Unemployment Claimants Fall after Brexit

It was the vote that rocked the nation, but as the majority of Britain decided their country would be better off leaving the EU, fears and rumours surrounded the country about just what would happen once we severed our ties with the rest of Europe. One of the main issues up for debate was of course unemployment, an issue that has plagued Britain for decades , with many feeling that a Brexit would worsen the rate of employment, with experts predicting that employment would fall by about 9,500 after the results were announced. It seems that in true British fashion, its people have done their best to prove the predictors of their fate as wrong, and employment levels have in fact risen in the past few months. The results have been determined by the drop in claimants for the unemployment benefit Jobseeker’s Allowance with the claimant count falling to 763, 600, which is a huge 8, 600 in July and is the first monthly drop since February 2016. People at a new job after Brexit

It seems that UK unemployment has never been higher as for the past three months the average employment rate has stayed steady at 4.9% with the average weekly earnings rising by 2.3%, and imporvement on the previous 2.2%. The number of people not in work but actively seeking employment has emerged as 1.64 million which is the lowest it has been since March – May 2008, maybe Brexit wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Could it be argued that the fear for our economy after Britain left the EU has scared people into seeking employment? The huge rise in employment rate for 16-64 year olds is explained by the fact Britain has now left the EU, with the 74.5% employment rating being the highest it has been since 1971. It seems that speculation of a failing economy and a jobless Britain was nothing but that, speculation, as Britain thrives in its new (and improved?) environment. With two unfavourable factors that were predicted top come with a Brexit, proved wrong, could this mean that Britain isn’t in for as rough a ride as people first thought?!

Not over yet

Maybe not. UK economists are warning that we are not out of hot water just yet. The risk that Brexit poses to the economy, and the chances that investments will freeze means that employers are putting hiring on the back burner, meaning there are in fact going to be less jobs available in the upcoming quarter. Whilst some might opt to put a few hiring decisions on hold, some will completely stop headcount altogether. If there are no businesses to hire employees, then there are fears that this great rise in employment will soon come crashing back down. As much as it is important for workers to keep and find jobs, it is also understandably important that business owners take everything into consideration, including the rising annual wage prices which could have a huge effect if the post-Brexit economy is damaged yet businesses still decide to take on more employees.

Conclusively, as time goes on, it is becoming apparent that the bomb that David Cameron had warned was under the economy hasn’t exploded as expected as Britain are seeing little if any effects of a failing economy as of yet. Now we wait to see if it will appear.

Firms that used benefit claimants for unpaid work are revealed

It has been a hidden secret for years, but the firms that used benefit claimants for free labour have finally been forced to reveal their true identities, as they were named and shamed in the media last week. Firms that were linked to Mandatory Work Activity were included on a vast list for everyone to see as they were accused of exploiting benefit claimants with free work. The list includes a shocking 500 companies and amongst them were well-known supermarket giants Tesco, Asda and Morrisons as well as budget chain store pound-stretcher. The list was created in 2011 and the shameless firms have now been revealed. As well as retail firms, there was also cash company cash converters, popular chicken restaurant Nando’s and high street drug store Superdrug. Benefit claimants in supermarket

The Workfare Scheme

The notoriously hated workfare scheme affected 10, 000 job seekers as they were forced to work 30 hours of unpaid labour in exchange for their benefits per month. The scheme represented itself as voluntary – if claimants wanted to work or to gain experience, but there were reports that if a claimant had joined the scheme they would risk being sanctioned (benefits cut) if they left the scheme or didn’t show up for a shift they were due to work. The organisations (in this case some considerably big firms) were responsible for reporting back on the progress of thee workers on the scheme. In this case, workers were forced into Mandatory Work Activity, and understandably there was huge backlash surrounding the scheme. Until now, it has been kept a secret which firms were involved in such an unfair process, protected by a lengthy and costly legal battle, conducted by the DWP. The notion behind keeping the firm’s identities a secret was to protect their commercial interest. In other words, there were fears that they would be boycotted by protests if it became known they were involved in workfare. The DWP was in fact overruled by Watchdog back in 2014 to reveal the names, but fought a strong battle to stand its ground. Last Wednesday the DWP was finally overthrown, and chaos and anger has ensued. Contender for labour leadership Owen Smith has said that this is just one of many cover ups by the Tories for the DWP, which needs to change. He goes onto mention other controversial Tory movements such as cuts to the much anticipated Universal Credit, as well as the bedroom tax that has undeniably left many in a state of devastation. To add insult to injury, it was of course the tax payer that funded the massive cover up of the workfare scheme users. Whilst there was no official spending figure released, it is thought the DWP could have easily racked up tens of thousands of pounds in the process.

