Sanctions are a financial and social disaster; a daily disgrace to parliament until they are abolished

Benefit sanctions are a financial and social disaster; a daily disgrace to parliament until they are abolished
We are having an important debate about sanctions on our Facebook page from which these two contributions have been extracted. 
Peculiar Musings 

The basic issue is the state’s “human right” guarantee than nobody in our society should be allowed to starve or go homeless.

It would be political suicide to openly revoke the underlying guarantee of the welfare state. However, austerity has been implemented as death by a thousand cuts. You can still claim benefits, but the bureaucracy will make it more hassle than its worth and deliberately introduce enough arbitrary rules that statistical reductions in payouts can be made, just by excluding people for a minor technically.

This is probably counter productive in most cases. People wanting to game the system are the ones most likely to pay attention to the technicality rules. For everybody else, the sanctions create a financial emergency that distracts from the bigger picture goal of getting their life back on track.

The alternative to sanctions is a universal citizens income. 42% of GDP already goes to the government through taxation, so we already have a significant amount of convoluted income redistribution.

Removing all conditionality means some people will chose not to work, but that already happens under our existing system. This is a cost of doing business for making a “human rights guarantee”, but one in the grand scheme of things we can actually afford as a country to make.

The net result is to give people the freedom and security to focus their attention on their long term needs, rather than being constantly distracted by short term emergencies. My belief is that both net GDP and human happiness would grow as a result.

To which I added;
Taxpayers Against Poverty Peculiar Musings Thank you for this you may have seen that I have re-posted it on the next post. I am also distributing it around political contacts with the following comment.
“His thoughts seem to fit “Harman’s law” requiring local and national government to assess the impact of their decisions on the lowest incomes. And the LGA calling for a return to 100% central government funding of CTRS and an analysis of the impact of all welfare reforms. (see last page) .
Abolishing the sanction regime as suggested by ” “Peculiar Musings” would be a step towards the Well-being state, proposed by the Archbishop of York in his book “On rock or sand?” ( see last chapter) if it is backed up by social security and a citizens income is introduced that is at a high enough level of minimum income to provide healthy living. Its viability would depend on rents being linked to that income, at say 35% of gross income or local median income, and not to market rents.
Psychiatrists Against Austerity have just published their take on its impact and suggested the ingredients of the Wellbeing State 

Their analysis of the psychological impact of austerity launched in the House of Lords this week describes the humiliation and shame, the fear and distrust, the instability and loneliness and feelings of being trapped and powerless that austerity is inflicting on millions of UK citizens.

They also describe the important indicators of a healthy society. They are a sense of control over one’s life, security, with enough to eat and somewhere to live, participation in community, finding meaning in work and play and having trustful relationships.

It would also save the taxpayers money in the following ways;
1 Jobcentre staff would be released to help people find work rather spend time sanctioning them and dealing with appeals. Jobcentres have become the enemy rather that supporters of the unemployed.
2. local authority officials would not have to cope with re-applications for housing and council tax benefit or the enforcement of sanctions linked rent and council tax arrears.
3. There would be no need for a sanctions linked hardship payments.
4. Doctors surgeries would have fewer cases of malnutrition or debt related mental illness so saving costs in the health service.
5. Fewer stressed and malnourished children in no condition to learn would attend school taking up teachers extra time.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND THE LIVING WAGE – desperate need to link rents to income not the housing market.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND THE LIVING WAGE – desperate need to link rents to income not the housing market. 

The living wage without an affordable housing policy will become less and less viable. At the moment affordable rents in social housing are defined as 60% or 80% of the local market rents, except in the East London Community Land Trust where they are 35% local median income.

In 1998 I raised £100,000 to commission the Family Budget Unit to research the minimum income standards for a couple and a single person with two young children; it was published by Zacchaeus 2000 Trust and Policy Press in 1999 called  Low cost but acceptable. David Sainsbury arrived in my parish just when he was needed and at the time Richard Curtis was filming the Vicar of Dibley in my church in Turville, Buckinghamshire. They both contributed generously.

The idea was spawned in the rooms of Nicholas Sagovsky, who was then Dean of Clare College, Cambridge, where a group of Christians has been agonizing about the impact of the Poll Tax on the poorest citizens. I and the late Chris Moss SJ had visited Prof Jonathan Bradshaw at York University to discuss the need for the research . He asked  the Joseph Rowntree Foundation for funds but they refused in 1998;  so I set about raising the money. .

I took the published research to UNISON and London Citizens and they used it to persuade Ken Livingstone to launch the London Living wage. So now I have a fatherly thrill every time I hear the Living Wage mentioned.
The problem in 1998, and it is much worse now, was that the housing costs for London allowed for in the living wage were too low. The level of rent is linked to the housing market so the proportion of the living wage needed for rent grows and spoils the principle of the living wage by reducing the income needed for food, fuel, clothes and transport and all other necessities. If it doesn’t hit the tenant too hard then it hits the taxpayer with increased housing benefit.
We are told that Boris Johnson will  increase the supply by building 400,000 homes for key workers in London. But that will take many years and during each of those years rents linked to 80% of market rents in London will continue to take an ever larger proportion of the living wage let alone the national minimum wage.
Increasing the supply of housing will not create affordable housing for as long rents are linked to a London land and property  freemarket for the world’s wealthy to dump their cash in preference to their own dodgy economies.
The Health service and Local Authorities are worried about how key workers will be able to afford to live in London’s expensive housing market   In Tottenham  Haringey Council want to demolish council estates and force the tenants into housing associations.  All that will begin to happen in four or five years time but no one knows what the market will have done to rents and the living wage by then.
Rev Paul Nicolson

This response to this post on TAP Facebook was shared by Ken Fernandez. I have never met him but I am grateful.

