheme has provided over £3.5m of subsidies to Scotland over the last five years – subsidising quality milk products for school children, contributing to a healthy way of living and nutritional education.

It is supported by national top-ups and plays a vital role in encouraging healthy eating habits from an early age.

In an echo of the Thatcher years, Theresa May’s Tories look set to let EU milk subsidies evaporate into thin air.

Defending her decision to take away free milk for school children in 1971, Margaret Thatcher said: “My parents could afford to pay for me in very much worse times to have a little milk every morning. In these much more profitable and successful times, they can afford to pay for their own children to have milk.”

Margaret Thatcher. Photo Credit: WikiImages / Pixabay

Following World School Milk day, SNP MSP Emma Harper has said: “I myself am the daughter of a dairyman and grew up on two dairy farms in South West Scotland, which is home to 48% of Scotland’s dairy farms and is where I received subsidised school milk.

“I support the NFU’s calls for the Tories to continue funding school milk once the UK leaves the EU.

“Over the last five years, Scotland has received over £3.5m in milk subsidies from the EU scheme – one of the many important EU funding streams which the Tory Brexiteers are happy to see cast aside.

“The politics of the Conservatives in 2017 doesn’t seem to have progressed much since the milk snatcher days when Thatcher claimed that all parents should be able to afford milk for their children just like hers could. Is it the case that the Tories are so blasé about Brexit precisely because their own families won’t be the hardest hit?

“Scottish farmers will be severely disadvantaged – to the tune of £250m a year – if, after Brexit, agricultural support funds are calculated using the Barnett formula. This could devastate producers in Scottish agriculture and our successful food and drink sectors.

“16 months since the referendum, 18 months away from leaving the EU – very simply questions still remain over EU funding streams and the clock really is ticking for Theresa May. They promised a decision on EU milk subsidies by August 2017, and that has not happened.

“I have written to Michael Gove to find out what assurances the UK government can provide that milk snatching will remain a policy of the past.”

Disclaimer: This is an official press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP). Images added by Welfare Weekly.

‘A national disgrace’: homelessness soars by more than 50% since 2009

A shocking rise in the number of households accepted as homeless in England since 2009 has been branded “a national disgrace”, Welfare Weekly can reveal.

Figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government today showl that although the number of households accepted as statutory homeless dropped by 1% in the last year, homelessness has soared by more than 50% since 2009.

The data also shows that the total number of households in temporary accommodation on 30 June 2017 was 78,180, up 7% on a year earlier, and up 63% on the low of 48,010 on 31 December 2010.

Meanwhile, local authorities are taking less action to ‘prevent and relieve’ homelessness. Councils helped 54,270 households at risk of homelessness between 1 April and 30 June 2017, down 1% on 54,610 in the same quarter of 2016.

Chartered Institute of Housing policy and practice officer Faye Greaves said: “To have so many people homeless in 2017 is quite simply a national disgrace and something we must act on now.

“Although the number of households accepted as homeless has dropped slightly since last year, today’s figures show it has jumped by more than 50 per cent since 2009. That’s partly because of pressures on the housing market but also some of the welfare changes that have come into force over the past few years.

“Our research with the University of Sheffield has shown that the vast majority of councils and housing associations believe government welfare policy is hitting their efforts to tackle homelessness. And as the London Assembly has shown this week, for everyone who goes to their council for help there are likely to be many more ‘hidden homeless’ people sofa surfing and sleeping on public transport for example.

“We are particularly concerned about the continuing rise in the number of households in temporary accommodation, which has soared by a staggering 63 per cent since December 2010. That figure includes thousands of families with children trapped in bed and breakfast accommodation, which is often very poor quality and highly unsuitable.”

Photo credit: Invincible……. via photopin (license)

CIH has called on the government to use the Autumn Budget to make sure that councils have the resources they need to carry out their new duties under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, and also to establish an expanded ‘Housing First’ programme aimed at halving rough sleeping by 2022 and ending it by 2027.

Faye Greaves said: “History tells us that we can reduce or even eliminate homelessness but it does require a co-ordinated approach – that means government investment, funding for affordable housing and a concerted effort across the housing and homelessness sectors.”

Rick Henderson, chief executive of Homeless Link, added: “A raft of issues is conspiring to cause the homelessness of thousands of people across the country, in a situation that is not improving.

“We must not become desensitised to this serious problem, or forget that these high numbers represent people’s lives in turmoil.

“We can and must act to prevent and end homelessness, and with their party conference less than a week away, the Government must take the opportunity to tackle the reasons why homelessness continues to rise.”

A fifth of young people are homeless – you just can’t see them

Powered by article titled “A fifth of young people are homeless – you just can’t see them” was written by Paul Noblet, for on Wednesday 27th September 2017 09.38 UTC

One in five young people in the UK have sofa-surfed in the past year and almost half of them have done so for more than a month.

In a city – and a country – that is among the wealthiest in the world, how can this be possible?

A new report by the London Assembly housing committee on hidden homelessness is a timely reminder of an issue that goes unseen by most of the public and by many local and national politicians.

The report estimates that there are 13 times more hidden homeless people in London than those who are sleeping rough. Our own figures, based on surveys by YouGov and ComRes, suggest that almost a quarter of a million under-25s in London have stayed in an unsafe place because they have nowhere to call home.

The first problem is that this country is not very good at counting all the people who need support with housing, something that has been a concern to both the UK Statistics Authority and the Communities and Local Government select committee in recent years.

Until we have an honest debate about who should be counted as homeless, no government will be able to ensure that sufficient resources are allocated to tackling the problem.

As the committee’s report highlights today, rough sleeping is just the tip of the iceberg. While the government has attempted to funnel financial resources to support those already on the streets, the funding for other individuals who have nowhere to live has too often been lacking. That leaves local authorities without the money to offer support to this much bigger group.

The current law, rightly, ensures that very vulnerable people – such as care leavers, under-18s, those with children, and men and women fleeing domestic violence – are prioritised for support.

The law does not preclude support being given to people outside these categories, but in practice there is simply not enough money left in the system for local authorities to go much beyond their legal duties. As assembly members point out, that means that some vulnerable groups are not guaranteed support, including thousands of young people that are housed and supported by Centrepoint.

Many people who are classified as hidden homeless could qualify for support, particular under the new Homelessness Reduction Act, which was passed into law earlier this year. But too often young people do not know where to go for help. Whether through adverts on public transport or helplines, much more could be done to publicise existing support.

Tackling homelessness requires many responses – more affordable homes, a more practical approach to benefits, and appropriate financial support for local councils – but more than anything, it requires us to be open. Open about the scale of the problem, and open about the resources required to deal with it, even if that means spending more in the short term.

  • Paul Noblet is head of public affairs at Centrepoint

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Featured Image: Invincible……. via photopin (license)

Tory welfare cuts ‘pushing people into poverty and homelessness’

Tory welfare cuts and administrative errors are pushing people into poverty and driving homelessness, leading housing charity Shelter will today (Wednesday) warn Holyrood.

In evidence submitted to the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee, Shelter warned that “the ongoing roll out of Universal Credit, the benefit cap reduction and the capping of housing benefit” by the UK government all “directly threaten tenancies and risk pushing more people into homelessness”.

The National Audit Office this month confirmed that the 60% rise in the number of homeless families in England since 2010 is “likely to have been driven” by welfare cuts.

In a written submission to the Local Government and Communities committee, Shelter Scotland warned:  “Shelter Scotland emphasises that our current housing system pushes too many people into homelessness, and recent welfare reforms are pushing more people further into poverty.

“The ongoing roll out of Universal Credit, the benefit cap reduction and the capping of housing benefit for social sector rents to Local Housing Allowance (LHA) levels directly threaten tenancies and risk pushing more people into homelessness. It is unlikely that the Scottish Government will be able to sustainably mitigate all of these changes.

“There remain challenges around relationships with social work and the preparedness of young people exiting care settings to manage their own tenancies.

“This is especially pertinent given the ongoing welfare reform changes such as the capping of housing benefit at LHA levels, and the removal of automatic entitlement to help with housing costs for 18-21 year olds.

“Welfare reform and cuts to temporary accommodation funding in particular are making temporary accommodation providers less inclined to innovate or branch out in the services they offer to homelessness people with multiple and complex needs.

“Simply put, homelessness is a product of our current housing system and recent and ongoing welfare reforms are exacerbating this problem.

“The way that the current social security system is set up and the direction of ongoing change means that many parents cease to receive support for children once they are 18 and therefore many feel the need to ask older children to leave the family home.

“However, once they do this, the household can in some cases in the social sector become liable for the bedroom tax due to “under-occupying” the property, thus putting both the parents and children at financial disadvantage.

“Social security problems are a significant source of difficulty to household tenancy sustainment through delays, admin errors, reducing periods in which to claim backdated payments, spot checks and suspension of payments during random investigations.”

Photo credit: Invincible……. via photopin (license)

Commenting, SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “This is a serious intervention that exposes just how disastrous Tory cuts to welfare have been.

“The SNP in government wants to end rough sleeping, and have reformed the private rented sector to provide tenants with greater security and give councils the power to tackle rip-off rents.

“But the UK government shouldn’t be let off the hook – the Tories need to urgently call a halt to their cuts and stop driving families into poverty and homelessness.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a £50 million fund to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping in this month’s Programme for Government.