Job centre handing out benefitsThe Dangers of Workfare

It is kind of a given that this kind of scheme will cause upset purely for the fact that it screams exploitation of the most vulnerable. However, there are also a number of other reasons why the Workfare scheme is disliked. Firstly, it undermines the actual responsibility of volunteering, which many people do all over the UK. It is important that the UK has genuine volunteers, and that they are rewarded for this exact reason. People that also already volunteer were being forced to give up their current position and go and volunteer somewhere else in order to claim their benefits – which doesn’t seem necessary. It also undermines the need to create real jobs, and in turn actively increases unemployment. If companies are able to get their workers for free, they are less likely to create paid jobs, which means less jobs and further unemployment. In one particularly severe case, a pizza company in Leicester sacked 350 workers and re-located to Nottingham, where they were able to take on over one hundred benefit claimants for no pay. Although they claimed it was to give these ‘volunteers’ ‘experience’, the real reason behind the company’s decision is probably rather obvious. the workfare scheme was also once described by the Trade union Congress as a ‘failed policy.’ There has also never been any actual evidence to suggest that the Workfare scheme helps and encourages people to find jobs, this fact was even concluded by the DWP themselves. Some people are asked to work full time on Workfare placements, which averages out at an earning of £2 per hour. Working full time leaves little time to spend searching for jobs that will take them out of the Workfare scheme and place them in genuine employment.

They have been described as having a ‘skewed view of the world’ and it seems that the Tories made a huge mistake in forcing people into unpaid work – and are more than likely going to have to pay for it. The Mandatory work Activity mostly took place within a six month period, between July 2011 and January 2012, and overall there were 534 companies to exploit workers, including charities. Places on the list include Hartlepool, Thurrock and Leicester.

Despite many of the companies unsurprisingly refusing to comment, The Independent managed to get word from a spokesperson from Tesco, who defended the supermarket giant by saying that they had realised that adopting the scheme wasn’t right for them, after they had agreed to pay into the scheme, they also say that despite this, they remain committed to finding employment for the long term unemployed. After coming under such fire, the DWP did comment, but didn’t refer to the scandal unfolding and instead continued to preach the benefits of employment programmes, by saying that each year they help thousands of people to find work, as well as providing very useful new skills.

Brexit and Benefits….What Might Happen

The EU Referendum is now a matter of days away, and with the odds so close on either side, it is impossible to call whether, by the 24th June, Britain will be in or out of the EU. With as good a chance as any that Britain will back independence after Leave voters top the polls, what might this mean for poorer families claiming benefits from the state? How are their rights affected? Will there be negative consequences for those that are most vulnerable?www.hmrctalk.co.uk

Although claiming benefits is undeniably surrounded by stigma, a lot of people genuinely need financial support from the state in times of need, whether it be Job Seeker’s Allowance through unemployment, child tax credits to support a young family or disability allowance due to an unexpected accident. We all may need to rely on state support sometime or another, but will it be as readily available after a Brexit?

The main concerns should a Brexit occur are understandably employment, housing prices and wages in general. But what about the benefits that thousands of Britons need each year? According to pro-remain MP’s, being a part of the EU is beneficial for welfare, and a Brexit poses a big risk to this. However, Leave Campaigner and former secretary for the Department of Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith suggests the opposite. He claims that instead of having the duty of sending out benefits for migrant’s children, some who are not even living in the UK, the government will have the means to focus on our country. He calls the actions of providing for migrants an ‘absurd practice.’

Although benefits are ultimately controlled by the UK government and provided by them, the EU has also had its say in the way benefits work,l and with a Brexit, this could amount to big changes. It is likely that the government will go further in their quest to cut benefits to migrants, which may on the surface appear beneficial, but if the government goes into recession following a Brexit, they will have less money in the first place. As a result of this, a rise in benefits may not occur as the government will not have the capacity to be more generous, even if they wanted to.

It has also been warned that low income households may see a financial burden should Britain leave the EU and in a worst case scenario could lose over £5000 a year in tax credits and benefit payments. This is due to nothing other than a knock on effect. Leaving the EU would mean lower tax receipts and it is believed that a cut to benefits will be their first money saving tactic. Households will be affected when a Brexit worsens trade.

A lot of the attraction to vote Leave is because of a promise that less benefits are going to go to migrants leaving outside of the UK and instead will be handed to people in Britain. Whilst this appears to be a logical and fair solution, many people are saying that leaving the EU will not solve this and the solution is not as simple as some are making out.



UK Backed By European Court on Decision to Curb Benefits

It was recently decided by the UK government that it would withhold benefits for those unemployed migrants that did not have the right to work in the UK- a decision that was unsurprisingly met with controversy, with a direct challenge being presented against it. However, the decision of the European court has ruled in favour of Britain’s decision, saying it has every right to suspend the benefits and that the decision will be going ahead, meaning the challenge against it has been rejected. The European Court of Justice defended the British Government’s decision saying it was justified in order to protect the country’s finances and overall it was a welcome ruling from both the Government and Remain campaigners. www.hmrctalk.co.uk

Whilst Vote Leave are attempting to curb immigration, they were expressing how they felt it ridiculous that such a decision by the Government must be approved in a court in Luxembourg instead of making the decision independently, something that would not be required if we left the EU. The claimed the legal battles were not only unnecessarily long but also costly to our country.

