Scotland Fails To Attack Asylum Seeker Benefit Fraud, According To Latest Report

scotland[typography font=”Cardo” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#000000″][dropcap]J[/dropcap][/typography]ohn Vine, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, has accused Scotland of failing to tackle the benefit fraud that has been caused by asylum seekers.

Mr Vine singled out the Home Office for what he described as “failing to combat fraud across the UK and for “wasting taxpayers money”. In the most recent report that has been published, he cites a number of sites across the country that are suffering from problems with similar situations.

However, Mr Vine told the BBC that there is nothing being done in Scotland to help tackle or solve the problem, which has resulted in bringing the entire system into disrepute. He said that, despite the evidence of a number of cases being found in Scotland, as it stands, there haven’t been any sort of prosecutions or even attempts made into recovering the fraudulent claims.

Currently, there is more than £150m per year spent on support and benefits for asylum seekers. Mr Vine said that [quote]The Home Office has absolutely no idea how much fraud is taking place in the asylum support system and in Scotland we found there was no effort being made to address fraud whatsoever. Whilst it is important to deal compassionately with those claiming asylum and give benefits where they are due, it’s equally important, because public money is at stake, to make sure any fraud is tackled effectively and we just didn’t find any evidence that this was happening in Scotland at all.[/quote]

People who are claiming asylum in Britain can apply for asylum support. This can be used to help cover the cost of living, which includes accommodation and financial assistance. The report from the chief inspector highlighted one case in particular, where a claimant had been paid £18,000 in asylum support when during the same period they had received a further £74,000 in benefits, a bursary from the NHS and had even earned illegal wages.

The result for this claimant in particular was that they were given a 12 month suspended jail term in January 2013, after being found to be guilty of committing fraud and using a selection of false documents.

Mr Vine said that there was no evidence to state there had been any effort to reclaim the taxpayers money, which amounted to £18,000, despite the fact that the offender had £10,500 in their bank account.

A Home Office spokesman said [quote]We have fully accepted all of the recommendations in this report and are already acting on them.We have increased staff resources on compliance, introduced a national structure for compliance teams and increased our fraud savings target. Credit checks are carried out in all cases and further inquiries made where there is a data match, for example with a bank or building society holding information about the person. We are determined to protect the taxpayer by ensuring asylum support is only granted where the criteria are met and is withdrawn promptly when eligibility ceases.[/quote]


New Child Maintenance Service May Fail To Make Expected Savings Target

The UK’s new Child Maintenance Service, which has just recently come into force, may not in fact generate the savings that  the government was expecting, it was announced today.

The new scheme, which was designed to replace the old Child Support Agency to ensure that more children are benefiting from child maintenance arrangements. By charging a £20 admin fee for pchild-maintenance-spendingarents that need to use the service to arrange adequate payment, it is hoped that the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will reduce government spending whilst encouraging families to work together.

Many have been criticising the new rules, saying that the introduction of an admin fee will reduce the amount of overall maintenance paid to single parents and have a negative impact on children. But the Department for Work and Pensions argued otherwise.

[quote]The old Child Support Agency often took responsibility away from parents, encouraging conflict and hostility at huge expense to the tax payer,”[/quote]

a DWP spokesperson said.

[quote]More than 50% of children living in separated families had no effective financial arrangement in place at all.”[/quote]

But it may not just be families that are at risk of losing out from the new rules. A new report has suggested that the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) savings target may not be reached if more parents do not intend to reach agreements independently by themselves.

It was predicted that the DWP could save up to £220 million a year by reducing the number of applications received from separated partners. But this target all depends on the DWP’s ability to predict parents’ reactions accurately when it comes to the actual implementation of the CMS. If many parents refuse or fail to sign off the current statutory scheme, these targets will not be met.

The report went on to claim that so far, only 3590 families has opted to come a independent family-based arrangement in March, which is down from 5540 in August 2013. By 2018, ministers expect there to be fewer than 250,000 cases left on the statutory scheme, with over 800,000 having been moved to the new collect and pay system.

However, the number of families opting out of the statutory scheme may take a significant leap now that the new charges are in full swing.

If parents wish to come to an independent decision and avoid the admin charges, they can use the CMS Options service for free either online or by telephone. This helps parents work out how much child support should be paid and when.

About the figures, auditor general Amyas Morse said:

[quote]I am pleased to see that the department is proceeding cautiously and aiming to learn from experience. Significant tasks still lie ahead; however .

Delivering value for money from the 2012 scheme will depend on successfully winding up the remaining legacy cases from previous schemes, and making the necessary technology improvements.”[/quote]

Surrogacy Maternity Leave “Will Not Help International Surrogacy Parents”

Surrogacy and egg donation organisation Brilliant Beginnings is surrogacy-maternity-leavecalling for an urgent review of the laws surrounding maternity leave for surrogate parents.

At the moment maternity leave in the UK is extended to apply to intended parents of surrogate children, allowing them the same amount of time away from work for the same paying rate as a birthing mother or father. Each set of parents is entitled to one long period of leave (equal to maternity leave) and one shorter period of leave (equal to paternity leave) to distribute between them.

But Brilliant Beginnings says that the rules may need to be adjusted as they do nothing to help international surrogacy parents, who may be intended to claim a child overseas.

Natalie Gamble, fertility lawyer and co-founder of Brilliant Beginnings, explains that in many cases, parents are required to travel overseas to their child’s home country to collect them. This requires time off work and sometimes accommodation for up to four or five months whilst paperwork and passport applications are being sorted out.

However, in the UK, maternity leave for surrogacy parents is only expected to start either on the date the child is born (in the case of same country surrogacy) or from the date that the child crosses the UK borders (in the case of overseas surrogacy).

For surrogate parents of international children, this means they may be unable to claim maternity pay for the time they spend in their child’s home country applying for his or her British passport. Seeing as they are not likely to be able to work during this time, the circumstances may lead to a job leave situation for one or both parents, leading to further financial instability.

Natalie Gamble says:

[quote]For those who become parents through international surrogacy, starting surrogacy leave from entry into the UK is a disaster. It means that the new rights will, in most international cases, give no benefit at all.

Children born through surrogacy become their parents’ responsibility immediately from birth, unlike adopted children who are looked after by others until the adoptive parents are ready to bring them home.”[/quote]

Brilliant Beginnings is now appealing to the Government to review the new surrogacy rules before they are ratified through the Children and Families Act 2014. It is encouraging the government to ensure that employment leave starts from the child’s birth in all cases – not just those where the child is born in the UK.

As Ms. Gamble pointed out:

[quote]Would you ask any other mother to defer her maternity leave until her child was five years old?”[/quote] [quote]Surrogacy is not adoption, and we need some common sense applied.”[/quote]

The Housing Minister Makes Inappropriate Comments About Housing Benefit Claimants

housing[typography font=”Cardo” size=”24″ size_format=”px” color=”#000000″][dropcap]T[/dropcap][/typography]he Housing Minister, Kris Hopkins, has warned that its inappropriate for private landlords to evict their tenants based on the fact they are receiving housing benefits.

When Mr Hopkins was speaking in the House of Commons, he declared that he wanted to clarify the remarks he made in a BBC Panorama broadcast about homelessness. The remarks were surrounding him describing it as being “perfect legitimate” for landlords to refuse tenancies to those who were receive housing benefits.

Emma Reynolds, Labour’s shadow housing minister, branded the remarks as appalling. In the Communities and Local Government questions in parliament, Diana Johnson, a Labour MP, asked Eric Pickles if he agreed with his minister on the removal of people on housing benefits by their landlords. This prompted Mr Hopkins to say [quote]May I clarify what I said? It is not appropriate for a landlord to remove somebody just because they are on housing benefit, but an individual can make a commercial choice about who they want to live in their accommodation. It seems that the Labour party, in its forthcoming manifesto, will prescribe who can live in an individual’s house. A private investor who has purchased a house should have the opportunity to choose who lives in that house.[/quote]

Large private landlord, Fergus Wilson, revealed in January this year that he has sent eviction notices to any of his tenants that where receiving housing benefits.  Shelter, the homelessness charity, is warning that if other landlords adopt policies similar to Mr Wilson’s, there will be widespread ‘blackspots’ around the country, which are areas of the country where people who are receiving housing benefits will be simply unable to rent all together.

The director of policy and communications at Shelter, Roger Harding, said [quote]There’ll be areas where, if you lose your job or become ill, and you try and fall back on housing benefit, it won’t be high enough for you to find somewhere. Unless you have savings, you’re going to move town.[/quote]

If you find yourself unable to afford certain housing costs in your rented accommodation, you may find that you are entitled to receiving housing benefits. The money you receive from the benefits can only be used to meet the costs of rent, it can’t be used for heating, gas electricity or food. You can ring the housing benefit contact number if you are unsure about how to apply for the benefit or have questions regarding the eligibility of your situation.


How The Newly Passed Care Act Can Help Unpaid Carers

Accordingly to new research, the UK had 600,000 more unpaid carers in 2013 than it did in 2001. Many of these carers are ‘hidden’, which means they may not recognise themselves as a carer or may not be recognised by external bodies as a carer. This means that they are much less likely to receive the help and support they desperately's-allowance

The newly passed Care Act, which will come into force in May 2015, could help to change that. With the ageing population on the rise and local social funds being cut, there is expected to be more pressure than ever on carers of all ages that look after a family member or relative full-time. The Care Act will entitle all carers to an assessment of their needs so they don’t have to ask for one, and will help governing bodies determine how much help – both financial and other – they might need.

The Act will also focus on the welfare of the person providing the care – whether or not they themselves have support needs; whether these are being met or whether they might have these needs in the future.

The type of support available will vary depending on individual needs and circumstances, ranging from practical help at home, to financial help in the form of £61.35 in carer’s allowance per week. However, this is currently means-tested, so there is no guarantee a carer will qualify. And there is also no indication yet of whether the Care Act will mean an increase in the amount of care’s allowance provided.

For full-time carers, life can be a long haul of misery, guilt, frustration, tedium, exhaustion and confusion. As well as needing to give up their day job or reduce hours thus losing much-needed income (as is the case of many), a carer’s personal life is also affected. This lifetime commitment is also a huge strain on their emotional health and their physical health suffers too. As for a social life…such a thing is usually out of the question.

Another challenge for stay-at-home carers is that, besides receiving little or no financial help, they cannot access the resources required to look for help or check what services they are entitled to. For those who are not ‘digitally literate’, professionals in the field have a greater responsibility to explain the ways a carer can access crucial information.

In a recent survey, a huge 49 percent of carers said they believed that society “didn’t care about them at all”.

It’s time that the public, the government and medical organisations started waking up to the plight one of society’s most overlooked vulnerable groups.