Survey reveals severe lack of support for carers supporting people with Alzheimer’s

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A recent survey conducted by Hales Care has found that 65 percent of UK carers have suffered emotional and mental health problems themselves whilst caring for a friend or relative with Alzheimer’s, with 75 percent of carers feeling there is not enough research being done around the disease.

Having carried out the survey since care funding cuts were announced by the UK Government, Hales Care has found that 95 percent of carers surveyed felt there is not enough care funding information available to them, with 65 percent revealing there is not enough education about the disease.

As a national care group specialising in domiciliary care & supported living, Hales Care, through Managing Director, Nicola Mewse, provided the following comment on the findings: “These findings paint a very concerning picture for the thousands of family carers supporting some 850,000 people living in the UK with many forms of Dementia.

“We would urge those who feel their own wellbeing is being affected to seek support. There are information forums and groups online that can signpost carers to the most appropriate help for their circumstances however in our experience the most important factor in maintaining their own health & welfare is to ensure they get respite themselves.

“This is where a care company such as Hales Homecare can help, be it on a regular or one off basis. Care providers can offer guidance on where funding may be available and support the process of having care needs formally assessed”

While only 55 percent of carers feel supported by their employer, 65 percent of felt that overall, they were unsupported, with 30 percent revealing they never have a respite from caring.

When asked how being a carer for a friend or relative with Alzheimer’s had affected their lives; 65 percent of respondents admitted that their own emotional and mental health had suffered, along with 60% confirming it also put a strain on the entire family.

In light of World Alzheimer’s Day, which took place on 21st September, Hales Care, hope that this insight will be used by charities and organisations to increase the support offered to UK carers.

Featured Image: garryknight via photopin cc

Debbie Abrahams’ speech to Labour Party conference in full

“It is. once again. an honour to be speaking to you as Labour’s Work and Pensions Secretary. Who would have thought that after leaving school at 15 with just 3 ‘O’ levels I would be standing here today?

The passion I feel about building a fairer society has been with me for as long as I can remember. For more than 20 years, I worked to tackle inequalities in communities and beyond. And that’s what drove me into politics. The more you get into what determines inequality, the more you realise that inequality is not inevitable. It’s constructed.

The type of society we have, the tolerance and even the trust we feel towards one another, reflects how fairly we divide up our collective wealth. Ultimately these come down to political choices and leadership.

And people are seeing this now. They are seeing the stark contrast between Theresa May’s Torie,s protecting an increasingly wealthy elite, and Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn, whose entire political life has been dedicated to the many, not the few. His commitment is not a sound bite or a whim, it is who he is and has always been.

Over the past seven years, we have seen the effects of the Tories’ ideologically-driven austerity policies. A record 7.4m working people living in poverty. Falling real wages, which remain lower than they were in 2008. An unprecedented rise in foodbank use, rough sleeping doubling, and more than 120,000 children and their families without a home. A typical UK worker would take 160 years to earn the average annual amount handed to a FTSE 100 boss. And for the first time in decades we are seeing life expectancy falling.

Conference, there can be nothing more unjust than knowing how long we live is determined by inequality in income, wealth and social position. It doesn’t have to be this way. We are the fifth richest country in the world. As our Manifesto set out, the next Labour Government, will make different choices, fairer choices. For the many, not the few!

These widening inequalities have stifled growth, too. Differences in growth across the UK have led to inequalities in our labour markets as well. But the Tories’ social security policies have failed to respond to this changing world of work, where workers are often stuck in an endless ‘low pay, no pay’ cycle.

One of my constituents, a single mum who works as a nurse in a local hospital, came to see me at one of my surgeries in Oldham recently. In the process of transferring on to Universal Credit from tax credit,s she had to wait more than 6 weeks for a payment, as over 1 in 4 people do. This delay and a number other administrative issues meant that she couldn’t pay all of her rent. When she came to see me, she had just been served an eviction notice.

In another case, Kellie, who’s here today, is worried that she will have a similar experience when UC is rolled out in Wythenshawe. Although she’s been on tax credits, she is off work from her cleaning job at Manchester airport, waiting for an operation. Being on statutory sick pay has eaten into her savings and she’s now in rent arrears. She said if she had to wait at least six weeks to receive her UC payment, she’s sure her family would end up being homeless.

Conference, on behalf of these women, and the six and half million families still to move on to Universal Credit, I’m calling on the Prime Minister to halt next month’s UC roll out while we work to fix these issues.

Our social security system is also failing sick and disabled people. At last year’s Conference I played the trailer from ‘I, Daniel Blake’, Ken Loach’s iconic film about a man recovering from a heart attack, but found fit for work and battling for help from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Its impact in changing attitudes about social security claimants from the Tories’ shirker/scrounger narrative, to the reality that the vast majority of claimants have contributed to the system all of their lives, cannot be under-estimated. And as Ken is also here this afternoon, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for all he has done.

But while the rhetoric might be changing, the reality is not, with cuts to social security support and the anguish of unfair assessments.

The United Nations’ Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recently reported that this Government’s policies were leading to a ‘human catastrophe’. Increasingly, sick and disabled people are facing poverty and isolation.

As my Disability Equality Roadshow revealed, many feel like prisoners in their own homes; with dwindling social security support, too many are dying early, and even taking their own lives.

As we promised in our Manifesto with and for disabled people, Labour will deliver on the rights of disabled people, enshrining the UN Convention into UK law.

Conference, a Labour Government will transform our social security system from one that demonises, to one that is supportive and enabling. Like the NHS, it should be there for any one of us in our time of need, providing dignity and security for all.

For older people, this Tory Government has provided anything but dignity and security. Their failure to grapple with the pensions system has left many with dwindling workplace pensions or worse.

At the same time, the Tories have attacked the state pension, promising to increase the state pension age yet again. This has been most extreme for women born in the 1950s, many of whom have worked for well over 40 years and expected to retire at 60.

The acceleration of women’s state pension equalisation by this Government has left hundreds of thousands of women in dire straits. I’ve heard of women sofa-surfing in their 60s, living off the kindness of family or friends, having used up all their savings, because they can no longer do the work they used to. Too often older people are discriminated at work, as well as when they try to get into work. A Government Minister suggested that women should go and find an apprenticeship during a recent debate!

These women feel understandable anger that they have done the right thing and that the Government has failed to deliver its side of the bargain. I have been meeting with them on my national pensions tour. We promised in our Manifesto to provide pension credit and additional support to the two and a half million 1950s women still waiting to retire.

As a starter, I can announce today that a Labour Government in power now, would allow these women to retire up to two years early.

Conference, this is the difference a Labour Government would make. My challenge to this Government is to do the same and to do it now.

Thank you Conference, thank you to my wonderful team, and to my loving family. Now let’s get on with getting Labour into Government!”

Ministers told to cut wait for new benefit amid evidence it is causing debt

Powered by article titled “Ministers told to cut wait for new benefit amid evidence it is causing debt” was written by Michael Savage Policy editor, for The Observer on Saturday 23rd September 2017 23.05 UTC

Ministers are facing growing calls to slash the time welfare claimants are forced to wait before being entitled to the government’s flagship new benefit, having been warned some time ago by their own advisers that the delay is “beyond reasonable justification”.

David Gauke, the work and pensions secretary, has been under pressure to slow down the roll-out of universal credit, which combines several benefits into one payment, after mounting evidence that it is pushing new claimants into debt and rent arrears. There are also calls for the government to end the seven-day waiting period after a new claim is made. The delay saves the government £250m a year.

Councils and housing associations have raised concerns about the waiting period because it means claimants are then paid a month in arrears, meaning they may wait up to six weeks for their first payment. There have been reports of claimants waiting even longer.

The government had been urged not to proceed with the seven-day wait by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), which advises it on welfare issues, as long ago as 2015. Its report to ministers then raised “very serious concerns” about the measure. It said it should not go ahead, based on “persuasive and compelling evidence”.

“The committee considers that the impact of having to serve waiting days for a benefit that includes other costs, in particular housing, puts it beyond reasonable justification,” it said. “Universal credit was introduced on a platform of being a simple benefit and we consider that simplicity requires there to be no waiting days.”

There have also been huge cuts to the overall budget for the project: the Resolution Foundation thinktank has calculated that some families will lose out on up to £2,600 a year. David Finch, its senior policy analyst, said: “As universal credit is rolled out across the country, the problems that are already starting to emerge are likely to build. The government should urgently rethink the design and operation of universal credit before too many more families are affected.”

Carl Emmerson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a member of the SSAC, said: “Delays in administering universal credit claims – combined with the fact that there is a seven-day waiting period before a claim can be made and that successful claims are usually paid a month in arrears – means that increasing numbers will have to cover their living costs for a considerable period before their award starts to be paid.

“This is for a benefit that includes support for housing costs. As SSAC has recommended, rather than a pause in roll-out, a more direct way to alleviate the concerns this causes would be to scrap the seven-day waiting period. This would cost the government around £250m a year.”

Chris Goulden of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, another member of the SSAC, said: “The government needs to look at its own evidence about the experiences of those who are claiming universal credit. People in the poorest fifth of households, 70% or so, have no savings at all and others only have a small amount to fall back on.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “Waiting days have been a longstanding part of the welfare system, and mostly apply to people who claim universal credit after leaving a job. Budgeting advice and benefit advances are available for anyone who needs extra help. A number of groups are exempt from waiting days, including care leavers, those with a serious illness, prison leavers, and victims of domestic violence.” © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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