Economically Inactive

The rights of migrants who are not legally residing in the UK, nor earning was first brought up in 2004, and the court ruling looked at cases that dated as far back 2004 when it was first disputed whether or not the rights of migrants that were ‘economically inactive’ and from the EU included receiving benefits from the British government. The habitual residence tests determines whether these EU citizens were eligible for the financial support. The benefit curb had been argued against by the European Commission as it said that the tests to see if EU migrants could claim child benefit and child tax credit would not be used for British workers. Whilst the court did admit that the new rule might cause some unfair treatment, it still ruled it as a necessary, legitimate objective in ensuring that the state’s finances are protected.  The case was potentially an explosive one with the EU referendum being so close, but had a somewhat satisfying result.

It seems both Vote Remain and Vote Leave have one very little thing in common, and that is that they both gained some satisfaction out of the result in Luxembourg, with Vote Remain and David Cameron gaining approval on his benefit curbs and Vote Leave proving that we have little independence inside the EU, as a major decision about this country, was not even made in this country, which will benefit their case massively. In the hearing is was highlighted that the government wanted to make it clear that benefits were reserved for those migrants and other people in need, who had/have the right to reside in Britain. Leave campaigner, and former work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith expressed his anti-Europe views by saying that the European Commission should never have been allowed to challenge the decision in the first place, claiming that it was just a cost to taxpayers.

As a result of the ruling, child benefit will now be paid at a rate which takes into consideration the cost of living in the country of a child who’s parents have migrated to the UK. This will be put into action immediately for any new arrivals and not until 2020 for the 34, 000 already claiming.

The Ongoing Disaster of PIP

With an aim to make big cuts in order to benefit the economy in mind, the Government hastily created PIP, a Personal Independence Payment designed to help fund disabled people that cannot work. Those with chronic illnesses and progressive conditions are amongst the recipients (IF they can pass the test). In order to receive PIP, you must have a face to face meeting where your condition is assessed and it is decided whether or not you are eligible for payment/financial support. PIP has received no end of backlash since it was introduced over three years ago, with story after story of how disabled people have been ill-treated by the system emerging. Many are not receiving the financial support they need to survive. There was recent controversy surrounding PIP employees, with a channel 4 documentary hearing one saying that he had already decided their fate before they had even walked through the car park. These shocking revelations leave us to question whether or not PIP is fair to its claimants, and if not, where did it all go so wrong?www.hmrctalk.co.uk

The be all and end all

What makes PIP so dangerous is that it really is the be all and end all – the ultimate decider for those that are disabled and in need of financial help. Without PIP, the claimant cannot have access to other benefits such as electric wheelchairs. Claiming PIP when all the odds are against you can have a stressful effect on a person, particularly when they are already in significantly bad health. Horror stories have emerged online of claimants turning up to be assessed in buildings with little to no disability access, cancelled appointments at the last minute with no valid reason provided and assessors having extremely little knowledge of a claimants condition all amount to accusations that very little respect and care is being given to disabled people, with the Government wearing their pound sign tainted glasses whilst dishing out minimum payments to those that need it most.

The PIP disaster has definitely had more media coverage since the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith and reports are suggesting that many tragic cases do not make headlines, and the lack of compassion and support from the Government means things are only getting worse. Disability charity Muscular Dystrophy UK has recently gone as far as to label the system as ‘not fit for purpose’. Surveying 300 people with muscle wasting conditions, the results that were gathered are shocking, with many experiencing delays in having their application processed because papers became lost by assessment companies. Ironically, it seems the so-called Personal Independence Payment is restricting the independence that so many once had. 400-500 disabled vehicles such as adapted cars and powered wheelchairs are being retracted from disabled people every week – this is seen as a lifeline to many, their only form of independence, something that gets them up and out of the house. Due to seemingly barbaric laws, the vehicle owner has seven days to hand back something they previously relied on so much. The time frame in which this occursfails to add up, meaning that the decision that confiscated the vehicle from the claimant, could be overturned, yet they have already been unfairly been forced to hand back their wheelchair or car.

Moving forward

The findings of the report, plus so many other forgotten cases, seem to suggest that David Cameron and his Government are unaware of what they are really dealing with. Do they realise that their drastic cuts are having such an adverse affect on the lives of probably the most vulnerable in our society. It seems they need to understand that you cannot create and develop a payment plan with its sole purpose being to save as much money as possible, where disabled and chronically ill people’s health is concerned. One decision could take away a lifetime’s independence and it is important that that is realised, before the disaster spreads even further.