Job seekers allowance 2014 £72.40 a week = £3764.8 a year

Living wage (2014) £15,000 multiply by 3.5 = mortgage ability is £52,500

Average wage 2013 =£20,000 multiply by 3.5 = £70,000 + (£7950, 10% deposit. (fees not included).
£50,000 multiply by 3.5 = mortgage ability £175,000
Affordable house in Sleaford costs £167,000 and for most of the country 2014.
Mortgage £167000 @ 6% for 25 years is around £1082 a month

Therefore
Any job that pays under £50,000 a year, one must rent a home. (2 @ £25,000 =£50,000)
This means any job below £25000 a year will need social housing.
No consultation planning policy has considered this. The majority of Lincolnshire is on minimum wage or living wage. Pensioners not included. Most State pensioners are around £6,000 a year if not less.

Retires from other areas of UK downsizing or retirement are able to buy the houses in Sleaford, this brings will mean a different infrastructure to the young working generation

 

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NO SANCTIONS WITH OUT A FAIR TRIAL cancellation of all means of subsistence a disproportionate and unjust punishment

NO SANCTIONS WITH OUT A FAIR TRIAL

In my letter to the Guardian in the previous post I suggest that a person accused of the abuse of tax payers’ funding of human need should be given a fair trial because that does not happen now. In the jobcentres there is no fair trial before the imposition of a deeply serious punishment – cancellation of the means of subsistence.

1. there is no independent judge as in the courts – jobcentre officials are implementing government policy
2. there is no opportunity for the accused to be represented
3. the housing and council tax benefits are canceled by the computer of the jobcentre which sends the cancellation signal of HB and CTRS (New CTB) to the local authority computer – making the applicant reapply for HB and CTRS – which can take weeks to reinstate.
5. the DWP is content to make people hungry.
6. total cancellation of the means of subsistence is a disproportionate and unjust punishment.

“Securing minimum human needs for those in work and unemployment is the responsibility of the state” Guardian letter

Dear all, This letter is published on line by The Guardian this morning. It is the first of several contributions I will make to the debate about politics started by the Bishops’ letter “Who is my neighbour?”. Will Hutton’s contribution in the Observer is worth reading. The Bishops’ letter can be found here. good wishes Paul

THE GUARDIAN

“Securing minimum human needs for those in work and unemployment is the responsibility of the state”. Rev Paul Nicolson

The bishops have cited the views of Beveridge on voluntarism. They raise the important debate about the relationship between civil society and the state. They tell us “the state, given too much power to shape society, will stifle the very voluntarism that prevents the state from being hopelessly overburdened by human need”. Taking hunger as an example of human need, where does the state’s responsibility to prevent it stop and civil society’s begin?

The voluntary sector is now hopelessly overburdened by the human needs of the people we serve. Among thousands of volunteers UK-wide, I am helping people in Tottenham overburdened by unmanageable debt created when adult unemployment benefits of £72.40 are reduced by rent and council tax arrears due to benefit cuts since April 2013. Buying a healthy diet is beyond their means. Many have been arbitrarily sanctioned for up to three months; a punishment leaving them with no income introduced by Labour and continued by the coalition. Several have been referred to the local NHS psychiatric clinic for therapy.

Securing minimum human needs for those in work and unemployment is the responsibility of the state; picking up the casualties in that, currently non-existent, context is the responsibility of volunteers. Our vision is no British citizen without an affordable home and an adequate income, with those accused of abusing the taxpayers’ funding of minimum human needs given a fair trial.

Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

​I suggest that an accusation of abuse of tax payers funding of human need should be given a fair trial because that does not happen now. In the jobcentres there is no fair trial before the imposition of a deeply serious punishment – cancellation of the means of subsistence.

1. there is no independent judge as in the courts – jobcentre officials are implementing government policy
2. there is no opportunity for the accused to be represented
3. the housing and council tax benefits are canceled by the computer of the jobcentre which sends the cancellation signal of HB and CTRS (New CTB) to the local authority computer – making the applicant reapply for HB and CTRS – which can take weeks to reinstate.
5. the DWP is content to make people hungry.
6. total cancellation of the means of subsistence is a disproportionate and unjust punishment.

Rev Lord Green our faith works with and for the poorest weakest sick disabled with all taxes paid by the rich

LETTER IN THE GUARDIAN – 11/2/15

Since the late 1960s, a growing number of  Church of England clergy have earned their livings in secular employment. The Rev Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint was one (The boss: banker, peer, minister, priest, 10 February). Some of us provide a free service to the parishes in which we live; others engage with the fairness or unfairness of the secular structures in which we are employed. The Rev Stephen Green’s chairmanship of HSBC while legal tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion were taking place raises important questions for the Church of England about the role of all clergy in secular employment.

Our faith, and any normal respect for humanity, requires us to work with and for the poorest and weakest, the sick and disabled, both personally and politically. That means engaging the financial and political structures that put them a long way second to the pursuit of personal financial gain. Should any member of the clergy have continued to preside over a billion-pound institution that flagrantly diminishes the capacity of a nation to pursue economic justice?
Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty